Comments by Tsuruga Wakasanojo XI

(From the Program of Recital December 18, 2011)

There are only two weeks left in this year, which has been an ordeal for Japan. During the national crises, I was in foreign countries, in order to perform shinnai.

I went to Poland in March, just after the great earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku area, when conditions in Japan were especially hard. In October, I went to the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to perform shinnai.

In Poland, I performed four shinnai works: Ran’cho, two numbers with traditional Japanese dance, and Kumo no Ito. I will be performing the latter work here today.

In Krakow, we Japanese performers received a generous donation from the audience for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami disasters. The members of the audience gave cordially and with full hearts for this cause. When I returned to Japan, I took their donation to one of the Japanese newspaper companies.

In the Baltic countries, I performed two works together with the Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo puppet troupe: Yaoya Ohichi and Sakura Giminden no Jinbei no Watashi.

In these two trips to four countries, every performance was a great success, and we were welcomed warmly. The members of the audience seemed to have a good understanding of our traditional Japanese entertainment. They were impressed by our performance. On the other hand, we were impressed to receive endless applause and standing ovations.

I am convinced that friendship through the diplomacy of entertainment cultivates a natural understanding between countries, and establishes warm relations and a bond between people through the ties of friendship.

I have been thinking that, as a representative of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, I could take the role of introducing Japanese culture and be a diplomat for peace.

By now, I have performed shinnai in more than fifty cities in over thirty countries. From the start, I’ve enjoyed performing overseas and visiting other countries. I’m always delighted to visit foreign countries. I’ve never felt uncomfortable overseas.

I want to take care of my health so that I can introduce shinnai and other Japanese traditional forms of entertainment to many people, continue working for international good will, and cultivate friendships through sharing wonderful experiences with many people.

Also in 2011, I presented events for children at more than ten schools in Japan. This too was sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. These events were arranged so that children, who are the next generation, could experience high quality traditional Japanese culture.

Among the schools I visited was an elementary school that is going to be closed at the end of the school year (March, 2012), and a school that was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake.

This project is excellent for children who, as the next generation, will be carrying out an important role in Japanese society, and for the popularization of shinnai as one form of traditional Japanese entertainment.

However, sadly, I’ve heard that the budget allotted by the government for cultural activities is getting smaller and smaller each year. It’s deplorable that the budget for cultural projects is one of the first to be reduced when the economy is bad.

It is said that people get satisfaction from material things, but that their spirit gets satisfaction from immaterial things. For human beings, both are necessary.

Today, I am concluding my professional activities for 2011 by performing traditional Japanese entertainment. The first work that I will perform today is Kumo no Ito, which I also performed in Poland. The story on which this work is based was written for children by Ryunosuke Akutagawa; it is included in the textbooks used in elementary schools in Japan. When I adapted this short story for shinnai, I especially hoped that children would appreciate it. All the artists who are performing this work with me contributed to the stage adaptation.

The second work is based on the classic story, Ishikawa Goemon. That work has three parts, but today, I will be performing only two of them: Mamako Zeme and Otaki Goroshi. I’m planning to perform the third part, Kamairi no Dan, in a future recital.

Some people think of the shinnai genre as consisting primarily of light music, but I disagree. I hope that you understand that there are various kinds of joruri.

I wonder how Japan and the rest of the world will change from now on. I do not want the dawn to be dark.

I hope that my personal situation will be all right, regardless of the situation in the world.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year.

Thank you for coming to our performance today, even though this is a busy time of the year for everyone.

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