From our last performance at the 331 Arts Chiyoda's basement in Tokyo on the night of October 27, the Nippon International Performance Festival (NIPAF) team went straight to catch a bus bound for Osaka.
We were early by 30 minutes so we grabbed a bite of cold maki, hot soba, and green tea right in front of the towering Yanmar Building, along the sidewalk across the station, reminiscent of our Manila Bus days in Escolta, with our dinner catered by Lawson.
It took us eight hours to reach our new home: from a Makati-like Inamoto in Senzoku, Taitoku to a Quezon City-ish Business Hotel Chuo in Taishi, Nishinari-ku.
We reached this mecca of gourmet food so early so, before checking-in, we ate breakfast of sandwich or toast and tea or coffee at Kobeya, a cafe comparable to typical panciteria with a daily dose of infectious Chinese music in Binondo or Sampaloc in Manila.
Full and fulfilled, we had a name game and got the meaning of everyone all at once: Indian Aishwarya means “glory” and “prosperity” and from her surname you will guess or get from what village she is; Korean Eung Sung refers not just to Jesus Christ but to her who happens to be a “superstar” too; Bangladeshi Hasna Hena is a tiny white flower with strong smell at night like dama de noche; and Indonesian Iwan means “chosen one.” Then the Japanese's turn: Bunpei is a “peace letter,” Koji is a “favorite,” and Noriko is “myself.”
Nobody got the guts to ask so we, respectfully, dared by canonizing him with san. We gathered that Seiji is “the second” and “Shi” is frozen while “moda” is ricefield.
All of a sudden, we were reassured that rice as metaphor for world peace – as promoted by our Palay, Bigas, Kanin project with Joey Ayala – is universal and classic!
Our turn, finally, but it was time for us to leave with a Baguio state of mind but with this state of heart: "Dress (in kimonos) till you drop in Kyoto, eat till you drop in Osaka.”
The weather bureau spotted a storm heading towards this media hub of Japan.
Instead of explaining why Victor Emmanuel Carmelo, we secretly wondered how do the Japanese baptize typhoons.
Are they as gender-sensitive as us back in our La Niňa-loco land?
Before we could ever find out, we automatically packed away upon hearing our mantra since NIPAF's beginning in 1993 -- Mr. Shimoda's “Let's go!” Or was it“Ret's go?”
Our venue was convenient, not because it was atop a convenience store.
But because it was just a stone's throw away from our hotel.
There, we got the chance to meet the “Queen of Tokyo.”
Her Highness's name is Meba Kurata.
What sets her breed apart is her angst with addiction. She was confined to a mental hospital in 1984 for doing drugs, actually paint thinners, while in her 20s. In 1993, upon recovery, she put up the Osaka Drug Addiction Rehabilitation Center where she started 2001 its peer support called Freedom. “Its purpose is to make new social resource for us to recover fast,” she explained, “so through it, I myself was able to restart writing poetry.”
By that she meant only this year. By that she meant, an interval of 30 years. And through Mr. Shimoda, who happens to be a poet too, she was introduced to her newfound love – performance art.
Last Saturday, we saw her perform like big girl trying to recapture her lost childhood by playing a wushu champ using two laser swords, like reminding us where George Lucas get his idea for Star Wars from, with colored cutouts attached to an electric fan.
Such seemingly simple kid's act could challenge a shadowplay master as she created a kaleidoscopic welcome to a giant doll that gives headbirth, when decapitated, to its little lookalikes which she gave away to all as if craving for his gift. The pleasure she derived from her role-playing could be the creation of her castle in the air: child-bearing.
Meba, when Mr. Shimoda first met her 30 years ago, was still a man!
One of recipients of Meba's baby was -- the “Grandfather of Performance in Japan” -- Osamu Kuroda. He is not as prominent as Jiro Yoshihara yet he seemed to be the living legend, or our link to the past. And the silent Michel Tapies – who could introduce or re-introduce to him to the world – would be the likes of Asia Art Archive's Takayuki Kubota or Yesibu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions' Keiko Okamura or Live Performance Art's Randy Gledhill or New York University's Tomoe Hanafusa!
Mr. Kuroda, who joined NIPAF only in 1998, may not be as rebellious as Gutai that began in 1954, the year after Mr. Shimoda was born. But he, too, got his share of avant-gardism after World War II. To this day, he serves as our mirror as to what we can or cannot do with performance art, say, 30 or so years from now. At 79, he still can manage to outdo himself with his beggar act -- that originated from his education in picture-story show from Yotchan or his butoh training under Donchan or his collaboration with Kamechan and others. Also, his staying power can be traced in the eternal tradition of Charlie Chaplin or Marcel Marceau or Michael Jackson who appeal to the non-Japanese. And to the modern or postmodern as well.
For one, “Wani,” or crocodile to which her body is likened, cried laughing.
She, by the way, is Emiko Suzuki who danced for the performance of 70-year old Morgan
O'Hara, a native New Yorker who grew up in Japan, who collaborated with Yoko Horio whose voice brought us back to the time when poetry was performed in temples and palaces. This couple of cool amigas took the centerstage like they were just mah-jong mates in some Forbes Park-esque village. As if they were not born during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, Ms. Horio chanted poems of Toho and Rihaku while Ms.O'hara caricatured each movement her pals were making! That graceful aging reminded so much of Juliet, the Model and the Muse turned Man Ray's last wife in the video we saw at The National Museum of Art where the on-going exhibit is Man Ray.
What we truly love is its subtitle that somewhat describes us all, performance artists or otherwise -- Unconcerned But Not Indifferent.
The following day we were able to squeeze into our tight schedule our stolen moment of silence in a shrine -- Sumiyoshi Taishya – where we, like those old huge man-made and natural structures around, witnessed more than one wedding ceremonies. Earlier, we saw its bridge in the photos in front of a tourist assistance center where two of its employees in the counter fell asleep and at peace in public like street performers.
In contrast, we juxtaposed it with the previous night's noise at Nanpa Bashi, or roughly translated as “Pickup Girl Bridge,” right at the groin of Osaka where more mundane performances than ours take place every night.
Indeed, nothing can beat world's oldest profession's timeliness and timelessness.
Our volunteer guide, Kristine Hosaka, told us that in our next destination – Nagano – the life expectancies are 79.84 years old for males (first in Japan but third in the world after Iceland and Hongkong) and 86.48 for females (fifth in Japan but first in the world).
All the more we prepared ourselves, physically and spiritually, for what is to come-- after learning the unpredictable dance steps of “silent yet violent” Momo Takahashi.
Ironically, the loss of our maintenance medicine was unexpected.
San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra's classics healed us, fortunately, while we still were dreaming of every Tupada Action and Media Arts member's dream --Uroi Kan -- a spa from a natural hot spring by a limestone-rich mountain as in our hometown Tayabas!
From our last performance at the Flet's third floor in Osaka on the night of October 31, the NIPAF team went straight to catch a bus bound for Nagano.
The average number of people airborne over the U.S. in any given hour: 61,000
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