It’s September, and my time in Japan is almost over.
Two weeks ago, I performed in three puppet scenes. Friends from my time in Japan and visitors to the Jurobe Yashiki Theatre gathered to watch this final showcase, along with a cameraman from NHK TV and a friendly reporter from the Tokushima Newspaper who had previously written a feature on me.
For the first scene, Ebisu Mai, which tells the story of a jovial god who goes fishing, I operated the left hand. This scene was performed with the troupe Jurobe-Za.
For the second scene, Yaoya Oshichi, the story of a young maiden who risks her life for the man she loves, I again operated the left hand. Hureai-Za taught me this scene.
Finally, for Keisei Awa No Naruto, I was the main puppeteer for Otsuru the pilgrim in the story of her reunion with her estranged mother. This was about the sixth or seventh time I performed this scene with my host troupe, Naruto-Za.
More video of these performances coming soon!
The NHK news coverage of my final performance
At the end of the show, I teared up thanking everyone. The thanks and speeches continued at a farewell dinner that evening, but I want to say a few more thank-yous now, as I feel I’ve shared a lot about my adventure in Japan and not as much about the people who made it possible.
A huge thank you to Satou-San, the leader of Jurobe Yashiki, who organized my entire summer and frequently drove me to and from rehearsals, took me on field trips, and taught me Japanese.
Thank you Komada-San, who traveled with me and Maria to Awajishima, Kyoto, and Naoshima, drove me to rehearsals, and brightened my days with her smile.
Thank you Rica-San, for helping me learn Ebisu-Mai and communicating with me in my broken Japanese.
Thank you Iwasa-San, Mori-San, and all the other members of the Jurobe Yashiki staff who welcomed me to the theater and made me feel at home.
Maria, Satou-San, and Komada-San on our trip to Awaji Island
Komada-San on our trip to Naoshima
Thank you Tamai-San and Seinen-Za for giving me the opportunity to do the kojo and perform at the Awa Odori festival in Tokushima.
Thank you Jurobe-Za for being so patient with me as I learned Ebisu-Mai. Thank you for taking the time out of your days to teach me that funny little performance, and for encouraging me and laughing with me.
Thank you Hureai-Za for rallying to teach me Yayao Oshichi in just a few short weeks.
Thank you to all the members of Naruto-Za, for watching over me like mothers and grandmothers. For feeding me, for teaching me Japanese, for patiently rehearsing with me again and again, for saving newspaper clippings with my name, for supporting me in my efforts to learn Awa Odori and Ningyo Joruri. Special thanks to Midori-San, Namiki-San, Murakami-San, and Miori-San for all the extra time they put in to help me.
Maria, me, Midori-San, Hattori-San, and Namiki-San at a farewell lunch
The women of Naruto-Za in their puppet blacks
Thank you Hattori-San. It’s impossible to express what this woman did for me. Starting on my first day in Japan, she patiently taught me Ningyo Joruri, unfazed by our language barrier. Everything I learned is thanks to a foundation of skills that she built, bit by bit, over the course of many private lessons. She lent me my puppet blacks, my water bottle, my dancing socks, my kimono, and a million other useful things. She drove me to my Awa Odori performances and helped me with my kimono every night. She is an expert puppeteer, puppet-carver, kimono-maker, and potter, and one of the most powerful and generous women I know.
Maria, Hattori-San, and me
Thank you Ya-Chan, Nao-Chan, Takuma-Chan, Ayami-Chan, Eri-Chan, Omar, Saki, Quan, and the other Claire for being such warm and wonderful friends.
Thank you to all the members of Uki Uki Ren who taught me Awa Odori and loved me like a sister.
Thank you to my parents for flying out to see my final showcase and for supporting me in this adventure and in all things.
Thank you to Martin-Sensei who made this life-changing experience possible.
Me with Saki and Omar
We celebrate Maria's birthday with Yayoi and her family
Maria, Eri, Komada-San, and me on our trip to Naoshima
And finally, thank you Maria. Words do not do her justice. She housed me, fed me, drove me around, translated everything, helped me understand my schedule, taught me Japanese, traveled with me, and became my best friend. She has an unrivaled warmth and kindness, and I'm lucky to know her.