Looking at Kagurazaka from Shinnai Alley
Except in Brasilia, which was the first of the five places that we performed in Brazil, I sprinkled Portuguese into the performances in the way that I’ve described.
Latino people are lively and cheerful, and express their feelings in a straightforward way, so we enjoyed our experiences there. Exhilarated by their cheerfulness, we performed in high spirits.
In Rio, we climbed the mountain that has the big statue of Christ on the top. Despite my student’s worries, I took a sightseeing helicopter ride. Looking down from the helicopter, I could see Copacabana Beach. It was very enjoyable. On another one of our days off, we went to see Iguazu Falls.
After finishing our highly successful concerts in five cities in Brazil, we next went to Uruguay.
I think that most people in Japan are not familiar with Uruguay. Among the countries in South America, Uruguay is economically and politically stable. In area, it is about the same size as Kumamoto prefecture.
We performed in the capital, Montevideo, and another city.
When we entered the first theater in Uruguay, we realized that their language was Spanish, not Portuguese. In South America, Portuguese is spoken only in Brazil.
Again, I asked to have an interpreter come as soon as possible. I had the interpreter translate into Spanish the lines that I’d delivered in Portuguese in Brazil, and I got a lesson in pronunciation and how to produce the sounds of Spanish. It was just before the performance, and I concentrated hard on studying. Portuguese and Spanish resemble each other, so it was easy to remember what the interpreter had taught me.
Here, again, the performance was well received by the audience. When I attended the reception after the performance, I was surprised to be welcomed with loud applause. The beautiful wife of the President of Uruguay greeted me with a smile and a big hug. “The performance was wonderful. Especially because you spoke Spanish well, we could understand the story. The work was very interesting and amusing, and I laughed,” she said to me.
A Japanese man standing nearby, who looked like he must work at a trading company, also praised me. “Your Spanish is really good. You must have studied very hard”, he said. How could I answer him? I thought about it for a second and replied, “Well, to tell the truth, all the Spanish that I know I learned from our interpreter in the three hours before the performance.”
“Really…?” he exclaimed in surprise. I think that his comments were sincere, and not just flattery.
After that, we went to Chile. We performed in the capital city, Santiago, and one more city, and returned to Japan after another great success.
A few years later, in 2008, I was again invited to perform in South America. This time, too, I went together with the Kuruma Ningyo troupe of puppeteers. We performed in three countries: Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. In all three of these countries, the people are poor, and security was extremely bad.
After a long flight from Japan, we arrived in Peru. Because this tour was the result of an invitation from the Japanese Government, it was essential to pay a call on the Japanese Ambassador. I clearly remember the terrorist attack on the official residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru that started in the end of 1996. The terrorists occupied the Ambassador’s residence for four months.
We were invited to the official residence. Of course, it had been rebuilt. The entrance was protected by a double layer of gates. It felt as if we were entering a prison. The soldiers standing guard at the gate had stern faces and guns resting on their shoulders, but the Ambassador greeted us with a friendly smile. That brought us some relief, but at the reception, not only I, but others in our group, felt uneasy.
We checked in at our hotel, worrying as to whether the next day’s performance in this dangerous city would be all right.
In the city, there were terrible traffic jams, and I was surprised to see that the drivers didn’t stay in their lanes. I was amazed at the bus drivers’ reckless driving. I didn’t know whether those were municipal buses or buses of private companies. I think that there must be a lot of traffic accidents.
Alpaca sweaters were being sold at cheap prices. When I bought many, my student scolded me.
Next, we went to Ecuador.
(From Kagurazaka Community Magazine, Feb. 2015 – March 2015 issue, issue #78).