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Monday, February 20, 2012

We Are Friends Project

Yoshi-san and his friend (whose name I never quite got) are traveling around New York City.  They are trying to make friends from every country in the world.  They really are just kind of bumbling about, asking people randomly if they want to be part of their We Are Friends project.  But it's the interaction between these two native Japanese men that make the little 10 minute clips so fun to watch.

Their website and youtube clips can be found under Tokyo Circus "We are Friends" links.  The guy behind the camera is my favorite voice actor from - Yoshi-san!  I found him through Robert Belton (who knew him and put him up when he came to stay in London)...and am trying to follow his shenanigans around the world via youtube and facebook!  Small world...but I would recognize Yoshi-san's voice it's kind of cool for me to STILL not see his face, just hear his distinctive soft Japanese.

I just re-listened to this and learned that the man on camera calls himself Nozomi Ninja.  Nozomi is the name of the fastest train in Japan and Ninja is... well we all know what Ninja is.  The funniest part comes near the end.  Tokyo Circus is an odd band of players who have traveled the world doing random performance art.  This new Mission is a fun one, and there are quite a few clips of them on You tube with the link cited above to check out.  tanoshkatta desu!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ukulele Maestro

Last Wednesday the kids and I went to see Jake Shimabukuro at Zipper Hall, downtown Los Angeles.  It was an amazing show.  A Ukulele concert?  Jake who?

I have a fondness for Jake for many reasons.  First of all, he's a true virtuoso.  No one has ever even come close to doing what he does on a ukulele.   I say that as if I've studied it for years -- I haven't, but everyone seems to agree that he's taken the instrument to the next level.

I also have a fondness for his music because it got me through a particularly rough patch last summer when I was going through a lot, emotionally.  I discovered his music while on the island of Kauai.  He had just come out with his CD "Peace, Love and Ukulele."  I thought the title was oh so Hawaiian in the way that it was all groovy and laid back.  But the music was absolutely beyond anything I'd ever heard.  I played that CD about 30 times in five days as I drove up and down highway 56 from Wailea to Hanalei.   His music was magical, transportive and ultimately, healing.

During the concert he talked to the audience a lot.  Every song had a story -- he was charming!  The evening was hosted by the Asian Youth Symphony Society and the place was packed with admiring Japanese.  Jake is a Hawaiian boy through and through, but he is also very connected to his Japanese heritage.  His piece titled "Go for Broke" honored the 442nd regimen during WWII.  This regimen was the most highly decorated (21 Medals of Honor) in the U.S. Army and was mostly made up of Japanese Americans.  "Go for Broke" is a pigeon English term that was used at gambling halls in Hawaii that meant (as it still does) "go for it"  "all in," etc.

Jake thoughtfully peppered his commentary with "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu" (a polite phrase which is asking the favor of the listener to please keep the speaker in the highest regard)  and that seemed to thrill the audience.

I really can't say which of his amazing pieces delighted me the most.  Of course he is famous for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the Beatles, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."  But his Spanish Guitar piece, his blues pieces were wonderful too.  Perhaps the most amazing song of the evening was "Sakura, Sakura" in which he made his 4 string uke sound like a 12 string Koto.  He told the story of hearing Sakura Sakura during a Koto concert and he locked himself in his room for days until he could get close to replicating the sound with his instrument.

I got to meet him after the concert.  I was the second to last person in the autograph line  -- luckily someone came behind me who was willing to take pictures!  I was so nervous to even do this but my daughter made me do it.  She even had the bright idea to get the car, pull it around in front and park in the loading zone so that by the time I got back the line would be shorter.  She said, "he's one of your heroes mom!  You should definitely do this!  You'll always regret not talking to him and getting his autograph."  (Go for Broke???)

When I did finally get up to see him, I told him his music had meant a lot to me last summer - that I was going through a tough time and that I had picked up his CD out of the blue.  I said that I had listened to it non-stop for while in Kauai and for weeks afterwards.  He was really lovely and listened intently.

My daughter was right.  I would have regretted not getting to meet him.  It was an honor.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A My Fair Lady Moment

No, I did not get mistaken for a Japanese princess by a famous polyglot as I walked through a ballroom wearing a kimono and kanzashi (hair comb)...nor did I yell out in front of a crowd of the well to do, "Move your bloomin' Ass!" in Japanese. (Though that might be something worth learning!)

No, I had that moment in class last night in which the language lightbulb went off and I was able to FINALLY understand how to conjugate U and Ru verbs  in short present affirmative, short past affirmative, short present negative and short past negative. And then quickly started grasping ii and na adjectives in their present and past affirmative and negatives.

I suddenly went from struggling with the page in front of me, trying to translate each verb and adjective depending on what the notation was on the page - practically wincing as I stumbled through each line item.  But then it clicked.  And the understanding was just right there -- not shining like a mirage way out in front of me taunting me as it has for the past few months.  I could dunk my head right in that shimmering pool of conjugation and come up soaking wet.  It was real!

Sensei Toyoko's face lit up as I deftly began to see the patterns of the puzzle and easily translate.  With each translation she clapped.  She shouted So! So! So!  She stomped her feet on the ground in happiness and she yelled out SUUUGGGOOIIII! when I was done.  I laughed out loud as I pictured Toyoko Sensei and Ray-san (my classmate) suddenly donning top hats and dancing around the room with me in the middle conjugating verbs!

 Ray-san I think she's got it!  She's got it!  She's got it! By George, I think she's got it! I believe she does!  

I could have danced all night!