Messages from khaju

Encounters from Dancing


—Street Performance in Germany and Friedensdorf International

By Itoh Natsuko (tap dancer)

Autumn in 2008, I went to Germany. I’d like to write a little about my visit there.

In 2007, Trave Art Festival Kamakura was held, hosted by Khaju.

I heard that Charlotte, a singer who came from Germany at the time with her daughter to participate in the Festival, and Kyou, a pianist who lives in Fujino, was going to hold a live performance in autumn of 2008. I decided to go to Germany around the time also.

Unfortunately I couldn’t go to the live performance due to work, but I’d always wanted to do a street performance overseas, and luckily I had a partner this time. I took a portable tap table with me, and performed with Kyou and sometimes alone on the streets of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Berlin.

In Germany, it is forbidded to perform before 10:00 in the morning or at open market areas. We cannot perform in front of the same store for more than 30 minutes. Each city has different rules, but street performance itself is generally possible. There were all kinds of performers, such as a person playing a Grand piano, a set of violinist brothers playing while their parents watched, a person drawing on a wide canvas spread on the street, etc.

It was wonderful to be able to perform freely, because in Japan, street performance is against traffic laws. It felt good that my act was nothing surprising. People walking on the streets were used to these performances too. They would stop and watch if it interested them, and even children would throw in money if they enjoyed the show. I learned a lot about the country on this “street dancing trip”. I plan to go to more countries in the future, so anyone willing to offer accomodation, let me know!

This time in Germany, Charlotte and other artists let me stay at their homes. I am so grateful for their warm and encouraging welcome!

On this trip, I planned to visit “Friedensdorf International”, which I’d checked on the internet.
This is an organization which has brought injured children from regions of conflict and cared for them without compensation before sending them back to their homes, for more than 40 years. Patients are limites to only children in serious injury. They stay in this village until they are well again. I decided to perform here.

I have a hard time imaging that war is going on at this moment in foreign countries. I read it in newspapers, but understanding it as my own problem is very hard…I am ashamed of this.

I left my friends and headed for the town near the Netherlands border. It was a 4 and a half hour trip by train and bus.

On my arrival, a Japanese staff, Nakaoka-san showed me around the facility. There were small babies and children up to the age of 13, spending 6 to 12 months away from their families. There were canes of various sizes for the children who lost their legs in land mine explosions.

I wanted to use an object that the children use daily in my performance, so I borrowed a pair of canes to use as a stick in my dance. Some children had sore skin on their faces, others had a missing leg, and those who do not have external wounds held inner ailments.

Putting all that aside for a while, I started my performance.

The children seemed to like it when I tapped out rhythm using sand and the cane. When I did a tap a ccappella as my last number, the children began to clap to the rhythm and sing. I didn’t know the song they were singing, but I tapped to it as the audience became one. I learned later that it was the hometown song of Angora.

When I went to the playground after the show, the children came up to me and started to talk to me, tapping their feet and canes. The boys challenged me how high I could kick up my legs. The Angora girls stuck out their hips and chest and danced a sexy dance, asking me if I could do it too. It made me happy, and I accepted their challenge rather seriously. The Afghan girls smiled and watched with big eyes from under their veils.

As I left the childrens’ smiling faces and took the bus ride back, I watched the deserted view of the city and felt emotions spread inside me.

The children were about the same age as my own daughter. They are the ones who will create the same future that the kids in Japan will create.

I wondered if the children would remember me as a japanese that danced with them. Would any of them have a chance to meet my daugher in th future?

I wished the world would change and use songs and dance as a way of solving conflicts, not war. No weapons. If we try and understand the culture of others, we will reacknowledge our own culture and there would be no more war. It is a great thing that the children who could have died on the street were saved by the help of Friedensdorf International, that they were able to keep up joy and hope. It makes me shiver to think that everything that is occuring now is linked to the future. May all children find happiness and not hate.

I wonder what I can do.

If you are interested, please check out the reports on Friedensdorf International. It is funded completely by donation, and the more funds they have, the more children they could help. There is an article in the spring issue of the magazine “Tsuhan-Seikatu” (Catalog House). They are soliciting for a contribution.

translated by Osaka Yuko

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Renaissance Festivals in the USA

– educating, entertaining, profitable
By Linda Küttner

For over 20 years the Renaissance Festivals in the USA have seen unwavering success and popularity among patrons. The first time at the Renaissance Festival is usually a curious, unique and intriguing experience where colourful flags with ancient crests, actors and patrons in medieval wardrobe, jousters on horses, falcons in the sky, medieval melodies, the scent of delicious cooking and the sound of strong voices urging patrons to look at handmade merchandise displayed in colourful huts and tents create an enchanting illusion of a medieval European fantasy world.

Even though the aim is to entertain, Renaissance Festivals succeed in playfully introducing living history, crafts and arts to children, create a community experience, help to preserve ancient crafts and provide a lot of artists and crafters with a way to earn a living.
Even in times of recession and crisis the Festivals remain popular for many reasons, one of them being that the illusion of an unmechanized world without problems like unemployment is created. People escape into a world with a more basic set of values, where honour, courtesy and friendship are appreciated and where blunt, witty and brusque behaviour is perfectly acceptable which stands in sharp contrast to the political correctness of American society.

The Florida Renaissance Festival, Deerfield Beach for example is celebrating its 18th birthday next spring and – unlike other businesses during the crisis is even able to expand and put on a second Festival in Miami. Every year the 5 weekend Festival which is going to be extended one extra weekend next year, sees about 100.000 patrons that come to be captivated by the unique atmosphere.

Most of the products sold at the Festivals are hand-crafted, which is a rarity in the United States where price is often the deciding factor for a sale and most everything is made by a machine. The Renaissance Festivals therefore are an important market for artists and crafters who otherwise would have little chance to make a living in a country where subventions for art by the government is still the exception and the chances to survive as a full-time-artist, unless one happens to be part of the popular elite, are slim. By travelling the whole country the vendors present their goods to a much larger audience then they could have at a shop based in their home town and the special atmosphere of the festival contributes to making the purchase of an item a special experience for the buyer. Traditional crafts like basket weaving, spinning and weaving, glass-blowing, blacksmithing, pottery, seamstressing, wood carving, but also exotic entertainment like falconry or the Carillion – a French bell instrument made out of bronze weighting four tons - are presented and often feature hands on activities, like the popular candle making, fencing or maypole dancing.

Some patrons go beyond just visiting the Festival once a year and organize living history and re-enactment groups. They make their own costuming, learn how to swordfight or learn about medieval cooking and herbal medicine, which - unlike in Europe - is hardly ever used by doctors and pharmacies.

Even though the Festival management usually restricts the items allowed to be sold due to having to fit with Renaissance theme, artists are able to earn a living and practice the full range of their skill during the week. A musician for example that is restricted to playing medieval songs on the weekend can afford to create and perform what he desires during the week. Being on the road for most of the year to retire to the winter quarter's off season, living in secluded camping areas usually close to or on Festival grounds creates a secluded parallel-society with its own set of values and sense of community. While not all participants are artists or crafters this safe-haven for people who can not or do not want to find a place in American society can be a niche for artists to be productive, discuss and reflect.

Linda Küttner

From Germany. Majored art management. Official staff of Trave Art festival 2005 and The Florida Renaissance Festival . Will stay in Tokyo until December.

Let's write to Linda!

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A 900-year old German tradition is still alive.

We are traveling apprentice-craftsmen on the "Walz" . We are happy to start a traditional journey to become master craftsmen.

In the Middle Ages (the 14th - the 17th century) it was necessary to go on a 3-year journey to become a qualified Master. There was an ancient rule you had to go 50 kilomrters from your home. This is is still true, but not necessary to become a Master. We do this in our own interest.

When we prepare for the "Walz" we have to wear the "Kluft" (traditional outfit) : trousers, vest, jacket, shirt, and hat every day. Depending on the profession, the colors of the outfit change. Wood workers (carpenters and joiners) wear black. Stone workers (stonemasons and brick layers) wear grey. Metal workers (blacksmiths and goldsmiths) wear blue.We wrap all our clothes in a 80×80 cm wrapping cloth called "Charly". The last part of our outfit is a wooden walking stick called "Stenz" which is made of natural twisted wood which we find by ourselves in the forest.

We journeymen don't make this trip to obtain economic advantages at the places we visit. we just want to get
acquainted with the practices of work and way of living of other people in other countries, and thus improve our knowledge about our profession and expand our living experiences.

In this way we travel from city to city, from country to country and work in many places to learn and earn money for our traveling.We learn to stand on our own 2 feets, but we are happy to have some local support.

We decided to come to Japan, because we hear a lot about traditional Japanese wood and stonework. After a short journey around Mt. Fuji we have just stopped in Kamakura at Khaju Art Space to do a project for the local people.

Adrian Berger
Roland Kindlimann
Rene Breuer

*They made up wonderful workshops during Khaju Spring Festival

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What's BEE?

Greetings from the BEE (Bicycle for Everyone’s Earth) team!
We’re a team of earthly friendly cyclists who traverse the length of Japan every summer to spread environmental wisdom. This all-volunteer group of international cyclists promotes an ecologically friendly lifestyle in our two month journey across Japan starting from Wakkanai in the northern island of Hokkaido and ending in Kagoshima in the southern island of Kyushu. And we do more just ride our bikes: We practice what we preach by living a low-impact lifestyle during the ride and we also conduct various environmental awareness events with NPOs and schools.

For this year’s ride, the BEE team is seeking volunteers to ensure continued success.
If you have any interest in the BEE lifestyle, or would like to know more about the ride itself or the events, or would simply like to know how you can be a better steward for our earth, contact the BEE team today to ask about volunteer opportunities. Other than participating as a cyclist, there are many other ways to volunteer such as event planning and identifying accommodations for the route. Note that if you want to participate in the ride, you don’t have to ride the entire two months.

You can decide to ride with us for just an hour, or a day, or a week – whatever your schedule permits. With our mix of international backgrounds and environmental conscientiousness, we can promise you an unforgettable and meaningful experience. We hope to hear from you soon!

YAMAMOTO Munetaka ( rider in ' BEEJapan2007' , also Khaju Volunteer staff)

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News and Messages

Khaju Art Space publish Khaju Newsletter 4 times a year season by season.
We select some essays and translate them into English.
We hope this page becomes an opportunity for you to touch Japanese general thinking, our philosophy and activities about local art scene in Kamakura city.

Also we write up the latest news and information time by time in this page.

We always welcome your inquiries and opinions. Send your voice here.

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