Nathan and I went on a trip to Tokyo, where we were able to meet up with friends and have a nice break from daily working life. During our time out, however, we also missed an meeting about the exhibition and where the artists wanted to exhibit their work. When we returned, we were shocked to find out that our boss volunteered us to exhibit art as well!!! Incredible!!
Nathan and I are not artists.
Last exhibition, Kjell and both of our coworkers, Ryota and Kurumi were able to exhibit their work. Kjell and Ryota are ceramic artists, while Kurumi is an animator. This time, both Ryota and Kjell didn’t have as much time to create works with the music festival. So, instead, there was room for Nathan and I to exhibit, should we want.
For me, it was simpler. I could sing! I decided it was a good idea to sing a couple songs before the artist talks. However, I also knew that I wanted to do something to honor the people of Onishi. I had a wonderful time while I was in Japan, and it was mainly to do with the people in Onishi. Every time I walked into a place to eat in Onishi, I was greeted by someone who had only met me in passing. Or a restaurant gifted Nathan and I a quarter of a watermelon, just because! Our neighbors Ken and Aya took us out to multiple dinners out of town. Friends Tim and Kimiko took us on a drive through the mountains! Endless memories were formed in this small town hidden in the mountains, and I felt it was necessary to thank the community.
So I suggested to Nathan that we do a project together, and compile the pictures we had taken/were taken of us. He agreed, and all of a sudden we were in the exhibition!
Nathan is very good at Japanese, so we thought it would be fun to arrange the pictures into the form of the kanji for Onishi. This was symbolic because what makes Onishi special is the people that make up the town, and the art piece shows the people that make up the kanji of Onishi.
Another important part of our time in Onishi was the music festival. We never missed a practice, and the taiko family seemed very close knit. We decided it would be fun to include a corner in our exhibition space to talk about the festival, so we set up a tire with some mallets. People were invited to go practice as they wish!
The third element of our exhibition was a Kanna river that we painted and Nathan wrote the kanji. This river was so important when the temperature got so hot-it provided a place of sanctuary, where we could go and escape. The artists went to swim in the river twice a day! We also wanted the community to be a part of our exhibition, so we included markers for people to draw on the river. We hoped they would draw elements of Onishi that they, too, cherish.
We also included our uchiwas that were beautifully calligraphied with our names, and our kites (his had Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas, mine had an orca) because to be honest, we would put up anything that passed as art.
So, between setting up for the exhibition, cleaning, and office work, Nathan and I found moments to put the exhibition together.
Opening day of the exhibition, I was personally a bit worried about how our “art piece” would be received. But it seemed to be liked! It was especially a kid favorite-kids seemed to love drawing and practicing taiko. It was so fun to hear adults and kids practicing the taiko patterns in our room!
When the artist talks approached on Saturday, I started to prep my songs. I had 3 songs prepared, with a 4th for the party. When I performed, I started with Perche’ dal tuo Seno by Rossini, then Moonlight by Quilter. I finished with Giusto Ciel by Paisiello. The response I received after the performance was incredible. Shiro Oni does a great job of bringing art to the residents of Onishi, which otherwise there would not be exposure to as many forms of art. It is an incredible opportunity to have exposure to creativity and different cultures from a very early age. However, Shiro Oni does not often have a musician. So my ability to sing opera here brought some new music to a smaller area of Japan that would not otherwise have had the exposure. Everyone who approached me after was incredibly grateful, and I felt so blessed to get to share my gift with them. Next, I sang again at the party, this time Fair Robin I Love by Kirke Mechem, for even more people. And then I sang finally for Ryota’s final dinner, where even more community members got to hear. The dinner was called “Takarazushi Opera” and the entire sushi restaurant came out to hear me. (Which sounds fancy but there were maybe 10 people in all hahah)
I feel so grateful that my boss, Kjell, pushed Nathan and I to contribute something to the exhibition. If he had not encouraged me, I would not have shared my voice with the town, or shared the exhibition with Nathan. I hope Onishi feels adequately thanked, because I am so happy to have lived there.