Exploring Hiroshima

Vol.16 Hiroshima Cultural Night
Hiroshima Cultural Night

It’s not everyday you can witness samurai sword-fighting one minute and traditional Japanese flute playing the next. But an evening at the Hiroshima Cultural Night offered this and more.

Introducing Hiroshima Culture to the Wider World

As we took our seats, the dulcet harmonies of the Japanese ’shinobue’ flute flowed from the basement auditorium at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. We were about to experience an installment of the Hiroshima Cultural Night - a showcase for the region’s cultural and artistic performances specially tailored for international visitors.

Waiting for the performance to begin at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum.

Waiting for the performance to begin at the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum.

With an event almost every week, visitors to Hiroshima have the chance to see a variety of acts ranging from samurai sword fights, to Noh theater, to even shishimai lion dances.

“All our performers are local or have a strong connection to Hiroshima,” explains Toshiko Yoshizaki, the senior director of the NPO Fuzoroi who manage the events. “Usually, you can only see these types of performances at festivals and other events dotted throughout the year. By staging the Hiroshima Cultural Night, overseas guests have a regular opportunity to witness these cultural gems up close.

First up was the Aki Hiroshima Busho-Tai’s samurai performance.

First up was the Aki Hiroshima Busho-Tai’s samurai performance.

As well as a varied roster of performers, the event has another benefit - extensive English explanations and multilingual staff. Everything is in place to ensure visitors walk away with a deeper understanding of the cultural performance they witness.

The multilingual event staff wore badges showing the different languages they speak.

The multilingual event staff wore badges showing the different languages they speak.

“This is a great opportunity, not only for foreign visitors to learn about Hiroshima’s rich culture, but it also gives us a chance to connect with people from all over the world,” says Kentaro Takahara, a member of Fuzoroi and MC for the event. “Hiroshima is often associated with the idea of peace. For true peace, we all need a strong mutual understanding of each other’s cultures and customs. In a small way, I think this event starts to bridge that gap.”

The Performance

On this occasion, we were in for a doubleheader - ‘Samurai Ninja Theater’ by the Aki Hiroshima Busho-tai group and a ‘shinobue’ flute performance by Yoshiyuki Kodani.

After an in-depth introduction from Takahara in English, the Aki Hiroshima Busho-Tai took to the stage with exciting sound effects and dramatic lighting. Purveyors of “sword fights and rock music,” the Aki Busho-Tai gave an energetic rendition of a story based on Hiroshima’s legendary samurai, Mouri Motonari.

The masked ninja from the samurai performance.

The masked ninja from the samurai performance.

The two protagonists fight in a carefully choreographed routine.

The two protagonists fight in a carefully choreographed routine.

The samurai came equipped with realistic swords and armor.

The samurai came equipped with realistic swords and armor.

Next came the tranquil and soothing tones of Kodani’s flute performance. It was in stark contrast to the high-paced action that preceded it. Kodani performed three arrangements evoking three motifs - the sky, the sea, and cherry blossoms.

Yoshiyuki Kodani’s enchanting flute performance.

Yoshiyuki Kodani’s enchanting flute performance.

During the recital for ‘sea’, Kodani handed out small wooden trays filled with dry adzuki beans to the audience. By tilting the trays and moving the beans, the audience recreated the sound of gentle waves while Kodani added the melody.

Kodani explaining how to create the sound of waves with dried adzuki beans.

Kodani explaining how to create the sound of waves with dried adzuki beans.

Members of the audience participate in the performance using the bean trays.

Members of the audience participate in the performance using the bean trays.

Kodani walking among the audience while playing the shinobue flute.

Kodani walking among the audience while playing the shinobue flute.

Audience participation is a core element of the Hiroshima Cultural Night. At the end of the performances, the audience has time to pose questions to the performers, take pictures, and sometimes try their hand at the traditional performing art. The multilingual staff translate for anyone preferring to ask questions in a language other than English.

“When I go to a cultural performance in Japan, I’m always left with lots of unanswered questions in my head, questions I need to google afterwards,” says Lucy, from India on a two-week holiday in Japan with her children Nikita and Aditya. “This evening was better than I imagined and I felt very integrated into the performance. I won’t need to google tonight!”

There was opportunity to take pictures with the performers at the end.

There was opportunity to take pictures with the performers at the end.

Lucy’s words were echoed by Janina and Moritz from Germany.
“We are staying in Hiroshima for two days and our hostel recommended this event,” says Janina. “We loved the flute and the best part was being able to ask questions.”

One of the staff translating for a visitor from Taiwan in the Q&A session at the end.

One of the staff translating for a visitor from Taiwan in the Q&A session at the end.

The answers were translated into a number of languages.

The answers were translated into a number of languages.

So if you find yourself in Hiroshima with a free evening, check out the schedule for the Hiroshima Cultural Night and sign up for an unforgettable experience.

Other Performances

In addition to this report you can see various performances on different days..

In Samurai Ninja, the audience jumps into performance and knocks down the bad guys.

In Samurai Ninja, the audience jumps into performance and knocks down the bad guys.

Shishimai

Shishimai

Shakuhachi

Shakuhachi

Tsugaru Shamisen

Tsugaru Shamisen

Japanese dance

Japanese dance

About Hiroshima Cultural Night (Official)
https://www.facebook.com/Hiroshima-Cultural-Night-152074255488093/

Words and Photography by Tom Miyagawa Coulton. (Visited in June 2018.)

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