Concept, Direction, Choreography : Pijin Neji
Cast : Ken Shinohara, Kento Kanno, Rie Wakabayashi, Pijin Neji
Music : Ken Shinohara, Kento Kanno
Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Number 1, 3F HallYokohama Dance Collection EX2014 Performance by Former Prizewinner
<A TPAM Showcase Program>
After the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima, the Internet was filled with suggestions for how to protect oneself against radiation. One proposal involved lactic-acid bacilli, a kind of bacteria, grown in water that has been used for washing rice. (White rice is washed before cooking.) The recipe called for adding salt and sugar to the water and leave it in a warm place. The bacteria would grow, and when someone drank the resulting liquid, they would strengthen the body’s immune system. According to some blogs and other sites, radioactive substances inside the body would be consumed by the bacteria, which were transformed into macrophages, protecting the body against exposure to radiation. Cult-like and totally outrageous: that’s what this health tip was called. But in 2013, two years after the nuclear accident, I decided on a whim to grow my own lactic-acid bacilli in water used to wash rice at my home. Via the Internet, I purchased unpolished rice from Kyushu and natural salt and brown sugar from Okinawa. I washed the rice in mineral water, then added a small amount of the salt and sugar to the water and poured them into a PET bottle. Warming the bottle with these ingredients in the middle of winter in Tokyo, I saw small bubbles appear. Something was clearly alive there. I placed the bottle in front of the space heater, took it into the bath with me, held it on my chest under the comforter as I slept. The result was clearly different from what I had started with. The PET bottle was so filled with bubbles that its shape was distorted. Thinking that the time was right, I added a little of the liquid to soy milk, warmed the mixture for a day, and I had homemade soy milk yoghurt. I continue to eat it to this today.
In May 2013 I participated in the Kanda Festival in Kanno Kentō’s neighborhood of Tokyo, Awajicho, helping to carry the omikoshi, the sedan chair in which the god rides. The Kanda Festival, labelled one of the Big Three festivals in Japan, is enormous. It is normally held every other year, but was not in 2011 because of the disaster in the Tohoku. Since the 2013 festival was the first in four years, the participants were extra excited. The gods celebrated in this festival are those worshipped at the Kanda Myojin Shrine and include Taira no Masakado, a warrior who rebelled against the central government. The space was jammed with “Edokko,” natives of Tokyo. The kind of caustic humor you can hear in Rakugo performances filled my ears. The atmosphere was lively, with, given the worship of an enemy of the imperial court, an anti-establishment vibe. This was Tokyo, another Tokyo, a Tokyo of which I, born and raised in Akita, had been unaware. The fierce pride I sensed raised goosebumps on my skin.
I think of the Kanda Festival whenever I eat my soy milk yoghurt made with lactic-acid bacilli grown in water used to wash rice. The image of those little bacteria, unsterilized, circulating through my intestines, battling bad bacteria, is connected for me with the pride I sensed at the Kanda Festival, which refuses to disappear in a globalizing world. Those lactic-acid bacilli, who come alive and make their bubbles in the bath or snuggled up with me under my comforter, embody the same human and local character as those who parade carrying the omikoshi in that festival. When that yoghurt slides down my throat, I feel the omikoshi biting into aching shoulders and hear its bearers’ enthusiastic shouts as they heave it about. Apart from hope for my own health, there is some inexpressible desire embodied in my eating my soy milk yoghurt. It is like that “Oh, I’ve done it” sensation we feel when we fart. In Japanese, we don’t just “break wind.” A wind emerges. A desire pent up within us erupts, like that wind. If we believe that art’s goal is a healthy humanity, that crazy association is inescapable.
*In the foyer, you can taste my homemade soy milk yoghurt made with lactic-acid bacilli grown in water used to wash rice. If you would like to give it a try, just say so. The yoghurt has not gone through a health inspection. The performers have eaten it and experienced no physical ill effects, but eat it at your own risk.