Sunday, January 18, 2015

Neriza Sarmiento Saito

On the Road to:
John Urashima: The Legend With Filipino Major Students at
the Osaka University  in Minoo

Jan - Feb 2015

A very Happy New Year to everyone! It is 2015, the year of an animal with fleece as white as snow...the SHEEP!

I am going to feature in our opening of the year issue, a group of second year university students who resembles the loyal and gentle qualities of the sheep. And more than that, there is something unique about them. After more than 25 years since the Philippine Language Studies was established in the former Osaka Gaidai, and since its merger with Osaka University, a Filipino-Japanese student passed the rigorous entrance exams Jun Takayama, whose mother comes from Lucena, Quezon. His father is a Japanese businessman. His presence in the class was one of the factors that brought them closer together in the production of John Urashima. I was only joking in the class when I first saw him saying "Jun, mukhang Filipino ka" (You look like a Filipino) and his classmates suddenly said...”You are right!” And then they said that it took almost a year before Jun told them about his real roots.

The story of the original Japanese folk tale Urashima Taro follows his adventures and encounters with various characters in the seaside and underneath with an underlying theme of global warming. Jun and Akihiro Takase were double casted as Urashima John in this script penned by Kana Matsuda. With the guidance of Prof. Masanao Oue and visiting professor Romulo Baquiran in the Filipino translation, names and things in the scenes had local colors like the words pawikan, espada, talakitok, mangga, etc. 
Akihiro has an amazing skill in memorization. He could memorize the lines of the other characters. His classmates told me that from his home in Takatsuki, he goes to the University by bicycle everyday. That is indeed amazing! Kana Matsuna poses with the cast. Akihiro and Jun in front Shiori, Kayo Yurina, Natsumi and Ayami Chihiro, Akiyo and Ayaka Taiki Yasuda, Mariko Yamamoto (production) and Yukiko Gamou (Narrator).

Natsumi Tani and Ayami Ueda played the role of the two mischievous children. Ayami said that it was hard to memorize lines and movements but thanks to Kana's patience and theater experience everything went well. In the beginning, Natsumi was not at ease with her role but after continuous prodding to act like a child. And remember how naughty she was before. She began to enjoy the role and acted convin-cingly. Yurina, who played the role of the pawikan, was the perfect choice because of her dance background and her ability to memorize quickly. She was in the Philippines last summer for volunteer work.
The roles of Talakitok and Isdang Espada were played by Kayo Uesugi and Shiori Sanda. Kayo has a vibrant stage presence and resonant voice that encouraged the shy and soft-voiced Shiori to do her best onstage.
At the palace scene, 3 princesses emerged wearing colorful costumes designed by well known theater artist Salvador Bernal. Originally, those costumes were made for the Osaka Gaidai Filipiniana Dance group upon the request of Prof. Masanao Oue and Dr. Nick Tiongson in the mid 1990's. Akiyo Yamamoto from Kobe plays as one of the princesses. She plays the violin and has performed at various concerts of the Osaka University’s symphony Orchestra. She has been to the Philippines a couple of times with her classmates. Ayaka Sasaki became interested to major in Philippine Studies after being acquainted with a Filipino co-worker. Chihiro Kato loves to listen to Filipino music on You Tube and credits her proficiency in Filipino to that. Her group is now doing a research on Philippine movies TV and music for a presentation in January.

One of the most challenging roles is the narrator played by Yukiko Gamou who is basically quiet but a deep thinker. She strived her best at rehearsals and asked me to coach her on pronunciation. On her free time, she designs ads and posters. The pictures for this article were contributed by Yukiko and Haruna, a production assistant. Haruna belongs to the cycling club. She considers her work in costumes and props and subtitles most challenging. Mariko Yamamoto was in-charge of lights and although behind the spotlight this time, she made her classmates shine onstage. Mariko has represented Osaka University at a presentation in Tokyo last summer. Taiki Yasuda, the football star stayed in the background managing the sounds, editing and helping with the making of the props. For several days, he made the sword used by John Urashima and the turtle's costume! Taiki is the leader of his class.

Sometimes true leaders are the ones who choose to sit at the back seat and
deliberating on how to run the group. Kana Matsuda is the type of a leader
who carefully plans and analyzes. She took everyone's opinions seriously and vital for the group's success.

At the "Otsukaresama Party" for the cast and staff and professors held at the residence of Prof. Satoshi and Takako Miyawaki, everyone enjoyed pancit, adobo, sinigang na hipon and many more!
Touched by this "omotenashi" of the Miyawaki family and her classmates' cooperation and camaraderie, Kana was in tears.

Once more, the theater changed the lives of these young students and John Urashima... The legend has fostered the spirit of BAYANIHAN!


 --photos courtesy of Yukiko, Haruna and Yukko

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