Xin chao (meaning “Hello” in Vietnamese), everyone!
Welcome to the Vietnamese community in Nagata!
Text by Fumi Yokobori
Photo courtesy of Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre (Hanoi, Vietnam)
“For Vietnamese children living in Japan, both Vietnamese language and culture and Japanese language and culture are very important. I hope that Vietnamese children living in Nagata will become a bridge between Japanese and Vietnamese cultures in the future.” —Text from the fourth program of "CHÀO CHÀO! Vietnamese Water Puppetry!”
Since 2002, I have been involved in a number of international exchange programs. In the early days, it was a special opportunity to meet and collaborate with others across borders, exchanging our views on dance. Gradually it became easier to travel across borders, and as international exchange programs became more and more popular, it became a part of our daily work. During this time, I started to have an interest in the international exchange that was spreading in the area; yet I had little contact, since a boundary between Vietnamese and Japanese communities still exists.
In 2020, with the starting point of connecting Vietnam and Nagata, "CHÀO CHÀO! Vietnamese Water Puppetry!” was finally launched as a three-year program (I say "finally" because I'd been planning this project for more than five years). In this project, it was important to visualize an entity that could go back and forth across borders. On this occasion, we were looking to connect Vietnamese Water Puppetry and Vietnamese children living in Nagata. As mentioned in the text at the beginning of this article, they are the ones bridging both cultures. I hope that their ability to navigate both Japanese and Vietnamese culture will turn into positive potential for this region in the future.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began and the first state of emergency was declared, we had to cancel all plans for inviting the director and actors of the Vietnamese Water Puppetry. After serious consideration, we decided to have all the program online. This way, we could film various aspects of the Vietnamese community and people in Nagata despite the pandemic in 2020. We were also able to strengthen our trust and relationship with the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi. This was done the old school analog way, and it was a slow process.
As this was my first attempt to create a video program for online use, and since I do not understand any Vietnamese language, I could not do anything on my own. Inevitably, by gaining the support of many people, I was able to learn about the complex relationships that exists between both Vietnamese and Japanese community members.
This year, the seeds of international exchange were scattered in various places and layers. In the future, the seeds of this program will be nurtured by those who are involved in the program, and they may even sprout from someone else. It’s been a year since “CHÀO CHÀO! Vietnamese Water Puppetry!” was launched. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported and been involved in this project.
Fumi Yokobori NPO DANCE BOX /Program Director
Fumi Yokobori works in Shinnagata, Kobe, where she lives with her Vietnamese husband, and their child. The base of her activities is Art Theater dB Kobe where she carries out most works and projects through residency creation with a focus on dance. In 2008, she received a grant from ACC to observe and study contemporary dance and arts management in the United States and Southeast Asia.
(Photo by Junpei Iwamoto)
This article is reprinted from ACC Japan Tsushin, Vol.1, May 2021.
Page 5. PICK UP (from Japan Virtual Exchange Program 2020-2021)
Click here to view the May 2021 issue of ACC Japan Tsushin.