Why I'm Barefoot Walking
These days a lot of young people are seeing Tad Nakamura’s film “A Song For Ourselves” about my music partner Chris Iijima. They’ve ‘discovered’ the album, A Grain of Sand, by these ‘troubadours’ of the Asian American movement, Chris, Charlie Chin and me. Yes, I’m a dinosaur, a relic of the 70s and the movement where we found our voice, our song. It put me on a path as an artist, tangled my life with mentors and martyrs, propelled me to tell our stories on stage with a host of artists, traveled me across cultural borders, and birthed Great Leap… thirty-two years of making art and community…talk about sustainability.

Now, another dynamic and challenging moment with catastrophic possibilities is upon us. What new songs are waiting to sing? How do I link my experiences with the creative potential out there…our young people. Great Leap’s young and tech-savy staff had an answer: “Nobuko, do A BLOG!”

Okay, okay! So, why barefoot? Well, most of my work as artist has been in the trenches of communities – on the ground, under funded, under the radar. Yet magical things happen, people are changed, I am changed. This kind of work might be compared to ‘Barefoot Doctors’ who served in China’s rural communities. But for me, ‘barefoot’ speaks to a spiritual principle.

Once I was climbing a mountain in Taos, New Mexico. I had to borrow my friend Meibao’s hiking shoes, even though they were a half size too small. Before I was halfway up the mountain my feet were screaming. A voice inside said, “Take off the shoes.” What? How will I get to the top? “Take off the shoes! Your feet were made for this.” Reluctantly I surrendered and somehow reached the top of the mountain and back down again…barefoot. I looked at my ‘once were dancer’s’ feet…unwounded, dusty, strong and free. Yes…they were made for this.

The belief it takes in oneself and the universe to undertake what seems crazy or impossible…like climbing a mountain barefoot, making the world better through art, or whatever your gifts might be, is what I’m talking about. I’m a grandma now, but I’m not rocking chair ready! More songs are coming, and mother earth is calling us to change how we live. So if you’re up for a journey, kick off your shoes and come along with me…Barefoot Walking.

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