Triangle Project - Rafu Shimpo Article 10/26/05

My Journey with The Triangle Project
by Jennifer “Emiko” Kuida

Nobuko & Maiya getting to know each other
The nice thing about having this column is that I get to write about the things that are interesting to me, or projects I am involved with.  Lately, my columns have been about my journey through pregnancy and early motherhood as I strive to keep up with my active 9-month old daughter, Maiya. 

Another one of those things I get to write about is “The Triangle Project: Journey of the Dandelion,” which premieres at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on November 5th.

About 5 years ago, P.J. Hirabayashi of San Jose Taiko thought it might be interesting to introduce Nobuko Miyamoto from Great Leap to Yoko Fujimoto, a vocalist of the Japanese taiko group.  With P.J. up in the Bay Area, Yoko in Japan, and Nobuko in Los Angeles, it wasn’t easy to arrange logistically.  All three women are professional artists who perform and tour regularly throughout the country, and internationally as well, so just getting their schedules together is a challenge. 

I was busy working for Nobuko at Great Leap touring our multicultural productions such as “A Slice of Rice, Frijoles and Greens” all over the country.  We were also developing our year-long community residencies “To All Relations” in Detroit, Phoenix, San Jose, Watts, Boyle Heights and last year’s “Sacred Moon Songs.”  Not to mention trying to keep an arts organization running in a time of declining funding for the arts, including the elimination of the California Arts Council’s grant programs.

So, I didn’t think about The Triangle Project a whole lot.  For me, it was always one of those projects that was going to come to fruition.  Some day.  And every so often, once or twice a year, Nobuko would go to San Jose, or PJ and Yoko would come to Los Angeles and they would go into rehearsals for a week or more.  Once, they even met on Sado Island in Japan, where Yoko lives in a communal village of artists, musicians and taiko. 

I didn’t know a whole lot about
Yoko, Maiya & PJ share a minute in between rehearsals
what happened at these rehearsals.  In the first few years, they were mostly getting to know each other and sharing stories about their lives.  As Japanese and Japanese American women and performers for over 30 years each, they found many connections and used those intersections as a starting point.

Then over the next few years, they started having work-in-progress presentations and mini-performances.  They also traveled to New WORLD Theater in Amherst, Massachusetts several times to continue developing their stories into a theater production.  Each time, they asked for input and continued to define and refine their stories.

Some of the pieces were childhood songs they had in common.  Some were charming and made me laugh, others were deeply powerful, making me cry.  Some were about the Asian American Movement, some were about war and violence, but mostly they were about peace, energy and healing.  Along the way, I got to see P.J. sing and dance, and even saw Nobuko play a little bit of taiko.  And Yoko, who didn’t speak English when this process began, now speaks English fairly well!  So, it was so interesting to see their artistic process as it was developing.

In the meantime, I got pregnant and went on maternity leave from Great Leap a month before I gave birth.  I had asked Nobuko to be one of my labor coaches at Maiya’s birth.  On the day that I went into labor, Nobuko was deep in rehearsals with P.J. and Yoko. 

Even though Yoko was only in town a few days for a KODO performance, Nobuko came to the hospital late at night and again, at the crack of dawn to help my husband Tony and I bring our baby into the world, by meditating, chanting and singing with me through over 24 hours of active contractions.  After coming from the hospital, Nobuko excitedly shared my birth story with PJ and Yoko.

My own world has changed much since my journey of motherhood began.  As with all parents, the first few months were like being in a vacuum, nursing every two hours, constant diaper changes, lack of sleep, and just listening to and meeting my daughter’s needs.

As this year has progressed, Maiya and I have become much more mobile.  In June, we went to a rehearsal and Maiya got to meet PJ and Yoko (see photo).  Maiya and I started coming into the office at Great Leap, helping with strategic planning, fundraising, and helping with publicity and ticket sales for The Triangle Project.

A few weeks ago, I attended a sneak preview of The Triangle Project at the Japanese American National Museum.  It was awesome.  What PJ, Nobuko and Yoko have birthed together is a peace offering—showing their vulnerability as human beings, sharing their personal and collective stories, and showcasing their incredible talent as artists.  It is a weaving of the rhythms and sounds of their distinct voices, using traditional Japanese songs, and original new music as they explore their lives and journeys.

I am excited that The Triangle Project is finally here. The Northern California premiere takes place at CSU Monterey Bay’s World Theatre tonight, and premieres in Los Angeles next weekend on November 5th.  I hope you will order your tickets today and come see the show, “Journey of the Dandelion.”  I’m looking forward to it.  Maiya is looking forward to it, too.


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Updated: 10/26/05
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