The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Makoto Nomura
“Makoto Nomura’s Old People’s Home Remix #2 Documentary Opera ‘Dango for the Revival’”
(Feb. 18 to 19, 2012 at ST Spot Yokohama)
piano: Makoto Nomura
dance: Osamu Jareo
video: Kentaroh Ueda
Photo: Aya Sugimoto
Dango for the Revival
Dango for the Revival
Music workshops with the elderly for “Dango for the Revival”
Photo: Aya Sugimoto
Dango for the Revival
Dango for the Revival
*1 Hanaichimonme
Hanaichimonme is one of the very old forms of children’s games in Japan. The children divide into two teams and play paper, scissors, stone. The team that wins then gets to choose one child from the losing team to come over to their team. The game is played while singing the folk song Hanaichimonme, and the game ends when one team get all the children.
*2 High Red Center
This was an avant-garde group of artists Jiro Takamatsu, Gempei Akasegawa and Natsuyuki Nakanishi formed in the 1960s. The name came from the English equivalent of the first character of the three artists last names, taka (high), aka (red) and naka (center). The group was known for its “happenings” like the “Yamanote Incident” where they placed objet on the platforms of the Yamanote railway line stations and licked them continuously and their “Capital Cleaning Promotion Movement” where they dressed in white lab coats and wearing surgical masks and stood on the streets of the Ginza district of Tokyo sweeping and cleaning.
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
Mar. 27, 2012 
Connecting to the communities with collaborative composition   The music of Makoto Nomura  
Connecting to the communities with collaborative composition   The music of Makoto Nomura  
Makoto Nomura is a composer and pianist who pursues unique forms of collaborative composing by reaching out to the communities to involve people with no former experience in music, such as groups of the elderly, children or female victims of domestic violence, and make them his partners in improvisation. In February of 2012 he released a work titled “Makoto Nomura’s Old People’s Home Remix #2 Documentary Opera ‘Dango for the Revival’” created in collaboration with the elderly at the Sakura-En special-care home for the elderly in Yokohama that he has been visiting regularly for the past 12 years. Borrowing the theme of “recovery” from the conditions in the wake of last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Nomura interviewed the home’s elderly who had lived through the harsh years of recovery after World War II. The work synchronized music inspired by the voices, the monologues, words and gestures of the elderly in these interviews and video footage of the interviews, with Nomura performing the music live at the performances. In this interview we get a quick outline of the artists life and activities from childhood and learn about his present work and how improvisation keeps him on the borderlines of various types of expression, helping him to discover beautiful new music in the everyday life.
(Interviewer: Rika Yamashita, arts journalist)

Could we begin by going back and asking you to tell us about your earliest encounters with music?
The very beginning was when I learned to play the harmonium (reed organ) in our nursery school’s music class. The first time I composed a piece of music was when I was in the hospital for about a month during the third semester of second grade in elementary school. It was a piano piece in two parts with 16 measures each. After that I began studying piano with Setsuko Yamada (Setsuko Endo after marriage), and when she had me listen to Bartok it overturned any preconceptions I might have had about music as an elementary schooler. I though, “Wow, what is this? If this is music, I want to do it.” I think it was that experience that made begin to say that I wanted to become a contemporary music composer. But, that was when I was still in my third year of elementary school.

You were already interested in contemporary music as a third grader? (Laughs) That is more than just precocious, isn’t it? So, when did you begin doing improvisation?
The performance I did at my piano recital when I was in the sixth grade in elementary school was an improvisation. I was listening to the other children perform the prescribed piece in the recital and thinking that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, as I was waiting backstage, I asked my teacher if I could do an improvisation on it. Of course, my teacher tried to stop me from doing it, but I did it anyway (laughs). And, naturally, at that age I wasn’t able to play the kind of improvisation I was imagining.

Although you had dreamed of becoming a composer in elementary school, you actually went on to enter the science department of Kyoto University. Why was that?
In my first year of high school my piano teacher introduced me to a composing teacher, saying that if I intended to go to music university I’d need to study under a composer. The composer I was introduced to was Mikio Tojima. I didn’t know at the time that he was one of the members of the Group Ongaku, an improvisational music group back in the 1960s. Also, in the same group was Takehisa Kosugi, Mieko Shiomi and others who participated in the New York-based avant-garde art movement Fluxus.
Tojima-san told me two things. One was when she looked at a score I had composed and said, “This is not your ‘composition,’ this is your ‘performance’.” But, as a 16-year-old I didn’t know what he was saying. The second was that a student who wants to be a composer will never be first rate if they take their teacher’s corrections of their compositions as they are given. Of course, I didn’t know what that meant either.
There I was wanting to learn from this teacher the technique for getting admitted to music college and he is telling me that you will never become a first-rate composer if you take your teacher’s corrections as they are. I couldn’t say, “I want to be second-rate, so would you please correct my composition.” I thought a lot about that and finally left without saying anything.
I thought my chances of going to music school had disappeared. And, since becoming a musician was the only thing I had ever been thinking of doing, the future looked very dark in my eyes. When I happened to meet Ms. Tojima much later, he laughed and said: “Really? Did I say such a thing? I don’t remember it at all. I should be more careful about the things I say.”

You entered Kyoto University in 1987. Would you tell us what you did at university?
At that time, there were quite a few students interested in studying music by themselves whom I met at Kyoto University. Among my upperclassmen were currently active musicians like Takuji Kawai (pianist, improvisational musician, composer) and Naoto Ashizu (jass pianist), and among my classmates were Hiroaki Oi (contemporary music pianist). So, ironically, after entering university in a different field I suddenly had a lot more friends doing music (laughs).
Since there were all these interesting people, we decided to form what would be the composers group “LAS” at the end of my freshman year. I learned a lot from that experience. We decided to meet in a seminar type form in which we read books about music and then took turns making presentations and holding discussions about what we had read. That forced me to read a variety of books like “The History of Harmonics” and “Music and Cognition” and do presentations and discussions on them. Looking back now, I feel I wouldn’t have been able to do such study had I gone to a music university.
Around the same time I found a set of laser discs titled “The Main Streams of World Ethnic Music” and organized a “world ethnic music appreciation group.” Every week five to ten of us would gather and watch these recorded performances of ethnic music from regions like East Asia or North Africa for about four hours on end. After that we would go out drinking and discuss what we had seen and heard. That was also a very educational experience.
Of course, I was also doing composing and improvisation, while doing my mathematics studies on the side.

What sort of improvisation were you doing at university?
Through high school I had been composing pieces for solo piano that I played myself. At university I tried writing music for other instruments as well, but I didn’t have any musicians around me who could complicated score. At music universities there are lots of people who are good performers, and that was a big difference about a music university. No matter how well composed a piece you may write down as a musical score, it is meaningless if there are no musicians who can perform it. So, I began to think about what kind of creation I could do in the actual environment I was in. This wouldn’t have happened had I gone to a music university.

So, what did you actually do?
At first I was doing improvisational music with a certain number of predetermined rules, but that didn’t bring very interesting results. It is not something that can produce good results based simply on a concept. What turned out to be interesting was the project Hanaichimonme (*1) that we did in the LAS group in 1989. It was something Ashizu-san was inspired by the structuralist school of thought of Claude Lévi-Straus (cultural anthropoligist). It involved translating the structure of the ritual of bride exchange into music through a process by which two teams of assorted instruments make melodies and then exchange them.
For example, the melody a member of one team makes on a toy slide whistle is then imitated by the sax player on the other team. Then the sax player makes a melody and it is imitated by a member of the first team on another toy instrument. When it didn’t go well everyone started to break out laughing. The piano isn’t able to copy the sax’s melody exactly, so the result is a slightly off tune translation. We thought, “This is interesting. This could make it on the international scene!” It was interesting, I felt, in a way that was different from the exacting technical performance of music as written on a score.

Were there any pieces that you presented individually as your own works?
I presented a work titled Kumikyoku at a Kyoto City University of Arts group exhibition in 1990. In it I had several performers wear one of the Walkman portable tape players with headphones that were popular at the time and use their voices to imitate the recorded sounds they were hearing through the headphones. All their Walkmans were playing the same tape recording simultaneously but, since the individual performers vocalize the sounds in different ways, the sounds vary by person and differences emerge in the timing of their vocalizing. Nonetheless, for the audience it sounds as if the performers are communicating with each other. The tape I used started with no sound and then a variety of recorded sounds, like the sound of dripping water, and finally the tape ended with the sound of shouting voices. Looking back I feel now that it was a rather violent piece. Tadasu Takamine (artist/Dumb Type member) had come to see that perormance, and I think it was later that year that I went to see Dumb Type’s pH.

What did you do after graduation?
Before graduating the friends I had been doing improvisation with and I got together and formed a band named Pou-fou, and after winning the grand prix in a Sony audition, we made our recording debut in 1992.
Pou-fou had five members with myself playing piano, and the other members on violin, French horn percussion and electric guitar. At first we were doing purely improvisation, but we gradually began to practice in preparation for our live performances. That led to cases where we would say that certain sections we had just improvised sounded good, so we would add that section and do another improvisation from it. And when the whole thing got good, we would say, OK that’s one piece finished. So, we began to speak in terms of pieces, or works. There was no musical score whatsoever and there was no original intention to create a piece, but in the end we were producing pieces that we called “works.” In that sense I felt that we were gradually shifting from group improvisation to group composing, and it made me question from what point you could call something composition.
Although we had made our “recording debut” neither myself nor the other members found anything interesting about the direction things took when we were forced to think about the kind of degree of completion as a work or the capacity for “re-performability” that would constitute a commercially viable product. The parts that we thought were good in the improvisation the music director would say were no good, and they would be cut to make a cleaner edit. It was perhaps a useful experience to see the way that kind of music professional worked, but I didn’t find much of anything that was interesting to me in it.
That led my interest away from recording and toward street performance and improvisational performance with children.

Was there any particular encounter that led you in that direction?
My friend Syousyoukaku Sugioka (artist) was asked to do a performance at an exhibition at the Parco department store in Shinsaibashi, Osaka and he asked me and Shinta Inoue (artist/Japanese drum performer) to join him. At the time, we were all in our early 20s and we believed that we shouldn’t let our performance be confined to the inside of a commercial gallery. We were determined to get out onto the sales floor and interact directly with the shoppers there, so we presented a proposal in which we would get in handmade “walking frame” and do our performance in the aisles between the department store boutiques. Of course, the Parco management shot down that proposal immediately and that made us decide to end our participation in the exhibition.
While we were feeling frustrated by that rejection, Shinta said that working with children was interesting and when we asked a friend who worked at a nursery school if they would let us do something there, they said we could. We were eager to perform and we prepared things like placing pingpong balls on top of a big bass drum and beating it and doing a slide projection of drawings by children. We were doing all kinds of things and the children were really excited by it but then the teachers were saying that the time was up and leading their classes back to their classrooms. That was while we were still performing. It appeared that the teachers were afraid to have the children be among these strange young men too long (laughs).

How did it feel to perform with the children?
It was really fun. But, it ended with the teachers dragging them away. Somewhat frustrated by that result we decided that we were doing to do our “Walking Frame project” and make it a success. But, since Shinta had gone off to the Netherlands by then we enlisted Zan Yamashita (dancer) and the three of us practiced with the walking machines in the front square of the Kyoto City Museum of Art, which was the kind of space where young skateboarders could bring their skateboards to play.

What did you practice?
It wasn’t as if we had a clear concept, but we threw around a real ball and in between each of us did our own performance. Sugioka drew pictures, Zan-san did dance and for music I performed on a keyboard harmonica. We were young and certain that “This is multimedia art!” (Laughs)

Did you show it to anyone?
Passersby would watch us, but no one was able to come out and talk to these three guys running around in a walking frame. At that time, what we were interested in was not so much an interaction with the audience. I believe our main aim was not to confine the creative process to closed rooms. People naturally practice sports in the park, don’t they? In the same way, we didn’t want to confine our creative activities to the studio or atelier. We thought, let’s practice art outdoors the same way. So that meant playing catch, right? (Laughs)
Although there were so many elements involved that it a bit of a mess, but I would keep a training diary just they do at sports clubs. I wrote down things like, “Today, this new type of movement was created.” We continued that once a week for about a year. I just believed that what we were doing was really amazing, so I had to keep a record of it. Around the same time, Shimabuku (artist) had started a street band and Takamine was also performing on the streets. Having those types of encounters was what made Kyoto so interesting at the time.

In the Kyoto and Kansai region art scene of the late 1980s into the ’90s Dumb Type, Yasumasa Morimura, Noboru Tsubaki, Koudai Nakahara and others were the center of attention and corporations were actively involved in philanthropic programs [in the arts]. I believe that the atmosphere of the times was influenced by large, strong works that could hold their own on the world stage. Being born in 1968, you were of the next generation after those artists.
I think our generation partly rejected the art of those big artists. We felt more akin to the activities and “happenings” of artists of the 1960s like High Red Center (*2). But those people who were doing that in the ’60s were then considered “classical contemporary music” in the ’90s. So, we thought that is what we ought to be doing, and so we did the Walking Frame project and street performing.

At the end of 1994 you went to the University of York in England. What was your reason for that move?
I had heard that 1992 Britain made music education centered around composition part of the national curriculum. That sounded interesting and I managed to get a grant from the British Council to spend a year in the UK with University of York in northern England as my base of activities.

How was it?
I had an introduction from a friend and I was able to participate in a lot of workshops for group composition with school children. I made about 70 visits to a secondary school near University of York during that year. I wasn’t doing lessons, I was observing how the children created pieces and how their teachers taught them.
I also had many opportunities to talk with Prof. John Paynter of University of York, but his stance was finding a way to adapt contemporary music to school education. In contrast, I had been thinking that contemporary music was boring, so what I wanted to do was to make use of the interesting things the children did. The one thing I did find interesting was the workshops of Hugh Nankivell. While I was in the UK (1995) the Great Hanshin Earthquake occurred, and when I did a charity concert for Kobe in the UK, everyone was very cooperative. The time I spent in the UK was a very valuable period for me.

You returned to Japan at the end of 1995 and move your base of activities to Tokyo. Why did you move to Tokyo?
The town of York, England has old buildings and it was a city of adults who did their own thing without concern for what others are doing. In reaction to that, I wanted to live in a city that was less static and more volatile, shifting—I called it an adolescent city at the time—so I decided to move to Tokyo.
In Tokyo, an uncertain city, I believed, I would be able to encounter things that could only be found there at that moment. But, until then I had only been familiar with a town the size of Kyoto, so I thought I would soon be able to meet people with the same interests as me. I was very wrong, however. After moving to Tokyo in December of 1995 it wasn’t able to do much creative work at all and spent most of my time performing on the streets.

Were you able to make money performing on the streets?
To some degree, but I was full of curiosity for what I could encounter in Tokyo. I learned practical things. For example, I learned the importance of lighting and acoustics. I would be performing the same way on the street but sometimes I would get streams of contributions coming in and other times none at all. I thought about what the difference was and I realized that the lighting the people were seeing me in and the acoustics created by the wall behind me were very important factors. It taught me that where I was standing was often more important than how I performed and the importance of finding the best spot, and I learned how my performance sounded to the audience and how to create a good space.

Unlike in your Kyoto period, did you become more conscious of the audience?
A decisive difference was that I became the audience. I would often play the music from the popular TV animated series Sazae-san on the streets, and when drunken office workers came by they would start to dance. One after another they would start dancing as they passed by and then return to their normality as they moved on. Sometimes scenes like that would go on for about 40 minutes. When I played the Wedding March the drunken office workers would go into improvised theatrics that made me think, “What is this phenomenon?”
Although the audience saw me as a performance attraction, I am busy observing that same audience. It represents a 180-degree turn in the concept of the audience-performance relationship. At the time I was keeping a kind of diary, a daily record (to be published in 1999 from Peyotl Kobo Publishers as Rojo Nikki (Street Diary) and it was so interesting to me that I was no longer recording what I performed but how the passersby reacted to it. Once I observed enough worth writing about in my daily record, I would often call it a day. More important than the amount of money I had gathered or the time of day, I would stop performing before too much happened for me to write it all down in my diary. Conversely, if nothing worth writing about was happening, I would want to stay longer and keep performing until something did.

What types of things promoted responses from the audience?
What I found was that nothing interesting would happen unless there was a lull or a break in the performance. If I was performing well, the only response I would get was applause, and that wasn’t anything significant to write about. Even for the audience to complain about something to me, there had to be a break in performance. I feel that I learned how to introduce the kinds of breaks that would encourage the audience on the street or in the seats if I were on stage to say something to me.
During 1996 and ’97 I lived mostly on what I made performing on the streets, and then after Yuji Takahashi and Aki Takahashi performed one of my compositions in January ’98, I began to get enough work that I had less time to perform on the streets.

In 1999, the Art Forum project “Makoto Nomura Workshop, Group Composition with the Elderly” began. What made you choose the elderly as your partners for group composition?
In 1998, when Kosei Sakamoto (Monochrome Circus leader/stage director) invited me to participate in the “Kyoto Arts Festival” I met an interesting old man who came every day to tell old fables. Another thing was that I had noticed that there were seldom any elderly on the streets when I was performing there. So, when the coordinator Sumiko Kumakura asked me who I wanted to work with, I told her I wanted to work with the elderly. That led to the start of my workshops at the Sakura-En special nursing home for the elderly and the Shisei Senior Service Center.

What sort of plan do you use when you do composition together with the elderly?
At first I thought it would be fine if I just sat in a corner playing like I did on the streets and whoever became interested would come over and I would get them to start improvising with me. As it turned out, however, the first time I went to Shisei Senior Service Center the staff had gathered together about 20 of the elderly and they were waiting for me when I arrived. To begin with, that was too many people to work with, and it appeared that they were expecting something else. So I started doing things very maniac and avant-garde on the keyboard harmonica and other toy instruments, hoping that most of them would lose interest and go back to their rooms. But since the elderly had nothing else to do, they didn’t go back. It ended up with me having to listen to the old people’s stories about the war years for about two hours (laughs).

It ended with them giving back twice what you had tried to give them, didn’t it? (Laughs) What happened after that?
Every time I went, the elderly were there waiting for me with their books of old folksongs. It looked as if I were going to become just an accompanist for their Karaoke sessions, so I said OK and tried to draw them in to experimental music composition which I wanted to do. I think that from their point of view I was this young man who wouldn’t cooperate in what they wanted to do, but their expectations only grew and they waited for my visits with increasing anticipation. Finally one of the elderly made a compromise proposal, saying, “You can’t expect us to compose music with you, but if you want to compose music based on your image of us, we will listen to it.” Then, I got them to agree to give me input so that I wasn’t just composing as I wished in a one-way mode. Once that started, they began giving me input, saying, “That’s not my sound,” or “That person’s sound should belike …”.

So, it was as if the elderly had become your musical directors, wasn’t it?
Exactly. At the other nursing home, Sakura-En, I explained to the elderly from the beginning that I was a composer and I had come hoping to compose music using their input and doing [improvisation] sessions together. That interested them. Then, when we started doing a session where they performed with hand bells, some of them had a disability that made their hands shake constantly, which created a tremolo effect from the start. Where it was supposed to end with a shan-shan sound it kept going as a sha-ra-ra-ra-ra. When I heard that, I decided to make a piece using that melody.

We usually have negative association with disabilities, but you are able to turn that into an element for creation.
At first I wasn’t expecting to get much that I found interesting from my sessions with the elderly. We would have a two-hour session and it might produce just one more line of a song, and at that pace we were making very little progress. But, I continued going and did about 20 sessions in that first year. There might be something that was a little bit interesting coming out of each session, but almost all of it was things that normally I would have thrown out and not used at all. However, when I changed my standards and made an effort to use what came out in the sessions and keep building on it, we ended up with a very long song. That was a truly eye-opening experience for me.
Until then, I had been throwing out everything that didn’t fit in with my aesthetic values, but with that method nothing usable was coming out of the sessions at Sakura-En and time was just going and on. So, I changed my approach and decided to use everything that came out. Once you say OK to everything and start compiling those elements, you begin to see things.

Does that mean your idea of collaborative composing changed?
I also do collaborative composition of what I call “Shogi Composition” (a number of the performers with musical instruments and sound objects sit in a circle, play melody, noise or rhythm one after another and notate it in their own ways. In the end they are re-performed as “a composition”) and in that process there will be times when I think that parts of the performance are not right of that one of the people doesn’t have a good feeling for improvisation. And there are times when I think that removing that person from the group would produce a more original, higher quality piece. However, there are also quite a few times when the things I don’t like eventually lead to interesting new developments. I had that experience numerous times. I believe that experience also influence my change in approach.

In other words, does it mean that you can’t simply fill the world with things that you like?
If I compose only with the things I like, it doesn’t necessarily lead to what I want. Even when there are elements that are opposed to my normal values, it can result in a musical world that I am glad to discover. That realization led me to begin thinking about what “creating a work” really means.

Does that mean if it is only full of things you like it can’t be a Makoto Nomura work?
It ends up being no more than my own known quantities. If it only involves my personal values, techniques and methods, it stops me from going beyond myself into new realms. I began to feel that including things that were foreign to me was a way to go beyond myself.

Then it would seem that the way you meet people who are different from you, people with different values and life experiences and different physical characteristics becomes important. In addition to the elderly, you have done collaborative composition with people like women who have been victims of domestic violence and people suffering from autism, the mentally handicapped and people with other backgrounds.
It has not been calculated. When I am offered an opportunity to do something in an area where I don’t know what I can do or how, I make it a point to always accept those jobs. I now there is an aspect of fear involved when you enter a situation you are unfamiliar with, but it is for exactly that reason that I want to see what it will be like.

What is the world of music you want to see?
It is difficult to express in words. It is something freer, richer, more borderless, and beautiful. I feel a lack of freedom and a lack of satisfaction in music as it is now and I want to try to do something to open it up and expand it more.

I believe that if the rest of us were there when the elderly are performing we probably wouldn’t think of it as something beautify, but when I listen to the music that you have composed based on those sessions I feel it is so beautiful.
I think that is because I am trying to put it in a form that will communicate to other the things I found in that music. I think I have heard a lot of the different kinds of music that exist around the world, but when I am listening to the unordered and unskilled performances of the elderly and other non-musicians there are moments when I am surprised to hear things that I have never heard before. But, now I know that I am about the only one who recognizes those moments enough to get excited by them. So, I realize that I have to make it into music in order for other people to appreciate it.

What about the relationship between you and the people you do your collaborative composition projects with. Is it a case of you and them being accomplices who inspire each other? Or are they a source of material for your creations?
The work we have done there is equal to a collaborative composition. But I think that the work I document their composition and re-edit the collection (which I call it “post-workshop”), in one aspect, they are a source of material. However, if it were in the original meaning of material [as resource], I would have to keep mining them until I got things I wanted out of them. For example, in the case of “Dango for the Revival” (Fukkou Dango), I heard the old women’s and men’s stories as ballade and saw their gestures as dance, and it was a work produced purely from a one and a half hour tape of me interviewing them about the postwar period.
If I were trying to use the elderly to communicate my own message or concept, 90 minutes of material would never be enough. If that were the case, I would have to be using a variety of methods and retakes to try to get the kind of images or qualities of voice that would fit the rough sketch of what I wanted in my mind. But everything I needed was in that hour and a half of tape. I was certain that within that hour and a half of tape there would be melody, and rhythm and dance. If I put those elements all together well, it would make an opera. Something will rise into existence simply out of the words that these people are speaking now. I had the interview filmed and the resulting tape had everyday scenes of the nursing home appear in the background. Home staff members were bustling back and forth, wheeling wheelchairs by, etc. I didn’t notice those things when I was doing the interviews but all those things I didn’t notice were picked up on the videotape.

In your post-workshop the processes of reviewing playbacks and re-performing are important, aren’t they?
If it is pure improvisation, the people with the largest voices and the quickest reactions dominate. The people who think fastest and state their opinions quickest assume the initiative, while the people who are more reserved and take more time to think lose presence. We naturally tend to pay attention to people whose reactions are fastest, so if it is only improvisation those are the parts that stand out. However, when you film performances like our “Shogi pieces” where the performers take turns performing and then play the tape back I am amazed at how many places I didn’t notice. If you play it over and over in a loop the interesting parts come out.

Why are you attracted to things that are small and weak?
Well, I believe we are now in an environment where we can listen to all kinds music from around the world, including ethnic music. But, the reason I wanted to go to the UK was because I wanted to hear music like that born in a children’s music class that have no commercial value and will never even be recorded. That kind of music is naïve and weak and, far from having commercial value, it doesn’t even reach the stage of becoming a piece. There aren’t many people who find that music interesting, but I wanted to hear it so much that I was will to go searching for it. I wanted to then put it in a form that I could present to others and enable them to discover how interesting it could be.

That could be a way of discovering the world of composing, couldn’t it?
Yes, perhaps so. Giving form to things that are small and weak, is the area where I could to show my skill, and for me it has the interest of pursuing fine craftsmanship.

Is there anything that you want to do in the future?
It isn’t easy to put in words, but I am thinking about how I should live my life from now on. We have had the earthquake and tsunami, we have had the nuclear power plant accident. How should I live in this world now? All the people around me are against nuclear energy, but the society at large isn’t moving in that direction. I thought I knew it already, but now it is even clearer that people like me are a minority in this world. We talk about outreach and have done a lot of such activities, but in the end it seems like I haven’t been making any real approach to the majority in the world. I realize also that the existence of people like me is ignored by the vast majority to begin with.
I have begun to think that the time has come when I finally have to start interacting with the people of the vast majority that I share almost no values in common with. This is something that takes quite a bit of courage and the thought of it weighs quite heavily on me. But, since they don’t even know I exist, what good does it do for us to cling to questions of whether things are artistic or not?
One of the things for doing this [dealing with the vast majority] is the Adachi Ward (Tokyo) music festival named “Senju Dajare Music Festival” that is just beginning as a 2-year project. I am seriously thinking of starting my interaction with the majority through contact with these middle-aged men who love making and sharing dajare (funny puns). We have less expectation that doing puns won’t get me any recognition from the art world, and there is little way we can take it abroad to the international scene. But, this is what I arrived at as I was thinking about how I should live in this world from now on. Now that I have thrown away everything, I am seriously thinking about how I should participate in this world.

Do you think you will be successful?
It won’t be easy. It is on a whole different level of difference from the standards I have used for my artistic judgments until now. What is considered mainstream in the world is often a complete negation of what people like me who are involved in the arts think is good. We are a minority. So, should we try to increase our numbers until we are the majority? Should we become terrorists? If these are not the answer, I believe that we have to invent new ways to participate in the world.