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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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A Picture-Card Show hr586

I was absorbed in one kind of play when I was about seven years old. It was paper play called ‘kamishibai’ in Japan. It’s a picture-card show in which a performer tells a story while showing a picture that corresponds to it. A performer impersonates the characters to say their lines and flips a picture to the next one when the scene changes. It’s a sort of street performance that is hardly seen these days. But when I was little, an old picture-card showman came to the small park near my house every two weeks or so. He would walk around my neighborhood while ringing a bell to let children know the show was coming. When I heard the bell, I would spring toward the park clenching small change in my hand. The show was free, but the performer sold cheap snacks and candies before the show. His theater was his bicycle. On the back of the bicycle, a big wooden box was fixed that contained both the pictures and candies. Once the show started, the box transformed into the picture holder. By tacit agreement, children who had bought candies stood in the front and those who hadn’t stood on their toes in the back to get a view. Although the story itself didn’t interest me so much, I loved the experience that I saw a live performance while eating delicious snacks. It was a luxury to me. Probably because I liked it too much, I asked my parents and got a picture-card show play set. The play set was available at a bookstore and came with a sono-sheet. A sono-sheet was a very thin flexible vinyl record on which the story, the lines of the characters and the sound effects all that corresponded to the picture cards were recorded. The instruction for the timing to flip the pictures was also recorded. The story and the pictures were from a popular TV animation program for kids. Unlike the picture-card show at the park, with this play set, I was a performer. Since there was a vinyl to be played along with it, I could sit in front of the picture holder and watch it as a lone audience while listening to the record. Only, I wasn’t interested in being the audience. I’d rather stood behind the picture holder and flipped the pictures according to the instruction played on the record. The characters’ lines were printed on the back of each picture and I read them along with the record. The number of the picture cards were over twenty and I practiced flipping each one of them in the perfect timing and reading the lines with emotions by imitating the voice actors on the record. That was my favorite play of my childhood and I spent a lot of time and energy every day. The funny part was, I didn’t need any audience. I practiced intently not to show the play but to perform perfectly. And I performed exclusively for myself. This play couldn’t be accomplished without the record player that sat in the guestroom of my house. I would sneak in there to play with the set because I couldn’t concentrate on my performance if someone heard or saw it. In case my younger sister asked me to play it to her, I drove her away. Not to be bothered by anyone, I didn’t even turn on the light of the room. I would play the show along with the record alone in the dark, and relish satisfaction and joy when I thought the performance went perfectly. Recalling my favorite childhood play now, it awfully looks similar to the way I engage in my work of music. I guess I make my songs strenuously for perfection not for audience’s reception. I always thought I pursued people’s attention and stardom, but it wasn’t true as long as I remembered how I felt happy in my childhood. That explains why my songs don’t ever sell. I perform to no audience. It seems that’s the way I liked, and the way I’m destined for…

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