The finals of the Japanese ‘manzai’ tournament was held yesterday. ‘Manzai’ is one of Japanese comedy styles, which is a stand-up comedy by two or more comedians as a team. The tournament for both professionals and amateurs is held annually and decides the best comedy team in Japan. The finals is broadcast live nationwide and the winner takes one hundred thousand dollars. It’s a big annual event for me, as I adore Japanese comedians. I wait for this event for the whole year like Christmas, wondering who will win each year. Prior to this year’s finals though, I heard the shocking news. The tournament would be discontinued and it was going to be the last one this year. To me, it’s like Super Bowl isn’t held anymore. They cooked up various reasons for the termination but it’s obviously due to lack of sponsorship and the ratings. I can’t believe that more people watched a figure skating this year that was aired on a different channel. While watching the last ‘manzai’ competition on TV, clenching my hands for excitement as usual, I knew how much I would miss this event. Now, my favorite comedy tournament is over, so is Christmas. Our new song is completed and come new year, the move to my new place will be in full swing. When change happens, many things come to an end simultaneously. It’s a little sad, but that’s what moving forward is all about…
When I was in kindergarten, I was always pushed away and ignored by my fellow kindergartners.
I played the bells wearing a headpiece of a dove on stage alongside other kindergartners at an annual presentation before the parents. I was told to stand at the edge of the stage close to the wings. As we were playing, the kids next to me continued to thrust me into the wings. I tried to fight the way back onto the stage as it had looked more and more that I didn’t participate the performance. No matter how hard I tried, they kept pushing me aside and the best I could do was to poke half of my face out of the wings.
It was the time of an Apollo-frenzy and the kindergarten held an exhibit of miniature rockets made by the children for the parents. The rockets were to be made out of empty soft drink bottles. Since the plan of the exhibit was introduced, I had diligently collected empty bottles. By the time the miniature rocket began to be built, I collected and brought the highest number of bottles to the class. But once we started making, the kids wouldn’t use my bottles. Although all of us brought similar bottles in the same shape and size, they were carefully excluding the ones I brought as their materials. Every time I glued one of mine to the rocket, some kid removed it. I glued, they removed. The rocket had gotten bigger only with other kids’ bottles as we repeated the glue-remove maneuver persistently. Finally other kids’ patience to keep removing my bottle ran out and they started throwing it away out of the window. I went outside to pick it up and as soon as I came back, another bottle of mine was thrown out. Now a new routine had been established. They threw out, I picked in. The rocket completed without one single bottle of mine. I brought home all the bottles intact and told my parents that those were surplus. My mother came to the exhibit and saw the rocket that I didn’t participate to make, but with my name among the builder’s list.
Come to think of it, those kindergarten days precisely represent my whole life. As a singer-songwriter, I have been pushed away and ignored in music circles. Nobody has noticed nor recognized me as if I were an invisible person. I had dreamed that my songs would be in the charts and I would become a celebrity. I would be on ‘Tonight Show’ as a guest and talk with the host. I would be loved by people and be on the top of the world. I had prepared for that day for a long time. I had been dieting and exercising. I had been nice to people and talking to them to improve social skills. I had fervently craved fame. Meanwhile though, the songs that I completed with all my effort and strength by sacrificing everything else had never been appreciated. I think it’s time to accept the reality. It’s about time to abandon confidence and expectation for this world and to admit that I had overestimated the world.
Since the end of the last year, strange things have happened to me as if some messages had been being sent. I had vaguely received and interpreted them. Then I came across one movie that defined the message and made me wide awake. I hadn’t been able to shake off the idea that I had been locked up in a prison or an institution since I was little. And I was right. I realized this world’s true self. Now I have, at long last, found the way to get out of it.
I can’t wake up in the morning. I can’t get along with others. I can’t do what I don’t like. I can’t notice transparent glass so that I bang into it. I can’t get a driver’s license. I can’t perceive people’s feelings. But everything is all right from now on. I am happy to be pushed away from the world because I am no longer part of it. By willingly stopping being part of it, I got out of this world and attained freedom. It’s so funny I had desperately tried all my life to belong to this society that I had known is crazy since my childhood. I will live as myself without conforming to the craziness. I will not care about this society’s value now that I’m out of it. Instead, I evaluate solely by my own value. I judge what is good. I decide what is successful. I’ve never felt free this much in my entire life. All of a sudden, everything reversed and people look locked up while I was released. Outside, my life itself is art because it exists to create music. My songs are supreme pieces and that means I’m totally successful. I’ve become a true artist standing center stage in a spotlight.
Last weekend, I went in my new apartment for the first time since I looked at the room with a real estate agent in September. Although the building was 20 years old and I had expected some fixtures would have been broken, everything worked fine including a heater and a boiler. Only, the room was dirty from the former resident’s poor maintenance, meaning an extensive cleanup awaited me. The room was carpeted, and that carpet was extremely dirty with countless stains. I was talking with my partner how careless the former resident must have been, and at dinnertime, it was my partner who inadvertently spilled soy sauce on it. Already a new stain has been registered.
My biggest concern about living in that room had been whether claustrophobia would fall on me or not. One of my ways to lessen the phobia is turn on the TV. My cell phone is capable of receiving TV and I carried it around as the most important emergency item for the phobia in the room. Thankfully, I didn’t feel the phobia but tried to turn on the TV for fun before going to sleep. Then, my cell phone told me that it couldn’t receive it. As the building stood surrounded by high mountains, the wave was too weak to be received. Once I realized the TV wouldn’t be on, I felt a touch of claustrophobia all of a sudden. I shouldn’t have tried TV…
Whereas Japanese recent movies and dramas are intolerable, Japanese comedy performances are brilliant. There is an annual event for a short situation comedy performance on TV, which is a contest for both professional and amateur comedians. The winner takes one hundred thousand dollars. I look forward to the event every year. It’s broadcast live on TV but this year, I set the timer to record the program on my computer, as I was busy. My plan was to watch it later by laying food and snacks as an annual party.
About one hour into the three-hour event, I glanced at the computer casually during chores, and was horrified at the sight. The computer had shut down for no apparent reason. That meant it had stopped recording the show that I’d been waiting for a whole year. I panicked completely, turned on TV and rebooted the computer right away. I wasn’t sure how long I had missed the event, but watched it live from that point on anyway, because I took it as a sign not to put off something you really want. By missing the former part of the event, my excitement was half ruined with my planned party all ruined. After it was over, I watched the recorded part on my computer. Miraculously, the time that the computer was off was during a commercial break. It shut down right at the moment when one of the performances got to its punch line and the stage was blacked out. When I turned on TV and resumed recording, it was at the start of the next performance. I didn’t miss a thing. When I panicked, I shouted a lot of whys to my computer almost crying. It must have heard a cry of a soul and adjusted the timing by itself…