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~The New York Times




Day 88 - Embassy of Japan in Washington DC

With our Broadway opening 99% decided (official announcement soon) Sunshine Rakugo Road Show began the other day in very cool fashion indeed, appropriately at the Embassy of Japan in Washington DC!

There is a fascinating exhibit on now at the Japan Information and Culture Center called "Indigo Threads - Weaving Japanese Craftsmanship and American Heritage.

According to the Embassy website, it is an exhibition exploring the rich history of indigo dyed fabric and garments in Japan, including the current hype on Japanese denim and jeans. While the United States is undisputedly known to be the birthplace of blue jeans, traditional Japanese craftsmanship has helped resurrect the classical American blue jean in extraordinary ways in recent history. Visitors are invited to explore the question, “Why Japan?” through the eyes of the historian, manufacturer, marketer, consumer, and more.

In honour of the exhibition, and in collaboration with the exhibition, on June 11 and 12 I sported denim kimono (self-designed with partner Marie Fukuda and kimono maker Junko-Sensei of Tokyo), and presented two evenings of "denim rakugo". There was denim decorating the Rakugo stage and indigo threads on either side as well - a Canadian in a denim kimono doing Japanese Rakugo in English seemed a great fit for an exhibition "Weaving Japanese Craftsmanship and American Heritage".

One fashion point - I decided to accentuate the "New York feel" of my denim kimono with a shirt and tie in place of the usual "Juban" undergarment. The shirt is from my favourite maker, Robert Graham and is a Japan-themed silk shirt with an Ukiyo-e -esque kabuki design on the back.

The tie is a Japanese silk tie with a Japanese "Sakura" design. It is the brainchild of my friend Satoshi Kamiebisu from his company "Monoaware":

So the Japanese and American theme carried on in my outfit inside and out and in what was visible and what was hidden.

It was a great honour to have HIs Excellency Shinsuke Sugiyama, Ambassador of Japan in attendance. He gave great opening remarks, saying that he had over 100 Rakugo CDs and DVDs. But now the pressure was on - with that number of recordings he probably knows much more about Rakugo than I do myself - would he like it in English?

By the way His Excellency looked incredibly cool and set the fashion mood of the evening with a Japanese denim "Happi" short coat, as pictured below.

I was thrilled when after the show he said to me, "Quite honestly and please don't take this the wrong way, but I was very doubtful that Rakugo could work in English. I just couldn't imagine how this could translate linguistically and culturally. But your performance was perfect. I was so surprised. This WAS Rakugo!"

What a compliment.