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Japan Gets Even More Serious about the Coronavirus


Takarazuka Musical Theater Troupe Features All Women Players

The Japanese government has asked for the sequestering at home (自粛= jishuku) of everyone in the country due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This has forced almost everybody to stay isolated with minimal contact with the outside world.

I am complying with this directive. I go out to get groceries and the paper, etc., but that is it. I am the last person to violate government directives.

At the same time, this represents a personal opportunity in a private sense for me.

I have explained here that I am determined to master Japanese completely. I speak, read and write fluently already, but living in Tokyo has shown me that there is much more to learn. The stay at home directive gives me an excuse to study Japanese even more intensely for that purpose.

I should also explain that I already know the 2000 kanji (Chinese characters) that are designated by the Japanese educational system as a requirement for high school graduation. But on top of that, I know another 1000 kanji that are not standard, but that everyone learns as part of living in the real world. So in total I know about 3000 kanji. This helps immensely in my quest for complete fluency.

So what comprises "complete fluency"? Absolute command of the language. That includes being able to call to mind all sorts of facts and figures that the average Japanese citizen can.

For example, the average Japanese citizen has a map memorized of the country, which includes prefectural capitols and the most important cities. When a report says that something is happening in Oita Prefecture (大分県 = Oita Ken), I know that it is located in Kyushu (九州) and the capitol is Beppu (別府). I also know that Mt. Aso (阿蘇山 = Asozan) is an important mountain there. By the way, I choose this geographical information to illustrate my point since that prefecture is about as far as one can get from Tokyo without leaving the vicinity of the main islands completely.

I have almost finished with my studies of Japan and the Japanese language. It has been a long struggle, without government or any other kind of support, but I have done it.

In the process, I have tried to pass along to others as much as I could of what I have learned and the fruits of my struggle. This has been made available at the GoWizardry website but also at www.JapanCosmos.com. I hope that this has helped students of the language to learn about the Japanese culture.

But there are pressing matters at hand.

As of April 16, the situation in Japan regarding the Coronavirus stands as follows:

8730 cases and 179 deaths; compared to the US, these are much smaller numbers in terms of infections and deaths. Japan has a population of around 124 million, or less than half that of the US. But the statistics in terms of the Coronavirus are even less than those of the state of New York. However, one thing to focus on is that Japanese society is quite homogeneous, and people try to follow government directives as much as possible. So while the US is finding it difficult to compile accurate statistics about the pandemic, in Japan everything is well recorded.

Along with the health measures, the US government is providing economic stimulus for the country of $2 trillion+; Japan is doing the same for its country to the extent of $1 trillion. Please understand that these are rough figures, and with the situation changing daily, they well might be different by the time this is posted.

One other thing: I have to apologize for writing here recently that "Once Upon a Time in America" was playing in the Hibiya theater district of Tokyo. And that I cannot imagine how the production can be staged because… "’Once Upon a Time in America’ is a sprawling drama with dozens of characters."

I could not have been more wrong! In my defense, I must add that at the same time I informed the reader that I hardly spent a second glancing at the commercial on television for the production.

But the other day, as I was sequestered at home, I happened to turn the channel to a program featuring the two main stars of "Once Upon a Time in America." It turns out that they are players with the exclusive Takarazuka Musical Theater Troupe, which is located in the northern section of Osaka. This is an all-women theatrical production group which possesses a long-time reputation of excellence in musical theater.

This is entirely different from the Japanese all-girl bands these days, like AKB 48, which also has its own theater,which is located in the Akihabara (where the initials AKB come from) district of Tokyo. The musical performances they give three times a day (featuring 16 teenage girls X 3 = 48) are comprised of contemporary pop songs. Some of the girls, the most attractive and talented ones, have broken loose and are trying to establish separate personas to launch their individual careers. As is obvious, this is completely different from the Takarazuka tradition.

The Takarazuka stars I saw interviewed were wearing exquisite costumes. The one playing the female role wore a frilly dress, elegant and refined. The player assuming the male part wore a brilliantly tailored suit. Silk and satin cloth were woven together with common fabrics like cotton to make brilliant combinations that shimmered on the stars. On stage they must make an impressive sight.

Naturally, few visitors to the GoWizardry website will get a chance to see this production, but there is something almost as good available to savor. That is the film, "Sayonara," starring Marlon Brando as a military officer stationed in Japan after the war. He is unsympathetic to the plight of Japan in those circumstances until he encounters the star of the Takarazuka company and starts to understand the beauty of Japanese culture in the figure of a lovely and gifted woman.

Red Buttons provides comic relief, but things turn tragic there and that gives some depth to this motion picture. The audience is asked to sympathize with simple people trying to deal with racial prejudice.

These subtleties cannot be conveyed well in musical theater, but the Takarazuka production of "Once Upon a Time in America" offers its own Japanese insight into clashing personalities in a period of upheaval across the land. And it goes without saying that superb singing and dancing is on display along the way.

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