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John Man: On the Waves

performance piece with shadow puppets created by Watoku Ueno
exploring the cross-cultural experience
inspired by the story of John Manjiro, the first Japanese in America

Saturday April 27, 2013
Ukrainian National Home
!40 Second Ave, (between St. Mark's & 9th St) New York City
Saturday at 11:00 AM Show runs under one hour
Admission: Free. To reserve tickets (212) 475-6474,

Yara Art Group presents: “John Man: On the Waves” created, directed and designed by Watoku Ueno. This interdisciplinary theatre piece with shadow puppets tells the story of John Manjiro, also known as John Man, the first Japanese to come to America. “John Man: On the Waves” will perform on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 11AM at the Ukrainian National Home, 140 Second Avenue, between St Marks and 9th St in Manhattan. Tickets are $5 and can be reserved by calling (212) 475-6474 or emailing

John Man: On the Waves ” is inspired by the biography of John Manjiro (1827-1898) the first Japanese to come to America and eventually became an important factor in the move to open Japan. When Manjiro was 14 years-old his fishing boat was wrecked and he was rescued by an American whaling ship. The captain took him back home to Massachusetts, where John Manjiro attended a local school and learned navigation. Twelve years later he decided to try to return to Japan. This was a dangerous decision. In 1635 the Shogun had closed Japan to all but a handful of foreigners and had published an edict that prohibited any Japanese from traveling outside the country, or if they did, of ever returning. When Manjiro returned he was summoned to Edo and questioned by the Shoganate government. Shortly afterwards, Commodore Perry arrived from the US with the Black Ships to force the opening of Japan. Manjiro became the interpreter for the Shoganate and was instrumental in the negotiations that opened Japan. In 1860 he was part of the first Japanese Embassy in the US but eventually returned to Japan.

“John Man” explores the cross-cultural experience and its consequences on human nature. Special emphasis is put on what does and does not change when cultural differences are encountered. The piece will be informed by the personal experience of the creator, Watoku Ueno, who was born in Japan but has lived in America for most of his adult life. The piece incorporates traditional Japanese culture, craft, folklore and music, as well as New York City, where millions of Manjiros come and go.

This show will be a unique experience for Ueno. He says, “30 years ago I arrived in the US from Japan and had to learn to “see” the world again. I want the way that I create “John Man” to reflect this experience. Watoku Ueno is assisted on this piece by the puppet makers and puppeteers Asako Nakamura, Motoko Nakamura and Kenji Watanabe. The voice performer is Sumire Ueno and the music is by Shu Odamura.

John Man: On the Waves ” is made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the Coca-Cola Company, and Yara Arts Group's numerous friends.

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