ISLAMABAD: Ancient forms of Japanese martial arts and music came alive in a vibrant display of Japanese culture at the Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) on Sunday.
The event was organised by the Embassy of Japan in collaboration with Pakistan-Japan Friendship Forum and the Japanese Language department at the National University of Modern Languages (Numl).
Opening the show, Embassy of Japan Charge d’Affaires Yusuke Shindo expressed hope that the performances would generate interest in Japanese arts and culture among Pakistanis.
“Japan being a geographically isolated country has developed a unique, colourful and dynamic culture, reflective of the strength and vitality of the people of Japan. To learn about Japanese culture is to gain knowledge about Japan itself,” he said.
Pakistan-Japan Friendship Forum President Khalid Malik also spoke at the event and said that the ties between the people of the two countries have remained strong and positive. “Such events strengthen this relationship and bring us closer,” he said.
The night’s performances began with songs by Pakistani fans of Japanese culture who had been selected from among dozens of applicants. The ease with which the volunteers, two of whom were young girls, managed to sing in an unfamiliar, foreign language drew thundering applause from the audience.
Singer Fahad Ali expressed happiness at being selected to perform at the event and being provided an opportunity to learn about Japan’s rich musical tradition.
A group of singers and musicians in traditional kimonos were next to take the stage.
The lead singer, an employee of the Japanese embassy, impressed the audience by providing information about the songs in perfect Urdu and even making references to Pakistani singer Noor Jahan.
The group opened with an upbeat number, followed by a slow, melodic folk rock song Winding Road and ending with an energetic performance with a group of students from Numl.
The chorus of the song was translated into both Japanese and Urdu, with the Japanese singers singing in Urdu and Pakistani students singing in Japanese.
As the musical performances drew to a close, the lights were dimmed and the beating of a large drum announced the beginning of the martial arts display.
Three culturally significant ancient forms, Kendo, Iaiodo and Karate, were presented.
The first form to be displayed was Iaido, often referred to as the way of the sword, involving choreographed movements with a long wooden sword.
The fighters lined up and displayed the movements consisting of a draw of the sword, specific cuts and sheathing in perfect unison.
An exciting display of Kendo followed, as two well-trained fighters dressed in heavy protective armour duelled for points and were judged by a master.
In a display of Japanese etiquette, the duelling combatants ended the fight with a respectful bow.
In the final performance of the night, the hall came alive with the rhythmic beating of traditional Japanese drums called Wadaiko, as the young students of the Islamabad Japanese School took the stage.
In Japanese the word wadaiko, refers to both the name of the percussion instrument itself as well as the act of drumming. The energy and the precision of the young drummers made for a heart-warming and memorable end to the night.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2018