Saturday, December 13, 2008

A strange mix of cultures

As I walked into Tokyo's Ueno Park I heard the familiar and surprising sound of Andean music. A group of four Peruvian men was playing the songs I heard so many times last year in South America. Between songs they spoke to the audience in Spanish, but suddenly I couldn't understand until I recognized the Japanese word for please, and I realized they spoke Japanese too!

Nearby, two other Peruvian men played Andean music mixed with North American Native flute music. They were dressed as North American Plains Indians. I spoke to their CD salesperson in Spanish, and he told me that they are indeed Peruvian, but that they dress as North American Indians for show! Peruvian Quechua Indians dressed as North American Indians playing a mixture of North and South American indigenous flute music and speaking in Japanese - what a surprising cultural mix!

Peruvian musician dressed as North American Indian, playing a North American flute, with Andean flutes in the background

It turned out that Spanish served me well in Ueno Park. In a museum, I spoke to two tourists from Spain. And later, after watching a young man feed part of his lunch to a stray cat, I petted the cat and greeted the man. He said something to me, and I answered in my basic Japanese "I'm sorry, I don't understand Japanese." He replied, "Hablas espanol?" It turned out that he has a Japanese father and a Peruvian mother. He has grown up in Japan, but speaks Spanish fluently as well as Japanese! It felt nice to speak to him in Spanish, and to feel good about my language abilities for a few minutes!

Peruvian/Japanese young man with a homeless cat. The cats in Ueno Park are working cats! The young man gave the kitty some food, and told me that he feeds that cat often.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kimi Kimi,
Them cats are fortunate to live in a country that has compassion for homeless cats. Here in America the authorities would round them up and put them to death.