the voice in row I


This is not blog worthy. Neither is the fact that a separate blog post (in my head, not yet written or published) starts, “I am learning how to say, “Don’t push me on the train”, and “Today must have been 200 degrees, easily.” Sometimes the gist feels irrelevant. It is more about voice and pushing the words out. Hitting publish, finishing til the end. Not worrying, just enjoying getting out there, like grass on toes.

So when I say I went to the movies today, that is not blog-worthy. Except when I say it was in all Japanese, not even subtitles, that’s something, right? And if I say that I learned some more cultural differences when it comes to movies, that is also relevant. Of course, the fact that showed any signs of life for the whole of FrozenAnna to Yuki no Jou (Anna and the Snow Queen), could be a Japanese thing. It could also be an-it’s-late-afternoon-and-parents-are-schlepped-out-thing. But no singing to the most celebrated, most decorated animated movie, for acting, singing, and writing? No chuckles at Olaf’s adorable goofyness? Hmm. Reminds me of when I guffawed through Sex and the City with my teacher friends from American School in Japan and we were the only hysterical, or even slightly amused ladies in the whole cinema. Every lady there in her own Jimmy Choos was simply stone-faced, blinking sometimes. (I know I can be a bit uptight about bringing in a relaxed feel. Maybe everyone is just talking it in, focusing on new words, sounds and ideas). When Charlotte accidentally sipped her shower water in Mexico and then proceeded to get SOOOO sick? That is funny, ladies, in any language. It is physical comedy, hello. You can laugh.


My exquisite darling.

Needless to say, this voice-junkie-mama was just thrilled when my girl started in with her song, “Ari no Mama De”/Let it Go in the stirring Japanese rendition. It’s what she’d anticipated. It is her glory song, her war cry and beautiful-life-chant. I’ll bet my little mixed caramel/shoyu tub of popcorn that kids everywhere, in theatres around the globe just belt it. I’ll bet their mothers even sing along. Here? In our theatre in Tokyo’s busy Ikebukuro, the patrons were silent. Not even whispers, which is good, because smiles can even make noise. But not my girl. I think this is either that mark of a spirited girl or the spirited American in her. I hope she always finds her voice amid cultural mores and ways that are not often questioned. I hope she wonders, takes roles of leadership, and grows.


an artist from our art fest this past weekend.

In the meanwhile, I am thrilled that Disney has worked with singers and actors in far-flung places to get a wide offering of languages available to such young girls as my own. I love that she can exercise each of her languages, each tongue, in dramatic snow-covered-mountain scenes and coronations. In this way, there are no limitations. She is both the Japanese Elsa and English-speaking snow queen when she sings. Yay for translated movies; they are our bicultural.

When it came time to leave, no one got up. It was just credits. No side animation. No feature but black screen for white text. But get this–no one budged. No one left in a savvy hurry to the restrooms or exit line to get out before a rush. When I tried, I was met with a kind of no. We we trapped; no one else we was moving and we would block them..from viewing credits. The whole theatre sat there while I thought about the entire cast of movie-goers getting up together. Rushing the ladies bathroom, clogging the singular elevator. While Sound Grip guys rolled by and Lighting Team members lit up the screen in attendance, I felt minutes roll by, the black of the theatre making my skin crawl with claustrophobic excitement. The families on my right and left appeared dutiful in their resolve to…sit silently.

In my affairs with Japan, it is always a balancing of who is more graceful, who is wiser with what seems common-sensical. Usually, Japan wins out. Japan is royal in this, putting others together, cohesive til the end. No shifting gears but staying put, poised, while I chew popcorn. Loudly, probably. Allowing my child to sing (softly). Some days it is okay to hear your own voice. This is when you can say, “That voice you hear? It’s mine.”


The Importance of Voice From Maya Angelou


I don’t remember which Maya Angelou poem it was,

but I heard voice.

The choice to sing out,

to align letters and sculpt mood.

Maya made rubies out of wood.


I heard a woman, stark, celebrating

though she’d been a slave,

bruises deep as ancestral scars;

Her stories brought out the

stars on an obsidian night.


She had the words to sing

though she’d been harmed.

She’d also been formed with love

and lumps of soft clay.

This woman had style, phenomenally.


Grace to look at the truth of things and smile;

such was her Hope.


She had sass and swing and enough spring to make

showers of thousands of powdery puffs

flit onto the sisters of her generation.

She commanded mesmerisation.


Ms. Angelou showed us elegance in cotton,

grandeur in the sweat of penning a memoir.

That a true-life-hymn could spring up from my soul.

That lonely words could be straightened out with Joy

and human rights.


She showed me swinging hips and education,

that writing that made me giggle and trust

with anticipation–

all might be well in the morning.

She shared with me, Voice.


Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning. 

–Maya Angelou

Here is a  video of her own gorgeous voice