kandou shimashita

Kandou (æ„Ÿå‹•) is one of those Japanese emotions that I’ve felt a couple of times in the past year. It translates as “to be deeply moved emotionally or excited”, but that doesn’t quite capture the meaning. It’s a noun, generally used with the verb to do or to make: suru (する). Colloquially people often say kandou shimashita.

Yayoi Kusama
Yayoi Kusama

At the tail end of my vacation in New Zealand, I went to the Wellington Art Gallery to see an exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s work. I’ve admired her work for a long time, and this was the first time I saw her art in person. When I went into the mirrored room with the dangling lights that reflected forever in the mirrors and the water on the floor, I was deeply moved. I talked to one of the gallery staff and learned that the day before a woman who had recently a brain aneurysm wanted to see this room, but was anxious and worried about the potential effect. The staff person reassured her, showed her that she could open the door to let herself out at any time, and explained that the water was only a few inches deep. Apparently she spent a long time experiencing this room and came out with tears streaming down her face. She too, had been deeply moved by the experience. Kandou shimashita.

I asked if I could lie on the floor of the day room, a room painted in bright yellow with black polka dots, with many large peanut shaped yellow and black polka dotted inflatables. Some were propped up against the wall and a few were suspended from the ceiling. One was moving slightly. I lay under it watching the giant polka dotted object gently move. It was an utterly wonderful experience. Kandou shimashita.

In August, I got to see Jodaiko, an all star group of international female taiko performers brought together by taiko legend Tiffany Tamaribuchi. From year to year the members of this group shift a little bit, and in 2009 two professional musicians from Okinawa joined them. The concert is always amazing–everyone is extremely skilled (most are professional musicians), they drum with intense joy and passion, and that is communicated to the audience. For me, it’s also exciting to see a lot of fierce queer Asian women perform in such a skilled and powerful way. Jodaiko explodes the stereotype that Japanese women are quiet, subservient, delicate and weak. I suppose I was a bit emotional to be home in Vancouver, and Pride weekend/Powell St. Festival always are exciting and a bit of an overload. When Tiffany and one of the women from Okinawa were playing on a drum together, their intensity, passion, and joy were so intense. Until then I’d never been moved to tears by music. The only words that came close to expressing how I felt was kandou shimashita.

One of the things I love about working at an art school is that I’m surrounded by creative people who are always making stuff. I’ve been surprised at how politically minded most of the students seem to be. I’m not at all excited about the Olympics coming to Vancouver, but I’ve been moved and impressed by the political art that’s been happening to express resistance to the Olympics, as well as the recent cuts to arts funding. These creative responses give me hope. Kandou shimashita.

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