Feature: Meet Komatsu Yota, the Japanese clapper talk performer in China

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-01 16:15:25|Editor: ZX
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BEIJING, July 1 (Xinhua) -- On Sunday morning, Komatsu Yota, a 28-year-old Japanese man, jumped on a bus, heading toward a Beijing-based theater for a clapper talk performance.

Clapper talk is a traditional Chinese form of narrative singing accompanied by a pair of bamboo clappers to mark the beats. Komatsu can perform folk art in fluent Mandarin.

"I really love the loud cheer of Chinese audiences, and that motivates me to perform better. In Japan, people are relatively reserved," he said.

Attracted by Chinese history and culture, Komatsu moved to Beijing in 2010, and he has learned clapper talk for four years.

Born in Yokohama, a coastal Japanese city near Tokyo, he fell in love with Chinese culture as a child.

"At the age of five, I saw an action movie 'Project A' starring Jackie Chan. After that I became a fan of Chinese Kungfu and martial arts," he recalled.

"As I watched more Chinese movies, I was also attracted by Chinese traditional clothes and characters, and I wanted to see the ancient and mysterious neighboring country in person," Komatsu said.

He came to Beijing and learned Chinese in Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees.

Life was not difficult for him because he had learned Chinese in a high school in his hometown and imitated accents from many Chinese TV shows before he came to Beijing.

"My Chinese classmates were very kind-hearted and always willing to offer me help. That made me feel at home," he said.

He was obsessed with the Chinese folk art -- clapper talk -- after watching a TV show. He even bought a pair of bamboo clappers and practiced the art by himself.

"I like music with a strong sense of rhythm. This was why clapper talk was attractive to me the first time I heard it," he explained.

In 2015, Ding Guangquan, a late Chinese cross-talk artist and mentor, tried to select foreign apprentices in a Beijing-based university. Komatsu went and presented his skills.

Ding thought he had great potential and recommended him to a famous clapper talk artist Yao Fushan. Komatsu cherished the opportunity and worked hard.

"I spent over three hours a day practicing. Performers should first memorize lines, talk with rhythm, and gradually increase the speed," he said. To fully understand the lines, foreign performers have to learn a lot about Chinese culture.

After graduating from the BFSU in 2016, Komatsu first tried to start a business by himself but failed, and later he worked as a Japanese teacher in a language training school.

Despite the pressure from work and life, he still keeps performing clapper talk with his teacher and senior fellow apprentices in theaters, communities, campuses and parks, though most of the performances are free. In his team, there are performers from Japan, Germany, Sweden and Britain.

In August 2018, he decided to return to Japan. However, he came back to Beijing only half a year later. "I missed my friends, Chinese culture and food too much, and life would be boring without them," he said.

Komatsu has made a decision to spend the rest of his life in China and continue his hobby.

"I hope more Japanese people will visit and know more about China, so as to strengthen the friendship between the two neighbors," he said.