Workshop: KONPAKU 魂魄– the River of Elsewhere


IMG_0936 smallA beautiful end-of the summer day, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 I 5:30 p.m., we gathered at Concordia University, NE Portland, OR., and opened the one-hour work-shop. My opening introduction stating “this workshop is a collaboration between a butoh dancer, Teresa Vanderkin and me, a visual artist, Yukiyo Kawano. Together, we investigate what exists beyond the visible.” Then Teresa gave us a beautiful speech –here is the quote from her speech:

Konpaku describes “the riverbanks where the dead and the living come and go, very much at peace with themselves.”  Natsu Nakajima, one of the first female founders of Butoh, emphasizes that the Japanese use Buddhist terms such as higan – the far side of the riverbank for the world of the dead, and shigan – the near side of the riverbank for the world of the living.  “Konpaku is where the dead come and go several times a year crossing the river to their ancestral homes.  It is not a place, but “nowhere out there”.

Teresa went on and gave a history of how we became working together as collaborators:
In spring, 2014, a Butoh choreography, Meshi Chavez (Teresa’s teacher) encountered Kawano’s life-sized renditions of the nuclear bomb for the first time. He immediately imagined a Butoh body moving with the object made of kimonos stitched together with strands of the artist’s hair. Kawano, seeing Chavez’s movement in the present, envisioned the unseen history of the past. The dance was thus created, in which Kawano’s work synchronized with the yami (shadowy darkness), in Chavez’s Butoh body. As the dance/story developed and a soft sculpture of the A-bomb rose, participants were surrounded by the history, the present moment, and the possible future. At this energized site, the moment is suspended.
We shared a video presentation of a Butoh dance, Suspended Moment: Desperate Bid for Life, 2014, performed by Meshi Chavez.

The last half of the workshop, the participants were guided through the process of creating the Butoh body that “becomes nothing”, by a simple walk, walking through the idea of not knowing the body, thus less controlling the body, shedding off our idea of “what we think the body should be”. 

photo by Ilana Sol

























In the dusk, the workshop was followed by a Butoh dance performed by Teresa Vanderkin, choreographed by Meshi Chavez with sculpture created by Yukiyo Kawano


photo by Ilana Sol


The slow-moving Butoh body of Teresa Vanderkin finds the moment to peel away the illusion of ‘the Human’ and resonate with Konpaku, the infinite world, with all of them as Life. As the dance develops a life-size soft sculpture of the atomic bomb, Little Boy, rises and suspends in the mid-air.

Photo by Ilana Sol

Participants had an opportunity to carry lanterns in a procession through the field of Konpaku.  What we experienced was a singular view of Japanese history, becoming aware of the performer and the presence of each other in the present as we reflect on the past.

Let our imagination go wild to the land of “nowhere our there”, the land of KONPAKU.


Seattle Asian Art Museum

On August 5th, 2015 (August 6th, Hiroshima time), Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR) commemorated the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by having the 100% scale, second “Little Boy (folded)” installing on the steps of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.

For this one-day outside installation, I attended to meet visitors, and talk about my personal experience with the art.

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Toro Nagashi

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Large black-and-white photos of the horrors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were displayed along the walkway around the lake. A replica of “Little Boy,” the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was also present. It was made by Yukiyo Kawano, who used tanmono silk and momen from a kimono.

“Its weightlessness juxtaposes with the power of destruction by the gravity of the subject,” Kawano said. “It has become a ritual-like practice of forgetting nothing, leaving out nothing.”

Please continue reading the page:

Never Again


– Traveling Exhibit commemorating 70th anniversary of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
Concordia University / George R. White Library
Open to public during library hours / FREE
Co-sponsored by Concordia University and The Wholistic Peace Institute

The image below shows the calligraphy on the kimono silk which is forming the shape of Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945. I copied the original calligraphy done by Yosano Buson in 1778 called Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Deep North) by Matsuo Basho. Considered to be one of the major text of classical Japanese literature, Basho’s work is based on an journey he made in the late spring of 1689 during which he passed through modern-day Fukushima.

By copying Oku no Hosomichi in the similar way that was originally written in 17 century, allow me to revisit and personalizes the legacy of the nuclear era in thinking both our history and 2011 Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima.
photo by Lynn Geise
photo credit Lynn Geis

reflect on “Suspended Moment:Desperate Bid For Life”

In my reflecting the pre-show performance (Centennial Play – “Words That Burn”) with a Butoh dancer, Meshi Chavez, on Sep., 27th, 2014.

Photo by: Kerry Davis
One of the way I understood about that moment — the moment felt like a phantom; the sense of impossibility filled the space;
We all have experienced a nihilistic desire; imagine our own death…  imagine the other side… etc. At that suspended site, perhaps the desire (or our curiosities) didn’t exist in the form of an internal psych. Instead we created the moment when there was no depth and no lines that separate the inside and the outside.
The desire was suspended in the mid-air, casting across the entire surface of the space — the space that was not really there.

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Excerpt from Ian Lucero’s film

Suspended Moment: Desperate Bid For Life

Fat Man (folded) and Little Boy (folded) will be showing at Centennial Play – “Words That Burn” – Portland, OR/There will be a per-show performance —Suspended Moment:Desperate Bid For Life –with a Butoh dancer, Meshi Chavez, on Sep., 27th


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7:00pm – 7:30pm
(the performance space open 30 minutes prior to showtime)

Milagro Theatre
Location525 SE Stark Street
Portland, OR

Event Site Contact Info:
Name: Milagro Theatre
Phone: 503.236.7253

A free pre-show performance–Words That Burn– is a first collaboration of Butoh dancer/ artist/choreographer Meshi Chavez and visual artist Yukiyo Kawano. Both artists are modern-time storytellers who embody the telling in a way that relates to his/her language and body.

In this one-night performance, slow-moving butoh bodies take off the illusion of ‘the Human’ and start to resonate with the infinite world with all of them as Life.

The audience (and performers’ third eye) will be surrounded by the history, the present memory, and results of histories, as the dance/story develops and a life-size soft sculpture of Fat Man, the atomic bomb, rises and suspends in mid-air.

…in imagining, the (re)telling takes place in the memory of the audience.

(Sponsors: Oregon Nikkei Endowment, Portland JACL and Japanese Ancestral Society of Portland). This performance will also include dancers: Tracy Broyles, Stephanie Lanckton, Douglas Allen, Nathan H.G., Maya Victorine, Teresa Vanderkin, Joe McLaughlin, & Una Barrett


followed by

The William Stafford Centennial Play –WORDS THAT BURN:

Words That Burn is a powerful performance that brings to life the words of three distinct voices from World War II: conscientious objector William Stafford, Japanese-American internee Lawson Inada, and Chicano Marine Guy Gabaldón. This dramatic work juxtaposes the history and perspectives of three World War II figures through a blend of poetry and monologue written in their own words. Commemorating the William Stafford Centennial, Hispanic Heritage Month, and the rescindment of Executive Order 9066 (Japanese-American internment), the intent of Words That Burn, according to playwright Cindy Williams Gutiérrez, is “reconciliation, to hold multiple points of view and generate community dialogue that spans politics, cultures, and generations.”

*Please note; there is $20 admission fee for Words that Burn

$20 in advance, $23 at the door, or $17 for students/veterans/seniors 70+.

To purchase, call 503-236-7253 or visit


One Thousand Questions/千の問


August 9th, 2014

One Thousand Questions/千の問From Hiroshima to Hanford‘s opening reception. The lanterns here are once float off the water on August 6th at the Green Lake, Washington: based on a custom started in Hiroshima to float off the spirit of hibakusya. This year —69 years after the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki— the lanterns were brought back from the lake and placed under the bomb sculpture in the exhibition space; brings about our revelation of our own arrogance—the desire to appease the dead by flowing off the spirit of the dead, and that it only rests on our self-affirming forgetfulness.

Perhaps the next question is “how instead, can we enter into a (new) relation with history?”


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photo credit: Lincoln Potter

One Thousand Questions/千の問 –Lantern floating ceremony


From Hiroshima to Hanford


Wed., Aug. 6, 2014

In conjunction with a show at Columbia City Gallery, Etsuko Ichikawa and Yukiyo Kawano head north to Green Lake to participate in a special Hiroshima memorial lantern floating ceremony. Here the lanterns were float off the water: a symbolic gesture that started in Hiroshima to float off the dead spirit to the Motoyasu-river where thousands dead bodies piled up in the contaminated water on August, 6, 1945.















photo credit: Hiroyuki Yamada


SUNDAY JUL 27, 2014 | 5 PM – 7 PM

participated an artists’ crossroads event at Glyph Cafe: An Evening of Karumi. Karumi means a “light beauty with subtlety,” and defined the qualities found in the later poems of haiku master Matsuo Bashō.



Mukashi yori yomi okeru uta makura…..Of all the many places celebrated in poetry since ancient times, most have vanished. Mountains have crumbled, rivers taken new courses, and roads new routes. Stones have been buries and hidden in the earth, and old trees have given way to saplings. Time passes and the world changes… reading off of the inscribed journal– The Trip to The Deep North by Bashō at the event on July 27th, 2014.