Article: Danly Fu
Q1. Please tell us about Lequios Theatre
It is said that when Okinawa was still an independent country called Ryukyu, the Portuguese referred to the Ryukyu people as “Lequios”. According to Tome Pires in his book Suma Oriental (1512-1515), the people of Ryukyu were friendly and peace-loving people without weapons. We would like to let the world know of this part of Okinawan history (that until 138 years ago, we were a country called Lequios located in the South China Sea) and of the culture of the Lequios, so we decided to name ourselves the Lequios Theatre.
Q2. Please tell us the points of appeal of the town of Yomitan, where the theatre is located.
Yomitan is the most populated village (村, mura) in Japan, with a population of 40, 000. Lequios theatre is in Zanpa Cape Park, a scenic spot which attracts over 80, 000 visitors annually. Through the window of the theatre, you can see the bronze statue of Taiki, a Yomitan-born man who significantly developed the trade of the Ryukyu Kingdom. There are many other tourist destinations including the World Heritage Site “Zakimi Castle” and the Akainukugu Shrine which worships Akainko, the originator of Ryukyu music. Yomitan is a cultural town dotted with historical sites.
Q3. What is the “Ninja Experience Dojo”?
The Lequios Theatre runs an acrobatic, shuriken (throwing star) combat, blow dart combat, and swordplay program called the “Chibikko (Kids’) Ninja Experience Dojo” every Saturday for children aged 4 to 12. It differs from other Ninja experience dojos in that all greetings are in olden-day Okinawan dialect, and that we also teach them Okinawan history.
At the dojo, we have a ranking system from level 6 to level 1 – those who qualify for level 1 are given the chance to perform on the stage of Ninja shows.
Q4. How many foreign tourists visit the Lequios Theatre?
70% of the audience who attend our shows are foreigners, mainly from America, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We also hold shows in the daytime on an outdoor stage against the sea, and the audience for these shows mainly comprise of Chinese visitors.
Q5.Are any of your performances geared towards foreigners?
We have a performance of the 16th Century story of Kyouahagon, the originator of Karate who served the Ryukyu Kingdom. This show uses techniques of Karate and Kobudo, an ancient Japanese martial art. We have adopted a nonverbal performance approach so that foreign guests are also able to understand the story.
Q6. Have you engaged in any activity in Australia?
This is the first time.
Q7. What made you decide to participate in Matsuri Japan Festival?
We received an offer from an Australian audience member who watched our Ryukyu Ninja performance last October.
Q8. What is “matsuri” to Lequios Theatre?
We believe that “matsuri” is an experience-based and participatory event.
We have been performing at Lequios Theatre and other places in Okinawa, also overseas in places such as Taiwan and Thailand. We also make it so that our stage is one where “anybody can participate freely” and we regularly receive positive feedback.
Q9. What kinds of PR activities are you planning to undertake at Matsuri Japan Festival?
Our ninjas (averaging 21 years of age) will bring Karate and Kobudo action to Sydney. Furthermore, we hope to cultivate Australian interest in Okinawa, which is the birthplace of Karate, and connect this to further visits from Australia to Okinawa.
Q10. Finally, do you have any messages for Matsuri staff and festival-goers?
Thank you for lending Ryukyu Ninja, a young organisation, a means to reach out to more people. We will try our best on stage to further excite and heighten the festival atmosphere. Please look forward to a performance featuring swift swordplay in the first half and dynamic karate-inspired dance in the second.
Lequios Theatre Website: https://www.ashibi-ent.com