What is the first sound that captures your ears when you get off the train or ferry at Circular Quay? In my case — I got off the train with my suitcase and as I walked towards the ferries, I heard the reverberating sound of the didgeridoo. And there he was, a guy with Aboriginal face paint, sitting on the ground playing powerful music. Every time I went to Circular Quay, I was welcomed by that proud sound. What I found interesting was — aside from the music itself — there are a couple of distinctive differences between the “buskers” or “street performers” in Australia and Japan.
First of all, in Japan, you rarely see buskers playing traditional instruments. And if you do, it’s most likely celebrating a special/historical occasion. Considering the didgeridoo is recognised worldwide as a traditional Aboriginal instrument and Circular Quay sees thousands of tourists daily, it seems natural to welcome people with something that makes people feel “very Aussie”. You see a lot of “very Japanese” things in popular tourist destinations in Japan too, but you don’t really hear something very Japanese, apart from the language.
Second point is, the didgeridoo buskers are generally middle-aged guys, while most Japanese buskers are young. “Where are all the young didgeridoo players?” “Maybe buskers have to pass a performance test here.” “There must be auditions held by the authority. They’re more or less representing their country.” “In that case, it’s small wonder that seasoned musicians have more chances.” — None of the buskers had any idea the Japanese girl watching them avidly was actually talking to herself like that. (And indeed, there is a strict busking policy in the Sydney Harbour Foreshore area.)
In general, you won’t see many street performers aside from musicians in Japan. When I visited Australia for the first time and saw a strange living statue on the street, it frightened me. I want to see more of this in Japan now! My wish is slowly becoming a reality as Japanese begin to recognise these various art forms. Back in Fukuoka City, where I come from, there is a somewhat famous living statue performer whom I was excited to see at a shopping mall for the first time. You can see more buskers at The Rocks, too. If you go to Circular Quay on the weekend, make sure you visit The Rocks Market. Not just for the performers (who have survived the auditions, a feat in itself!) but the numbers of stalls and lively atmosphere.
My first time at The Rocks Market was more of an accident. I strayed into them, not really knowing what was going on. What I witnessed was a long line of stalls, amazing handmade wares and street performers. But guess what surprised me the most? A yellow veggie with an appetising smell. CORN ON THE COB! I saw many people holding this food in their hands. Oh yes, it was a very familiar sight to me. You can see markets like this in Japan, too, especially in summer. And you will also see corn on the cob stalls there. I’d even believed it was ‘Japanese’ tradition. They’re usually boiled and grilled and glazed with soy sauce in Japan. Some parts are burnt, but ah, that tempting smell! Somehow it’s comforting to know people love this market food in Australia as much as they do in Japan.
It’s fascinating to see the differences and similarities, no matter how large or small, between these two countries I love. My journey of discovery continues.
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