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Chureito Pagoda and Mount Fuji with cher


A most unlikely connection between a famous Japanese foundation and a renowned American college culminated in 2014, when Ashinaga and Vassar College presented At Home in the World/世界がわが家 a musical performance helmed by the famed London-based theater director John Caird, who won Tony Awards for directing Les Misèrables and Nicholas Nickleby on Broadway. The special event united four continents (Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America) and featured the extraordinary dancing, singing, and drumming talents of children from Ashinaga’s Rainbow Houses in Uganda and Japan, as well as the sublime choral stylings of a choir from Vassar College.

Once Ashinaga President Yoshiomi Tamai and then-Vassar President Cappy Hill had agreed to the cultural exchange, Caird worked closely in creating the program with Lance Ringel, who wrote the original English narration that was then translated into Japanese and performed by noted actress Mikiko Otonashi; Vassar music professor Christine Howlett, who traveled to Uganda to teach Western-style singing to the Ashinaga children there, and who conducted the Vassar choir at the performances in Japan; and composer Mitsuaki Sato, founder of M’s Japan Orchestra, whose percussive genius was reflected in the powerful taiko drumming by the Tohoku Wa-Daiko Team, which brought together young people who had lost a parent in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. Some of the drums these students used were hewn out of debris left behind by the disaster.

The first two concerts were held in Sendai, Japan, two days after the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, and in Tokyo. In 2015, more performances, with actress April Yvette Thompson reading Ringel’s English narration, took place on Vassar’s campus, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, and in Washington, D.C., before a final presentation in Tokyo. The following year, an exuberant final performance took place – before a full house, like all the presentations of At Home in the World – in Kampala, with Ugandan actress Esther Nakamya narrating.

At Home in the World cover
Large Theatre

I’m very grateful for how much sense Lance managed to make of an almost impossible task.

John Caird, Director of At Home in the World (and Les Misèrables and Nicholas Nickleby on Broadway)

Lance Ringel writes like he understands the heart of the Japanese people.

Mitsuaki Sato, Taiko Producer and Composer, At Home in the World

When talented young people unite and share their respective cultures, a new world of possibilities is born.

Ashinaga Africa Initiative
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