updated 11 Aug 2014, 10:59
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Fri, Aug 08, 2014
Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN
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Tears of a clown: A widow's story
by Norihide Onozawa

MINAMI-ALPS, Yamanashi - Her fading inner fire was reignited when Miyuki Mochizuki, 37, noticed that the audience here was in stitches over her performance as a clown.

Mochizuki was performing in Minami-Alps, Yamanashi Prefecture in May 2011, on the stage of a newly renovated hall. She was doing her job as a clown-making people laugh-acting out silly pantomimes and juggling her way through the goofy act as she surprised the children and amused the adults.

Their reaction was a most welcome encouragement, boosting Mochizuki's spirits at a time of great tragedy. Just a few days before, she had held a farewell ceremony in the very same hall for her husband, Kazue, who died at the young age of 37.

Mochizuki lost her husband only 50 days after their wedding. He made her realise the meaning and importance of smiles, an essential part of being a clown. She was depressed and cried every day after her husband's death, but gazing out at the smiling audience helped her find herself again.

Mochizuki first met Kazue at a barbecue party with friends in June 2003 in Yamanashi Prefecture. At the time, she had just recovered from depression, which had forced her to take a break from her clown career.

Mochizuki was impressed with Kazue's commanding presence at the barbecue and began dating him, although they broke up six months later. Still, Mochizuki could not forget him, and they resumed dating when she met him again six years later.

Kazue, who had a weak kidney, continued working in sales while receiving dialysis treatment. Likely because of his illness, he never proposed. Mochizuki hatched a plan to get him to propose at a bridal fair, enlisting the help of a friend who was working at a wedding centre, but it didn't work, so she told him the truth.

Kazue finally said to her, "I'll take care of you, and you take care of me."

In Februrary 2011, however, a week after their wedding ceremony, his condition rapidly worsened. Kazue fell unconscious three days later and had to be hospitalized. He woke up in the hospital but could not stand.

Mochizuki dashed into the bathroom whenever she could not bear to see Kazue lying in bed. She took deep breaths there and put on the best smile she could muster when she returned to him. Despite her constant attention, he passed away on April 1. He seemed to be smiling as the warmth faded from his lips.

Mochizuki tried to convince herself that he was smiling because she was able to be with him in the end-but her heavy feelings lingered.

A clown at heart

After their wedding, Mochizuki intended to give up her clown act to support her husband's treatment. When she spoke to the manager of the renovated hall while searching for the venue for her husband's farewell ceremony, she found herself saying: "I'm a street performer. How about letting me perform in the hall?"

Her mother-in-law, who was with her at the time, reacted negatively, but Mochizuki realised she was a die-hard clown at heart.

Mochizuki first wanted to become a clown during the autumn of 1992, when she was a third-year middle school student. She became captivated by street performance after watching a street performer in a loincloth, whose whole body was painted white, posing as Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" at the Daidogei World Cup in her hometown of Shizuoka.

She liked to make people laugh as a child, even performing rakugo comic storytelling in front of her relatives. When she became a second-year high school student, she participated in a clown training course and decided this was what she was born to do.

After graduating from high school, she improved her skills in a pantomime group and also studied under a renowned clown.

"Sometimes I'm depressed and I cry, but my job is to show people a good time. I think my late husband would be pleased. Laughter has the power to move the heart forward," she said. Her husband also liked to entertain people.

The power of smiles

"All for you, it's my pleasure." Pierrot clowns are usually made up with tears on their face. A Pierrot has some melancholy aspects in its appearance, but its actual purpose is to give joy to people, according to Mochizuki.

"Becoming a fool is not foolish. A fool cannot please people by acting goofy. I want people to live like a Pierrot," she said.

To convey her philosophy, Mochizuki also gives lectures in addition to her clown performances. She even published a book titled "Nakimushi Piero no Kekkonshiki" (A weepy Pierrot's wedding ceremony) on July 1.

Mochizuki talked about how to create a smile in a lecture for business people in Shizuoka on June 19. "Even if you're sad, a fake smile can trick your brain into making you feel happy," she said.

Smiles are said to be a miracle drug without any side effects, improving immunity by working on parasympathetic nerves.

"Nobody knows what'll happen each day. People should smile at those around them, so they'll have no regrets," Mochizuki said.

She was married in February and her husband was hospitalized the same month. Three years have passed since he died during cherry blossom season. Mochizuki still feels sad at these times of year, but she believes her husband is smiling at her and saying, "You're doing just fine."

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