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Japanese troupe to exhibit samurai swordplay at carnival in S. Korea

Members of Troupe Sakura Zensen, which will perform in an event related to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, pose for a photo in Tokyo's Katsushika Ward on Feb. 13, 2018. (Mainichi)

Troupe Sakura Zensen, a Japanese theatrical group that performs sword fighting shows across the world, is gearing up to thrill spectators with samurai swordplay at an Olympic-related carnival in South Korea.

The group will perform on Feb. 15 and 16 at the Wonju Winter Dancing Carnival, an event related to the ongoing Pyeongchang Olympics.

"We want to impress people with a Japanese-style show and encourage them to come to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020," a member of the group said.

The group was established in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1998 and later moved to the Kameari district of Tokyo's Katsushika Ward. The members have given more than 20 performances in foreign countries.

The group performed abroad for the first time in South Korea in 2000, two years before the country co-hosted the soccer World Cup with Japan.

"We were worried about whether Japanese culture would be accepted," recalls Yuko Iori, deputy representative of the group. The audience, however, started to dance during a show and people wept during a moving scene. Iori felt that the group was able to convey its stories through voice and expression. For the Feb. 15 and 16 shows, the group will base its performance on a story set in Japan's capital in the Edo period.

There was one incident when the members were reminded of history between Japan and South Korea. On a tour in South Korea in 2003, a pre-performance event took place on Aug. 15 -- the day marking the end of World War II for Japan, but for South Korea, a day to celebrate independence from Japan. The troupe members were told by one of the parties on the South Korean side involved in the event that they did not have to attend. Regardless, Iori addressed the audience and said she was glad that Japan and South Korea were now able to sit alongside each other. The audience erupted into applause and some people later talked to her.

For now, she remains focused on this month's event. "I want to show people some impressive samurai swordplay," she said.

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