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How 'Riverdance' changed Tokyo man's life

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  • Never danced in his life
  • Quits IT job - flies to Ireland
  • Practices Irish dance steps to Riverdance video

A night out at Riverdance in Tokyo turned into a dream come true for a Japanese man called Taka Hayashi.

Taka was swept away by the Riverdance show, so much so that he quit his job, raided his bank accounts and flew to Ireland to chase his dream of Irish dance.

The 28-year-old IT consultant had never danced in his life but was convinced he could make it into the world famous Irish dancing troupe.

His father, a taxi driver in Tokyo, shook his head at his son's dream and pronounced him "mad."

But Taka would not be dissuaded.

He said that the show had literally changed his life. “I realized at that moment what I wanted from my life – to be a Riverdancer,” he says.

So he resigned from his job - a huge step in Japan - withdrew his savings and flew to Ireland in November 2001.

He wound up in Cork searching for someone who could teach him the "history of Irish dancing.” The teacher was little help, the locals couldn't understand him, and the children "threw stones at me and called me ‘Chinese’. "

He was knocked back from every dancing school he applied to because they all said the same thing - he was too old.

He gave up looking for a teacher and started practising to Riverdance videos for eight hours a day.

His big break came when he spotted a workshop run by former Riverdancer Ronan McCormack.

McCormack - who said he was amazed at how much Taka had learned just from watching videos - became his official teacher.

Just four months later, Taka won Intermediate Grade in his second Feis. In 2003 he was one of the dancers selected to perform in the 100 strong line at the performance of Riverdance at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics in Croke Park.

Previously rejected by some teachers as too old to compete, Taka qualified and competed in the 2004 World Championships.

In 2005 Taka auditioned for Riverdance and was accepted. Incredibly, his first tour took place in the Far East, taking in Japan and his hometown of Tokyo,

Today, he runs the busy Irish Dance Academy in Tokyo with his wife, Etsuko, who also dances. They say they were both drawn to Irish dancing because of the music. They say the Irish bodhrán and the Jpanese taiko drums are very similar, along with the Irish flute and the shakuhachi.

But most of all, said Taka, he loved the synchronicity of the music and the tapping feet.

He joined the hundreds of thousands of people the world over who find that Irish dancing is a bridge to all cultures.

If you're in Ireland this weekend, keep an eye out for Taka, his wife, and a group of friends who will be dancing on Dublin's Grafton Street.

“I want to show Irish people my contribution to Irish dancing,” he told the Irish Times today. “I hope they’ll appreciate it.”

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