Janine Oshiro

Recrafting Stories to Take Us to a Better Place

By Renée Tillotson & Sarah Hodges

So many of us have received Janine’s quiet, attentive help from the Still & Moving Center’s front desk. A fortunate few of us have received the exquisitely mindful help of Janine’s hands and feet (!) getting lomilomi massage or Sarga bodywork from her. Only recently has a growing audience begun to receive Janine’s startlingly well-crafted storytelling, which she delivers with her entire body! As she unfolds her story, moving in place with a subtle, almost kabuki dance or taichi freestyle manner, her word pictures prod and shape our minds and hearts, indeed taking us to a better place than we started, just as a great massage might do.

Having lost her mother at the age of eleven, and her father at age thirty-three, Janine finds that her creative process with words helps make sense of difficult life experiences. She’s been able to appreciate her parents more, as well as develop compassion for herself and others, including siblings. She’s come to understand that each person in the family is doing their best in a complex situation.

If you were only able to listen to Janine’s storytelling on a podcast, you would miss out on more than half the experience of watching and feeling her tell the stories. Six years ago, Janine walked away from her job as a writing teacher at Windward Community College (WCC), needing to get out of her head and back to her body. She became a lomilomi massage practitioner, and then a Sarga bodyworker, employing her feet as well as her hands to work on her clients. Since she started staffing at Still & Moving as Covid hit, she’s been taking more exercise classes than she’s ever taken in her life. So, there’s been a natural progression towards becoming more and more “embodied”, increasing her connection between what she’s thinking and feeling, and how she’s moving and sensing. As she jumps into the story with her imagination, we watch her wriggle into it, close to her skin, bringing it to life.

Storytelling Debut 

“For my first show in May, led by a state-wide cultural extension program through the University of Hawaii, I got to work with a professional storyteller who helped me find the humor in my story that I didn’t realize was there. Seeing funny moments in my word-crafting is new to me. I enjoy learning this part of myself. We need humor to survive. To experience the full range of our emotional nature and to explore that range in front of other people both scares and thrills me.” 

For her second storytelling event in October, Janine crafted two stories. She skillfully and delicately wove new meaning into an old Japanese fairytale from 1903, about a man who did not wish to die. The second was Janine’s personal account of attending a silent retreat at age 36. Janine’s wry humor and refusal to take her own travails too seriously delighted her audience.

As she recrafts old stories, Janine aims to bring a twist to the original meaning in a way that uplifts the reader and the characters. “I found a folktale from Okinawa perfect for what I wanted to do. It had all the elements. It was a story in common use and it was old enough. Now, how did I want to change a story in a way that would help all of us move forward, that takes us to a better place? I really felt as if the wife in the story wasn’t given the respect that she deserved, and I felt called to rewrite the ending so that she gained respect. I didn’t want to perpetuate a story where the man didn’t come into a deeper relationship with his wife. So in my telling, the husband transforms along with his wife.” 

Janine is excited to find and recraft more fairytales and folktales to tell side-by-side with her personal stories, tales that her audience can relate to themselves. 

Word-Crafting Experience

Janine’s bio for storytelling reads like this:

Janine Oshiro is the author of Pier, winner of the 2010 Kundiman Poetry Prize, published by Alice James Books. She has been awarded the 2011 Elliot Cades Award for Literature in Hawaiʻi for an emerging writer and the 2013 Asian American Literary Award for Poetry. After graduating from Mililani High School, she attended Whitworth University, Portland State University, and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Janine has written a lot of material since 2014. By the beginning of 2021, she was frustrated. She felt as if she had hit the proverbial wall, and it wasn’t budging. So she did an about-face and left it behind. She reported at our staff meeting feeling flooded with a sense of relief as soon as she laid her project to rest.

However, all Janine’s words, all her creative process, were not yet done with her. They began clamoring to be heard in a new way: through storytelling. Nothing is ever wasted – all the years she spent working on her writing projects were not in vain! Now she has a rich storehouse of seeds for future storytelling shows!  

Massage & Bodywork

During her career as a writing teacher, Janine realized she needed to shift focus, and so she courageously did just that. “It was difficult for me to quit at WCC. I had worked very hard to get tenure; yet a year later, needed to walk away. I wanted more time for creative work. I wanted to learn more about the body. I wanted to do something that involved movement, that allowed me to be fully in my body. Massage appealed to me, being with people while I was in motion.” 

She’s blessed so many people now, with her quiet awareness and healing touch. 

At Still & Moving, we say: “On Janine Oshiro’s massage table you find a healing space to make a deep connection with yourself and the unfolding of your body’s wisdom. Through her focused presence and intentional touch, you experience relaxation, release, ease of movement, and new patterns.”

Janine says: “What I love about doing massage is what I love about storytelling. I leave behind all distractions to give full attention to someone else.”

Words PLUS Body!

“Now with storytelling, after long periods of sitting working on scripts, I get up to practice telling: standing, moving, and that feels so good. And even if I’m sitting, I’m still exploring movement: voice, tone, and facial expression. It’s a new, exciting challenge for me.”

Instead of banging her head against the old wall of frustrated writing, Janine now delightedly prepares for upcoming storytelling events, known and to-be-scheduled, chuckling in anticipation as she tells us about them. Readers, make SURE to mark your calendars next time Janine announces a new storytelling date!

Here’s a link to Janine’s October storytelling event, as it is still posted on the SCEP YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyPlPGEhAUs

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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)