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Ringling Brothers Will Help Japanese Merchants Relax

August 5, 1988

TOKYO (AP) _ Clowns will soon teach Japanese business officials how to overcome stress at a school established by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and a Japanese health products company, an official said today.

Kenneth Feld, president of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc., said the school, to be built in Tokyo next year, will show Japanese merchants ″how to be a little less uptight.″

The course will be taught by Japanese clowns trained at the circus’ clown college in Florida and ″will give people a new kind of confidence in themselves, better ways to deal with people,″ Feld said at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. Feld’s father opened the college in 1968.

The circus signed an agreement with Naturally Yours, a Japanese health firm that deals in nutrition and health care, to set up the school. Students will probably come from the service companies, such as restaurants and hotels, said Feld.

″I’m sure it will help Japanese businessmen to deal with Americans and their styles,″ said Earl Dakan, a clown from Pasadena, Calif.

″I’ve got a magic costume when I’m a clown and what I see when I take it off is some of that coming back - the childish qualities which are what businessmen lose the most,″ he said.

″What I’ve seen people learn is to open up, communicate with themselves,″ said Dakan, 25, who graduated from the clown college three years ago. ″It’s a real universal way to get in touch with people.″

Ringling Brothers, based in Washington, will also set up a clown college in Japan after training five Japanese clowns at its Florida school, Feld said. Graduates will tour Japan in 1989-90 visiting hospitals, schools and senior citizens’ homes.

The 118-year-old circus is making its first trip overseas since the Barnum and Bailey Circus and Ringling Bros. Circus merged in 1907.

The 250-member troupe, along with 16 elephants, dancing horses, chimpanzees and the ″living unicorn″ - a goat-like animal with a single horn protruding from its forehead - began its Japan tour in July. Its first engagement was a monthlong show on the northern island of Hokkaido.

The circus opens a 94-show run in Tokyo on Saturday.

It later moves to Osaka in western Japan and an air-conditioned, $8 million Big Top tent that seats 7,000.

Attendance in Hokkaido was about 70 percent, similar to that in the United States, Feld said. He said some acts didn’t achieve the expected response from the Japanese, such as the skit when 18 clowns come piling out of a small car.

″It’s a little too close to reality here, like taking the subway in the morning,″ he said.

The troupe faced other problems, too.

Japanese customs officials refused to allow in staple guns and glue guns until they were convinced they were not weapons.

They also didn’t understand at first why American hay had to be imported for the elephants - to avoid messy intestinal disorders.

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