A feature documentary in development
Yoshi - Wake Up With Me is a film about one man’s journey to find solace in the aftermath of a loved one’s death. But it is no ordinary journey. Human endurance, selfless devotion and kindhearted help are all packed in this 8,800 miles journey to tell a compassionate story.
After winning a green card lottery Yoshi returns to United States to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. There Yoshi started his own comedy group called Tokyo Circus and took to the streets with the aim of putting his heart into something that was uncool, superficially silly, but rooted in the idea of connecting people through humor.
In 2013, Yoshi learned of his mentor/“American Mother” Rebecca Floyd’s death on Facebook of all places, and the cold matter-of-fact nature of the announcement on social media altered something inside of him. In our world of heightened communication and online social circles, Yoshi found himself isolated at the end of technology. Yoshi felt compelled to do something, something with unique purpose. As Yoshi thought over what grand gesture to make, he walked. Yoshi walked what he called “the circle of life,” the circle Rebecca created in her life, connecting with her friends and family on foot and learning from each of them more about his mentor.
Yoshi’s journey does not start well. In order to reach California for Rebecca’s memorial service in time, Yoshi must cover at least 40 miles a day. And the long miles take a great told on Yoshi mentally and physically. Yoshi is ready to give up. But then, Yoshi meets a man walking the same path as himself, but the reverse, from west coast to east coast. This man inspires Yoshi to continue his journey, all the way to California.
At Rebecca’s grave, Yoshi decides to continue his walk with part of Rebecca’s ashes. Yoshi takes Rebecca’s ashes to a place she always wanted to visit: Japan. During Yoshi’s nearly 5000 miles across Japan, he is reminded of his past, his childhood, and we soon discover the deep-rooted reason behind his purpose to connect people with smiles.
Momo Lee Aoi - Director/Producer
To a filmmaker, meeting someone who we believe has a story worth sharing with the world—specifically a story we want to help them share with the world—is so exhilarating and intense, that’s exactly how I feel about Yoshi when I met him six years ago. His authenticity and kindness are so engrossing that you can just feel it when he looks at you.
Yoshi was making a pilgrimage not bound by the ease of modern day communication, but drawn out by a most primitive sort of transportation: walking. Yoshi walked for his mentor Rebecca.
Yoshi didn’t expect this to become a self-discovery journey, but after this great journey, after meeting so many kind strangers to inspire him in one way or another, Yoshi finds himself looking inward. The struggle is personal, intense, yet universal. Everyone wants to be found and understood, everyone is seeking purpose.
I consider Yoshi not just a character in my film, but a personal hero who inspired and enriched me. Through this film, I want to find a way to use Yoshi’s message and personal growth as template for the rest of us. Through the very act of being human, we are all connected.
Smile to the World.
Yoshihiro Watanabe is an actor, singer, dancer, street performer, comedian and adventurer. Born in Nagasaki City, Japan, he moved to northern California when he was 18, majored in Theater Arts, focused on filmmaking, and minored in Dance at Humboldt State University. He currently resides in New York City.
In 2006, Watanabe started his own street performance comedy group Tokyo Circus. He thought that putting his heart into something uncool and making people smile would lead to World Peace. Thus, Watanabe came up with a new style of street performance, shaking his hips while holding a sign that says, "Your smile is beautiful." Regardless of skin color, sex, nationality, religion, and academic background, he wants this world to be where everyone is connected with smiles.