Dialogue in the Dark

Stories related to candles, fire, lights and darkness

Streetlights, neon signs and moonlight--when it's dark, it takes a while for your sight to adjust, then everything is visible with just some dim lights. Total darkness without any light, when you can't see your hands right in front of your eyes, is totally different. Have you ever been in such utter darkness?

"Dialogue in the Dark" is an entertainment activity to experience total darkness. Darkness and entertainment are two different things--they seem to have nothing in common. However, to experience something different from everyday life is well entertaining.

This initiative started in Germany in 1989 by Dr. Andreas Heinecke. The exhibitions have been held in about 100 cities in 25 countries.

I joined one of the events held in Tokyo last April.

Eight people met in the basement of a modern building at a specific time. Before entering a completely dark room, we were led to a room with dimmed lights to stay for a while. Here, a blind guide explained to us how to move in the utter darkness and how to be cautious.

"In the total darkness, everyone should help each other. Stumbling could lead to a serious accident. Whenever you want to move, you need to announce to others, 'Kishikami is sitting down.' or 'Kisikami is standing up.' You need to identify yourselves by name, because we can't tell who you are in the darkness. Since your voice is the only means of communication, please let others know if you find something by saying, 'Here's a door' or 'Here is an orange.'"

Then, it was our turn to get into the "dark" rooms. I could see nothing. The only thing I could find was the floor. When we got into the first room, I could feel soft fallen leaves that had been placed on the floor. When I dared to extend my hand, I could feel bamboo. I said, "I found bamboo." Others also told what they found in the room. Following the voices, every participant felt the objects others found to confirm for themselves.

We also crossed a log bridge. The guide held my hand, and then I was crouching down to touch the log, sizing up what it was like, and then stepped onto the log. Then it was my turn to guide the next person. I held his hand and led him to the log. Without seeing each other, we talked and used our hands, searching for what was going on. Finally, all of us safely passed the log by using sound and feeling.

Also in the room were herbs that released their good smells. We also enjoyed swings, which was totally different than when we do in the light, with our eyes closed. It was totally a new experience.

In the utter darkness, sound, feeling and smells were important information. Fully using these senses, all the participants who were total strangers, made their way helping each other. Through the event, I found how much the floor tells us--it was more than I had imagined. The blind guide told us that sound information is a lot of fun. "Without eyesight, it is fun to listen to the difference in the sounds. Umbrellas sound different depending on what material they are made of."

The members of the group who first met in the dark room had an image of each other by just their voices during the 90 minute experience. When we came back to the room with lights, we looked at each other to confirm what they were like.

We used our senses to experience how we can gather information around us even in the darkness. I realized why this event has been recognized around the world. It was a new experience for me. I used senses that I didn't have to in the light.

Yuko Kishikami

June 5, 2009