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THE WAY of Life in Australia (EN)

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

Every month on WOMENCANFLY.CO’s blog series, The Way, we introduce inspirational women who live abroad.

This time, we meet Shiho Sparkle Hooper from Happy Hoopy Life who is an entertainer living in Sydney. Although a hula hoop is usually known to be spun around your waist, there is no doubt that you won’t be fascinated by Shiho’s stage presence where she uses it in ways you haven’t seen before.

Shiho enjoys making many people smile everyday but there was once a time where she lost what she had cherished and reconsidered the meaning of life. Shiho shares her experience as an entertainer abroad, the pleasures and hardships of her job, what makes hula hooping fun, the turning points in her life and her life in Sydney.


Taking a trip around the world on a Peace Boat after breaking up with her boyfriend of seven years

Shiho attended an American university and spent five and a half years there until she graduated from postgraduate studies. Following her graduation, she returned to Japan and worked as a graduate at a Japanese company. However, when she first started, she got so busy that every night she would work until just before the last train of the night could take her home.

At the same time, she was in a long-distance relationship of seven years but was so busy that she didn’t have time for him and one day, they broke up.

“I thought if I had lost someone I valued, there was no point in clinging to money and work. At the same time, I decided that I wanted my life to be spent with people I love and value.”

However, Shiho who spent her days being swamped by work didn't know what she liked or wanted to do.

At that time, when she went to a Japanese bar with a friend, she found a Peace Boat poster saying, “Travel around the world for 990,000 yen.”

“I thought I’d find something I like while travelling on the boat.”

Shiho quit her job and welcomed a turning point in her life on a ship she boarded by herself.

With a hula hooper she met on the Peace Boat

Hula hooping became love at first spin

Shiho met Pania, a New Zealander spinning a hula hoop on board, who used her whole body from neck to toes and danced to the beat of her music.

“I thought that a hula hoop was something that I would spin around my waist so I was shocked to see something like this. It would be a lot of fun if I could do it as well. I can’t put it into words but it just came into me.”

Shiho instantly fell in love with hula hooping and she spent every day being immersed in practicing it during her time on the boat. At that time, she didn’t think that hula hooping would lead to work but she just wanted to do it and would continue to even after leaving the boat.

She was eventually introduced to a hula hoop teacher in Sydney and decided to go to Sydney.

“I imagine that few people are able to find what they want to do or what they like. That’s why when I did, I dived into it head-first.”

In January 2011, Shiho travelled to Sydney with a hula hoop and a suitcase.

With hula hoop master BUNNY and friends

Life as an entertainer abroad

During her first year in Sydney, Shiho spent the day working for foreign financial firms and the tourism industry while taking hula hoop lessons in the evening.

Around the same time as her contract was about to expire, Shiho was wondering whether she should resign in order to fulfill her purpose of coming to Sydney. From then on, her life as a street performer began in the daytime.

“There was no guaranteed income as a street performer but I felt more excited than worried.”

In Sydney, where entertainment is thriving, there are many performers and it is very important to connect with them. In the beginning, Shiho got work through introductions from friends.

Shiho has gained experience as a street performer and currently has two jobs. One of them is as a hula hooper for shows and workshops at corporate and local events, private parties, etc. The other is as a hula hoop teacher at workshops for primary school students.

Stemming from the motto of, “delivering happiness through hula hooping”, Shiho thinks about how the audience can enjoy performances and make her costumes herself. She not only continues to work on her practice but also aims to change people’s perceptions of hula hooping.

There have been times when other performers in the same industry have said, “I have enough skills so it’s okay to not have to do more, right?”

However, for Shiho who loves hula hooping, she finds joy even during the time she spends preparing and developing concepts.

The entertainment Shiho delivers has a high satisfaction rate where her audience repeat rate is over 90%! Workshops for primary school students are also one of the most popular curriculums.

Shiho has made many circus and hula hooping friends

The strengths and weaknesses of being Japanese

Shiho was able to do work she enjoyed but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first thing she felt trapped in was within the walls of being a foreigner.

“Even though my technique wasn’t any worse than everyone else’s, I was once removed from a show. This wasn’t something that not only I have experienced, but also many Asians have too in a space where Caucasians with good style are often selected.”

Shiho was shocked at first but TOY, a master of performing arts, gave her the advice, “Shiho has the goodness of Shiho. Keep that alive,” which helped her overcome those feelings of insecurity.

With performing arts master, TOY

Shiho has taken a 180 degree turn from the cool performances she’s done up until now to using anime songs, changing cosplay specifications and switching to children’s productions and Japanese-themed performances.

“It feels strange for a white performer to say, “Hi, Everyone!” like an older sister on a children’s program. As I am Japanese, it fits nicely and I get a good reaction from the children. I refer to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and I get inspiration from various places.”

Her younger counterparts who started earlier are often better in technique compared to Shiho who started hula hooping at 26. However, Shiho’s hula hooping is filled with an overwhelming amount of practice and ingenuity.

“It’s normal for me to practice dancing and take lessons until it goes well with the music but I think my hard work has been a great strength.”

At Asian-related events like Lunar New Year, Shiho is often asked to participate. She once again feels the strengths and weaknesses of being Asian as two sides of the same coin.

Being Japanese is Shiho’s weakness and greatest weapon.

At a Japanese-themed festival performing a production from a Japanese perspective

Why Shiho continues to perform in Sydney

Shiho can be herself in Sydney. It doesn’t matter how she looks or what she does.

“In Japan, I feel that wearing costumes makes me stand out but in Sydney people often come and talk to me. I love Sydney.”

In Sydney, street performances and entertainment shows are held everywhere. Shiho performs in various places and also had plans to go on tour this summer.

However, due to COVID-19, all events have been cancelled. At one point, Shiho thought she might not be able to hula hoop anymore.

“I had no plans during COVID-19 but since I had a break, I decided to challenge myself with something new so I started a YouTube channel.”

I shot videos and also called out to fellow performers around the world and by doing this, I was able to find a new way to share my passion.

Events and shows haven’t been completely revived due to COVID-19 but I look forward to the day when we can bring live shows back to life.

“The Australian audience responds directly to me. When I deliver a good performance, the music connects with the audience. If I don’t savour that moment, I end up not being satisfied. I’m trying my best.”

Shiho performing a spectacular fire show

Entertainment goals

Even before COVID-19, Shiho actually had seriously thought about quitting hula hooping due to an injury to her right hand. Women are said to have a shorter performer life than men and if they get injured, they can quickly lose their jobs. This is why they start thinking about a third career rather than a second career.

However, when she happened to meet a little girl in a country town in England she visited with her fellow performers, Shiho’s passion was reignited.

“I taught the little girl how to hula hoop and from that day on she practiced every day. The balloons I gave her seemed to be cherished until they withered and I realised that I wanted to make people happy.”

If you get injured, you can think about another performance. During COVID-19, you can change the way you entertain through different ways like YouTube. At the same time as Shiho felt that there was more than one way to do something, with whatever she does she says, “I want to make people happy”.

Shiho doing a workshop in the Antarctic. Make people all over the world smile no matter where you are!

Shiho says that both her round-the-world trip and her visit to England were turning points in her life that happened at the right time.

“I think turning points will come to anyone. You just have to keep moving so you don’t miss it. If I hadn’t moved, I might have blamed my ex for my misfortune and breaking my heart but now I think it’s because of him that I’m happy. You can turn something negative into a positive so it’s important to manifest turning points for yourself even if doing so means there will be things you don’t like to do.”

Shiho has become more powerful by reconsidering the ideal entertainment she hopes to deliver. Above all, she enjoys it more than anyone else which makes her happy.

Through her encounter with hula hooping, Shiho discovered something she feels enthusiastic about and is able to feel the joy of making people smile and the kindness that radiates.

It’s not easy living the life of an entertainer abroad but we feel that if she encounters something she is passionate about, she will do what it takes to push forward.

Shiho Sparkle Hooper / Happy Hoopy Life

YouTube Channel:

Shiho is in the middle of making collaborative videos with hula hoopers from around the world.

Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!

Women can fly.

Much love, xxx

Team WCF

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