Anyone wandering the back streets near Omiya Station at 7:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 2, might have passed a particular office building, unremarkable except for two African men standing on a 2nd floor balcony, rope in hand, lowering a car-sized Ugo (eagle) costume down to the parking lot. One of them was Tony Ikeotuonye, chairman of the Anambra State Union, one of Japan's two largest Nigerian immigrant civic associations. He had slept lightly and awoken at 6 to begin loading costumes into a Nippon Rent-a-Truck, a process culminating in the curious scene that greeted passersby that morning in Saitama.

This was the unglamorous prelude to an African masquerade performance more than two years in the making. Ikeotuonye and the costumes were expected in Yokohama by 10 at Africa Fair, the public face of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). They were to take the stage at noon, and theirs would be the sole scheduled event representing the diaspora that links Japan to Africa.

For Ikeotuonye, it was gratifying to find himself only 70 km and a few hours away from showtime. The idea of establishing a masquerade troupe in Japan had initially provoked a great deal of skepticism among his constituents. Since then, much time and money had been spent, and odds defied, to make this ambitious aspiration a reality.