Category Archives: Music

Nagoya Dome Yakimono World 2012: Is that him?

Standard

dome 3

     Is that him?

     I was in Nagoya Dome, the indoor baseball field in Nagoya, for an event named “Dome Yakimono World” on November 17. Yakimono means ceramic in English. It is an annual event and has more than 300 booths in which not only ceramic wares but also other table wares such as glass and plastic products and Japanese lacquer wares are sold. Actually there are some food stalls also in the site.

     I had not had lunch yet when I arrived at the dome. So, I decided to buy something to eat and drink at the site first. Kiyomi Yano, a radio personality, was talking on the stage when I passed through the stands to go down the field. She said, “Do you want to listen to music? Okay, it’s time for music, then.” While I was buying some food for lunch, a singer began singing. I thought, “He’s a very good singer…” when I was going back to the seats to have lunch. Then I was very surprised at seeing him singing on the stage. dome 4

     “Is that him?” I could not believe my eyes. The singer who was singing on the stage with a guitar was the former vocalist of a rock band called J-Walk (JAYWALK): Koichi Nakamura. Of course, he is a very good singer. And of course, the singer must have been him. He is the radio personality’s husband. Why was I surprised at his performance? Because he vanished from the limelight two years ago. Actually, he was arrested using narcotics in 2010 and got a two-year-jail sentence. He did not need to go to prison because of probation, but he decided to go silent for two years that he deserved to be in jail. dome 1

     His songs after a long interval were excellent. I was very happy to see him singing and to listen to his songs. I felt lucky because I had not expected being able to listen to his voice at the event. It was also nice to see him and his wife look happy. Kiyomi said to his husband after his performance, “Take all those things away! You know, no one does for you anymore!” It was a bit self-deprecating, but was funny. I enjoyed their performance on stage over my lunch. dome 2

     The show was over, and my lunch also was over. I left the stands and went to the main area. Japan is a small island but it has many kinds of clay, and each area has their own unique ceramic cultures. It was very interesting to see those differences and to talk to shop owners or ceramic artists about their works. This flog is Pierre. According to the artist’s husband (The man is also a ceramicist. Unfortunately his wife was sick in bed and could not come to the event.), Pierre is from France…Of course, it is a fantasy. He cost 50,000 yen…It was too expensive and big to take him home to me…dome 5

     I bought a coffee cup and a saucer in which violets were painted at this booth for my mother. She loves violets. I was able to listen to Koichi Nakamura’s wonderful songs, to see many beautiful and interesting things, to talk to many people, and to buy a nice set of cup and saucer for my mother at the event. I had a great time!

Advertisements

Kakuohzan Fall Festival 2012: Why don’t you explore in the eclectic mix world of the old and the new ?

Standard

     Do you know there is an interesting place named Kakuohzan, which has eclectic mix of old and new things, in  Nagoya? There is a temple called Nittaiji enshrining real Buddha’s ash in the area. Nittaiji Temple gathers many believers, especially senior citizens, and therefore there are old-fashioned shops such as a Japanese sandal shop and a rice cracker shop in the approach. But nowadays many of those old shops are closed because of aging of keepers and their buildings.

     However, those closed shops have not remained in being closed for a long time. Most of the old shops have been reborn as cafés, restaurants, bakeries, import goods shops, a convenience store, a cheese shops, a tea house, accessory shops, pottery shops…etc. So many young people also come to Kakuohzan. But the young generations in the area do not just wait for customers. They organize some events to attract people as well. One of their events is Kakuohzan Fall Festival.

     The fall festival was held on November 3 and 4 this year, and I went there on 4. It was a lovely day. I arrived at the festival around noon, when many people were enjoying street food. In Kakuohzan’s festivals, you can try many kinds of delicious foods like curry, pastas, cheese fondue, cake, yakisoba (fried noodles), fried chickens…Oh, I’m getting hungry…

    In Japan’s usually festivals, there are just food stalls and game booths. But in Kakuohzan many art creators and crafters also have stands. The festival has an aspect of a creators’ exhibition. Paintings, photos, potteries, glass arts, steel works, woodworks…etc. Looking those things around is, of course, interesting, but talking to the creators about their works is more interesting. I had a wonderful time on a warm autumn day. Why don’t you explore in the eclectic mix world of the old and the new?

Mori-no-Ie Matsuri: To Future Non-Discriminatory Society

Standard

4296d9e2-s     …Children seldom keep on lining up in order during their school trip. They always block the passage in the station, and I, who am bringing a white walking stick, am often caught into the crowd. The children don’t care a bit about me, who am an intruder to their territory, but their teachers spot me and scold them saying, “Move to the right!” to clear the aisle. One fifth of teachers, however, add this, “What are you looking at?! Don’t stare at the person! Don’t stare at the person!” That’s the saddest moment for me. I can’t see, but I can hear. Am I dirty to look at? Am I something looked away?

     I think it’ll be a great opportunity for children to study about challenged people if they happen to meet someone who is disabled during their excursion because physically and mentally disabled children and ordinary ones are educated separately in Japan. They can experience to know that many different people live together and that some can’t see, and learn how to treat them if they see those disabled people in the town. Teachers can even teach their students saying, “Okay, everyone, look carefully. If you meet someone who can’t see is in trouble, lead the person with your elbow like this.” I would be happy to be a guinea pig for that. (“Ikari-no-Kawada-san” by Ryuichi Kawada, translated by moshimoshimo) 

     That’s a part of “Ikari-no-Kawada-san” written by Ryuichi Kawada, who is a visually impaired person. As he says, disabled children are separately educated from non-disabled children in Japan. Actually this “separation” continues after they graduate from their schools. The disabilities and the non-disabilities seldom interact in Japan. They live in their own societies even though they live in the same country. I myself hardly ever meet challenged people in my daily life in spite of having many facilities for the handicapped nearby. But I had an opportunity to visit one of them lately.

     There was a festival in one of those facilities in my neighborhood on 17th. The facility named “Mori-no-Ie” is an ambulatory care center for physical disabled people. One of my friends takes part in volunteer activities there once a week. She had told me about the event, and we joined the festival together. morinoie 2

     At the event there were many booths and corners where many things and foods were sold and different exhibitions were held. The friend and I had a hand massage and seifu treatment first (Seifu is a kind of massage). We looked at exhibits created by some care-receivers such as paintings and ceramics then. All of them were very artistic and many have great sense of humors.

     We saw two men cooking in the inner court. We know one of them. He is a cook at a café nearby. Actually the café is run by the same company of the facilities for physical disabled people. He was frying noodles in a swelter. We bought a pack of the fried noodles each and some dumplings for lunch. And then we ate ice cream because my friend’s activity group was selling ice cream outside.

     After lunch, we went to see the concert of koto, or Japanese harps, and shamisen, or Japanese three stringed banjos, upstairs. The performers were students of Kikuka High School. Their music was wonderful. I had a great time with both of the disabilities and the non-disabilities at the care center. I hope the day when there is no discrimination against challenged people and no “separation” between disabled people and non-disabled ones will come someday soon in this country.

A Tiny Summer "Cultural" Festival: Why don’t you join us?

Standard

CAM00164

     Something is strange. I thought that when I was heading for the summer festival site. There is a tiny festival in my neighborhood every summer. It was held on August 3rd and 4th this year. I found out the reason why I had thought that something was strange when I arrived at the site. The place was very quiet. You know, festival sites are usually exciting. What’s happening? I looked at the stage, where five elderly people were doing something in a quiet manner. CAM00168

     What are they doing? Two women were playing the three-string instrument called shamisen, and other two women and a man were singing. It was music, but was not a contemporary one. They were playing a kind of traditional music in the Edo period “Nagauta”! This summer festival started solemnly.CAM00177

     The next performance was in complete contrast a rock band’s music. Interestingly, the band was consisted of young boys and their father-looking middle aged men. They brightened up the atmosphere at once. Many festival goers surrounded the stage and danced in a frenzy of excitement. Wow! I saw some elderly women also dancing. CAM00179

     After the feverish staging, a dance unit named Tsubasa appeared on and around the stage. They are more than 20 dancers and perform at some major festivals such as Domatsuri in Nagoya as well. All of the dancers are my neighbors: from elementary school students to middle aged people. They danced to some their original music. Their energetic performance made the festival atmosphere sensational.CAM00165

     In Japan’s festivals, stalls are very important: shaved ice, grilled squids, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, French flies, goldfish scooping, water balloons hooking, etc…Many children were rollicking around the stalls holding coins in their hands. They wanted to buy some junk foods and toys which looked chintzy during the daytime. Under the spell of the festival, everything looks sparkling for kids. Of course, I was that kind of child. CAM00169

     Actually, the festival used to be called a bon dance festival. At bon dance festivals, people usually wear yukata, or cotton kimono for summer, and dance the same dances together to well-known Japanese folk songs in a circle. We stopped having bon festivals several years ago because of the aging population, the diminishing the number of children, internationalization, and diversification of personal interests in our area. The number of the participants at the bon dance festival decreased year after year. Because of this, the number of the stalls also lessened. The festival had difficulty surviving. 

     But the festival in my neighborhood was revived as a cultural festival several years ago. You can dance, sing, play music, magic, anything you like at the festival. Not only many neighbors have come back but also some people have joined the festival from other areas recently. The festival isn’t as big as it used to be and some Japan’s summer tradition has been lost, but I think it’s wonderful that many neighbors can get together and have a wonderful time together once a year. Why don’t you join use next summer?

Taisho-goto (Nagoya Harp): Let’s enjoy its wide and deep world from enka to classical music!

Standard

CAM00115

     Have you ever heard the sound of Taisho-goto? It is a stringed musical instrument invented in Japan in the Taisho Period (1912-1920) and is also called Nagoya harp in English according to Wikipedia. As the second name shows, the instrument was born in my town Nagoya. Nevertheless, I had never seen or heard of the sound of one until recently. Luckily I had an opportunity to go to a concert of the old and new (for me) instrument at the end of June. 

     The concert was held by Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing at Chuden Hall in Sakae, Nagoya, on June 24. It consisted of two recitals: one was performed by students at Kawai Music School and another by their teachers.  CAM00023

     The students’ groups were 12 and they played a broad range of music, for example, “Around the World” composed by Victor Young, “La Playa” by M.A. Deighan, a French pop “Les Champs-Elysees”, and “Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi o” or “Look up at the Stars in the Night” composed by Take Izumi and sang by Kyu Sakamoto, who was famous for “Sukiyaki Song” in 1960s.   CAM00025

     Apparently, the average age of the students was 65. There were four to ten players in each group, and in which they were dressing in matching costumes. They were playing the musical instrument proudly before their children and grandchildren coming to see their performance. That was quite heartwarming. 

     Although I was very surprised at the students’ cross-genre music, their teachers’ performance was even more amazing. Firstly, they played a Japanese tune which was composed for shamisen, another stringed Japanese musical instrument. Secondly, they performed a medley of “The Sound of Music” such as “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi” and “Edelweiss”. Thirdly, some classical music: Offenbach’s “Heaven and Hell”, Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No.8” and “Symphony No.5”. Fourthly, some Latin American numbers: J. LaCalle’s “Amapola”, C.E. Almaran’s “Historia de un Amor”, C. Velazquez’s “Besame Mucho” and A. Barrosso’s “Brazil”. Fifthly, several movie theme: “The Third Man”, “Rocky”(“Gonna Fly Now”), and “Lupin the Third”. Finally, they played Jazz number “Sing, Sing, Sing” and some Japanese popular music.   

     Taisho-goto was popular in Taisho era (1912-1920) but is still well-liked among women over sixties. I had imagined that most of the music played by the instrument would be old Japanese melancholic enka songs until I went to the concert. However, everyone was enjoying playing various kinds of music with the instrument. The world created by Nagoya harps is wider and deeper than I thought. I hope the Japan’s invention Taisho-goto are introduced more a lot into the world and the populations of its players increase. 

The Mikado – The Town of Titipu: A Superb Fantasy World in the 19th Century

Standard

Miya sama, miya sama,
On n’m-ma no maye ni
Pira-Pira suru no wa
Nan gia na
Toko tonyare tonyare na…

The opera known by this bouncy Japanese music is The Mikado written by W.S. Gilbert and composed by Arthur Sullivan in 1885 in the U.K. Do you know the opera? If you’re a Westerner, you may have seen it once, or may know at least the title. As the title The Mikado, which is an old nominal designation for the emperor in Japan, tells, the story setting is Japan, and it is said that The Town of Titipu, the subtitle of the play, derives from Chichibu, a town in Japan. Despite that, most Japanese people have not heard of even the title. I might not have known it if I did not have an opportunity to see it on DVD at my class at the university. How come the opera is not popular at all in Japan?

Mikado in the opera unlike real emperors in Japan is a dictator like Kim Jon-il in North Korea or Qhadafi in Libya. Besides, all settings and costumes are Japanese-inspired, but they do not show real Japan’s style, and all characters’ behaviors are inconceivable as Japanese in the era. It seems that promoters believe that it would be dangerous to perform The Mikado in Japan because many people might think that they, their culture and country are insulted. In fact, only one newspaper publisher in Osaka make it into an article when the first performance of the opera in Japan was in 1887. It was held in Yokohama near Tokyo at that time, but none of newspaper companies in Tokyo area wrote about it. They ignored the opera, or suppressed the news for avoiding upsetting people. In addition, the title was changed as “Three Little Maids from School”. Probably the promoter and those involved in the opera were afraid of Japanese people’s protest by using the word of mikado.

Interestingly, the fact of the first opera performance in Japan in 1887 was erased in its music history, in which the first opera was played in 1894 and the first performance of The Mikado was held in 1946. Moreover, Japanese people couldn’t enter the hall when The Mikado was performed in 1946 in Yokohama because Japan was under American occupation and the hall was for only GHQ. Now, what is The Mikadoerased from Japan’s musical history and removing Japanese audience about?

This is Titipu, a town somewhere in Japan, where Mikado rules over the country and has set up “Flirting Law”, by which men have to be beheaded if they flirt with women except their wives.

     Mikado has a son named Nanki-Poo, who runs away from the palace to avoid the forced marriage with an old ugly bride elect named Katisha, and lives in the town of Titipu disguising as a musician. Almost one year ago, Nanki-Poo fell in love at first sight with Yum-Yum, a cute girl, but he began roaming around because he was shocked at knowing she had a fiancé named Ko-Ko, the tailor. But he comes back to the town since he has heard that Ko-Ko will be beheaded for violating “Flirting Law” and expects to get Yum-Yum .

     Somehow, Ko-Ko has become the Lord High Executioner when Nanki-Poo returns. Ko-Ko has to kill himself as the executioner and after that he will execute the next condemned. It is impossible physically. So, no one has been beheaded for a while. Mikado notices about that and orders Ko-Ko to execute someone within a month. Otherwise, Ko-Ko has to be killed.

     Nanki-Poo tries to kill himself because he thinks it is no worth for living without Yum-Yum. Ko-Ko happens to see and stops it. He asks Nanki-Poo to execute him. Nanko-Poo accepts it with one condition: to marry Yum-Yum and live together until the day comes when he is beheaded. And Ko-Ko reluctantly admits it.

     But Pooh-Bah (Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chamberlain, Attorney-General, Chanceloor of the Exchequer, Privy Purse, and Private Secretary ― He has been in the all important positions after other ministers quit their jobs to avoid working under Ko-Ko.) tolds Ko-Ko that the wife has to be buried alive if her husband is executed by the law. Ko-Ko is shocked because he is going to marry Yum-Yum after killing Nanki-Poo.

     Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pitti-Sing, a friend of Yum-Yum, make up a story that Nanki-Poo has already been beheaded and let the young couple leave the town. Then, Mikado appears. He is sorry to miss the execution, but Katisha, Nanki-Poo’s fiancée, finds out the executed person is Nanki-Poo, and Mikado gets furious and decides to kill Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pitti-Sing.

     Those three succeed in stealing for time on their execution and tell Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum about their situation. Nanki-Poo thinks everything will be going good if Ko-Ko can marry Katisha. Ko-Ko tries to pursue Katisha who he doesn’t like to save his own life. Katisha brushes off Ko-Ko’s love words at first, but gradually she accepts his proposal. Nanki-Poo emerges in front of Mikado, and Katisha explains the state and begs for their lives. Mikado takes in the situation, saying, “I see. Nothing could possibly be more satisfactory!”

Well, how and what is insulting Japan? Even the names of all characters do not sound like Japanese at all. The costumes and properties, of course, are inspired Japanese culture, but the characters’ languages and behaviors are very different from Japanese, especially in the setting time. All music except the one I introduced at the beginning of this article is totally European. The scenes on stage is not Japan’s at all, it is a British satire in the 19th Century.

The DVD I saw mainly in the class (actually, we saw six versions: two of American, Australian, British, Canadian, and Japanese) was performed in the U.K. in 1966. The D’Oyly Carte version. Actors’ performances were, of course, wonderful, the setting was beautiful, all of the music composed by Sullivan was awesome, and all of lines actors say were full of humor and fantastic. I think Gilbert, the writer, was genius. I hope many Japanese will see and enjoy the opera without prejudice and feeling slighted. There is no disgrace to Japan. It is a Victorian political and social satire under the setting of imaginary Japan. The Mikado is a superb art made by two geniuses Gilbert and Sullivan.
 


Mikado [DVD] [Import]

The 19th M&P’s Afternoon Tea Concert: violin and piano cocert with delisious tea and cake and cucumber sadwiches.

Standard

TS3N1389      “Welcome back!” The concert finished with Paul’s greeting and the afternoon tea party started. It was the 19th M&P’s Tea’s Afternoon Tea Concert at Yamano Hall in Nisshin on November 26th. The reason why Paul, the president of M&P’ Tea, said “Welcome back!” to audience was because the concert had been supposed to begin at 2:00 p.m. but it actually started two hours later.

     The cab driver drove me around 1:45 to the concert place. I began climbing up the steps outside to the entrance when a woman asked me, “Did you come here for the tea concert?” So, I replied, “Yes.” Then she said, “It seems they have a trouble. You should ask those people the situation over there.” I turned around and saw Paul and some people talking to a driver in a car on the road. TS3N1388

     After I walked to those people and asked what was happening, I found out that the concert place had been double-booked. I got the info that the tea concert would start at 4 o’clock for free, when I saw the cab which I had taken to the place coming. The driver was changing the direction for return in the parking lot while I was talking to other people. I dashed to the car and stopped it, shouting “Wait, Driver!”TS3N1395

     Actually, I had made a reservation for a clinic at five. I had planned to go there after the concert. Yamano Hall is inconveniently located. So, I needed a cab for going back home or to the clinic from the place. I jumped in the backseat of the car and said, “Start the car, Driver. I haven’t known where I’m going yet.” The driver rolled his eyes because the costumer who had just got off the car got it on again. TS3N1398

     In the backseat, I was busy. I needed to change the reservation at the clinic and to cancel another taxi for return from the concert hall on the phone. I was about to call the clinic, my phone rang. It was a friend of mine. She also just knew what was happening to the concert. She was in the same situation and had been going to the dentist after the event. Luckily, I was able to change the reservation at the clinic and to go there right away. So, I directed the driver to head for Shiogamaguchi, saying “Do you know where Shiogamaguchi is?” The driver just came from Hokkaido. TS3N1396

     After all the fuss, I went back to the concert hall before 4 o’clock. The concert was a violin and piano concerto. The violinist is Japanese but came from Switzerland that day. They played Prelude and Allegro, Fair Rosmarin, Love’s Sorrow (those three numbers were by Kreisler), Salut D’amour by Elgar, Dance Russe by Stravinsky, and Sonata for Piano and Violin in A major by Frank. Classical music is not my line, but I liked the powerful performance of the two players. I really enjoyed the concert.TS3N1397

     To the truth, my main purpose to be there was the afternoon tea party after the concert. I love Paul’s homemade cucumber sandwiches! I looked forward to having them with M&P’s Tea’s wonderful tea. Scones with cream and jelly were also delicious. I saw some of my friends there and enjoyed talking to them over tea and cake. I had a really great time. I’m looking forward to the 20th anniversary concert soon!TS3N1399