Updated: Apr 21, 2019
Sunday (日曜日) 1st April
“…It’s a unique concert, starts at 11am. You need to bring an apron, a triangle bandage, and a hand towel ......I will be playing some Schumann – there will also be a koto player…”
Now there is one thing I have learned about being in Japan. Be prepared for the unexpected. Keep an open mind. Don’t be surprised when your (European) assumptions are turned up side down (with a nice smile of course). I asked my friend to send me that message again in Japanese. Then I translated it for myself. It appears I would be expected to wear a bandanna. Now, hang on, I thought, that’s what freaky girls wore in the UK when they went to Glastonbury in the 70s. Sex, drugs and Rock`n`roll…. Deep breath. Pause. Went onto the website of the concert venue. Saw lots of pictures of fabric looms, paintings, art projects …er…yes…concerts even. Ok. So, Nigel, are the musicians cooking for the audience or vice versa? Whichever way I looked at it it seemed like I was going on a cooking course in a community centre way outside Tokyo – in the next Prefecture, Saitama.
It turns out this is indeed a community centre. A former light industrial building converted to allow spaces for all sorts of projects. We are in the city of Iruma, a good hour outside Tokyo. I was a bit early, so I wandered down to the river, where there was a view of distant hills,
and a river bordered with glorious sakura….cherry blossom.
On entering the complex, I got to the right place by waving the “concert” poster in one hand. A lady was ticking off names of the participants. My name was not on the list. But I made it clear that I knew the pianist, so in I went. I found myself in the company of 20 or so citizens of Iruma, and was handed three recipes. Did I have an apron? Momentary crisis. No. I was lent one. Then I managed to track down my saviour, Emi the pianist * (see link at end), who had a triangle bandage for me..I mean a bandanna.
There is a lovely word for this in Japanese – Sankaku ho_tai (三角包帯). Ever worn a bandanna? Not me. A kind lady on my table fixed it for me, accompanied by much laughter. Stumbling over the recipe, I gathered I was going to be involved in creating some sort of “pankeshiyu”, which I assumed was a quiche, some kind of vegetable with herbs, followed by 苺, which as you all know, is Ichigo, which in Janglish is ストロベリー, which is….yea…Sutoroberi…which is of course…
Strawberry!!.(Strawberry fields for ever..I felt a long way from Liverpool!)The fascinating thing about the Strawberry dessert recipe was that it not only contained Strawberries (well obviously), but also Yoghurt, honey, sugar and……Balsamic vinegar!
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we were all grouped into tables of 4, were lectured on how to do the recipe,
and then got to work.
I was wondering about the Schumann when there was an announcement. Our quiches were to be put into the oven. Meanwhile, we could sit down and enjoy the music. I love the Koto. It is rather like a Zither, the strings being stretched over moveable bridges (imagine that on a `Cello!). The sound sends you off immediately into the world of classical Japan. I was wondering again about the Schumann when Emi and her friend announced that they were going to play some pieces for piano and Koto – together.
This worked much better than I expected, and they had some good arrangements to play. Then Emi launched into her Schumann, which was of course the romantic highlight of the afternoon (we had by then eaten the Quiche, so the Schumann accompanied the strawberry dessert, which I have to say, was absolutely delicious - I mean the strawberries and the Schumann....(とてもおいしい).
The only time during the whole event when I was really in the dark was when the manager suddenly made an announcement.
He held up a placard, and everybody clapped. Sensing that this was a “moment”, I took a photo. It was explained to me later (over tea and ice cream in Tokorozawa)
that he had just heard the news on the television. The name of the new Era had been announced. In English it translates into something like “Reiwa”. This alludes to classical Japanese literature – the introduction to a compilation of poems called Manyo-shu. The Kanji characters on the placard referred to good fortune and harmony. The new Emperor will be Installed/crowned? /initiated? …on May 1st (Find me a word you Japanese scholars!). In the Japanese/English diaries you will find the word coronation, but this sounds a bit odd to me.
The Japanese are always so endearingly helpful - 親切na…shinsetsu na…helpful/kind/obliging. So later in the day I was put on a train that delivered me directly to Tokyo’s holy of holies, the Meiji Shinto Shrine. This huge complex is to be found in the Yoyogi Park,
quite near to Harajuku – fashion mecca in extremensis. This reminded of my short cut – B&S and RC. The three religions. of Japan. No, not Catholicism (Christianity has never taken a hold in Japan) , no: – Buddhism, Shintoism and Rampant Consumerism.
The size of the Meiji Shrine is impressive in itself. It took ages to walk through the park to get to it.
Rather disappointingly though, the inner sanctum was under restoration – probably with an eye to 2020 – the hoards of visitors expected for the Olympics....
Is it OK to promote a concert in a blog? My late uncle, John Ruddock, was well known for promoting concerts in Ireland. I'm sure he would have approved of me fixing this concert.....
* If you are in Germany on May 4th you are warmly invited to Emi Ikeyama's Recital - https://www.bechstein.com/centren/frankfurt-am-main/eventsaktuelles/