September in Japan

(Originally posted on October 3, 2010)

I was in Japan during the most of September.  It was nice to be back in Japan for a while— seeing familiar faces and having some Japanese goodies were priceless.  But some would wonder (well, I did) why I wanted to go to Japan when not going to Japan might have been a smarter choice from a couple of standpoints; one: I just went through a financial hardship after my wrist fracture and I would need to save the money I just earned during summer; and two: I’m preparing for my first qualifying exam and I should be studying for it if I wanted to graduate as soon as possible.  But I flew anyway, and here are my two reasons.

I’ve been living in the U.S. since mid-’90s.  And at this point I have no idea where in the world I will end up.  And we all are getting older everyday.  Spending some time with my parents in Japan was something that I got serious about in recent years, and I felt that I needed to do so when I could.  I’ve been a bad son… but my parents know that I care.  I wanted to have some quality time with them.

Another reason was to get reunited with the people I respect and adore very much.  The musicians from Bach Collegium Japan have been very friendly and kind to me since my Bach study fellowship years from 2003 to 2005.  I studied with some of them, and I made music together with several of them.  They never fail to uplift my soul, and never fail to inspire me… And I was in a desperate need of inspiration before I went to Japan.  And, more importantly, I needed to dig out their practical knowledge of doing Bach cantatas in some respects.  While I was with them, I was to enjoy Bach and the time with them, but at the same time I was to study from them.  It was a research trip.

Was I able to find some good materials from the musicians for my future study?  Well, I would say, no, not really.  But as I kept asking those musicians their reasons to keep doing Bach and their beliefs in the way they do Bach, I started to see how important it is for them to have their ideas, notions and passions for HOW they do what they do.  Even just a section player or a singer is thinking what he/she could do to bring something meaningful to the ensemble, when their job is essentially to play/sing well and be one with others.  They are so different individually, but each time they get called on, they get together to attain something from this ensemble that they can’t attain from anywhere else — and that’s something I don’t see much around here.  Individualism can be overrated in the field of ensemble music here in this country.

I was indeed uplifted, inspired, consoled, and rested in Japan.  And it was quite special that I got to attend the wedding of my mentors Naoko Imai (BCJ organist) and Akimi Hayashi (master keyboard technician) in Karuizawa, Nagano.  Another fulfilling thing I got to do was to go fishing to a nearby fishing port with my parents.  I have several things I left undone in Japan, but I don’t care much about them, as I have gotten so much more from this trip to Japan.

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