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Music After the Tohoku Disaster (2) 東日本大震災と音楽 

March 7, 2012 at 8:57 PM

A year after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan the scale of the disaster is perhaps even more apparent than at the time. When I was in Miyako (Iwate Prefecture) at the end of last year, someone told me that for a week or so after the disaster they had only the vaguest idea of what had happened; electricity was down; no phone, TV, no internet. I was shocked to think that I, in far-away Denmark, could watch film footage of what was happening through 24-hour ueaming and see the extent of devastation in a way the people actually experiencing it could not.

In the face of such destruction it seems cynical to dredge up the trite saying that nothing is so awful that something good can’t come of it. Still, most of us – and presumably all the members of – do regard music as a Good Thing, and the 3/11 catastrophe has undeniably inspired a lot of music-making. I’m wondering whether it will set a new record in charity concerts worldwide, but it would probably take a team almost as large as a full symphony orchestra to count them.

Violinists, Japanese and foreign, in and outside Japan, have been among the musicians mobilized by the disaster. Members of can probably come up with their own examples. In this and my next blog I am introducing a few initiatives I've come across.

Tamaki Hiroki, violinist, composer and promoter of ”pure temperament music” (English profile here: ) is a regular contributor to the magazine “String.” In the May issue (which carried a message of condolence from the publishers) Tamaki used his regular column to share his memories of the Hanshin earthquake in 1995 (he has relations in the Kobe area). Thinking about what he could do to help in the current catastrophe, he decided to make freely available some of his compositions in “pure temperament.” According to him, a health journal has reported beneficial effects of this music on conditions like anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches and tinnitus. You can listen for yourself and even download the pieces at:
Number 5 is “Furusato” (Homeland), a song that has featured at many concerts, often with audience participation. I was at such a concert myself in Miyako, when on 30 November 2011, when members of the Kyoto Philharmonic chamber ensemble with support from the Rohm Music Foundation played for the people of Miyako during their tour of the region.

All in all, people in the coastal regions north of Sendai, especially in Iwate prefecture, have tended to feel they were at the end of the queue when it came to relief efforts. One violinist who did venture all they way up to Iwate is Kino Masayuki, solo concertmaster of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. Apparently he is also a well-known railway enthusiast. Together with the pianist Hirasawa Masaaki, Kino gave special concerts in support of the Sanriku railway line in in July 201, in Ôfunato and Rikuzen Takata, as well as in Morioka station. With the profits from the concerts and the CDs sold in connection with them, Kino bought multi-journey tickets for 480,000 yen (nearly 6,000 USD) and donated them to regular users of the railway, such as people commuting to hospitals. Here is a link to his performance in Ôfunato station, in front of two carriages from the Sanriku railway Minami Riasu line:

The Sanriku line connecting towns along the north-eastern coast was badly damaged by the tsunami. As a local line in a rural area it wasn’t doing too well even before the disaster, and its future is uncertain. When I was in Miyako last year, the souvenir shop in the Sanriku rail station was selling “deficit-rice-crackers” (akaji sembei) in a box with a picture of a rail carriage on it. Let no one say the company isn’t putting on a brave face!

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 8, 2012 at 3:55 AM
for what it`s worth ,Kino San is an absolutely world class violnist. I have seen him do things in recitals that only the very best of the best can do. He is also on ocassion, extremely eccentric;) a commodity which is all too rare in today`s music making.

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