When I first moved to Japan, the thing I missed most was the live music scene that I enjoyed back home in Nanaimo, BC, Canada. But I have been slowly uncovering the ive music scene in and around Kyoto, as has Jim in Tokyo. Many annual festivals feature free live outdoor music, such as Taiko drumming or other traditional Japanese music. In Kyoto there is a large variety of live houses, especially around the Sanjo/ Shijo area, as well as ongoing free music being played along the Kamogawa [river]. The Kyoto music scene is actually quite fantastic.
One absolute gem I found is in my favourite place, Arashiyama. As Derek experienced recently with his students, Arashiyama is a truly magical place. Only 20 minutes from Kyoto station on the Sagano Line, this quiet town features many natural and historical attractions. The center of these attractions in the river, and along the banks of this river is Live House Otoya.
Last weekend I attended an evening of music at Live House Otoya with some students and friends. We enjoyed 3 hours of Jazz, Bluegrass, Folk, Pop and evena little Opera from a variety of talented musicians. It was great to spend time outside of class with my students, and share with them my favourite pastime: watching live music.
During the show, as i was the only obvious foreigner, the musicians infrequently asked me for clarification on pronunciation. The entire crowd has the pleasure of trying to pronounce such instruments as “banjo”, “fiddle” and “mandolin”. This was [of course] very funny, especially since I tended to blush every time they singled me out to ask me a question. My point however, is that I am always amazed by Japanese people’s eagerness to learn English. During the evening I met quite a few Japanese musicians who spoke English very well, and sang English songs with near perfect pronunciation. Renditions of “Just the 2 of us” and Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” were sang so well I felt like they were recordings!
To add to the [already] amazing evening, my fiancee and business partner at SSE Ohtsu, Chiharu, sang 4 songs with her mother and sister (and played guitar and piano). They sang 3 Japanese songs by Kobukuro and Ayaka and a Japanese and English song by Canadian/ Japanese group Monkey Majik (from Sendai). I and our students enjoyed this very much, especially hearing Chiharu and her sister singing in Japanese and English.
After the show I was able to discuss it with my students, and I’m certain we will continue to talk about this show and others in the coming weeks.
I love live music, and I live in Japan. Whether riverside in Kyoto or lakeside in Shiga or open-mic in Tokyo, Japan has a lot to offer the avid live music enthusiast. Good luck finding it in your area and let us know what you find.
From Ohtsu City in Evergreen Shiga, Edward