In the women’s dressing room, a concerted kimono effort was taking place. As if my entrance had startled a flock of birds, layers of kimono flapped in the air and floated down around the necks of my fellow koto players. Two helpers per woman kept the wings up while the wearers’ arms slipped in, the fabric was wrapped and tied, and a third helper stood on a stool behind, up-sweeping the hair in a fashion that screamed prom. Butterfly clips and sparkling feathers adorned the sides of these up-dos. Here, it wasn’t kitschy, it wasn’t tacky. These women, ages 17 to 60, looked elegant in kimono passed down from their grandmothers who wore them the exact same way. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Koto
I have been living in Japan and taking koto lessons for 6 months. I have a students’ concert in one month and here I am, full of mistakes and cold reading the last part of “Sakura Saukra” in practice with my teacher, Mizutani-sensei. She gets the patience award. Big time. I take lessons weekly in her traditional home. She serves me tea and we bow with an “Onegaishimasu” before we begin the first song of the lesson. Continue reading
On Monday, I played Jingle Bells on the koto. Mizutani-sensei tuned it on a traditional Western do-re-mi scale and sounded out the sheet music’s title in katakana. “Jinguru Beru,” she said and beamed at me. I had been playing Sakura Sakura and other Japanese folk songs whose names in Kanji I could not read. Jingle Bells seemed unsuited for the koto, but her eyes were excited, like we were in for big fun. Even with the new tuning, I had to play in funky half notes. This was hard for me and I kept losing my place on the vertical sheet music. I could tell I was disappointing her the same way I disappoint other Japanese people when I don’t know something about American pop culture. Like when my supervisor was shocked to learn I haven’t seen Bad News Bears and that I don’t own any Police albums.