Irish music in Japan…
I just thought this was kind of silly :)
I just thought this was kind of silly :)
There’s a great deal of irish music, including a good number of jam sessions, in Japan.
Fantastic! Can’t wait to see the american version :-)
that’s cool. the Japanese generally pick up on what’s cool in the western world before the rest of Asia. They had bluegrass wayyyyyy before the Koreans even knew what a banjo was!
So, due to the title of this thread, I have been inspired to comment on my Irish music experiences while living and working in Japan for the past two years. Beware, it’s kind of long…..
I live in the south, near Nagasaki, where there is not much of an English-speaking infrastructure, so it was initially difficult for me to meet people to play with. My Japanese tutor, who is very active in community affairs, has arranged for me to perform for my little village several times. I have a handicap of not being very good to begin with. Combine that with the fact that my family, job, and Japanese study obligations consume most of my time, and my playing is really weak right now. But the folks around here don’t seem to care. They are sooo interested in hearing Irish music, that they seem to even like *my* playing.
My first playing partner was an English teacher from Ireland. She accompanied me on guitar and bodhran and sang. We played a few "pizza shop gigs", culminating with a highlight of playing a formal organized concert, on a stage, under the lights, for about an hour, to over 100 people. Again, I’ll say that the folks in these parts are so eager to hear Irish music that, regardless of my ability level (or lack thereof), they are still delighted to hear it. We were overwhelmed by the response, and the bouquets of flowers that people gave to us afterwards — the first time that has ever happened to me. :-)
While on vacation in Kyoto, I happened upon an Irish pub where I saw autographed photos of Altan and a few other well-known bands who had played there. I joined a session there, and the caliber of the musicians was outstanding. They downplayed their abilities, but there was no mistaking how good they were. Amazingly, they had learned all of their Irish music entirely in Kyoto — never attended any workshops or schools in Ireland, US, etc…. After the session ended, an Irish music band came in. The fiddle/flute/guitar trio launched into a set of blistering, brilliantly played reels that could have easily been mistaken for any professional touring Irish music band. They told me that they have never studied Irish music outside of Japan. Remarkable. Being a flute player wannabe myself, I chatted with the flute player for a while. He is a warm, friendly person who cited Mike McGoldrick as his greatest influence. It showed in his playing.
On a vacation to Tokyo, I met this mustard-board’s illustrious "Slainte". (gratuitous name-dropping, I know. Forgive me, Yamada-san :-) ) Slainte took me to a session with about 15 people — mostly Japanese but also a few Australian and Canadian people. This session was absolutely wonderful. The players were kind and welcoming to a hacker like me, and I even got to join in on a few tunes and start a few sets of my own. They knew *a lot* of tunes. I knew very few. So unless I was invited to start a set, I mostly enjoyed the company of the session, the quality of the music, and a few pints of Guinness.
Back down here in the south, there is an Irish band called "Irish Cream" in a city about three hours away - Kumamoto. Very nice people (also fortunately quite strong in English, although my Japanese is improving, too), and very good players. In fact, last Thursday I attended a concert in Kumamoto featuring none other than Jackie Daly, and Japanese flute/concertina/harp duet named "Paddy & Bridget". Afterwards I attended a lovely session with Jackie Daly, Paddy & Bridget, and the members of Irish Cream.
Two weeks ago, the Irish dance group "Trinity" performed to a packed concert hall in Nagasaki. Again, the popularity of Irish music and dance in this area is quite remarkable.
Most recently, my playing partners are a piano accordian player and a piano accompanist in a little village about an hour south of here called Shimabara. (My Irish guitar-player friend has returned to Ireland) We are booked to play another concert for our community in January.
There is also a Kyushu "ceoltori" e-mail list that gets sent around, but it’s written entirely in Japanese, so unless I have a lot of time on my hands, I usually just skim it to the best of my abilities.
Eamonn Cotter’s flutes seem to be the most common, best-known flutes among the Japanese flute players that I’ve met, although one guy became interested in also buying one of Bryan Byrne’s, after he played mine.
My lack of consistent playing time has reduced my tune repertoire down to a core group of about 20-30 "standards" — the tunes that I’ve concentrated on for my "concerts". Hopefully when I return home in about six months I’ll find time to awaken all of the dormant ones, and get back into regular session playing.
In conclusion, I’ll say that among the long work hours and my family’s many many wonderful experiences living in Japan, I have also been surprised and delighted by the level of interest in Irish music. Also, since it is not as abundant in my area as it is in others, I usually have to travel several hours and spend a lot of money on trains, ferries, tolls, and gasoline to hear and/or play any tunes at all. But the kindness and enthusiasm of my Japanese music companions make all of this worthwhile.
To Slainte, Debbie, Kaoru, Miyake-san, Shimizu-san, Irish Cream, Paddy & Bridget, and all of the other people who have helped me enjoy Irish music in Japan, many many sincere, heartfelt THANKS!
I’m hoping to get to a Tokyo session in the New Year. Slainte, pls let me know if there’s anything going on. Had a great time last year.
It’s incredible how ITM has spread all over the world!
I’m a bit surprised that some of you didn’t know Irish music scenes have been well-established in some parts of Japan for many years. There are loads of dancers as well as CCE branches too in this country. I’m still a new comer and attend only two of many regular sessions in Tokyo.
NB, I’m looking forward to having tunes with you in a karaoke box again. And hope to swap some East Galway tunes with you, Brian.
browndog: that was a great story!!
I had a Japanese friend who died last year unfortunately, but wanted to tag along to music with me a few times on visits here. She said it’s huge in Japan, esp. Phil Coulter!
It was indeed a great story. My only experience of Irish music-playing Japanese was of course the now world-famous Slainte, whom we Lewishamites had the pleasure to meet earlier this year, March, to be precise. He contacted me and we managed to arrange a one-off session in Shellelagh’s, Lewisham, the same night as some of us had played a session/gig thing for a function at my work. Nice flute player, very nice guy. That turned out to be a great night also.
Hmm I don’t think that the clip is ‘silly’. Quite the opposite.
Well played bhoys and gurls
My experience with Irish Trad. in Japan, in Tokyo, was no where near as positive.
I’m glad somebody had a good experience there.
didnt read all the thread in detail ..but we had a great time. accomodation was cramped, food was dubious ..but we got paid lots and treated like gods. we were there first on a brfitish council tour , then because of one of the band members links a Euro Commission Marketing tour after that we did 3 seasons of St. Pats Festivals and had a great time
The only thing silly about the clip is the tune they played ;)
Plenty of good musicians here in Japan. OH and anyone who finds themselves travelling to Yamagata over the winter drop me a line if you want to play a few tunes ;)
Great stuff browndog.
I played Irish music in Kyoto/Osaka/Kobe a lot back in the early 1990s. Good players, good folks. I believe most of them are still there. Sessioned in Tokyo a couple of years ago. Tokyo is, without doubt, the best session city in the world outside of the British Isles.
There are some sessions in Tokyo.
I just try to put informations of session in my web site.
I have started a blog which includes this topic at http://lookingathouses.blogspot.com/
I am in Japan and collecting info about people’s experiences of playing Irish music in Japan/with Japanese musicians. Anyone with any stories/info I’d be very grateful if you would get in touch with me via the comments facility on my Japan trad music blog http://lookingathouses.blogspot.com/
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