Tag ‘Yoko Fujimoto’
Obon in the USA
This year I took part in some of the Obon festivities in the USA. I’d like to share some of my memories from that experience with you all.
Some years ago, I think it was in 2001, I gave a present to San Jose Taiko in California: the melody and song lyrics for their taiko piece, “Ei Ja Nai Ka.” Then, people started to dance to that song at Obon, and this year it was chosen as the official music for Obon in California. When I heard that people were going to dance to it all over the state, I got so excited and decided to head over to the USA to witness the spectacle firsthand.
On July 11 & 12, I took part in San Jose’s Obon festival, which I had heard was the largest in the USA with 1000 people joining the dance circle each year. The turnout was even beyond my expectations! Volunteers from a local Buddhist church set up stalls selling foods, sundries, fans, toys and all kinds of things, and they really made the festival lively! In Japanese-American society, the Obon Festival is a ceremony when you remember your ancestors, as well as a time to reaffirm your connection with your community. It’s the most important family event of the year for many people.
I sang surrounded by 1000 people dancing and it really filled me with strength. The call and response during the song was so powerful. It made me so happy and it was such an honor to join them all.
Many people came along wearing yukata (summer kimono) and some fun costumes also caught my eye. I was impressed right away by how international Obon is in America. The people there looked like they were all from different races, but despite appearances, apparently most of them have Japanese heritage.
The USA is a multicultural nation, and that’s why people have such a strong, deep awareness their own community. In Japan, people say we are “only Buddhist for funerals,” but people who go to Buddhist churches in the U.S. also have weddings there and it appears that their religion is more a part of their daily lives than it is in Japan.
On July 18, I took part in the Obon festival in Venice, Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it rained that day. They decided to cancel it, but then changed their minds saying, “We can’t possibly cancel a festival that commemorates our ancestors!”
Luckily their enthusiasm and all the dancing eventually drove the rain away.
Races continue to blend more and more in society as time goes by. And this event continues to be a special occasion for people with Japanese heritage to think about their existence and give thanks to their ancestors.
Next year, I would like to come back for the Obon festival held by Senshin Buddhist Temple in L.A. They don’t set up stalls or the like, they just dedicate their efforts to holding a memorial ceremony for their ancestors. I hope I can make it.
San Jose Obon Festival
Greetings from San Jose, California!
Yoko Fujimoto and I attended one of the nation’s largest obon festivals this weekend. The obon culture in the United States is a little different, as many take place on various weekends and different locations throughout early summer.
Let me tell you a little about the one that we attended: San Jose Obon.
Obon: an annual Buddhist event to commemorate one's ancestors
San Jose Obon is famous for hosting great taiko performances by Californian collegiate groups and San Jose Taiko!
San Jose Taiko was established before Kodo was founded, and our groups have been great friends since the very beginning. They have supported Kodo in many ways over the years, including the storage of some of our touring equipment in their studio!
Taiko performances, food, and games are enjoyed by friends and family throughout the entire Obon weekend.
At the end of each night many people gather for…..
Here at San Jose Obon, over 1,000 people gather and dance to live music played by the Chidori Band and San Jose Taiko.
One of the dance pieces is called Ei Ja Nai Ka.
The taiko music was composed by PJ Hirabayashi from San Jose Taiko and the melody and lyrics that were written by Kodo’s Yoko Fujimoto.
This is a popular dance piece that has been enjoyed for many years, mainly by the Northern Californian communities, and it was truly wonderful to hear Yoko’s voice accompanying it live this year!
This piece will actually make its debut at a further 18 new obon festivals this summer, so if you are in the United States this summer, make sure to check out an obon festival near you! You might even hear Yoko’s vocals…
Yoko Fujimoto “Yamazu Meguromo” Concert
At Craft Kowa, Tokyo (June 10, 2015)
Wakako Sato, the presenter of this concert, uses traditional picture mounting skills in ways that suit our modern way of life and hopes to hand these skills down to future generations. Even though our fields of works are different, she shares the same passion for creation that the Kodo group has pumping through its veins. Wakako was my classmate in high school. Surrounded by the energy of our friendship and her works, at this concert I sang in such a relaxed, feel-good way, while plucking away at a makoto harp*, which I had only just been introduced to for the very first time!
*Makoto harp: A new instrument created by Rieko Renuma after the 3.11 Tohoku Pacific Earthquake & Tsunami.
Since spring I have been blessed with a number of new encounters, including the makoto harp, and the path of my “journey with song” has become clearer all of a sudden. I will use songs to boost people’s immunity, as well as my own.
Does that make you laugh? Well, I mean it!
That’s exactly what I want to do!
In other words, I am focusing on the love involved in singing and music. For example, when you play an instrument or sing, you express an array of things. If the audience tells you they were moved, soothed, encouraged, or so on, well if that makes you happy as an artist, you could say that you perform to move and energize others, as your purpose. Artists and their audiences give and receive, love and receive love, interact and share all kinds of emotions and experiences, good and bad. We can all choose to think of life and all its encounters as interesting or challenging, instead of rough or tough. We can cry together and laugh together.
If you share your emotions and let people and music in, your heart and mind can feel that connection to others and receive great power. As we are uplifted emotionally, our physical strength, and even our immunity and resilience, also increase. By singing, drumming, dancing, and sharing time together, we can create power within us, which we can then draw on in times of need. This power will help us to overcome various difficulties and all kinds of infections, both now and in the future. That’s a wonderful thing to do, don’t you think? I believe that music and communication can have this effect and I will continue working and singing in the hopes of sharing this effect with many people.
I want to use my power as an artist to create a network of love and harmony that strengthens people from within. I’ll continue my travels with an enthusiastic smile on my face, singing as I go… here, there and everywhere. I’ll do my very best!
Artworks created by Wakako Sato
May 3–5 Voice Camp in Wachi
For the first time in 19 years, I led a live-in workshop! This 2015 workshop camp was presented by Wachi Taiko, who are based in (my husband/Kodo member) Yoshikazu Fujimoto’s hometown. The workshop took place amidst the beautiful, colorful spring surroundings of violet wisteria and green foliage.
I wanted the participants to enjoy the Wachi area in many ways, so I had asked our facilitator, Mr Fumitaka Ideno, to show me around various spots and together we decided the places we would visit. During the camp, we enjoyed and cherished the echoes of our voices, sang together at those spots, and the participants and I had three days full of excitement and fresh energy.
The workshops took place at the gym of a former elementary school, the lodge at the camp site where we stayed, a temple dedicated to Kannon, which was established in the Muromachi Period (early 14th to late 16th century), and the early-morning mountainside of Mt. Choro.
Voice Camp in May in Wachi, Kyoto
Recently, I had a very detailed meeting with Mr. Fumitaka Ideno from Wachi Daiko about the upcoming Voice Camp here in Wachi.
When I’m here and I feel the sunlight filter through the leafy green trees, hear the sound of the river flowing by, and look out over the mountains, I get excited thinking about everyone who will come along for the Voice Camp. I look to the sky and imagine their voices creating sparkling rainbows right across its wide canvas.
When you come for Voice Camp, let’s also go and sing at the nearby temple dedicated to Kannon. It’s a sacred place that looks down over the village, and I’m sure the location will add emotion and sparkle to our eyes and voices. It’s such a wonderful place, I can’t wait to take you all there.
Songs have a special way of opening people’s hearts. With our voices, we’ll create soft, stimulating whirlpools and let ourselves get swept away. I look forward to being moved with you all.
I am so grateful to everyone at Wachi Daiko for creating this opportunity for me. Thank you! I’ll do my best to make it a joy for everyone who comes along to take part.
My husband Yoshikazu Fujimoto, “Mr. O-daiko,” was born in Wachi. I’m so happy to have the chance to invite people to Wachi and share this wonderful place with others. I hope it brings joy to Wachi, too.
Yoko Fujimoto “Voice Camp in Wachi”
In February, we held four of Yoko Fujimoto’s Song Workshops at Ogi Elementary School on Sado Island. It was a chilly time of year with light snowfall, but the children sang happily and had a great time together with Yoko.
Yoko has led these song workshops at this school every year for 16 years now. Even though the teachers have come and gone with transfers to other schools, this workshop been handed along like a relay baton. The first workshops were held here when my daughter was in the first grade, and although her homeroom teacher at that time was subsequently transferred away, she was transferred back here again some years later. That feels like fate to me.
Ogi Elementary School is going to move to a different school building (formerly Ogi Junior High School) in April, so this year’s workshops were the last ones here at these premises. This building has echoed with songs for years and years, but it will be demolished soon. On March 9, Yoko volunteered to give a concert entitled “Sado-kara Itadaita Uta Monogatari (Story of Songs from Sado Island)” for all the students, teachers and parents of Ogi Elementary School. She showed them her appreciation for being able to give enjoyable workshops at Ogi Elementary School for such a long time.
Hina Matsuri Joshi-kai (Doll’s Festival Ladies Get-Together) Concert
This spacious, beautiful cafe was the perfect place for my concert. I think it was a comfortable, peaceful and refreshing time for all of us there. Thank you very much to all of you who came along and everyone who helped prepare for the concert.
The day before this dog cafe concert, the organizer Noriko had me over to stay at her home. We made lyric sheets together, admired her dolls on display, and celebrated the concert in advance by sampling the sweet sake that would be provided at the concert venue.
I wore a new pink costume with flowers on it especially for the Doll’s Festival, to feel like a young girl again.
I sang songs filled with flowers, from good old songs to little pieces by Beethoven.
I played the koto (harp) to accompany three of the songs. One of them was about my beloved dog, Kintoki, may he rest in peace.
This time, I chose to perform pieces that I just learned or had just revisited anew, so I battled against my age and memory skills to prepare for the concert. But through this experience, I fell in love with popular songs like “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” and “Hana wa Saku” and I would like to keep singing them from now on, too.
This is Hideko, the owner of Deco’s Dog Cafe. She is looking forward to our next special event together. I am happy to hear that!
Next time, I’ll have a concert that boys can come along and enjoy, too.
Photos: Mizuho Hasegawa
Yoko here, with an announcement about my upcoming spring concert.
Hina Matsuri Joshi-kai (Doll’s Festival Ladies Get-Together) Concert
Ladies, let’s all get together and sing
To welcome the warmer days of spring!
Join me at a cozy dog cafe for a special programme full of fun. We will sing some good old songs, I will tell you some of my own dog stories, and we will have a really relaxing time together! You are welcome to bring your dog along, too. This is a get-together for ladies only (ages 12 & over). I am so excited to offer this unique concert for the first time. Please come along!
Hina Matsuri Joshi-kai (Doll’s Festival Ladies Get-Together) Concert
Date & Time: March 3 (Tue), 2015
Doors Open: 18:00 / Start:18:30
Venue: Deco’s Dog Cafe Denen Chofu http://www.hot-dog.co.jp/ (Japanese)
Venue Address: Tokyu Square Garden Site North Bldg., 2-62-1 Denen Chofu, Ota Ward, Tokyo
Prices: 4,000 yen (including one drink), 5,000 yen with a dog (incl. one drink for you and a special snack for your dog)
Capacity: 40 people
Seating Details: All free seating.
Reservations & Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sannya Project)
*Please include the number of tickets you would like and your daytime phone number.
*Please note that this event is for women only, ages 12 & over.
Dec. 18 Gin-iro no Kaze (Silver Wind) Song & Bamboo Flute Concert
Here is a new piece by Motofumi Yamaguchi, which he will play during the second part of tomorrow’s Gin-iro no Kaze (Silver Wind) Song & Bamboo Flute Concert at Kunitachi Geijutsu Sho-Hall, Kunitachi, Tokyo. He will perform it with Kosuke Urushikubo.
Click below to listen to a sample of it:
And here is a sample of a beautiful piece from Yoko Fujimoto’s latest album “Yamazu Megurumo,” which will feature in the first part of the concert:
December is a busy month, but we hope you will take the time to relax with us to the sounds of soothing vocals and melodic bamboo flutes. We are all waiting for you tomorrow in Kunitachi!
Gin-iro no Kaze (Silver Wind) Song & Bamboo Flute Concert
Date: Dec. 18 (Thu), 2014
Venue: Kunitachi Geijutsu Sho-Hall, Kunitachi, Tokyo
Doors Open: 18:30 Start: 19:00
Advance: 3,800 yen
At-the-door: 4,300 yen
Seating Details: All seats reserved. Please refrain from bringing preschoolers (ages 5 & under).
Event URL: http://www.kuzaidan.com/hall/e?2533
Ticket Outlets: Kunitachi Geijutsu Sho-Hall, Hakujuji (Coffee & Cake) Kunitachi Stn. South Exit Store, Shimada Stationery Store, Marronnier Kunitachi Stn. North Exit Store.
Inquiries: Kunitachi Geijutsu Sho-Hall Tel. 042-574-1515
This year, I have been on an array of adventures thanks to the birth of my CD, “Yamazu Megurumo.” Right now, I am so happy to have made friends with musicians on Sado.
I performed with harpsichord player Seiko Sato in July, then in September I performed with Masahiro Isono (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Akira Kato (bass), Yoshie Homma (chorus) and a mystery support guitarist.
I have experienced so many new things and I worked hard with them. These were such good experiences! They asked me to hold regular concerts, which makes me so happy to hear. I hope we can perform together again.
Now, I am in Wachi with my mother-in-law & father-in-law.
I will continue my adventures on Sado, in Wachi, and on my travels.
I’m grateful that my in-laws are keeping well!