English Blog

Convenience Store Woman (コンビニ人間)Sayaka Murata (村田沙耶香) Portobello Books 9/10/18

September 10, 2018

I got this book at Hong Kong Airport. I saw the review on “Convenience Store Woman” on LA Times a little while ago, and I was interested in reading it. The translation from Japanese to English is very quirky and funny, for purpose, I think. It sometimes sounds some of bad owners manuals in English we found in Asian products! The Convine (an abbreviation for a convenience store) is totally a Japanese culture! People take it as a sanctuary, a hang-around place, a restaurant (you can find basically everything there), etc.. Things are packed so neatly (as you imagine in Japan!) and everything is done according to manuals. The store opens 24 hours/7 days all year-long, and it is always clean and organized! So the character in this book, Ms. Furukura, loves rules and manuals. In all her life she struggled to fit into the society, and finally she found “Convine” as her comfortable place to be. She feels she is a part of the store. Her life is to work at the store, she tries to sleep and eat well in order to work well at the store. I don’t want to give away everything! You have to read the rest of the book, whether in English or Japanese! I liked the most about this book is Ms. Furukura’s family. They accept her weirdness and peculiar attitude, and simply love her. It is about the Japanese culture, but it applies to everywhere. How do we want to be an individual human-being? Everybody is different.

Beethoven Focus for 2018-19 season 9/5/18

September 5, 2018

I finally came home yesterday! Huh.. I was away for a long period of time this summer, and it is nice to sleep on my own bed 🙂 Lately I carry my pillow (Japanese small one) on my traveling and it gives me a slight comfort though!

For 2018-19 I will focus on Beethoven including, 1) Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 19,  2) 3 piano sonatas, Op. 31 No. 3, Op. 53, and Op. 109, 3) 3 cello sonatas, Op. 5 No. 1, Op. 69, and Op. 102 No. 2, 4) piano trio Op. 70 No. 1 “Ghost”, 5) piano quartet Op. 16, 6) variations on the theme of Waldstein for piano 4 hands WoO 67. I am very excited to live with the great, and to perform different genres of his music. I have never performed a half of above program, and have been having a wonderful time learning them. Some people asked “why this year??” .. Of course the big celebration is coming up in 2020 as his 250th birthday! But I won’t wait to celebrate his music. Every year is a celebration and all of us are blessed by his contribution to this world. My programs will include music from his early period to his late period. We must remember that the instrument “piano” was developing during Beethoven’s time, and his writing for piano was changing accordingly. Also we must remember that his hearing was changing gradually. Could we take his hearing loss as negatively or positively? For instance Beethoven wrote Op. 109 without hearing any note. He only heard it in his imagination. Did he write a same music if he could hear it? That would be an interesting imagination for us to think. There will be a lot to think and imagine this year!

You can find the details of the concert dates in this website.

My Favorite Schubert’s Quotes and Op. Posth.142 No. 3 7/16/18

July 16, 2018

For upcoming performances I have been practicing Franz Schubert’s Impromptu Op. Posth. 142 No. 3. What a tender and gentle soul Schubert displays in this piece! This heartfelt impromptu starts with Rosemunde’s melody, and goes through 5 variations with Schubert’s signature modulations. If I have to choose my most favorite of Schubert I most likely choose his B flat Sonata, the last sonata. Op. 142 No. 3 Impromptu and B flat sonata share the same key and same character, eternity. Schubert was very close to his last days and wrote those joyful and tender music…

Those are some of Schubert’s quotes I treasure:

When I wished to sing of love, it turned to sorrow. And when I wished to sing of sorrow, it was transformed for me into love.

Some people come into our lives, and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.


A Movie “RBG” 6/19/18

June 19, 2018

Even a non-American myself of course I have heard about RBG and I knew she has been a center of equal right movement for any gender. And now I understand why she has a huge name. This movie portrays her intimate life from the very young age. At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has achieved a giant legal legacy and she is still going! She is an icon!

This documentary shows her personal journey from Harvard/Colombia to the nation’s highest court while raising 2 children with a life time partner, Marty, her husband. RBG is a quiet warrior and Marty is an outgoing personality with amazing sense of humor. Their chemistry was started at Harvard! No one in her family is showy. They seem normal people. The movie is inspirational. 1 and 1/2 hour of the movie will take us to her exceptional life and mind. The movie is MUST to see!

Robert Schumann and Vincent Van Gogh, Their Beautiful Mind 6/4/18

June 4, 2018

I recently had a chance to see the movie “Vincent Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing”, which is a documentary film directed by David Bickerstaff. The movie shows Van Gogh’s iconic works and featuring exclusive interviews with the amazing curatorial team at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Perhaps more than any other artist, Van Gogh’s life (1853-1890) has long captured the imagination of storytellers. This film gives us an intimate look at Vincent’s life through his brother, Theo Van Gogh’s letter collection, as well as the over 200 paintings he inherited after his brother’s death. Van Gogh’s fascinating and sometimes deeply troubled world is well presented in this documentary.

And in the same week I went to hear the dress rehearsal of Robert Schumann’s “Das Paradies und die Peri” by LA Phil at Disney Concert Hall, the oratorio Schumann (1810-1956) wrote in 1843.  Although his life was difficult in many ways Robert Schumann nonetheless composed music that elevates us through his beautiful mind and amazing musical sense. I personally love Schumann’s music deeply, and recently performed his piano quartet Op. 47 (as a part of LA Phil’s Schumann Focus), Davidsbundlertanze Op. 6 and Kreisleriana Op. 16. This oratorio is not played often, but is one of his finest compositions which Clara adored. The oratorio tells that Peri, who is a fairy-like spirit from Persian mythology, somewhere between an angel and a devil, has been cast out of heaven, and she is trying to find the way back to heaven. She has to find the gift that God will like the best…..

I felt the very close relationship between Van Gogh and Schumann, and are moved by their spirit. Both had a strong support by their loved ones, Theo Van Gogh for Vincent and Clara Schumann for Robert. Theo did everything for Vincent and so as Clara. Clara promoted Robert’s music throughout her career. Both Vincent and Robert were so creative and real artists, but they had deep madness to cope with. I imagine when they felt the inner inspiration they would work restlessly. They just needed to catch what they heard and saw in their mind. I am touched by their beautiful mind.

It was a great week for me to meet Robert and Vincent going with my own projects, performing Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet with my great friends for LA Phil’s Chamber Music concert, performing Bruch and Mozart with my great friends for LA Phil’s Committee concert, and rehearsing Mozart, Lutoslawski, Rachmaninoff and Milhaud with my dear piano partner for 2 piano concert which will be in July. In the previous week I was in South America to play a concert and to teach masterclass as a part of the celebration of the 110th relationship between Colombia and Japan. I had a wonderful time there! My music life is still going!





A Movie “Godard mon amour” 5/3/18

May 4, 2018

It is a very interesting idea to make a movie about the living filmmaker?? And this filmmaker is not an ordinary one. It is Jean-Luc Godard (played by Luis Garrel). The film covers the period of the 37-year-old Godard’s marriage to the 19-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsly (on whose memoir it’s based) and the unsettlement of French students and workers in May 1968. This movement lead to shut down that year’s Cannes Film Festival. Godard in 1967 and 1968 was a famous and controversial director, adapting political climate and against to his own fame. And he got married to Anne (played by Stacy Martin), a granddaughter of the conservative writer Francois Mauriac… Energy and Craziness! To me the movie is very French, especially the way they argue and discuss. I don’t know much about the life of Godard, therefore I enjoyed seeing the film. The film may have portrayed him so wrong?? I don’t know. But it is very witty and creative. I liked it!

Learning American Culture from TV 4/26/18

April 26, 2018

When I was a child I loved to watch American dramas on TV. Especially I liked “Bewitched”! But amazingly the Japanese title translated from English title was “My wife is a witch”. It already shows the huge culture gaps! I thought Samantha was beautiful and Darrin was a kind and gentle husband. Their house looked humongous and all of furniture looked so pretty (Japanese houses are known to be compact and simple)! Their kid, Tabitha, was so cute (contrast to us, Japanese kids!). The show basically made a huge impact on me. Years passed I arrived in US and one of the first TV dramas I watched was “Roseanne”. OMG! Where did my dream American family go?? It was too REAL! I watched “Wheel of Fortune” because I did not need to understand English much! Pat Sejak and Vanna! I actually learned English from this show! Now I live in American house happily with Japanese mind! I heard “Roseanne” is back on TV. Very interesting! I may not watch this time.

Sir Andras Schiff at Disney Concert Hall 4/10/18

April 11, 2018

It has been for few years since his last appearance in Los Angeles and all of us were looking forward to attending the concert. This time Sir Andras is traveling with Bosendorfer and his piano technician. His program was all of my favorite including Brahms’ late works, ops. 117, 118, and 119. I have treasured those pieces for years. When we hear Sir Andras’ concert we almost forget there is piano. Of course he plays piano in the highest possible way, but piano almost does not matter. He plays music. He tells story. He shares his imagination with us. He sings. He plays piano in this very special way. His soul is there. And he enjoys every moment. It was so wonderful to see him in the backstage. I am honored to know him. He is truly inspirational. He plays piano the way no one can do. He played Capriccio by J. S. Bach for the encore. So perfect! The story continued from Beethoven’s Les Adieux. Archduke is back, but Johann Jacob Bach is leaving town! I love Capriccio (on the departure of a beloved brother). I think this is one of the oldest programmatic music for keyboard… J. S. and his friends cheer for his departure with postillion’s horn in the last movement because it was not the eternal good-bye.

I am heading to my music journey to Iowa tomorrow. I will perform at University of Iowa and teach master class. My program includes Schumann’s Davidsbundlertanze, op. 6. I hope to play with full of emotion while depicting Robert and Clara’s affection, jokes, fun, melancholy, silliness…. I also will play Liszt, Piazzolla and some of my favorite Japanese composers. This concert is partially supported by the Japan Foundation. It will be refreshing to be in the colder weather!! I look forward to visiting Iowa.

Johann Sebastian Bach – 333rd Birthday! 3/15/18

March 16, 2018

Have you noticed J. S. Bach will celebrate his 333rd birthday in few weeks! All of pianists (including me!) grow up with substantial amount of Bach’s music. We start with Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, then Inventions and Sinfonias. When I finished 15 inventions my teacher told me that I need to study all of them again! That was quite shocking! But I did not have any other choice so I did it again. Oh well! Then some of miscellaneous pieces and suites. I was very lucky to have Bach’s assignments every week, going with etudes and pieces. In lessons I brought Bach’s piece with some kind of analyses for the first week, and memorized for the second week. When I reached WTC that was monumental. And the story continued! One of highlight in my life was to play Goldberg Variations with candle light at Los Angeles Bach Festival. The place was packed and when I finished the area at the end that feeling!! I can’t forget. Life is good! The long journey is over with joy and happiness, and satisfaction.

Easter is coming up soon. There is a beautiful J. S. Bach’s music, O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118. The text is:

O Jesus Christ, light of my life,

my refuge, my comfort, my reassurance,

on earth I am only a guest

And the burden of sin presses down heavily upon me.

Martin Behm (1557- 1622)

A Movie “King of Hearts” 3/11/18

March 12, 2018

“King of Hearts” is a 1966 French comedy-drama film directed by Philippe de Broca. 50 years after the original film release, the movie is shown in a beautiful new 4k restoration. I did not know that “King of Hearts” has been a world wide cult favorite movie and it has been attracting the audience around the world! It is my first experience with this movie! It is very quirky and colorful, silly and truthful. The wits in the movie reminds me Monty Python (I confess that I am a big fan of MP). They share a similar tone of voice! During the World War I, Scottish soldier Private Plumpick is sent on a mission to a French village in the countryside to disarm a bomb set by the German army. Plumpick meets escapees from the local asylum who are the only people left in the village….. Who would tell the truth?? You have to see the movie! I strongly recommend this movie (especially if you like Monty Python!).