My second visit to England

I visited the UK again in September as my first visit there in February was very nice. This time I went to Folkestone, Kent, where it was taken place by the musical “Half A Sixpence” I watched at Kokugakuin Tochigi High School, via Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Rye and New Romney.
I flew Aeroflot to Moscow, where I changed the plane to London. At Heathrow Airport, I had usual strict inspection at the immigration counter. Being asked why I was going to Folkestone, I answered the plain truth that I had been impressed by “Half A Sixpence” I had watched several weeks before and it had encouraged me to visit there. I told the cab driver who took me to the hotel from the airport the same thing, and he said, “Oh really. Enjoy your trip to Folkestone.”

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Half a Sixpence again

I visited Kokugakuin Tochigi High School where a friend of mine taught dancing and choreography to the student of the Musical Club as an instructor. There was a cultural festival of this school, and the Musical Club members performed Half A Sixpence. It was the second time to see this show since I saw it ten years before at just the same place.

That motivated me to visit Folkestone, England where it took place in.

Deep in England

Last weekend was happy days for me because I deeply experienced a British taste last Saturday and Sunday. From the beginning I preferred the USA to the UK or other English-speaking countries, but my affection has been shifting to England for years since I happened to read Kaoru Mori’s Emma, a romance manga of a maid in England in the Victorian Era who falls in love with a member of the gentry.
Gate of Cultural Festival
On the first day, the first thing I did is to see Oliver! by the Musical Club of Kokugakuin Tochigi High School playing for the school’s cultural festival held in this weekend. Oliver! is, as you may already know, an English musical based on Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist. It’s the story that Oliver Twist, who has missing parents and is in a workhouse, is forced to get out of the workhouse and gets involved in a group of pickpockets. He tries to pick a pocket of a well-off lady, who finally takes him in and brings him up, and then he gets happy.

As I already wrote in this blog many times, I’ve kept in touch with Mito Saigusa. She is a choreographer teaching dance and choreography to the students of this club. I come and see their performance for the cultural festival every year in order to see her too. Of course she was well this year as well.
This year’s show satisfied me much more, because its scene was in England in the 19th century so it was just for me. I was very happy with that.
After seeing Oliver! I left the high school to drive to British Hills, the educational facility located in Fukushima Prefecture operated by Kanda Institute of Foreign Languages, with Medieval British-style buildings in a 50-acre land. Each building is furnished with the fixtures modeling the era of the building. From the beginning it was only for the students of this Institute, it’s been open to public for several years. More than a half of the staff working there were non-Japanese, ranging from Englishmen, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and more. As the official language in this area is English, even a Japanese attendant talks to you in English, because British Hills is for teaching English to guests.
A two-hour drive from Tochigi took me British Hills. It was almost on the top of a mountain, more than 20 miles far from the nearest motorway exit. Once entering into the site of British Hills, almost all traffic and informational signs on the road suddenly turned into English, just like crossing a national border into a different country.
British Hills Directory British Hills Bump

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Festivals

October is a month of fruits, readings, sports, art, and — more than those — festivals. There were various kinds of festivals in the Kiba Park, which was close to my house. The biggest one was the Koto Kumin Matsuri festival from the 16th through the 17th of October.
Parade
Performance by Vivace
It was the third time for me to see this festival, so there was nothing new in it. Everything was almost the same as usual. All I did there were to eat Indian foods bought from stalls inside the park and to watch a performance by Vivace, a marching band consisting of only female employees of ALSOK, a Japanese security company.
In the same days, there was a festival by the students of University of the Sacred Heart, which had been built in the former residence of Empress Dowager Nagako, the previous Emperor Hirohito’s wife. This university is for women only, so it’s usually closed to people other than the students of it, except on special days like the festival. I wanted to get inside the university because I wanted to see the historical houses inside, such as the former house of Nagako and the chapel of the university. During the festival the university was open to public, so it was one of perfect chances to see them which wouldn’t come so many times.
After seeing the Koto Kumin Matsuri, I went to Hiroo to see the festival of University of the Sacred Heart called Seishinsai. I took the subway to Shibuya and there I took a bus to Japan Red Cross Medical Center, where I got off the bus and I had a gate of the university. After ID check at the gate I got inside and walked along the path for several minutes then I had the Palace, the former house of the Prince Kuninomiya, where his daughter Nagako had been raised and lived until she had married the previous Emperor Hirohito.
The Palace
The Palace The Palace
The Palace
The Kuni House
The Kuni House, the site of a main entrance of the Palace, where Empress Nagako departed to the Imperial Palace on her wedding.
The Marian Hall
The Marian Hall, an auditorium of USH. The Latin phrase on the top made me feel it was gorgeous.
The Chapel
The chapel, used on a daily basis for masses and prayers. An alumna of USH can use it for her wedding.
Interior of the Chapel
The interior of the chapel, where the student choir practiced singing. I heard their sounds reflected to multiple directions on the round ceiling and resonated fantastically. I admired its gimmick of construction to help Catholics feel God’s Power.
In addition, there were an open-air stage, stalls selling foods and goods, and many kinds of events and amusements during the festival, but I left in haste because there were such young and bright boys and girls that a middle-aged man like me couldn’t stay any longer 🙂

Oklahoma!

This year I saw Oklahoma! at Kokugakuin Tochigi University High School. Every year I go to the cultural festival of this high school to see a play performed by the Musical Club. This club consists of tenth and twelfth graders of this high school, playing musical on an after-school basis. They have regular performances several times a year, and the biggest one is a show in the cultural festival in early September. Mieko Saigusa, one of this club’s instructors in charge of choreography, is the lady I know well and look forward to seeing once a year. That’s why I go to this high school even though I didn’t graduate from it and, to be sure, I’m nothing to do with it.
The city of Tochigi is about 50 miles to the north from central Tokyo. Car is the most convenient option to go there, but I went there by train for the last two years as I didn’t have my own car since I sold it two years ago. Nevertheless, this time I rented a car to get there faster and more comfortably.
Ms. Saigusa was fine, worked energetically, and looked a bit younger than last year. To my happiness, when I came this morning in front of the entrance door of the musical venue, she led only me to the front row of the spectator’s seats inside the theater where the show was performed, while other guests were still waiting in front of the door 🙂

Oklahoma! Finale from Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi on Vimeo.

The musical was perfect. All the cast members played almost as skillfully as professional musical players. I enjoyed it very much.
The synopsis of Oklahoma! is shown here.

Tetsuya Komuro arrested

It’s fun to see successful people going to the dogs, all the more for people who have been haughty in wealth. This morning, one of the most charismatic musical producers in the 1990s music scene, Tetsuya Komuro, was arrested by Osaka local prosecution office, accused of being involved in fraud copyright business. The swindler deceived a company owner in Ashiya, Hyogo out of 500 million Yen of his money.
Komuro has been one of Japan’s leading musicians and one of Japan’s renowned song producers since the end of 1980s. He was a leader of the musical band “TM Network,” and played key roles in various projects like “globe.” In 1990s, he sold more than 4 million copies of CDs for only 50 days. He became Japan’s fourth richest man in 1996 and 1997.
In addition to producing songs, he played an important role to find and train young (female) singers including Tomomi Kahala, Ami Suzuki, Namie Amuro and TRF. He produced his songs to these singers and let them sing on stage. He sold millions of there CDs every time they released songs.
However, not all these singers had enough musical talent. Some of them were just young and good-looking, not adequately trained for vocal music, and received his songs in exchange for sex. He sometimes became intimate with those girls. He married one of them, divorced her, married another, divorced her, repeatedly.
His daily life got extraordinarily luxurious. He purchased a number of residences in Hawaii and LA. When he traveled abroad by airplane, he reserved all of first-class seats. When he stayed in a hotel, he reserved all rooms in a floor including suite rooms.
I usually listen to American pop music instead of J-POPs, because Komuro’s songs are so dominant in Japanese music scene that most J-POP songs are sung by Komuro-related singers. All those songs sound similarly to me, and are boring.
Komuro’s luxurious life didn’t last long. He divorced a woman who gave birth to a daughter from him and he had to pay 2 million Yen for them every month. At the same time, he failed his business in Hong Kong. He lost as much money as he had earned, and was deeply in debt. Eventually, the superstar ended in being a criminal.
The lesson we must learn from him would be “Pride will have a fall.”

ARPA

Arpa.jpg
Yesterday evening I went to see the concert of Masako Masunaga in Higashi Nakano. Masako Masunaga has been working for Osaka University as an assistant of the laboratory where I studied, and is now one of Japan’s famous arpa players. She already released one CD in 2003, and is going to release the second CD in October this year.
I did neither know what arpa was nor that she had become so famous as an arpista until a colleague of the laboratory let me know about her tour. All I knew about arpa was the ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency network.
For those of you who don’t know about it, an arpa is a 37-string harp-like plucking musical instrument derived from Spain and Latin American countries like Mexico, Paraguay, Guatemala and Venezuela. It is lighter and a bit smaller than a classical harp, and is very popular among the people in those countries.
On the stage in Higashi Nakano, she played it very cheerfully and sometimes gracefully for about two hours counting the inclusion of a 15-minute break in the middle. She said that she was playing the arpa for cheering up the people who were struggling against their own stressful life.
Asking how she came across an arpa, she answered that she had "happened to" listen to music played by an arpa when she had been invited to a famous arpista‘s house and, being attracted to it, she had asked her to teach how to play the arpa the next day.
"It was a great chance for me to change my life," she added. Indeed, her life became more glorious than ever by an arpa.
Everybody has a chance to find the way of success. The point is that you should never give up trying to search for it.