Classical Music in Japan and Feeling ZEN

Since I got this offer to write about classical music in Japan for the HELLO STAGE blog, I started to really think about what makes our classical music field special.

Actually, this idea seemed very difficult to me at first, because, as in other countries, there are so many different type of musicians in Japan.

From a historical side, it's difficult to say when Japanese started playing classical music. The first orchestra in Japan was founded around 1915, so we have not had such a long time to get familiar with classical music. We also have our own beautiful oriental music culture.

Genetically we have farmers' blood, not hunting on horses. So the feeling of 'digging ground' stays in the music as an accent going 'down' regardless of the musical direction. In general, people say that Japanese musicians are not good at playing in 3 (ex. Waltz) and feeling music 3-dimensionally (feeling music upwards).

As a character trait, in general we are very serious, we follow rules very well. I can say that we are usually very good students for teachers and we have a good education and technical abilities. But tragically, not every musician knows the real fun of music. It's because also we shy away from expressing our emotions sometimes.

So what could I add to this article??

Suddenly, I found one unique feeling that I feel being Japanese when I'm playing. I can't say that every Japanese player has this kind of feeling, which can be described as being very sensitive and can be very individual. But I think this could be a very interesting subject to introduce the Japanese sense of concentration and our sense of beauty to you.

If I tell you my feeling in one word, it can be called the ZEN feeling.

I'm not religious. As you know Japan is a very unique (might be strange or mysterious for you) country religiously. But I will stop writing about religion here, it is however a very interesting subject!

So then, what is the ZEN feeling.....to put it very simply, it is to live the'now' as NOW.

To feel everything exactly how we feel right now. Don't think about your past, don't worry about your future, just concentrate on the 'right now'.

Imagine that you are eating lunch thinking about your work. You might be excited, depressed, annoyed or even happy. That's fine, but are you really realizing what you are eating and how it tastes? How it would be if you really concentrate on every movement of your hand, month, tongue.....each texture and taste of the food?

Don't be negative or positive. Just realize that things are happening and judge nothing and watch all of them carefully. This is what I'm calling the ZEN feeling. It helps my concentration and to feel the moment. Through this feeling I can feel more and more joy playing music and I'm so grateful for being a musician in the end, all of the time.

There is also one interesting feeling as a Japanese. It is about 'silence'.

We feel beauty in silence. You can imagine a Japanese garden with stones. It's so simple but it is so poetic and dramatic in silence. And there is also a water-filled bamboo tube in the gardens sometimes. It makes a very sharp noise but we feel it as an art. This could be similar to meditation.

Today, many musicians are also studying abroad. I was in Europe for 6 years of studying and working and I still don't know how long I will stay in Japan, though now I want to try something creative there. I try keep my mind open to the world and I think it's time for Japan to open its mind towards the world in many ways too. People based in Japan do fly and travel lot - our island mind makes us feel small and not international enough and I believe that our young generation must overcome this! I hope you enjoyed reading my article.

Follow violist Mari Adachi on HELLO STAGE!
Author: Mari Adachi /edited by Nina Lucas HELLO STAGE
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