The Japan tour in 2011 was the 7th and most ambitious tour of Japan by Isabella a cappella. With 11 singers, a tour co-ordinator translator and a photographer, we travelled all over the country for a little over 3 weeks.
The tour started in Nara where we performed with Japanese vocal talent Atsuko Arai and her very polished young students. We also visited the Santa Maria Nursing Home, Fr Tony Glynn’s gravesite and the kindergarten he helped establish through charitable work in post war Japan.
We were fortunate to have a little time for sightseeing in Nara where we visited the Daibutsu “mega” buddha and also got to participate in a tea ceremony with truly enormous cups.
We also visited Lismore’s sister city Yamato Takada where we shared the stage with local acappella singers for a dinner with the mayor.
Gifu was the next stop, where we were treated to wonderful hospitality and performed for the residents of Kizawa Memorial Hospital as well as for students at a local high school.
Shinkansen whisked us from Gifu to Takarazuka. We stayed 2 nights in Takarazuka and performed for a local nursing home as well as at a lovely traditional style restaurant. The restaurant concert was a charity fundraiser for tsunami victims and we sold all 50 tickets.
Osaka and Kansai Gaidai university was next followed by a long trip to Fukuoka. We had 3 great performances here. Saturday and Sunday we performed in large concert spaces. These were shared concerts with other choirs, singers & musicians. We had great audiences and the locals again blew us away with their generosity and hospitality.
Monday (13th June) we performed for a kindergarten and this was possibly one of my favourite experiences of the tour. The kids were lovely and the kindergarten was beautiful. The staff looked after us and cooked an amazing meal following the concert and waited on us all night.
Hiroshima has always been a great place for Isabella to visit and we had hardly got off the train before being whisked away via taxi to two kindergaten performances. In Hiroshima we also performed on television for “manten mama” – a “morning” show that apparently has ratings of 2 million viewers. Our final Hirsohima performance was a Japan Australia Society function at the ANA hotel. The show was very well received and we made many new contacts (some of whom subsequently visited LIsmore later in the year)
From Hiroshima to Nihama institute of technology and then to Fukui institute of technology. Fukui was very interesting as they had two fantastic concert bands and they don’t even have a music program at the university! When I asked the conductor how often they rehearse he replied “oh.. four times a week, for 3 hours” Apparently the concert band thing is very competetive in Japan. I wish we had amateur (or professional!) musicians in Australia that were that committed!
Summer was kicking in by the time we got to Tokyo and it was hot. Lots of glamourous gigs in Tokyo. First stop was “Iron” Chef Sakai’s new Tokyo restaurant “La Rochelle”. Concert very successful here and we got to enjoy an exquisite meal.
The following day we did 2 gigs in Saitama. One was a charity concert and the next a smaller local show in a little theatre-like space.
The list of Tokyo gigs goes on and on. Nursing homes, the Australian Embassy, Chiba University of Commerce, Dokkyo university, a downtown Rotary function, Tokyo University and Disneyland.
For our final Tokyo show we travelled back to Saitama and gave a concert for a group of evacuees who had been forced to leave their homes because of the tsunami. We donated the money we had collected for charity to this group of about 1000 people living in a high school. While it felt good to contribute something positive, it felt like a drop in the ocean when you started to fathom just how much they had lost. Seeing these people without homes squashed into overcrowded temporary accomodation in the heat of summer hit me harder than the images of violent waves I had seen on TV only weeks previously. The people’s dignity in the face of this loss was impressive, but I left the centre feeling pretty sad.
We travelled back to Takarazuka and did one more morning performance before catching a train out to the airport for the flight home to Australia.