2. RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Saitama

Saitama is the capital and the most populous city of Saitama Prefecture in Japan, situated in the south-east of the prefecture.  Being in the Greater Tokyo Area and lying 15 – 30 kilometres north of central Tokyo it is probably just about as far time wise as taking a coach from Manchester to Liverpool. Many of its residents commute into Tokyo for work and business.

RLPO 'Bumper' Horn Chris Morley meaning business!

RLPO ‘Bumper’ Horn Chris Morley meaning business!

Omiya Sonic City in Japan has many multi-purpose halls that provides an ideal location for a diverse range of cultural activities. From concerts by world-class artists and orchestra to opera, ballet and rock, the venue provides an ideal site for all genres of entertainment. Back stage at the Omyia Sonic City Concert Hall

Pictured above… Back stage at the Omiya Sonic City Concert Hall – RLPO Bass Players Nigel Dufty & Ashley Frampton to the fore!

Accidents will happen! RLPO Principal Percussion Henry Baldwin during rehearsals for The Rite Of Spring!

Accidents will happen! RLPO Principal Percussion Henry Baldwin during rehearsals for The Rite Of Spring!

The exhibition site is an area of open space that spread throughout the basement floor beneath Sonic City. Its broad space makes it flexible for many applications. It is used for corporate exhibitions and new product shows.


The RLPO would playing in the Omyia Sonic City Concert Hall. The programme on offer from the orchestra was…

Shostakovich: Festive Overture

Rachmaninov: Piano Concert no. 2

Shostakovich Symphony No. 10

Conductor: Vasily Petrenko

Piano Soloist: Nobuyuki Tsujii


Japanese piano virtuoso Nobuyuki Tsujii practicing Rachmaninov 3

This concert was at two in the afternoon, after which the RLPO would be returning to Tokyo, to the ANA Intercontinental Hotel, for a free evening there again.


The Omiya Sonic City Concert Hall – Big Hall This! Capacity 2,505 people…

Omiya Sonic City Concert Hall is well situated to have lunch etc between the morning rehearsal and afternoon concert. There are lots of streets nearby teeming with restaurants and bars etc. All appearing to be varied in many ways and offering different boards of fayre.

unnamed-11The concert went ahead as planned and there was an insistence from the very enthusiastic audience for Nobuyuki Tsujii for two encores following his outstanding performance of Rachmaninov Concerto no. 3. I find it remarkable listening to such an outstanding performer as Nobyuki but the experience is made all the more humbling to think that he is totally blind. The audience also went wild for the RLPO and Vasily Petrenko following Shostakovich Symphony no. 10. The orchestra played Rachmaninov ‘Vocalise’ and Brahms Hungarian Dance no. 1 as encores.

Japanese concertgoers queuing to photograph the hand written sheet of encores performed affixed to the wall in the entance of Omiya Concert Hall

Japanese concertgoers queuing to photograph the hand written sheet of encores performed in the concert affixed to the wall in the entance of Omiya Concert Hall

After the concert, I was very excited to be meeting some old friends of my wife and I. Some time ago a Japanese business man had brought over several of his lawyers for a golfing holiday at Royal Birkdale in Southport, just north of Liverpool. A medical emergency ensued and the aforementioned business man was rushed to Southport Infirmary with his life in deadly peril. We were contacted by the medical authorities because my wife is medically qualified in both Japanese and English and is also able to translate fluently between the two languages. Not too many available people like her in the North West of England!

Enjoying our feast!

Enjoying our feast! Toko & I with Mr & Mrs Kobiki

Mr. Kobiki made progress and his wife arrived to be with him from Japan. The long and short of it is that they moved into our house and stayed for a time whilst Mr. Kobiki recuperated enough to be able to return to home. We have kept in touch with each other and have been firm friends since.

Toko and myself about to enjoy the small wrestler's nabe!

Toko and myself about to enjoy the small wrestler’s nabe!

The Kobikis were taking us to dinner following the concert and what a dinner it was! We had a private booth in an upmarket establishment to enjoy a whole afternoon and evening of traditional Japanese food. We didn’t have any sushi or sashimi but other things. Soft tofu to start with followed by a huge variety of skewered meat with wafer thin cuts of different meat wrapped around the chicken etc. Grilled pork, chicken teryaki, chicken/okra tempura and more. All with wonderful dipping sauces. This wasn’t the end of the meal. The main course was a small ‘sumo wrestler’s nabe’ (a stew used to ‘bulk up’ sumo wrestlers according to Kobiki-san!)! All washed down with beer and some potato saki. A nabe is a traditional  Japanese hot pot cooked over a small stove on the dining table for the Winter months. The pot is filled with stock appropriate to the main ingredients and the heat is turned up until the meat etc, in this case mainly chicken, is cooked and served. The stock lasts for four or five courses and when all food ingredients are eaten. Udon noodles are added as a final course to use up the remaining stock.


Mr & Mrs Kobiki

Mr & Mrs Kobiki

The rest of the time was spent sipping Japanese tea before we parted our ways. Mr Kobiki explained that only the senior sumo wrestlers are allowed to eat from the pot first. By the time the junior wrestlers get to eat there is often no meat left. This is said to be the incentive for junior wrestlers to achieve greatness. I shall miss this most kind and generous couple…


Great beer pouring machine in one of the little bars in Saitama…


About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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3 Responses to 2. RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Saitama

  1. Robin Bloxsidge says:

    Great to hear how well the first concert went – and to see you enjoying yourself with your ‘new’ relations!

  2. Pingback: 3. RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Yokohama | Brendan Ball's Blog

  3. Pingback: RLPO Japan Tour 2015 – Read About The Whole Tour! | Brendan Ball's Blog

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