Today was day seven and concert number five for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on our Japan Tour 2015. This year marks 175 years since the founding of the RLPO and part of our celebrations includes a healthy amount of foreign touring. This tour to Japan is the first time we have visited this wonderful country. Later in the year we will be touring the Czech Republic and also Romania.
Our fifth concert was an important one for the orchestra as this would be our first in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, at the world famous Suntory Hall. Suntory are perhaps better known in the UK for making world champion whiskies and for putting on major golfing tournaments but the have built one of the greatest concert halls in the world here in Tokyo. Our hotel was perfectly situated right next door too!
Prior to going to rehearsal at 4pm, my wife and I were going to meet two friends of hers in Tokyo. Before our marriage, Toko had spent 12 months working in Sendai in the disaster region of Japan: where the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster occurred. Whilst there she became very good friends with Monma-sensei. For lunch today Monma would be coming down all the way from Sendai and we would be dining together with his good friend Itoda-san, a doctor here in Tokyo. We would having a traditional Shabu-Shabu nabe. I will take you through the very pleasant rituals…
First, on entering this traditional Japanese restaurant, we had to remove our shoes and leave them outside our dining area. We were then seated and served tea. Traditionally, people knelt at the table. Thankfully, these days there is a well under the table for legs to dangle freely. A burner is placed in the centre of the table…
The nabe pot is placed over the table with water inside, then lit. Garnishes (grated garlic, fish roe/daikon, spring onion and nila(an aromatic green vegetable)) and dipping sauces of sesame sauce and punzu (soy/citrus) sauce are placed neatly on the table.
We put the garnishes in the sesame sauce. The vegetables were served to each of us. Then the waitress picked up a slice of beef with the serving chop sticks and wave it backwards and forwards in the boiling stock pot. It is said that this backwards and forwards motion of the beef is what gives this dish it’s name of shabu-shabu (the noise of the motion).
Have a look at my attempt at going shabu-shabu!
The remaining stock in the nabe pot has udon noodles and rice cakes added to so up the amazing taste the food has put into the stock.
Monma and Itoda presented us with a very kind and beautiful wedding gift of two ornamental dolls with bells inside. The dolls are to be shown annually on March 3rd to celebrate girls day in Japan.
Above – Monma and Itoda looking through our wedding album.
Below – the restaurant sign.
Anyway, enough about food for now. Down to the business at hand, the rehearsal in Suntory Hall. One of our trumpet section, Paul Marsden, had succumbed to a little illness overnight and had to be replaced at the last minute for The Right of Spring. We had enough trumpeters with us to replace the rest of the repertoire. This type of thing happens when touring. So, what do we do – we book a local Japanese professional. There are ten professional orchestras in Tokyo so we set the management the task of finding someone suitable. Eventually, a player from the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra was acquired and Tomohizo Naito was awaiting our arrival at the start of the rehearsal. The rehearsal was only one hour and quite rightly Nobuyuki Tsujii-san would need the priority being the soloist. He took about 15-20 minutes before we got to The Rite of Spring. We needn’t have worried as Tomo was an experienced professional of over twenty years and knew the piece backwards, including the many exposed solos and duos in the second part.
Suntory Hall truly is a very good hall in every way. The acoustic is great and the facilities, both front of house and backstage are fabulous.
The orchestra sorted out The Rite of Spring in the new acoustic and also The Firebird at the end of the hour. It was announced by the management that Hiro, managing director of the promotion company who brought the orchestra over would be throwing a reception for everyone after the concert…
Between the rehearsal and concert I went back to the hotel for an hour and just ‘chilled out’.
Above – Tomo; fitting in perfectly!
Suntory Hall – The trumpet section for The Rite of Spring
The magnificent organ in Suntory Hall
There are some posh cars around here!
The view from my hotel room is quite good. I wonder if I could dive in the hotel pool from here…
The concert was a roaring success! There were shouts of bravo even after the first piece, The Firebird Suite. Nobuyuki Tsujii played spectacularly well in Piano Concerto no. 3 by Prokofiev and the audience once again demanded two encores from him. The Rite of Spring was also a spectacular success and the RLPO were then required to give three encores! As we left the building I could see on the front of house television screens that members of the audience were still standing and applauding, even though we had left the stage!
Toko & I had several friends attending the concert tonight, as we have at all the concerts. Mr & Mrs Kobiki, Shibou & her husband and Monma & Itoda, to name just some.
It was now time to head for our reception. You may be curious why we are having a ‘big do’ two thirds of the way through the tour and not at the end. Well, tonight would be the last performance of The Rite of Spring and about twenty members of the orchestra would be flying back to the UK the following morning as they would no longer be required. The remaining repertoire is not scored for so many players.
I’ll leave you for today with some photos of our post concert reception, held in true Japanese style, with no shoes, plenty of food, plenty of saki and all washed down with Japanese beer.
Kampai & Sayonara!
TOMORROW – SECOND CONCERT IN TOKYO