Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Story of Japan

When I was 15 years old in 1999, I went to my piano lesson at 11am on Saturday mornings, I had been playing piano since I was 4 1/2 years old. That particular morning at my lesson, my teacher Mrs. Joichi asked me if I would like to attend the 13th world Suzuki Convention with herself, her daughter Janet (who was also a teacher) and a few other girls from lessons around my age, Sarah, Nancy, and Jessica, and by the way, it was in Japan!

My mom was with me at lessons, and she immediately said, Yes we will find a way for Angel to go with. My Mom has always supported and pushed me in the right direction, got me to go places, and do things I would have never tried on my own.

Piano with all my stuff on it

When we got home, we immediately started thinking about it, since I was 15, I had to get a work-permit, and I got a job at Joann Fabrics, it was walking distance from my high school and my parents could pick me up at night.  I asked my grandparents both sides for support, of any kind, and they both, put money in for me, as well as my parents.

That next year I was 16, and in March, I had to take off a week and a half of school to attend the 13th World Suzuki Convention.  It was a super long plain ride, we were on a huge jumbo plane, and on the way there, we saw a comet out our window at night! It was spectacular! It’s hard to remember little details now 12 or 13 years later but some things you just don’t forget.

Jessica, Me(Angel), Sarah, Nancy, Janet

We arrived for the opening ceremony with beautiful Japanese culture, singing and dancing with 3,000 + Suzuki all aged students playing all different instruments to a suzuki song.

Since we were from America, My teacher asked me if I would represent the country and carry a flag out at the ceremony. I can’t exactly remember, but I brought the flag out! I found a picture. i'm in the middle wearing a jumper there's a sign that says "u.s.a."

Me in the middle!

The Actual convention wasn’t very long, I went to a master class with a Japanese Teacher, where I had a translator, and we always took our shoes off, anytime we entered the schools, temples, buildings. I also remember, there were 2 other children, a boy from Japan, who was playing the same song as I was but he was I think 8 years old, and I was 16.  (one of the reasons  I kept piano as a LOVE of mine and did not make piano my career, it was very competitive!)

We each performed a concert in a smaller hall as part of the convention. I played Haydn Sonata No. 48  (the link is not me playing, just a reference of the song :). And spent the rest of the time touring and going to many different places. Since my teacher was fluent in Japanese and English, this was perfect, many places to eat were NOT in English, and we had to look at cases of food and point to the items we wanted to eat. But luckily Mrs. Joichi could translate for us.

Bowing after Recital

I tried so many amazing things there, Unagi – eel, udon and soba noodles, soup with actual little fish in it, that you eat the whole things and Japanese Curry Rice, I remember Loving this pear fruit drink I could get out of any vending machine when walking around. Mrs. Joichi also took us to a tiny market in an alley to buy fresh fruit. Sarah and I were roommates and we got large strawberries to bring back to our room. We went to so many places, and I only had disposable cameras at the time. I also wish I would have written everything down. I was reading the old itinerary that I had saved. We went to Tokyo, Matsumoto, Kyoto, and Nagano.

I remember when we crossed city streets in Tokyo or Kyoto, Japanese music would play at the cross walks, when we could walk. It was so Neat! I FOUND it online! I remember going to little Japanese bakeries and trying delicious pastries and Japanese candy.

We went to a wasabi farm, and I’ll never forget we walked up to the farm, and a women had a taste tester portion of wasabi in a little cup, and just kind of gave it to us to try. (not knowing what it was at the time) yow! I wish I could really remember my reaction, and the rest of the girls, I bet it was quite funny. We walked through wasabi fields and also by a koi pond, where I could actually pet the koi fish in the water! As I am writing I am  googling, I think I found the exact place called Daio Wasabi Farm in Nagano.
Wasabi farm
Koi at Wasabi Farm

I remember taking a crowded train somewhere and everyone who had a cold wore a medical mask, and we were standing in each others armpits. I also remember visiting SO many amazing temples and places. Deer Park with real deer just walking around us. We went to a huge oldest department store in Japan. We went to a temple where the first Buddha image arrived in Japan in 552 A.D. I remember beautiful places with many gold Buddha statues.

We walked around in to a nature area I will never forget my teacher Mrs. Joichi, taking a little bamboo looking cup getting water from a little waterfall and washing her hands with it. She also taught us when we entered a temple or Shrine, we prayed then, through a coin into  a box and clapped twice and bowed.  Shrine Manners

It was cold, which we weren’t prepared for, since it was spring, and we had light jackets an things, but it was also The ONLY TWO Weeks we were there the Cherry Blossoms Bloomed! It was absolutely incredible and amazing that we got to see this magnificent event since they only bloom for about 2 weeks per year. When Cherry Blossoms Bloom

Cherry Blossoms
This experience influenced my life completely, still this day I am enamored by Japanese culture, and even decorations in  my apartment, and art work are influenced by it.

Tattoo Design for a Fashion Designer/Friend

When I came home from the trip, that summer I dedicated my summer 3 months to painting a mural in my bedroom at my parents house.

My Bedroom at my parents

I could have never done any of this without the support of my family, who took me to piano lessons, encouraged me, and sent me to piano camp for years, My AMAZING teacher Yasuko Joichi, who is an amazingly accomplished piano teacher, who involved me in group lessons, guilds, and competitions, and taught me piano at my own pace, understanding that piano was a love of mine, and even if I didn’t go far in the Suzuki books, my technique and musicality are something that I am still proud of today.

I wish I could truly remember every little detail, but my trip to Japan is something that I will NEVER forget in my life.

My Beautiful Mom, and me on my wedding day

View ALL my pictures From Japan Here
Mrs. Joichi

How We can Help

Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on March 11. The magnitude-9.0 quake spawned a deadly tsunami that slammed into the nation's east coast, leaving a huge swath of devastation in its wake. Thousands of people are dead and many more are still missing or injured.
Japan has often donated when other countries have experienced disasters, such as when Hurricane Katrina impacted the United States. Below are organizations that are working on relief and recovery in the region.
Contribute to my Donation for Global Giving by buying a 5 x7 Koi Print
one of my original Watercolors Here

Red Cross
Global Giving
Helping by Buying Handmade through etsy
More Etsy Japan Relief Items

A Few more websites that show how to help and where!
ABC website
Yahoo website 

1 comment:

CWH said...

Angel, This is a wonderful story about you, Japan, my colleague Yasuko Joichi, and the impact of Suzuki Piano on developing the character of children. You are a good example of this and I am sure Yasuko would be so pleased by this.

Cathy Hargrave, Texas