Creating an overseas hub for dissemination of Japanese culture

Kenichi Yoshida
"Yoshida Brothers", Tsugaru Shamisen player
  • Sending state:The Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Portugal
  • Active Period:From March 27 to May 25, 2016

“Yoshida Brothers concert” in Amstelveen (the Netherlands), Kenichi Yoshida solo concert in Madrid and Valencia (Spain)

I reaffirmed that we would be able to further disseminate and develop Japan’s culture as long as we pursue better approaches to it. I reached this conclusion through my past activities that were owed partly to the recognition of the “Yoshida Brothers” name. However, we must address many challenges. Every time I engage in these types of activities and performances, I cannot help thinking about language barriers. This does not mean that we can manage if we just have an nterpreter or if only we can speak English. In cultural exchange, it is absolutely essential for us to reach out to local culture. The ensuing stage of cultural exchange will be influenced by this basic approach. I expect this language barrier issue to be alleviated by preliminary arrangements with local cooperation agencies and its follow-up measures to nurture the bud of exchange.

Lectures and shamisen demonstrations in Madrid (Spain), Rome (Italy) and Lisbon (Portugal) as well as at the Eixample Municipal School of Music, Catalonia and the Japanese School in Barcelona (both in Spain)

At the beginning I explained the history of shamisen and its structure as a musical instrument. Then I showed video pictures and demonstrated my performance to show how the traditional culture of Japan is penetrating into society in and out of Japan. Finally, I held a question-and-answer session to deepen students’ understanding. One big advantage of this lecture and demonstration approach is that it curbs expenses and time for preparations compared with ordinary concerts.

At the same time, it serves as a perfect opportunity to increase the numbers of people who have an interest in Japanese culture. I believe expanding this new group of people will lead to the future dissemination of our culture. The important point is the development of culture through faceto-face communication between people, no matter how much the Internet and social networking service (SNS) may develop, nothing will surpass human communication.

Special classes at the Catalonia College of Music (ESMUC)

The project here was the main activity as a Japan Cultural Envoy. Why did I base my activities in Barcelona? First of all, I sensed that the city has an atmosphere and the foundation to accept different cultures. Many cultures were born in Spain,
including flamenco. Flamenco is a type of folk music and has a lot of similarities with Tsugaru shamisen.

In cultural exchange, matters of expenses and human resources are a continual consideration. To keep our project sustainable with limited time and expenses, we need someone who can engage in activities in the target area like a preacher. So I focused on the role of the music college. Students who aim at being a professional player of musical instruments have a high probability of being interested in instruments of other countries and make quick progress with them. In fact, in a series of eight classes, students of the lute and classical guitar who took the master’s course perfectly performed the commissioned set piece that I had composed. Moreover, they came to improvise. That was an unbelievable speed of progress, unseen in normal cases.

After the last recital, they said, “We want to continue playing Tsugaru shamisen!” Here, the real cultural exchange could be seen to take root. What I conveyed to my students was ingrained in their mind. Now, even without my existence there, they will serve as a hub to spread Japanese culture globally. More people will come to nurture interest in Japan.

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Lecture and demonstration at the Museum of the Orient in Lisbon

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Special class at the Eixample Municipal School of Music, Catalonia