YUTAKA-SAN third from the Left and the Band at Rams Head On Stage, Annapolis April 12, 2014
If we are lucky, once in a lifetime the sun, moon, stars and planets may align to make a magical night. April 12 was one of them.
It was a night at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. The band had just finished playing a set where the audience gave us numerous thunderous applauses throughout our set!! I felt it--the band felt it. We were connected, and what’s even more amazing we connected with the audience!
Walking off the stage waving gratefully to our fans, a gentleman with the band’s “GO” t-shirt caught my eye. He waved a CD as to have me autograph it. He was trying to speak in English that his name was Yutaka and he was from the same prefecture as I—Saitama-ken. I roughly understood him saying something about since high school he has been a fan of the band. He was here in the United States and will also be going to our next night’s concert at Ram’s Head in Annapolis. I was gently whisked away to do autograph session in the lobby.
As we did our autographing and taking pictures I noticed that Yutaka-san did not appear but thought since he did mention he would be going to Annapolis I can talk to him then. Better get packing as we have a drive to Annapolis.
Ahhhh…we reached Annapolis and settled in for the rest of the night. We’re exhausted. The next day we all met at Loew’s Hotel restaurant for our traditional crab cake sandwiches. They have the best! Yum!!!! Off to sound check.
Again, after the first show a tremendous, warm response. The same with the second show. As we take our bow I saw from the side of my right eye Yutaka-san with the same “GO” t-shirt. Again we were whisked off to autograph but this time he was there. We took pictures with him and he was trying to tell us he specifically came to the United States to see the band--it was not for work. He gave us his business card. Subsequently we have been emailing.
He first heard of our album when he was in the 11th grade (back in the mid-80’s). The band came to Japan not too much longer for a concert but he could not afford since he was just a student.
At best with translation my understanding is that as a young child Yutaka-san had a heart condition and it gradually worsened with a 50-50 chance of surviving another ten years. When the doctor told him this he realized one of his biggest regrets was not seeing the band.
He checked the band’s website and noticed that there were no dates in the Los Angeles area but saw that there were two dates in the east coast relatively close to each other. He took his vacation travel the US to see us!!!! His trip was not business related!
It touched me deeply that someone from Japan feels this way. I was born in Japan and came to America when I was about six years old. I was fortunate to have Madame Kazue Kudo as my teacher here in Los Angeles receiving my master’s degree from the Miyagi Koto School through her. In search for finding my own voice in music, I began to explore playing the koto with contemporary instruments (flute, piano, guitar, bass, drums, etc.). I have been told that many Japanese people do not understand and ‘resent’ me for playing the koto in a non-traditional way.
Yutaka-san symbolized acceptance from Japan. It brought peace to my heart to know that I was not totally rejected by Japan for my love of the koto. But more importantly he symbolizes hope and faith with strength, courage and thoughtfulness. He has me looking at my life with a different eye—a gentle reminder not to take people nor life for granted. I am still just a mere grasshopper learning from the masters of this beautiful, vast universe.
With heart and gratitude to Master Yutaka-san!!!