"Kogun". It is an excellent album well known by jazz fans. The subject is Mr. Hiroo Onoda.1 While Akiyoshi was working in the U.S., she learned of his returning home to Japan and of his harsh life experience up to that time. Deeply distressed, she drew upon his experiences as the basis of a musical composition. An exquisitely polished crystal of sounds, the work gained a superb reputation both in the U.S. and Japan, and became one of her major works. Her youth was also not unrelated to the tumultuousness of the time. The girl who liked playing piano was born in Liaoyang in Manchuria, now the northeastern part of China. The War ended while she was studying to be a military nurse, and she confronted the chaotic conditions in the homeland after returning to Japan. Many years later in 2000, she was asked to compose music whose subject would be the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Though she could not become excited about simply tracing the tragedy, an image she saw in a book of photographs moved her to begin work. It was a young woman’s smile as she looked up at the sky from the debris. “It’s hope – that is important in any miserable situation.” Impelled by this strong feeling, she completed the suite Hiroshima, including the last number titled Hope. As she continues to play the piece at the end of her performances, she is sharing hope for the future with the audience.

1. Hiroo Onoda (1922 –2014) was an Imperial Japanese Army who fought in World War II and did not surrender in 1945. He then spent almost 30 years holding out in the Philippines. He returned to Japan in 1974 after his former commander personally travelled and issued orders relieving him from duty.

Toshiko Akiyoshi

Born in Manchuria in 1929. After repatriating, became a jazz pianist. In 1956, entered Berklee School of Music (present Berklee College of Music). She has been active in the U.S. since then. Started the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band in 1973. Formed the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra in 1983. Achieved induction into the Jazz Hall of Fame in 2007.
Cooperation: Music Pocket, Breezé Arts, Sankei Hall Breezé, Ace Promote, and Friends of Rinri New York

This article has been originally appeared in “Shinsei” magazine, April 2011 issue, published by RINRI Institue of Ethics. Partially rewritten to update for this internet relaesing.

Spirit and Spine

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Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
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Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)