Music and Vision homepage




A Japanese notebook - some of it musical,
with composer ADRIAN WILLIAMS


The festive season in Tokyo is, like almost anywhere else in the world, just a huge commercial bash. Masses, indeed legions of people heave around the department stores in this department-store-minded land. And the noise is unbearable. Do not imagine Charles Ives's (great!) Symphony no 4, or the Holidays Symphony can ever represent this level of cacophony. Ivesian converging massed bands cannot compare with three dancing Santas playing Jingle Bells and White Christmas against each other, tinkly tunes pouring from toys, gadgets, computer systems, PA systems, and positively nerve-gnawing screeching of 'Irrashimase, irrashimase' (welcome) from robotic girls whose batteries never seem to wear out..... all in the space of about a hundred square metres. The desire to find some kind of Christmas peace became all-consuming. Would it be possible to find a church and meditate on 'that greatest tale of all' ?*

Well we thought we'd 'brave the masses' and go for it, setting off in good time to find St Mary's, somewhere near Roppongi. Not St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, where there would be a queue a kilometre long (sorry, kilometer -- this is Japan and they only recognise (recognize) American English here).

The nice man in the 'St Mary's Church Bridal Office', the only office open on Christmas Eve, (maybe the only office there, period) had given my wife precise times of Christmas Eve 'Masses'.

Finding an ancient cathedral with choral tradition is impossible in Tokyo, as you would expect. No way can one expect even parish-church-type treats of solo treble singing 'Once in Royal David's City', first tang of incense penetrating the chilly midnight air, certainly not cathedral choir elevating that superb David Willcocks descant for the last verse. To an English former church musician in Japan that's the stuff of nostalgic imaginings.

It's odd. Considering some of the horrors Japanese civilians endured this century (and continue to endure) - it's somehow sad how puppet-like they conform to American interests, standards, culture. Added to the sense of defeat after WWII (which still prevails) was the humiliation of their Emperor's declaration that he was not, after all, divine -- leaving the Japanese feeling that their national heart had been ripped out. Not surprisingly in the rebuilding of Japan they absorbed and imitated foreign culture, much of it American. To this day, like it or not, Japan is held in an arm-lock by the USA, defence-wise, (to maintain the stability of the region, supposedly) -- and so its influence permeates everything. The Church is no exception.

 Continue >> 


Copyright © 3 January 2000, Adrian Williams, Tokyo, Japan



 << Music & Vision homepage               Safely grazing >>