Before I came to KCJS I hadn’t really decided what to participate in. Not all the programs would provide with such good chances for students to be involved in Japanese society. And I really hoped that I could take advantage of it. It took me a long time to think about what goal would I want to achieve at the end of semester. Is it a deep understanding of Japanese society? Or it could be getting to know about the working environment in Japanese since I have the idea to work in Japan after graduation? After careful consideration and getting advices from my teacher, I finally decided to practice Shamisen as my CIP program.
My initial consideration was that as a traditional and Japan-only instrument, Shamisen could be a good tool for me to learn about traditional Japanese music and arts. In China we actually have the similar instrument but nowadays most people don’t know more about it. However, after been imported to japan and assimilated to Japanese culture, Shamisen plays important part of Japanese「邦楽」. I would like to learn more about the spread and development of Shamisen through time.
At the beginning I thought it should be a group class that one teacher sits in the front and students follows teachers instruction and practicing. But then I found out that instead of a Shamisen class, it is more like an amateur’s club. Usually they have typical groups that practice same songs and meet regularly once a week. I was really nervous when I first meet with them. Partly because most of the members are elder people, I was worried that they would not be happy if a foreigner suddenly joined their private group. However, I was welcomed and even taken care of by them. They were curious about my past experience related to Japan, and would also like to tell me their personal relation to China, such as travel experience or business with Chinese partner. I was surprised because this is very different from things I learned from the Japanese minorities class that Japanese people would be offended if someone intend to enter their private group. Even I only joined them for few classes, I feel like I have already become a part of their party. Also, practicing Shamisen is a hart task for me since I had almost zero knowledge about string instrument. And because the Shamisen pick is actually really heavy, I had a hard time learning the basic rules like how to sit, rest my wrist and hold the ばち(picks) in the correct way. It was painful at the beginning, but when I firstly played a whole song, I felt that all the efforts were worthwhile.
I really want to thank my teacher Iwazaki Chieko sensei. She brought me into their club and also the area of traditional Japanese music. From her I learned not just about Shamisen as a instrument, but also how traditional Japanese aesthetics are changing and integrated with modern society. The insistence of Japanese artists and awareness of modern culture make Japan the special place that can retain its culture so well when other countries are somehow ignoring and losing their traditions.