Gerlin Leu: Koto

After many years of weekly piano lessons and many years of resting, I felt both nostalgic and renewed to start learning koto. Koto is an 13-string instrument which similar counterparts in Chinese traditional music. I remember days in my childhood when I worshiped the beautiful performances of fingers brushing over strings, so during every practice, I enter a dream-like blissful state. As much as I love the instrument, the charm of the weekly practices is also because of the wonderful people I get to share this experience with.

The koto classroom’s homely layout reflects in the family like welcome of the teacher and students. Well, I say students, but many are retired people who spend all afternoon and evening practicing and hanging out. Besides koto, there are samisen and shakuhachi. Every time I arrive at the classroom, we would wait for the current repertoire to end before we eat snacks, usually omiyage from all over Japan, and drink tea while chatting about current life happenings. Through our conversations, I have learned many trivia about Japanese household supplies and food names. My Japanese language skills have also improved vastly. Everyone in the classroom speaks in a heavy Kansai-ben. While I can barely distinguish the exact words, I have grown to be able to observe the various tones and guess (mostly correctly!) the meaning. However, I have also learned that over text, when I lose the visual hints, I can no longer as successfully figure out Kansai-ben.

As I continue onto Sri Lanka for the second half of my year abroad, the fond times with the Koto Classroom will definitely stay with me. Sensei is a very welcoming and enthusiastic person. It is through the many awkward and confused yet rewarding and heartwarming moments that I have also become a more go with the flow person. This has been certainly crucial during my semester in Japan to be able to happily adapt and to eagerly welcome new events.

2 thoughts on “Gerlin Leu: Koto

  1. What a charming post. I always love hearing about your koto experience, and it seems like a really awesome CIP. It seems that you got good practice talking to the obasans and ojisans.

    Can I meet your koto sensei once haha? Will you try to continue koto if possible or perform it at some point?

    • Yes! Please come! Sensei will actually be having her 40th debut anniversary this upcoming January. I think the showcase is open to all. Will message you more details privately.

      I’m not sure if I’d have the chance to continue koto but it definitely reminded me how much I love music and creating it.

      But, being able to find such lovely obaasans and ojiisans has really made my time in Kyoto feel more warm and connected (despite the current cold current.)