On July 23rd, I had the honor of performing in a place deeply interwoven with the fabric of my own life story - Ainoie, a landmark residing in the heart of my hometown, Fukutsu City. This historical treasure, registered as a tangible cultural property of the nation, was erected in 1901 and was initially an 'indigo dye house' - a 'kouya,' specializing in the traditional method of Japanese indigo dyeing known as 'aizome.'
Fukutsu City, particularly the area known as Tsuyazaki, flourished from the Edo period due to maritime trade and salt fields. It was once so packed with houses, it was called 'Tsuyazaki Sengen,' with 'Sengen' translating to 'a thousand houses.' Even now, the area retains its nostalgic townscape, with Ainoie serving as a prominent example of a preserved traditional building that continues to echo the history of the town.
I can't help but admire the architecture of Ainoie - the large beams made of Shioya wood, the spacious 'tatami' made of Sanwa soil, and the rain doors uniquely composed of three separate panels, all of which reflect the traditional townhouse style of the time. In 1994, the building was donated to Fukutsu City, and since then, the city has managed its preservation, while private organizations handle its operations.
Ainoie has become a vibrant hub for the community, hosting local exhibitions, concerts, and even indigo dyeing experiences throughout the year. It was in this heartwarming setting, steeped in history and cultural significance, that I had the privilege of presenting my first one-hour solo performance.
The temperature was about 95 degrees fahrenheit outside. The building was built to allow a lot of natural ocean winds to blow through, but unfortunately the air was quite still in the afternoon. I sweat the most I’ve sweated in a performance in a long time, going from taiko to shinobue to emceeing. I pushed my boundaries further by incorporating songs into my performance, adding another layer of challenge. I am beyond grateful for everyone who came out to support me. It was a testament to the power of music in bringing people together. The very idea of performing solo for an entire hour was indeed a challenge, and one I was initially nervous about. Yet, the warmth and encouragement I felt from everyone gave me the confidence to step onto the stage and deliver a performance that was truly from my soul.
This performance was an important milestone for me, not just as an artist, but as an individual. It was a tribute to my hometown and the perfect way to say goodbye, as I prepare to embark on a new journey. Next month, I will be moving back to Hawaii to join the Taiko Center of the Pacific once more as a performer and instructor.
As I prepare to depart from Fukutsu City, I find myself reflecting on my roots, my journey, and how far I've come. I owe so much of this journey to my supportive community. This performance at Ainoie wasn't just about me. It was about us, our shared experiences, and our collective love for traditional art forms. I will carry with me these invaluable experiences forever.
Once again, thank you, dear Fukutsu, for being the nurturing ground of my musical journey. And thank you, dear supporters, for sharing in my journey. As I turn the page to this new chapter, I hope to continue this journey of musical exploration and personal growth, infused with humility, gratitude, and ceaseless passion. Here's to more soul-stirring rhythms, melodies and shared memories as I set off towards new horizons.