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Moon concert: Experiencing Moon Viewing Culture through Music and Dances

A moon-viewing event is an autumn tradition in Japan. The New Chicago Japanese American Association (NCJAA) hosted a Moon Concert at Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie on October 5 with the support of Chicago Futabakai Japanese School. Although the sky was covered by thick clouds, the audience enjoyed an imaginary autumn moon with moon related music and performances.

Kazume Mizuki beautifully danced Jugoya Otsukisan (Full Moon) accompanied by koto-strings music played by Chicago Koto Group. The piece was composed in the early 1900s describing a girl, who had experienced a family breakup, watching a remnant of her deceased mother in the moon. Bankruptcies and family breakups were common in that era in Japan. She also danced Usagi Usagi (Bunny with a Moon) and Hoshi Duki Yo (Star Moon Night). Interestingly, Japanese see a mochi-pounding rabbit on the moon surface while Americans see a woman’s face on it.

Shakuhachi group Fukin played moon related music such as Night with a Hazy Moon and Moon with an Old Castle. Shakuhachi is a clarinet type of bamboo flute. The sound of shakuhachi evoked the audience’s nostalgic memories in childhood.

A guest musician, Dr. Daniel Quinn played Desert in Moon Light and other Japanese pieces with his classical guitar. The sound seemed as though playing multiple instruments together, and the audience was fascinated by the guitar sound. He also played some Spanish pieces, and Rie Katayama, President of NCJAA, performed a flamenco dance “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” with his guitar.
Daniel Quinn obtained a doctoral degree from the Indiana University School of Music with a doctoral dissertation about music by Japanese composers.
Back to 1997, Quinn said that he first visited his wife’s country Japan, and was drawn to Japanese music. At that time, he was at the beginning of his doctoral course and chose it for his dissertation topic. He has been playing the guitar for more than 20 years and appeared at the Japan Festival this year after he had contacted Katayama last fall.

NCJAA has supported musicians and artists related to Japanese culture and shared their art with the people of the two countries. President Katayama said, “Music and art are a common language in the world and are tools to connect diverse groups of people. Through the music and art, we have recognized to pay respect for other cultures.”

Chicago Futabakai Japanese School’s PTA President Wataru Yoshizawa said that the school has engaged in Japan-US cultural exchange activities to enlarge students’ international perspective; thus it has supported NCJAA. He wished for the audience to enjoy Japanese traditional music with an imaginary moon behind the clouds.

Koji Kaneko, Director of Japan Information Center, Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, greeted the audience saying that Japanese have enjoyed the moon-viewing event for thousands of years. “This evening, you will experience the moon viewing culture through music and dances. Americans view nun’s face on the moon while Japanese see a mochi-pounding rabbit. You can enjoy both tonight,” he said.

Kazume Mizuki

Daniel Quinn (L) and Rie Katayama

Shakuhachi group "Fukin"

A decoration for Moon Viewing Evening

Koji Kaneko, Director of Japan Information Center,
Consulate General of Japan at Chicago

Wataru Yoshizawa, PTA President of
Chicago Futabakai Japanese Day School