(From the printed program, February 1, 2015, Traditional Japanese Culture Class for Parents and Children)

Japan, unlike every other country in the world, does not treat its own traditional entertainment, particularly traditional music, as important. That’s sad and miserable, isn’t it? It’s also embarrassing. I’ve performed shinnai in more than forty countries. The people in all those countries respect and admire Japanese traditions.
How did our country come to neglect its own traditional music?
At the time of the Meiji revolution, government bureaucrats had a blind devotion to Western culture and a disdain for their own country’s music. They changed the music education curriculum in the schools to Western music, and had the pupils taught the staff notation system. But I think that government officials have now realized that this was a problem. They understand the importance and necessity of including traditional Japanese music in the school curriculum. Recently, they have started activities in order to promote the traditional cultural arts in many fields. The parent-child traditional Japanese culture class performing here today has received support from the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
When this project started, it was difficult to find people who wanted to participate. Fortunately, because I am a graduate of Tsukudo Elementary School located in this area, the principal and parents of children at that school gave me their support, and I could offer this activity, even though there were only a few participants.
Traditional music accompanied by shamisen is difficult and not easy to memorize. So when I started training the children, I changed the usual way of performing shinnai so that there would be less singing and more emphasis on the spoken lines.
When we began, the children were probably confused. However, children’s sensitivity is sharp. I was surprised at how quickly they learned. They had only nine lessons before today’s performance. I think that you will understand their accomplishment when you hear them perform the shinnai setting of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “Kumo no Ito” (“The Spider’s Thread”). This was the children’s first exposure to traditional Japanese music. For those of us who taught them, it was also a new experience.
I am keenly aware that in order for shinnai to continue in the future, this kind of steady effort is essential. I hope to continue this project from now on.
I appreciate your support very much. Thank you.
Tsuruga Wakasanojo (Living National Treasure)
11th Iemoto of the Tsuruga School of Shinnai
President of Shinnai Association
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