Giovanni Grosso

It was spring and although the heat and humidity weren’t uncomfortable yet one was quite aware of what was to come soon in the Hiroshima summer; Giovanni Grosso was musing to himself over the sweaters and coats he had packed when he left his home in Italy.

Giovanni Grosso started his conducting career working as an orchestra trainer with the National Italian Youth Orchestra; during this period Maestro Grosso encountered a large part of the symphony orchestra repertoire. Together with his international reputation as a cellist and the work he did with the OGI (Orchestra Giovanile d’Italia) “Italian Youth Orchestra”, he was able to get serious conducting engagements; most of them in the university and conservatory circuit but once or twice a year he accepted engagements with full time professional orchestras. In the past five years he had conducted concerts in the USA, Canada, Norway, Slovenia, Russia, Greece and Japan. He loved conducting, he had no illusions of becoming a permanent music director with one of the major orchestras in the world and, in fact, he was absolutely content with being the conductor of the St. Lucia University of Music Symphony Orchestra in Hiroshima.

Hiroshima City Center

On this day Gianni had finished rehearsal with the orchestra, had just left his favorite sushi bar, Sushi Koh, and was walking through the streets of Nagarekawa, the nightlife part of town; normally these parts of most towns are the old parts of the city but, of course, there is no “old town” in Hiroshima. This district was a large area of crisscrossed streets and very square blocks; it was an area of restaurants, sushi bars, cafés, teahouses, sake bars massage parlors, hostess clubs, numerous shops and snack bars of every description; it was a pure and wonderful Japanese neighborhood.

The area fascinated Gianni and he dined and walked there several times a week. After dinner he would frequently stop and have a beer or try to educate himself in the huge verity of sake that was available. He loved Japan, he loved his conducting job, he was never happier, but sometimes he was lonely. It took him several months to get up the courage to enter one of the hostess clubs; he had read about them, he knew what to expect but like many Europeans and North Americans actually entering them brought on a strong sense of anxiety.

Each block in this district had several hostess clubs and in front of most of them there were several beautiful girls inviting the men, mostly businessmen, to come in; many of the hostess bars had colorful brochures that the girls standing at the entrance would pass out. These girls were not prostitutes, they were entertainers, making conversation and generally providing pleasant company for the men. Of course, when you put a beautiful woman and an able but lonely man together occasionally something happens but generally they are only hostesses.

There were two problems Gianni always encountered when entering the hostess clubs: first non-Japanese are usually not welcome and secondly the omni present problem of language; bilingualism was quite rare in this neighborhood. Gianni had been studying Japanese and he found that when the doormen of the hostess bars asked for an invitation or a reference, after he explained he was a conductor, he was welcomed. Most of the hostesses did not speak English, which caused the company he was seeking to be in reality very elementary Japanese lessons, rather than the sparkling conversation he wanted; still, sometimes it was big fun.

This particular evening Gianni was lonelier than usual and the inevitable Japanese lesson was not what he was hoping for. While exploring new streets he discovered one entrance to what he was sure was a hostess club but it somehow seemed much more attractive than the others. For one thing there were no girls standing out front, the entry way was deep, dark, elegant and immaculately clean, the door was made of the finest wood and was decorated with carving and cut glass. Unsure of what to expect Gianni was far more nervous than before in the other clubs. As he approached the door opened and there was a tuxedo-clad doorman inquiring if Gianni had an invitation or reference. Gianni explained in his best Japanese that he was a conductor at the St. Lucia University of Music and the doorman very politely said,

“ Please wait”.

Within a minute the doorman returned with a very elegant woman dressed in a beautiful deep red kimono with gold floral artwork and a gold obi. She smiled, and said in perfect and charming English,

“Good evening, you are very welcome, my name is Miho, what is your name?

“Gianni Grosso”

“Please come in Gianni san. You can take your shoes off here and leave them in this small locker, Please follow me”.

Inside Gianni could smell the subtle aroma of cedar; he sensed a refreshing drop in the temperature and heard the sound of music that was clearly Japanese, quiet and relaxing; he could almost feel his pulse slowing from the tranquil environment. What ever this place was it was what he was looking for.

“Please sit down at the bar Gianni san, whatever you
want to eat or drink Sato san will provide it for you. When
you see any of our hostesses you would like to talk to
please feel comfortable to do so and if you need anything
at all please do not hesitate to ask me. May I please have your credit card so that we can take an imprint? Please enjoy your evening.”

Gianni gave Miho san a credit card and she turned and left from the same door that they had entered.

Now Gianni was on his own in the mysterious wonderful place; Sato san asked him what he would like and he asked for cold sake, Sato san handed him a menu that had at least 20 different kinds of cold sake. Gianni looked down the list and ordered the third most expensive on the page; he didn’t want to appear too ostentatious by just automatically ordering the most expensive! He was trying to learn about sake but he was at a loss with this menu, which was written only in Japanese; he knew he liked it dry, and on a hot day he liked it cold. Sato san brought the sake and for the first moment since he came in he was able to completely relax and look around.

The room was walled with beautiful dark wood and hanging on these walls were extraordinary Japanese tapestries. Throughout the whole large room were perfectly placed elegant Japanese lamps that hung from the ceiling creating a soft and subtle light. The bar was U shaped and was also made from some kind of dark wood. At the open end of the U was a picture window, which faced on to an illuminated traditional Japanese garden with a pond where several red and gold koi swam. There was a fountain and the sound of the water blended beautifully with the Japanese music and created an intoxicating sense of calm. Sitting at the bar were two men and larger number of extremely beautiful girls. In the rest of room there were a number of tables and several very comfortable leather chairs. Seated were three men and about ten of the most beautiful women Gianni had ever seen. Some were dressed in traditional Japanese Kimonos and the rest were warring western cloths of the highest quality. Gianni knew very little about fashion but it wasn’t difficult for him to determine the wardrobe of these women was designer quality, elegant and understated. Immediately one of the girls caught his attention and when he made eye contact she smiled and bowed.

Continue to Section 2: The Conservatory

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