The Party

That night there was going to be a big orchestra party in a traditional Japanese tavern in the Nagarekawa. Traditional Japanese taverns, izakaya, are wonderful places where one can eat and drink a lot at a reasonable price in a relaxed atmosphere. The students, from the orchestra, were organizing this party and Gianni received verbal invitations from at least twenty of them; he was looking forward to it.

Because of an earlier dinner appointment with schools director who had warned Gianni that these students were serious partiers, he was quite late to the party and when he arrived it was well underway. The first event for Gianni was that when he entered he received an enthusiastic round of applause and cheers; a good feeling for any conductor to have coming from the orchestra. However, it took a very short time to determine that most of the orchestra was totally saturated with beer and sake. Before he was seated Gianni was given a fresh full glass of sake, cheered some more and clearly given the message he was to make a toast. In the past, Gianni could remember being in similar situations where he was required to make toasts under less ideal circumstances; tonight the truth would come easy.

“Thank you all for making me feel so welcome, not only tonight but since the time we first started working together. I especially want to thank you for your wonderful cooperation in our music making. It’s important for you to know that you are a great orchestra. I have been fortunate to have worked with many orchestras around the world; particularly student orchestras and I want you to know, you have to know, that you are among the very best. This, plus the openness, enthusiasm and flexibility you’ve shown me makes it a great pleasure to work with you and I look forward to our collaboration over the next years. Thank you again and Kampai!

Predictability the applause and cheers returned and the drinking was getting little by little more serious.

While Gianni was on his feet he was subtlety scanning the room to try and locate the Goddess. In the only way he knew, he went through the whole orchestra by sections and as far as he could tell the whole orchestra was there except the English horn player. Why her, why wasn’t she there, where was she?

The Designer Club

Gianni would soon learn that The Designer Club was the number one hostess club in Hiroshima and that some would say it was the number one in Japan. In this most beautiful of all hostess clubs Gianni was relaxed and calm. As he turned to see which of the hostesses he would like to talk to he instantly went into shock. Across the room sitting with two other girls was the double of the Goddess. Elegant western clothes, tall, statuesque and with the demeanor of timeless wisdom, she sat there smiling at him. He sat at the bar staring at her in disbelief thinking this couldn’t be real. He looked a second time and didn’t accept what he was seeing until he saw the tacky sequined high heels.

While Gianni was trying to recover his shock and find some appropriate words the Goddess walked to him and said,

“Good evening, my name is Kumiko, we are very happy to have a conductor as our guest in The Designer Club. Please come and sit down. I have always loved classical music, how long have you been in Hiroshima and how long will you stay?”

At this point Gianni was thoroughly confused, was it possible this was not the Goddess? The beautifully spoken English, the tacky high heels, none of it made any sense. Finally, Gianni had regained most of his thinking facilities and he asked,

“Don’t we know each other?”

“Yes, you look familiar to me but I’m so very pleased we will know each other. I hope my English is good enough for us to communicate”

“But you didn’t speak English last month at St. Lucia University and now it’s perfect. And how did you come to be a hostess?”

“Oh yes, I have heard of the St. Lucia University of Music, it must be a very prestigious and expensive school. But is it possible you have me confused with another girl that looks similar to me?”

“But you are the English horn player, you sounded absolutely beautiful on the Dvorak.”

“I love music so much, it must be a wonderful thing to be a part of an orchestra, did you ever play an instrument or have you always been a conductor?”

Gianni was trying to find a way to stay fluent in this cryptic conversation.

“In my mind I’ve always been a conductor but since I was eighteen years old I have played cello in symphony orchestras until 1989. How long have you been playing English horn? Do you want to specialize in English horn or is oboe your principal interest”

“I would be so happy if I could play any instrument. Music is an important part of my life but I don’t think I can hope to be a musician.” What’s it like to play in a symphony for so many years?”

It seemed this conversation might go easier if Gianni would ask less questions and follow the Goddess’s line.

“When I first started playing in orchestras it was the most wonderful thing that could have happened but after five hundred performances of playing the same cello parts in the same works it began to get less interesting and I started more and more to think of the whole of the music and therefore conducting.”

“In 1989 when you left orchestra playing did you start conducting immediately?”

“The first thing I did was to put my cello away, leave Firenze, go to Greece, and have nothing to do with cello or music for six months. After those months I enjoyed music a lot more when I came back to it”

“I think you are wise, and did you start conducting after that?”

“Slowly, it started very slow and grew to what it is today”

And Gianni continued to be amazed with Kumiko the Goddess. Talking to her in this way was almost like being interviewed by Larry King, except Larry King was definitely not a Goddess. But instead of her interviewing him he wished he could be interviewing her; the more he was with her the more curious he got.

As the evening went on it was getting late and Gianni realized they had talked for several hours and that he had become very relaxed and comfortable. It was clear Kumiko had highly developed skills and experience as a conversationalist and Gianni was grateful that was the case.

“I think I should leave now, I have a 9:00 Japanese lesson tomorrow and I think I should make an effort to be as clear headed as possible for it.”

“Of course you are right, I’m so very happy you found The Designer Club, will you come back and visit us again?”

“I enjoyed talking with you very much, I’m sure I’ll be coming back soon. Perhaps we’ll see each other at the school.”

“I’m so happy we have this beautiful place where we can meet”

Gianni said good-bye and as he was leaving Miho san stopped him and presented him back the VISA card and asked him to sign. He didn’t want to know the numbers on that piece of paper, he signed and didn’t look, Kumiko had told him that the two men at the bar were two top executives of Mitsubishi. He said thank you and good night to Miho san and started his walk back to the Rihga Royal Hotel.

It was an introspective walk and the steps were taking him to the realization that he may be taking a dangerous path to a destination of heartbreak and although it seemed unbelievable he could be taking Kumiko on that same path. He was realistic; he knew this path couldn’t have a future but realistically he also knew that the present was going to be extraordinary and that he wouldn’t fight enjoying it.

Continue to Section 4: The Visits, Economics

Copyright 2005. Design by Rose Schweikhart