The Message

Gianni wasn’t a half way down the block when he had the envelope out of his pocket and was starting to read the note he found inside.

“Goodevening Maestro Grosso,

I enjoyed very much meeting you at The Designer Club. Sometimes fun comes at unexpected times; our evening together with Kumiko and the other girls was rare and special; those things can’t be planned but our spontaneous party won’t soon be forgotten.

I hope you will forgive me for taking liberty of arranging an outing for you this Sunday; I have looked into it and I know you are free the whole day. In this envelope you will also find a ticket for the shinkansen, which leaves for Kyoto on Sunday at 9:00. Your seat, should you have trouble reading the Japanese, is in car number 9 (a green car), seat number 51. I hope you accept this mystery trip I have planned for you, if you do I’m sure you will enjoy yourself.

I wish you a pleasant weekend.

Yours truly,

Junichi Kamei”

Gianni was very tired and the concentration of events in the last weeks was more than he could deal with at the moment, he just wanted to sleep; Kumiko, The Designer Club, Kamei san and the trip on the shinkansen to Kyoto could all wait until the morning. He walked back to the Rihga Royal on automatic pilot and went to bed. As he was falling asleep he wondered what he could expect on Sunday.

The Shinkansen

It was a clear pleasant Sunday morning and the streets of Hiroshima were much quieter than they normally are at 8:30. Gianni took a cab to the shinkansen station and went up the stairs to track 14 to wait for the 9:00 train to Kyoto. He looked for the spot where car 9 would be and he saw the arrow where the door would be at 8:58; the shinkonsen was always on time and the doors to the cars ware always in the same place.

Car 9 was a green car; these shinkonsen always had three green cars, which were simply the first class cars of the train. All the cars in these shinkansen were comfortable but the green cars were especially comfortable, they were like first class seats in a plane. About every hour a stewardess would come by and offer a hot towel and snack. Later another stewardess would come by with lunches and drinks. These cars were very comfortable and most of the passengers used that comfort to work or to sleep.

At 8:58 Gianni stepped from the platform on to the train and quickly found seat number 51. At 8:59 Kumiko stepped on to the train and found her way to seat 52. When they stopped laughing the train had already started to move. Somehow Gianni was very happy and somehow wasn’t very surprised. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen on this mystery trip but he certainly sensed it was going to be good!

Kumiko was wearing a pair of blue jeans and, light blue sweater and the tacky silver sequined high heels. And Gianni was still amazed by her beauty.

Gianni asked if Kumiko had any idea what was going to happen on this mystery day; what was going to happen in Kyoto?

“I don’t know any more that you do except that if Kamei san organized it it’s going be special.”

“Why do you think he chose Kyoto?”

“Oh, that’s a much easier question. Kyoto is one of the great cities in the world, have you been there? It’s a city as important in world history as Athens, Rome or Jerusalem.

“Yes, I’ve played there on tour with the Maggio Musicalli and I’ve been there twice as a tourist”

“What did you do there?”

“Well, after another tour I went to Kyoto with Melody, my daughter and a friend. We stayed in a traditional Japanese inn, what do you call them?”


“Yes, Ryokan. It was a wonderful experience. We found a very informed taxi driver who spoke English very well and he took us on a tour for a whole day through many of the temples and shrines, through all the famous Kyoto neighborhoods, wonderful restaurants where he recommended we dine and finally to a Japanese folk lore store where we were able to see and buy almost any kind of Japanese art work one could think of”.

“Oh, I know that store. Even though there are always many tourists there Japanese people go there too, it’s one of the best Japanese artwork stores in Japan”

“So you know Kyoto well?”

“I was born in Kyoto and I lived there until I was fourteen years old. I think Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world”

Gianni was getting excited about this conversation; it was the first time Kumiko had ever spoken about her history.

“Where did you go when you were fourteen?”

“Look, we’re coming into Osaka”

“I can see, I’ve also played on tour here with the orchestra, I think it was the same tour as the Kyoto visit but it’s hard to remember. But tell me where you went when you were fourteen”

“Your not going to let me avoid this talk are you?”

“I’ve known you for a few months now and you haven’t even addressed the fact that you are a student at the St. Lucia University yet. Here we are, finally, alone on this train to Kyoto with at least an hour to go; it seems like a wonderful time for you to talk to me about you.”

“Sometimes it’s difficult for me to talk about my past but I want you to know me, please let me try.

I’m so happy Kyoto is where I grew up, Kyoto is the most traditional city in Japan, I grew up learning Japanese customs and Japanese thinking. My life became international very quickly but I will always first be Japanese.

My parents were wonderful and my home life as a little girl was as good as anyone could imagine. My parents were in business, especially my father but we were all together. When I was five I went to a private school, the best school in Kyoto and I stayed in that school until I was fourteen. It was a wonderful school and it had wonderful teachers, whatever we were studying the teachers made it interesting and that made learning a pleasure. That attitude about learning is still with me now.”

“You’re lucky, in the west a huge number of potentially great students are discouraged because of poor and boring teachers, that can be a tragedy that stays with a student for life. What happened when you were fourteen?”

“Now it’s a more complicated story. While I was growing and going the that private school in Kyoto my parents were becoming increasingly successful and had less time for the home life I was used to. When my fathers business started to grow my mother entered the business with him. They were students when they met at the University of Kyoto.”

“Their business got so busy that it finally took all their time. Before I turned fourteen I ended up spending a lot of time with my grandmother, she was a wonderful, very wise woman and she taught me many things about life, she’s still alive and still lives in our house; she’s eighty eight.”

“Is she still healthy and clear?”

“She doesn’t move as well as she used to but she’s very clear in her thinking, she’s the person I went to when I needed to talk to someone; she seemed to always have a wise answer to any problem, and she still does.”

“And She lives in Kyoto?”


“Do you think we’ll have a chance to meet her?”

“I’m sure Kamei san has planned our time so that would be very difficult.”

“Is she your maternal or paternal grandmother?”

“She is my father’s mother.”

“And where are your mother and father now?”

Kumiko was quiet for a long time and finally said:

“Look, we’re coming into Kobe. Have you ever had a Kobe steak?”

Gianni was disappointed in the answer to his question.

“Sure, a couple of times, it’s the best steak you can have in the world. I would like to be a Kobe cow in my next life and be given beer and be massaged my whole life”

She laughed.

“Are you sure? It would be a very short life.”

“You are right! But can’t you tell me what happened when you were fourteen and about your mother and father?

“Gianni Sensei, please be patient, I promise you the information you want will come to you in time.

The interesting story started when I was twelve. My father’s business grew so fast that there were over 40 people helping him run it. My mother was his partner for many years but she was also very talented like him, she was ambitious and getting frustrated, she wanted a creative outlet not an administrative position. Without my father knowing anything about it she had started her own business, the same business as my father, and before either of them realized it, they had become competitors. They started to be away from home more and more frequently and were almost never at home at the same time. I was missing them so much; as hard as Oba san, my grandmother would try, she couldn’t help me from missing them terribly. Even now, I can feel the pressure of tears behind my eyes when I think about this. But I had a wonderful school and a wonderful Oba san and they saved me from the excruciating pain of loosing the happy home life I was used to. Oba san and the school taught me to be strong and to focus on my studies. I never doubted that they were right.

The following summer when I turned fourteen and both my mother and father had come home for my birthday; I was very very happy. Oba san told me they had a very special surprise for me and I was very excited.

After dinner and after I had received many wonderful gifts my mother showed me a book about Switzerland with many extraordinarily beautiful pictures. Pictures of mountains, snow, lakes and beautiful green hills; I had never seen any place so beautiful. Then she showed me another book with pictures of a school, a school in the setting of those mountains, lakes, snow and beautiful green hills, such a school was like a dream place to me.

Finally my mother told me that I was going to be going to that school, she told me that I would be living in one of the buildings in the pictures with many other girls from all over the world and that I would learn many languages and that I would be able to study anything I wanted for the next four years. And finally my mother told me that sometimes they would be able to come and visit me.

Within seconds my world started to turn in circles, the room in my house began to distort like a television just before it stops working. All I could do was try to hide all feelings, I knew I had to show nothing, I could not show anything, I couldn’t show joy, I couldn’t show tears, I couldn’t show anger. The only way I knew to deal with this new world I was being prepared for was to show nothing, and especially I couldn’t cry, I was a lucky, wealthy and strong Japanese girl.”

Gianni took her hand and they were quiet together for a long time.

“My father tried to be my friend, he tried to talk to me and make me feel better; I was glad he tried but I didn’t feel better, my mother told me it was the best thing for me and that I was going to have a wonderful time when I got there. I loved Kyoto, I loved my school, I loved my friends and I loved my family; How could I possibly leave it all, how could this be happening to me? I think that was the day I stopped being a girl and started to be a young woman; I wasn’t ready”

Gianni was having a difficult time listening to this story, he wanted to help, he wanted to say something wise and comforting but the right words just didn’t come.

“I’m sure this doesn’t help but I think most of us, men women, Asian, European, are not ready when that day comes. Leaving the nest is never easy but being forced out of the nest is difficult for anyone and it hurts for a long time. But I have to say that now you strike me as being abundantly confident and secure about yourself; it doesn’t seem to have had any long term effect”

“Of course you are right sensei, but the young girl in Kyoto didn’t know that fourteen years ago”

“What! How old are you?

“I’m twenty eight.”

Gianni felt a small rush of relief; now he knew at least that this woman who was becoming so important in his life was not a teenager.

“That’s amazing, you don’t look twenty-eight and I know that most of the girls at the music school are around 20.”

“I’m Japanese, all Japanese women look younger than they really are!”

They laughed,

“You are lucky to be Japanese! But how did you come to start St. Lucia University on Music at such a late age?”

“I’ll get to that, I haven’t even got to the place where I start the school in Switzerland yet.”

“Sorry, go ahead.”

“After a difficult summer of sayonaras my father took me to the school in Switzerland, my mother was somewhere in the world on business. We arrived at the school, he stayed two days with me and even though it was the most beautiful school and the most beautiful place I had ever seen, when he left and I was alone in this strange place, I died a little.”

“How long did it take to adjust?”

“I adjusted to the school quickly, I even adjusted to these strange girls who thought about nothing but boys, I adjusted to the heavy food, to the cold teachers and to the language but I never adjusted to being away from my parents and my Oba chan.”

“How was the school?”

“It was a very fine school but money had more meaning than excellence. Look, we’re arriving in Kyoto!”

They watched out the window together as the city got denser the closer they got to the station. They were both feeling a growing excitement and as far as Gianni could tell, Kumiko had no more idea what to expect than he did. As they left the train a well-dressed man in a black suit approached them.

“Maestro Grosso?”

“That’s me.”

“Please follow me.”

The man took their two small carryon bags and they proceeded to follow him. After about five minutes of stairways and halls they finally arrived outside and walked a short distance to a large black sedan and the man opened the door for them. They sat down and they simultaneously took each other’s hand.

Continue to Section 8: Kyoto

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