Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friendships and baby steps

I'm writing various stories this week. I just (re)wrote this one, even though it took place over 10 years ago. I hope the subject of this story isn't embarrassed by it... after all, she is awesome and I really wish she didn't live so far away.

We have found that people often want to know what motivated us to go to Japan, so I needed to write some stories on that subject. I've written a bit about this before, but I think God has put Japanese people in my life since childhood who have been treasured friends, mentors, and colleagues. These important friendships nudged me towards Japan one step at a time.

On the day of the first rehearsal for my cello recital at Boston University, harpsichordist, Akiko Sato greeted me at the door to her apartment and invited me to sit down for a cup of green tea. We’re not starting rehearsal right away? I thought to myself, surprised.

Akiko asked me how I was doing. We chatted about school and gigs I had done and pieces of music I liked. She told me stories about her own studies in Montreal, her family back in Japan, and her husband, Toshi.

An hour or so later, Akiko checked the tuning on her harpsichord while I got my cello out of its case. As we started playing, each piece came to life with Akiko’s rich accompaniment. Her insight and suggestions displayed an immense knowledge and love of Baroque music.

I didn’t notice that several hours had passed, except that I was starting to get hungry. “We’re having a special Japanese meal tonight; do you want to join us?” Akiko offered. I eagerly agreed, following her into the kitchen to help. We cut long, thin slices of vegetables and omelette and squares of seaweed. Toshi came home in time to help set the table. Akiko demonstrated how to spread seasoned sushi rice over the square of seaweed, pile on the vegetables and egg, roll, and eat the finished temakizushi with her hands. She watched me as I wolfed them down one after another. “Do you want me to take you to the Japanese grocery store?” she offered. I nodded, mouth full.

Toshi drove my cello and me home with Akiko beside him in the passenger seat. We argued about baseball and I laughed as Akiko explained that even though they lived in Boston, they were closet Yankees fans because of the Japanese players on the team.

In front of my apartment building, I thanked them again and again. “Don’t worry about it,” said Akiko. “I’m glad you were able to come over.”

Over the next two years, Akiko’s work ethic, expertise, generous hospitality, and most of all, friendship, grew my love for Japanese people and pushed me one small step closer to Japan.

One month later: my baroque cello recital, accompanied by Akiko on harpsichord and my teacher, Sarah Freiberg on cello

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