Kitaro In Nara For 1300 Year Celebration

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps Kitaro is more well known and beloved overseas than in Japan, but his 1980 soundtrack for NHK's Silk Road documentary is legendary. The series was broadcast in 38 countries in Asia and Europe. Eighteen books were published on the making of The Silk Road selling 3 million copies. A 10-volume photo series sold 660,000 copies, and 380,000 videos, too, were sold. Seven million records and CDs of the soundtrack with Kitaro's music have been sold in Japan and abroad, according to NHK.

This year in September 2009, he participated at events in Nara, as the ancient city prepars to celebrate 1300 years since its founding. Kitaro still plays the Korg syntheziser but he is also amazing at the taiko drums.

His tour included concerts at Todai-ji on September 22, Nara and after that he performed at Mt Fuji, and in Nagoya and Tokyo.

Kitaro at Todai-ji, Nara (September 2009)

From NHK 50 Years of Television:

In September 1972, an NHK director was in Beijing for the TV relay of Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei's visit to China. The day after diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored, Chinese Premier Chou Enlai invited reporters to a reception at the Great Hall of the People. In a speech to them, the premier stated that China and Japan were no longer at war and asked for their support in introducing China to the rest of the world. He told them that this was their duty as journalists.

The director recalled how the Han and T'ang dynasties were eras of great cultural transfer to China, how China had accepted the cultures of many lands and made itself the most prosperous country. The Silk Road was the medium that made this phenomenon possible. He felt The Silk Road could be a TV program that responded to the hopes of the Chinese premier.

A broadcaster's dream

The executives of NHK's General Broadcasting Administration strongly supported this idea. Gaining access, however, was a problem. In a previous program, the camera crews for Legacy for the Future (1974-75) had not been able to enter the Silk Road region.

How were China's doors to be opened? Various negotiating routes were available, and the breakthrough came at the end of October 1978, with Deputy-Premier Deng Xiaoping's visit to Japan. The program director boarded the special train on which Deng was traveling and managed to talk to his secretary, passing on NHK's request to shoot scenes in the Silk Road region. On New Year's Eve, permission was granted and the enormous joint project began.

Seventeen years after the program was conceived, the project was completed. Writer Shiba Ryotaro described The Silk Road series as "the most fruitful Sino-Japanese cultural exchange in postwar history."

A variety of seasonal events will be held throughout Nara Prefecture in 2010 to commemorate the 1300th anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital, according to the official website:

Celebrating the 1300th anniversary of Nara Heijo-kyo Capital in 2010


Hi Martin,

Kitaro was somewhat known in the US during the 1980's when "New Age" music was somewhat popular. But that genre--including George Winston and Windham Hill--is no longer even a little popular.

I didn't notice any following in Brussels or Berlin when I lived briefly in those cities, also.

Keiko Matsui was popular in the "Smooth Jazz" genre in the 1990's in the US.

And Japanese bands like Shonen Jump and Pizzacato Five were also popular in certain alternative circles in the US in the 1990's.

I think, few, if any, would recognize Kitaro's name now in N. America.

I've noticed some interesting Japanese musicians like bluegrass musician Takeharu Kunimoto (who saw and has developed upon the deep roots interconnections between Celtic-Appalachian music and traditional Japanese music --the shamisen is related to the banjo*--).headlining at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas).


*originally from Africa, then became Central Asian, then moved East and West
Martin J Frid said…
Thanks a lot Jean, I agree that Kitaro was probably never much known outside the New Age field. Perhaps I should have called this post "Vintage Japan"!

I had no idea about the bluegrass musician, I'll have to look him up.
No pun intended, but on another note--I just read an article at "Common Dreams" by a small US farmer that Obama's appointment -- "Islam Siddiqui, Chief Agriculture Negotiator, office of U.S. Trade Representative, is a particularly troubling nomination. He is no friend of consumers, considering his most recent employment at CropLife America (CLA), the pesticide industries main trade association. As a registered lobbyist and vice president of regulatory affairs, Siddiqui was responsible for setting and selling CLA's international and domestic agenda which, simply put, was to weaken regulations on pesticides and agricultural chemicals worldwide.

He is no friend of farmers either, and not just organic farmers, even though he has a long history of distaste for organic agriculture. He promotes agribusiness, chemical companies, processors and grain marketers who make their profits by buying low, processing and selling high. In his world, a farmers job is to maintain corporate profits.

As an unabashed 'free trader" he is a strong supporter of the World Trade Organization and its ability to strong-arm countries into accepting unwanted U.S. imports. He openly derided the European Union's rejection of hormone-treated beef, Japan's desire to mandate labeling of Genetically Modified (GM) food and he pushed to permit pesticide testing on children. In his world consumers should be forced to accept whatever food products are thrown at them.

Forced trade, telling countries they must accept our products whether they want them or not is not trade, it is nothing short of blackmail."

When I was a business reporter in Tokyo in the 1990's, I was stunned to realize the extent of corporatist hidden agenda sbehind US attacks on Japan's "closed markets" and "non-tariff barriers."

Governments (responsive to many small farmers, and consumers) in Europe and Japan are concerned about the health issues of GMO and pesticides in marked contrast to the US government which is controlled by GMO/pesticide interests (as well as other corporate interests).

I just wanted to give you a head's up on this if you haven't seen it.

V. disturbing.
Martin J Frid said…
Yes, it is bad news, I agree. Thanks for this comment.

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