Konnichiwa from the Grains of Time! Two weeks ago, we had the immense pleasure of traveling to Tokyo, Japan on the behalf of recent alumnus and grainpa Ken Akiyama and his company, the Japan A Cappella Association (Jacappellaa). While we could likely write pages upon pages about this once in a lifetime experience, we will keep this as succinct as possible for the sake of readers. We spent roughly five days in the giant city of Tokyo and ate excellent food, went shopping, and had a ton of fun together.
While sightseeing and an incredible cultural experience were important facets of our venture, the primary purpose for our presence in Japan was to help Ken with a Jacappella workshop attended by Japanese college students who participate in a cappella. On our third day in the country, we shared our love of music and a cappella with those students. I do not think any of us had a grasp on the experience we were about to encounter. We began the day by participating in a musical game that forced us and the students to intermingle despite the language barrier, but we were all soon to be reminded of the words sung by the great Stevie Wonder, “Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand, with an equal opportunity for all to sing, dance and clap their hands.”
We then performed our ICCA set from this past competition season, as the goal of this workshop was to show those in Japanese a cappella what a cappella is like in a competitive environment. Shortly after is when the magic happened. Ken split the students into two groups, and some of us worked with one half on choreography and the other on music. It was amazing to watch each student and even each Grain come out of his or her shell once we really delved into the music and movement. We spent this time teaching the students one of our own hits, “As Long As You Love Me”, and they caught on so quickly. It is hard to put into words the joy that was felt by each person there that day as we all shared in the passion for music. We even took the time to do some improvisational exercises, and that was when the diverse, incredible and musical personalities of each student. After each group had learned the song, we all met back together and watched the two halves each perform “As Long As You Love Me”. We were so impressed with the progress made and by the talent of the students. We spent that evening with the Japanese students and had a blast eating dinner with them and watching various groups perform. By the end of the day, the Grains had learned so much more about the students, Japan, and even ourselves, and in a heartbeat we would all do it again and again.
The Grains had an invaluable time exploring the streets and culture of Tokyo with Ken, and I know as we all have gone back to our classes and jobs that we would do anything to be back in Japan with him and all the incredible people we met along the way. But the good news is, we are back at NC State and ready for an incredible year of performances, competition, and new experiences.
There are no words to describe our gratitude for Ken and his family, Koji Tokushige and his family, and many others who assisted in this process, but for now, “arigatou gozaimasu” will simply have to suffice.
We would also like to thank Arts NC State for their generous contribution to our group for the trip.