Maybe about ten years ago I was told that a koto’s life span is about fifty years then it starts to disintegrate. It is made from paulownia tree which is a soft wood. There are no varnish finishes or oils on it. Here I am now ten years later in Texas (this is when I first started writing this) putting putty on my koto from all the indentation on the wood from the years of playing, pressing, moving the bridges, being bumped, the bridges getting knocked over, being transported.…
My koto was a gift from my mother in 1969. She went to Japan and bought me that koto as a congratulatory gift for my receiving my professional status from the Miyagi School of Koto, Tokyo, Japan. She apologized when she gave it to me (along with a beautiful kimono and obi she bought for my debut performance). She said it was not as expensive as the one her friend whose daughter also was learning the koto got. I had no idea of the value of the kotos then. I was just thrilled to get a new one since the original koto I learned from was my grandmother’s (on my father’s side) was worn down because it was also used to teach other students who came to our house for lessons. My koto teacher Kazue Kudo used our house as a place for her to teach in exchange for koto lessons for my two sisters and me.
As I was saying—the koto’s life span is about fifty years. It’s been almost fifty years that I have been playing that koto that started with me and the band. Actually in several years it’ll be seventy years I’ve been playing koto. I feel it’s time for both of us to retire…to heal…to rest…to observe, absorb and enjoy “life after fifty”! My koto is being puttied together, like me, with her aches and pains. But we are very mindful and grateful that we have had over fifty years of travel, of performances all over the world, meeting so many wonderful, spiritual, kind, talented people and seen amazingly beautiful places as well as the sadness, and atrocities and imbalances all over this earth to put into songs, singing and crying of our experiences, our journey. I have had the privilege and highest of honor to play with so many wonderful, amazing musicians and artists, including my brothers and sisters who performed and was part of Hiroshima from our beginnings, and the amazing, dedicated crews, and staff and all those who diligently worked hard to get us to where we are. I cannot forget my dear friends and families who gave me constant love and support giving me strength to keep going. I cannot thank you deeply and respectfully enough.
I thank my koto who has been with me since coming to America. She was my connection to Japan, she comforted me and helped me find my voice. I hope all of you “find your koto”!
And to all of you, my deepest bow for making my life so full. As I always say (mostly to remind myself), please help take care of Mother Earth especially for our children, be kind to each other, and please stay safe, be well, and take care.
With much heart and eternally and incredibly grateful,