The cherry blossoms in Oita are about to end. One evening recently, we received an invitation letter to a "Yufuin spring saloon concert." We were very glad to attend the concert. On the way to Yufuin, we could still enjoy the full blossoms of the cherry trees - the wild ones were especially beautiful, coloring the slope of the hills with pale pink petals. Passing through Minami Yufu railroad station, we arrived at the hotel on a forested hillside slope. The main building, many annexes, and hot springs elegantly dotted the green shade of the forest. The hall was a newly built music room of Musouen, one of the best hotels in the area. As a part of the opening ceremony, a violin concert was about to be held here.
A downward-sloping natural stone pavement leads us to the front of the hotel, then to the restaurant. The new music hall is located on the first floor. The massive wood and glass sliding door is opened to welcome us into the hall, which has a big marble fireplace in the front center. On both sides of the mantelpiece are icons. Many kinds of chairs such as easy chairs, sofas, and simple chairs are already arranged in the listening position. Book shelves are filled with many books that would promise the best passtime in front of the fireplace. However, the cozy atmosphere would probably make me sleepy before I could read much. A nice bar is ready for service after the concert.
Today's artist is Miss Junko Omori, a violinist with the Agate String Quartet, who joined the Yufuin Music Festival two years ago. Mr. Masakuni Kato, the secretariat of YMF, and his wife Makiko introduced the artist to the audience. Now I am waiting for the performance with expectation. I help Mr. Okochi, one of YMF staff who drove all the way down from Fukuoka to work as a receptionist this evening. He is a doctor who occasionally makes medical experiments using rats, but he complains he is so busy that he can't enjoy his pastime of playing the viola.
Mr. Okochi and I wait for guests, while arranging the programs and a reception note on the table. The landlady of the Musouen Hotel, Mrs. Yoshiko Shite, comes in. She is dressed in a working Kimono with splashed patterns and pure white Japanese socks and white thong sandals. Her formal dress shows her sincerity in welcoming the guests.
"This space used to be a stock house. Now it is reborn as a nice saloon. I am really pleased", says the landlady. Old big wooden beams are reused to emphasize the horizontal line of the hall eliminating the sense of oppression caused by the low ceiling. This unique design was made by the aforementioned Mr. Kato, who recalls happily his inspiration, saying "I stood still in the ruin of the stock house and looked around. Just one night was enough for me to get the hint and scratch the original draft." White plaster walls and brown tinned wooden beams create the fine space. Old, big pillars and the height difference of the floor break the monotony of the square room.
Mr. Akinaga, the general manager of the hotel, is an enthusiast of classical music. He speaks about his favorite record, using exaggerated body language. I ask him about the meaning of the icons set on the mantelpiece. He explains that they came from Greece, and have slept for a long time in the stock house, wrapped tightly in old newspapers. They were finally discovered, and placed in this new music saloon, where they observe the events in this room. No one knows, except the landlady's late husband, how they found a resting place here after their long journey.
Now all guests, close to forty in number, take their seats. The artist, in a black dress, begins to play. The low ceiling resonates to the fine violin melody. The lustrous Sonatas by Bach, the fascinating sound of Paganini, and the gorgeous technique of Ysaye. They are all eminently suitable for the opening of the new music saloon.
Clinking wine glasses makes noise here and there as we toast! The party has begun. Pleasant talk circles are everywhere. "I am quite impressed how fast your fingers move, they are magic fingers, aren't they?" The artist laughs and shows me her fingers saying "The tip of a finger is so stiff that I can't feel an ache even if a pin pricks it." I enjoy chatting with many people like Mrs. Misako of Kotokoto-ya, Miss Naoko of the municipal office, Mrs. Michiko of Shimizuya-inn, the Mizoguchis of Tamanoyu hotel, Mr. Kentaro Nakaya and his son Taro of Kamenoi-Besso hotel, Mr. Sato - a bank clerk, Miss Shide of Yufuin art museum, and Mr. Takami of "Fantasy Forest Museum." All of them love Yufuin, and love the Yufuin Music Festival from their hearts.
Wild cherry blossoms bloom calmly in the spring drizzle in the dark. I still enjoy the wonderful echos of fine music.
Yufuin hot spa. Hillside hotel Musoen hstill nameless music saloon.h phone:0977-84-2171 Fax:0977-85-4281