Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gift Giving to Shimono-san

It's hard to know how to fully show someone your appreciation for what they do.  A few days ago, Shimono-san gave me some of his time to listen to my excerpts, and because gift giving is part of the culture here, I thought it might be appropriate to give him something out of gratitude.  Luckily, in Japan, most stores have lots of gift-able food items, beautifully wrapped and then beautifully wrapped again by the clerks.  Prices range from a few hundred yen to several thousand.  And so the question, what is an act worth?  What is a person worth?  And also to balance this with the inevitable indebtedness that this bequeaths on the recipient.  To me, sometimes it seems that a gift undermines the feelings behind it.  A large part of me wanted to leave the issue untouched.  But I was truly appreciative and thought this might be the most interpretable way to express that.

I found some fresh, sesame gift mochi.  It seemed small enough not to make a big deal out of it but a token at least.  I gave it to him after the performance on Friday, as awkwardly as possible.  How else does one express gratitude in a way that is short of what is actually felt?  His musicianship and integrity have been models this whole week.  I looked up at him during the Schumman symphony and saw in his face a sincere need, something deeply personal, something driving him to open his vulnerabilities and trust to the moment.  A face of one who is being watched by no one.  I wish I had looked up more often.  Indeed, there is nothing graceful about giving someone mochi, or anything else, for that.

It's just what he does, who he is.  He is a channel through which something is passed.  There is nothing stoic, or proud in his demeanor.  To whom, to what did I give?  Is there some other way to show appreciation?  I trusted him in the performance.  Perhaps that should have been the end of it.  At the very least, I hope my awkwardness in the giving expressed something, and that he enjoys the mochi.

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