Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mayor of Takarazuka Presents Thanks to Our Quartet

Last week, Chihiro, the first violinist in my quartet passed along a message to me from Bucho (the head of the orchestra office), that the mayor of Takarazuka would be coming to HPAC on Saturday at 2pm to present a thank you card to our quartet for playing at the memorial in January.  Sounded good to me.  I should be free then, just eating lunch in the lounge.

Over the next few days the office staff continued to add more details.  We should change into our concert clothes beforehand, be ready 10 minutes early, and we would all go down to the third floor to a special room on the third floor to meet him.  And then we would take come pictures.  So it's a formal presentation, ok, can do.

And then Saturday arrived and our whole quartet was dressed and ready 10 minutes before 2pm, standing with the office staff on the fifth floor, waiting for the time to pass.  We then took the elevator down to the third floor and went into a secure wing of HPAC to a meeting room.  Shortly thereafter, the mayor arrived with the head of HPAC carrying a flat box.  They set it on the table and we went over to the painting at the front of the room while the mayor pulled out a framed certificate.  He said a few words that I didn't understand, and then took a breath and seemed to begin more formally.  He read the placard and there were several more bowing exchanges and then he turned it around and presented it to us.  Chihiro went forward and took it with both hands and said a few words to him.

And then it was over and the mayor confessed to having been nervous as it was his first one of these ceremonies.  We took a lot of pictures with everyone.

Our quartet center (Yulia, Chihiro, me, Keita) with the mayor of Takarazuka (right) and HPAC office staff (left)

It had all seemed to go quite smoothly as far as I could tell.  There was a plaque of thanks and we received it.  And then on the way to the elevator the others in the quartet along with one of the office staff replayed the different parts of the ceremony, the posture of receiving it, the words, etc.  I could only understand enough to understand that it was worth being replayed and pondered.

I asked Chihiro about the ceremony.  In America, we don't have such formal ceremonies of thanks.  Apparently the word for this is 贈呈 (zōtei) which means "presentation."  It is a very, very formal sort of ceremony, like graduation.

It's so hard for me to have a cultural reference for such a thing.  I know how to get nervous for a performance, but a ceremony of thanks is far more unfamiliar to me.  Looking at this picture and realizing the gravity and sincerity of the gesture I can start to understand the air surrounding it.  If I had grown up knowing about even the existence of such presentations, I think I would have had more of a feeling of anticipation going into it, the energy required to put on another hat and be someone in a presentation, in a performance; it's the hat that the mayor took off when he confessed his nervousness.

As it was, it was just another incident of me being a child again, of not knowing why people are excited, or laughing, or scared.  Something in the air not yet able to be understood or read.  But after having gone through it, I'm a little bit older by Japanese cultural standards and coming to appreciate as an adult child the existence of these ceremonial gestures.  Perhaps it is something I will take home with me and share in a future life.

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