|On 27 February 2004, Japanese musician and composer Joji Hirota received the Ambassador's Commendation in recognition of his distinguished service in contributing to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and other nations.
Good evening Ambassador Orita, ladies, and gentlemen.
I am deeply honoured to receive this award, and so I would first like to express my thanks to everyone who has come here tonight. Thank you.
Coming to England with my wife back in the 70's was one of the most important choices I have made in my life, because I believe it is thanks to all the musicians, and artists, in fact all the people I have had the privilege of meeting since arriving here, and everything they have taught me, that I have been able to grow as an artist, and be here today.
Not only the people, but the beauty of this country's Nature has been a great source of inspiration for my music. You could say it is my other great teacher.
Itto Ohba, my Taiko Master, left these words with me before he passed away 7 years ago. “Create music that only you can create. If you are going to perform outside Japan, then, you cannot simply reproduce what I have taught you, although of course, not forgetting what I have taught you (!) but using this knowledge so that you can open up a new world of creativity that you can share with the people that you meet.”
An important tradition in Taiko drumming is for each individual performer to play a solo part that can only be played by them, because of their unique character. Ohba sensei was perhaps referring to this philosophy when he told me these words in his Dojo in Hokkaido.
There are melodies and rhythms in traditional and folk music, which have been sung and performed for hundreds, maybe over a thousand years, and I think this is true for almost all the countries and cultures in the world.
I believe the reason why they have lasted so long is because they all convey a kind of truth, which, regardless of what language you speak or what culture you are from, can be understood by all mankind.
Being given the chance to convey the joy of Japanese folk music is something in which I feel great pride, and it is now that I feel so grateful towards my father, who sang and played “Esashi Oiwake” and “So-ran Bushi” on the shakuhachi to me, when I was a child.
Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen… thank you.