CWAJ College Women's Association of Japan


Luncheon and Monthly Meetings

January 2016

Imperial Court Music with Gagaku Performers Tsukumo and Masami Togi



Our first Luncheon of 2015 was held January 14, with a mesmerizing performance by Tsukumo and Masami Togi of Gagaku, Japan’s oldest classical music. They belong to the Togi family, one of the few noble families that for centuries have safeguarded the 1,300-year-old musical tradition of Gagaku, Imperial Court music.

Tsukumo and Masami (mother and daughter) performed a selection of Gagaku, pieces. It is an art form characterized by long, slow songs and dance-like movements. It is the oldest of Japanese traditional performing arts, performed at banquets and ceremonies in the Imperial Palace and theatres.

The program started with a Bugaku piece, a solo dance performed by Masami, the well-known Ryo-O. It is the story of Prince Chang-kung of the Principality of Lang-ling of the Northern Chi Dynasty in China. Her specular costume depicted this warrior, known for his valor. In order to conceal his handsome looks he wore a fearsome dragon mask when he went to battle fields. The piece tells of a historic battle when he defeated a huge enemy force of Zhou at Jin Yong Castle.

The program continued with traditional pieces that Tsukumo and Masami played on specialized wind instruments and included interesting short talks. Like many CWAJ members they have lived abroad and have shared Gagaku on stages all over the world. This international experience was obvious as they were skilled at teaching us details of Gagaku. We observed how Tsukumo’s instrument was continually warmed over a hibachi to keep the reeds dry and optimized for vibration.

The program ended with lovely modern pieces composed and arranged by the famous musician Hideki Togi who is the son and brother of our performers.

The traditional aristocratic garments Tsukumo and Masami wore were made of gorgeous silk and we were surprised to learn would be considered casual wear. Masami demonstrated how her outfit was actually an outfit for hunting with sleeves that could be adjusted!

This was a special opportunity to learn experience this art form designated by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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