Random Memory No. 1 – Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Tokyo

In the early eighties I went on a two-week business trip to Japan to meet with a number of fusion research groups in and around Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. Since our daughter, Myra, was studying that year at Waseda University in Tokyo, my wife Pauline went with me. While there Myra was able to be our guide and interpreter and we enjoyed visiting with her, having her travel with us, and meeting the Japanese family she lived with near the university.

One day near dusk in Tokyo we were coming back to our hotel after leaving the nearest subway station. We had a few blocks to walk and along the way we saw, up ahead, a cluster of people gathered in a small square. They were engrossed in something and were circled around it.

As we got closer we heard music being played on, of all things, steel drums, like the ones played so much in the Carribean. Closer on to the crowd we recognized the music; Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, a tune most all will know, whether or not they know composer and title. (You can listen to versions on YouTube to check your memory.)

Now we are in the crowd and saw that the player was not Japanese but caucasian, or as the Japanese would say a “gaijin”,  probably American we guessed and not likely from the Caribbean. He was quite likely a street person and playing for donations. His playing was quite good and we stood for awhile before going on to the hotel.

The more we thought about the circumstances the more we were in awe at the unlikely probability of seeing such a situation; a street person, probably an American, on a Tokyo street, playing a Bach melody, on steel drums, and to a large group of Japanese!

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