Home > Events, History, Music > Homage To Composer Miyagi Michio

Homage To Composer Miyagi Michio

Koto Anniversary Concert at the Embassy of Japan, London Friday 20th June 2014!

Michio MiyagiAttended by about 100 invited guests, the Embassy of Japan hosted a memorial recital of the koto music of Miyagi Michio, musician and essayist, on Friday 20 June 2014 to celebrate and commemorate the 120th anniversary of his birth. Born in Kobe in 1894 and brought up by his grandmother, by the age of eight he had become blind as a result of eye disease at which point he began to train on the koto under the auspices of Nakamura Kengyo II. He moved to Korea aged 13 and remained there until 1917 when, at the age of 23 he moved to Tōkyō. He was to have been sponsored by Itō Hirobumi, the Prime Minister of Japan, but after Itō Hirobumi’s assassination in 1909 this was not to be. In 1918 he was, with his second wife Yoshimura Sadako, living in abject poverty but eventually took on two disciples, both Sadako’s nieces, who took the names Miyagi Kiyoko and Miyagi Kazue. Eventually with the support of others he debuted as a composer and played his first concert at the age of 25. He developed Japanese music incorporating Western elements and inventing new instruments such as the Jū-Shichi Gen, a 17 stringed koto for playing deeper notes which made an appearance at the recital in the fourth piece on the programme, Sakura Hensokyoku (Sakura Variations). In 1932, to great acclaim, he dueted Haru no Umi (The Sea in Spring) with the French violinist Renée Chemet who had the shakuhachi part of re-arranged for violin. During a 1953 summer tour to Spain, France, and England he was inspired by the sound of rain in the night and composed London no Yoru no Ame (A Rainy Night in London), the second piece on the recital programme. Unfortunately Miyagi Michio died in June 1956 when he fell from an express train on his way to Ōsaka to play a concert. He is buried in Yanaka Cemetery in Tōkyō.

The recital programme was undertaken by the koto player Matsumoto Ayako (a direct disciple of Miyagi Michio) who began studying the koto at the age of 6, then under Miyagi Michio from the age of 17, later studying under Miyagi Kiyoko and Miyagi Kazue and others.

Matsumoto Ayako

She was accompanied by Professor Maeda Yukiyasu , a graduate of Tōkyō National University of Fine Arts and Music and first cellist with Kanagawa Symphony Orchestra, on the Violin-Cello in Kōjō no Tsuki (Moon Over the Ruined Castle) and Aki no Shirabe (Autumn Melody).

In Sakura Hensokyoku (Sakura Variations) and in Onoe no Matsu (Pine Tree on a Mountain) Matsumoto Ayako was accompanied by members of the Ayako Gassōdan (Ayako Ensemble), Tagashira Kazue, Ochi Mayumi, Yokota Mami, Kimura Kimiko, a group of musicians who aim to perpetuate the quintessence of the music of Michio Miyagi.

Ayako Ensemble

(Recital photographs courtesy of the Embassy of Japan, London)

Recital Programme pieces on You Tube

Please note the YouTube pieces are not performed by the Embassy of Japan’s Recital performers. Composition explanatory notes courtesy of the Embassy of Japan’s accompanying recital programme.

(1) Mizu no Hentai (The Changing Forms of Water) – Performer: Tadao Sawai


A lyrical piece composed when Miyagi was 14 years old. It was inspired by seven tanka (poems) on forms of water in the school book of Miyagi’s youngest brother.

(2) London no Yoru no Ame (A Rainy Night in London) – Performer: Michio Miyagi


Inspired by the sound of rain in London when Miyagi was on tour in Europe in July 1953.

(3) Kōjō no Tsuki (Moon Over the Ruined Castle) – Performer: Atsuko Suetomi


Miyagi’s arrangement was for koto and kokyū, a Japanese bowed instrument and was originally composed by Rentarō Taki with lyrics by Doi Bansui. The image of a ruined castle in moonlight is one of loss and impermanence.

(4) Sakura Hensokokyu (Sakura Variations) – Performer: Michio Miyagi


Based on an old popular Japanese folk song. Arranged by Miyagi using Western composition techniques and to include the Jū-Shichi Gen, the 17 stringed bass koto.

(5) Aki no Shirabe (Autumn Melody) – Performer: Michio Miyagi


It was this composition that made Miyagi famous. The prelude hints at the sound of wind in the dry leaves of a paulownia tree.

(6) Onoe no Matsu (Pine Tree on a Mountain) – Performer: Tadao Sawai


Arranged from a traditional classic by Miyagi in 1919. A composition the lyrics of which pray for a long life and prosperity

Photographic images published before December 31st 1956, or photographed before 1946 and not published for 10 years thereafter, under jurisdiction of the Government of Japan, are considered to be public domain according to article 23 of old copyright law of Japan and article 2 of supplemental provision of copyright law of Japan.

Author Profile:

Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.

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Okamoto Kidō On The Kabuki Theatre Of The Meiji Period – Part One

Okamoto Kidō On The Kabuki Theatre Of The Meiji Period – Part Two




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