30 January 2013

Hello, and welcome to the Philharmonia's Japan Tour 2013 blog! My name is Sam Burstin, I've been a viola player in the orchestra for seven years, and a few months ago I was writing to you from the USA; blogging topics (blogics?!) included pizza, Jimi Hendrix and the Presidential Election. This time it's more likely to be sushi, Stravinsky and Six Nations Rugby!

This will be my fourth time in that most exotic of touring destinations, the Land of the Rising Sun. It's a magical place, completely different to anywhere else. The hustle and bustle of the world's largest mega-city (35 million people live in the Greater Tokyo area) is starkly contrasted by the oases of calm you find when stepping into a tranquil garden or ancient temple. The country has such a rich history in the arts and culture, it is exciting to be able to travel across much of it playing Western music in this most Eastern of places.

We will perform in Iwakuni, Hyogo, Sapporo, Nagoya, Tokyo twice, Yokohama and then to finish, Tokyo again! Esa-Pekka Salonen, our princely Principal Conductor and artful Artistic Advisor, will lead us through Mahler's magisterial Symphony No. 1, Stravinsky's sensational The Rite of Spring , along with pieces by Beethoven, Sibelius, LutosŠ‚awski (in this, his centenary year) and Esa-Pekka himself. 

The other main focus of the tour will be doing the maths to work out the kick-off times of all the Six Nations Rugby internationals. There are several keen rugby fans in the orchestra, many in the trumpet section, and as Japan is 9 hours ahead of the UK it should mean that we'll catch most of them after our concerts! It just takes a little planning and sleep deprivation. For example, this Saturday, having arrived in the country the night before after a 12 hour flight, we will rise at 6am, leave the hotel on coaches at 7am, fly from Tokyo to Hiroshima, take more coaches to the hotel, get back on coaches to travel to Iwakuni, rehearse Beethoven 7 and Mahler 1, perform Beethoven 7 and Mahler 1, and then get the coaches back to Hiroshima. At that point it'll be 10pm, and the fun will really begin, because the manager of Molly Malone's Irish Pub has kindly reserved his finest table for those of us with odd-shaped ball obsessions, and so with any luck we'll catch Wales v Ireland at 10.30pm and then, at 1am, the Calcutta Cup match between England v Scotland. We'll then have a Thatcher-esque 4 hours to sleep, before yet more coaches and a bullet train to Hyogo for a rehearsal and concert on the Sunday afternoon. Easy!

Anyway, that is all to come. I hope you will follow news of our travels, and please do write in to the Philharmonia office with any questions or queries you may have - I'll do my best to answer them all. And to all our Japanese friends - look out for our wonderful app, The Orchestra, which is being launched in Japanese on Friday! We can't wait to visit your country to make wonderful music and as many new friends as possible. See you soon!