9 February 2013

My plan for the rest of the tour was to stay up late and rise late, thus resetting the body clock back towards European time, or at least trying to. The coaches for Saturday's concert in Yokohama, an hour south of Tokyo (and the venue for the 2002 Football World Cup Final), were to leave at 1.45pm, so I rose around 1 and went and bought a banana and a blueberry yoghurt for breakfast. I figured that a bit of positive probiotic gut action wouldn't do any harm.

After an unhindered journey along Tokyo's sweeping elevated main roads (the city is full of flyovers), the buses dropped us outside another lovely hall, and we were soon on stage rehearsing not one, but two Finnish violin concertos! The orchestra was playing here due to the kind invitation of Akiko Suwanai, whose International Festival Nippon this concert was part of. And she had taken on the monumental challenge of performing two of the hardest concertos I've heard, Sibelius and Salonen, in one concert. Esa-Pekka told me that this was a first, certainly as far as his concerto was concerned. The rehearsal went very well, and I then joined three lovely violinists for a tasty buffet dinner in the mall that adjoined the hall.

Near the hall's entrance was a display of lovely photographs of our soloist and host, showing her winning the prestigious Tchaikovsky Violin Competition in 1990. She hasn't changed much! Outside, a big, brightly-lit Ferris wheel turned, offering a pre-concert activity similar to that available to patrons of the RFH in London. I began to think of home, and reflected on the tour as a whole, and realised it felt an absolute age since we landed in Japan. We'd been so busy! Just one night without a concert; two more and we'd be heading home.

It was another fantastic performance. The violin concertos share some characteristics, with ethereal, soft passages juxtaposed with deep, rich climaxes. The fiery gypsy-music finale of the Sibelius contains fearsome double-stopped scales, and the third movement of Esa-Pekka's piece also requires some manic virtuosity. In fact, so powerfully was Akiko playing, she snapped her E string and had to leave the stage stop to put on a new one. We began the movement afresh, but the interruption clearly didn't affect Akiko's concentration, as she played brilliantly. She and we were given another huge ovation, and we headed to the coaches on a high. The free beer handed out courtesy of the Japan Arts management team helped our mood too!

Once back in Tokyo a few of us headed out for a bite to eat, and then found a pub which was showing the next round of Six Nations rugby matches. Scotland overcame an error-prone Italy quite comfortably, before Wales secured an historic win in Paris thanks to a brilliant George North try. To be honest I snored my way through most of the second half, but the jubilant cries of Jenny and Gareth woke me just in time to see the crucial touch down. Tomorrow, our last concert and last night in Japan. Thanks for reading!