Thursday, October 13, 2005

Greater Kansas City Japan Festival

We just finished playing at the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival. This is the festival’s 8th year, and it is growing with each passing year. This was our second visit to the festival, and again I was amazed at how much a group of determined, dedicated and cooperative people with a vision can do. The festival committee is headed by KU Professor Emeritus Andrew Tsubaki, who happens to hold a fourth-degree black belt in Ki-Aikido. Professor Tsubaki, immaculately dressed with not a shimmering white hair out of place, impressed me deeply with his energy and warmth. The festival is his brainchild, and he cares for each and every aspect as if it were his child. I don’t think he – or anyone else on the committee, including his wife Lilly – sit down for six months preceding the event. This festival, which now draws over 2500 participants, offers a chance for people to experience Japanese culture through performances, workshops, a bazaar, food, and lectures. It was a joy to participate in – I offered several storytelling programs of Koto Tales and koto workshops. John and I also performed our music together as Duo En, and we debuted our trio version of “Taka” for two koto and shakuahachi with our son Brian.

As we were about to climb into our cars after being treated to a wonderful dinner by the festival committee, we noticed that Professor Tsubaki’s car has the license plate, KANKOKN. Always interested in language, John asked about its meaning.

Professor Tsubaki explained: “It is Kankokan. The concept has three parts. First, to dare to do something. Second, to do it continuously. Third, to make a habit of this thing, so that when you don’t do it, you miss it.” Professor Tsubaki spoke with conviction, and his words carried some weight.

After that, I discovered that Professor Tsubaki’s dojo is called just that, Kankokan. What a wonderful philosophy to lead a purposeful, meaningful life!

This is something so elemental to mental and physical health – something that anyone who has applied themselves to learn something comes to understand. To apply yourself a bit is a start. But when you have applied yourself to something for a long time, so much that you can’t stand not doing it, then you have gotten somewhere.

I am so glad to know Andrew Tsubaki and those around him who live with such vision and purpose. I came home feeling inspired.

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