Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Tokyo for Free: Classical Concerts

Despite having a reputation as one of the most expensive cities in the world, Tokyo does have a lot of options for free–or at least low-cost–ways to amuse yourself. There are festivals, antique fairs, fireworks displays in summer, picnics in the park, and even the occasional free art exhibition in the city’s wonderful collection of tiny galleries.

When it comes to live performances, though, free can be hard to find. Tickets to a touring Broadway production can cost as much as $200 for decent seats, and the same goes for tickets to the concert of any well-known singer (if you can even get your hands on a ticket). Tickets for traditional Japanese kabuki, noh, kyogen, and bunraku performances are significantly cheaper, but those can sell out super-fast as well.

Which is why I’m so grateful that the boyfriend has introduced me to the phenomenon of free classical music on the weekends.

Tokyo is full of amateur musicians and music schools. On any given Sunday in the larger parks you’re likely to find people practicing flute, guitar, and violin–and plenty of them sound as if they could easily make a living in a professional orchestra. Luckily for those who aren’t virtuoso musicians, various music schools and amateur groups give regular recitals throughout the city. On a typical weekend there are usually a dozen or so to choose from, and many of them are free.

The quality varies, of course–at a recent classical piano recital I’d say 50% of the performers were superb, 20% were good, and 30% sounded like they needed a bit more practice. But these are definitely not the piano recitals that my poor parents had to sit through, where children and young adults plink-planked their way through boring and repetitive pieces. For the most part these musicians are really good at what they do, and when the concert is free, you really can’t complain. They also tend to be very sparsely attended–usually just family of the students and the other students themselves, so no scrambling to get a seat a half an hour before the show begins.

Here are two websites that list the classical offerings for the weekend (unfortunately both in Japanese only). I’ll definitely be checking out more in the future.

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3 comments on “Tokyo for Free: Classical Concerts

  1. Anonymous
    July 25, 2011

    I remember watching a JHS concert in Shimoda once. American JHS kids sounding like JHS kids playing in a brass band someone forced them to play in… followed by Japanese kids playing like miniature professionals. They take their band as seriously as all their other bukatsu around here, so it’s no wonder they’re good.

  2. sleepschmeep
    July 31, 2011

    Just wanted to leave a note to mention that I’ve spent the past hour or so reading through some of your old posts, particularly the “grad life” file. I’m an MA headed into a PhD (yes, I know), and it made for some really enlightening, sometimes sad, sometimes humorous, candid reading. I’ll definitely be stopping by again. Thanks for the perspective.

  3. gradland
    July 31, 2011

    Thanks sleepschmeep, glad I could be of help! I spent a lot of time feeling depressed about the humanities grad school situation in the U.S., but these days I’m feeling better that more people are talking openly about what’s wrong and what needs to change.

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2011 by in Japan and tagged , .
Anne McKnight

writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)

A Modern Girl / モダンガール

tales of travel, research, and life

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