Looking back on my activities in 2023 - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会 (2024)

In 2023, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Croatia, various events were held in both countries. Among them were my concerts with Croatian soprano Marija Vidović in Tokyo, Tokamachi and Osaka.

In Tokyo, the concert took place on 6 July at Europa House, the base of the European Union’s Delegation to Japan, also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Croatia’s EU membership. The team of Takagi Klavier Inc. kindly brought the piano again. We started with the national anthems of Croatia, Japan and the EU, followed by speeches by Croatian Ambassador Dražen Hrastić who had made a great contribution to our concerts, EU Ambassador Jean-Eric Paquet, Deputy Foreign Minister Kenji Yamada and Minister Taro Kono, and then we gave a one-hour concert. The same three-part program was presented at all three venues, with German songs by Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Richard Strauss in the first part, French and Italian songs in the second part, and songs by Croatian composers such as Dora Pejačević, Ivan Zaic, Josip Hatze, and “First Love” composed by Tatsunosuke Koshigaya with lyrics by Takuboku Ishikawa in the third part. At the reception, former Prime Minister Zlatko Mateša, President of the Croatian Olympic Committee, who was in Japan for our concerts, gave a toast, and the guests were served Croatian food and drinks coordinated by Croatian Ambassador’s wife.

Looking back on my activities in 2023 - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会 (1)

The next concert was held on 9 July at the Echigo-Tsumari Cultural Hall “Danjuro” in Tokamachi, also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the friendship between Tokamachi and Croatia. The day before, Mayor Sekiguchi hosted a welcome dinner, which was attended by Ambassador Hrastić and President Mateša, local prefectural councillors and city council chairman, who all toasted the friendship between our two countries. After the concert, the Croatian Hometown Club hosted a welcome party, also attended by Ambassador Hrastić and President Mateša, where various proposals for future projects to strengthen the ties between our two countries were exchanged.

In addition, on 11 July, a concert was held in the Diamond Room of the Rihga Royal Hotel in Osaka, also celebrating the opening of the Croatian Consulate in Osaka. The concert was followed by a festive reception with speeches by Ambassador Hrastić, Ambassador Tsutomu Himeno and Mr. Shigeki Ebi, the newly appointed Honorary Consul.

In September, I performed in four Croatian cities such as Rovinj, Umag, Zagreb and Vinkovci, where I renewed old friendships and met many new people, giving me more prospects for further activities.

Looking back on my activities in 2023 - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会 (2)

The concert in Rovinj took place on 6 September at St. Francis Church. It was part of the Rovinj Summer Music Festival organised by Croatian mezzo-soprano Katia Markotić for more than 20 years. Ambassador Masato Iso, who has supported me greatly during my stay in Croatia, also attended the concert and afterwards we enjoyed meeting with the deputy mayor of Rovinj and others. This was my third appearance at the festival. The first time was in 1999, shortly after I came to Croatia to study, but I remember it vividly as if it were only yesterday. It was Katja who introduced me to Pejačević’s songs around that time. In recent years, the number of festival sponsors has decreased, so she has struggled to keep the festival going, but she brought me a concert opportunity in Umag, after negotiating with the organiser by herself.

The venue for the concert in Umag on 7 September was a beautiful Catholic church facing a large square in the town centre. It was my first visit to this town, so I was worried about how many people would come, but to my pleasant surprise it was a full house. I was also surprised by the huge poster on the way from Rovinj, but the most surprising thing was that so many people came to listen to music on a whim, just because of the advertisem*nt.

A notable event in 2023, 25 years after my first landing in Croatia, was the award of the Foreign Minister’s Commendation. The award ceremony took place on 13 September at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Zagreb. I am deeply grateful to all those who have always supported me.

Looking back on my activities in 2023 - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会 (3)

This time again I visited Vinkovci, a town in eastern Croatia. In the centre of the town I found a public library which had just opened in July, and by chance a piano had just been brought in from the music school for a particular concert. I was so impressed by the facilities that I suddenly decided to give a concert there. Despite the 1-2 days’ notice, many people came, and after the concert we had a party to celebrate the 15th anniversary of my visit to Vinkovci, my 10th concert there, and the award of the Foreign Minister’s Commendation. The day before, I also gave a lecture at the Vinkovci Gymnasium and enjoyed interacting with students.

One of the things that surprised me during my stay in Croatia this time was the growing interest in Dora Pejačević. Until recently, she was introduced as an “Croatian unknown composer”, but in 2023, the centenary of her death, she was introduced as a “Croatian famous composer”, with documentaries about her works and life being broadcast and symposiums held.

Travelling abroad always brings troubles. This time I sprained my back just before checking-in at Narita airport and barely made it to Zagreb. From concert negotiations to tour coordination and performances, I do everything myself, so I’m very busy before and during the tour. Also, I often have to lift heavy luggage, so the strain on my back must have accumulated. When my back had recovered, I fell and injured my knee and couldn’t go outside for four days. It was a reminder of how the slightest carelessness can lead to terrible accidents and how important it is to have a relaxed schedule.

Finally, I would like to thank the EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee for their generous support to my activities. I hope to continue building bridges between Japan and Croatia through piano performances.

Looking back on my activities in 2023 - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会 (2024)
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