A rehearsal scene. The conductor, Mr. Yamagami, had two years experience in Detmord, Germany
The Toranomon Symphonic Orchestra has two regular concerts annually and the members participate in the training camp which is held a few weeks before every concert. Since we have limited time for our weekly rehearsal and many of the members cannot have enough time for private practice, training camps are very important for brushing up our playing skill. Of course, training camps are organized in a rural town and provide us with good chances for relaxing in the nature and knowing each other better, and thus facilitate good ensemble :-)

Our camps take place in a "min-shuku" (Japanese style pension). In recent years some pensions have equipped themselves with large training spaces, heavy music instruments such as timpani and contrabass and music stands, so that our burden for transport is drastically cut down. Daiken-kan, a pension where we usually stay, is one of such music pensions in a local town Iwai. Iwai is located on the Tokyo Bay side coast of Bo-so Peninsula and we need some two hours trip by train or car from Tokyo.

Usually, the camp starts in the Saturday afternoon. After three hours rehearsal we take an early supper and the evening rehearsal continues till 9:30 pm. Then the drink session starts and some sit up till next morning playing music or chatting with frieds.

The accommodation is typically Japanese. We are allocated to separate tatami (straw mat) rooms in groups of 4 to 5 persons. Bed making is self-service. We have to make our bed and put away the bedding by ourselves.

Hi buddy ! Let's drink till morning !
We take supper and breakfast sitting on the floor of big tatami rooms. Meals are also self-service. Each of us, irrespective of age and gender, takes rice and miso soup from big pots and volunteers prepare green tea. After the meal we also cooperate to clean the dining room.

Such practice facilitates comradeship among the members of the orchestra ... sometimes we say "comrades who have eaten rice from the same pot" ... and contributes to the reduction of expense as well;-) We can also feel as if we are still students, though our actual school days were long time ago.

The evening party, or drink session, is the highlight of the camp. Many of us join the training camp, because we can drink and chat without worrying about the schedule of commuter trains. Middle aged businessmen or retired people also enjoy the getting together just like small children enjoying picnic and the party continues till dawn.

The biggest problem of a training camp, at least for me, exists after the evening spree. If you fails to fall asleep in time, you have to struggle with roaring snore of your roommates. As I had feared, I could sleep this time only poorly and intermittently and I finally gave up to sleep further at 5:50 am and went to the rehearsal room for the early practice ;-(

The camp ends with the "barbecue" party.

Saori-chan poses with V sign next to her young mom.
The next generation is growing !
Anyhow, a sleepless night can never damage the pleasure of camping. An early morning stroll on the beach and in the village is delightful and refreshing !

After an additional rehearsal for a few hours, we ended our official program. While we usually break up there and leave for home, the organizers this time planed an extra "barbecue party" in the courtyard of the pension.

Two big fireplaces were made with charcoal and a large iron plate and a grid were placed on top of them for cooking.
Then beef, pork, horse mackerel, sausage, and different kinds of vegetable were roasted with the help of the people of the pension. At last sweet potatoes were put onto the charcoal fire ! Our little participant, Saori-chan, was fascinated by this party.

In our orchestra, which by now exists some 30 years, we already have the second generation members. The mom of Saori-chan was 20 years young when she joined the orchestra and now Saori-chan already plays the sonata of Eccles beautifully with her violin. It would not be long before she comes to the training camp as a formal member of the orchestra :-)