Maeda-san - master violin maker

Maeda-san in his atelier
Maeda-san is the second violin soloist in the Suginami Philharmonic Orchestra, where I now play viola. First of all, Maeda-san is my best drinking companion in the orchestra. Even when I can not find any other orchestra member for drinking after rehearsal, he is always available and willing. Maeda-san is in his mid-70s, but always fit for drinking, which is really amazing. It seems true that he has some problems with his liver, because I sometimes see him taking a small pill to decrease GOT and GPT values. Nevertheless, he does not give up drinking and impresses me with his firm resolution to continue drinking - a sort of samurai spirit!

Maeda-san on the concert stage together with concert mistress Sugiyama-sensei and Kumagai-san. They are both our good drinking companions.
In fact, Maeda-san's ancestors were feudal lords in Kanazawa. Lords Maeda reigned over the territory of Kaga assessed at 1 million koku (about 60kg) rice and were the greatest daimyo only next to Tokugawa Shogun during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Without knowing this, I once boasted that my family was given its family name from a lord Maeda, whereby we were allowed to use the latter part of his family name "da" together with its Chinese character. As my great-grand fathers owned ships to transport rice and other products along the coast of Japan, they might have earned enough money to contribute to the finance of the Maeda han(*) and received such a privilege in return. Hearing this explanation Maeda-san suddenly changed his attitude to me and said "Then, you must be my vassal! Lower your head!"
"Han" is equivalent with duchy.
Anyhow, violin play is just a hobby for Maeda-san. His is not a professional violin player but a violin maker. Maeda-san first learned violin making in Japan and opened an atelier, but went to London and worked at J & A Beare for three years to elaborate his skills and techniques. His son studied in Cremona two decades later and joined him. Now, Atelier Maeda is run by two masters.

As an amateur violinist/violist I need a good violin maker for the maintenance of instruments and I am really lucky that I could meet Maeda-san in an amateur orchestra. Though Maeda-san is a very friendly person, he does not appear to be talented in business. He is instead an honest and able craftsman. His work is careful, quick and fine. For example, Maeda-san completes rehairing in about half an hour. The length of hair is carefully decided so that the bow can work at its best condition. Detail works are clean and beautiful. While changing hair, he cleans the bow caked with rosin and dust. When new hair is set he gives it a little moisture and carefully rubs resin into it, so that the bow can immediately produce the best tones. For the excellent work he demands only 4,500 yen (50 dollars).

Maeda-san in a bar; I don't know what gesture he now makes.
My violin has always a trouble with the adhesion of top plate and ribs on the right side of the neck. This is because I sweat a lot and my sweat soaked left hand always touches this part of violin. Many violin makers could not solve the trouble to my satisfaction. But Maeda-san did it. He also cured the malfunctioning frog of one of my bows quite easily. He gives me many other useful advices and I can nowadays use my violin in the best condition.

The fassade of Maeda-san's atelier
As his atelier is located near one of the best known music schools of Japan "Toho Gakuen School of Music", many prominent Japanese string players were his clients when they were young. As for violinists, Tokyo University of the Arts nowadays nurtures better talents. However, Toho Gakuen used to bring up many internationally acknowledged artists including Yuzuko Horigome (Winner of Queen Elisabeth Music Competition 1980), Akiko Suwanai (Winner of International Tchaikovsky Competition 1990) and Mayuko Kamio (Winner of International Tchaikovsky Competition 1997).

I wish all the best to Maeda-san as a good violin maker, a proficient amateur violinist and a good drinking companion for me.