Concertinas in Japan

On my first night I found myself in The Hartford Café, an Aladdin’s cave of vinyl in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Prompted by a photo of my Wheatstone the owner, Mr Yanagisawa, disappeared behind the bar and emerged triumphantly with a John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris album. This was followed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger’s “Manchester Angel” and “A Tale of Ale”, a Free Reed recording of British drinking songs.

My next face-to-face encounter was with a Lachenal Anglo sitting proudly in a museum display cabinet in Nagasaki. The museum was housed in a former dock house of the Mitsubishi Company, which had once been used for sailors’ lodgings.

But my best concertina encounter by far – and an absolute highlight of my holiday – was a meeting with Miho Tohmatsu (Mipo when she performs) and Minako Orikasa, two keen English concertina players from Tokyo. I first saw Miho playing on YouTube and wrote to suggest a meeting. As a player for six years, Miho enjoys traditional music, from both Japan and Europe as well as composing her own work. Miho informed me that concertinas were very popular at one time in Japan, as market traders would hope that their playing would attract customers and differentiate themselves from the more common accordion playing. Minako enjoys European traditional music, with music from Ireland being a particular favourite. We spent a very memorable afternoon playing tunes and recordings in a sunny park and we’ve continued to share music over the past few weeks. There’ll be an interview with Miho in a forthcoming ICA newsletter. In the meantime, you can enjoy her playing one of her own compositions with her musical collaborator, Macky.