This is my final Tokyo post, but maybe the most significant! The reason we went to Tokyo last month was to see the benefit concert that my grandmother chairs to benefit the Third World… she’s been doing it for decades, since she lived in Japan as an Ex-Pat for 30ish years.
This year, part of the proceeds also went towards domestic relief and tsunami recovery. The group is called the Japan Volunteer Center and they aim to raise $100,000 from two concerts, one in Tokyo and one in Osaka, and all the money goes to the neediest of the needy: benefitting their projects in places like Cambodia, Laos, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Sudan. They rotate doing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Handel’s Messiah between the locations. Both are stunning pieces–if you’ve never heard them, you should make an effort to find a performance next year.
You can see my grandmother quite easily–she’s the only toehead in the bunch, far left. And that brings me to the subject of this post: getting outside of the ‘ex-Pat’ bubble and making friends with locals.
This photo includes all of my grandmother’s best friends at the concert after-party… and as you can tell… they’re all very Japanese. My grandparents both adore Japan and I think very much miss it in their retired years. And I think the key to their happiness there is that they made very good Japanese friends. Not only do local people truly open your perspective and help you really appreciate a place and culture, but they also don’t come and go every six months like ex-Pats tend to do!
My grandmother brings foreign soloists to Japan for two weeks to sing at the concerts… here she is bowing her thanks to them. It’s very cool how her whole life’s ministry is truly about bringing about world peace, not just by helping the needy with donations to the third world, but by bringing different cultures together in the process.
This year her soloists were from Germany and the US… and as you can see they really love my grandmother!!
The whole choir was beyond ecstatic the whole day long! They really loved performing and being a part of something so beautiful–and for such a good cause! It really amazes me how much the Japanese love Western classical music and how us Westerners seem to have lost our appreciation of it and so they’re the ones keeping it alive!
Despite my protests, my grandmother roped me in to say a few words about the Bake Sale I co-hosted last year for Japan here in Hong Kong. Her example is making me think long and hard about what local charitable ventures I can get involved with here in Hong Kong and is also making me very thankful for the local friends I have been able to make! I’ll be the first to say that sometimes it’s not easy crossing over “the cultural barrier” (it can definitely be awkward at times) but it is worth the effort. And hopefully with a little persistence I’ll be able to make a few more local friends in the Year of the Dragon!