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Monday, 01 May 2006

Guest Blogger: Robert Brady

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Long before Time Goes By made its debut in 2004, I was reading Pure Land Mountain by Robert Brady, an American who has made his home in Japan for decades. I only recently discovered that he is a published poet and that makes sense - even his prose is lyrical as you will see in this story, Cutting and Burning at 90, that he graciously agreed to do to fill in for me while I'm in Maine this week.]

My father–in-law Kodaira Keiji (Keiji Kodaira in the Western style), who is descended from a long line of samurai, and about whom I posted earlier when he did his Beiju ceremony, will be 91 years old in October. In addition to having been a teacher and principal all his working life, he is a woodcarver, athlete, painter, calligraphist, pianist, theatre director, actor and mountain climber, though he sticks to the flatlands these days, where he lives with wife Kazuko, who will be 90 this year.

I’d known from before I met him that Keiji was a renaissance man, and I was impressed when he became the second oldest person ever to get a college degree in Japan (at 80). But I was amazed to learn, when my wife Etsuko returned from a recent visit to her parent’s house in Nagano, that for the past 50 or more years Keiji has been composing old-style Japanese songs, with lyrics.

Even more amazing was the fact that he and his younger brother Kozo, a stripling of 85, had, completely by themselves, on computers and using complex music and printing software, cut and burned a CD selection of Keiji’s songs, engineered and vocally introduced by Kozo, with Keiji introducing the collection and doing all the illustrations for the cover and disc labels, the latter including a photo of the smiling composer with his Imperial medal for honored public service.

Keiji wrote the music during his travels as a teacher and in later years, about scenes and moments in his life and experience. It’s called Pampas-Grass Field: 38 Years in a Teaching Life, and was produced under his artistic name, Kofunami Koichi (roughly, Rainbow Viewing from a Small Boat). The music is evocative of Japanese times past, and is lovely to have playing; I’m listening now, to half a century and more ago…

The disc also includes a Keiji-illustrated complete songbook! As Kozo says in the introduction, it took them two months, working day and night (not counting the 50+ years) to do Volume 1, and they have just completed Volume 2 (50 copies each, for relatives and friends)! I am astonished on many levels. Even if I knew how to write music and had been composing for half a century, I’d still have to live another 25 years before I could even begin to do the same; heartening stuff for a boy of 65!

That’s another great thing well-spent elders do: besides setting examples as they lead the way, they raise the bar.


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Your father-in-law, his brother and your wife give true meaning to the word "elder."

I am so pleased to read this story here, since finding the link to your blog here at TGB.

I would be remiss if I did not say you have a post at your blog called "Face Alive" (4/27/06) which I found to be extraordinary, about what I characterize as the language of faces as we age.

What an interesting story!
I love your conclusion: That’s another great thing well-spent elders do: besides setting examples as they lead the way, they raise the bar., in the case of your father-in-law and his brother, it is so true.
I discovered your blog and enjoyed very much the Beiju ceremony, of which I knew nothing.
Thanks to Ronni for having guest bloggers. It widens the circle.

Wow - what a lot of good wishes yesterday. Thank you all so much.

I'm at a different hotel this time and they have a free public computer/internet access, so I can easily check in. Nice not to be cut off this time. (Does that mean I'm spending way too much time online :-)

Again, thank you. You are the best.

Thank you Robert for filling in for Ronni here on "Time Goes By" I found your blog "Pure Land Mountain" via the links here and my days are enriched by your stories and poems.

Chancy

Discovering Pureland Mountain is uncovering infinite richness. I'm so glad I didn't miss it!
lucyd

Robert, what an amazing man your father-in-law is. I imagine you've had some pretty interesting times with him...never a dull moment...or conversation. Another terrific post...as I've come to expect; and you never let me down. Thanks Bob.

Robert, this post is so rich that when I finished I went straight to your blog. There I read about collecting exotic mountain vegetables (and many other things, including white chihuahuas and such). A line I really liked is this: "Once you get to know them, trees are more instructive than books about trees."

Wow - what a story! I loved it, most refreshing thing I've read all day!

Thanks, Ronni, for the introduction!

What a lovely post! Thank you, Mr. Brady.

College degree at 80, hmm. How inspiring!

Thank you, folks, for all your kind comments. And thank you, Ronni, for the honor.

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