I am Miu Igai, and I study engineering at Nagoya University. I started playing the banjo when I entered university, and I have played it for almost three years.

We do not have any classes on bluegrass at our university. We practice after school as an extracurricular activity.

There are five or six university bluegrass clubs in Japan with 10 or more members. One of them is our Nagoya University Bluegrass Circle. Next year will be our 20th year in existence, and we currently have a total of 50 members from first-year to fourth-year college students and over 100 alumni.

Most of us learned about bluegrass when we joined the club and played bluegrass instruments for the first time. We participate in a variety of events throughout the year and get to know bluegrass. Here is an introduction to our daily routine and the events we participate in.

We have access to a practice room three times a week, and we gather freely. We practice individually or get together as a band to practice. We listen to songs on YouTube, etc., and transcribe sheet music and lyrics. Even if you have never played an instrument before, our seniors will teach new circle members carefully.

There are also club-led events. We have a school festival in June and a regular concert in December every year. The public, even those who have never heard of bluegrass music, come to these events, which motivates the members. Some bands also rent a live music venue and perform live music.

We also have camps in summer and winter. At the summer camp, we get together with bluegrass clubs from other universities and deepen exchanges. We also have workshops for each instrument. Sometimes we play mini-games and sometimes we have jam sessions throughout the night.

Next, there are outside events. In Japan there are many bluegrass festivals throughout a year. We often attend the Takarazuka Bluegrass Festival, which is the oldest, and the Gifu Mountain Time Festival, which is the next oldest. Bluegrassers from all over Japan get together and interact with each other. These opportunities are very stimulating for us. We also go to bluegrass festivals organized by other universities.

There are many other people who continue to play bluegrass while working, after graduating from the club. Therefore, some events are held by alumni. Tsuruma Park Bluegrass Music Fest, the biggest bluegrass event in Nagoya, is held every May, and alumni sometimes help organize it. In addition, alumni hold regular concerts in the winter. Some alumni bands perform at live houses around the country.

These are our main activities. Playing bluegrass in Japan is often difficult, but we have a lot of fun playing bluegrass. Thank you for your interest.

Links to more bluegrass info in Japan:  https://www.bluegrassinjapan.com/university-circles, https://www.bluegrassinjapan.com/

RETURN to the October 2023 issue of The Cornerstone.