Finding Community Through Music and Food
photos by Jeremy Dubs
When we dropped in to Niseko Negula we had no idea that we were not only going to be staying at a great pension (a pension is a cross between a nice hostel and a bed and breakfast) location but that we were about to become a part of Negula’s fantastic community itself too. Wataru (the owner) initially impressed us by being a warm and welcoming person and then surprised us by being a great musician with extremely musically-gifted friends as well.
Twice now we’ve had nights that have ended in full-blown group music jams; where staff and guests alike are dancing, playing music and laughing together. Both times they’ve happened directly following a meal Colby prepared in the kitchen for everyone, all-in-all being a real community event.
We were each sitting around in the Negula common room, finishing the last bits of delicious yakisoba, mashed potatoes, cabbage salad or fried chicken (depending on which meal night it was) and then Yui (or Masato, or Yasue) sat down in front of a mic with an instrument and simply started jamming out.
The first night Yui and his wife Maico played a beautiful set that included renditions of a few Beatles songs, some tunes sung in japanese and a mongolian song that as far as has been explained to us is meant to mean anything from Happy Birthday to wishing someone good health in general. Once the music started up, everyone who could grab an instrument and play coherently did so.
The second night, Masato and Keita grabbed guitars and began playing that same Mongolian good-health song. I think they played it about four different times; I’m not too confident Masato knows any other songs on guitar (which was actually a great thing, because none of us knew the song at first but by the end of their session we’d all learned the words and were singing along. I was loving it). From there, Yuki (a visiting/traveling musician) grabbed his violin, blew us all away with his talents on that stringed instrument and the rest, they say, is history.
I don’t know how long we played for each night, but it was nothing short of at least an hour, though you had no idea what kind of time was passing. We were a group of American, Australian, Cambodian, Japanese and more, having the best time we possibly could. Everywhere you looked there were ecstatic ear-to-ear grins. People couldn’t help but clap or sing along when they caught the tune. Being in a foreign country where communication is limited to fragments of either english or japanese, it’s amazing the type of connection you can feel with others when you’re laughing and creating music together.
I think it’s safe to say these nights of gathering for delicious food creating spectacular music together have added more depth to our experience out here in Niseko, Japan. We’re approximately 5,000 miles from the closest place any one of us might call home, but with things like this being a part of our trip, that distance hasn’t been too much of a problem for us being able to relax and feel right at home out here.
Until Next Time!