I am half-Japanese, half-white (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, to be more exact and more vague at the same time). I was very fortunate to go to junior high and high school at the American School in Japan, an international school in Tokyo. Not only was I able to experience Japanese culture first-hand, but I also was around many more half-Japanese people than I would have had we stayed in our small town in Massachusetts.
I went to high school with someone named Ko Umezaki. He was a couple of years ahead of me, played guitar in bands, had a beautiful girlfriend – I definitely looked up to him. I was good at picking stuff off of records but stuff that I couldn’t get he showed me (like the bass solo in Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato”). Somehow I played bass in his band his senior year (my sophomore) – it was a great gig except for the fact that we ended up wearing shorts for the Battle of the Bands.
This video features Ko on shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. Not only does it feature his music, but it also connects music, Buddhism, and the caves of Dunhuang. My mom loved the NHK series “The Silk Road” and the music by Kitaro – I remember watching it but it was only after discovering Buddhism in college and going to graduate school to study Buddhism and become a minister that I realized that the Silk Road was deeply Buddhist. There were also many mixed-race Buddhists in Central Asia at the time – monks such as Kumarajiva (344-413) are like role models to me now, much as Ko was when I was in high school. Kind of weird maybe to find a role model in someone who lived almost 2000 years ago, but I’ll take them where I can get them!