The man responsible for me coming to Japan, Dr. Tomoyuki Endo, came to present at the Nisshin forum on Friday night, the 12th of April. I originally met Dr. Endo, a Hemotologist at Hokkaido University, when he came to do research in the same lab I was working at in San Diego, California.
At his welcome party there, I learned that he loved music and could play jazz and blues piano. So I invited him over to my house one Saturday and we had an all-day jam session. We became very close friends after that. And when his wife and daughter came to join him there, they invited me over for dinner at least twice a month where they introduced me to Japanese food, culture, and hanafuda. (we were often joined by Dr. Abe who always seemed to win no matter how much sake he drank)
It was thanks to this friendship that I decided to study Japanese and to eventually move to Hokkaido. However, because Dr. Endo is in Sapporo, we don’t get to see each other as often as we did when we lived in San Diego. Thus, his coming to present at the Nisshin Forum was all the more special.
In addition to his work as a Hemotologist, for the past few years, Dr. Endo has been working on issues regarding HIV and AIDS. Believe it or not, Japan has an HIV problem, especially in rural Hokkaido where the number of reported cases is doubling every year. Dr. Endo and his team at Hokkaido Univ. are trying to combat this by traveling around Hokkaido and giving presentations to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. This talk at Nisshin was a part of that effort.
Since it is so rare that Dr. Endo and I can meet, and because Nisshin Cafe just happens to have a well tuned upright piano, we decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a short jam session. So, after Dr. Endo’s talk, we played a few tunes along with dentist and precussionist, Dr. Suetsugu. The power of music is extraordinary. I think that by ending his talk with music, we succeeded in simultaneously reducing the tension over such a grave topic as HIV, and also made the whole experience more memorable to all those that attended.
After the performance, many people stayed on for long evening of eating, drinking and excellent discussions on social norms and taboos regarding human sexuality in different countries in the world. Aversion to such topics in Japan is certainly a major contributing factor in HIV proliferation here. I hope a way can be found to raise awareness on such an important public health issue while not disrupting the balance of Japan’s unique and beautiful culture. Perhaps music can serve an important purpose in this endeavor.
Thank you so much to Dr. Hwang and his family for your wonderful hospitality and making an event like this possible. You guys are incredible!