The future seen through direct dialogue - the importance of set-ting realistic goals - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

The future seen through direct dialogue – the importance of set-ting realistic goals

Hiromitsu Shimamoto|Director, Senda Pan Flute Choir

The first thing that struck me was the difference between the expressions on the participants’ faces when they departed and when they returned home. The expressions on the faces of each team member were full of confidence and showed clear signs of growth. This expression convinced me that this visit had been a success.

In 2020, Novi Sad 2021 (Serbia) and Timișoara 2021-2023, two European Capitals of Culture invited us to attend their programme. However, it took three years for us to make our visit happen. During that time, we have had to deal with numerous difficulties and problems. At one point, the management of Senda Pan Flute Choir was even in question.

In the midst of the obstacles, I had almost given up many times.  However, as a director of the choir, I made myself to keep going.  The choir originally started as an extra-curricular activity of Senda Elementary School, therefore parents, and the local community had a strong perception that it was just a part of school education. This meant that the choir had difficulties from the beginning in getting a support to raise funds for its management.

In addition to this circumstance, the COVID pandemic made it no longer possible for us to use the music room at the school. So the days of searching for a venue to practice began. In 2020, we changed the name of the choir from ‘Senda Elementary School Choir’ to ‘Senda Pan Flute Choir’. It expanded the scope of membership to include all young people living in Hiroshima City. In the same year, we were invited to Novi Sad 2021 (Serbia) and Timișoara 2021-2023, the European Capitals of Culture. Looking back today, I strongly believe that this invitation has undoubtedly been a savior for Senda Pan Flute Choir.

What I felt most strongly during my visit was the importance of direct dialogue and interaction. With the COVID pandemic, times have become increasingly “tech” oriented and remote interaction and exchange is used more and more throughout society.  Tech tools are certainly convenient, and I am not denying that.

However, I believe that music should be felt on the spot, in real time, using all five (or six) senses of the body. For this reason, I have always insisted on live performance, not only in the performances of Senda Pan Flute Choir, but also in my own.

I am confident that this has been proven by this trip. During the pandemic, we had an  opportunity for some online exchange programme with other countries through another organiser. I can say that we have had some cultural exchanges, but nothing else more has been achieved.

International Youth Concert in Novi Sad ©︎ Senda Pan Flute Choir

The Novi Sad 2021 (Serbia) and Timișoara 2021-2023 took us to a completely different dimension. The International Music Festival for Youth as well as the rehearsals and the music we played during the exchange, everything stimulated all my senses. It was a ‘Live and Life’ for me. Every day of the 12 days was full of excitement. I am 65 years old and I was so inspired that it changed my perspective on life and the way I live. I am certain it goes without saying how valuable the experience was for the younger members in the group.

Another thing that I felt during the visit was the compassion and kindness of the local people. It was hard for the choir members to cope with the new environment. They had a high fever one after another. Fortunately, it was not a serious infectious disease, but they caused a lot of inconvenience to the local host schools, homestay families and local office staff. I would like to express my sincere apologies and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their warm-hearted and courteous support. All the local people were very considerate and kind to the choir members. If we had welcomed a group of young people from these cities in Hiroshima and found ourselves in a situation like this, we wondered many times whether we would be able to respond with such sincerity like we received. We are truly grateful. The compassion and kindness of the people of Novi Sad and Timișoara that I felt there has made me seriously consider how the people of the Republic of Serbia and Romania are thinking and acting in the current turbulent world situation. I feel that this change in me would never have happened in my lifetime if I had not shared my thoughts and feelings directly with the local people and interacted with them.

Looking at the world, it is no exaggeration to say that the ever-changing world situation and climate change, which seems to be associated with global warming, are truly a time of trials and decisions for mankind.

You may wonder what you, as a single person, can do about the world’s escalating problems. However, if we give up, all will be lost. I believe that I have learnt what I can do now as a human being during my visits to Novi Sad and Timișoara.

I believe that what I can and should do is to let as many young people as possible, who will lead the next generation, experience “direct dialogue: actually interacting with more people and experiencing empathy and sharing”. I feel that my visits to Novi Sad and Timișoara, have been a ‘starting point’. I have come to feel that it is my mission to help as many young people of the next generation as possible to realise direct exchange with as many people as possible.

Project report and concert ©︎ Senda Pan Flute Choir

I am a powerless person with no political influence nor economic influence. That is why there is so much more I can do. I feel it is my mission to support the next generation of young people so that they can have the opportunity to meet and get to know as many people as possible through direct face-to-face contact and direct local travel.

Finally, I would like to thank Shuzo Sumi, Chairman of EU – Japan Fest Japan Committee, Shuji Kogi, Secretary General, for their constant advice and moral support during this trip; Saori Hakoda, Program Director for her many visits to Hiroshima and her advice; Yuko Hasegawa, Director of Administration, everyone at Secretarial Division, Planning and General Affairs Bureau, and Green Policy Division, Greening Promotion Department, Bureau of Municipal Development, City of Hiroshima; Reiko Hara for her help and support in Lithuania in May; and many people who helped me during this trip. We would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation to all those who made Senda Pan Flute Choir’s visit to European Capitals of Culture Novi Sad 2021-2022 (Serbia) and Timișoara 2021-2023 (Romania) possible.