#8 Hideki Togi

The family of Gagaku player, Hideki Togi, has played Gagaku (ancient Japanese court music) for 1300 years. He served at the music department of Imperial Household Agency as a player of ancient Japanese instruments including Hichiriki and Biwa. He is devoted to introducing traditional Japanese culture not only in Japan but also abroad. His creativity lets him perform contemporary Gagaku music and he has gained popularity all over the world. In our interview, he talks about how fascinating Gagaku is and his passion for Gagaku.


Interview with Hideki Togi

– You spent your childhood in Thailand and Mexico due to your father’s work. Do you remember when and what kind of music did you start to listen to?.


I grew up by listening to various kinds of music. My father enjoyed listening to classic music, and I often heard Beethoven’s tunes at home. On the other hand, my mother listened musical songs and sound tracks, and sang nursery rhyme to me. Beetles’ songs were popular at my elementary school in Bangkok, which was uncommon at Japanese elementary schools. As such, I was surrounded by many kinds of music. Although I eventually became a musician, I have never learned to play instruments. All I have done so far is just enjoy music.

–The French ambassador in 2011 and your first performance abroad in Moscow in 2003 gave you chances to debut in Europe and Asia. What made you want to debut in the USA in 2012?


The year of 2012 marked the 100th anniversary since Japan gave cherry trees to Washington D.C as a token of friendship. Officials at the annual cherry blossom festival at Washington D.C. wanted to have an artist who represented Japan to play at the festival. I was nominated as a candidate through many connections, and was finally chosen. Apparently, one of the officials had seen and liked my performance of “Imagine” on YouTube.

I started to think that it would be a good idea to release my CD in the USA at the same time so that the audience at the festival could enjoy my music after the event. This led to my debut in the USA with my CD album “TOGI” in March 2012, which was a genuine debut in the USA since my CD was produced by Universal Music instead of an independent company or Universal Music Japan.

– What did you like to show and tell to Americans at your first concert in the USA?

Music has various styles, and the tunes and types of instruments of Shou (*1) and Hichiriki (*2) that I’m playing have not changed since 1300 years ago. I wanted Americans to recognize the power of Japanese culture and music, which have been preserved for such a long time.

When they think of Japanese ancient time, Japanese and Americans tend to think of the Edo era. However, the ancient time also includes various periods such as the world of myth, the life of aristocrats at Heian era and so on. Since Gagaku (*3) was started by aristocrats during the Heian era, their sense of beauty had a direct impact on Gagaku, which became the part of the origins of Japanese sense of beauty and Japanese mindset. I would like more people to know such a deep aspect of Japanese culture. Classic Gagaku occupies the most authentic part of Japanese traditional music, but I think it is hard to start listening to it due to its complexity although I love it. I perform contemporary music, of which the tunes of Shou and Hichiriki would be easily comfortable to your ears. So you can sta