Chapter II - The University Years
Akira Ifukube, 1933
In April 1932, Akira Ifukube began his studies in the Faculty of Agriculture at Hokkaido Imperial University in Sapporo; Isao had already been studying science and technology at the school by Akira's arrival. Atsushi Miura was also studying at this school.
Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido Imperial University.
Surely, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and diverse base of students at the university was exciting for the tall and handsome "country boy" who had grown up in the rural wilds of eastern Hokkaido. And although he was majoring in Forestry, the freshman took immediate interest in joining the school's locally well known symphony orchestra, which had been established in 1924. Ifukube auditioned to join the orchestra as a violinist and was immediately accepted. Ifukube's skills as violinist were so advanced, in fact, the he quickly became the concertmaster of the orchestra.
In October 1932, one of Isao's friends passed away due to lung complications. Isao, with his brother Akira, attended a commemorative gathering at the home of the deceased friend's mother. At this function, Akira made the acquaintance of fellow musician and music lover, also aged 18, who would eventually become one of his closest friends: Fumio Hayasaka.
Hayasaka was born on August 19, 1914 in Sendai in the eastern part of Honshu. He was born into a wealthy, art loving family and his mother played the piano. Surrounded by culture from birth, Hayasaka enjoyed painting and studying music. Due to his mother's influence, he was proficient keyboardist In 1918 the family fell on hard times and their wealth was depleted. The Hayasakas transferred to Sapporo and, in 1930, Fumio's father abandoned the family to be with his mistress. The next year, in 1931, Hayasaka's mother died leaving the 17-year old no choice but to give up his studies at the Hokkai Junior High School in Sapporo and work at a local laundry and printing company to support his younger brother and sister.  Despite the tremendous responsibility of having to support what was left of his family, and living in poverty, Hayasaka stayed as active as possible teaching himself music theory and playing instruments. He also aspired to be a composer. It was natural, then, that Ifukube and Hayasaka found much common.
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Being in Sapporo afforded Ifukube a chance to travel outside of Hokkaido. Hokkaido's capital enjoyed reliable train service to the Oshima Peninsula, the southernmost branch of the island. From the peninsula one could easily travel due south by boat across the Strait of Tsugaru to Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost area of Honshu. In the summer of 1932, Ifukube and a friend, being on summer vacation, traveled to Hirosaki in southwest Aomori to observe a famous local celebration called theNebuta festival. The purpose of this festival is to purge demons before the arrival of the fall harvest season. A primary feature of the event is a lantern-lit procession. The atmosphere of Nebuta, and certainly its distinctive music, deeply impressed Ifukube and he began thinking of writing an original piece of music based on his experiences at the festival.
© Erik Homenick. All rights reserved.
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