Wednesday, May 10, 2006


My father-in-law Kodaira Keiji (Keiji Kodaira in the Western style), who is descended from a long line of samurai, and about whom I posted earlier when he did his Beiju ceremony, will be 91 years old in October. In addition to having been a teacher and principal all his working life, he is a woodcarver, athlete, painter, calligraphist, writer, pianist, theatre director, actor and mountain climber, though he sticks to the flatlands these days, where he lives with wife Kazuko, who will be 90 this year.

I'd known from before I met him that Keiji was a renaissance man, and I was impressed when he became the second oldest person ever to get a college degree in Japan (at 80). But I was amazed to learn, when my wife Etsuko returned from a recent visit to her parent's house in Nagano, that for the past 50 or more years Keiji has been composing old-style Japanese songs, with lyrics.

Even more amazing was the fact that he and his younger brother Kozo, a stripling of 85, had, completely by themselves, on computers and using complex music and printing software, cut and burned a CD selection of Keiji's songs, engineered and vocally introduced by Kozo, with Keiji introducing the collection and doing all the illustrations for the cover and disc labels, the latter including a photo of the smiling composer with his Imperial medal for honored public service.

Keiji wrote the music during his travels as a teacher and in later years, about scenes and moments in his life and experience. It's called 'Pampas-Grass Field: 38 Years in a Teaching Life,' and was produced under his artistic name, Kofunami Koichi (roughly, Rainbow Viewing from a Small Boat). The music is evocative of Japanese times past, and is lovely to have playing; I'm listening now, to half a century and more ago...

The disc also includes a Keiji-illustrated complete songbook! As Kozo says in the introduction, it took them two months, working day and night (not counting the 50+ years) to do Volume 1, and they have just completed Volume 2 (50 copies each, for relatives and friends)! I am astonished on many levels. Even if I knew how to write music and had been composing for half a century, I'd still have to live another 25 years before I could even begin to do the same; heartening stuff for a boy of 65!

That's another great thing well-lived elders do: besides setting examples as they lead the way, they raise the bar.


[It was my honor to have this (in slightly different form) posted earlier as a guest blog on Ronni Bennett's Time Goes By.]


Tabor said...

I missed the post on Ronnie's blog so I feel very lucky to have read this one. I love so much stories about people who help show me the way!

Anonymous said...

Inspirational stuff.(Very!)I can only live in hope.

Mary Lou said...

WOw, What a wonderful Legacy for your Grandchildren!! Not to mention for you and Echo. Kinda humbles you huh?

Joy Des Jardins said...

Loved it at Ronni' it here. An amazing man...and, I think he's pretty lucky to have you as a son-in-law.