It was Sept. 6, 2008, when I saw Seiji Ozawa on stage for the first time. It was at the concert space that is now known as Kissei Bunka Hall in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. I took my seat near the back, the lights dimmed and there he was at the podium. His performance was magnetic.

For years, I had only ever seen this legendary conductor on television, but the way he threw his body into leading the orchestra before him had me — and the sold-out crowd of 2,000 — transfixed. This was the first time I experienced the music of the Saito Kinen Orchestra live.

The following spring, I was assigned to cover the 2009 Saito Kinen Festival for The Japan Times. In those days, access to Ozawa was limited. However, thanks to the assistance of the maestro’s former manager, Moto Hirasa, I was off to Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, to see Ozawa live for a second time. It was as wonderful as before, but on this occasion I was going to be able to meet the maestro in person, which only added to the rush of adrenaline I felt from watching the show.