• Kyodo News

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Nobuyuki Tsujii, a blind Japanese pianist who is sharing the first prize from the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, is relieved to be back home.

The 20-year-old pianist who says he rarely cries said tears welled up in his eyes when he won the Van Cliburn prize on June 7.

The achievement has triggered a rush of orders for his recordings, and his concert dates are all sold out.

About 10,000 copies of his CD “Debut” had been sold in the 1 1/2 years since it went on sale, but the prestigious prize more than doubled that number in just one day.

“There are only a few occasions where people pay so much attention to classical music,” said an employee in charge of Tsujii’s CDs at the record group Avex.

Tsujii, who was born blind, seems bewildered by the fuss.

“Although I am blind, I am satisfied as I can see with mental eyes,” he said. His next objective is to become a “pianist of high caliber.”

“I would like people to listen to my performance just as a pianist,” he said.

Tsujii, born in Tokyo, was late in learning how to walk and speak. But while he was still crawling at the age of 27 months, he was also learning to play his toy piano.

He never felt comfortable without a piano nearby.

While traveling overseas, Tsujii heard a piano at a shopping center and approached it, hoping to play it and a sales clerk let him try it.

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