SAGA (Kyodo) A Saga Prefecture musician who performs “wankin” — a special way of playing music by hitting porcelain bowls so they resonate in musical notes — has ascended to stardom.
Requests for performances by Takashi Tsutsui are coming not only from local event organizers but from nationwide groups as well.
Tsutsui, 58, has another career. He is the tourism promotion chief in the town of Arita, Saga Prefecture, known for its Aritayaki porcelain products dating back to the 17th century.
By lining up 31 different types of bowls of the traditional brand on a table, with each tuned to resonate in a certain note, Tsutsui hits them with xylophone sticks to make music.
“Everybody has a memory from childhood in which he or she was scolded by mom for hitting rice bowls with chopsticks during dinner,” Tsutsui said. “This is an unusual way to play music but a good way to promote Aritayaki.”
Tsutsui said his most popular performance is Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” which has even caught the attention of German groups, who have requested performances.
The sound of wankin — a combination of “wan” (bowl) and “kin” (harp) — is considered by many people to be soothing.
Tsutsui started practicing wankin eight years ago after he received 14 Aritayaki bowls from the now deceased president of a local tile maker who had played the music by using his own tile products.
Tsutsui’s bowl collection has since expanded to 31 — enough to cover 2 1/2 octaves. However, he said, it has been hard to find bowls that resonate precisely in a desired frequency.
Even with the same shape, bowls don’t sound the same, the effect of subtle differences in production, he said. Tsutsui said he has tried nearly 5,000 bowls in his search for the right ones.
“Actually, some bowls are custom made,” he said.
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