Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS)早稲田大学 高等研究所


Studying environments for experiencing music: Hot spring resorts as a starting point
KASAI Amane, Assistant Professor

KASAI Amane, Assistant Professor

Focusing on music experiences in venues whose main purpose is not music appreciation

My research field is musicology. I am studying how music has been appreciated in Japan in the modern era and thereafter. Numerous studies have examined the ways in which music is appreciated at music venues such as concert halls and live music clubs. However, those are not the only places where music is enjoyed. We often hear music accidentally, for example, a Japanese drum performance in a shopping center; a train departure melody on a station platform; or musical doorbells at a convenience store. I am focusing on that kind of place, where appreciation of music is not the main purpose.

My relationship with music began at the age of two, when I started learning to play the piano. When I was in kindergarten, I was quite taken with the guitar, so I put rubber bands on a tissue box and played my instrument like guitar. Since a guitar is too big for a little girl, I was given a ukulele instead and I strummed it a lot. I have been eagerly seeking contact with music ever since; for example, I joined the handbell club in my Christian junior high school; I studied pipe organ and choral singing in extracurricular classes in high school; I joined the light music club where I played guitar in a band. When my high school music teacher taught me a variety of music genres that I didn’t know about, including world music, I started to want to study and think about music from a broader perspective, and I aspired to follow the path of musicology. After I entered university, while specializing in Japanese music history, I learned to play instruments including cembalo, erhu (a bowed two-stringed Chinese musical instrument) and shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese musical instrument), and I studied gagaku (ancient Japanese court music). I would like to try steel guitar in the future. I believe that musical experiences in various genres will be a good foundation for my study of musicology.

Exploring the relationship between music experiences at hot spring resorts and the space and form of the performance

Although music appreciation is not the main function of hot spring resorts, I chose them as a research topic as they are places where people often do hear music. A key factor of that choice was a book entitled, Japanese Hot Springs Depicted in Multi-colored Woodblock Printing that I read when I was a graduate student. In that book, edited by Kindayu Kogure and published by Kokusho Kankokai, I saw images of scenes of zashiki-gei (banquet entertainment), with people singing songs and playing shamisen at hot springs.

How do people appreciate music at hot spring resorts, which are typically venues where people usually only hear music by chance? I began by exploring the performance spaces, such as the stage and the audience seating. Performances in hot spring resorts are often offered in places where people can easily come and go, such as hotel lobbies, event spaces, and banquet halls, as shown in Figures 1 and 2. That kind of performance is also characterized by the fact that such spaces are often open, with no partition between the stage and adjacent facilities such as hot spring baths or souvenir shops.

Fig. 1. left: the Yumomi show, in an open space set up near the souvenir shop (Hotel Sakurai at Kusatsu Hot Spring); right: a brass quartet playing in front of the reception (Yorokobino Yado Takamatsu, Kusatsu Hot Spring)

Fig. 2. A meeting hall is used as the venue for a show: the tables are lined up so that people can eat and drink during the performance, and the seats are arranged so that the audience do not face the stage (Sago Royal Hotel at Kanzanji Hot Spring).

The environment of the audience seating is a factor that influences how people listen to music. In “places where appreciating music is the main purpose” (for example, at a classical music concert venue), if you cough, the people around you will react in a somewhat critical manner, and a sort of peer pressure tends to arise among the audience which enforces “appropriate behavior.” On the other hand, in the audience seating at a hot spring resort, the spectators gathered there have differing motivations, since they range from enthusiastic fans of the performers to hot spring guests just passing by, so there is no particular assumption by the spectators as to how they should listen. In such a situation, an environment is created that allows “distracted listening” behavior, characterized by such aspects as coming and going freely, conversing freely, and eating and drinking freely.

As for the content of entertainment at hot spring resorts, the performances tend to be presented in revue style, a combination of short excerpts from songs, dances, and performances of a wide range of genres including classical performing arts, folk performing arts, folk music, classical music, jazz, and pop music, designed to make it easy for newcomers to understand. The Takarazuka Revue, which introduced revue style in Japan, originated from the entertainment for the Takarazuka New Hot-Spring.

Taking the above approach, I am working to examine the interaction between performance space/form and the musical experience: the open structure of the stage and the audience seating at hot spring resorts creates a listening environment that tends to be free and distracted, and the performance is structured so that anyone who happens to be present in that environment can enjoy it.

Future research: How have the images of Japanese hot springs and Hawaii come to be connected?

Some hot spring resorts in Japan promote images such as “Hawaii in Japan” or “Hawaii in the Orient,” as seen in the cases of the Spa Resort Hawaiians at Iwaki Yumoto hot spring in Fukushima Prefecture; the Hawaii hot spring in Tottori Prefecture; and Ibusuki hot spring in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Although it seems there is no connection, what is the origin of the association between Japanese hot springs and Hawaii? Previous studies have shown that an image of Hawaii as a “yearned-for paradise” evoking exoticism and nostalgia was used in the creation of a hot spring site as a resort. There are many examples of the use of auditory renditions when culture is borrowed or transplanted from another region to a tourist site. In that light, I would like to focus on Hawaiian music now and engage in research to determine how the image of Hawaii has come to be established in hot springs in Japan.

Interview and composition: Keiko Aimono
In cooperation with: Waseda University Graduate School of Political Science J-School

Page Top
WASEDA University