Frederic Chopin and piano music lovers in Japan

Frederic Chopin is one of the most favored and beloved composers in Japan. You can listen to his music in many places, such as department store, lobby of hotels, museums, as well as TV commercials and film music. Especially, Heroic Polonaise, Fantaisie-Impromptu, or several etudes like Revolutionary, Black key and Tristesse are quite common for general public. This tendency may come from their preference to the piano. Here in Japan, learning piano is one of the most popular subjects for children. You can find a lot of piano schools for children in every place. Some of the children practice the piano very hard dreaming they can someday play Chopin’s music. Because of these education backgrounds, there are a lot of adults who are not professional but who can play the piano. Of course, Chopin is still the most favored composers even for those amateur pianists. Generally, they like Chopin’s matured pieces such as Ballade, Scherzo, and Barcarole, and surprisingly some of the talented people play those pieces as good as professional pianist!

Not only playing, but listening to Chopin’s music is also big pleasure for Japanese people. Professional pianists try to include Chopin’s pieces in their recitals because it is very important to promote the concert, and get much more audience.

Here is a small investigation how Japanese people love Chopin. There is a famous SNS in Japan called “mixi”. All the users in the SNS can become a member of their favorite category’s community. So it can be said that the number of community member approximately shows its popularity. And I was surprised how beloved Chopin is! Here is the result. (As of 25/09/2011)

- Frederic Chopin (21201)

- Sergei Rachmaninoff (13425)

- Johann Sebastian Bach (11462)

- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (9766)

- Claude Debussy (9664)

- Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (8227)

- Franz Liszt (7861)

- Ludwig Van Beethoven (7763)

Now you can understand how Chopin is loved in Japan.

Let’s be back to the Chopin’s concert. One of the most well-known Japanese pianist Yukio Yokoyama who is a 3rd prize winner at 12th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition (1990) astonished people to succeed in the concert to play 166 Chopin’s piece in a day in 2010. This performance got prestigious Guinness world record. But it’s not the end. The next year, just after the terrible tragedy of the earthquake, he played all the Chopin’s 212 pieces in a day and broke his own record again. This concert required almost 18 hours, and surprisingly a lot of Chopin music lovers were at the concert hall from the beginning to the end!

As they such love Chopin’s music, they are all looking forward to the Chopin Competition held every five years. It is a well-known fact that many Japanese fans visit Warsaw and enjoy this competition. In 2010, Chopin Competition broadcasted all the performance through the Internet. Even though there is eight hours time difference, a lot of Japanese fans watched the Competition all through the night. That’s why becoming a winner of Chopin Competition makes huge success in Japan. The typical pianist is Stanislav Bunin who is a winner of the competition in 1985. The phenomenon was called “Bunin fever”. He pulled a lot of people into classical music and now he becomes one of the most famous pianists in Japan. What you should not forget about recent Chopin Competition is Alexei Sultanov. He was a star at the competition in 1995 and soon become a legend in Japan. He had many concerts after the competition and all of them are successful. Unfortunately this talented pianist passed away in 2005, but his enthusiastic fans are still very supportive for his music as well as his family, having a memorial concert every year. Other winners such as Yundi Li and Rafal Blechacz also have a lot of fans in Japan.

As Chopin’s music is loved, Japanese people keep having their interest in Poland. Some people visit Warsaw to know Chopin a lot more, and other people visit Poland to study music. Hopefully the friendship between Poland and Japan will keep forever because of this greatest composer, Fredric Chopin.


Yusuke Murakami