YONEKAWA Toshiko, living national treasure.|
By TOKUMARU Yosihiko
Born 1913 in Himezi city, Hyogo prefecture, as the eldest daughter of Yonekawa Kin'o (1883-1969). She received lessons of koto and sangen from her farther. He was the first Ikuta school koto and sangen player who started artistic activity in Tokyo in Taisyo period (1912-1926). He himself was an excellent musician and performed traditional repertoire with a striking accuracy in pitches and rhythms. He was also creative in composition, inventor of the low-registered 13-stringed koto and inventor of new notations for koto and sangen.
Educated by such a creative farther, Yonekawa Toshiko showed her progress even while she was a primary school pupil. It was very natural that she performed in a public concert when she was only 8 years old. She was only 12 years old when her performance was broadcast by nation wide radio. In addition to her performing activity, she began to compose. With her initial work Kokemizu ('Water running through moss') (No 1) she showed her talent as composer. Soon after that in 1942 she became recipient of the Education Minister's Award by her work Ohaguruma ('Sacred palaquin') (No. 10). When she published her epoch-making composition, Tidori to asobu Teiko ('Tieko playing with plovers') (No. 33), in 1953, she was given the Art Festival Prize for the Encouragement by the Ministry of Education.
As koto and sangen player, she extracted musical charms from new works written by her contemporaries. The extreme accuracy of intonation and rhythm as well as the unequaled beauty of sonority are well-known as her characteristics. In 1978 she succeeded to the position of iemoto (head of artistic clan) of the Kensokai. For these multifaceted activities numerous awards including the Medal with a Purple Ribbon, the Matuo geino award, the Fourth Class Order, and the Mobil Music Prize were successively offered to her.
Since 1994 as third Iemoto of the Japan Kneso-kai and since 1996 as living national treasure, and since 1997 honorary citizen of the Sinzyuku ward in Tokyo, she has been leading her colleagues and students and directing the musical activity of the koto and sangen performers. Her two daughters, Yonekawa Megumi and Yonekawa Hiroe, are very active in the same field as Yonekawa Toshiko and are already highly evaluated for the solidness of musical basis and flexibility in musicality transmitted from their mother.
(Professor of musicology, at Otyanomizu (Ochanomizu) University, Tokyo)
1939 Authorized to establish mastership by Chikatoshi Y onekawa I