Nordic Sound Hiroshima
Nordic Sound Hiroshima is a record store specializing in classical music and jazz from the Nordic countries. We stock more than 3000 titles of CD's that include albums of the standard repertoire of classical music, recorded by musicians and artists of the Nordic countries.
No.401 14-2 Nobori-cho, Naka-ku
JP-730 0016 Hiroshima, JAPAN
PHONE +81 82 502 9600
FAX +81 82 502 9601
Greetings from Hiroshima
July 16, 1998, Thursday. The opening day of a record store devoted exclusively to classical music from the Nordic countries. The first customer other than friends and acquaintances was a student of tuba solo at the music college in our neighborhood, who, on introducing himself today, doesn't forget to add jokingly that he is the house artist of Nordic Sound Hiroshima.
More than two years have passed. When Kyoichi Okada, a long time friend of mine, and I started planning the store, both of us rather doubted if such a venture could earn us a living. Some of our friends were worried, too. However, we were lucky enough to know Mr. Shozo Ohtsuka, President of the Grieg Society of Japan, Director of the Nordic Choral Society of Japan and the pioneer who introduced Nordic music to Japan. It was his encouragement that rid us of our anxieties and made us look to the future. Needless to say, we had plenty of support friends in the Nordic countries.
According to common sense, few outsiders in Japan would dare jump into this field to start an independent record store. The two of us were among those few and we had not professional musical background. Kyoichi had taken piano lessons for nearly ten years and was not professional at all, and I had only been a member of the university glee club for a year. We were just interested in music and had the necessary experience to run a business. Kyoichi was engaged in sales at a manufacturing company of industrial-use hardware, while I was managing the family business, an electric hardware wholesale company.
So how did tow people like ourselves come up with the idea of a record store? Simply because we loved Nordic music. After having read various articles by Mr. Robert Layton in Gramophone, I felt a special affinity for Nordic music. In times of suffocating social situations, music from the North that reflected your love and awe of nature sounded extremely fresh to my ears. The trouble was that in a provincial city like Hiroshima it was almost impossible to obtain the CD's. The situation was slightly better in Tokyo, but not good enough to meet Mr. Layton's recommendation list.
Kyoichi soon caught up with me and found it enjoyable to listen to music from the North. Naturally we were forced to order it by mail from record stores abroad. It was a year before the start of our store. We were eventually able to obtain several this way, but regretted not having the pleasure of picking a CD from the shelf in a store and wondering if we should buy it or not. Then it occurred to us that others must have the same problem, and we unanimously came up with the idea of starting our own store. It would also provide the possibility for a wider audience to know that there was music other than ubiquitous Austro-German works, we thought.
But why in Hiroshima? Firstly, and the major reason, was was that both of us, born in Hiroshima, love living here. Secondly we imagined that it would be quite hard to attract attention in Tokyo, in spite of the number of listeners, because everything in the world is supposed to gather there. The costly rent was not ignored, either.
One good thing about Hiroshima is that we had the advantage of friendly relationships. The 34-square-metre new apartment, planned for a SOHO and just right for a cozy store, was a recommendation by a realtor friend. All the furniture was procured at minimum cost, thanks to the ideas of another friend who had started the plain wood furniture factory store some 25 years before.
Due to limited funds, the initial number of stock titles was 1250. Now, with one more shelf added, more than 1850 titles are in stock. The profit also enabled us to store multiple quantities of long-sellers, such as the Simax CD of Johan Svendsen's Music for Strings. One of the features of our store is that customers can freely listen to sample discs. This is necessary for the promotion of Nordic music, which is quite unfamiliar to most of them. Unlike Europe, it is not customary for record stores to allow CDs for sale to be played, for here customers don't like the idea of buying opened CDs. The initial 600 sample discs came from our collection and, along with those that we bought, promotional samples from the Nordic countries helped to increase the number to nearly 1000.
Everything moved beyond all our expectations from the start. For example, a number of inquiry letters and calls led to mail-order sales. Quite surprisingly, a lot of our customers actually visit us, even travelling from Tokyo and its vicinity. It seems that things have not changed since when we started: once the first batch of new releases sold out, the titles hardly come back in stock. I sometimes wonder why the mega-stores hesitate to look for latent customer demand.
Luckily, unexpected things helped us, too. Our advertisement in a magazine caught the eye of a reporter on our local newspaper, The Chugoku Shimbun, and he wrote an article out of interests in our store and activities. I was even asked to write a column on Nordic music, in which I mentioned a concert with Knut Nystedt's choral and organ works that was to be held at the Hiroshima World Peace Memorial Cathedral. While the only professional group, the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra, is chronically suffering from financial shortages - neither the city nor the prefecture is generous enough - amateur musical activities abound in Hiroshima.
In the course of time, we started receiving inquiries about printed music. That led to the possibility of more Nordic music being played here. One of the happiest occasions was when Trygve Madsen's Tuba Sonata was played at a Japan Sibelius Society concert, for the soloist was Hiromitsu Kobayashi, our very first customer on opening day. He was accompanied by Hiroshi Yamane, a very good friend of ours who teaches at an art college in the prefecture next to Hiroshima. He recently gave a piano duo concert, subtitled "From Norway, the country of fjords", where works by Johan Kvandal, Thomas Beck, Nils Henrik Asheim, Christian Sinding and Edvard Grieg were played. After the concert, I heard an elderly woman say to her friend, "Nice concert, wasn't it?" Professor Einar Henning Smebye, who had given his and his duo partner lessons in Oslo, would have loved to hear that. Writing notes for the souvenir program on the works was a precious experience for me.
One more thing should be mentioned. It is the list of major Nordic composers and musicians that Mr. Ohtsuka asked me to prepare as an appendix to his book, An Introduction to Nordic Music. It was a hard job, but gave me the pleasure of making new friends in the Nordic countries. Some curious readers made inquiries at our shop, having read Mr. Ohtsuka's comment on me in the postscript.
Our love of Nordic music started all this, but without the support from friends and customers we couldn't have come this far. We even distribute CDs of some record labels, Opus3 and Tutl of the Faroe Islands, to name but a couple. The store newsletter, with articles on Nordic music and release information, is eagerly awaited. And it seems to me that we have only started, as there are still more things that we'd like to do. A friend once asked me if it wasn't nice to work for music. I'd like to add that it's nicer when it's for the good of Nordic music.
© 2001 Tadaaki Tsuda
Reproduced from “Listen to Norway” - Musical review (No.1 2001 Vol.9) with kind permission from the Music Information Centre Norway/Musikkinformasjon Norge (formerly Norwegian Music Information Centre/Norsk Musikkinformasjon) (MIC)
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