Today we have Atsuko Suetomi: the great artist who is promoting Japanese music in Turkey.

*Welcome to my page! Can you tell my readers about yourself?
Hi, I'm Atsuko Suetomi and I play the Japanese traditional instrument koto. I visited many countries to give koto concerts. The first time I came to Turkey was in 2005 and I participated in the concerts which were organized by the Japanese Embassy, Istanbul ​​Consulate General of Japan, municipalities and Turkish Japanese Friendship Association. I was fascinated by Anatolia with thousands of years of civilization, culture, art, and music.I was also impressed with the warm hospitality and kindness of the people. And then I wanted to live in Turkey to knock on the door to a new world of music with the fusion between koto and Anatolia. I am lucky that I’ve been living in Istanbul since 2007. Since then, I have been invited to give concerts with valuable artists and introduce Japanese music in universities, schools, and associations.
* How did you start music?
I started my music education with the piano, when I was 7 or 8 years old ... But I did not continue because the piano teacher gave me a hard time... Then I started playing koto thanks toa friend of mine who was great at playing koto. Koto was a comfort to me.
* Is there any special reason for choosing koto?
I haven’t thought of that before, but I think it is because I love the sounds it makes and they give great comfort in turn.

* You are one of the most important artists who is representing Japan in Turkey. Why did you choose to live in Turkey?
I strongly believe God brought me to Turkey! On the very first stride onto the land of Turkey from a ramp at the airport, I realized, just my intuition, that this place would become my second homeland. As an artist, Anatolian culture is a fountain of energy that is necessary for me to be a musician.
* Music has a transcultural effect on people. You had concerts with many different artists. Is there a concert that affects you very much?
Yes, I am grateful... for being able to give concerts with precious artists, and do ing projects in Turkey... One of the concerts I can’t forget is the one which took place for the 90th anniversary of Turkey-Japan interstate relations board in 2014... it was organized by the Turkish Japanese Foundation. It was a great concert with the participation of the Japanese Embassy in Istanbul, and the Consulate General of Japan in Istanbul and the support of Japanese companies. In the first part the kanun virtuoso Göksel Baktagir, the Ney master Eyüp Hamiş and I were on the stage. In the second part of the concert the piano virtuoso Gülsin Onay appeared on stage... It was a very colorful music festival ... While the hall was held at Istanbul İş Sanat, I heard that the hall accommodates 700 people but more than 1000 people had gathered and some of them could not have entered the hall, for whom sushi had been served at the entrance hall.JIKAD always surprises me by organizing moving concerts. President of JIKAD Arzu Yücel has a great spirit and she always provides exciting projects.

*You have many students, don't you? I heard you've also started giving courses recently. Can you tell us about the courses?
There are dozens of koto students in Istanbul and a few in Ankara. They are in a wide range of ages from 10 to 70 years old ... But just a few of my students are studying in a routine, not all of them. I put up “Japanese music and arts association” at the Turkish Japanese Foundation in Ankara. There sometimes is a koto workshop there. Also, koto classes held every week at the Japanese Art Center in Kadıköy in Istanbul. Turkish students are practicing hard to play in a concert wearing kimonos.

* Koto is very similar to the qanun. When I was in high school, a friend of mine was learning to play qanun. I remember the time she accompanied us in our choir and how she worked systematically to get prepared for the concerts. How many hours per week do we need to practice to play koto?
It is the same as playing other instruments, the more you practice, the more you will be able to play. It will also be more effective to practice continuously...So practicing 2 hours every day is more effective than practicing one day for 6 hours in a week. But if you are busy at work or school, you can also play koto or other instruments to relax. Then you can have a joyful and enjoyable time with an instrument like you are chatting with friends.

* What are the projects you are planning to carry out in the New Year?
In Feb 2020, my new album called "The Way " will be released. I could not do a recording without being preoccupied with an unusual collaboration with koto and jazz piano. A Turkish record company offered us to receive our recording in the digital platform. I’d like you to listen to Uzun ince bir yoldayim by Asik Veysel where koto and jazz piano are collaborated. I’d also like to make a video of Turkish scenery with healing koto music as background music. I hope to arrange concerts where I can share a quite tiny space with customers who are enjoying their tea time. At the same time, I’d like to be dedicated to playing in front of people who are socially handicapped. I consider this is my lifework.

* Thank you so much for the interview.
Japanese scripts of this interview were interpreted by HONDA Shinichiro: the founder of “Dejima Language Academy” in Nagasaki, in Japan.