British violinist Diana Yukawas musical journey started
20 years ago with a tragedy on a mountain in Gunma
By Chris Betros
On Aug 12, violinist Diana Yukawa climbed Mt. Osutaka
in Gunma Prefecture and played an uplifting composition called
Short Story in memory of the 520 people who died in the 1985
Japan Airlines crash. Its a pilgrimage the 19-year-old
has done before in honor of the father whom she never knew,
Akihisa, who was on board that fateful flight. It was
my first visit there in three years, she says. I
was really determined to celebrate my fathers life with
something positive this year.
Yukawa was born three weeks after the crash, and along with
her older sister Cassie and her British mother Susanne Bayly,
she has spent the last 20 years trying to come to terms with
the tragedy. The familys storyespecially their
battle to get compensation from JALis the stuff of soap
operas and has been well documented. Yukawas musical
talent gained her overnight fame in Japan when she played
a tribute on the mountain a few years ago. She has put out
two CDs, performed at concerts, and appeared on numerous TV
Yukawa wishes she could have had a different history. I
have been interviewed so many times in Japan, she says.
I dont want to be just connected to that tragedy,
even though it is my personal history and I have been to Mt.
Osutaka many times. I want to take those experiences and use
them to make something better for the future. Yukawa
is now working on a new and defining musical sound with elements
of classical and pop. She will give her fans a preview at
a special concert on Sept 20 at Tokyo FM Hall, an event that
will also serve as her coming-of-age celebration. Of her new
sound, she says: It is basically combining different
styles and cultures.
Yukawa chats happily in a very down-to-earth manner. Although
she has been studying the violin since she was 5, she dislikes
words like crossover and child prodigy.
A full-time music student in London, Yukawa also enjoys a
life away from her violin. I love going to museums and
dancing at clubs with friends. Its important to have
a balanced life. And I couldnt do without my dogs and
cats. It has been a bit of a struggle at times. When
JAL withdrew its scholarship a few years ago, Yukawa had to
sell her 1656 Amati violin to help her family make ends meet.
Thanks to some sponsors, she was able to continue her music
studies and now plays a rare Guarneri del Gesu.
Yukawa has been to Japan many times, but is not sure if she
could live here. I love Japan and feel my heritage strongly,
but I dont think I could fit in permanently. I do enjoy
playing here. People in so many different age groups come
to my concerts. Her two CDs, which were aimed at the
Japanese market, have sold very well and she is starting to
think about a third one, featuring her new sound.
So that means many more trips to Japan. In a positive note
for the future, Yukawa and her mom flew here on JAL, the first
time in 20 years, but she is dubious about the airline. They
are still having problems with safety, she says. They
dont seem to have learned from the tragedy.
The puck stops here
By Rob Smaal
Hokkaido native Yutaka Fukufuji last month became the first
Japanese player to sign a professional contract with a National
Hockey League team when the soft-spoken 22-year-old inked
a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. A former Kokudo
goaltender, Fukufuji has already had some impressive performances
in North America since his debut in the East Coast Hockey
League in 2003. He was named Rookie of the Month in January
that year after winning seven straight games with the Cincinnati
You have been compared to MLB pitcher Hideo Nomo and soccer
star Hidetoshi Nakata. Was it your dream growing up to play
goal in the NHL?
Actually, I didnt start playing goalie until I was 11.
Before that I was a forward. My dream as a kid wasto play
for Kokudo. I thought that was as good as it gets.
Are there any goalies in the NHL you particularly admire?
Im a big fan of Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
Is it tough to communicate with your teammates in the US?
Not really. I learned to speak English watching Seinfeld re-runs
How about the food over there? Do you miss Japanese food?
I like American food. Buffalo chicken wings are my favorite.
Whats the toughest adjustment playing in the US so
Those long bus trips you have to make in the minor leagues.
Those are tough.
In North America the game is more physical than in Japan,
and even the goalies get into fights. Are you ready for that?
It already happened last season (with the Bakersfield Condors).
There was a big brawl and I had to fight the other goalie.
I just grabbed his jersey and held on tight, so it wasnt
The LA Kings open training camp Sept
14, and the NHL regular season starts Oct 5. The Asia League
expects to start on Sept 23/24.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.