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In his autobiography Prokofiev mentions briefly the two months he spent in Japan in the summer of 1918 on his way to the USA. Each of his biographers since then has quoted from these brief reminiscences, the only other documentation available being a photo of Prokofiev in the company of the Japanese music writer and patron of the arts, Motoo Ohtaguro and his wife, which appeared in Musical America soon after the composer’s arrival in New York; and the front page of a programme announcing Prokofiev’s recitals in Tokyo on 6 and 7 July 1918, reproduced in a Soviet publication. Even the Serge Prokofiev Archive in London has only a few letters between Ohtaguro and Prokofiev, and an outline of Ohtaguro’s life. So this short episode in Prokofiev’s wandering life has remained something of a mystery. This changed in 2002 when Prokofiev’s newly published Diary offered the first glimpse of his adventures in Japan, with an entry for every day of his stay, from his arrival on 1 June till his departure on 2 August, with the exception of 21 July. This sent me on a hunt to find out more about the people and lifestyle Prokofiev had encountered during his brief stay. Who was Motoo Ohtaguro and what sort of musical life was there in Japan at the time?
     The first break came about a year ago, when Serge Prokofiev Jr. brought to my attention a rarity he had found on the Web – an article by a Russian musicologist living in Japan, Eleonora Sablina, who was publishing in translation an interview of Prokofiev by Motoo Ohtaguro, until then only available in
Japanese and unknown to the West . In the following months, I was fortunate to find a number of people who helped me put this Feature together, and whom I now wish to thank: Eleonora Sablina for her generous advice and documentation; Shin-ichi Numabe for kindly acting as an intermediary with the Documentation Centre for Modern Japanese Music in Tokyo, and for the precious advice and documents he gave to Yumiko Nunokawa, who researched Ohtaguro’s life; Dr Naomi Matsumoto, a colleague from Goldsmiths College, whom I consulted repeatedly on Japanese matters and who translated Ohtaguro’s interview, directly from the Japanese; and last but not least, Anthony Phillips for his unconditional help with the translations from Prokofiev’s Diary.

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