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About this Video

Akino Watanabe, an eighth grader who is passionate about bridging Eastern and Western culture through her music, joined her younger sister, first grader Yoshino, on stage at TEDxBeaconStreet to perform traditional music on the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument. Let the Watanabe sisters, along with their koto teacher, Sumie Kaneko, transport you to another time and place with their emotionally stirring recital of “Sakura Fantasy” and “Seven Autumn Flowers.” The striking sound of the centuries old instruments conveys intensity, mirrored on the faces of these young musicians whose mastery of the art has led them to perform at Harvard University Kennedy School and Tufts University.

Akino Watanabe is a kotoist (Japanese harpist) in the eighth grade who is passionate about bridging Eastern and Western culture through her music. Yoshino Watanabe is Akino’s younger sister and kotoist, who loves not only koto but also the piano, drawing, clay work, and shadow puppets.


About the Speakers

Akino Watanabe

Akino Watanabe

Akino is a senior at Commonwealth School in Boston MA. She plays the Japanese zither (koto) and reached the first of the professional levels, the youngest of her teacher’s students, placing her as an official professional in the koto community. She has been taking piano lessons since she was 5 and has been studying koto in Japan since 2011, first under Ms. Kono Kameyama, one of Japan’s foremost Yamada School koto masters, at Shirayuri Gakuen Girls Junior High School in Japan. After moving to the US, she has studied under Ms. Sumie Kaneko, a professional koto and shamisen (a three-stringed instrument) performer and Dr. Cathleen Ayakano Read, a koto instructor and an apprentice of the legendary National Living Treasure of Japan, Kin’ichi Nakanoshima.

She plays 17th century through contemporary instrumental and vocal music, performing solo recitals and lecture demonstration on stage with her teachers and professional musicians, such as in NY with Mr. Kaoru Watanabe, a performer of Taiko & Fue in Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Her audience includes the Consulate General of Japan and universities in Japan and the US. She was asked by her middle school principal and the organizer of TEDx to represent the school to perform in TEDxBeaconStreet in 2012. She also participated in Dr. Read’s Gasso master classes. Frequently, she and her little sister Yoshino perform well-known duets, such as Rokudan no Shirabe and Sakura, for hospitals and senior centers. Akino also loves science and technology, history, languages including Mandarin, and playing the piano.

Sumie Kaneko

Sumie Kaneko

Akino was born in Philadelphia in the US, and grew up in Tokyo, Japan. Akino is in her 8th grade at the Lincoln School. Her first experience with the Japanese harp (Koto) came when she became a member of the Japanese harp club at Shirayuri Gakuen Junior High School in Tokyo as a 1 grader. There she studied Koto under Ms. Kameyama of the Yamada School Koto Music. After Akino moved to Boston, she studied the Japanese harp under Ms. Ayakano Cathleen Read and Ms. Sumie Kaneko, both teachers of the Yamada School Koto Music. She performed the Japanese harp at Harvard Kennedy School, Tufts University, and the Lincoln School. She also likes to play the piano, study Chinese, play tennis, and ice skating.

Japanese Harp

Akino Watanabe, an eighth grader who is passionate about bridging Eastern and Western culture through her music, joined her younger sister, first grader Yoshino, on stage at TEDxBeaconStreet to perform traditional music on the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument. Let the Watanabe sisters, along with their koto teacher, Sumie Kaneko, transport you to another time and place with their emotionally stirring recital of “Sakura Fantasy” and “Seven Autumn Flowers.” The striking sound of the centuries old instruments conveys intensity, mirrored on the faces of these young musicians whose mastery of the art has led them to perform at Harvard University Kennedy School and Tufts University.

Akino Watanabe is a kotoist (Japanese harpist) in the eighth grade who is passionate about bridging Eastern and Western culture through her music. Yoshino Watanabe is Akino’s younger sister and kotoist, who loves not only koto but also the piano, drawing, clay work, and shadow puppets.