Curiosity, Fuel For Life

Meanwhile, interesting objects, road markers – and a story of a man with a mission sparked and fueled by hearing Jimmie Rodgers’s country music. Toshio Hirano was from Japan, but propelled by music, he wanted to see the land where it originated.

The stunning part is that he actually picked up his life, arrived in Washington, D.C., U.S.A. – and on a bicycle, pedaled his way across land where his curiosity and the lyrics he loved had led him – all this in the 1970s.

“When it’s peach pickin’ time in Georgia

Apple pickin’ time in Tennessee

Cotton pickin’ time in Mississippi

Everybody picks on me…”

“From Kingston Trio to bluegrass to Jimmie Rodgers – just playing the music over in Japan wasn’t enough for me – I wanted to feel the land – see the land – where the sound came from southern Appalachia. So how do I do it? Walking is best, but taking too long. I didn’t have much time. Oh there is a bicycle, I love riding a bicycle. Why not?”

The film opens with the following quote:

“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.”

– Charlie Parker

About the award-winning documentary by Oscar Bucher:

“Toshio Hirano was born in Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s. As a teenager he became interested in bluegrass and country music and later became inspired by the Mississippi legend, Jimmie Rodgers. Toshio learned to play banjo, guitar and mandolin and continued playing music throughout college, after which he immigrated to the USA to pursue his love of the music. After first visiting the Appalachia region—the heartland of Bluegrass music—he then lived in Atlanta, Nashville, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas. San Francisco has been his home since 1986 and he plays regularly in cafes and bars around town. The deep romantic nature of country music—tales of trains and cowboys and broken hearts—continues to sustain Toshio’s imagination and art.

“Waiting For A Train” image still is linked to the Facebook page for updated information.

“He also relates the moment he discovered Jimmie Rodgers – an amazing, transcendent epiphany that would forever change his life.”

From a story in the San Francisco Chronicle by Joel Selvin:

“Smitten by American folk music as a teenager growing up in Tokyo, Hirano came to this country to visit the land of the music he loved. He went straight to Appalachia after he graduated from college in 1974 and took locals by surprise, tooling through West Virginia coal mining towns on a bicycle, a mandolin on his back, looking for the ancestral home of bluegrass, long before multiculturalism reached the backwoods. He laughs at the memory of being the first Asian face many of the small town children had ever seen.”

(Is this not amazing for a human being to pick up his life, and go see what he wanted to know about? Love the dedication and sheer zest for living shown by Hirano – and the life that resulted from him doing so.)

Another interesting object – an old millstone found while researching the story of a man, a promise, and a tree.

“Something hidden. Go and find it.”
– Rudyard Kipling said that.

A tree that seems to reach out atop Indian Hill.

There’s always more to learn. Here’s to the dedication and joy along the way in the finding out, asking questions, meeting people, and the writing of what is found.