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The IPO performed the last concert of its Far East Tour in Seoul at the National Arts Center.

Seoul, with its 20 million residents was incredible; the food, the hotel, the tourist sites, the people, and finally the beautiful concert hall.

Seoul Concert Hall

Tomorrow we leave for home; 6 hours flight to Bangkok, where the tour started, then 10 hours via El Al for Tel Aviv.  In three days we’ll be back on the stage of Hechal HaTarbut to begin rehearsing for next weeks’ program.


The IPO had Shabbat in Seoul.  While a select group of musicians was guest of the Israeli ambassador for Friday night dinner, most orchestra members tried their hand at Korean Barbeque; cooking their own meat at the table.

Korean B.B.Q

The markets are incredible, but the most impressive sight was an exhibition of “lanterns” celebrating Korea’s folklore.

Lantern festival Seoul Look at the crowds of people

After the concert of Rachmaninov and Mahler at the Selong Music Center, we joined thousands of visitors for a walk along the exhibition.

The soloist in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto was Korean Kun Woo Paik and the audience cheered his performance.

Korea is 70% mountains, and Seoul is surrounded by 37 mountains that are suited for hiking and rock climbing.  The tallest of them all is “Bukansen”.

We made the hike with hundreds of well equipped Koreans who arrived in trains and buses.  At the foot of the mountain, we were greeted by enthusiastic Buddhists who sent us on the way with hot soup and rice balls.  It took 3 hours to cover the 3.9 km. trail which was particularly beautiful because of the fall colors.

IPO conquers Mt. Bukansan near Seoul

IPO conquers Mt. Bukansan near Seoul

After rice balls and an apple, we returned to the bottom and caught the bus back to the hotel just before dark.

Seoul at dawn

The IPO landed in Seoul today and discovered that we are not the only show in town!

In fact the world’s leaders are meeting this weekend at the G20 conference to work out the world’s financial problems.  Our plane parked next to Silvio Berlusconi and his entourage, and some of the downtown sites are closed to tourists for security reasons.

getting ready for the G20 conference!

The IPO and Zubin Mehta have been guests in Japan 9 times over the past 30 years.  It has impresario Tadatsugu Sasaki to thank for the wonderful conditions and organization.

The last evening of each visit is reserved for a reception at his home when he hosts a dinner for the entire orchestra.

relaxing at Sasaki's

Maestro Mehta expressed his wish to make the Tenth visit in the near future, and there are rumors that the orchestra will be returning in 4 years to make it a round number!

Zubin thanking our Japanese hosts


lucky guy at Sasaki's reception

Sasaki’s home is a combination of museum, office space and practice rooms for his true love, the Tokyo Ballet.  The reception rooms are packed with mementoes, artifacts, figurines and European artwork.

Uzi at Sasaki's

The last concert was a broadcast from the NHK Auditorium as part of a Beethoven Cycle by visiting orchestras.  The IPO performed the 6th and 7th symphonies. See video >>

1,300 km. in one day with a stop for a concert!

The IPO left the hotel in Fukuoka in the south of Japan at 13.00, traveled 3-1/2 hours by “Nozomi” Bullet train to Nagoya, arriving at 16.30; sandwich and apple backstage at the Aichi Province Concert Hall, then a 19.00 concert.

After Stravinsky and Mahler, the orchestra packed up, went by bus to the train station, and caught the 22.00 Nozomi to Tokyo.  A day spent traveling at 280 km/hour!

backstage at Nagoya

On Japan’s most southern island, Hakata, is the capitol city Fukuoka.  The IPO has visited many times, but it was once a full days’ travel including a flight.

Monday, we got on the train in Nagoya, and 3-1/2 hours later arrived for the concert; a tunnel now connects the islands. The concert hall was beautiful and sounded excellent.

Adi and Nimrod playing in a great hall!

After the concert it was possible to have a noodle (ronen) soup and Japanese “shipudim”, teriyaki, in outdoor kitchens that line the river.

Tent food Fokuaka

Today the orchestra returns to Nagoya to perform, then immediately afterwards continues to Tokyo by train.

The IPO conquered new territory on Sunday when it played in Tsu, 1-1/2 hours by train from Tokyo to Nagoya, then an additional 90  minutes by bus into the countryside.

What kind of a concert hall is there is Tsu?  Zubin summed it up in one word after the first movement of Beethoven’s 6th: “Amazing!”  At the break he said, “You can’t even find it on the map, and look at what a great hall they have!”

Returning to Nagoya the highways were completely jammed because of an accident. After two hours the orchestra buses pulled into a highway rest stop and  we joined thousands of Japanese clamoring for snacks and toilets.

One Japanese innovation worth copying was restrooms not only for men and women but also for children!

The orchestra had a short break between performances of ballet and its concert on Saturday evening at the Bunka Kykan in Tokyo.

Clarinet section Yonatan, Genia and Ron at Bunka Kykan

The most popular destinations were Hakone Mountain with its lake, forest and live volcano, Kamakura with Japan’s biggest Buddha, Nikko, the ancient capitol of Japan, or sites in Tokyo like Asakusa, Meji Jinjo, Akihabara and Shinjuku.

Ilya at Ueno Park

See all new photos >>

IPO tourists to Nara: Illya, Vlad, Simeon, Kirill and Vitaly!

According to the history of Kasuga Shrine in Nara, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. Since then, the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the shrine.

Tame deer roam through the town and visitors  feed them biscuits.  Some of the deer have learned to bow to the tourists or they simply nudge, jostle, and even bite for food.

The Nara Quartet

The Nara Quartet!

See more photos from Nara >>