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Serving as a bridge between China and Japan
Desiring to convey the new attractions of the erhu and China

Kiriko Nakanishi

The erhu is famous as being a representative folk instrument from China. In recent years, opportunities to hear the erhu in movies and commercials have increased, and the number of players is also rapidly on the rise. Although the erhu is often spoken of as an instrument for soothing music due to its distinctive sound, once you have heard Kiriko Nakanishi play, that image will disappear in an instant. Her sometimes emotional, sometimes sophisticated and elegant sound, which overpowers listeners, is truly that of an “erhu evangelist.”

Nakanishi is currently actively involved in erhu instruction and performing. Nakanishi told us, “I want to break down the image that the erhu is an instrument only for soothing music. In reality, it's an instrument which can express any human emotion, depending on the skill of the player. The reason why people have these preconceived notions about the erhu is because they don't have many opportunities to hear it. I want to accurately convey the true nature of the erhu, and not just one aspect of it.”

Playing the main theme to the TV anime Love Live! while cosplaying. Her video, uploaded on Nico Nico Douga, has already reached over 100 thousand views.

Nakanishi presented her case with force. Studying under a famous erhu artist since the age of six, she has true skill, having won numerous awards in contests. After entering Waseda University, Nakanishi studied as a government-sponsored exchange student for one year at the Central Conservatory of Music, a famous arts university said to be the most difficult to enter in China. Undefeated in domestic competitions, Nakanishi found the environment competing with the elite in China, the home of the instrument, extremely stimulating.

“I was able to thoroughly develop the fundamentals. At first, I was made to play for hours without using my left hand and without holding down the strings. I was even prepared to finish my one year abroad having done nothing but practice the fundamentals. But when I practiced hard for eight hours a day every day, I suddenly began to be given practice pieces. It was frustrating losing to Chinese students, and each day I lost myself in practice.”

Thanks to her intensive training in China, Nakanishi can now smoothly play even extremely difficult classical pieces. However, what Nakanishi got through her study abroad was not just skill with the erhu. Nakanishi encountered her mission in life, something essential to her future activities as an erhu performer.

“It might be a bit a predictable, but since my time studying abroad, I've come to strongly desire to serve as a bridge between China and Japan. While I was studying abroad, I was uncomfortable with how the China portrayed in the media and the China right in front of me were completely different. Just like the erhu, only a tiny portion of China is revealed in Japan. After returning to Japan, I took courses on China relations at Waseda, but rather than there being people who liked or hated China, many of the students were indifferent. That's because you don't start at “pro-Japan, pro-China,” but rather, “know Japan, know China.” I hope to convey through my erhu the attractions of China which the Japanese don't know.”

Talking of her future outlook, Nakanishi says that she will have to become so famous that “Kiriko Nakanishi” and the erhu are mentioned in the same breath in order to achieve this goal. In order to get new fans unfamiliar with the erhu, Nakanishi is trying various experiments using Internet broadcasting. “I really like the popular anime Love Live!, so I am doing things like playing the theme song from the show while dressed as the heroine Niko-chan.”

Passionate about her life's mission to help join together China and Japan, it seems likely that Nakanishi will deliver a new sound for the erhu. We will definitely have to keep an eye on her future activities.

Nakanishi at the age of six, when she had just begun playing the erhu. She is playing in a concert together with adults.

Studying abroad at the Central Conservatory of Music. Nakanishi is pictured together with friends studying the erhu.

Nakanishi at the NiKOHOLiC café concert, held periodically. The third concert in the series, it was held at the Waseda student-run Foru Café.


Kiriko Nakanishi
Fifth Year, School of Education

Originally from Tokyo, Kiriko Nakanishi graduated from Shinagawa Etoile Girl's High School. Influenced by her parents, Nakanishi began playing the erhu at age six, and has won numerous awards at contests at home and abroad. She is now recording her second album, a follow up to her first, Niko de Utau – Ghibli/Haretane.