Title means "Quietness", "Comfortable Sound" and "Excellent Acoustics"

Nagata Acoustics News 00-06 (No.150)
Issued : June 25, 2000

Okinawa's Yomitanson Cultural Center

by Suzuyo Yokose

Yomitanson Cultural Center
As July approaches, Japan's attention is turning towards the preparations for the G8 Kyushu - Okinawa Summit, which will bring world leaders to Japan's southern-most island. Okinawa has a strong tourism industry and summer always brings Japanese and other visitors to this archipelago's shores. Okinawa is comprised of 160 islands of varying size, spread across a body of water approximately 1000 km (620 miles) east to west and 400 km (250 miles) north to south.

This year, with the G8 Summit joining the influx of tourists, there will be an extra upsurge in population during the month of July and world news media focus on the VIPs' visit to Okinawa. In keeping with this trend, I will present here some acoustical news about a new hall that opened in Okinawa six months ago.

<< "Yomitanson," A Very Okinawan Town Name >>

Okinawans traditionally speak a dialect that varies greatly from standard Japanese. The town of Yomitanson is written with three Chinese characters, one meaning "to read," another "valley," and the third, "village" or "town." In standard Japanese, the middle character would be pronounced "tani" and the third character would be pronounced "mura." But people who know Okinawa and the Okinawan language know to drop the "i" of "tani" and to use Chinese-style "son" pronunciation for the third character. This may all seem esoteric to readers not familiar with Chinese characters, but Okinawa is proud of its unique heritage. After years of war, occupation and then reunification, both Okinawa and Japan can now appreciate the diversity that Okinawan culture adds to the Japanese nation.

<< Yomitanson's Location and Character >>

Yomitanson is located about midway between Okinawa Prefecture's governmental capital and main city, Naha, and the site of the G8 Summit, which will be held in Nago City, part of the Cape Busena resort area. Yomitanson sits on a piece of coastal land that protrudes into the East China Sea, and is especially famous for the stunning scenic views of Cape Zanpa.

In recent years, this part of Okinawa has also made headlines when local residents demonstrated to request the rightful return of land they had been required to loan to the government for use as a U.S. armed forces communications base. The U.S. forces communications base is used to decipher coded signals received from U.S. forces and is symbolized by a large, circular low-frequency antenna (approx. 200m [660ft] in diameter). Okinawans call the easily visible antenna and base "the elephant's cage." It was seen daily in Japanese TV news broadcasts during the local protests.

Yomitanson is nestled against the Yomitan mountain peaks, Takoyama, and other cradling mountains that rise to the east. To the west is the beautiful horizon of the East China Sea. The commute time by car from Yomitanson to Naha City's office towers takes about one hour, making the town increasingly popular as a residential location. The population currently exceeds 36,000 and continues to grow.

Traditional Okinawan crafts and performing arts flourish in Yomitanson. Artists' studios produce pottery, Okinawan-style woven cloth and Ryukyu glass. (Okinawa is actually the name of the main island, where Yomitanson, Naha and Nago are all located. Ryukyu Islands is the name of the entire archipelago and often the name used when discussing the islands' arts and crafts.) In Yomitanson, many people are accomplished in traditional Ryukyu music and dance, including the singing genre called shimauta. These performing arts and traditional crafts have a long history with roots in the ancient period when the Ryukyu Islands were a sovereign land with their own dynastic family.

<< Overview of Yomitanson Cultural Center >>

The Cultural center's immediate surroundings provide a striking backdrop and frontage for the building. Sugar cane fields surround the center for nearly as far as the eye can see, except for a perfectly straight road that cuts through the middle of the fields. The road became a runway for fighter planes and other military aircraft when Yomitanson Airport was first seized by the Japanese and later occupied by U.S. forces during World War II. As is true of towns and villages throughout Okinawa, wartime scars dot Yomitanson's landscape.

By contrast, today an impressive-looking City Hall catches visitors' attention and next to the city hall stands Yomitanson Cultural Center. The initial planning for the center began in 1992, followed by a period of hall and center observation tours by Yomitanson representatives and negotiations with local performing artists. Design development started in May 1996 and construction in January 1997. The center was completed in August 1999. The project architect was Kuniken Company and Nagata Acoustics served as the acoustical consultant from Spring 1998 through the completion of the project. Our primary role on this project was the architecturally related acoustics for the center's multipurpose hall.

<< Yomitanson Culture Center's Performing Arts Facilities >>

Yomitanson Cultural Center has one fixed-seating multipurpose hall and a suite of smaller rooms designed especially for use by local musical and other performing groups. The fixed-seating, multipurpose hall is named Otori Hall and has a seat count of 706. The smaller rooms include a small hall that has movable seating and a maximum seat count of 252, as well as a practice room and listening room. These facilities are intended to help foster the performing arts activities in the Yomitanson region.

<< Otori Hall's Name and Functionality >>

Interior of Otori Hall
The word otori means "(male) phoenix." This mythic bird has significant symbolism for the community of Yomitanson. According to regional legend, otori fly out across the East China Sea from perches on Cape Zanpa. Yomitanson's town vision statement also includes the image of flying birds. The town's vision statement is a string of seven Chinese characters that together mean "golden ring of flying birds and lushly blooming flowers."

Otori Hall adapts well to a variety of genres, including music concerts, theatrical productions, dance concerts and symposia. The 706-seat size and the hall's multipurpose functionality will make it possible to schedule a broad range of cultural events for the region's audiences, as well as provide a venue for performances and creative expression by local artists and groups. To further enhance the hall's suitability for various genres, the Otori Hall stage is equipped with sliding reflection panels.

<< Otori Hall's Room Acoustics >>

The interior building materials used in Otori Hall's construction are primarily laminated panels and concrete. Portions of the hall's rear wall and ceiling use perforated panels behind which we placed a layer of glass wool for sound absorption. The color scheme of the hall is mostly white with the blue color of the audience seating providing a pleasant contrast. Portions of the side walls have glass windows that allow in natural light from outside and, overall, the hall has a spacious and airy atmosphere.

Nagata Acoustics' participation in this project did not begin until the hall's design development was nearly complete and construction was already underway. When we were asked to join the project and review the design documents during a hiatus in ongoing construction, the hall's configuration was already determined. Nevertheless, we performed computer simulations on the proposed configuration and, happily, learned that it had good characteristics. Accordingly, there was no need for us to suggest any major changes. Our most significant modifications to the design involved the side walls of the hall. We altered the angles of the side walls and added dispersion elements to their configuration.

<< Sound Isolation Design >>

The proximity of the U.S. military base made us wary of the impact of aircraft noise on the hall's acoustics. However, after discussions with the client, they decided not to have us develop a special sound isolation design strategy to address these concerns. The client's decision was based on three factors: the infrequency of flights over the site; a sound isolation strategy to mitigate overhead aircraft noise would require huge changes in the structural design of the center as well as changes to the hall's design; and, such changes would add considerably to the cost of the project.

Accordingly, our sound isolation design for this project follows standard methods for halls built inside concrete-walled structures. We did address two relatively minor design elements that otherwise would have had a negative impact on the hall's level of quietness. One of these elements was the use of glass windows in the hall's side walls. To improve the windows' sound isolation capability, we implemented an air chamber design of approximately 1m sandwiched between two layers of glass. The second element that we modified for sound isolation reasons was a natural ventilation smoke exhaust opening that appeared in the hall's original design. To attenuate noise from this opening, we designed a smoke exhaust damper made of aluminum panels and glass fitted between the interior walls of the smoke exhaust's chimney-shaped opening.

<< Otori Hall's Acoustical Performance Measurements >>

Based on measurements we gathered after the completion of the hall, Otori Hall's reverberation time is 1.7 seconds (at 500 Hz, in an empty hall, with the stage reflection panels deployed) and 1.3 seconds (at 500 Hz, in an empty hall, with the stage curtain in use). Our estimates for the reverberation times (at 500 Hz) when the hall is full are 1.4 seconds with the stage reflection panels deployed and 1.1 seconds with the stage curtain in use. We consider these reverberation time measurements appropriate for a multipurpose hall such as Otori Hall, with its seat count of 706 and room volume of 7,400 cu.m (260,000 cu.ft).

Regarding the intrusion of aircraft noise, in our experience of two days of measuring the hall's acoustics, we did not hear even one aircraft, nor has any been heard since the hall's opening. No aircraft were heard during the construction of the cultural center either, but during that period, noise from the construction site would have drowned out any aircraft noise. Consistent with the client's expectation, aircraft seem to fly within hearing of the hall only very infrequently and therefore, from a practical perspective, the hall's level of sound isolation is not an issue.

<< Otori Hall's Inaugural Concert and Recent Performances >>

The months of September, October and most of November 1999 were used as preparation and testing periods for the cultural center's opening. Yomitanson Cultural Center and Otori Hall's official opening ceremonies were held on November 20, 1999. Thereafter, the popular female Japanese singing duo "kiroro"performed two nights of concerts to inaugurate the hall. Both members of this pop duo are from Yomitanson.

In October through December 1999, Okinawa Prefecture held a three-month long festival of Okinawan arts and crafts, with musical and dance performances and craft displays staged in halls and gymnasiums throughout the main island. In connection with the prefecture-wide festival, Otori Hall served as the venue for a ballet performance by a troupe of dancers from all parts of Okinawa. This performance brought many new faces to Otori Hall and was a very gala event for Yomitanson.

The day-to-day use of Otori Hall will feature performances and recitals by local artists and school groups. For the residents and communities in and near Yomitanson, the cultural center and the hall are welcome additions sure to encourage the already vibrant artistic and cultural creativity of this area.

For more information on Yomitanson Cultural Center and Otori Hall, please contact the hall directly by telephone at +81-98-982-9292.

Fujisawa Lyra Hall Perseveres Thanks to One Woman's Determination

by Dr. Minoru Nagata

Interior of Fujisawa Lyra Hall
Fujisawa Lyra Hall occupies the fifth and sixth floors of Fujisawa Building, a multipurpose structure located at the south entrance of Fujisawa Station. Fujisawa Station serves an upscale Tokyo suburb, and is a transfer point between the JR and Odakyu train lines.

Fujisawa Building is owned by Sono Kosan Company, which is currently under the leadership of Ms. Mieko Akaike, a scion of the founders of this family-owned business. For Ms. Akaike, a pianist who graduated from Ueno Gakuen School of Music, this piano recital hall is a cherished dream come true.

<< Plans to Draw Financial Stability from the Building's Retail Component >>

Fujisawa Lyra Hall seats an audience of 220 persons. The hall's small capacity, its inability to compete with publicly funded halls' lower rental rates, and other similar reasons practically ensure that Fujisawa Lyra Hall operates in the red.

When Fujisawa Building was planned, the hall's anticipated ongoing financial shortfall was taken into consideration. According to pre-construction calculations, lease revenues from the building's exclusive retail space, which includes couture boutiques and jewelry shops, plus revenues from the parking structure next door, were expected to overcome the paucity of revenues from the hall.

<< The Hall's Opening and Start of Japan's Economic Downturn Coincide >>

However, Fujisawa Lyra Hall opened at the end of 1990, just as Japan's "bubble" economy showed the first signs of heading south. Fujisawa Building's first stumbling block appeared when the owners were unable to find tenants to fill the new retail space. This situation naturally led to reducing the rents asked so that retailers would agree to occupy the new building.

I am told that, more than once, the building's lending bank applied pressure on the owners to abandon their plans for Fujisawa Lyra Hall's use and convert it into something that would produce a positive revenue stream. After the painful experience of Tokyo's Casals Hall, in March, 2000, I do not doubt that the bank took this approach. Readers may recall that, just this past March, the lenders of Casals Hall's parent company forced it to abandon its innovative and trend-setting in-house concert programming and become purely a rental facility. Fujisawa Lyra Hall already faced this threat when the hall was still in its infancy.

<< Ms. Akaike's Passion for Piano and Perseverance Sustain the Hall >>

Given the harsh economic environment that has always buffeted Fujisawa Lyra Hall, it truly owes its ongoing survival to Ms. Akaike's passion and perseverance. Throughout the near decade that the hall has been in operation, it has both successfully produced in-house concert programming and operated as a rental hall facility.

Fortunately, when we designed the acoustics of Fujisawa Lyra Hall, we especially focused on providing optimal acoustics for piano recital performances. This has been a factor in the hall's popularity and consequent success because the hall maintains an excellent reputation among pianists.

Even with excellent acoustics, the suburban location of Fujisawa Lyra Hall has made all of Ms. Akaike's concert production efforts uphill battles. Concert programs that can fill a 500-seat hall in central Tokyo do not easily fill Fujisawa Lyra Hall's 220 seats. For years, as the date of a concert approached, Ms. Akaike would call around to personally ask people to attend the concert so that the audience would not be embarrassingly sparse.

<< Year 2000 In-house Programming >>

This year, the lineup of performers in Fujisawa Lyra Hall's in-house programming includes pianist Joerg Dames, pianist Harina Cherni Stefanska, cembalist Elizabetta Stefanska, pianist Izumi Tateno, and bass player Gary Carr. Mr. Dames performed in May and the others perform in the fall.

A particularly noteworthy lecture series at Fujisawa Lyra Hall is also produced directly by the hall. The series began in 1997 and spans a range of topics under the general heading of music culture. This year, the series features talks by the Executive Director of Japan's National Museum of Western Art, Mr. Hideji Takashina. This lecture series is the brainchild of Mr. Shuzo Otsuka, former Chief Director of NHK Television's musical programming. Mr. Otsuka's planning work for Fujisawa Lyra Hall deserves an article unto itself, so I will reserve in-depth discussion of his valuable contributions for another opportunity.

<< Summary of Fujisawa Lyra Hall's Operations >>

Fujisawa Lyra Hall accomplishes all of its in-house production and rental operations with a full-time staff of only three persons (including Ms. Akaike). Hall rental fees are \70,000 (US$670) for use of the hall on a single, weekday evening. Additionally, the hall charges \35,000 ($335) for rehearsal use during the daytime prior to the performance night, and \20,000 ($190) for use of the hall's Steinway concert-grand piano.

In the beginning, every day was a challenge to overcome the various financial and recognition obstacles faced by this hall. Now that nearly 10 years have passed, the hall has achieved a regular audience following and operational stability. For a privately owned hall of this size to succeed, it must focus on its unique qualities and develop a close rapport with a loyal audience. For Fujisawa Lyra Hall, its acoustics are especially fine for piano performances. Ms. Akaike wisely promotes this aspect of the hall while she works tirelessly to strengthen the hall's bond with its audience.

<< The Special Experience of Music in a Small Hall >>

The experience of a concert at Fujisawa Lyra Hall cannot be replicated in a large hall. In Fujisawa Lyra Hall, the audience can directly sense the physical humanity of the performer(s), as well as their breathing. The audience is touched by the closeness of the performer(s) in a way not possible in larger halls.

Fujisawa Lyra Hall is located a little more than one-hour by train from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station. It is well worth the trip to experience the beautiful acoustics and intimate experience of a concert in this small hall.

For further information about Fujisawa Lyra Hall, please contact the hall directly by phone at +81-466-22-2721. The hall's mailing address is 1-1 Kugenuma-ishiue, Fujisawa City, 251-0025 Japan.

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Nagata Acoustics News 00-06iNo.150j
Issued : June 25, 2000

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