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Japan in Focus / Let’s go to the museum / Preserving the history of a prolific composer

Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

Hiromi Miyamoto, a senior staff member of the museum in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, talks about items in the re-created study, in which furniture and other furnishings are on display.

By Kotaro Tanaka / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer Composer Masao Koga (1904-1978) gave the Japanese music world such classic Showa era (1926-1989) hits as Ichiro Fujiyama’s “Oka o Koete” and Hibari Misora’s “Yawara.” The so-called “Koga Melody” featured an element of sorrow, evoking a feeling of nostalgia in the listener.

The Koga Masao Museum of Music stands on a hill in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Uehara district where his house used to be. The museum commemorates his life, with personal items and mementos providing insight into his prolific career on display.

Koga built his home there in 1938. At the time, it was located in a heavily wooded area. Koga, who liked the phrase “Ongaku wa Wanari” (music is harmony), was enchanted by the peaceful scenery.

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  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    An external view of the museum sitting on a quiet hill

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A plaque of legendary singer Hibari Misora, far left, and hundreds of others line the wall on the second floor.

  • Photo by Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Windows designed with musical notes that were actually used in Koga’s home.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

In the museum, about 250 items are exhibited, including a guitar, mandolin, Taisho koto and record albums.

The third floor is laid out to resemble his own house as closely as possible. At the end of a replica flagstone corridor is furniture that he used and stained-glass windows. The windows are adorned with musical notes, offering a glimpse of the love Koga had for music.

Entering the study, a piano and bookshelves give off an air of solemnity. This was where he gave private lessons to what was said to be only a few select pupils.

Every year, the museum selects new members for its “popular music Hall of Fame,” honoring composers, lyricists, singers and others who have contributed to the advancement of Japanese popular music culture. Currently, there have been 283 individuals or groups selected, and their plaques line the wall of the second floor.

In 2015, an unreleased master recording of the late actress/singer Yoshiko Yamaguchi (1920-2014), who found stardom under the name Li Xianglan, was discovered among the collection, drawing great attention. “There are still many items in the collection that have not been classified,” said Hiromi Miyamoto, 42, a senior staff member of the museum.

As next year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics draw nearer, the theme song that Koga composed for the 1964 Tokyo Games, titled “Tokyo Gorin Ondo,” has found itself back in the spotlight.

“I hope that the musical works of Koga, the quintessential composer of the Showa era, can continue to find a place in the hearts of the people even after the Heisei era [1989-],” Miyamoto said.

■ Koga Masao Museum of Music

Opened in 1997 on the grounds where Masao Koga lived during his last days. A wide range of Koga items are displayed on the third floor, while the “popular music Hall of Fame” is introduced on the second floor. There is also a space for visitors to listen to more than 1,000 songs Koga composed.

Address: 3-6-12, Uehara, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

Open: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays and during the year-end and New Year’s holidays. (When Monday is a national holiday or substitute day for a national holiday, it is closed on Tuesday.)

Admission: ¥500 for adults, ¥400 for high school and college students, ¥200 for elementary and junior high school students. (All fees not including tax.)

Information: (03) 3460-9051Speech

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