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100-yr-old Tokyo pianist's passionate, light-hearted lifestyle provides hints for rich life

Japanese Pianist Mayako Muroi is seen in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward on May 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)

TOKYO -- Even at the age 100, pianist Mayako Muroi, goes on walks by herself, cracks jokes in fast-pace conversations, enjoys music, and attracts audiences at concerts with her rich performances.

    After graduating top of her class from what is now the Tokyo University of the Arts and making her debut as a soloist in the predecessor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the pianist, who lives in Tokyo, was actively based in Europe for a long time. Though her life seems to be far from ordinary, it is full of hints for those seeking longevity and happiness.

    Muroi spoke to the Mainichi Shimbun in an interview in her living room, where a grand piano stood against the backdrop of a lush garden, in mid-May. When asked how she felt when she turned 100 in April, she laughed and said, "I'm really surprised. I wondered who it was (that turned 100)."

    With a smile, she continued, "People tell me it's amazing to be able to play the piano at the age of 100, but I had been playing the day before, and I just continued on the day (of my birthday) and then the next day. When I tell everyone nothing has changed, they say to me that I'm courageous."

    Muroi began playing the piano at 6, and she made her debut as a soloist in 1945 at the age of 23. However, when she was 35, she went to Europe, thinking that something was missing in her performances. She performed internationally, mainly in Germany, and after returning to Japan at age 61, she received numerous awards, held recitals and also taught lessons.

    When asked for her secret to good health, Muroi replied cheerfully, "Don't worry about things too much. I'm really strict about the piano, but when something is not about me, I make a point of quickly putting it behind me."

    As the pianist lived in Germany for a long time, she was apparently influenced by the country's culture that placed an emphasis on individualism, which helped her to discover her own musical traits.

    "I think that taking good care of myself helped me live to 100," she added.

    Muroi says she feels the utmost joy when she reads into the composer's story and the scenery from a score, and expresses it by playing it on the piano. "I find new discoveries, one after another, and think, 'How beautiful it is!' I get so happy, I can't help it," she said.

    A special concert celebrating her 100th birthday was held at the Nikkei Hall in Tokyo in April, and it turned out to be a success. The audience cheered for the pianist, who brilliantly expressed Beethoven's artistry by playing Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise. Muroi had a sparkle in her eyes as she told the Mainichi reporter, "There's resonance between humans. It's rewarding to see people resonating and feeling joy rather than being impressed (by my performance)."

    It seems that living in a cycle of continual searching, with a passion for her activities and music, delighting in new discoveries, and moving others by expressing her happiness are the keys to the centenarian's vitality.

    (Japanese original by Haruka Ito, Cultural News Department)

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