一月到東京旅遊時，我有幸到堪稱全日本最好的兩個演奏廳觀看演出，分別是 NHK 音樂廳（NHK Hall）和三得利音樂廳（Suntory Hall）。雖然我經常到日本旅遊，但上一次在日本觀看古典音樂會已經是 2009 年的事。當時我對日本交響樂團的水準、觀眾的禮儀、音樂廳的音響以及工作人員敬業樂業的精神，都有著非常深刻的印象。
這一次，我徹底享受了由德國指揮家 Elias Grandy 帶領讀賣日本交響樂團的演出；以及由古典音樂界備受尊敬的大師 Christoph Eschenbach 指揮全亞洲第一的 NHK 交響樂團演奏。
兩場音樂會都在演出前 2 小時開放音樂廳予觀眾入場。在全球大部分的音樂會，大多數觀眾只會提前約 10 至 15 分鐘到達會場。但是，在日本，竟有大量觀眾在音樂廳開放前到達，更在寒冷的天氣下耐心等待。音樂廳甫開放，觀眾便立即魚貫進場入座。
在這兩次的音樂會，我皆在開場前半小時到達。進入音樂廳時我吃了一驚，因為已經座無虛席。我知道寫作不應誇大其辭，但是這次我真的沒有誇張 —— 所有觀眾都安坐在觀眾席，靜靜翻閱場刊。在亞洲和歐美其他音樂廳勢必出現的情況，例如在演出開始前大聲聊天或飲食，在日本的演奏廳內完全沒有發生。
眾人緊密地坐在音樂廳的觀眾席，少不免有些意外的小接觸，例如不慎踢到前座的椅子。日本觀眾卻對這種情況處之泰然，像沒事發生一樣，不會咒罵對方或怒目而視。在 Eschenbach 指揮的音樂會中，一名外籍人士在「馬勒第二交響曲」的第二樂章期間不斷打噴嚏，並瘋狂地從背包中找面紙，對身邊的觀眾造成不少騷擾。然而，當地觀眾並未有厭惡地盯著他看。實際上，幾乎沒有人看他一眼，只是將自己的專注力集中在台上的演出。
The Etiquettes in Japanese Concert Halls
I visited Tokyo back in January and had the pleasure to attend concerts in two of the finest Japanese concert halls – the NHK Hall and the Suntory Hall. Despite being a frequent visitor to Japan, I have not attended a concert there since 2009, when I was greatly impressed not only by the orchestras’ standards, but also the etiquettes of the audiences, the acoustics of the concert halls as well as the politeness and professionalism of the staff.
This time, I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra under the direction of promising German conductor Elias Grandy, and of the NHK Symphony Orchestra, undoubtedly the finest orchestra in Asia, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, a seasoned maestro well known and respected across the classical music industry.
The concerts, as expected, were of a superb and sensational standard. While most of the credits must go to the conductors, musicians and the orchestras’ administrators, it was also imperative to recognise the audience members, who all demonstrated impeccable manners and politeness.
The doors of the concert halls were opened two hours before a concert was due to begin. In a significant number of concert halls around the world, the majority of audiences only arrived with some ten to fifteen minutes to spare. In Japan, however, audiences arrived even before the halls were opened, and patiently waited outside in the cold. And as soon as the halls opened their doors, audiences took their seats promptly.
I arrived to both concerts 30 minutes ahead of the start time, and was stunned that when I entered the concert halls, they were virtually full already. Now I have learned not to over-exaggerate my writing, but on this occasion, I must say that ALL the patrons were on their seats reading the programmes quietly. No one was talking, eating, drinking or socialising, incidents that were bound to happen in other Asian, European or American concert halls.
I saw some elderly couples sitting next to each other communicating with each other by writing on a piece of paper, while some even used simplified sign language to achieve the same purpose. The concert halls were so quiet that you could actually hear a pin drop, or a mosquito flying in the air.
It was a pity that both concert halls had a rather limited number of lavatories, and led to long queues at these facilities. However, instead of passing the time by chatting or playing with their smart phones, Japanese patrons stood in line, silently, patiently waiting for their turn. There was no pushing or shoving and certainly no cutting in lines.
During the concerts, no one was using their phones, or to take photos or videos illegally. In fact, the audiences’ hands were all on their laps. And needless to say, there were no excruciating sounds generated by drinks bottles or candy wrappers. In other cities, I had the misfortune to sit next to patrons who kept taking off, and then putting back on, their jackets, seemingly unable to adjust to the temperature of the concert halls. However, as far as I could see, all the Japanese audiences were able to sit still, in a most dignified and motionless manner, throughout the concerts, and never had the urge to shift in their seats.
With everyone sitting so close to each other inside the concert halls, there was bound to be some physical contact among patrons, and the act of mistakenly kicking the chair in front was one of the most common blunders. Instead of cursing or staring at you, Japanese patrons treated as though nothing had happened when faced with these problems. A foreign audience member repeatedly sneezed during the second movement of Mahler’s Second Symphony, in the concert conducted by Eschenbach, and frantically looked for tissues in his rucksack, creating much disturbance to the Japanese audiences around him. The locals, however, did not stare at him in disgust or in angst. In truth, most did not even steal a glance in his direction, and continued to give their full concentration to the performance.
I have written about the embarrassments inside Hong Kong’s concert halls, especially how local audiences enjoyed faking coughs and sneezes in between movements of symphonies and concertos to underline their good manners. Such a disturbing phenomenon, of course, did not occur in Japan. Throughout the concerts, the only sounds generated were through the musicians’ instruments; the audience members, with perfect disciplines and manners, literally redefined the word ‘silence’.
There is no doubt that I was deeply impressed by the wonderful manners and etiquettes of the Japanese audiences, but I could not help but wonder in doing so, if they were intentionally suppressing their emotions, feelings and sentiments. Their perfect behaviours were admirable and respectable in first glance, but having experienced these throughout my extended holiday in Japan, in restaurants, public transportation, hotels, shops and markets, I am really curious as to whether such superlative cultural and national virtues were, in fact, natural and instinctive.