An Unexpected Audience

Harry Pogorzelski-Ponichtera headshot
Harry Pogorzelski-Ponichtera
December 12, 2023

I’ve always preferred to travel alone. Traveling with others just makes things move slow and when I am traveling to a new place I like to make the most of my surroundings. After starting to understand the Korean language and being used to the culture I decided to start all over and go to Japan one weekend. I booked plane tickets and a few nights at a hostel and made no other plans.

When I am in a new place by myself I like to just walk around and figure things out as I go. Tokyo was a far different city than Seoul. It was a more difficult city to be in. The public transportation was less convenient, the language barrier was more present. I ended up wasting my first night just walking near my hostel not realizing I was just in a residential district. After walking in the dark for an hour I caught on. More things in Japan required reservations even some night clubs required reservations. It was more difficult to spontaneously find activities to do.

I quickly realized that I had to start making plans and reservations. For the next few days I made plans. I made plans to go to some temples, some museums, and different districts. I went to see Kabuki theater and spent the night at the Shibuya scramble. This yielded better success in terms of experience. I always prefer to walk from place to place instead of taking the train in order to save money. One night while walking from Ginza back to my hostel I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. I saw a drum set with a player behind it right in the middle of a residential district on the third floor of an otherwise dark building. As I approached the building I saw that this place was a Jazz club so I went in. 

When I walked in the music came to a stop. The entire room looked at me in utter shock that some young white kid just walked into their club in the middle of Tokyo. The room consisted of one long table filled with middle aged people chatting in Japanese. As I entered, a woman approached me. She barely spoke English and was extremely wasted. I felt as though I had just crashed a family dinner. But the woman, using all of the English she could, explained to me the cover charge and escorted me to the bar area and let me enjoy the show.

The lady’s name was Yuki and she felt the need to introduce me to everyone in the room while the band played. Everybody spoke very little English and I spoke no Japanese but despite the language barrier they were clearly happy I was there.

After a few tunes the drummer sat down next to me at the bar. She spoke pretty good English and was asking about my trip and giving me suggestions of what to do. One guy who was particularly drunk kept saying “In Japan Kabuki is ok but Noh is the real stuff”. He was really cool. Everybody there was lovely and it gave my trip the spontaneity I felt it needed.

There is often a tendency for Americans to brand Asian countries as very racist and anti foreigner. After going to Korea and Japan I have realized that this is a very unfair characterization. Most people living in these countries don’t have the chance to meet foreigners and when they do, I found most people are happy to have a broken English conversation with me. I am forever thankful to Yuki, Sachiko, and everyone else at the Jazz club for letting me share their fun. When I return to Tokyo, that's the first stop I will be making.


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Harry Pogorzelski-Ponichtera

My name is Harry Pogorzelski-Ponichtera and I am currently a music composition major at Ithaca College. I have been playing guitar since I was 7 years old. In my spare time I enjoy making music and gaming with friends!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Ithaca College
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