Joe Hisaishi Performs Music from the Films of Hayao Miyazaki




OK *ahem* Ok. So, back in September (on the twenty-first to be exact) my brother and I were fortunate enough to see Joe Hisaishi– THE Joe Hisaishi, conduct the music he wrote for Miyazaki’s films.


This was a dream come true, I’ve been saying that since the concert. I even framed my ticket! Something I had never had the want or thought to do before that night. I figured since we’re past October and the Halloween-themed posts, and November first has passed with its death ceremonies post, I would gush over something that really means the world to me. I hope that doesn’t turn too many of you away.

If you’ve stayed, I’m glad you’re here. I will do my best to transport you to the night of the concert. Other than that, I don’t see this post being too long. I hope you enjoy while it lasts. 🙂

For those of you not familiar with who Miyazaki is, he is the brilliant and inspiring director of such anime films as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Joe Hisaishi composed Miyazaki’s music for those films. And let me tell you, Miyazaki’s movies would not be the same without Hisaishi’s music. As a notecard placed onscreen said, Hisaishi’s music best compliments Miyazaki’s anime. I couldn’t agree more.

Ok, let me start from the beginning.

We were thirteen rows from the front. Seats 415 and 416, Row M. We were on the left side edge, which I mindfully picked as Hisaishi plays the piano and I was certain he would that night. The left side of the stage (looking at the stage) is where the keys of a piano are. If you sit on the left side, you can see the pianist play. It’s all about the hands on the keys. 😊

The orchestra was warming up when my brother and I walked in. About fifteen minutes later, the lights dim, the orchestra quiets and Hisaishi walks out. If you think I didn’t get teary-eyed you’re wrong, I did. I totally did. Onscreen a title card flashes:

A perfect score to open the show. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember each song he played from Nausicaä, but I can tell you that Hisaishi didn’t play the whole score (which is fine, more movies to hear from) but he played what I’ll call the highlights. Onscreen, clips from the movie play, going back and forth from the movie to the orchestra. Which was composed of not only a full orchestra and two pianos, but an adult and a children’s choir as well. It was a beautiful way to experience the music alongside scenes from the movie in which the music plays. And I’m glad the screen flashed from movie clips to the orchestra as that gave me permission to watch movies from my childhood* play with live orchestra, while also watching the orchestra. Which I am fortunate enough to be able to say I could see the orchestra without the screen. And Hisaishi! You could tell he loved what it was he was playing, what he composed! He wiggled while he conducted. Smiled at his orchestra while the audience applauded, it was great!

The movies the followed Nausicaä were Kiki’s Delivery Service (I definitely cried), The Wind Rises, and Princess Mononoke. Each score played to clips from their respective movies in a similar fashion as I described above, with a clip being shown followed by the orchestra, and back and forth. After Mononoke, the orchestra leaves the stage, but I know they’re coming back as the cellists and bass players have left their instruments on the stage. Hisaishi turns, raises his arms as though to conduct the audience. The audience laughs when drums come from the back. It’s a marching band. A high school marching band playing music from Castle in the Sky. They march down the rows, true to form in their costumes and marching. Onstage, six musicians flank Hisaishi, three to each side. On the left there were two clarinetists and a bassoon, and on the right a saxophonist and two trumpet players. And let me tell you, the musicians up there got into what they were playing. I mean, wiggling all around. It genuinely seemed like the musicians enjoyed what it was they were playing and who they were playing with. It was so fun to see. After Castle in the Sky music from Howl’s Moving Castle played, and Ponyo played with an Opera singer. I remember looking at the adult choir during Ponyo’s theme song and one grown man was smiling as he sang the lyrics, “Ponyo, Ponyo little fishie in the sea…” It was great 🙂 Porco Rosso followed with Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro bringing the concert to a close.

Brought back on the stage for an encore, Hisaishi played a piece from Mononoke, the scene where the forest regrows and Ashitaka and San part ways.

It was a beautiful concert and, as I’ve been saying since that night, an absolute dream come true. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see Hisaishi himself conduct the music he composed for Miyazaki’s films.

Oh! I almost forgot, after the notecard about Miyazaki and Hisaishi came onscreen, another notecard was displayed, this time a note from Miyazaki to Hisaishi. It read, “Will you help me compose the final masterpiece of my life?”

Thanks for reading,



Should you care to learn more about Miyazaki, I’ve gushed about him here:

Home Again: Spirited Away

Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises


*Kiki’s Delivery Service was my first Miyazaki movie, if I wasn’t six, I was five. I honestly can’t remember my life without Miyazaki’s movies.


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