There can be all sorts of ways someone develops an interest in Celtic music. They may have family members who already play it so it's a natural thing to pick up an instrument yourself to join in. You might hear the music at your local pub session and want to be a part of it. Or you could go to the movies and be captivated by the soundtrack. Such was the case for two of the members of the Japanese trio O'Jizo. 

"When I was a Junior High School student I saw Braveheart and heard the bagpipes. It was my first Celtic music experience and it touched me," says guitarist Koji Nagao. 

Kozo Toyota, who play flute and tin whistle, specialized in Ethnomusicology at university where he explored music from around the world. But then he saw Back To The Future, Part 3

"I love old American music and then I found Irish music. A lot of bands consist of brothers and sisters, husbands and wives or fathers and daughters. It was very difficult to play classical music with family. It creates a lot of conflict. There's much less conflict in Irish music so it's special to me." 

For accordionist Hirofumi Nakamura his entry into Celtic music was through Kozo. 

"We were at the same university and he had just started to play Celtic music. Oh, I liked it! I said, 'I want to play with you'." 

The band began as a duo with Koji and Kozo using the last two letters of their names to form Jizo. When Hirofumi joined them the name became O'Jizo. The trio's research into Celtic music initially came from recordings and what they could find on YouTube. Eventually Celtic musicians from Ireland, the U.S. and elsewhere started to tour through Japan, sometimes holding workshops which the three of them took part in. 

"Plus I studied in Ireland for two and a half months," says Kozo. "I took part in five festivals where I also took a workshop class. In all I had about 11 teachers." 

The reception to O'Jizo's music in Japan was quite encouraging right from the beginning. 

"Celtic music is very familiar to Japanese audiences," according to Kozo. "At the time there weren't many musicians in Japan playing this music so audiences were very nice." 

"The audiences said to us, 'You really like Celtic music!', so they enjoyed," adds Hirofumi. "They could feel our enthusiasm." 

"A lot of people say we look like we enjoy playing the music, so it makes the audiences happy," says Kozo. "It's an important thing for us." 

O'Jizo has toured in the U.S. three times already but their appearance at last year's Celtic Roots Festival in Goderich, Ontario was their first Canadian gig. That booking was a result of them being co-winners of the 2021 Robinson Emerging Artist Showcase. They've recorded four albums so far with the latest being 2021's MiC - Music In Cube. There are plans for a fifth album and as Hirofumi says, "We really want to play festivals and see so many people around the world." 

For more on O'Jizo, go to ojizo.org.