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I first heard of Noboru Morishige in about 1974. I loved the sound of the fiddle and my friend Mark Huddleston told me there was a Japanese guy who played fiddle often at the Koinonia Coffeehouse. Mark pointed him out to me after church one time saying, that's "Shige" over there. Soon after I chanced to see him at the Nashville flea market. Since I knew what he looked like I recognized him with his wife Martha so I walked up to him and introduced myself. I said, would you like to try playing some music together? We exchanged phone numbers and a friendship was born.
We got together to play. I liked jazz and Noboru was game for it. He seemed to be up for just about any kind of music. Before he married he had played on tour with such as the Stoneman Family and Jeannie C. Riley. But since he needed to stay at home with his wife he was making a go at being a Nashville session player. But the stress of recording sessions gave him headaches. My wife Leslie made up some brochures about our duo; we sent them out as publicity but only got to play a few gigs. Once we opened a show for a Hank Williams impersonator, another time for Doug Green and his group, later to be known as Riders in the Sky. But I think we garnered the most fans when we played out in the open at the arts and crafts fairs. We might have made fifty dollars total playing music together. Soon my friend said he was sure he was called to go back to Japan to preach the Gospel so he and Martha began to make preparations to go.
Now let me back up to the time before I knew him. Noboru had first come to the states a non-believer (an atheist actually) with his Japanese college friends to play bluegrass music. Ending up in Nashville, he received the kindness of some musicians who were Christians. He was given the opportunity to share a home on Capers Avenue with some other single young men, all Christians but him. But exposure to Christians didn't immediately attract Noboru to the Christian faith because it seemed to him (and was entirely true) that these Christians had a lot more problems than he did. They were impolite, rude, lazy, and seemingly out of touch with material reality. As for Noboru, though he could be as hip as the next person, just couldn't stand these bad character traits in his housemates. Thinking these negative traits must be a consequence of their belief system Noboru thought surely if he read the Bible he would find the flaws in the Christian mindset and then he would be able to correct his friends and help them to get their lives together. He began to read his newly acquired Japanese Bible. Starting in Genesis he looked for the evidence that he could use to point out the flaws in their thinking. But the Old Testament baffled him; it didn't give him the ammunition he needed to correct his dysfunctional housemates.
Here is a story Noboru tells on himself concerning the "Capers House" period. There was a girl named Julia sitting in the front room (probably waiting for John, whom she eventually married). Noboru was the only other person in the room and Julia wanted to tell him about the Lord. Noboru didn't want to hear it and told her so. He had made himself some noodle soup and wanted to enjoy it in peace. Julia persisted and persisted. Noboru resisted and resisted, finally to the point of pitching his bowl of soup against the opposite wall of the room. "You clean it up!" said he, as he stomped out of the room. So, when it came right down to it Noboru wasn't always as well-behaved and proper as he liked to think he was. It was soon after that that Noboru experienced a life-changing night of conviction.
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