* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Waiting for a Train is an award-winning documentary by Oscar Bucher that examines the life of Japanese emigrant Toshio Hirano who fell in love with American Bluegrass music in 1950s Tokyo and followed his passion for this music for 30 years, to the heartland of country music in Tennessee, Texas, and finally San Francisco where he still plays every month after 30 plus years in the business. Above all, it is about the borderless and universal quality of the music, and the rewards of following your bliss beyond traditional cultural barriers.
Toshio Hirano was born in Tokyo, Japan in the 1950's. As a teenager he became interested in bluegrass and country music and later became inspired by the Mississippi legend, Jimmie Rodgers. Toshio learned to play banjo, guitar and mandolin and continued playing music throughout college, after which he immigrated to the USA to pursue his love of the music. After first visiting the Appalachia region—the heartland of Bluegrass music—he then lived in Atlanta, Nashville, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas. San Francisco has been his home since 1986 and he plays regularly in cafes and bars around town. The deep romantic nature of country music—tales of trains and cowboys and broken hearts—continues to sustain Toshio's imagination and art.
Waiting for a Train was shot on location, capturing beautiful performances by Toshio Hirano and his trio, performing in San Francisco speakeasys, on moving vintage passenger trains, and by the riverside. Intercut with some of his performances, Hirano speaks about novelty, authenticity and heritage—how the fact that he is Japanese both helps him—in that it attracts a crowd interested in the novelty aspect—and hinders in that his ethnicity has little to do with his love and passion of the music.
He also relates the moment he discovered Jimmie Rodgers—an amazing, transcendent epiphany that would forever change his life. It's an incredible singular moment of discovery and rebirth rendered here in an eloquent cinematic poem. Like Jimmie Rodgers and the song of the same name, in many ways, Toshio Hirano was 'Waiting for a Train' and when it arrived, it changed his life forever.