What screams I grew up in Tokyo

"Music has always been my haven"

Alice Sara Ott
In the past I always thought I had to get out of Munich, to Berlin, Paris, Tokyo - just leave. I now go on concert tours for three quarters of the year; It's fun too, but as soon as I arrive at Munich Airport, my heart warms and everything switches to slow motion - it's so cozy in Bavaria.
I grew up in Japanese and German culture - in Germany I was the "Ching Chang Chung" all my life, in Japan I am spoken to in English. Music has always been a place of refuge where I felt at home: the piano is understood just as much in Japan as it is in Germany.

I started playing when I was four. I persuaded my parents that I wanted to be a pianist. My mother was against it at first: she is a pianist herself and didn't want me to commit myself so early. Today the piano is like my diary: I remember pieces that accompanied me at a certain time. For example Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, the first concert I played when I was 14.

For me, practicing the piano a lot has never been a sacrifice. I couldn't go to all of my school friends' birthday parties because I had traveled around the world; for this I now have friends in different countries. It is still difficult to be far from home, luckily there are cell phones. I always have a photo of my Japanese grandmother with me and a letter she once wrote to me - she died last year - things like that are a piece of home in a foreign country.

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After a trip I like to go to Odeonsplatz, sit down in the Feldherrnhalle and look down to the Siegestor - in moments like this I notice how deeply rooted I am here. That really became clear to me when I was in Japan for two months at a time. I love Japanese culture, but for the first time I was only there for work, the mentality in Japanese business life was so foreign to me - I was homesick and suddenly wanted a pretzel. Home is where childhood memories are, friends and family. Even if I'm still young and others find it boring - I feel that I want to spend my life in Munich.


Alice Sara Ott
Pianist, 22 years old, grew up in Munich with a German father and a Japanese mother. As a child she won music competitions such as Jugend musiziert. Ott studied at the Salzburg Mozarteum and in October was awarded the ECHO Klassik as »Young Artist of the Year«. Before that, her CD with the Piano Concertos No. 1 by Tchaikovsky and Liszt will be released in collaboration with the Munich Philharmonic.

Michael Manke

Michael Manke
At first I didn't think it was good that we moved to Australia. My mother tricked us a little: she said we were staying for three months, long summer vacation. Then it was four months, then a year, and finally ten years. I was eleven when we got there, I could hardly speak English, my parents were separated and my father stayed in Germany. I was just sad. My brother and I only visited him during the summer holidays and at Christmas. I never really understood the reason we left. We kept moving in Australia - I must have lived in 15 different houses.

Home is not a specific place for me - I can adapt anywhere. For the past few weeks I've been assisting a photographer in Los Angeles - I immediately felt at home there. I quickly find people I like, that makes it easier for me. Of course there are people who are more important to me than others: When I was in elementary school in Schwabing, I had a friend, Pablo. We had no contact at all for ten years, and a few weeks ago I wrote to him that I was back in Munich. It's crazy: over the years we've developed almost in parallel. He also takes photos and makes electronic music.

Arriving in familiar places makes me feel at home. For example, when I am picked up from the airport in Australia by my mother, my brother or friends. I also associate cold with home. I always flew away in Australia in midsummer and landed in Munich in winter. My father lived by Lake Tegernsee and took the road from Munich Airport to Lake Tegernsee, this pre-Alpine landscape, the dark lake that was sometimes completely frozen - I liked that very much, I love winter in Germany. And how nice that you have so many other countries nearby. In Australia you only have Australia.

What bothers me a little in Germany, however, is what people eat - I've never eaten meat in my life. It's not that I'm always invited to the veal sausage breakfast, but eating vegan isn't as easy here as it is in LA, for example. Everyone is on a health trip there.

I would now like to stay somewhere longer and build up an existence as a photographer. In Australia I have lived a pretty sedentary life for the past three years, I've lived with my girlfriend; we even had a cat - really grown up, and I was only 18. It was good to live like that, but it became clear to me that I no longer want to.

For now I'm staying in Munich, next year I want to go to Berlin and start a flat share with friends there. My return flight to Sydney is actually in April because I had to fix a date and that is the latest possible date. Who knows - maybe just let it expire.


Michael MankePhotographer, 20 years old, emigrated to Australia with his mother and brother at the age of eleven and lived there for the last ten years. He studied photography in Brisbane and recently started looking for an apartment in Germany again.

Photo: Anja Frers