Dear All - 31 Jan 2016

My long, very long leg rehabilitation has been continuing. The training is painful and really tough but I'm making progress. Hope the condition will get better and better.

I have had to cancel all my engagements since 2014. My last concert in 2013 was Mozart KV488 with Maestro Eraldo Salmieri and Koszalin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. The last two years(2014-2015) was the hardest time of my life, particularly 2015.

I've been training hard. I didn't expect that I need such a long time. I had to understand that having good motor coordination/natural athletic ability bears (almost) no relation to the speedy recovery. In order to make a complete recovery, the most important thing is - to keep hope for the future alive.

Many people have been supporting me. On Saturday I made a green salad (with my homemade 'egg-free, oil-free' mayonnaise and homemade lime vinaigrette) and had a wonderful time. Thank you very much to those who have encouraged and helped me. I will never forget your kindness.



[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 1]

For about 2 years, in 2014 and 2015, I couldn't walk at all.

I've been struggling against the leg muscle pains and struggling to gain new muscles.
I had to cancel all my recitals, performances with orchestra, chamber music concerts, masterclasses, appearances on TV, International Piano Competition jury work and so on. But not only not-being-able-to-work as a pianist, but also, and more seriously and much worse, I couldn't even stand up from my chair at the worst time.

I hadn't expected that I had to face such a serious situation in my life. I'd never imagined such things like that happened to me. But that happened.

If a concert pianist isn't able to travel and walk on his/her own - it means that the career will end.


I was a healthy baby born in Nagoya, Japan. And grew up in a quiet neighbourhood of Okazaki, a truly beautiful city, where Ieyasu Tokugawa was born. I had a happy childhood. My parents often used to take me and my sisters to the swimming pool. I loved swimming, running and classical music.

I ran the 100 meters in 16.00 seconds when I was 9 years old. I was in a track-and-field team: won and got a gold medal at Okazaki City track-and-field meet.

197810Okazaki 1photograph: 9-year-old Yuko receiving gold medals for her and her teammates (Mariko, Tomoko and Chinami) in the 4 x 100-meter relay.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 2]

After my posting on 31 January on Facebook (, one of my FB friends Misato-san sent a message to me and asked: 'Leg rehabilitation? Injury or illness?'

Injury. Not illness.

Few people knew about my leg problem. Because I hadn't spoken about it. I concentrated on solving the problem, concentrated on recovering from the injury, as soon as possible.
In my case, it's only the muscle, not bones. But - why couldn't I walk so long? Two years is definitely too long. And what does it mean, 'cannot walk'?


One day I pulled a muscle and the pain lasted relatively long. But I was able to walk, travel and give concerts. After a month I was OK.

Then 6 months later, I had an important concert and after that received a present from the organiser. It was heavy. I put it into my shoulder bag. And then when I was walking towards my hotel, suddenly my old pain place - the muscle ached badly and I fell on the pavement in front of the hotel. It changed for the worse. The next day it wasn't easy to walk normally because of the sharp pain.


With pain, still I managed to walk. But couldn't walk long. I waited for the pain to go away but my legs started weakening.

1972photograph: 6-year-old Yuko with her younger sister on Girls' Day (Hinamatsuri), Okazaki, Japan


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 3]

If we cannot walk normally/properly, our legs will weaken, unfortunately quickly.

Until I had my first leg muscle dislocation/fragmentation, I always used to have a flexible and relaxed body. The muscles in my legs never felt sore. I never felt the necessity of stretching exercises. My legs always kept the flexibility, never tightened.

But since my legs started to weaken, I've had muscular aches and pains. I felt I must come back to my normal leg condition quickly, so tried to walk as long as possible. I went for a walk every day. But the next day my legs ached. After walking they were extremely tight. I tried massages, acupuncture patch and everyday bathing. But such things weren't that effective to me, didn't help my sore muscles. I tried to eat lots of citrus fruits, take vitamin C as well.

And not only leg muscles, but also my abdominal/stomach muscles started weakening.
My doctor made me do a MRI scan. My leg bones and muscles were all right.

childhood_aphotograph: from the right - Yuko's mum, aunt, cousin,10-year-old Yuko with her youngest sister, cousin, younger sister. Yuko's dad took the picture.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 4]

After going for a walk, even a very short walk, my leg muscles tightened with fatigue. I never had such a situation until 2012. So I had no idea whether it was natural/common or not.

My doctor said it was normal. He said that I need to wait. He advised me to give myself a gentle massage.
I felt that I must improve blood circulation/flow. So I chose my food carefully - 'You are what you eat.', so 'I'm what I eat.'

But my legs still tightened awfully. One day I managed to walk 10,000 steps, but the next day I couldn't move. I was able to raise my leg only 1 or 2 cm from the floor, but couldn't do more. Muscles lost the flexibility and were extremely tense.

I had to think about it carefully: If I walk - then the situation will be worse. Sore and tense. If I don't walk - also, will be worse, because legs will weaken. The doctor says sore muscles are common, but… what should I do?

photograph: Yuko with her dad and younger sisters. Her mum took the picture. It was so hot and they all were exhausted(!). A little bit similar to the photograph of Chopin(?).


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 5]

Since 2013 I've suffered from a strained leg muscle after walking/training and my 'rehabilitation' wasn't so effective.

In the summer 2013, I performed at Piotrowice Nyskie. It was July, it was the start of a new music festival in Poland:

Schumann Piano Quintet in E-flat major Op.44 and
Chopin Piano Concerto in E minor Op.11 chamber version
with Warsaw Philharmonic String Quartet,
solo recital and Beethoven Choral Fantasy in C minor Op.80 with TALIS CANTUS Otmuchów.

Schumann Piano Quintet rehearsing:
Beethoven Choral Fantasy rehearsing:


And then in August, I played two Chopin Piano Concertos: in F minor Op.21 and E minor Op.11 solo version (Chopin's original) - for prof.Jan Ekier's 100th Birthday Special Concert, at International Music Festival 'Chopin and his Europe':

Chopin Piano Concerto in F minor rehearsing:
TVP1 News:


In September I had a Chopin recital at Żelazowa Wola, Chopin's birthplace. Scherzo in B-flat minor, Mazurkas, Waltzes and so on.

When I got up in the morning, I thought everything was alright. But after getting off the subway/metro, when I was walking down Nowy Świat Street towards Chopin Museum, where the driver from the organiser (Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina) waited for me, I felt something was wrong with my legs.

P1030201photograph: Yuko with Anna & Jim Parton at their Piotrowice Nyskie Palace, July 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 6]

In the summer 2013, I couldn't walk very long but for instance about 20 minutes walking - there was no problem.

But when I was walking along Nowy Świat Street in September 2013, suddenly I found the walking difficult. It was only about 10 minutes since I started walking. It was strange. Felt no pain, but the legs were as if they were not mine.

I moved my 'heavy' legs and arrived at Chopin Museum. The driver took me to Żelazowa Wola.

For me it's always a great pleasure to perform at Chopin's birthplace and I was happy after the recital. But after the performance I walked much worse.

I arrived home and thought: 'If my leg condition is worse than today, the concert organisers will have problems with me. I'd better find a very good rehabilitation specialist, a very good "muscle" specialist/doctor soon.'

Warming up - Chopin Cantabile in B-flat major WN43, at 10.30 in the morning

201309ZelazowaWola_aphotograph: Yuko rehearsing before her recital at Chopin's birthplace, Żelazowa Wola, 8th September 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 7]

Finding a very good rehabilitation/muscle specialist isn't easy.

There is a famous rehabilitation centre in Konstancin-Jeziorna. But people told me that a new applicant has to wait a very long time to start training.

Also I went to some physiotherapists in Warsaw privately but my legs didn't make progress.
(The Polish National Health Fund/NFZ or 'private' - Health care in Poland:


On 5th October I had an occasion to talk about 'Chopin National Edition reception history in Japan' at the special meeting at The Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw:

'BEING AN ARTIST - prof.Jan Ekier's pupils and friends talk about the professor / BYĆ ARTYSTĄ- o Janie Ekierze mowią uczniowie i przyjaciele'.

organiser: The Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw
co-organisation: The Foundation for the National Edition of the Works of Fryderyk Chopin


I prepared some materials the previous night to show the meeting moderator Marcin Majchrowski (Polish Radio).
But when I leave home, realised that these books and documents which I put into my bag were too heavy for me - because my legs and abdominal muscles were already quite weak. I reduced the weight of my bag and went to The Chopin University of Music.


In late October I visited Piotrowice Nyskie again - to give a Chopin complete Ballades & Impromptus recital as a start of my recital series 'Chopinissimo' in Poland.


[video] Yuko talks about 'Chopin National Edition reception history in Japan'

20131005_aphotograph: Mirosław Bujwid
At the meeting 'BEING AN ARTIST' - prof.Jan Ekier's pupils and friends talk about the professor'
The Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, 5th October 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 8]

In October 2013 I visited Piotrowice Nyskie again - to give a Chopin complete Ballades & Impromptus recital as a recital series 'Chopinissimo'.

My legs were weak. It was difficult to walk quickly and normally, but I never had a problem with piano playing. The only problem was when I stood up from my chair and walked. And it wasn't already easy to carry my heavy luggage.
Jim Parton, a British author, the owner of Piotrowice Nyskie Palace and the concert organiser - he and his wife Ania helped me a lot. The day after the recital I realised I walked much worse. Jim suggested/proposed that I stayed a day longer at the palace in order to rest. I changed the PKP train ticket to Warsaw on the internet.

Thanks to the stay, I was able to rest, relax and had a wonderful time with Jim & Ania's angel-like children. The next day Jim took me to Opole train station and I told him in the car: 'A huge contrast between my hands and legs. My hands (piano performance) are better and better, but my legs (walking) are worse and worse…'.

201310Piotrowice_cphotograph by Jim Parton: Yuko's Chopin complete Ballades & Impromptus recital at Piotrowice Nyskie Palace, 26th October 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 9]

After coming home I rested for a few days, and then visited a private orthopaedics-rehabilitation clinic in Warsaw. I walked worse and worse. So for the first time I had to use Nordic Walking poles, to feel safer while walking through a crowd in the city centre.

My next performance was Mozart Piano Concerto in Koszalin, with Koszalin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. The date - a month later, 29th November 2013. I was keen to go, but they said that better not to go to Koszalin, because they thought it would be highly risky for my legs. It's a long journey from Warsaw to Koszalin - it takes nine and a half hours by train.

'I want to go and perform.' I said. 'What I fear is to enter stage and reach the piano in the middle of the stage. My legs are weak. But playing the piano - no problem. I want to perform.'

But the clinic's comment was negative:
'Which is more important for you - your health or the concert?'
I smiled sadly and left the clinic. I wanted to cry.

childhood_cphotograph: Yuko with her mum and younger sisters on the beach


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 10]

I phoned my manager Andrzej and told him: 'My leg condition is getting worse. But I want to go to Koszalin, I want to perform. I've been playing the Mozart Concerto better and better. I won't cancel the concert. I don't want to cancel it!'

Andrzej was listening to me carefully.

I said: 'But I'm fearful of entering stage with the conductor and reaching the piano in the middle of the stage. In order to feel safer, I'm going to use my Nordic Walking poles.'

Andrzej replied: 'Don't worry, Nordic Walking has been popular recently. You can use poles.'

Then he contacted the orchestra office and told them about my situation. He called me and said: 'The driver from the orchestra is waiting for you at the Koszalin train station platform when you arrive. He will help you.' 'Thanks a lot!'

Newly opened Koszalin Philharmonic Concert Hall
(My friend Anna Korpalska sent me the photograph on 10th November 2013. Thank you Anna.)


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 11]

Before setting off for Koszalin, I had no worries about my piano playing. I was sure the concert would be successful. The only thing was my leg condition, my walking on the stage and carrying my luggage.

I sent the luggage to Koszalin Philharmonic in advance. I did like that for the first time in Europe. But I knew I had to carry the luggage myself to Warsaw, it was impossible to send it again because of the weekend departure - so I tried to do my packing as light in weight as possible (In Koszalin I wore the same red sweater for three days). Also, for more my walking safety, I shortened the length of the stage dress a few centimetres. So the dress was shorter than usual.

When I arrived in Koszalin after the 10-hour journey and came in the guest room and found my luggage waiting for me in the room, my relief was overwhelming: 'I don't have to worry any more. Everything will go well.'

And in the next room - there was a compact kitchen. 'Kitchen!' - I felt a quick lift of spirit. 'I can prepare the meals here.'

Then I started practising and concentrated for two and a half hours - till 21.00 and went to bed. The next morning our first rehearsal begins at 9 o'clock. I have to be in the best condition at 9.00, so I need to start my warm-up at about 7 in the morning.

I slept like the dead.

20131128KoszalinPianophotograph: the practice room at Koszalin Philharmonic


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 12]

When I met the conductor and the orchestra, at first I apologised for my leg condition and informed about using poles:

'I'm sorry, I move slowly, walk slowly with poles on the stage. But - the performance, the music is completely all right.'

'The music isn't slow, is it?'

An orchestra member responded humorously and we laughed. It warmed the atmosphere and our face relaxed into a smile.

Everyone was very friendly, kind and supportive. I was able to concentrate on Mozart's voice and the close cooperation with the orchestra. After the rehearsal I was happy.

20131127rehearsal_gphotograph: the first rehearsal on Mozart KV488 with Koszalin Philharmonic, 27th November 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 13]

What else - I was considering about one thing: 'Koszalin audiences must be surprised when they suddenly see a pianist entering stage with poles.' - It's a very unusual and uncommon view/scene at all.

I talked to Koszalin Philharmonic director Robert Wasilewski and the concert moderator Andrzej Zborowski.

I've known Andrzej since I performed at Szymanowski Festival in Słupsk in 1997. I was surprised when first I met him, because he knew very well about what had happened to me during Chopin Competition in 1995, then how Polish media had reacted and helped me.

Since then I've been invited to Słupsk several times as a jury member of 'Polish Pianism Festival/Festiwal Pianistyki Polskiej - Estrada Młodych', in spite of not being Polish (I'm Japanese). I have worked there with prof.Andrzej Jasiński, Jan Popis, Józef Kański, Małgorzata Błoch-Wiśniewska and others. It has been a great honour for me. When I was there, Andrzej Zborowski always worked at the Festival as a moderator.


They've always been very kind and helpful. Director Robert Wasilewski understood me and Andrzej Zborowski promised to speak to the audiences about my leg situation and using poles, in order not to surprise the audiences.

And director Wasilewski said the tickets of our concert had already been sold out in March 2013 - eight months earlier.

I was surprised and felt it was really good I hadn't cancelled - I didn't make Koszalin audiences feel disappointed by my cancellation.

'Sold out in March?!'

And they asked me some questions:

'Don't you have a problem with your hands? Only legs?'
'Legs only. My hands - better and better.'
'Oh, you're lucky.'

'We heard the orchestra members talking that the Mozart Concerto was really good, tomorrow's our concert is going to be a success. Yuko, you are probably going to play something as an encore, aren't you?'

'Umm... to be honest, perhaps not.' I said. 'In my view, that's better. Of course I can, but... I walk slowly and carefully on the stage with poles, so if I played an encore, it would take too long. After Mozart KV488 - stunning Schubert Symphony is waiting for us. Better without my encore.'

'Even a very short piece... something Mozart...'
'Thank you very much for that, repertoire - no problem. I've already performed the complete cycle of Mozart Piano Sonatas - twice. But I think that better not to play my encore tomorrow. The next time when I come, when I'm completely healthy with my legs, let's do. I'd love to.'

20131128SoloRehearsal_aphotograph: Before the second rehearsal with the orchestra, in the morning on 28th November 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 14]

Mozart Piano Concerto KV488 isn't old as my concerto repertoire - the second time I've played the Concerto. But I've loved this incredibly beautiful Wolfgang's masterpiece for a long time. Maestro Eraldo Salmieri said to me that the Concerto is like a miracle. That's true - Maestro is absolutely right.

Meanwhile the person who suggested I should learn KV488 was Maestro Jerzy Maksymiuk - after listening to my debut CD by BeArTon 'Chopin National Edition: Lento... and other works' in 1999.

And the person who invited me to Koszalin to perform KV488 with Koszalin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra - was Maestro Ruben Silva.

Mozart Piano Concerto No.23 in A major KV488 - autograph* (facsimile)
The beginning of the first movement

The autograph is beautiful and 'lively'. I know that the original autograph and the facsimile often have a difference: the impression is different, the energy is different. I know that from my experience. However it's definitely worth seeing/reading the facsimile.

*The autograph belongs to Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 15]

Despite using poles, I was still fearful to enter stage and reach the piano in the middle of the stage - because of my leg condition. Before the concert, I therefore asked Maestro Salmieri for walking along beside me (side by side with me) when we go on stage - not walking behind me.

Thanks to this way, I felt much safer and better. Then while I was shaking hands with the concertmaster Natan Dondalski, Maestro went on ahead and waited for me at the piano - so I was able to keep the conductor in my sight and felt safe.

And Danuta Kaluta-Jakubowska (the second violin) always helped me a lot. Pani Danusiu, thank you very much indeed.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 21.12.41photograph: Before the performance - Danusia helping me put the poles down on the floor, under the piano


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 16]

The Koszalin Philharmonic Concert Hall was filled with very warm atmosphere. When the last note faded away, everyone was smiling.

Thank you Maestro, thank you Koszalin Philharmonic.

And thank you to all those who supported me, thank you to all those who came to the concert.
It was really good that I came to Koszalin, didn't cancel the concert.


the concert reviews:
*Kazimierz Rozbicki: "ROK 2013, złota data w kulturze Koszalina"
(Koszalińska Biblioteka Publiczna: KULTURA KOSZALIŃSKA almanach 2013)

*Alina Konieczna: "Muzyczna uczta"
(uploaded at 5 in the morning, the day after the concert)

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 21.12.01 copy
photograph: at Koszalin Philharmonic, 29th November 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 17]

Good-bye Koszalin. See you again.


From Koszalin I went back home to Warsaw by bus. When I was waiting for the bus, a woman with a cane came up to me and started talking:

'I had an operation on my leg but it didn't make progress. Rather worse. The surgeon's fault. He escaped and I haven't been able to contact him. I will never be able to walk normally. To the end of my life.'

She talked to me looking at my poles.
'I got used to living with a cane, but still it isn't comfortable. I've been with my cane for over 20 years.'

She said and stared at me.
'I hope you get well soon. To Warsaw? Have a safe journey.'
'Thank you very much.'

P1030704photograph: Koszalin - closeness to the sea (the Baltic Sea). This is a sea mew at Koszalin bus station - the birds aren't afraid of humans.

The day after the concert, 30th November 2013


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 18]

I had no concerts in December 2013. So I thought I could concentrate on the rehabilitation/walking training. And thought that two or three months would be enough to recover.

I always used to use a carry-on luggage or suitcase, and a shoulder bag when I travelled. But realised that a backpack would be safer than a shoulder bag if my legs were weak. So I searched for the backpack that is functional, suitable for concert tours and doesn't stain easily - and got it.

I used to go for a walk every day. It was December - getting colder and colder in Poland and when it snowed, then the street was icy and it was dangerous for me to walk, even with poles. I have to avoid breaking a bone anyhow. So I got an exercise bicycle and started training at home.

f0092231_21501767photograph (special thanks: Hiroko Okuya):
Yuko playing Pleyel upright piano at 'Pleyel Festival (2005-2006)'.
Piano Clinic Yokoyama in Yokohama, January 2006


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 19]

Writing about what happened to me in 2014-2015 is not easy. I have to say that the two years was the hardest time of my life.

The worst time was - February and March in 2015 in particular. As I mentioned earlier, my leg problem was just an injury (a problem after the injury), not illness. But in spite of not being ill, my condition in the first six months of 2015 was serious.


In winter - January 2014, I started training with an exercise bicycle. The muscles used by walking and the ones used by cycling are similar but slightly different. After the training, the tightness and soreness of my leg muscles were even worse than after going for a walk. I endured the pain. The next day - I couldn't move the legs normally because of the tightness and soreness.

But I couldn't stop training, I tried to find a solution - massage, bathing, keeping the body warm, and healthy diet - everything I could.

DSC_2639photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko at Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, Warsaw


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 20]

The problem was not only the muscle soreness and tightness. When I started training with an exercise bicycle, my weight started to go down quickly.

If I was fat, losing weight would be good. But I wasn't fat. I lost weight a lot, too quickly. But I couldn't stop training.

If I stopped training, the leg muscles would weaken soon. I ate normally, and tried to eat as much as possible. I didn't want to lose weight.

I trained and ate, trained and ate - but lost weight.

DSC_2762photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko at Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, Warsaw


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 21]

If I train - my leg muscles will be sore and tight. If I don't train - the muscles will weaken and be also tight, because the lack of the body movement causes the muscle tightness.

So I couldn't stop training.

The more I trained, the more my muscles tightened. The more training, the less muscle flexibility. As time goes by, it became increasingly difficult for me to walk. I trained because I wanted to gain muscles, but I lost weight a lot.
One morning - I realised that I couldn't walk. The first time of my life. I was shocked. Not being able to walk - it happened to me because I trained. The training for walking caused not being able to walk.

197810 1photograph:
11-year-old Yuko at Okazaki city track-and-field meet - the running broad jump


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 22]

When I realised I couldn't walk, I thought: 'Only today. I'm a little bit tired after the training. I will wait for a while, I will rest - and the situation will be better.'

But I couldn't walk the next day either. Two days later - the same. Three days later, a week later - still I couldn't.

I continued the training. I had to continue because the training was the only way to gain the new muscle. The most important thing to solve my problem was to soften the leg muscles. Stretching, massage, bathing, and so on - I tried everything but it couldn't help. I didn't want any chemical things or surgery - so I concentrated on the natural way to heal.

DSC_2207photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko in the Holy Cross Church, Warsaw


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 23]

The next concert was close upon me.

I didn't want to cancel concerts. But the situation was getting worse and worse. I couldn't walk, and also even couldn't go down the stairs. It was shocking to me. I couldn't go down the stairs because my muscles were too tight.


I had to cancel my first concert in 2014. It was extremely sad. But at that time I thought my cancellation was only that one. I thought that the situation would be better soon, a few months later it would be OK.

But it wasn't so easy.

DSC_2130photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko in the Holy Cross Church, Warsaw. The urn containing Chopin's heart has been immured in the pillar.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 24]

I continued the training to gain the new muscle and the muscle flexibility.


I asked a rehabilitation specialist for help. He's been working at the Rehabilitation Centre in Konstancin - Paweł came and saw how my leg situation was. We trained with his method for about an hour. He told me: 'Better to stay at the Rehabilitation Centre.' But a new applicant had/has to wait very very long, so it was difficult to start training there immediately.


I trained hard by myself all the time because I wanted to come back to the normal condition as soon as possible. But I had to cancel the following concert, despite my everyday efforts.

DSC_6091photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko in the mirror, at the Chopin family drawing room, Warsaw


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 25]

Spring came. I had to cancel my first concert in 2014, and the next one, and then the next one - the number of the cancelled concerts increased.

Summer came. Still I couldn't walk. In July, I was going to perform at a concert in August. I thought I could and I wanted, but I couldn't. In August, I was going to perform in September, but I couldn't.

Autumn came, and then winter came. I had been training hard all the time. I really wanted to be able to walk again as soon as possible.


If someone loses the ability of walking - it means a leg cannot support the upper half of body. When we walk, a left leg supports the body, then a right leg supports the body, and it repeats and repeats.

When a leg stops supporting the body, its muscles begin to weaken quickly. If once it happened, it would be difficult/hard to come back to the normal condition. A training makes it possible to prevent a change for the worse, makes it possible to keep the same level, but to improve - it's extremely hard. We need a long time and have to be very patient. In the end I had to cancel all the concerts in 2014.


'I'm a pianist who cannot walk - nobody needs such a person.' - I thought. I must be able to walk and travel on my own. If I cannot - it'll be "the end".


My manager Andrzej has been very supportive, although I couldn't perform for a long time and had to cancel many concerts. He (, his wife and his sister) helped a lot: He visited me, talked to me, advised about doctors - did a lot of things as a manager. He didn't desert a pianist who couldn't walk and travel.

And not only Andrzej - the organisers and my chamber music/orchestral colleagues were so warm and told me that they would wait until I'm completely healthy. I cried.

742_5883photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
The Chopin monument and Yuko in Royal Łazienki Park, Warsaw


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 26]

In autumn 2014 I had a blood test. A nurse visited me and took my blood to the hospital. Then my doctor came and we talked about what I should do.

He suggested that I should do more tests. I didn't want to do a CT scan.
'If you don't want to do a CT, perhaps USG?'
'Yes, I prefer USG to CT.' I said. I already did a MRI scan in 2013, so we knew how my body was on the whole.

I wanted to know the efficient way of softening the muscles and gaining the new muscles. I knew well what had been happening to my body since 2013 - because this is my own body. So I knew why I couldn't walk. This wasn't an illness.

DSC_1950photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko at the main entrance door of Visitationist Church, Warsaw
Fryderyk Chopin used to play the organ in this church. Probably he touched, opened and closed the door.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 27]

The beginning was a muscle dislocation/fragmentation. Then the sharp pain of the place lasted for a long time. Sometimes, in a certain position I had a very sharp pain so I had to be very careful when I get up from the bed or sit down.

I continued the training. One day in March 2015, after the hard training I felt very tired and went to bed early. The next morning I had a high fever. I lost my appetite and couldn't eat. I had to be in bed for 4-5 days. I was able to eat only some fruit but couldn't any more. Unfortunately therefore I lost weight a lot again.

20100939Stargard11photograph: Yuko at a recital in Stargard, 2010
(It used to be called Stargard Szczeciński.)


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 28]

I saw my entire body in the mirror. 'This woman in the mirror isn't me.' - I thought. I was too thin. I was all skin and bones. 'The training won't help, if I hardly have muscles. How could I gain the new muscles quickly, if I were skin and bones?'

I felt I needed to put on weight immediately. The situation seemed to be crucial. What I saw in the mirror horrified me - looked like a too-skinny model.

200109_fphotograph by Marek Czarkowski:
With Japanese Ambassador's wife Mrs Ueda, after Yuko's recital at the ambassador's residence in Warsaw, 2001


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 29]

I felt a great deal of fear. My weight was - simply, I was unbelievably - really unbelievably underweight.
I began to eat. I had to eat. Otherwise I would have been dying.


Of course I needed time. Fortunately I managed to put on weight little by little. I've always had a healthy appetite apart from a couple of days with a high fever.


I was weak. But one day, suddenly I realised one thing: 'Since I became real "skin and bones", I haven't felt a sharp pain of my old muscle dislocation/fragmentation place.'

It was a big surprise. I had no pain there. The sharp pain 'escaped' somewhere. I lost definitely too much weight but at the same time - also lost the old muscles with the sharp pain.

No need to worry about the 'old' pain - it was wonderful.

wroclaw17photograph by Sławomir Szrek:
Yuko after her recital at Wrocław University of Science and Technology/Politechnika Wrocławska, 2002


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 30]

Since 2013, I've always had the soreness (and tightness) after the training. But my old muscle fragmentation pain was a totally different sort of soreness - much sharper. So the fact that the 'old' pain vanished - this was a great relief to me. And - new hope. I became much more optimistic.


Putting on weight and gaining new muscles - they were the most important tasks for me to live/survive. And I searched for the information about people who hadn't been able to walk but started to walk again. And I found out what they had done and what they had been eating.

DSC_2267photograph by Sławomir Kiełbowicz:
Yuko at Holy Cross Church, Warsaw


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 31]

I got some information about the people who hadn't been able to walk but later started to walk again - what they were eating. So I changed a little bit my diet: started to eat much more green, and much more raw food.

And I tried to avoid wheat/gluten. I'm not Novak Djokovic but tried it. I felt/thought it's worth trying and wanted to see how my body and mentality would change.


I used to bake bread myself at home. And I used to like making pasta and udon noodles myself - but I stopped making and eating them. My favourite Italian pasta machine 'Imperia' finished its role - do widzenia. 'Thank you and goodbye Imperia, you did a great job.' - I put it away, it disappeared from the kitchen.

DSC_9992photograph: Yuko during her rehearsal at the Chopin National Edition special concert, at Warsaw National Philharmonic Hall, March 2005


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 32]

Perhaps it's not easy for us to change our diet/eating habits or to stop eating something. But for me - the most important thing was to be able to walk again - it was serious so I had to try it.
'I can make zoodles (zucchini/courgette noodles) instead of traditional pasta.' - So a spiralizer came to my kitchen instead of a pasta machine.

Also, I got a professional mandoline slicer that many restaurant chefs use and love. Vegetables taste differently when they are cutted/sliced/diced differently. The difference is surprisingly big. And the beautifully and appropriately cutted/sliced veggies are really delicious.


I expanded my repertoire of recipes rapidly. Especially various kinds of healthy vinaigrette sauce/dressing (mainly oil-free) and egg-free, oil-free mayonnaise. This egg-free raw mayonnaise is much more delicious than ordinary and traditional one - it was a surprise to me.


What we eat every day - it cannot be boring, it should be rich in variety. For me, therefore expanding the repertoire was a serious thing in order to live/survive. Having a large repertoire of various seasonings and cutting/slicing techniques, there is no limit to make vegetable dishes, salads - it helps us especially when we eat them raw - we have limitless possibilities.

photograph by Sebastian Kaczorowski:
Yuko playing Chopin Piano Concerto in F minor Op.21 chamber version with Warsaw Philharmonic String Quintet, Gliwice, Poland, July 2010


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 33]

Training and eating, and training and eating... at the end of the day, I always had no energy left. I trained very hard, slept well and rose up with hope every morning.


In 2015 many important people came to Warsaw for the 17th International Chopin Piano Competition. I had been invited to various meetings, had been asked for piano lessons for very talented young competitors before the competition. But I couldn't. I couldn't help them. I apologised to them and I was sad.

I had been offered various works for the Chopin Competition but I couldn't. In summer, before the competition, many people from all over the world contacted me and wanted to meet me in October. But still I couldn't walk so I couldn't see anybody who came to Warsaw during the competition.

NR4photograph by Stanisław Ekier:
Yuko's portrait photo for the 13th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, taken at prof.Jan Ekier's house


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 34]

Akiko Ebi - a Japanese concert pianist living in Paris, a prizewinner of the 10th International Chopin Piano Competition, the Long–Thibaud–Crespin (Marguerite Long–Jacques Thibaud) Competition, the Leeds International Piano Competition, and the chairperson of the 8th and 9th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition (from 2012 till 2015) and - a jury member of the 17th International Chopin Piano Competition - she sent me an email before the competition, in September 2015. She thought that we would be able to meet in Warsaw in October. I wrote back to her that I couldn't walk - describing my leg situation and apologised to her for not being able to go to Warsaw Philharmonic Hall, where the competition was held.


She read my email and was surprised, and immediately phoned me from Paris to Warsaw. We talked very long - for over an hour. She asked me about the details, what had been happening to my legs. I told her everything. She listened to me and gave me very good advice, as if we were a family. Her truly warm words, honesty and sincerity moved me.


Akiko Ebi is the person who actually saved Martha Argerich's life, when Martha had the surgery in the US for her cancer. Akiko Ebi cancelled her own concerts and followed/helped Martha. Akiko Ebi knows how to help someone and she has always helped - also me.

With Akiko Ebi, after her recital at Polish Radio Concert Studio S-1, Warsaw, August 2010


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 35]

And it was also in September. One day, suddenly and unexpectedly, I got a phone call and an email - it was from the staff of Embassy of Japan in Poland.

I was surprised. I hadn't informed the Embassy about my leg problem. But the Embassy got the information about me - that Yuko Kawai was/is not OK. I didn't know that.

The Embassy of Japan in Poland is the 'super' embassy.


The information about me worried them and the staff called me.

'What's wrong with you? We are worried about you.' - asked Kanda-san from Embassy of Japan. I told him about the situation. He was really caring and helpful. He said: 'I'll tell the embassy doctor, Dr. Fujita about you. And then you can talk to him. We would like to help you.'

photograph (special thanks: Hiroko Okuya):
Yuko shows Chopin National Edition during her concert/lecture, in the 'Pleyel Festival' at Euro Piano showroom, Tokyo


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 36]

Thanks to Kanda-san, I was able to talk to Doctor Fujita soon. He listened to me and said: 'The situation seems to be serious. But surprisingly your voice I can hear on the phone has positive energy.'


Yes, that's right.

In spite of the fact that I hadn't been able to walk very long - for over one and a half years, and had had a very tough everyday training and was tired, I was optimistic. Still I couldn't walk but I felt more progress in myself than when I was 'skin and bones'. Every morning I got up with hope and started training immediately.


Why was I hopeful and optimistic?

I'm a concert pianist. I'm used to observing myself, my body, my muscles, my nerves, my mental and brain condition, my stamina and so on - particularly on the stage. I'm used to seeing myself objectively.

And when we pianists, musicians learn new repertoire, especially a 'major work', learning and memorising the work need time, not immediately. So I'm used to being patient, I live with hope, don't give up. I always look for a better and practical way. This is a 'nature' of professional musicians/performers. We know there is such a proverb: 'Custom/habit is a second nature.'

A little everyday progress in my brain and muscles gives me energy and hope for the future, when I practise the piano.

The rehabilitation training is similar. Not the same, but it's similar to a certain point. I'm used to being very patient and optimistic.

pianphotograph by Embassy of Japan in Poland:
Yuko's Chopin complete Ballades recital at Japanese Ambassador's residence in Warsaw, 2001

In the audiences at the recital: Ambassador Hideaki Ueda with his wife, Andrzej Wajda, prof.Henryk Lipszyc, Anna Żurawlewowa (founder of the International Chopin Piano Competition, prof.Jerzy Żurawlew's wife), Dariusz Rosati (former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland) with his wife, Janusz Onyszkiewicz (former Minister of National Defence of Poland), prof.Piotr Paleczny, Jan Popis, Wojciech Nowak (director of Warsaw Philharmonic), Stefan Sutkowski (founder of Warsaw Chamber Opera) and others.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 37]

Kanda-san (a consular representative), Doctor Fujita and a lovely Polish lady Maria - three people from Embassy of Japan visited me in late September 2015.

They were warm people. Doctor Fujita saw me, asked me various questions and checked my blood pressure.

The blood pressure was OK. And he saw and touched my calf muscles and said: 'You have muscles in your calves.'
'Yes, Doctor Fujita.' I replied. 'I've been training really hard every day.' - But in order to walk, only calf muscles are not enough. The muscles in my hams and bottom were still weak, so still I wasn't able to walk.

1972 8photograph: 6-year-old Yuko with her mum and cousin. Her dad took the picture.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 38]

We talked a lot. Dr.Fujita and Kanda-san gave me some good advice about the training and the future.


And Dr.Fujita showed me some muscle training exercises and told me: 'The longer you cannot walk, the more difficult it is for you to recover, the more difficult to be able to walk again.'

Yes, he was right.

If someone cannot walk for one year or more - it will be extremely difficult to come back to walking. Life with a walker/walking frame/wheelchair to the end of their lives would be highly likely.


I hadn't already been able to walk for over one and a half years. Yes, I know - my situation was quite serious.
But I had been doing my best. If more - more training? It was impossible. I just have to continue my training as usual, make progress and gain new muscles - step by step.


Dr.Fujita took my blood, and gave me vitamin tablets. The next day he informed me that the blood test results were OK.

A month later Dr.Fujita brought a neurologist from Switzerland to me. Dr.Nakanishi visited Warsaw and Dr.Fujita talked to her about me and they visited me. I'm very grateful to them for their kindness.

FH000036photograph: Yuko's Chopin masterclass in Oita, 2004


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 39]

Several days later, an acupuncturist visited me. I'd never had acupuncture before.

She saw me and said: 'You are too weak. Today I cannot do anything for you. It's risky to do. When you are in better physical condition, I would be able to do for you, but definitely not today.' - And she left with her bag doing nothing.


I had thought I was much better than early in 2015 and I was. But in her eyes - I was too weak to acupuncture.


A few days later the acupuncturist phoned me. She was very kind.

'Yuko, would you like to use social care service?'
'What is it? It's expensive, isn't it?'

She reponded:
'No, it's Polish national social service. I can tell them about you.'

And then a woman from the centre called and visited me. She said:
'You can ask your helper for help - whatever.'

She smiled at me.
'Yes, whatever. Everything. They can do everything for you'.

Soon my helper Pani Zosia started to visit me twice a week.

I asked Zosia:
'Pani Zosiu, could I really ask you for everything?'
'Yes, everything.'

Poland is a wonderful country.


For instance, elderly people can ask thier helper for help - cleaning the house, cooking meals, or helping them to take a bath and so on.

But in my case - I can cook, I can take a bath. For me the important thing is to be able to walk again. So I asked her for help - to meet me and mainly help me train in order to walk.

I had applied for the rehabilitation training at the rehabilitation centre but I had to wait long. So while I was waiting and training myself, Zosia helped me train.

from the left: Jacek Hawryluk (musicologist), Jan Popis (musicologist) and Yuko, during the 15th International Chopin Piano Competition, in the TV studio after TVP Kultura live broadcast, October 2005


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 40]

Zosia was a very good helper. She was in her sixties, she was always joking.

So I was always laughing with her jokes. Zosia was open-minded, cheerful and very energetic. I liked her very much. We talked all the time. During the conversation with her, I was able to forget my muscle pain.


A few weeks later, suddenly Zosia told me:

'I would like to help you more, Yuko. Would you like to meet me more often, not twice a week, for example five times a week from Monday till Friday?'

I was surprised.

'Pani Zosiu, it's amazing but is it possible?'
'I think so. I'll talk to the people at the Social Care Centre'.

And she really did it. She went the centre and talked to them and everything was done.


Zosia started to visit me every day, from Monday till Friday, at 10 o'clock. I liked meeting her, so I rose up with joy every morning.

Yuko during her Chopin recital at Polish Pavilion, the World Exhibition EXPO 2005 Aichi


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 41]

In late October I did a USG test at a local hospital. Still I couldn't walk, so the hospital provided their car and a wheelchair. For the first time in my life, I used a wheelchair.


Then a month later, one morning in November 2015 - I suddenly felt I could walk. I felt, so I tried. I couldn't. But still I felt I could, so a few hours later I tried again. I was able to do just a few steps. Couldn't more.

It wasn't a 'walking', just a few steps like a baby. But for me it was a huge huge huge success.

The training, gaining new muscles is a really slow process - we have to be extremely patient - but it's worth it.

20100620Okazaki_aphotograph by Asahi Shimbun:
Yuko Kawai & Warsaw Philharmonic String Quartet at Okazaki Civic Centre Concert Hall, 20th June 2010
the Asahi Shimbun concert review:


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 42]

I continued the training. I felt I became a baby again. I discovered again how to 'walk'. Like a start from zero.
In 2015, I hadn't been able to walk until October, not even with Nordic Walking poles. But one day in late November, suddenly I felt I wanted to go out alone.


I took my Nordic Walking poles. It was before 10 o'clock in the morning. Zosia hadn't come yet.

I went outside slowly. I went to the pavement and tried to walk with poles very slowly, only a few metres. I managed to do it.

But walking with poles in the room and walking with poles outside - it's a big difference for a person whose legs are weak.

I tried to walk with poles a few meters more/further. I was able to do it but already felt tired. And then suddenly I felt that someone was looking at me.


It was Zosia. She came up to me. I will never forget how she looked. Her eyes looked unbelievably big - her face showed she couldn't believe what was happening. She couldn't believe that I was able to walk with poles in the street alone. Zosia was extremely surprised looking at me. She was so moved.

When I found Zosia, I shouted to her: 'Pani Zosiu, udało się! (I've succeeded!)'

201006ClassicaJapanTV_dphotograph: Yuko at her press conference about the TV programme shooting -'Yuko Kawai talks about Chopin National Edition' on Classica Japan TV
special thanks: Classica Japan
Lutheran Ichigaya Hall, Tokyo, June 2010
The programme won the prestigious JSBA (Japan Satellite Broadcasting Association) Original Programming Award.


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 43]

We had thought that my going outside would be too risky, too dangerous to me.


When I travelled to Koszalin with Nordic Walking poles for my Mozart KV488 with Koszalin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in November 2013, I had dangerous situations during the train journey - a few times, because of my weak legs. Now I can understand, why the rehabilitation clinic told me that better not to go to Koszalin. It was dangerous, indeed. Fortunately - I had all the luck.


After the Koszalin concert, in December 2013, when I was able to walk with poles, I went for a walk with poles every day - as a rehabilitation. In the street, people were/are very kind and helpful. Poland is a wonderful country.


But - although it seldom/rarely happened, I met the people who were 'too kind': e.g. When I was walking along the street with poles slowly, a woman who I'd never met before - she suddenly came up to me and threw her arms around my neck - saying: 'Ohhh, Pani jest dzielna! (You are brave! You are walking bravely/heroically/nobly/
It was so nice but I was scared/frightened because I almost fell down because of her behaviour. I almost broke a bone.


So now - Zosia can accompany me from Monday till Friday. I can try a longer walk with poles. Zosia is my 'bodyguard'.

Yuko & Warsaw Philharmonic String Quartet visited Izba Historii Skierniewic (Chopin's first love Konstancja Gładkowska-Grabowska's house/Museum), after their concert Chopin Piano Concerts Op.21 & Op.11 in Skierniewice, October 2010


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 44]

My everyday walking with Zosia with poles made remarkable progress. We expanded the distance every day - little by little.

When I walked with poles, I felt the leg muscle pain all the time. And - I felt as if I was walking with 20-kg-luggage, because my leg muscles were/are not enough.

But Zosia and I talked all the time during the walking. I was able to forget the pain talking to her. We laughed a lot.


In December 2015 and January, Fabruary and March 2016 - the four months were my biggest progress days in the walking rehabilitation.


In January 2016, when I went for a walk with Zosia, I walked with poles, and sometimes tried to walk without poles - only 5 or 10 steps, for example. I managed to walk without poles for a very short time, but soon after that I went back to walking with poles. I couldn't continue long. But I expanded the distance of my walking without poles little by little - 5m, 10m, and then 20m.


I did't look beautiful when I walked without poles though. My walk without poles was waddling, like that of a duck. Or - looked like a penguin. When I saw videos about penguin walking on YouTube, I thought: 'Oh, it's me!'


Although I had the leg muscle pain all the time and I didn't look nice when I was walking, I was happy. Being able to move with my own legs - what a wonderful thing.

20090217Kalkbrennerphotograph/special thanks: Central Nagoya Symphony Orchestra
F.Kalkbrenner Piano Concerto No.4 in A-flat major Op.127, Japan premiere
Yuko Kawai, piano
Ichiro Saito, conductor
Central Aichi Symphony Orchestra
17th February 2009, Shirakawa Hall, Nagoya


[Yuko's Leg Rehabilitation Diary - 45]

I had four people as my helper by March 2016: Zosia, Ela, Ula and Zosia. I am deeply grateful to them.
Also, thank you Agnieszka, Bogumiła, Agnieszka, Teresa and others - from the Social Care Centre.


The first Zosia became ill in January, so unfortunately she had to finish working at all - it was sad. But we often phone to each other - It helps us.


Ela and Ula were very busy, so my walking with them was 'temporary'. Then Zosia, whose smile was really charming, and she liked to walk long - so it was good for me. She supported me devotedly. We did a long walk every day. We visited various churches. After the long walk we prayed in the church and rested there.
We also went to various beautiful parks. Went to a farmers' market. Went to the library. Went to various clothes shops together. We talked all the time - talked about politics, history, literature, languages... everything.


And in April 2016 - I started the walking without my helper. My new life has started.

20100612OkazakiMasterclass1photograph/special thanks:
Okazaki Civic Centre Concert Hall, Okazaki City
Yuko's annual Chopin masterclass for her hometown Okazaki citizens, June 2010

Let's go for a walk

[video: Let's go for a walk with Yuko]

Dear All

Thank you very much for your support, reading my account and reacting to it. Thank you for your very warm comments and messages. I deeply appreciate the support you have all given me.


Currently my 'job' is to walk, to gain more leg muscles and return to my normal life, to my work. I train very hard every day.

My leg muscles are still sore but I must walk, must forget the pain. I've been making progress. Yes, for me it's remarkable progress - because I couldn't walk at all - for about two years.


Sorry for the shakiness of the video but I'm walking with my weak legs. This is my 'rehabilitation walking' video. For me it's touching: after two-year extreme patience, hard training and tears, I started to walk again - without any chemical things or surgery. I can walk again. The training and diet and many people's support made it possible.


Watching the video with HD (High Definition) setting is recommended. This is my favourite walk - green, fresh air and water.

Thank you again for your great support.

Fryderyk Chopin: Contredanse in G-flat major WN27

Yuko Kawai (live recording)
World premiere according to National Edition:
30th May 2004, Okazaki City Civic Centre Concert Hall
CD: Chopinissimo II - Yuko Kawai (Imagine)