Go Kitagawa(1921-1985), grandfather of Sho Kitagawa, was a musician born in Shimane prefecture in Japan. He was drafted during WWII, and while he was in North Korea, WWII ended. After disarmament by the Soviet army, he was thrown into a forced march for forty days not knowing the destination. 1.5kg of rice and rock salt were the only food given during the march. After staying in a temporary gulag and carried by cargo train, he arrived at the port of Tihie Pristani in the Far East. From there, he spent six years of his life as a hostage in a new gulag built in the middle of Mt. Sikhote-Alin.
In freezing weather, he was ordered into forced labor to cut wood such as a huge red pine tree of two meters in diameter. It was extremely dangerous work. Some lost lives under falling trees. If workers did not finish the day’s quota, their amount of already scarce food would be taken away. The forced labor continued in the middle of storms. He almost lost his life when he became ill due to germs from water in the field that he drank during the forty days of this march. He was sick in bed in a hospital for a long time after.
However, when he heard singing voices of the Russian farmers as they went to work at collective farms, a light shined in his worst life in the gulag. Their powerful voices were so natural. In his life as a professional singer, his soul was shaken from the bottom at that moment. And that was his life’s most important encounter with music--it formed the direction of the rest of his life. Since he fell in love with the Russian music, he began to sing Russian folk songs in Russian himself. One day, when singing one of the songs for the Russian director of the gulag, he was invited to participate in a small ensemble formed to visit Japanese soldiers, and he agreed. While the ensemble performed in different gulags in various places of the regions coast, he had various roles such as singing solo and in a chorus, performing in a short play, reading poems and giving explanations of musical pieces. Later, they were also invited to the Russian factories and workplaces. Moritsuna Kuroyanagi, a cellist in Tokyo Symphony Orchestra (former NHK Symphony Orchestra), was performing in the same ensemble as captives.