Yoshinao Kihara, the principal conductor of The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo (TOUKON), began studying conducting under Seiji Ozawa at age 16 when he won a competitive scholarship to attend Rohm Music Foundation’s Music Seminar, for which the maestro served as an advisor. His seminar experience resulted in him becoming Ozawa’s assistant at his music academy while still attending the High School Attached to the Faculty of Music, Tokyo University of the Arts. Kihara took to heart Ozawa’s teaching that conducting opera and symphony is the wheels for conductors-- Herbert von Karajan’s view that Ozawa had adopted -- and began performing in public concerts. 

In 2006, upon graduating from high school, he left Japan for Europe to study orchestral conducting at the Berlin University of Arts in Germany. He then received his master’s degree in orchestral/choral conducting and korrepetition (coaching) from the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz and, earning the institute’s highest academic honor, the Wurdigungspreis award. Kihara has garnered many awards and honors, including a scholarship from the Honjo International Scholarship Foundation and an overseas fellowship that the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs’s appointment provides for “emerging artists.”  

His 2013 win of the Opera Award of the Gotoh Memorial Cultural Foundation and his first ranking in the 4th Tokyo Cantat Competition for Young Choral Conductor cemented his reputation as an up-and-comer. In 2016, Vienna’s Musikverein (Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien) -- a respected institution for which Herbert von Karajan long served as artistic director -- selected Kihara for its Sumida Peace Prayer Concert 2016 in Japan. By the time he was appointed to his current position at The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo (TOUKON) in 2019, Kihara had already shared global stages with a number of reputable symphonies and choral and opera companies. He recently began expanding his career into other genres as well, welcoming such opportunities as serving as the conductor for the theme music by composer Akihiro Manabe for Fuji Television’s 60th anniversary drama, “Suna no Utsuwa,” and for the music played in “PSYCHO-PASS in Concert,” an animated movie produced by composer Yugo Kanno. Kihara also teaches at Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo and at Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation. 

The orchestras and opera and choral companies Kihara has performed with as conductor include:

  • Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
  • Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR)
  • Bochumer Symphoniker
  • Magdeburgische Philharmonie
  • Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester
  • Kammerakademie Potsdam
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra
  • Tokyo Symphony Orchestra
  • Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra
  • City of Kyoto Symphony Orchestra
  • Gunma Symphony Orchestra
  • Sapporo Symphony Orchestra
  • Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa
  • Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien
  • The Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo
  • The New National Theatre Chorus (NNT Chorus)
  • Seiji Ozawa Music Academy Orchestra and Choir