nervous…

The beginning of a problem…hmmmm?

We have been in our house for about 5 years, maybe a little longer. When we first moved in there was an old guy next door, he was sickly. There was an old woman on the other side of us who was not well-liked in the hood. She was kind of a pin and dirty. She would just walk in on people’s houses and sit down. The hood started locking their doors to stop this. She tried it with me a couple of times I put a stop check on that quickly. My wife was polite to her. She was a pain at the time but she was not bad with us. I was also polite but I stopped the just dropping in and walking through the house crap, quick. The gramps next door passed away, The old woman was put in a nursing home by her family. Both houses were empty for a long time. The house of the Gramps still is, the son still owns it and comes by once in a while to do something. However mostly it just sits. The house of the old woman was sold. An older couple moved in for about a month, then moved and put it up for rent.
About a year ago it was rent out. A single guy. He told the hood he did not want to join the association or really have anything to do with the neighborhood. He put up a sign about dog poop on his front walk, even though no one dog, of only two in the street, did their business there. Once I spoke with him just after a typhoon, he asked me if I thought the roof part damaged in the storm was going to be a danger the house management was a distance away. I said I did not think so. That was the extent of our conversation.About 2 months ago I was outside practicing kyudo on the makiwara. It was about 9:30 pm. It was my habit to get in a couple of shots daily. This night I got a late start, but it is not very noisy or lasts more than 10 -15 min. I am shooting he comes out and says something. I did not understand at first, then I got it! He was saying he had to sleep and I was bothering him. We have two-story houses. I was shocked and pissed. I stopped after one shot maybe two. I never forgot that! He has made an enemy of sorts. I had not seen him since then. Once I went out to the yard he went inside as I came out. He was doing his laundry, he has his washer in the front yard. Which is weird for a single house. I have seen them in back yards, but this house has a shed in the back. Or someplace to put it. He lives alone! So, I am coming home yesterday. he is in the front yard. I am walking past. I figured I would not be rude and totally ignore him. So I bowed slightly. He returns the bow and says excuse me. Then he hands me a package and says something. I did not understand all he was saying but I got the sense it was an apology. I went to my house and told my wife, she had gotten gifts for the neighbors to apologize for the noise work from the workers coming to fix our bathroom. I said the guy next door gave me this he is in his yard. She took his gift over to him. He told her the gift from him was to say sorry for his rudeness to me before. I was right. Ok so they are talking. He tells her he wanted to speak with me/us but was busy or something. he would like to visit sometime for tea and hear our story. Ehhhh? My wife tells me. I say yeah ok…
She says, well we are here now, so now is ok?? I say ok, and we invite him in for tea.
He tells us his story, he does not speak any English. He is a local guy, looking for a wife, he works for the city electric company, lived nearby before, does not really like this area but his parents are near and are old. He use to play baseball, but now he has leg problems so does not do much other than reading and playing video games and likes to go to Hot springs on business trips!! He does not drink but gave me a bottle of plum wine. Wow, a lot. We chatted for maybe 30 min. Then he left. Good, it was my dinner time, which was on the stove. I was tired of trying to find something to talk about. He says he would like to return sometime. Politeness dictates yes of course. It is better to be friendly/polite at least with one’s next-door neighbor. We exchange contact info. The next morning he sends my wife an email. Thank you for the tea. He would like to return sometime and listen. ( I guess that means chat) My wife says oh he wants to be friends with you. Friendly is one thing, friends is another. I say hmmm why we have NOTHING in common socially. 

When I am at home I really do not care for people dropping by, unless we are close. I am usually busy. I have nothing in common with this guy. I hope it does not become a problem. My wife says he works a lot so no problem. It is good he is not a full jerk, and we can get along living next door…

I am more sociable here in Japan than in the States, but it is with people I have something in common with. I can work at communication with people I know who do not speak English, but we have some common ground. I see none with this person. A hello, it is cold/hot today in passing relationship like with our old neighbor across the street is fine. But hanging out in our home…taking my personal home time…meaningless empty chit chat is not my thing.

Hmmm. I will nervously roll with this for now…

Lightning and The Kruzeders


Lightning Korita and the Kruzeders @ S.O.M.A.

S.O.M.A. is considered an upscale club, live house it is called here in Japan. I played there for the first time the other day. I have played some nice clubs in Kobe but this is in Downtown Osaka. The seating is for 300 people. Usually, the places I’ve been seat 25-50 at most. This place even had a backstage section with two rooms for the musicians hang out before going on. The walls are signed by some acts that have been there, I put my Kanji on the wall. Too bad only had an ink pen not a marker. If I ever get back I will remember, not that anyone will care, but I will be sort of a part of history there.

 

 

An equipment room and a toilet for the musicians. I felt like I was back in the states doing a real concert. When bands finished playing stagehands set up for the next act. They had a sound booth in the back to handle lights and mic levels. It was classy. Such a big difference from Chicago Rock. It was my first time there as I said. I was pretty impressed for it being an Osaka live-house.

The band we have been playing together for a while now and are starting to sound pretty good. I think it is the tightest band I am with. The guitar player is the leader. Lightning Kurita, has been around for a while and plays with different people often. Weekly in fact.

I was the first to arrive since I did not know where the place is. Slowly the others showed up. We went up first for our soundcheck. The band had been introduced to the members of a couple of other bands that also there for the night. I really mean me and the Drummer were introduced since Kurita knew everyone already as did the Keyboard player. The drummer and I were the new kids on the block. When we did our soundcheck they all turned out to check us out. That was kind of funny.

Afterward, we hung out backstage. A friend of mine showed up to watch, and then we all went upstairs to a standing bar and had drinks and some food. We came across another musician we all knew, and we all had a good time chatting in Japalish.

At showtime, we returned downstairs to watch. We were not the first on so that was nice not being the opening act. When it was our turn there were a few people starting to arrive not a large about of people but a fair amount so we had some energy feedback whilst performing.

 

It was nice to have a large stage I could move without hitting someone or thing, I could hear myself sing and play, it was nice.

 

 

A friend, who is also a friend of the leader and the keyboard player joined us on a song that was fun. We all had a good time.

Afterward, we stayed and watched the other bands and made a lot of noise for them in support. It was a fun night, not just light fun but seriously fun for a change. My friends took some good photos, and vids, that was nice for good memories. We have some other gigs lined up. One next month back at the Rock and another in March. Not as nice of places, but a gig is a gig and we are sounding better. I only wish more effort was put into this band playing more like a solid act. Oh well, Japan-style is Japan-style more than one band is the way of life… Band Floating.

I am a little depressed now that gig night is over. oh well, Life is impermanence…Amitoufo

Komuso in the shaolin shadow

 
Komyoji temple Zen Cafe – Jan
 
It was that time again for the Zen Cafe, I was set to go again and play Shakuhachi as part of my Komuso Buddhist practice. However, this time I had arranged to do something different. I wanted to bring in my “Budo” practice of sort. Really to expand the scope of Blowing Chan more to my original practice of “Shaolin Chan”. There we did forms of Qi Gong before doing Chan Ding ( Zazen/ sitting Zen). This prepared the mind and spirit for meditation it also brings into play the concept of the full balance of the “person”. One’s essence is composed of the mind, body, and spirit. One should not can not negligent one or the other and be in Harmony, balance with the environment, obtain “enlightenment “.
 
I had arranged to include some qigong drills in my presentation for the day at the Cafe. I dressed accordingly, wearing my Chinese teaching garb, not street clothes.
 
So off I went to the temple. It was a good day weather-wise, for a winter’s day. At the temple gate, I encounter Jonen-san. We chat for a short time, he has a cold but is there at the temple for a short time doing some Komuso playing at the temple entrance as part of his priest training and connection to the temple.
 
I head inside and I am greeting by Osho-san’s wife. She is always pleasant and it is nice to see her. I am greeted warmly, I like her. I am shown where I can put my “stuff”. I am lugging my Bass with me today as I have the Gaijin band practice after I leave the temple today. I settle in and go upstairs to the main temple. After greeting a few people who I know they’re already set up for the Cafe, I go into the main temple. I find Osho is making ready to start a service. As usual, when I walk into a room of strangers I become the focus of attention as Osho speaks to me. He gives the group an introduction to me as I smile bow and head to the rear of the group and have a seat. I had planned on just going in there and taking a seat and do some meditation. Since there was service I figured to join in. The service began and there was some chanting. As the service started in the front row, there is a child who was quite active. He is hitting on the “fish”, moving around, opening and closing the door next to him. The parents were doing little to stop him, calm. Some, but not really much. I am thinking wow! When I was a kid if I was acting like that in a church I would have been taken outside and got a but whipping! Some Japanese kids act somewhat out of touch with proper public behavior, I thought he was one. I tried to ignore this kid, but also looked at him closely to see if he looked other than normal, maybe he had an unbalanced mind. It was kind of annoying, but I had picked up a sense that he was not quite “right”, although the looked physically ok. Service was over and he and his parents left. I continued to sit there and did some Zazen after the group left. next to the garden, it is one of my favorite spots.
 

My next move was into the Cafe room, there the host went through the program of the day. Speaking in Japanese I did not get most of what was said and was sort of shocked when I hear my name spoken and eyes turned to me. Ehhhh?! There were a few laughs when some noticed I was surprised. I asked now? I was relieved to find out it would be later. Wheeew, I took a relaxed breath.

Others were introduced and some spoke about who they were and what they would be doing. Since I was off the hook for the moment and did not understand what was being said, I went back downstairs for a moment. While I was there Osho-san’s wife unexpectedly brought me tea, so I sat and chilled for a while on a tea break in a quiet room to myself. Nice!

 
When I returned upstairs Osho-san was playing Shakuhachi. He was doing several Honkyoku songs. I sat with my friend and listened. When he finished he asked me was I ready. Ohhh, ok, I said I had to go get my flute when I returned I was on.
 
Since Osho-san had done a couple of traditional Komuso songs, I felt something else was in order. There was a guy there who played the box drum thingy. I had played with him before. I had asked him earlier to play along with me. So I called him up. The music was going to be all about feeling and attunement at this point. Improvisation, freestyle. I had no idea what would come out. I gave him a beat, he took it and made it his, I just played, he followed. It was nice. Everyone enjoyed. Ok, I say one more. I asked him to lead and set the beat this time. It was different. I Listen and absorbed, then played, it was like musical TaiChi push hands, another musical dance enjoyed by the attendees.
 
I felt it was enough, I looked for the MC, when we locked eyes, he gave me the ok to continue sign. Ok, I went into my brief statement about next doing Qi Gong, I learned from my friend the word in Japanese is Kikou. Cool now, I have a new Japanese word. I selected a few people to come up and once I had them in place we started. I was facing them giving directions, when I turned my back to them so they could better understand the orientation, I notice that everyone in the room was also following. Ok, I had to shift focus and include the whole room. It went well. In the end, I gave them a sample on how to feel one’s Ki. They were quite shocked to feel the energy for themselves and not just hear it as an abstract term. It was a success! Yatta!
 
I slipped out after that and went back downstairs to the room I was in before. Osho-san and his wife came in. They asked me if I could stay until everything was over and eat. I thanked them and said I needed to leave by 5:30 to attend band practice. Ok, could I eat the chilly and brown rice upstairs Osho-san asked? Yes, I said. Osho-san returned with the food, we sat, eat and chatted in broken Japanese and English. We spoke of Zen and Jodo-Shu of Taiji and Hsing Yi, of a Jodo temple in Hawaii. I also asked about the noisy kid that was there earlier. Yes, he said yes, he is a little “off” not just a brat. We had a nice one on one visit.
 
I returned upstairs my friend was ehhhh! Where did you go? I was looking for you! I explained. We chatted more and was joined by a Yoga teacher and later a guitar player. While we chatted Osho-san played Shakuhachi. My friend saw a plastic one that was on the table for anyone who was interested to purchase or play. My friend wanted to try. So once again I was teaching there at the temple how to get a sound out of the instrument. I still find that amusing, that I am teaching basic Shakuhachi in Japan to someone.
 
There were several more people who came up to perform. It was interesting. We had a big attendance this day. Perhaps the largest so far. Afterward, we all went into the main temple. Osho-san leads the chanting service and prayer. It ended with a Group Photo.
It was a good day. I packed up to leave as several other priests and nuns started coming into the temple. They were going to go out and do a group Takuhatsu in the hood. I headed off to band rehearsal for the Gaijin band.

The Howlin Bar adventure

The Howling adventure

Through some new friends meet at the Bonenkai ( last Post), I met via another friend I was invited to an event at a place called the Howlin bar. It is another small but famous place in Osaka. I am one of the first to arrive, things started at 3:00 pm. It took a few moments for some of the people to recognize me having just met once, then it clicked!

 
Slowly people came in and the place filled up. My friend arrived and I was introduced to some new people, some of whom spoke English, some Spanish. It took some effort for my brain to switch to Spanish, that was funny.
 
I did get to speak with the acupuncturist again, he invites me to his clinic to talk about doing some training with him and his patients. We set a date for me to come by. If this works out it could be a real blessing and would really make my year and uplift my life.
 
The first part of the evening was recorded music. People bought in their favorite music on Cd or album. It was world music, not just Japanese or Blues. It was Africa, Creole, Middle East, “Cholo” hip hop, Mexican music. I was surprised to see how many got into the groove of some of the Hip hop and funk songs. The people there were unlike the Blues maniacs over at Chicago Rock, in some ways, in other ways the same. Music lovers are music lovers.
More and more people showed up, then the live music started. It was not really a jam session, it was more organized, many of them were already set up bands. There were a couple of session type songs, performances, more towards the end. I had brought along my bass not knowing what to expect. My friend asked what did I want to do? Saying it was not really a session but I could do a couple of songs with help from some in the crowd. I had just met a Bass player there and there were others and as always a lot of guitar players. There was only one person who played keys and the house set up the keyboard for her. I picked a couple of songs to do and told my friend I will play keys, but I need some backup, I only had the Bass player in mind I just met. My friend asked if she could pick some players for me and she would help with vocals. Ok, it was set. My turn came up, I did keyboard, harp, and, vocals. I lent the bassist my bass, there was a drummer and a good guitarist chosen by my friend. I told the crowd it was a challenge session song as we had not played together before. The drummer and guitarist worked well, the bass not so much on the first song, the second song was better. However, it overall went well. On the second song, I had two backup singers helping with Mustang Sally. That was fun. It was my first time doing it ever on keys. I did not do that well at first but after a few bars got it together. The best thing to do when hitting wrong notes is to just keep playing. LoL! So overall it went well. Everyone was impressed with hearing about my efforts, the new dude for the first time.
The rest of the night was interesting for the music, different players came up, and slowly it turned into a Jam. I did not play anymore but I did help with backup vocals a couple of times, it was fun.
Around 10:30 it was a wrap and people including me started to head home. The last train was at 11:00 for me to catch. I got on a train at 10:20. I followed the signs and thought I had come across a shorter route, simpler way to get back. Wrong, wrong, wrong, things went downhill from there. I figured out after a while I was on the wrong train, I should have changed to another line at the first stop. Once I figured out I messed up, I got off the train and was going to backtrack. The train that was suppose to come at that time did not, and the next two went pass the station. I knew then I was screwed! I setup a plan to get as far as I could with the timing. I could walk from the station where the train stopped. Again that did not work. I got as far as I could and it was much to far to walk. I had to plan on spending the night somewhere.
I had enough money for a cheap hotel and also plastic money. However I did not want to do that, and hear about the money I spent from the minister of finance. Even though I was told I could go to a capsule hotel. I walk around for about an hour. It was just after 12:00 am when I arrived at the last station. I had about 5 hours to kill. I walked around for an hour, just looking for a 24 hour cafe. I came across a couple of all night Internet cafes, that was an option, but I kept looking. I was surprised how many people were out. Mostly young, but even among them were people with suitcases. I walked I sat, I walked, I explored, all the time lugging my Bass. I took breaks when the weight became painful on my shoulders. Around 2:00 a.m. I found an all night cafe, like a Denny’s in the States with good prices. I went in and sat. There were a few people there some looked like they had settled in for the night. I took seat and ordered. Small salad, and red wine it came to about $6.00. A few other people came in and had seats also. I took my time with my order and played with my phone. Around 3:30 I got up to use the toilet while walking to the rest room I notice a few guys had fallen asleep at their table. Then I got the surprise to find out the toilet was only fo females. Men had to use an outside public toliet which I had used earlier, it was nasty. I figure I could hold out a while longer as it was getting close to time to leave.
About 4:15 I head out to the train station after my pit stop. Most the street crowds were gone at this time, but a few people were still out. I was asked several time while walking if I wanted to get a massage. I smiled and passed on the offers. 
I finally arrive home at about 6:00. It was a long night, but an interesting Japan adventure.

Komyoji Undercover Ninja Priest


2019 Komyoji – New Year’s Eve. 2019

 
My plan for the day was, morning Tai Chi, clean the Patio Garden, I cleaned the house, and air filters on Monday. Then get in some Kyudo. I am not expecting to finish the 108 ya, ceremony at one shooting. I will do part then finish the balance on New Year’s Day. Since there are no set uses, and I am the only one, I can do what I want. Following that I am off to Komyoji for something…let’s how this day unfold. I am writing this prelude the day before.
 
I had contacted Osho-san the night before and asked about a starting time. I was told 4:00. The next morning I receive an e-note saying please come at 2:00 to help.
Ok, so much for any plans of me doing my Kyudo 108 arrows, that is not going to happen. Not that I could not have started but, I wanted to do a little cleaning but in the garden and some Tai Chi plus. I went out and did a did some “Fu”. I was going to the local shrine , but the ground was kind of wet, meaning mud at the temple. I settled for dojo #2 , the empty lot. Not as much of a visual display of “Kung Funess”, but still pleasant with the tree and empty greenery lot next to it.
 
Afterwards a little left over house and garden work, then I head out to the temple. It is a couple of hours of travel. I am surprised by the small amount of people out and about. This is a stay at home and chill type of thing for Japan. I arrive at the temple just after the Nara group. We are put to work right away, no chit chat. We are given assignment places and tools to clean with. We have at it, windows, floors, behind on top of, move this and that. As a group effort it went well and we finished at the Igor time and started setting up for the evening. Tonight was to be a burning night. There is a name but I do. It recall. Burning prayers, for help, guidance, health, the deceased. Somewhat like what was done in Hawaii when I visited the home temple. Also there was another like ceremony I attended in Nara.
 
Cleaning was done we now, a least a few of us set about starting a burner. Wood chips, and coal, or something coal like. It took a while but we got it going. I and the visitor from the states did not know until later that it was for heating sake. I slightly thought it was for tea. Wrong. Sake pot! Which was good good good, when the chill started for the evening. Sake now, wine afterward, Osho-san the Abbot says to me. We laugh!
 
We had been told earlier about the Juk beads, I was pretty surprised to find out I was to be part of the ceremony. It was that time, I had my Resa with me, just in case. Turns out it was needed, although I could have borrowed one from the temple as did Sempai and Jon. But I am glad I had my own “colors “.
 
The ceremony started, we lined up at the big Buddha. Osho-san and his sons in front at the base of the Buddha, behind him, were sempai and Jo. Then far behind us and spread out where the church members, about 25 or more people. Chanting is done, prayers, then Osho and us, walk over to a clear spot and make a circle with the beads. Others are asked to join. We sot of organized them into an inner and outer circle beads in the center thing. We chant, and move the beads around the circle hand to hand.
It was interesting to watch some of the faces when I gave them directions. Sort of amazed blank awe. There were no questions asked. Having seen me in the front with Osho-san and wearing my Kesha, there was no doubt about just following my directions.
 
Next, we moved to the “fire pit”. Osho-san chanted, prayed everyone prayed and the fire was lit. We slowly added the wooded, prayers, dedications, offerings. It was quite a fire! Little by little the prayers were added, over the next couple of hours. Finally, everyone was done, the late arrivers had their prayers add and we did a small chat over them as they were added, since not pre-blessed with the larger group.
 
Lightly the rain started, ever so slightly. We were all done and the fire almost done was covered and the area hosed down. Everyone went inside.
 
There we at the burner cooking table. Food, wine, beer, juice was made ready an served. We Cooked tofu in the big pot and had mountain potatoes cooked in brown sugar, also some vegetables soup. Simple but very pleasant. We the chatter we enjoyed all. There was enough cross translation for everyone to keep up and feel part of the group.
 
It was a great new experience, for the start of a new year. It was good to feel like an active priest at a temple, not the uncover rouge ninja priest. I am noticing out of this a difference in the way of Jodushu Buddhism and Chan Buddhism. A quick observation Chan is more aimed individuality become “one with the Force” (Pure Land), where Joduoshu is more about the community becoming “one with the Force. ( Pure Land)”.

What I have come to learn through some research and guidance from an elder Chan brother, is Chan and Pure Land are connected in China also in Vietnam, not so much Japan. I was told by a Semapi our lineage has a Pure Land side. So I can and should feel at home in a Zen temple and/or a Jodoshu. Perhaps that is why I do.

I found this video of my current Chan Shifu’s, Shifu speaking on the twin practice of Chan and Pureland

 
…Amituofo
 
 

Boenkai


Boenkai  
This is a traditional end of the year party, held by groups, companies, friends. I had not been to one since coming to Japan. I have been invited, but always turn it down, since I am a vegetarian and or it costs. This year there was the one from the Kyudo Kai and one from the Silver center where I am a city employee part-time. I would have gone to the Kyudo one, but the cost for what I could eat, almost nothing was not worth it. The Silver Center, nice guys to work with but not really my type of hanging out with the crowd and no one speaks English. Pass!!
So a band-music friend invites me to one for a session. I was just a little nervous not knowing who if anyone spoke English. I show up the bass in tow on my back. People are surprised but very welcoming. What you like to eat, drink? A couple of people spoke English sort of, one person spoke well. He had been on a tour of the states. He was a fiddle player he said, not a violinist. Yeah when I hear him play, he was a fiddler for sure.
I also chat with the owner of the acupuncture clinic we are at. He plays guitar, he brings me a small amp for my bass. I am handed more food and drink. We are chatting about this and that, Buddhism, why did I become Buddhist? That was a different question, I had to think about that a little. Very untypical question. My family likes it? Also, the usual questions asked a gaijin. We spoke of some of the race issues there in the States. The hot pot we were eating from was a mix of Korean and Japanese style. One of the wives was half Korean.
The instruments come out, a couple more guitars, plus two accordions. ehhhhhh!!!!! That was surprising. We play a few misc songs. Some of which are pretty country type, a few are cajun type, plus some misc pop, blues, reggae, combos. It was interesting, we even did some vocal harmonies. It was fun, I was never made to feel, out of place, nor did I. There were however a couple of flashes of weirdness when I thought about, here I am the little colored boy from Philly, in Japan playing cajun music with Japanese, one of which was playing violin and two are playing accordions. It was for sure different. Life is about lessons and adventures. This is seriously not the Standard gaijin life in Japan.
I am invited to return by the clinic owner, to come to do Tai Chi, Meditation, Qi Gong with him and some patients…not quite sure. I did not hear clearly the whole thing, but for sure he wanted me to be in touch again. I will see him at the next session, we can talk again. This may be a plus for the New Year. If I can get a couple of classes or even one going, be between the Komyoji and this clinic, I would feel more complete. More like I am making progress on my path. I am invited to attend the first of the year Enkan session at a somewhat famous club. Somewhat like Chicago Rock but a level up. I have wanted to go there, This is a good chance for the connection. Japan is about who you know…the three keys to life: perspective, timing and who you know.

Mochitsuki @ Komyoji

 

Mochitsuki

Mochitsuki is a Japanese cooking technique. It is the act of pounding steamed sticky rice, in order to make “mochi” rice cakes. The steamed rice must be pounded when it has cooled down a bit, but is still hot. It is put into a mortar called an “usu” and pounded with a mallet on a handle called a “kine.”

 
Around this time of year, it is traditional to make mochi in Japan. Sadly a lot of older seniors die from choking on it. Well, maybe not a lot but enough that there is a warning about it for seniors. Anyway, I thought it was a community kind of thing, as I have seen the center in our hood outside making it a group affair.
 
Koumyoji, the temple I am at regularly these days, I am told by the Abbot, Osho-san is having that happen there. I am invited. Cool I thought, another local community thing, I should bring my “Shaku”, there are some other players also attending, one is from the states. I am thinking of some type of mini casual concert for whoever was there.
 
I wear my Samue, to look casual, yet monkish. Several layers of under-padding for warmth and I am off to a day of being mostly outside, but inside is not all that warm except places.
I am the last of the group to arrive. I am very surprised that it is was just us and the family. I chatted with Osho-san’s wife and son and a friend outside a bit. They are cleaning up making ready for another batch of Mochi. They have been at it for about 1 hour.
 
I go inside and greet everyone. We chat a bit before being told the next batch is ready for pounding, who is helping?? We all rise and head outside. The out of town visitor went first. He is from the States and is a pretty well known Shakuhachi maker. His hybrid of Bamboo and plastic is great. My sensei even recommends me doing my lessons on it. He has a go at pounding. It is really not a big deal to do, unless one is standing there all day or even half a day, and are not used to physical work.
 
We all have a turn, I slip into my Kung fu mind when handling the hammer. It was Kind of cool to pound a bit. Something one puts on a memory list having done it in Japan at least once. Once done we have samples of the fresh Mochi. We are given blown with Mochi we can add soy sauce and Dixon, or with sweet been. Osho-san wife also makes some vegetable stock soup which we can have with mochi.
 
At this point it is getting quite chilly and we are finished so head inside. Into the side main room, we have seats around the table with a hot-pot in the center. A little chit chat as things are made ready to cook and eat. Tofu cubes, green veggies, soy sauce. Water is boiling we start.
 
About this time my friend a local drops in, I was surprised, now we have six at the table. We chat about this and that in a mix of English and Japanese. Mostly English, even though Osho-san speaks only a very little. We eat, we drink we talk, Shakuhachi, Buddhism, music.
 
After eating our fill we are told to take some of the newly laid out mochi cakes home.

Christmas n the Nameless band

The day after Christmas and all through the house,
life went on as normal, with nary a shout.
No stockings were hung
We don’t do that here
So easy to clean up for the big new year!

Christmas Day was quiet. My wife had to work on her first assignment for a new writing job. I mopped the floors. I clean the front yard some, put down salt on some weed patches, picked up the broken clay pots from the mini – typhoon passing. In general organized. Then cooked dinner. I went for something different since it was Christmas. Usually, I am a one-pan casserole master. This time I went for stuffed tomatoes and stuffed peppers with small pasta and tuna. I also made hummus and did a Salad from the garden and Candied Japanese sweet potato. All in all, it turned out good. We had wine with it and some fresh bakery bread. It was a dinner to be grateful for. That is always the thing iznnt? Always being grateful, many have less than whatever we have. Even if it is just a roof and shelter from the storm.
And now the day after Christmas. I had my first rehearsal with the new band of Gaijin. The unnamed band. I was in truth disappointed. It is only a three-piece band so I was not expecting much. After a couple of tries on a song, it sounded ok. The problem I found at first it was just loud, like many bands. I had to say at something about that right off the bat. My pet peeve. The band so Loud you can not hear the vocals, someone saying, “can you turn up the bass so I can hear?” Play the bloody drums softer and turn down the guitar.
Another thing I found with these guys is overall it sounded rockish, more than dancing n funk. Ok, I can deal with that if it gets us work. Maybe the club has that kind of client. Today we worked on mostly songs they knew, the drummer and guitarist. They are ok players, but not very experienced. Ok. For now, I can deal.
The plan was to get six songs reviewed, we went through five. My doing, I kept having us repeat, structure, sound level, dynamics, endings, beginnings. I can see it will be me basically handling the rehearsals. Ok. Everyone has a job. I was hesitant to just start taking over, but someone needed to. The guys were both open to listening to me. I was quite hesitant about speaking up about what needed adjustment, after all, I was invited to join them, not to just take over, like I am the man! However, things needed to be said, vocals should not compete with the instruments, don’t sound like we are at a jam, this is a group, we listen we flow together, dynamics, soft is as important as hard, soft as loud…
It was kind of strange being in a practice session where I could speak English. I could explain what I wanted, expected. Sadly though in my songs I was not getting it, the feel, the groove, the feel. I am not sure how to adjust, because it really feels, and the guys are playing as they feel. I guess I just need to roll with it. Only Make some small modifications to get a good sound, for what we have and for the audience we play to. That will be the key! I do have some concerns about the drummer. His energy is so high, everything he plays is too fast. I do not know if he can, dial it back. We had a metronome play for him on one song to get the beat and he was still fast.
So the new band has started functioning. Where it goes, it is really unknown. If we can get work, ok I will stick with it, otherwise, this will be a short term thing for me. Overall I was not impressed with the group. A nice thing is all can sing. That can be a plus. Not a lot of that in Japanese groups here.
The guys went to the club they hope to play there in the future. Tonight they wanted to check things out and maybe jam. I passed. I would rather sound good for a first impression. Next time I will go, I do want to check out this club, the crowd, and a current band, in person.
If nothing else comes of this, it will get me a contact at another club(s) manager.
…it is all good…Amitoufo.

And the beat goes on

…and the beat goes on

So yeah, music world, alive and well. On a half beat rest right now. I am on a break this week. Meanwhile the story so far…
Sieki
We had a rehearsal that went ok. The new Sax player just came out of the hospital and he made it to rehearsal. The practice went ok, a bit loud. But we got though it. Then a day or so later , or less we had the gig at Chicago Rock. It was loud. #2 guitar is a loud player. He sings, he is an ok player, but loud. The drummer is new playing with a band, any band. I can not get a complex beat from him, but he is pretty steady and that is important. So simple direct beats are good. The Sax. Player has been at it a short time as well, I think I heard him say about studying 3-4 yrs. he is ok, he says he needs to have music in front of him to play. So not a good just freeplayer. Over all it is not strong band. I like the players, but not a strong band. I do not expect much from them. I am getting used to Jo-san voice and I can hear a harmony with it now. On a couple, we have decent sounding backup vocals.
The gig went ok, not great, but not bad. We were one of thee bands. We started, once over I took off as I had work the next day. I am not sure if we will be playing at the Sakai Blues festival. They asked me for a video as no one had it. I happen to have some clicks from a practice, maybe enough, maybe not. It was not well planned. Oh well. I am not really excited about the fest with this band anyway, however, if it happens, it can be fun. So onward.
The Kruzeders
We had another gig at Chicago Rock. We had a good rehearsal beforehand and had the songs pretty down on what was being played. We can go into the studio to do what needs to be done and then out feeling complete.
We had the gig a few nights ago. It went great. It was the best we have sounded ever. Not loud, everyone listened to each other. It was a good set. Not much of a turnout, but it happens. Still, we sound ed good. The first new but we sound tight and I did not record. Bummer, oh well, if we did once we can do it again. This band has the potential to sound really good, but the lead player, travels around with other players, as is the norm for Japan at least in this area. He is also not from this area he is from Kyoto, so it is a bit of a travel for him. Maybe why he does not work in this area much but more so in the Kyoto area. Yet I have seen him listed with other bands at Chicago Rock. Oh well. After the recent gig, we are informed of another two bookings. One at a place I had not heard of, I think. The other again at Chicago Rock.
Speaking of The Rock it is good Segway into …
the “JGB Band
I do not recall when I wrote about them before, the meaning is this current upcoming gig the 2nd or third I am writing on. We have our third event as an entity coming up, next week. Love the drummer in this group, smooth, tight, steady she is great! JOJO-san on keys is the leader. We work together a lot so are used to it each other. The guitar player is young, pretty good, pretty outgoing…a bit much at the time for my taste, but an ok guy. The Sax player… big weak spot to me! It sounds like he is always flat. No one else seems to mind, or just does not say anything. As for me, I do not like his playing, but I am not a big Sax fan anyway. Except for these two females, I have played within the area. Good tones, not the squicky one, that sound off, shrill to my ears. Anyway, the band could sound good, I like the sound better without the Sax, but again that I just me. I have found that the Mirai the Drummer sings and likes to. I will have her do more of it when we are together when o have a say.
Another gig coming up next week, with them. Now that we have been playing together I am going to add some dynamics to the songs I do, with some breaks and such. It is also a fun band, more potential than Sieki I think. However, it is a limited band as it is the Idea and solo child of the Chicago Rock owner. Again limited future, but works for now!
Kan Fuu band
All is quiet here. I am waiting for the results of the Sakai festival. I am pretty sure we are in. The band sounds good. All that hear the recording are impressed. Especially with the Trombone player. I did ask the owner of Chicago Rock for a spot sometime next year. The members have no free time until January…good players stay busy! He said yes after listening. It is a start.
The Zen Wind
I did a solo show at a local live house. I was nervous about speaking during the show. People here I notice seem to chatter a lot! I went for it anyway. It was all a test so, it was not a big deal to fail. Of course, I did not. I did not need to talk much and the little was enough along with some Japalish. I had put together a 30 min show, I did not, of course, need to play all the songs. Once I got going I was not nervous. Judging from the video I watched later, people enjoyed it. It was for sure different than the other acts. For some strange reason, it was the only week missing from the owner’s post about past events. Good, I had my video otherwise no feedback from photo or vid.
I have shown the demo vid I made from the recordings of the show. The few people who saw thought it was good. I will show it to The Rock’s owner and see about a spot. I am somewhat nervous about taking this step. What if he says no…what if he says yes!! Well, I am something different for a first act, from the Japanese imitators that come through and a fair amount of people now know my name visit the club. We’ll see, it would help kick off a solo career. I need to find my place…something like was said to my wife once when I was playing at a session.
Perhaps the new band …
With no Name
I met with the guy(s) who contacted me. The drummer who is really into reggae and his friend. They want to start a band focused on the gaijin scene. It may be the change I need. My roots are a dance hall, not sit down and kick at the bar. At least for the band.
The meet almost did not happen. We had arranged to meet at an Open Session at the Rock. It had been mentioned wanting a keyboard player or two. I mentioned Jojo-san. There was a weird poster for the event, sort of joke I am guessing. I did not know, it was in Japanese. Anyway, it made it look like it was a session for transgenders like JoJo-san. I told the guys it was just another session nothing special about it. It was just a weird headline. Even Jo-san said to ignore the header. This is two weeks ahead of the meeting.
Night of the meeting. I am on my way to the session. I check my FB mail. There is a note. They feel weird going to a transgender event and we’re not coming. They would be at such n such place if I wanted to come to by. I was not happy!! However, I was measured and pointed in my response. Yet ended with since you feel that way. It would not have worked out anyway. In my mind meaning the whole band thing. I could not work with small-minded people if I did not need to. Here I had a choice. I offered my Best wishes.
They must have gotten my intention as shortly a return mail said they would be there.
I arrive before them and start my set with the group assembled. It was ok, nothing great, expected at a session. When I finish one of the hosts comes to me and asks, are these my friends and point to the door! Yes, I say and think, ohh they did come. Ok points for that.
Introductions were made. They seemed to e decent enough. The drummer, high energy, sort of tiring. The guitar player much more laid back. I felt more relaxed talking with him.
I got JoJo-san to put us up and for him to join us on keys. We played two songs. I do not recall which one. Ok, I thought, not great but ok. The drummer was not as funky as I hoped for, the guitarist was ok. Overall did not have the feeling I would have liked, but it was overall standard quality for the first time together.
A song or two later I was asked to play the keyboard by JoJo-san. That went ok, major issue I could not hear what I was playing, the band was too loud, keyboard to soft. Oh well, it served a purpose the owner now knows I can play keys also. A good point for when I show him the Video. The Guys we’re shocked I also played keys, they were impressed.
Later we all got to play together again, this time the drummer is not drumming he is just freestyle singing/ rapping on the mic. An ok singing voice, I find out later the guitarist also can sing. That is a plus. Another person was playing the drums on the switch up. Everything was very loose.
At the end, the drummer was all Jazzed to get the group going. He wanted to start with three people and see how it goes. I am guessing he was not feeling JoJo-san, ok Hmmm. I am thinking ok. I need to leave, so the drummer is going on about how he wants to talk with me and get things started we can be great!! blah blah. The guitarist gets it I have to leave to catch a train. I am noticing is more level headed and aware.
I head out, the drummer also comes along he too had to catch the train, he says. The guitarist says he is staying longer and playing more. He is into it! Funny, they did not want to come. Really I think it was the drummer who had the hang-up about coming to a “tranny event”.
Well, I have given them a suggested song list which included some of the songs on a list they sent me. We need to prepare at least 12 songs to have ready to do a show. The drummer says a club is just waiting for us to be ready we get a shot at a spot. Ok, we’ll see how this goes. I am in for the ride so far. Planning a rehearsal now.
Update: the leader of the Kuseders band has asked us to play with him at a more upscale live-house in Jan. Yeah, this band has potential.

Komyoji Cafe – Nov


Komyoji Zen Cafe…Nov
I picked up a new cold over the last few days. Too busy and not enough sleep weakens the body’s illness defenses. This morning was a struggle to get up and going. Hard to breathe, feeling lazy. Still, I was determined to go to ZenCafe. I missed last month and I had said I will be there for this one. It started at 11:00. At one point I had thought that I will go to Kyudo on the way to the Temple. I even had my gear with me. That did not happen. I was running late and did not get started early. Then I got to the train station and found out I did not have my wallet!!! DOH!!!!!!! Return walk home….sigh.
So far things were not great, but ok, onward I continued. I arrived at the temple ok, greeted Osho-san and was told our friend, my Sempai from Nara had come and gone. Then I figured out who the Gerald he was referring to on the LINE message. Oh well.

I went upstairs to the event room. Many know me now so that is kind of nice. I greeted and looked around. I spoke with a few people then had a seat.

After a short while, I was asked to play. There was a long introduction. I had no idea what was said! There was a guy there who had one of those box-drum things that are popular these days. He said he wanted to play along with me, I said ok. It would be something different. I like that! So all that was said I guess in part of the intro.

However I was not prepared for a free-style session, though. This was my Komuso Flute not my session flute. I would have to make due and roll with it. A good test… Be water, be the wind.

He, the drum guy said I should start and he would follow. It is funny sometimes, things like this. I was told this in Japanese and by the words I had no idea what he was saying, but I understood. Instead of me starting, I gave him a beat, and he picked up that. It was easier for me, I had something to work off of. We played together slowly then picked up a rhythm. I did an original song I have been working on. It went well. I really only had a small part but I just rolled with it as the theme and the drummer followed. It went pretty well. There were no mistakes because nothing was planned. It was just born and grew on the spot. Very Zen-like, Jazz one could call it. Too bad there is no recording, that I know of. There is of the other song, but not this one. Osho-san said it was nice with a good feeling. He may have done a small bit of recording. I am not sure I was busy playing not looking.
We finished and agreed to do one more. This time he started and I followed then lead. It was a nice moment, good to do something different.
I had been thinking should I post these trips to Komyoji as part of my Komuso passage or keep it as just another personal trip. After all, I am playing for no charge, at a temple, Shakuhachi. I am a Komuso no matter if I wear the gear or not. In this case, it was clearly not Komuso based music, No traditional song, no robes, no gear…but it was Komuso in spirit. Does that count, does any of it matter? nope. This was a personal trip, just about music…but still sharing Spirit Komuso style. Everything is perspective. There are times when some posts are cross overs, rather than double post I will put just a pictures summery up on one site. If anyone cares, besides me.
After we did two songs I returned to crowd hobnobbing. I got a demo of card reading. I missed a large part of the talking due to translation and did not want to stop the flow of things while I got my translator. Oh well.
At some point I asked Osho-san about his Tai Chi, he showed me a little. Then he brought up push hands, he had not done much of it and we had spoken of this before. I had mentioned we should train together sometime. Today we right there went into Push-Hands. A bit surprising, no one cared, after all, he is the Osho! After a bit he had us move to the center floor, everyone could see and watch better and we had room. This was great. It has been years since I have gotten to do push hands. It was fun. It was mentioned that we should do more in the future. Great for me, this is what I need, a training buddy. Once I get the motorbike next year it will give me more mobility to get out to the temple. Perhaps I can even start a class out there. That would be great and almost perfect. Maybe I will offer some free Qi Gong when I make my monthly visit. Not bad, doing my Buddhist thing with music and kung fu at a temple, it works!
I also got the low down on upcoming events there. Next month Zen Cafe, New Years’ stuff and our friend’s orientation, along with a visitor coming to town.
I will be staying busy…