A day in the life-April


A day in the life
LZ decided wanted to ride the bike the other day. It was a lovely spring day. She wanted to ride the bike over to her favorite udon shop. I agreed and off we went. It was a pretty easy ride, she said it would take 20 min. It took 45, she is a slow rider. I would just pump it out alone, but I held back.
 wpid-img_20150425_135720.jpg
 
Lunch was good. It was worth it. Fresh made Udon, fish cake tempura, the good kind. Yeah, it was nice.
wpid-img_20150425_132616.jpg
 
She wanted to ride back along the beach way. I had never been, but it sounded interesting and I am up for an adventure. However that was the second part. She suggested that we check out the ceramic master’s gallery since we were in the area. I was definitely up for that.
Stopped and purchased some home made fish item for dinner later. 
wpid-img_20150425_141203.jpg
 
We followed the normal pattern of her getting lost , not finding the place, before she called to get direction. The master was on his way to his shop, we could wait and he would speak with us.
wpid-img_20150425_142808.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_142933.jpg
 
We hung out for a while before he showed up. The gallery was not the running down room extension where we waited. That was some addition to his house he used for whatever.
wpid-img_20150425_142611.jpg
We walked around the corner to a nice house this was his gallery.
wpid-img_20150425_143326.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_152622.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_152930.jpg
Once inside I was shocked. I loved his style!
wpid-img_20150425_143504.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_143413.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_152324.jpg
I was so impressed. It was western, yet asian and unique. Unlike the ceramic guy, couple we visited in wakayama who pieces were more utilitarian, old school Japanese. This master’s were, useful, yet art! Nice glazes, different shapes, glaze textures. Even LZ loved it. Enough so she said she may want to take classes with me. Now this is something unique !
I asked to take a picture of him. He did not want to do the typical Japanese pose. 
 
wpid-img_20150425_145522.jpg
We spent some time talking with the master. He is self-taught, 70 something, and one of Japan’s top ceramic masters. Some small bowl items were selling for 1,000 dollars !!!!! However, he is so down to earth, friendly, funny and easy-going.
wpid-img_20150425_145510.jpg
lZ found several things she wanted to buy, within our limited price range. A couple of rice/soup bowls. He gave her a couple of small plates as a gift. She was delighted. 
wpid-img_20150425_150951.jpg
 

We spent some time there just chatting with him. The bummer came when he said he was not taking any students right now. He was getting away from teaching so much he wanted to spend some time on his personal projects. Perhaps in a couple of years, when he retires he will hold some kind of workshop at his studio. Well, we were not ready to start classes anyway. I have my Kyudo and Shakuhachi to focus on right now. So perhaps in a couple of year the time will be right for the rest of the ceramic story to unfold.After a while we made out way out to hit the road. As we were starting off, LZ figures out she left her sun glasses and stopped the bike and left it right were it was while she went back to get them. Meanwhile while she was on the way back, she come running and the Master is with her, her bike is somewhat in the middle of the street (a side small side street), I am standing with my bike off to the side so cars or whatever could get by. As she coming back so are the police on their scooters. They see the commotion and me. They stop by me and ask if there is a problem, asking her but looking at me sideways. I ignored them after pointing to her and went back to my smart phone business. She told them what happened and they left quickly as they came.

 
We made our way to the waterfront and had a pleasant ride home. It was nice to have another view of the area and the weather was perfect for a bike ride.
wpid-img_20150425_160528.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_160751.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_160753.jpg
wpid-img_20150425_162606.jpg
A good day in the life.
Advertisements

CrossWorlds prt 2

CrossWorlds part 2 – Chicago Rock /April
Ehhhhh said I, instantly thinking afterward I was a bit too loud, I took a quick look around the train car. I was not only to surprised to see my Kyudo sempai also she and hubby we’re coming to see the band. I was pleased and nervous. Someone else I know watching. It is one thing, playing for strangers another for people you know. 
wpid-img_20150421_190049.jpg
 
Now it is starting to look like a lot of people, at least from me. Three people from Kyudo, two friends of my sister-in-law, perhaps a couple of people from a party last month. Oh well, nice to have some people on a Weds nite. My sempai and her husband and I rode the rest of the way together. The husband spoke some english. It was needed for his job as flight Controller. Once we arrived at the club stop they went and found some dinner, I went to the club.
 
We setup and played, things went fairly smooth. I met the couple from my Sister-in-law plus their daughter, who plays trombone. The husband of the friend plays guitar, he spoke English. He wanted to speak to me, he was looking for a band. Well, it does not work quite like that, someone just tells you about a band. People want to hear you play. Anyway nice family. They stayed for the evening.
 
There is a guy who i have communicated with over the last three years, who is from the states. I had not meet him even though he lives in Osaka, starting about a year before me. He dropped by the club, in a surprise visit. He is an acquaintance of the drummer. Both are Nichiren Buddhist and go to the same temple.
 wpid-img_20150422_210239.jpg
 
My sempais enjoyed the evening. They had some drinks and hung out til the end. One brought his daughter and her boyfriend. That was another two for my group.
wpid-img_20150422_210424.jpg
It was a large turnout for a Weds. Our playing for the night was decent. No large errors to bug or embarrass me. We did three sets instead of two. It was a good night. We got our booking for June setup. I am not sure how it is we get a monthly booking there. I hear other bands that are better. Maybe some connection with Matsuo-san. No complaints it is good to play and get paid regular, even once a month. I just wish more effort was put into getting the sound right and upgrading the songs. I would really like to play some other venue than this basement hole in the wall. The people are nice however…I want to sound good and play more!! Get in on some of the more upscale Blues Events. Osaka has a fairly large active blues scene.
 

Crossing worlds


Progress is slow with Kyudo, however, I am noticing some improvements. I have been focusing on Tenouchi, back arch, shoulders down, expanding, pushing at the target with my thumb. The biggest change I have noticed is rare, well occasional hits are more center now, instead of just at the edge and or hitting mostly lower right. Now I hit more center. Ok , that is a good thing. I missed my Yondan by being just off the bottom edge. Now I am getting more travel to the right, and not down so much. Although I still need to work on not dropping my arm when in Hanare. The other day I was shooting and I had a hard time telling if the arrow had hit from the sound. Reason was, I had hit the same spot several times so the paper was gone. There was nothing for the Ya to break through. That was kind of Sugoi.

 
wpid-img_20150421_164523.jpg
My knee is slowly getting better. I do not know what happened to it. I think it was shiza at the last TaiKai at Osaka Castle. The last two practice sessions I was able to do the full Tai Hai. Not great, but passable. I may need to do the standing form if this continues. I will go to my acupuncture guy on Sat. I am off that day. 
 
The blogger of “Black Arrow” is back up and running, or perhaps shooting is a better word. This site was called Gaijihinexplorer before. He is in the Kyushu area studying Kyudo. A good writer, I have been reading his back issues. Good stuff. So now that I know of there are four blogs in English on Kyudo. “A Road less travelled” is still on hiatus ( hmm JW …) but the author is still out there in KyudoWorld. And of course everyone knows or should know Mu. Then there is this one, or maybe not. I do not focus on Kyudo only. A lot, but not only. Seems like it at times.
wpid-img_20150423_140314.jpg
 
Meanwhile back on the home front. I have decided to con’t the Shinsa quest flow and go for June. I have two chances at passing at BanPaku. I need to make it count. Summer and Fall Shinsa sessions are there. Winter session is elsewhere. So I have two shots at Banpaku this year. Just like I have two ya in Shinsa.
wpid-img_20150421_173403.jpg
 
Golden week in Kyoto there is a big Kyudo event. Big ranks TaiKai and shinsa for upper ranks. I thought only one of my shimpai from Kishiwada was attending. She is out for her Renshi. It turns out that there are three others testing two I believe are for Rokudan. It is interesting watching them get corrections. Some are the same I get. Their hit rate is better than me but they miss as well. 
wpid-img_20150423_140141.jpg
 
When I was in the States, most outside places, as in work, school, etc, for a very long time knew me as the Shifu, the Martial Art guy and/ or the sailor. A few Martial Art people knew me as a musician but more so the sailor. It is kind of weird hearing the “musician” attached to me now. This is what I am hearing now at the Dojo. Since my two Sempai heard me playing at the Snafkin and the now Shakuhachi classes my reputation is spreading now as the musician.
wpid-img_20150411_210336.jpg
One of the Sempai who came to Snafkin said he was going to come to the club we, the Band, were playing this past Weds. It is called a live house here in Japan, just a FYI.
I was riding the train to the gig yesterday, bouncing along, zoning out, on my smart phone texting a friend in the States, who wants to move to Japan, but his wife does not want to return to Japan life. Interestingly, both are Kyudoka (Kyudojhin) . I hear my name , and I look up. There are two Japanese looking at me. Niether of which I recognized. The woman Had her face mask on so could not tell who she was. The guy was smiling at me like he knew me. I am like: ehhhhh? The woman removed her mask and it was one of my sempai from the Kyudojo and her husband. that I figured out when I recognized her. Quite a surprise, seeing someone who knows me. she asked if I was going to play at the live house, if figured a normal question since i had my Bass with me. She smiles and said , so are we, to see you!
Me : Ehhhhhhh!
 
 
Con’t part 2
 

SuiZen 吹禅 – April Wind 4月の風


.SuiZen – April

 
It is more than a musical instrument. The phrase back in the day before the Meiji period was it is not a musical instrument it is a tool for meditation. As such only those of Fuke sect could play it. This was the rule. After the Meiji period it was open to everyone to play. This was part of the lecture the other night at my lesson.
 
I was given partial copies of old original Shakuhachi scores. I was told if i wanted the full version Sensei had them all I had to do was ask. What I have is kind of a sampler he had put together. I could not read any of it, except those few , very few that had western notation with it.
wpid-img_20150421_210448.jpg
Part of my training that needs to be done is learning the Japanese notation as most old traditional songs are written it.
wpid-img_20150421_210213.jpg
 
Sensei had me play his Shakuhachi last night so I could tell the difference. Sugoi!!! what a difference! Such a nice sound, such a nice feel to the Bamboo and easy to blow. His was made by one of the top Shakuhachi makers in Japan. Cost several thousand dollars! This maker is also a friend of his, he promised a road trip one day to visit his shop! Sugoi that should be interesting! I will just dream of owner one, since they are so far out of my reach. Like a top-level Yumi. It is good to have dreams.
 
Overall, I was told my tone is good,… for a beginners. I need to work on making it better! One note is music he said! He demoed playing one note with variations. He repeated that in a book a lent hm by Victor Wooten had said the same thing. The purity on one note, the purity on one shot, I related to Kyudo. He said one other thing, that was directed related to Kyudo thought. I can not recall it now, but at the time it hit a cord! Pun intended! Ahh I remember, when breathing one must have tension, yet be relaxed when make a note. Is this Kai or what! All the tension needed to hold open the Yumi and focus on directing the Ya to the Mato, yet staying relaxed, and elegant. To make a pure clean shot , “true ” (note).
wpid-img_20150421_210252.jpg
 
Sensei also gave me a booklet he had published, along with a copy for my Kyudo Sempai who plays Shakuhachi. Sensei is doing a small concert nearby next month. I will make plans to attend. It is the same day as I am suppose to do a showcase at a local “live house” with Matsuo-san of the blues band. That will be at night and the Shakuhachi concert in the afternoon, so it will work out ok to attend both. The Dei Kai @ Kishiwada will have to be sacrificed.
 
I got around to recording self on the bass and trying to play along on Shakuhachi. It was sad, so far at least. This will take time. The tuning is different. I need to find the right key to play with at my level. That will take some more experimenting. No rush, I can pace myself for this mountain climb. No Dans and shinsas to deal with, this is all about me and just getting better at my own pace, no covert pressure.
 
 

Kyudo – different day, same training


Different day same training – Kyudo, the long and winding road…
I have been working on items, tenouchi, not dropping the left arm, not twisting my body on Hanare, etc, etc. the unending list of details. Kyudo looks so simple, like Tai Chi Chuan, but also so complex. To me kind of sorta the same thing, Tai Chi with a weapon. The set, the form starts when you pickup your Yumi and step up to the dojo floor entry. Hmmmm wonder what is the name for that?


The next Shinsa is in June. I do not feel ready. I am having serious thoughts about skipping it. One day I had a hit rate of 12%!! Ewww yuk! Since then it has improved, 30%/40/58%. My avg seems 50%. Not bad, but not good enough. Yesterday was my first time in reverse scoring. Usually I start off good then go down, this time I started off big time sucking and improved. What seemed to make a big difference was I was not pushing at the mato into the release. Once I changed that I started hitting, and getting my Yugari back.
wpid-1428124924121.jpg
 
I am sort of thinking I am putting too much thought into passing to Yondan. I had planned on taking 1 to 1.5 yrs of just training before trying for GoDan. If I skip on the testing now it will make me mentally back off and just develop what I need to, without any Self-imposed pressure. On the other hand sometime the pressure is a good driving force. I have a few weeks, maybe two or three to figure it out, before registration. I might have said this before. I told my Sensei in the States I did not pass to yondan yet, he said it took him four years.
 
I have been giving some thought to breath. Wind, Kaze, air, breath, the connecting element from the universe to us, to our movements, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi, Sailing, Meditation. Our breath is the common element. I asked my Sempai, who plays Shakuhachi, about breath the other day. Is it the same in Kyudo as Shakuhachi? Yes he says and showed me the expanding Hara. So I am wondering now about, about timing. How do you expand “Nobei” and exhale at the same time. The exhale lends itself more to contracting than expanding. However I have heard exhale on Hanare. Perhaps I need to think of it like blowing the Shakuhachi. One takes in the breath expanding, but on blowing the note one needs to still be forcing out air, whilst the Hara is shrinking, but holding pressure in the lungs. However that is not expanding though is it. That is more like holding an expansion. Hmmm, maybe inhaling, expanding during Nobiai, then at the moment of changing from inhale to exhale, yin to yang, the release comes, not at the end of the exhale, but at the beginning, holding the expansion, but not holding the breath. That way Zanshin is the follow through of the full breath…or I do not understand Nobiai.
I happened across an interesting blog by a guy studying ( at least he did no post for a while) Kyudo also in Japan. He said the breath in this part of Kyudo is reverse breathing. Expand the belly on exhale not shrink it. I recall this being called Taoist breathing. This guy had some things to say about Nobiai, which correspond to my thoughts. So maybe I do understand.

It is interesting reading another Kyudo blog on the same level as me. Also him a foreigner, although sounds like his Japanese is really good, unlike mine. That give him a better experience, nice! There was another blog from someone about my level, we have the same dan now, ( you JM ) but it has not been updated in a while. Life happens. As this guy on this, just found blog says it is one of those knock downs, stuff happening that take you away from Kyudo, for a time. The standing up is getting back into it. A person on one of the FaceBook Kyudo sites. Said in reply once to a post I put up “who really gets knocked down 7 times and will stand 8?” I let it go, because it was not worth it. However since this is my blog, I’ll say; It happens daily. Knocked down does not always mean being physically hit, beat down. The lost of my Graphic Design position, was a big knock down, The lost of our Condo, another, the lost of our savings, another, the lost of our boat, Zen and all that was associated with that, serious knockdowns. Still, we ( LZ and I) carried on, restart, reboot, stand again to continue, Kyudo study and advancement, starting a new life in a new country, new jobs, new fields, give birth to new dreams, a garden now replaces the flowing water at out door. That is standing again, 8 , 9 , 10 plus times.

 

I digress…

 

Breathing in Kyudo is timed with the movement like in Tai Chi and Kung Fu, however, at times different. Like when starting a movement, say a step in Kyudo the breath is inhaled. In Tai Chi/ Kung Fu it is for the most part exhaled. Extending the out-going power with the breath, not getting the wind knocked out of you on your power move. Kyudo, say going into Kiza, the move is started with inhale. On the other hand, going from Daisan to kai is an exhale. So I am thinking, once in Kai, inhale and expand, up, out and down, to the sides, at the apex of fullness comes the release, like water spilling from a glass. However would that not be a ” forced”, “planned” release, not a natural spilling of water from a leaf…or is it? Maybe I am thinking to much on it, instead of feeling it, being Zen.

 
 wpid-img_20150415_143511.jpg
.
 

Snafkin… the reMix


LZ and I had an anniversary, last week she had planned for us to go out next week. She likes to find deals of Luxury hotels and do an over nighter. However my taste are more simple. I had wanted to return to Snakfin Cafe to check out their jam night. The Cafe is so close to us. 
 
I told her we were going to go together and check out this cafe. We can have drinks, and a modest dinner there. Her friend, the wife of Aoki Yachts owner had said she want to attend as well. I said cool. The husband who is also a Zen Master had a class that night, therefore he could not attend. I would have went to the Zen sitting at the temple that night as well also, if not for coming to Snafkin.
 
Ok, so I invited my Sempais from Kyudo, they had told me about the place and took me there first. I also invited the my Band leader, Matsuo-san and his girlfriend. Along with my Shakuhachi sensei and the drummer from our band. Neither of those two could make it, still that gave us a group of 6. Matsuo-san’s girl friend was bringing a friend, now we are up to 7. Nice size group for our unknown anniversary party. Kind of cool to have folks from the different aspects of my new Japan life to join us.
 
I had LZ call the owner to confirm the time and that there was something I could eat there. The owner’s wife was pleased to hear we were coming. I could order something with no meat. No problem. She had remembered me and was happy I was returning, this time with friends. The owners are a very nice couple. The wife had told LZ she had told some people about me. ehhhh? said I.
 
LZ and I were the last to arrived at the Cafe on Sat. We were not real sure how to get there. We made it, but needed to get directions from the local police box. Funny, the policeman totally ignored me whilst we were asking directions, talking only to the ladies. I do not think he was used to a foreigner speaking Japanese, so threw his mind off. 🙂 The others in our group were there already at the club when we arrived, except the one friend traveling with us. I had LZ do the introductions, even though she only knew one of the others, her Japanese was more suited for the complexities. 
 
We got our seats, chatted and looked at the menu, along with ordering one of our planned two drinks for the night. We wanted, needed to keep our cost low. Turns out the cost of everything was a lot less than we planned. Yatta! I ordered Hot Sake as it was a chilly night. It tasted and felt good going down! The ladies with me figured out what to order, I was going to get pasta with veggies. 
 
The waiter came to me and said “something special has already been prepared for you”. Everyone at the table was shocked, especially LZ. Sugoi special treatment she says! I said, ehhhhh!?
The co-owner had prepared some Japanese dish with potatoes, onions, something else. Some traditional dish, kind of sweet, kind of miso taste, some kind of noodles I think. It was good good good!
 wpid-img_20150411_195420.jpg
 
While I was eating, some of the local talent starting performing. I heard my name said several times, ehhhh!? I said. The owner, the husband was saying I was there and still eating so, such n such, is going to do, blah, blah. I was not expecting any kind of build up. Just come in quietly do a few songs with Matsuo-san, maybe Jam a bit with the owner(s), then out. Did not turn out like that, for some reason I was the main event. No doubt a shortage of foreigners.
 
wpid-img_20150411_200218.jpg
The owner did a song on the guitar. Then later he, the Shacho and his wife playing the piano and another person singing, did a song together. Both nicely done.
wpid-img_20150411_202532.jpg
I wanted the owners wife to play blues with us, that did not happen. I did not want to push it as she was busy working. My Kyudo Sempai, the Shakuhachi player was invited up. He did a couple of songs. They were good. I was impressed as where LZ and her friend. He had good tone and smoothness. I tried to record his playing, but could not figure out how to start my Smart phone recording App. Part way into the second song I figured it out.
wpid-img_20150411_200909.jpg
 
After all this, I am finished eating. A local guy sits down with his guitar. he says he is going to do some blues, Japanese blues he says and starts. I listen a bit then pull out my harmonicas at my table. He is in front singing, I started playing with him as support from the other side of the room. I could see people turning to figure out where the other music was coming from. We did two songs. He was quite pleased afterward, came over thanked me and shook my hand. He was quite tickled about the whole thing.
 
Side note: After being here in Japan, I find it strange to shake hands with people. First thing I think, oh this weird, second thing, wonder if his hands are clean, darn. People can be nasty. I have seen, heard too many people leave restrooms without washing, here and the states.
 
Ok, I digress…
 
Matsuo-san prepares to do a song, I follow. We go up and find a spot in the performing area. We start, I am surprised at the song he does, because I usually sing it. Ok, I roll with it. He does another song, then I sing one. We follow with an instrumental. It is requested by Matsuo-san’s girl friend that I sing some of my songs. Large breath, and I say ok. I do a couple of songs.
wpid-img_20150411_211749.jpg
wpid-img_20150411_210336.jpg
The owners joins us on guitar for another song. I am ready ready to stop now and start to pack up. Another guitar player comes up and wants to play with us or Matsuo-san. I am not sure of all that was said, I decided to join anyway. I put my Bass down and join them with just harmonica. We do a nice low key 12 bar blues everyone was pleased.
wpid-img_20150411_214603.jpg
 
About this time it is now getting somewhat late. Not a lot but somewhat. We arrived about 7:15, it was about 10:00 pm. My group for the most part needs to leave, before that happened I asked for a group picture. The owner quickly organized a group shot of the whole cafe. I was just thinking my friends, but this was nicer. The picture is not that great, but still nice to have.
snafkin
 
Afterward, LZ tells me that Yoh Sensei is coming by after his ZaZen session to join us and pick-up his wife. Cool I think, this completes the evening package. Too bad he could not have made it earlier, but it was still nice to have him join us for a short while. I had my closing drink after finishing my music time. A glass of the homemade Sangria. Lots o fruit, not too sweet, It was quite good.
wpid-img_20150411_221620.jpg
 
I figured on getting a ride to the train station from Yoh Sensei afterward, however, he drove us all the way home. That was nice and we were grateful to return home easy after a pleasant evening. The next day was to start early for me. I was scheduled to attend the planned yacht race at Aoki Yacht school. There was even suppose to be wind that day for a change. Everyone at the Cafe was nice and asked us to please return. It was a nice anniversary party, that no one knew about.

Black Tokyo in Osaka

Back in the day when LZ and I got married we had no Blasian couple friends. Some 11 yrs later we only have two but that is what it is. I was on-line with a website called Black Tokyo, which is still around, although has evolved into a different format and on to FB. Anyway the owner was from Detroit, but was living in Tokyo. One day I contacted him and found out he was in the states, in California, in a town near us that we had planned on visiting, that week. We arranged to meet. LZ and I figured we met chat a bit then go our separate ways for the rest of the day. As it turned out, we spend the day with him and his wife and part of the evening. We were all comfortable with each other, it was fun.

 
We stayed in touch, visited some time, sailed together sometimes, etc etc. we last saw them on our way to Mexico. Spent the day or two days there with them and their now two children.
 
They, well him, Afro Eric as he is known in Tokyo, from his career as an entertainer there, had a vacation time from his government job. He took the family to Tokyo to visit, his wife’s family. He arranged for a rail pass to travel wherever. One of the wherevers was here to Osaka to visit us for the day. He had lived in Osaka before Tokyo so was interested in seeing his old grounds. His wife had only been here one other time and that was for work. 
 
wpid-img_20150409_175649.jpg
Yesterday they came with the two young boys to spend the day with us. That was pretty adventurous. Two boys ages 2 and 5 on the bullet train long trip, no sleep!
wpid-img_20150409_190950.jpg
wpid-img_20150409_171728.jpg
We arranged to meet them at a famous shopping area, Tenloku Sshotenguy, in Downtown Osaka. I took care of the oldest boy he most times when allowed by the youngest took him. The wifes got to shop and talk. We walked around, looking, eating, talking.
wpid-img_20150409_175640.jpg
It was fun catching up. There were times we got some attention because of having the boys in tow. A couple of Obaachans were really taken with the boys. How cute they would say! The only bummer of the day was one restaurant we went to, my friend ordered some fried fish, twice and it never came. We left. Not sure what was the reasoning was behind the non-service. The rest of the service and food was good. Weird about the fish. Not saying it was a racial thing, but it was weird, very weird.
wpid-img_20150409_133912.jpg
 
Anyway, we talked, and walked, stopped for food, drinks, snacks, ice-cream, pictures. It was a good day and good weather.
wpid-img_20150409_171440.jpg
The day before was rainy on and off. Today is a full day of rain, but yesterday was sunny and fairly warm, perfect! We got to see some of the fading Sakuras along the river. LZ reminded me the place we were at the river was one of the places we went on my first trip to Osaka and went on the boat ride.
wpid-img_20150409_154114.jpgwpid-img_20150409_155414.jpg
It was good to hang with our homies. They plan on moving back to Japan when able.
wpid-img_20150409_174523.jpg
Tokyo is a ways from Osaka, but a lot closer than California. I am not really a fan of the Tokyo area but a short visit is ok. Maybe on the way to Hokkaido a stop would be good. On the other hand, the visit to Hokkaido will be, should be, probably be before they move back.

Haru no Hara SuiZen

Haru no Hara SuiZen

 
As it turns out I was very wrong about the Sakura being gone. Many places still have lots of flowers. Even after the winds and rains we have had for the last few days.
wpid-img_20150404_132612.jpg
wpid-img_20150404_133108.jpg
wpid-img_20150404_133233.jpg
wpid-img_20150404_165453.jpg
wpid-img_20150404_170138.jpg
Only now they are starting to make a soft pink blanket on the wet spring grass. This takes on a different kind of beauty to the landscape and the walks through and to where ever.
 wpid-img_20150407_122400.jpg
My third Shakuhachi lesson has come and gone. The class is suppose to be for 45min to an hour, however I am usually there from 7:30 until 9:00. Sensei started this week giving me some history on the Shakuhachi after the playing part of the lesson.
 
Purity of the note. This is some thing I have to work on. A clean, clear, pure note. I am somewhat limited by the PCV flute I am using to practice with. This is something also Sensei said, a flaw of using a non-Bamboo Shakuhachi. It can not be helped, until I have gain some lip aperture skill and acquire my own. This I can relate to Kyudo. Building Ashibumi and up before I can hit the Mato, much less have a pure shot. More on Kyudo later.
 
This is my main thing of focus now. Secondly it is learning the fingering, the notes on the staff, the Japanese for the note. Multi-layers. Still Kyudo is harder, at least right now.
 
Part of the history about the shakuhachi, is it’s use by the Zen as a tool, for enlightenment. They did not meditate by sitting, they meditated by playing the shakuhachi. So to me this says to me, as I have known Meditation is not just sitting, even if one is seeking “enlightenment”. So the Shaolin Monks could have used Chuan Fa (martial arts) as a way of training for their and in their meditation. Having Sitting Zen/ Chan and moving Chan. With this train of thought it is quite easy to understand using Kyudo as a way of Meditation, enlightenment, besides as just an aid to training, calming the mind. The pure shot, the pure shot would not just be hitting the target. It would be composed of motion, sound and a clear thoughtless, but focus mind.
 
As with the Zen Kuke Monks, playing their notes, drawing their sound from the universe, focus on the breath, but not focused, on the Shakuhachi, but not focus, in tune to the sound of the universe and playing that, into the sounds of their steps, the birds, the air through their flute. In Kyudo there are also these sounds. The clear perfect note of the string on a pure shot, the snap of the Yumi, the Ya as it cuts through the air, the sound of the mato being pierced. Could not this perfect gathering of sounds, notes, also strike the cord of enlightenment. Newton was “enlightenment” to gravity by the apple hitting (thud sound) his head.
 
It is not really worth the static of bring this up to any non-believer of “Zen” in Kyudo, or Kyudo as “Zen”. Those who know would already know, those with closed eyes will not see the ground in front of them.
 
All this to say the Shakuhachi is another branch of the Zen tree. Speaking of Zen tree. I also was told about my lineage in the Fuke Shakuhachi line. I had not considered having a lineage with an instrument before, however this is the way of traditional things in the Japanese path. I am now part of a lineage. However, I will not be. given a rank as I progress as my Sensei does not follow strict protocol he is a bit of a rebel.
wpid-img_20150324_170939.jpg
 
I was just thinking of the Marital use of the Shakuhachi by the Kuke Monks and hidden Ninjas, when I recalled a movie called the Silent flute or Circle of Iron. A movie starring David Carradine, my Shifu was also in it. It was about a Blind Kung Fu master, who had a flute, which was also a staff. He used this for defence and music. This was Kung Fu and nothing to do with Japan or the Shakuhachi, but well, you know… Anyway… never mind. I digress.
The point of this post, the Sakura are still around and my Shakuhachi lesson continue, on a deeper note than just playing sounds. I am digging it. who knows maybe someday all this, Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Zen/Chan, Tai Chi/Kung fu stuff will come together into something awesome. That would be awesome or maybe I will become enlightened…or realize I am already.
 
 
 

A day in the life – Kobe

 

Kobe, Japan is about a two hour train ride, costing about 12-15 dollars, one way. Needless to say I do not go often. When I do, I try to get the most bang for my buck, in this case Yen. I was invited to a party, I was hesitant about going. As it turns out a friend who I had met last year or so, was not busy that day. He had no clients, he is an accupunturist, and martial artist. I had skipped going to see an all girl blues band the day or so before to save money, so I opted to attend the clash in Kobe, and visit my friend as well, the two birds with one stone thing.
 
My first stop was to visit my Martial Art friend. It was raining that day, he came over to meet me at the train station, we walked back to his shop. Lucky it was not far, so even in the rain we did not get too wet, at least not soaked from the walk. We had some tea and chatted. He is studying old school deep Zen Buddhism from a Taoist and Zen master in Tokyo in order to raise his Qi Gong and spiritual level to be a better acupuncturist.  
 
I was shown his hand made-metal Shakuhachi. Doubles as an instrument and a weapon. It was made by his friend, an interesting piece. After tea, I showed him some Kali moves and drills, along with some Mantis. He showed me some Okinawain-Te moves and explained some of the history of the moves, the country and the people. It was interesting for both of us. After the martial art exchange, we played around with Shakuhachi and Shamisen. It was not really that good but it was fun, that was more important.
 

My next stop was further deep into Kobe. I was picked up at the train station by my friend and band mate. This area of Kobe was different. Lots and lot of hills, I would not want to ride a bike around there. Almost as hilly as San Francisco. This was an affluent area, impressive units, both inside and out.
 
The person throwing the party is a friend of my drummer friend. He was giving a party for his visiting daughters, who live in Australia. This person is also sailing student of mine now. He and my friend are Indian, as in Hindu type. I was looking forward to some real Indian food. It had been a while for the real taste. I was looking forward to it and, I was not disappointed. It was off the hook good eating!! I ate two big plates of goodies. A large selection of vegetarian eats! I was surprised the items they made with tofu. I was a happy camper!
wpid-img_20150405_194610.jpg
wpid-img_20150405_194620.jpg
wpid-img_20150405_193518.jpg
Looking at these pictures makes me hungry all over again. I was given a another plate of leftovers as were most people that stayed. It was good the next day as well. The last of the rice was eaten today, still wish I had another plate. yeah, it was that good. I know it will be many moons before I have some again like that!
There were a lot of people that came to the party. It was a good international mix. Many were East Indian, plus others and Japanese of course. There was suppose to be band, but they did not show. The drummer and I were asked to do a couple of songs. I reluctantly agreed, very reluctantly. I was feeling it was weird to do a song, with just a Bass and a drum with me singing, I am very shy about singing, weird for one who sings in a band. However, the crowd enjoyed it. They even danced, which was quite surprising. I think the large amount of liquor drank helped. 
wpid-img_20150405_194626.jpg
 
I was invited to stay over at my friend’s house for the night so I would not have to worry about missing the train home, a two hour ride. That was nice, I could relax and enjoy chatting. After most of the crowd left, we had a big discussion about life, and people. It was a good time. Everyone left about 1:30 or so.
Afterward at my friend’s apt, we ended up watching a video about this famous musician he knows, Wayne Shorter, that is also of the same Nichiren Buddhist sect as him and Herbie Handcock, they are all friends. I really just wanted to go to sleep, but I felt I needed to be polite and watch. It was interesting though. 
 
 
The whole day in Kobe was interesting and a worthwhile visit. Met some new people, and perhaps a few new fans to come see the band play at Chicago Rock next week. 
 
.

The last Sakura

I had plans to go to Kyudo. LZ had mention going to lunch at this little noodle shop she found. Fresh made noodles. One guy, making the noodle. Very popular place. The plan was supposed to be I stop by visit some with OKaasan then we go to lunch afterward I go to Kyudo.Of course that changed, it would not be life without making an adjustment to the sails. I visited Okaasan that went fine. Then LZ and I took off for the noodle shop. It was a short walk nearby. The short walk lasted way longer than I thought. 10-15 min was really more like 20 min. It was a warm day, I was dressed for cold. My knee was troubling (hurting) me for the last week, badly. It was a long walk for me. We finally made it. Got a seat, ordered and waited.

wpid-img_20150402_133315.jpg

 

It took time. I found out they do not cut, or prepare the noodles until ordered, it was that fresh.

 

wpid-img_20150402_134320.jpg

wpid-fotor_142794993686759.jpg

Finally we were served. It was very. Good. LZ was saying it was the best she ever had. She was never big on udon, but this was the best. I heard this well into the evening!

wpid-img_20150402_135223.jpg

 

wpid-img_20150402_134853.jpg

 
We finished and she spoke to the owner praising his udon and tempura. He seemed like a nice guy. The food was quite good. They even had Udon fresh to go, you cook at home.
wpid-img_20150402_141644.jpg
 
Afterward, LZ had said there was a group earlier from the elderly home where OKaasan lives that went Sakura viewing today. Tomorrow it was rain so the flowers would be gone. I wanted to see. LZ is not really into the Sakura blooms to much either. Last year she saw the tree by our house and started to understand the attraction, some. This little sightseeing was more for me. 
wpid-img_20150402_142533.jpg
wpid-img_20150402_142600.jpg
 

It was a perfect day for viewing. There were many out with the same idea. We strolled around the lake taking in the sights.

 

wpid-img_20150402_142315.jpg

There were masses of elderly from the local nursing homes in the area taking in the flowers, sun, the fresh spring air. It was a lovely day. Tomorrow it would all change, the report said.

wpid-img_20150402_143141.jpg

I explained to LZ such is the beauty of the Sakura, so delicate, so fragile, so temporary, as is life. This is the metaphoric story, draw of the Sakura.

wpid-img_20150402_143001.jpg

 

Here today, gone tomorrow, scattered, blown away by the wind of life.I never made it to Kyudo that day, i rolled with the moment. The next day as predicted, high winds and rain. We saw for the most part the last of the Sakura for this year.

wpid-img_20150402_142350.jpg 
so I thought…