Everyday People


“I’m just Everyday people”…Sly and the Family Stone

 
My dad use to tell me, get educated, don’t use you back for work use your brain. I put myself through college and got a degree. I even had a good job with my own office for a while. Yet here I am working with my back after retirement. Almost like all that education, training etc, meant nothing. However I would not be here if not for that. Everywhere we are, is because of where we have been.
 
Once in another past life I was an Auto mechanic. I worked for a car dealer, so yeah I was a serious mechanic. I recall in the 70’s I was working for a Buick dealer, when there was no work, no car at the moment, we would hangout and wait for a job to come up. I would go sit on a large storage shelve unit, crossed legs and just mediate, of sorts. I did not know what meditation was back then. People thought I was just sort of strange, off to myself sitting cross-legs just watching stuff. For me I was just being in the moment.
 
These days I flash on that again, while I wait for the group at the “Silver Center” to organize and go out into the field of whatever day job it is. I have been called back to work for the summer to work at the “Silver Center”. I do not hate it, but do not like it. The money is helpful, the exercise is good for me. I do wish it more year around at something, than only 6 mo. There is other stuff happening though out the year I am sure, but just not for me.
 
What is the Silver Center? It is a city own company/ operation that hires retired people, older than me, to do mostly in my group, landscape work. Like clearing overgrown bush in parks, water channels, yards, sometimes pickup dead flowers and stuff from some local shrines, trimming trees, helping some old person clear a house, or something. When the weather is cool or mild it is not too bad a job most times. Summer, like now can be brutal. Working out in the sun, sometimes on the side of a steep hill, mosquitoes! The big issue I have some times, is there is no toilet, for function #1 , no problem , just go off to the side stand and go. #2 can be a problem. I have to watch what I eat the night before and try to go before I leave the house or shop into the field. There are some places I know where a unit is nearby, a temple, convenience store, on the park grounds. Those are the good places. Some times there is none and I spend a lot of time hoping the morning weird stomach goes away. A couple of times it did not and I had to become a basic animal in the woods…Either way the first thing I check out on the work site is, where is the Loo?
 

The getting up at 5:00am used to be a big deal, now not so much. Except when it is dark and cold. At these times now, summer and hot, I am up, water the plants, Zazen, eat, then off to work. I stop on the way to do some TaiChi/Hsing Yi. So it is good to be up early and get that in before the heat. I ride my bike to work about 15 min. The group has already done their Japanese Morning warmup when I arrive. Usually I stretch then just Zazen off to myself.

Lately a couple of people will come over to me and ask for some kind of Qi Gong /accupressure treatment on their back or shoulder. I helped one guy I like before and the word spread, I can “do stuff” being a Shaolin Sensei. Some of these people I work with have never seen or talked to a real foreigner before, I am “unique” Some of the new peeps are surprised to see me. The older crew already know me after 4 years and are quite comfortable . I can play and joke around with a few of them and they back at me, including with the job foreman. They most times think about me when buying the group coffee and get me tea or juice. All are a nice bunch of guys. Most of them are older than me and yet hold their own out on the field. Even though I get some of the heavier lifting jobs, well most, they all when needed will do what is needed. I see some old guys who look like they are struggling when walking, climb up ladders and trees to cut stuff, or walk along on steep hills where it is hard to walk much less walk cutting growth back with a power machine on your shoulder. Yet these guys do it not complaining other than, “It is hot isn’t “, the normal saying here. I have seen a couple of new people stop working or taking a break , (of which we take a lot in the heat ), at the wrong time, and get scolded by someone, not a super or something just a working guy.

Overall people get along and look out for the group. If someone stops at a store for a drink or something cool, they will bring enough for everyone. Everyone stops what they are doing and take an unscheduled break. When we are working everyone has their job and work as a whole to finish, sometimes switching from role to role as needed.

 

At lunch, sometimes we sit as a group and eat then nap. Sometimes , and some places I can go off to myself as do some others, eat, practice my Shakuhachi and or take a nap. We regroup after lunch and back to the task at hand.

I miss working at the boat yard in some ways, it is/was more skilled required. But the owner was/is not a kind person. One felt weird when on a break which was only 15 min once a day. On the other hand at the Silver Center when we take breaks, no one get paranoid when the “boss” shows up. Our break is our break, and we have them as needed. If we are on break when a supervisor shows up, he will speak to just one person the header or sit with everyone a short while, sometimes bring refreshment. We do not have to feel weird when the “boss” is in a bad mood, or really anyone much, we have our assignments and do it.

 
I am usually a raker and or a dead/cut bush loader. Either into a trash packer or the back of a dump truck. I can put on my face mask for the pollen protection and stuff,. I get really bad allergies from the dried plants here in Japan. Near had it in the States even when I did this kind of outside work in Virginia. With mask on I turn on my iPod, and just work left alone or alone in a group. Really the only days I really hate is when something has to be done on the side of a hill, unless I am on task on top of the hill just pulling up bundles of cuttings and loading them into a compactor or something. Sometimes I have had to load up a pitchfork full of cuttings carried on my shoulder and walk up hill or a distance and uphill, because the access is that difficult. Sometimes, it is rake and compile on the side of a hill, lift the cuttings over a fence and down a another hill or something, all to be collected and loaded on a truck and taken to the city dump, where it is burned.
 
Sometimes we finish up early and sit around chatting so not to get back to the office too early. Since I do not chat well I usually, but not always go sit off to by myself in Zazen and some point think back to being a mechanic sitting on a storage shelf…and feel grateful.
 
Amitoufo
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Then there were three

Then, there were three

Ok yeah, this not the post about working with the blue collar locals either. Things happen, that will also ” be the bamboo” flow with the wind ! This is though about playing the blues, with the locals, and sometimes it is a labor, so, it is close,


I recently wrote about the last gig, a real gig with the Doc’s band. Overall it went ok, good even depending on one’s view. I receive a FB message from the Doc asking if I would like to play with him at an up coming event at a local live house. This is the Doc’s favorite spot. He hosts a blues night there twice a month. I stopped going because the owners wants his band not only to host, but to play most of the evening, AND pay to get in and pay for their weak drinks. Oh hells no! I have said! So, there is this event on Monday coming three days away from when I was asked. This event has been planned for a while and it was known about again for a while. He chose to ask me three days in advance. I have bitched at him before about this. He asks me, can you play with me on Monday I do not have a band yet. Such n such the keyboard player, I was expecting him but he said he is busy… So there is just, the house drummer and him, I am told.

 
This guy, the Doc, is a local, he has been playing in this area for years, people, know him, musicians know him, he has been playing at this Live house “Overheat” for the last year, as blues host… However he can not get people to play with him…hmmmmm
 

I simply said I pass, enjoy yourself!

 
Now I had been asking myself just the day before, do I want to continue with this guy. I am getting Irked, embarrassed at shows, complaining on blog posts, having negative feelings about the whole un-oneness of the group. Feeling like a turkey at times, do I need this??? My wife says, you should just say you are busy when he asks. Hmmmm. I thought on it…
 
In America there at one time was something called a butterball turkey. Maybe it is till there. Since I stopped eating meat I do not know. This turkey had a little button inserted, so when it was finished cooking and ready, this red bottom would pop out, that was your signal it was ready, done! There is an expression in the States people say when they had enough of something, they say I am done! Or stick a fork in me I am done!
 
This latest thing with the last-minute call, invite to play was my red button, it popped! The straw that broke the camels back some also say. I was done! I sent the Doc a formal resignation notice, thanking him for the pleasant times past, but my attitude and goals for playing was not compatible with his, for his band, and as everything has a time and season, this was mine for officially leaving the group.

The final band shot

 
I got a note from one of the other bands asking if I was available to play at Chicago Rock in Sept. the day after my main other band plays. :-). I said yeah, I am in, let’s do it.
 
Another message from a keyboard player I have done shows with in the past, asked me a few days earlier if I would do a spot at a seaside festival I had played at last year. The wife-owner of Snafkin wanted to know. I played at this event two other times before, last year was with the Snafkin owner before he passed away! I am in I said!
 
My other band asked me if I had a friend to play drums for our gig at Chicago Rock also in Sept. Yes,  I am playing in Sept at Chicago Rock, three times with three different groups. It is not a big fancy club, but it is a known club and a good stepping stone and testing ground.
 
So…Wwow all these people organizing their shows months in advance! What a concept! Professional minded players, are real, it is not just a fantasy in my head.
 
So I am down to three bands and my solo career. I think that is plenty, and a great outlet for that side of my musical ministry and clears out some negative energy. I would prefer just being with one good , working often band, however that does not seems to be Japanese style. At least at this level. I have friends whose bands work “regular”, even there the members play it are more than one band, even when their band is a hot band! So when in Rome…or Japan…roll with it
 
Amitoufo

..

The blue collar post is written, it will post next.

弓道 – A bit of Kyudo


A touch of Kyudo
Ok so shoot me this is not about working blue collar! coming soon… Meanwhile.
It is/was Tues, traditionally Kimono day at the Kyudojo. There was part of me that did no feel like going. Partly tire from the heat and working the day before, partly being lazy, there is some travel envolved, anyway, I knew that when one is feeling like that the best thing to do is just just do it. One usually gets an extra benefit, the universe seems to work that way. Maybe a balancing thing to the extra effort to get there, or do that thing. The universe, balance is it’s thing. 
 
Yeah , so off I go to Kyudo. Having a practice means discipline if one wants to advance. I want my name moved up in the member board at the dojo. We were speaking about the board and placement today. At least some of us were, I mostly listened and tried to figure out what was going on until I had enough, lost interest and did some shooting. 
Sorry jumped ahead
 
Ummm yeah , I went to Kyudo and met one of my buds a the front desk. She told me some things about the class today , most of which I not understand but the gist of it was there was no formal class today, because of several reasons, all of which meant to me no class…just practice. Because some of the things she said I did not get I kept my eyes and ears open , prepared to roll with whatever. I went upstairs to the dojo with her, passing some Senseis that I thought she, my bu said were not going to be there or busy. Ok , roll with it mode engaged. 
 
I entered the ojo and did my greetings and started to get ready to shoot. As I was doing so I heard talk of class today. People counted, some more talk, and then we all decked it was going to be Dogi wear and solo practice. Ok cool, with me. I wanted some time to just shoot.
 
We all had at it. We chatted, practiced and chatted. At one of these chats was the ranking name board discussion. It is interesting, I get very little of what is being said, but enough so I can follow some conversations, but everyone speaks to me like I understand and I am part of all that goes on, not the gaijin. I have heard several times over my time here, something about oh, Yeah, I forgot you are not Japanese. Then try to explain what they said. I dislike getting them to stop talking, because they are saying something I do not understand, because it stops the flow of what is happening. Unless I really can not get what they are saying and it is something I have to say beside yes or no. I need to go…eh??? And then comes tying to explain it in Englishanese. The adventure! Interestingly at some point I get it! I find it all most interesting to be where I am and flash-on where I am from. What a long strange trip it’s been.
 
So yeah, while we are chatting the main Sensei comes in. I have not seen him in awhile. I greet him and say long time no see. He says ohhh, you are still practicing, or here or something like that. Another bud of mine says, with a laugh, yes of course he is always here with us. Everyone chuckled, I did not get a few words said, as I was walking away as was Sensei.
 
So we all practiced, chatted, etc. Two of the sensei that uasally run things and that I passed in the hall, came back in after awhile. One, the Kaicho started shootings and helping people. After a while of shooting the head Sensei comes out and watches me shoot. He is not please but not displeased, I get a few corrections. He says he will check me again before I leave afte he finishes what he doing in the back. I say ok thank you, an settle in for more practice. I was not exspecting this, it is good, but surprising. I had tried coming in a few times when I thought he was there , but he was not. He is a detail orientated guy, beside being the head of the Kishiwada chapter of the Renmei. He is the one that signs my papers to go to a Shinsa. So it was good to have him check me. 
 
I practiced, he came back, just before I was ready to leave, after extending my practice time to three hours instead of two. I got a correction, adjustment on my daisan, the final section of my hikiwaki, tenonuchi, right elbow in Kai, yumi placement on my knee and why, the correct fingers to use to knock the ya string. A lot of small things, nothing to help my hitting , but I have learned that yes it does, just not right away, but it will all come together, I just need to listen and make the correction. A Zen master once told me, there are times when things happen, but they show up later. I am certain at some point all will click into place with my shooting, and I will ascend to the next Plateau and I will have my “act” all together. 
 
After Sensei gave me my second check, he said something I understood to mean it takes some time to get corrrect. I replied little by little, he nodded yes.
 
“It matters not how many times you get knocked down, it matters how many times you get up”…Brown Buddha
 
It turned out to be an excellent day, I got to practice, I got some needed corrections on my Kyudo, I got of the house, fresh air and walked. Amitoufo

Gardening, Rain, SuiZen


Gardening Zen and the rain
My Shifu from Dharma Mtn says everyday life is Zen/Chan, in Kung fu we say everything is training. Gardening as practice is certainly not a new concept, so I am not going there, this is just one moment in time…thoughts, clarity
Growing one’s food no matter on the scale, gives a sense of connection to the world, life cycle without the blood of hunting. It is sort of satisfying the God complex, like ceramics because you are creating something from dirt, but in this case you can eat it, instead of eat with it.
We have had a storm for the last couple of days and will continue at least one more. I am loving it! Off from work, just enjoying the rain and wind from a safe spot. Doing some gardening when the conditions are mild. Like the wind taking a breath. Doing some misc trimming, repotting, feeding, rearranging or simplify admiring the garden, savoring the feeling of the elements, the storm, the earth, growth, warm air, being in Japan, the wind, life, gratitude. With the world so nuts, it Is good to view everything with a sense of gratitude and feel the joy of the retirement moment in gratitude and wonder. Five years in to retirement and still surviving. Not without help, grateful for that. It is a simple life but pleasant. Warm int he winter, cool in the summer, dry all year when sleeping and our belly are full. This is a blessing under normal conditions, to have it be so in a new country and life is a major blessing …Amitoufou
I spent most of the last couple of days, practicing Shakuhachi and working in the “backforty”. This year I really feel the blessing of having this space and see the results of my efforts in the landscaping. Both in the front Zen garden and the Back Forty. Same purpose of growth, different missions. Sort of Yin and Yang, eye and body pleasures. Whatever. The front theme Is the bamboo, a couple of small water ponds, some fragrant plants, a couple of herbs. Gives a sense of peace and simple beauty. I still have the image of how it looked when we first moved in. so different now.
The Backforty is about growing food and herbs. The front was tried a bit for some things, because of the sun, but the bugs overran the things. They seem to be less on the Backforty. Not sure why. More other plants around in front, dirt, ??
I have finally figured out after 5 years what grows well, in what spot, and how much to grow since my use is measured and my yield is small. The main stay is lettus, kale, tomatoes, basil, peppers and few misc herbs. This year has been the most productive. I will try potatoes next year or later this one. It maybe too late, for this year, Unknown… some research needed.
Some grown things really add to the table, something are just treats. It is all worth the effort, the sense of “gangster” for growing your own, the flavor!! The spiritual sense of connection to your food.
During the storm I sheltered myself indoors and watch and listen to the storm. I would practice my Shakuhachi during these times. I was told by my Komuso sensei about connecting to the environment was an important part of playing. Today and yesterday I sat at the window, feeling as if I sat on an enclosed patio and played. The storm blew, I blew, we blew. On one song the storm and my energies blended and as I played, the storm followed , or I followed the storm, we ended at the same moment, like matched lovers.

Music is alive – Nihon Do

Music is Alive

This last month got to be petty busy with the music world. I got to be playing with four different bands. Three of them were suppose to be paying “gigs”. People are too casual with that word thee days everyone is using it. Suppose to be a paying job for an artist! Key word here paying! In Japan they use it a lot, I guess because it Is cool to say.
I was asked to play bass for a band whose singer knows me. He is from New Zealand and plays hard and sings. He invited me to play to fill in for the bass player. Ok I said. Another fiend was invited to play keyboards. The same keyboard player I am in the Sieki band with. It was supposed to a paying by the door job, but it ends up we had to pay. I was not pleased as it began to unfold. First thing it was we pay 5.00 and maybe get something from the door. Then it was we pay 10.00 and we get nothing, because of the earthquake. I was very displeased. I went though with it only because I had given my word. However, Now I know about this club and will not play there again like that!
It was/is a nice club but I do not like the musicians pay policy , that is BS!
The next band I was invited into by the keyboard player, from my other two bands. The keyboard player is well known and plays with a lot of people local. He is also Loud and gay so he stands out. He Is a good guy and contact. We are friends, the Kute and Kool Kuruseders. I played with this group number two with him, the first time for most of us. The first the first group where almost everyone was around my age. I was asked to also sing a couple of songs. Everyone sang two songs for the show. We worked out and played good together. All had good musicianship not being kids. The main guy is pretty famous around Kyoto. We played the club well and ended with another booking for Sept I think it is. We did not get much money since the “door” was split between two bands that played. The spot is one of the main Blues clubs in Osaka. I played there before with the Doc’s band before the invite was cancelled. It called Chicago Rock. The name will come up again.
Band three is the Doc’s band. I have not played with him, that I can recall since the Blues Fest. I wa asked to play this coming weekend in Napa with the band, his band. At fist I though it was jus me and him. I was close to saying no. However my wife thought I hold go to help him since he did get me started in the area. The group is supposed to get free dinner and drinks at the ShriLanka vegetarian dishes resturant in exchange for playing. Also the Doc was driving us out to the Location in Nara, on top of some mountain. None of which I have been to before, so ok. I said yes. Later I find out the drummer is also attending , so the original trio is going on a road trip again. I am not looking forward to this, but the food maybe interesting. My first time for that although looks “Indian “. I played the president of Shri Lanka once on TV here and my youngest was dating a woman born there. So it is a bit more tan casual interest to visit this place run by a native Shri Lankan.
The fourth band is my main band. We had the hosting spot at the guitar player’s father’s club. Monthly blue jam sessions, the house band plays with others and also does a full set alone. It went well. We are starting to sound fairly tight, like real band. There were flyers post on FB about the show. I was surprise to have some people I met a couple of years ago returning to Japan, show up to the club. They seem like a nice couple about our age. I made a temp plan to couple up with them over tea or something once my wife is less occupied. We do not have any couple friends any longer , other than my sister in law and her husband, since I no longer want to be around my former employer from WaterWorld. Also this couple speaks some English. We sat on the ame row on the plane from Cal. We do not talk much until the end and not since then other than FB. So yeah it was a nice surprise to see them.
Another surprise that night was the Doc showing up to jam with the band. I guess he wanted to check out the band…
As I was making ready to leave at the end of the session , he says he wants me to do a song I did that night on Sunday at the restaurant. I said it is not the setting for that song, he tried to push me a little into agreeing, which irked me, anyway it will not happen. I am not being paid be told how to sing something I do not want to. Bottom line. That is a place that is sensitive for him to walk.
The rest of the night went well. A song I was kind of questioning if would work, did work, mostly. Actually two songs. One was a first kind of song for this band. However that is what is good about this band. It Is not straight ahead Blues. Neo-Blues band I think is a fair label. The guitar player said at the show we are a “fake blues” band. We do not just do pure blues. I like that, I like my feet hanging out the box sometimes.
I also have my solo venture to work on. I am attending a jam session this Thurs at Chicago Rock. I want to do a few songs with me on Keyboard and singing. I want to owner to see me as a solo act as well a bass player. I want to get a spot there at Chicago Rock, even If I can play there four times a year doing my own thing I would be pleased. I can spread from that. Chicago Rock is the established blues club in the Osaka Bay. I need to build a fan base I want to play the main stage at the Sakai Blues fest and Hard Rock Cafe in Osaka. I notice more people peak to me when I show up places now. With having done a few more spots with “known locals” it is good exposure.
On another side of the coin the music scene here is very different from the states. It is common for clubs to charge the band to play there. To me that is the pits on respect. The club only exits to sell to the musicians in some form. It is very common for one person to be a member of several bands, The drummer from Sieki band asked me if I wanted to play in a group perhaps a trio with him and another guitar player who showed up for the session. This guy is a friend of his. He is a good player, but too loud and wild style for my taste. Also the drummer is to me, is only so so, he is not versatile. Steady which is good , but his beats are limited.
If I had to pick a band with the most potential it would be the band #2, they have the chops for playing mix bag, four people sing, we could have good harmonies, all about the same age.
IN the mist of all this going on I took a trip to Kobe, and sat in on a monthly session there. I know a number of people there so it is good to see them and get to play with some different folks and some familiar ones. I went there a couple of times with the Doc and was embrassed it took me a while to get pass that and be seen as me and not his Bass player. The session was good. I got to play a couple cool songs I wanted with a full band.
Even though I was a bit put off when told I should play bass not keys and should play Bass. I did not press the issue since the guys was running the show, he kind of power trips so I let go, We seriously raised the roof with the songs!
I was so bummed no one got a recording , that I know of. There were pictures but no music at least long enough to enough. Too bad it was off the hook!
In the recent news I find out the Sieki Band has gotten a spot at Chicago Rock in Sept. on a Friday night. That would be great if we get a fair turn out. I would be happy playing there three or four times a year. Plus the same at a couple of other spots that would be very cool in my eyes. I do not have big dreams about the music world. any more no, fantasies. I want to make good music, enjoy it and make some money enough to cover expenses…would be nice. I am understanding it will take a couple of bands to make this happen, the NihonDo.

Sakai Blues Fest 2018

I wrote about the controversy, hmmm issue I had with this a few months back. Which was resolved so I attended the event this weekend. Sat., I was the with the Doc’s band. We had 1 rehearsal a couple of week ago. Two days before the event he wants to change a song and add a different one. This song has some complex breaks in it. However he wants to do it. Sigh. 
 
I arrive to the area pretty early so I can find the venue location. I stop by the main stage area and see a few people I know and get some light directions. I got to the general area but still was not at the right location. I ended up in front of the place we played last year. Someone saw me who kind of knew me from before or some place else. Anyway he and and guy took me to where I needed to go. Kind people, most Japanese. At the venue I saw the guitar player from my other band, the Sieki Band. He was not playing just watching.
 
After a while the rest of the doc’s band shows up. He decides what the order of the songs and what songs we are doing. Of course this should have been done before hand and not the day of, but I rolled with it, as common. We were set to do 5 songs, the sixth song held in reserve, for him to do. I was set to sing the opening song, with the Doc singing the rest. It worked for me. 
 
Our time came around and we got set to play. Following his lead we started, it went well. I was put off that he sat on the foot floor of the stage while we stood on stage proper. It looked tacky. but the band played on. The next four songs were sort of bad, especially the new song never rehearsed, him still sitting next on the stage floor when not singing.
We made it through the planned set, and find out there is time for one more song. The Doc’s girl friend and a couple of others call for me to do a song. I say no, the drummer asks me also, please we need to sound strong for closing. Ok I say. I had no plans of doing a song so I had to think fast. I chose a song we had done before with me singing, but the Doc had taken over. We start slowly finding the groove, the Doc complains about the tempo or something. I did not quite hear, which was good, or I might have told him to sing it then, I have had this issue with him before. Anyway we got it rolling and it was sounding ok, not great  but ok. When his guitar part came we thought he would not stop, I jumped in with Harmonica so we could put a close to the song. He tends to drag on and on, and on with his solos. We ended ok and it was done. 
 
We sat for a drink and some of them ate. The keyboard player took off. I did shortly afterwards. Later I told the drummer the Doc’s performance was sort of embarrassing. He said his girl-friend and him were joking around about it. He did not eat and had a drink, it was effecting him. Hahah. I just sad hmmmm. His playing was off a lot, but overall his stage presence was lame. I thought sitting on the edge of the stage was tacky, missing notes when playing was one thing, but image is another. Anyway his band, his name, not mine. Soooo, oh well. No one cares but me so, whatever.
 
 
The next day I was doing my first solo spot for the show event. I was loaded down with my equipment. I had put together one extra song the night before, just in case I needed it, I was not sure about the time needed for setup and take down. Therefore I brought my guitar just in case I needed a fourth song. I had my keyboard, wires, drum machine, guitar and Shakuhachi. This was to be my first public playing of Shakuhachi with a modern song, not a traditional Shakuhachi. 
 
I made it to the main stage area again to get my back stage pass. Again some hellos and I stare off for the venue. This time I had a better idea on getting there and had my google map set on the phone so I pull just followed it. I made it with no problem. It was not where I expected but I could tell it was the place because of the people standing there outside. It seemed I caused quite a stir when I arrived. I got a lot of questions and asked for pictures. Not because I was famous or anything just being the black gaijin.
As it turns out there was another guy there from Ca. I was scheduled to play after him. He was gotten or just happened to come out, we spoke for a short bit. He did not live in Japan just visiting for his third time. After things settled a bit, I sat a few people came at next to me, chatted a bit, toke a picture then left. Another guys sits next to me we talk some , then he goes inside and brings me a beer. I thank him but say I am not drinking. It seems more polite than saying I hate beer. He takes it back, and returns shortly. We chat he is the owner of the club. Ohhhhh. I gave him my card, he gives me his. My card says I am a Buddhist Priest, he tells me he is also, with a certain Buddhist sect and shows me some pictures. Then he shows me some hand signs they use, somewhat like Ninja power things. Then he moves on to take care of some things. I wait more…I hear the other guy from California playing. I am to follow him, I was not impressed, like a country singer playing the blues, no soul more hillbilly like. The Japanese must like him because had played at two other spots over the weekend, solo at each. It was sort of fitting in with the other players I had heard so far there. I was thinking. hmmm maybe they are not ready for what I will be doing. Oh well!
 
Showtime and a guy who knew me ( another one I did not know him, but he knew me), helped me move my stuff and another helped me setup. I was ready. My first song was a slow blues. I had pre-record my drum and bass tracks on a machine. The first song I would start with Shakuhachi , then switch to keyboard, vocals and harmonica. When the other guy was playing there were a few people in the room and a few more in the next room. After I was setup and ready to go, I looked up to speak and , wow the place was full. I said something about that they laughed, saying they wanted to check me out. Hahah
 
I started, when I finished the opening Shakuhachi, which I thought I did pretty well, I not embarrass myself a least, they clapped! I continued on into the song. It went well. I was satisfied with my performance. The audience enjoyed it. The next started well, however about just past halfway through it, I got a little lost. I could not hear my sound track , with the feedback from the Mic and the volume being controlled by the sound engineer. I rolled with it trying to hear and reset my timing to match. I tried to cover it by ending early and not fighting with it or just stopping to find my place. They crowd did not seem to mind or notice. I checked my time I was doing ok, but I would not do but just one more. This was a funky blues, funky, I was not sure if they could handle it. I started, with the beat and the bass only. I started to clap with the beat to set the groove, I asked them to join, I was surprised and pleased they did so. They got into it, head bobbing, feet patting and clapping, it went well. Bam it was done. 
 
I packed up and went outside to organize. The owner came out and congratulated me. He asked if I did not drink at all or what. I said yes I do, Sake, and Sochu is ok. He asked wine? I said yes. He said ok and went inside. I was thinking he will get me a glass of wine. He returned and gave me a whole bottle of fairly high-grade wine. I was shocked!
I thanked him, a lot Japanese style, and headed off to chat with friend and his family who had shown up to see me. 
 
I did not think there were any pictures as I did not set up my camera, but later some came to me. Some from the event photographer posting and my friend. It was a good day. Now I know the music combo in my head will work, yatta! I had gotten some good feedback on using the Shakuhachi with the blues from some samples I sent to a couple of people, I will build on that from now! There will be two path with the Shakuhachi. It will be an interesting journey. Yosh! It is good to make some headway. Now If I could just do that with my Kyudo…
 

弓道 – One step back


One step back…

 
The weather was finally spring like together, great. I went to the flea market at the temple I played at recently. It was the most crowded I have seen. I also the most gaijin I have ever seen at these. I was hoping to see a acquaintance of mine. I a local monk who is usually there begging. I wanted to ask him some advice on where I could play without stepping on some other monk’s toes there. Alas he was not there. Oh well. I went through the markers anyway as I needed a couple of things and wanted to check out for a couple of others. I did not buy much, a couple of beads and a cord to make a cleaning cloth for some shakuhachi, some nuts, and some wooden prayer beads.

Afterward I went to Kyudo. There is all the testing coming up in Kyoto soon, so there were several sensei there, including my favorite, Yamashita sensei. I had planned on just practicing, but of course with the sensei there that went out the window. Still it was good, I got a lesson. It threw all that I thought I was finally getting out the window. Sort of.

 
I got my right arm draw and placement corrected. It totally changed my hitting from ok, to it sucks! However sensei was pleased with the adjustment. I guess that I more important. So when I finally get to Shinsa again I will do well, and the next step will be easier. He also told me O was knocking my ya wrong. Bring the ya to the sting, not the other way around. As fo my draw, I think I finally got it , at least I understand what I am supposed to be doing.
 
I wonder does anyone understand how difficult it is to follow things in a language you do not fully understand. Sensei is good at explaining, and he ok’d what I was doing afterwards, even though I was not hitting. So I have to adjust my sighting again to off set the new positioning of my right arm and shoulder. It is surprising how much of a big difference it makes with a small change how the arrow travels.
 
I will be putting off the upcoming Shinsa in June, until Sept. oh well. Like I have been saying. It really only matters to me. Before Yondan there is practice, after Yondan there is practice.
.

Komuso; a step on the path


Small steps are still steps… the path

 
I went Shakuhachi class tonight. It is now monthly, Not bi-weekly. Cutting back on expenses…
I took along a couple of the Komuso items I have recieved from the Myoanji Temple. One was my Begging permit. The other was a prayer/poem, charm sort of thing. my wife did not know what it was. My Komuso sempai said it was the SuiZen “vows” An “oath”…of sorts is a better word.
 
I showed it to my Sensei. He said, well… to me, as I am not a Buddhist, or at least a full Buddhist, I am half, to me it is just decoration. However to someone who is Buddhist, and like you as a Komuso it has meaning to the core of being a Komuso.
He then went through and explained everything in struggling English. The main “text” is this: 
 
One blow to remove evil
One blow to bring the good
One blow for all to come together in Buddhism 
 
 
There are variations on interpretations of this, but the same sort of meaning.
It came down to mostly this…hearing his talk.
 
“A Komuso does not play for himself, he plays for others first, himself last”. 
 
That was the thing that stuck with me out of all that he tried to explain, on the philosophy and code of the Komuso from the writing. One can think of the playing as a healing, a prayer, an offering. Sensei often speaks of sound offering, meditation, purity of the note and peacefulness of spirit. He said tonight when speaking of some players that if they can not blow the Shakuhachi and make a pure sound, a real note, not just mostly wind noise, this person should not being playing Shakuhachi, their spirit is not calm, they should just sit ZaZen. Give up Shakuhachi, just sit Zazen. What is funny hearing him speak of these things, he will say, or add that he is not a Buddhist, or Komuso, but blah blah blah.
 
He told me it is more important to play than to receive donations. Also hear that from my wife. Playing as a Komuso is not about taking, or receiving, but giving. He also told me I could play another song beside, “Cho Shi”. But a modern songs, NO no no! The Honkyoku I am currently working on, San Ya, is ok, he said. In Japanese songs such as this it is not about playing the whole song, for it to be a whole song. I could play the number of Lines I had learned and it could be used as a Komuso. He then showed me an example of how to play it. It is really feeling and interpretation of any part, yet each part is still part of the whole and still the whole. Like as drop of the ocean is still ocean water, an ocean, just smaller. As we as it is Ch’an are just a small part of all that is …
My friend and Kung Fu Sihing, liken this to the golden spiral of life. Wherever you cut this spiral it is the same angle, small as it’s larger or smaller piece. He based a workout stick/wand, on this idea.
Hmmm maybe I digress or something there… oh well, it is my blog, of sorts. It is my story for sure
! …or is it?
 
Sensei had said he was or held a membership at a temple in Fukuoka, but he had not done begging. But understood it. He knows a lot of stuff around Shakuhachi, even if he does not follow, the stuff. He as he has a lot of respect for those past masters who thought ( and those now) of the Shakuhachi as not a Musical instrument, but a Zen tool. Even though he does not follow that philosophy.
 
I hope to learning some interesting things as a Komuso if I keep my eyes and ears open. Learning Japanese would help a lot, but I will make do for now as I “take another step”.
IMG_20180403_163801
 
Another thing he said , from reading my card is I am number 2,380 (an about number) Komuso registered with the Myoanji HQ. I thought, Wow! There will be a new blog coming, dealing with just my life and times as a Komuso. “THe Komuso Khronicles”. This blog is getting full, and will just get the summary.

弓道 – An arrow in flight


 
I went to RaeKai today. A few days ago I went into practice. I had hope to just practice. I had not seen Watashe Sensei in a while there on Thursdays. That was his regular time but he had been out. I went in on Thus. Just hoping to practice. I was starting to get a fix on things, having Sensei watching and adjust is good, but really confuses me at times.
 
So yeah of course he was there this Thursday. He and another sensei who is very helpful to me, but always checking me, adjusting. It is great but at the same time frustrating! Sadness within Joy Zen, sort of thing. Yeah, good to get correction and that someone cares, but bad for my just want to practice mode. Oh well life is change, roll with it.
 
Sensei did not stay long, neither did. I got my adjusts and got to practice so it was all good. My score sucked of course, but it is not about that, right!
So I got in some just practice time which was nice. It also confirms that some of new things I have been doing are correct. So I am in the right path! Yatta!
Tenouchi is a problem, I am lacking spin. I am hitting in a good spot off the mato, that if I have some spin that would not happen. It would hit I believe. Anyway, yeah more practice…and more after that.
 
I went a Rae Kai today it was fun. I had not been in a while , seemed like longer but I know I was just at something or another recently. No matter. I was there for a practice session, not to try to win. Just a progress check of sorts.
It was to see good some people, a couple of my regular buds were not there. It happens, life is like that. It was a good checking platform for me. I did not do great, or even good, but, I did not suck … too bad. Hahaha.
 
I have been studying Shakuhachi seriously over the last 3 yrs, from time to time I wonder which is more difficult? At this point I would at Kyudo, with out a doubt. With shakuhachi there is breath, fingering, lip aperture . With Kyudo there is everything , body, breath, mind, although I could break it all down to the base for both Body, breath , mind. “The body”, in Kyudo is much more vast. Also If one thing, shoulder, elbow, waist, etc are wrong, they are all wrong!
 
So Kyudo today was, ok. I again got to see my faults, and weakness. Always a good thing, when one wants to progress, but not to good for the ego. So more much training, which is nothing I did not expect. The next Shinsa is in June, maybe maybe maybe, I will give it a shot, just because I can, for practice…Perhaps Sept at my home dojo is better. No matter right now. I will see how things unfold over the next month. Then I will know. At least I feel I am making some progress. I am seeing that the more I am in the aligned position with everything, not just yumi, ya, arms, back, shoulders, etc, the better the shot is. I figured out something with my back the other day, when carrying my bass, the arch, the shoulder compress that is needed when shooting. The weight was starting to get to my back, but if I realigned everything so the the bones structure is supporting itself, the weight of the Bass is taken up by the “Bones” not the muscles, like what it says the Kyudohon how a shot should be done. Breath and alignment, there is the same thing in Shakuhachi, and Kung Fu. More subtle in Shakuhachi, but there and important, especially the breath part.
 
In Aug we will have been in this area for five years. Our rent is being raised! Not good, but the point is , it just hit me I have been training at this Dojo for 5 yrs! I really should not judge or try to gauge my progress on a time table and just do it. On another note, yeah , no won’t I feel so comfortable with some of the people at the dojo and them with me.
 
I was going to get some where with all this , but the shouchu has kicked, and L Z was just here in my studio, talking about perhaps moving to another apt, instead of this house. Sigh, impermanence is life.
 
I have pretty much succeeded with my goals with the shakuhachi. At the least the main part of it and connecting with my Ch’an training. Next it is just a matter of continued practice and improving. Shakuhachi, has ranks “dans” like kyudo, judo, karate, etc. I am not interested in getting one. I have no desire to teach, my Sensei although well-known does’ not have a masters “rank” title, either. My goals for playing now, are just to play better.
 
I have to keep that in my head with Kyudo, it is not about the destination, the prize. It is about shooting well. Playing as A Komuso is not about collecting donations, but playing well for the people, making the connection Heart to heart. Shooting the ya with the “right” spirit. The “right” is a Buddhist term, “the right”, something is a board term. For Kyudo it would mean, mind, body, breath and heart aligned.
 
My blog has been quiet about Kyudo, for a while. Not because I have stopped, but because I am just working at it. Not talking about working at it, working at it. Putting the effort into the action not the words. What a world we would have if that was more common. It is the Ch’an, do, don’t talk, experience the moment (s).
 
 
This brings me to a brief side thought. I have heard about a Kyudoka in more Northern Japan, who is a Shakuhachi maker an ones Kyudo. It would be interesting in hearing him speak on his views of the two arts. I have my friend an sempai who does Kyudo and plays Shakuhachi, but have never gotten a sense that he had a spiritual thought with either. Once I asked him about a connection, he touched a bit on breath harmony. The is another Kyudo Sensei there who also plays Shakuhachi and is a Sensei in Shorinyu Karate. He is a very serious type. Sometime I do not think he likes me. However he has offered help and correction from out of nowhere. He does not speak English at all, still I may try to engage him about Kyudo an Shakuhachi. What are his philosophical thoughts about them. Maybe I could figure out some of what he had to say, if anything. With visiting the maker, player, my wife would be there to translate. At the Kyudojo, I am on my own. Most people there from the way they talk to me think my Japanese is better than it is. Hahaha. It is more helpful for me I think to try to figure out what is being said, than to stop the conversation and bog it down with me tying to understand.
 
 
 
 

…and the beat goes on. April


And the beat goes on…
The path of “music”
Springs forth, a babbling stream
as do buds of the Sakura.

A lot of music stuff has been happening. I think the last thing I wrote besides Shakuhachi music was about the Blues Festival, complex mixup. I was under the wrong impression about being required to buy a shirt. So that is back on the burner as a ToDo.

 

The Sieki Band, 

 
We had a good rehearsal am I am liking the way the band sounds, especially with the harmonic vocals. However they need work. Like most things worthwhile. ( Ch’an lesson for today) The keyboard guy, Lucky Joe, a real character, good for a group, is good, he fills a lot. The guitar is a good rhythm holder. We have a show coming up on April first. It is a small showcase venue, we are in a show with three other bands. I am fairly sure this is a no pay , just showcase kind of thing. Which is ok we are a totally new band. We have a Practice session this coming Sat. A band that has practice sessions before doing a show ! What a concept! Radical.
 

The Jazz Session


There is a monthly Jazz Jam session, nearby my house. I have been before, and posted stuff. Ozaki Jazz Society, I call it. The people are nice, the club manager also lets me know what there is I can eat from the spread that is put out as a free buffet. He knows I do not eat meat. Most of the players are very good. However I do not like just trying to play a Jazz song with no practice if I do not know it well. Most of the regular songs I know are not Jazz. So when I go to this I have to pick songs to do, that are Jazzy. It is kind of hassle. I go maybe once every three months. I went there last week. It was good. We came together and even though our first time together with these members, and me trying to explain what I wanted, always an adventure. We sounded good. If anyone is interested in hearing the 20 min sessions cuts can click HERE?
 

School of Rock,

 
There is a keyboard player who I have played with on several occasions. I like his style and he speaks a little English. Several months ago he asked me to play a show with him in March. It happened just this past weekend. I was to play bass with him on a few songs, then do a few songs on my own, guitar, or piano and/or with him if I wanted on keyboard.
This was our first gathering, with the other members he brought in. We had a percussionist, steel drum, keyboard and bass, with some vocals from whoever.
We got together before the set to practice. It went well, we fit and worked together as a group. Afterward we went next door to the live house and ate at the small local Izakaya. They were a bit surprised with me there, but were friendly. We ate, chatted, joked and bonded. I already knew the percussionist, she had done backup singing for me before. The only new person was the steel drum player. Still we all got along, no attitudes. This is a cool band. It would be interesting to do more with them, there could be some cool stuff development!
 
We went back to do the show. Not many people, which did not surprise me. Toward the end of the night a few people came in. Those that did seemed to enjoy one woman got up danced. The group sets went well. We sounded like we have played together before, have not, at least with this configuration. Click for a sample HERE
When it was my turn, I figured I would do a test run of the plan for my show at the Blues festival. I had prerecorded bass and drum tracks on to a new loop unit, I recently acquired. So Drum and bass recorded, I played keyboard and Harmonica, with my vocal. It went over well as I had hoped. It sounded good and I did not embarrass myself with a big mistake. 
So I am confident I can pull off the Blues festival and also with the right planning and effort I can do a full solo session at some club, or at least half. I am thinking a club where the docs band used to play. “Chicago Rock” is a pretty popular spot. It would be good to play “here even twice a year.
 

Snafkin

 
It has been quiet there since the owner passed away. Just recently I hear tha his wife will now open the cafe only on the weekends. I always like that place. It is where I met several players I became friends with. This Sat there is to be small session, I will attend. I am considering doing my first non traditional Shakuhachi song. I want my friend to play Shamisen with me, but I do think she is comfortable. I will write out here part just in case, otherwise I will prerecorded on the Looper the rum Shamisen and bass parts, and just play the Shakuhachi live.
Then do one other song with whoever is there, which will include my favorite sax player. I am not a big Sax sound fan, but I like her tone and playing. It should be a fun session and nice to see the Snafkin crowd again.
 

Sakai City Blues Festival

 
This is going down the last weekend in April. I am going to need to be there for both days. Day one I will be playing bass for the Matsuo Blues Band.
The next day, I will be doing a solo set, with me on Keyboard and me on digital backup. Having already did the set at the last club The Happy Rabbit, I am feeling comfortable with some more practice it should go smooth.
You can hear a sample HERE

 

Snafkin by the Sea

 
I kind of feel this is my home base club. It had been awhile since going, since the master’s passing. I had through the grapevine, the place was closing with just
The wife left to run it. However I received a notice it was going to be opening only on the weekends. It seems like a few of ladies have gotten together to help the widow run the place. My friend sends me posting on FB about a few things that have happened there, but I have been busy on those same time.
I had made a point of going last night. I was not sure just what the plan was, if it It an open session or there was a group playing or a mix. I had said to Iyo-san I would do a song with her.
 
 
I showed up about 1 hour after the show started. I was surprised at the turnout, but there was a seat for me. I saw there my two Kyudo sempai who first got me to Snafkin. I was pleased and surprised. I kept being asked by several if I was going to play, where was my bass or something? I said I did not know if I was playing or not. Since I did not how things were being handled. I just watched. It was enjoyable. After a while the owner comes over to me. I thought she was collecting entrance money but she was asking me if I wanted to play something, not pay something. There was a time limit on how long they could play until. I said ok, one song with the band. I liked all of the players so did not want to replace them, piano, Bass, guitar, Sax, and that drum box thing. I did not bring anything with me except my Shakuhachi and Harmonicas. I opted to play Harp and sing. I gave them the key to play a simple funky blues, and the bass line to work around. With the Jazz players it took on a nice nature. Too bad I was not recording for that, it was awesome! Always the best stuff when not planning for it.

 

Page One

 
This is a new to me club. The Sieki band was arranged to play there. It was one of those nights when there are several bands, and it is a mix of styles. Not a loose everyone play with whoever jam session, but each group got a chance to play.
There were five of us, bands. It was a broad mix, metal, punk, blues, big band.
The club is easy to find and not too far from home about an hours. Nice little place, small but not too small. We went on next to last. It was a very comfortable show and went well. A few mistakes but nothing that showed badly. . We must have did good, we were the only band asked to do an encore. Things were a bit loose but not overly. It was a fun night. I did an edited recording of the concert to 20 min if interested HERE
 
So those are the big things happening in my small music world outside of SuiZen Buddhism.
One thing for sure is I am doing far more musically here in Japan than I would in the States. A good path for a retirement. It is different playing when you are young to be rich and famous from when you are older and just play , because you can. I would love to have a steady, even somewhat steady “Gig” as a musician again. I can work toward that hope, goal, but it is Journey not the goal.