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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…and the band played on

 

An the band played on

All the drama around here finally stopped. We had earthquakes and floods. All close to home but thankfully not at home. It would have wiped us out! All that I have left is what is in my lil studio. It would have broken me to lose what is left of any dreams or life. However Allah be praised it did not happen.
So yeah the band. This is the Doc’s blues band I am referring to. We have not played together since April the Sakai Blues festival. I got a notice from the doc there was a spot for us to play at some Sri Lanka restaurant in Nara. His girl friend had arranged it. We were to play and get a dinner for our efforts. The Doc was going to drive us there , in his Electric car, so it would not cost me anything ok. I said with some reservations. This is about a two-week or more notice. Ok, I agreed , but I Did not say or ask anything else, as I usually do. I wanted to see what would happen. I was told ( not asked told) to sing a certain song by the Doc at another place I met him at. A gig with my other band. I wrote about that. I said no!
It was a nice drive to the venue. A nice place, sort of a farm, restaurant setup. One would never expect it in the Mtn of Nara. We arrive with no problem, and settle in a bit. The drummer shows up a while later. We setup and get ready to play. Then the Doc says, ok what shall we play? I was not surprised at all!! . I just shrugged and left it on him. He picked a song, me going first, I had planned on this song anyway, o just rolled with it! Just before that the drummer tells him he should speak and intro the band and all. Ok we get started. I am struggling with the tuning of my bass, it is way off. Still we make it through a couple of songs. Then I hear ok, it is your turn to do a song the Doc is talking to me. The Drummer says yes please, we are not looking to good, do something to save us. I think…hmmmmm, again.
The Doc says, oh I heard you do “killing floor” the other day, do that! I say No! He says why not?, I respond irked, because I am NOT doing it, that is why. I dislike being told what to sing by him, I dislike not having a song list agreed on by the band, I dislike waiting until we are on stage to discuss what song to do. I dislike playing with no practice, especially on songs not done before. I chose another song and we went through it. It was not too bad, I am still having issues with my bass tuning!
We do a few more songs, I forced the Doc to choose, sometimes by just starting to play them. His songs. We made it through the set and took a break. For the next show set we setup outside. There were more people by this time, not a great amount, this is a afternoon gig, not a niteclub/livehouse.
I am asked now, not told, what I want to sing, by several people. Ok I do a song, then afterward it was kind of like the band stalled, the Doc was not leading. I started just playing some open songs cords to just jam on, the drummer kept right with me with different timing and beats. This went on for a while, I start something, the others would follow. More like I am leading a Jam session not, running a show. Over all it went well. The people enjoyed it. I found out we had collected some money from “tips” . So it was overall good, with the tip, the food was good, the place was nice, and we got decent pocket money. I was happy…at least with that…the band leader, not so much! I said nothing about his lack of professionalism, it would be pointless, I have been there before. I just need to decide if I want to do this any more. The thing that bugs me, is if one to going to name a band after themselves, they need to have their act together, be a really good player, or singer or businessman, or have great stage presence. He has none of those qualities. I am always called on to sing and save the show. Sometimes feeling like the show monkey the way it is done. He is not a bad guy or a jerk, just not professional in skill or attitude. I understand why as long as he has been playing around Osaka he has no one else that will play with him in ‘his” band.
Anyway this is not a post to rag on him, much but the show report. The place was nice, the mountain side was nice as was the weather after the big storm. There was no trace of it here. The Shi Lanka food was good, it looked like Indian but not as spicy and the taste was a little different. I would eat it again if there was a place nearby. I saw pictures of the Chefs from Shi Lanka an I could see why I was chosen to play the Shi Lanka President on Japan TV before.
No idea when this band will play again or if I will be with them. My other band, the main one, Sieki band will be playing at Chicago Rock in Sept. I have a single jam thing planned with the drummer in Aug also at Chicago Rock sort of a pre-test and low key audition for me.
Next up…”Working blue collar”

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.

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.
.

…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.

Progress in small steps

Even small steps forward, is still progress, it is not the size of the step, it is the direction.

I am starting to feel like I am making some progress on several endeavors. Since I just came in from Kyudo practice I will start with that.

There was a Rei Kai today. It took me a while to figure out it is Rei Kai, not Dae Kai, not that it really matters, it is just a label. The event is important, not what I called it.
The ReiKai today was small as most of inner dojo events are. It was cold, I continue to be grateful we are inside dojo. I would have really suffered had it been outside. Still during break many were standing around our one little space heater, or had on their outside coats.

The day went smooth, it was a relaxed day. My shooting was not great, I was able to hit one out of the first two sets , then as I made adjustments I hit two out of the last set of four. After that time one of my Sempai Sensei said something to me, as him another Sensei who often helps me had been watching my shooting and discussing it. The second Sensei, the senior seem very reluctant to say anything, but the other spoke up. My balance when shooting was off. I guess I was leaning into the shot too much. My pushing toward the mato was turning into a lean toward the mato. I made a note of it.

The main shooting was over now was the time everyone shot again but instead of 4 arrow, it was one, per round. If you made the shot you continued, if not bye bye. I applied a correction to what I had been told. Instead of just pushing, I lifted my head and stretched my spine upward, like when doing Tai Chi, or sitting Zazen. Also then push toward the mato and away from it with the opposite hand. So as I had been told before or read, that it was more of a circular expansion not just vertical. To the Heaven and earth, and to the sides. So I guess not really round, but all around. I also did the tightening of the triceps as Yamashita Sensei had told me, upon release. The other thing was to place myself “in between the bow and the string. Aonther thing I had heard or read about, but I finally figured out the feeling. When I do it the ya goes straight, like an arrow :-). It is sort of leaning into the bow to place yourself in the middle. Technically I am not between the bow and the string, but it feels that way. I am not supporting the pull with my arms, and chest, but “body”, Bam , a hit, I thought I was done for a while. But I was called up again, Bam! hit, and a another time. I was in the finals. I missed my last rotation shot, maybe everyone else did as well. However, wow I was doing good. I am finally starting to understand, things are starting to click. Usually when I think like that, I find I am wrong, but so far this time it has held up. I still have a way to go, but I am making progress and have found the spot to aim from on my Yumi. Now more and more practice and I should be ready for the Shinsa this summer. Sato Sensei asked me was I going to the shinsa in March I said no, more practice yet. But I believe with continued practice Summer will be it. If not there is Autumn, and Winter. Also next year, if God be wiling and the creek don’t rise. Maybe these days it should be If God be willing and hte bombs don’t fall! Either way I am feeling good about this being the year of Yondan. The “Dog” is with me!

The day before I had my monthly meeting with the Shakuhachi group. A cold and rainy day, once agin we met at Oota- Sensei shop. This from what I understand maybe becoming out regular meeting spot. It is a bit rustic, but comfortable and no hassle to be there and no conflicts with other groups wanting to use the space.

We went through the usual drills. I was able to play along on a couple of piece that I had not done before. For me that was a personal victory. Then everyone played the individual pieces they are doing. Finally it was my turn, I was not really excited about, but I did Choshi. The Yamamoto, version. I received some corrections and tips on playing. Then asked to do it again so I could practice. It was better, still needing work but better. I could hear a Sempai grunt an approval of parts I did correct. Afterwards he says, I do the last phrase well, I did need to work on the small adjustments. Another Sempai showed me how to correct one part. Later I was told I have good potential my tone is good. That was good to hear…yatta!

I also decided on the Shakuhachi I wanted Oota-Sensei to make for me. I heard a couple of different sizes being played and my ear was most pleased with the 2.0. It was told to me later by another Senpai about having six hole instead of 5. I had not thought of that, but upon hearing it said and explained why, it is a good idea for my experimental flute. It will take some time before it all comes together. Oota-Sensei will have me select the Bamboo I want as the next step, now that I have chosen the size.

I was given the application for joining the Myoanji temple. This was helpful. I can fill out the form before meetinG with Matsutani-San next month. The Sempai who gave me the application, told me later that he would be my sponsor if needed. I thanked him told him that Matsutani-San a friend of my Sensei said he Would sponsor me. The Sempai said, ohhhh, yes, you should go with him as a sponsor he is very well known…Yatta, Another plus for me!

After the practice meeting, as is the custom we went out for food and drinks. I have never done that in the States, hanging out with the guys at a bar drinking and chatting. Even with my Kung fu family. We did that at the Dojo with Shifu after our closed door classes. My brother and I when we went out it was to eat Chinese food. It was not that often like a ritual as it is with the Japanese. It is a normal custom in Japan, at lest with companies. It was fun, even with my limited Japanese we had a good time. One Sempai is heading to Hawaii soon and wanted to practice some English. They made sure I had what I could eat and we had a good time talking misc stuff including, Shakuhachi technique playing compared to feeling playing,

So process is being made. The new band is feeling positive, Kyudo is feeling positive, Shakuhachi world is also feeling positive. I need to crack down on my Japanese study next. still…The year of the Dog is off to a good start…Yosh!

 

Vietnam 2

 

Vietnam 2
We took a taxi to our new hotel. This was the place my wife was looking forward to staying at. The first place was a business hotel. It was nice and comfortable, this new place was uptown. She is into luxury resort style. For me clean sheets and heat or a/c is good. We arrived sort of early by a couple of hours or so, but our room was ready ! It was not the best of the best, low level luxury . It was nice. We had a poolside ocean view. Roomy very comfortable . She was happy. There is a saying when the wife is happy, everyone is happy!
There was no going out and around town for me, I was in. There was a Veggie restaurant I would have like to visit but it was too far to walk. Also another Buddhist temple, also too far to walk. So I sat on the lanai and chilled. I did some reading and practiced shakuhachi. LZ wanted to go to the beach side at happy hour. So we were off. It was a bit cool for me so I wore a jacket, which was a good plan. We got the beach spot she had reserved ahead of time. The drinks were good. The nachos I ordered sucked! SUCKED! Flavored Doritos, with sour cream and cheese, with guacamole. seriously sucked! I was disappointed oh well! I rolled with it. The drink was good. My first time ordering a Singapore Sling. We hung out there for a while until dark then headed back to the room.
While she was handling the charge I noticed there was a Tai Chi class the next day from a posted sign, and took some pictures. We did the usual resort thing for dinner then just chilled afterwards. Nothing really interesting, I read more and practiced.
The next day I was up early. It was setup by LZ as a free day, meaning I did not have to follow her. I could do whatever, as would she. I got up early to check out the Tai Chi class. There was none! I asked the help and he called for the instructor. So it was a private as needed class. Ok. I waited for the Shifu to show up and just sat on the beach. When he arrived I clarified there was no group class just a private session if I wanted. Nice if that was what I wanted. I explained through a translator that I was just hoping to join the class, as I also was a teacher. Ok, that was cleared up I said I could just practice on my own if there was no class. I asked what style he taught. My Tai Chi Mantis Grandmaster taught Tai Chi in Vietnam for many years. I was sort of hopeful that is what he, this Shifu taught, I could use a review on that . No he taught Yang. I said thank you, I would just practice alone. We gave each other the traditional salute and he left. I found a quiet spot did some Zazen and then just went through a couple of Tai Chi sets and Hsing Yi, before gong back to the room.
The rest of the day was pretty quiet, reading, shakuhachi. Lunch, then dinner. Chilling. In the evening we went to the main lounge and sat. There was another Japanese couple there, we did not talk, I just heard them speaking. I did say something when we were leaving. The guy came over and looked at an art piece I was checking out and told LZ about. It was a couple of bike rims with paper cranes. The guy came over to check it out when I made a big deal of it to LZ. I said amazing ne! In Japanese. He responded hai and that was it. Not very friendly, oh well.
The next day I repeated the scene but just on my own. Took more pictures, practiced, walked in the beach barefooted. That was nice. It reminded me of an article I had recently read about people needing to connect more barefooted to the earth. It had been a while since I did that, so it was very nice. I could feel the “Chi” of the earth. The day wrapped up and we checked out and headed for the airport.
Once checked in we did a little gift shopping for a couple of people, including my Kyudo classmates, candy. The stores in the States that have Chinese owners are usually not friendly, almost rude. Very unlike Japanese store owners or even just personnel. The Vietnamese working in these shops were like that. Not kind, not rude, but close to it. Mostly ignored you other than following you around. LZ also noticed it. So it was not just me. Right at the gate there were a couple of shops. While waiting I checked them out as well even though we had purchased the gifts we needed. The personnel were the same…distant. All but one store I went in. The woman was helpful friendly and spoke English. There was a couple of things I saw I wanted to get. One of which was also at another shop next door, a little cheaper. However I went and purchased it from the polite woman. I told her I was buying from her because she was kind. She thanked me. We chatted a little while and she helped me with an issue with paying. Turns out it was the store’s machine not my problem. Anyway it got worked out. I left with a good impression. The plane started loading, I made a dash to the toilet just in case. When I got back LZ was standing at the gate ready to check in. I rush up to the check-in and a guard in the funky military color uniform stops me asks for my passport. He had seen me, as I had seen him earlier. I just showed it to him and said nothing . I was given the ok and went to check on to the plane. I did not see him do that to others getting in line, oh well. Normal stuff for a person of color, roll with it. Vietnam over all was ok. I liked the weather while there. The people staff at the hotels were nice, of course. The people at the restaurants I went to were nice enough. The regular people that I encountered were nice enough. Would I go back? no. No desire, once was enough. I liked Taiwan better, the food was much, much better and there is more things of interest for me. I was surprised how, any Buddhist temples there were in Vietnam for a communist country. I was even asked on the visa application what religion I was. That was different I guess. However I have never needed a Visa before, so who knows. Anyway. It was a pleasant trip over all. I like Japan better and the women are cuter. I am grateful I got to see Vietnam and not have to carry a gun and shoot at people or visa versa, to do so.

Vietnam – prt 1


Vietnam

Part 1
 
When I was a teen all I knew of Vietnam was the war. I was in college when it was happening. I missed having to go fight by only a few numbers a blessing of the Universe. The draft had changed to a lottery system, no more deferments because one was in college or something other than medical. If your number was up you went. I even went down and had my physical. The Force was with me my number was not up. So I missed out. I knew people who went.
 
Other than that I knew nothing of Vietnam except from some Vietnamese I meet later in life and some food. My Kung Fu teacher was there in the Army he taught rangers fighting. This is where he meet the grandmaster of the Tai Chi Mantis system, Chi Chuk Kai and studied under him. The Grandmaster had fled China to Vietnam. There he worked and also taught the Vietnam Emperor’s guards Tai Chi Praying Mantis Kung Fu. Later I had a student from Vietnam and met a woman who studied Feng Shui with me who was from Vietnam. This was the extent of my exposure to Vietnam. 
 
LZ loved Vietnamese food. For me it was good but not high on my list of favorite eats. Anyway so what you ask. Well LZ arranged a trip to Vietnam, she came across a good deal and took it. Oh Yeah, my Sister-in-law and her husband had to move to Vietnam for 4 years just before we moved to Japan. She did not want to go at first, but once there they did not want to come back to Japan. They had a good life. The husband was sent there to work, so they had no choice in the move. So yeah they enjoyed it once there and settled in. My sister-in -law also developed a large following for her custom-made jewelry there. Ahh one more thing the owner of Aoki Yachts was having his boats built there and went somewhat often to Vietnam. Ok so this is my Vietnam knowledge, I had no real desire to visit. Unlike China, Taiwan, Thailand. Funny how one is drawn to some places. Others not so much.
  
So LZ got this trip arranged. We were to spend a week there. However at the last-minute I found out I, as an US passport holder needed a visa to enter. So I had to delay my leaving for a day whilst arrangements were made. lZ left a day before me. 
 
It was fairly simple to get a visa, I had to pay for fast service, but the arrangements were made and I was on the plane the next day after my wife. I was not all that into going, this was more of a trip for her. She was really looking forward to one of the hotels we were booked at to stay.
 
The flight took about 5 hours, it was smooth. Anything you wanted to eat or drink you had to buy separate, as it was a cheap flight. I landed without any problem and found my way to the immigration counter to get my visa stamp. That went pretty smooth. The people were not overly friendly but not rude, the uniforms were kind of really different from my view, well at least the colors. Very Communist through my eyes sort of unsettling. Western programing I guess.
 
Ok so I am past all the stuff to enter and now the next thing is to get to the hotel. My wife had said only take this or that taxi, the others can not be trusted. That was also a warning from a travel site about taking the pirate taxis. I am walking around outside the airport looking for a taxi, a guy comes up and asks “you looking for a taxi?” I said it is ok, I am fine. I walk more, the cab I am looking for is not around. Another guy or maybe the same guy comes to me again a bit later. I say I am looking only for this name cab. He does something with his smart phone and shows me the text “there is no cab from that company today”! ( a lie!! I find out later) Ehh I think, ok what about this name? He says something like no worry I can get you a taxi, it will cost you this much to go to the hotel. I do not have small change for that, he shows me where to get change. I do that, then he has me follow him to the parking lot across the street. There is a car waiting, it is a plain car, not a taxi. I say no! I want this company name or this one. He says it is ok, this car can take you. I say no! I am from the states and know a hussle when I see one and walk away. I go to the taxi stand there is a taxi there the other company. I tell the driver I want to go to the hotel. There is a bit of talk between him and the guy. The driver says I can go with this other guy. The guy shows me a text again saying “we are not trying to trick you”. Another cab pulls up from the same company. I am told I can not take this cab it is called for someone. Now I am getting pissed. I say ok I will go inside and find someone to call me a taxi and I leave. 
 
Once inside I call my wife on the cell phone. She says no do not go with them, the taxi you want is hard to find, just a short walk and across the street in the parking lot is where they are. Hmmmm. I am on the second floor of the airport building I walk around so I can see the area across the street and spot the cabs I want! But I see no drivers. My wife says they are all on a bench sitting there. Ok, I start walking again this time I can see where I need to go. I make my way there without a problem and arrive. A driver asks me if I need a cab and I get in. We get to the hotel without any problem. It cost about $4.00 in Vietnamese money. I am not used to it. After fiddling with it for a bit the driver, helps me an takes what he needs. Ok he asks, I say ok thanks. I have arrived finally. I can now relax and breathe.
 
After a while we head out to find a pizza place that was recommended, by sister. It is only a very short walk. We head there. There streets are fairly beat up, like Mexico but worse. So many motor scooters, like Taiwan but more. They are parked everywhere on the sidewalks and street. Everyone in cars are blowing their horns. I guess it is a warning to the bikers they are coming or turning or something. It was wild, glad we were walking. We make it to the Pizza place. It has a Japanese owner. The staff is very helpful and attentive. Very Japanese style customer service. The food was good!
 
While there is a lot of people watching a soccer game across the street. From time to time something would happen and a lot of people would run over there to see the TV. Many were very excited. I thought it was some local game and the city team was doing good.
 
We finish eating and leave to head back to the hotel. Once in the room, shortly after there is a lot of noise, horns blowing, people yelling. We can hear the din of noise even on the 15 th floor. I look out the window the streets a full of cars and bikes, full! I guess the team had won. This went on for about 30 min. I go downstairs to check on things. The noise is huge! I step outside the hotel there are flags and people on motorbikes covering the sidewalk and streets, it is mayhem!

I find out the Vietnam team had won the semi-final match in China against Pakistan, the people were going nuts!
 
We were suppose to go to get a massage across the street in an hour. I figured it would calm down by then. Wrong. It was still going strong an hour later, we slowly made our way through the crowded street and then across. We got our massage and returned and hour later. The streets were still packed , flag, bikes, men women, kids! Slowly slowly we made it back.
 
We rest a bit then headed up to the rooftop lounge. It is now 4-5 hours later the crowds are still at it. We can see and hear from the roof top. It was wild!

The next morning all was normal again. Wow!
 
Ok the next day, there is light rain but not bad. We were going to change hotels that day, but my wife wanted to see a couple of things before we checked out. I wanted to get a vegetarian meal at one of the nearby restaurants. I also wanted to visit a temple I could see the roof of one from the hotel. She headed out to do her thing. I set out walking. I did a little research before-hand on the temple and had general idea where to go. The walking was interesting, this was into the real city of Vietnam to local section. I got to where I thought the temple should be , but I ran into a block. The street ended and I had to go right or left on the crossing street. I turned on my Zen sense and walk left. After a very short bit I thought I would ask just to be sure. There was one man working in his open shop. I made a few hand motions and looked around. He figured out what I wanted and said I was going the right direction, just turn at the next corner. I was good. I bowed in thanks and took off. I walked and came across the temple, and several others. none had the roof line I could see from my hotel, this was not it, but it was a big temple and I thought it was part of what I was looking for. It was not I found out later. Anyway, I past one guy on the street, just at the temple. He said something I did not get I bowed and kept walking up to the temple. The guy comes over to me as I am standing looking through the gate. He says something to me, I did not get again. I ask, signal can I go inside the temple ground? As the main gates was closed, but the side gate was open, then I see someone go inside. He does not understand me. He puts out his hand for me to give him money. This I understand. I say no and walk inside the temple grounds.
 
Inside I look around and go up to the main building. A monk and some others are sitting outside. I am told , by sign language I can go in. I start up the steps,. But am told I need to take off my shoes outside on the steps. I do so and go up to the main door and look in. I signal to the monk asking of I can enter, yes I am told, so I do so. I look around, a pay respects to the spirit figures. After a bit I take out my Shakuhachi and just play a lone note as an offering. I did not know if it was cool or not so I keep low-key. A short while later another monk or maybe the one from outside come into the hall. He does a small ceremony and chanting. I stand and bow with him and the gong as he prostrates himself. I thought this was a good thing, I could offer a prayer for My wife’s “Auntie” of sort, who just passed away the day of her leaving Japan.
 
When it was over the monk left as did I. I next went into the yard ground walked around. I was going to spend a little time at the two outside shrines. As I was about to settle in and take some pictures the same guy comes inside the grounds now and over to me again with his hand out. This person did not look like he was suffering or homeless, just begging. Again I said now, and signaled go away. He continued. So I changed my plans and left…irked!
As I am walking back to the hotel I passed the temple I was first looking for. I could tell by the roof line. I went in here as well. I Said a few prayers took a few pictures. This temple was closed. It looked like some work was being done as there was piles of sand and bricks and stuff around. The temple itself was closed, but the grounds were open, there was someone else also there praying. After I finished again I headed for the hotel.
 
Once I got back to the hotel I got oriented with directions and set off to find the vegetarian restaurant. It took some effort and I walked past it at first. The map I had sucked. There was no internet service in the street so I just had to look. I was about to give up and was heading back and going to find another which was nearby, when I spotted it. I went in and nothing was written in English, I walked up to the counter and a woman shows me the menu that says there are veggie dishes and take me to a seat. I spend some time trying to figure out what was what . They woman comes back and helps me, she speaks some English. As time is running out before we need to check out of our hotel and change to another, I order something simple, fried rice. While I am waiting I am sitting with some locals. I watch they do, I see they take out the utensils on the table and wipe them with a napkin before using. When my food arrives, I do the same. The food is good, I add some spice to give it a little kick! I rush through eating since it took me longer to find the place than I planned. I finished eating quickly and made my dash back to the hotel to meet up with my wife to pack and check out. 
 
When I arrive she has everything packed and ready to go. She was on her way out of the room going to carry one bag at a time down to the lobby. I grab my stuff and we check out and grab a cab that is at the curbside. This is the same taxi company that we arrived in, they hang ouyt there at check out time. So we knew we were in good hands. So we are now finished with the business hotel and on the way to the resort hotel for the next two days. This was something that LZ was looking forward to. We left the downtown local area and headed to the upscale location next to the ocean.

to be continued…

 

Can’t stop the music

 

 

The beat goes on …

 

Last week or so, I had a showcase event with a new band, “Sakai Sieki”. I have played at this club, The Red House, a couple of times. The owner had made suggestions about us playing together. After our first meeting I had said I was looking for a band to join, he said he was looking for someone with my skill set. Nothing else was said for a while. Then again after I did a small spot there as a solo we spoke again briefly. After few days afterward I was asked if I wanted to join a jam session with a friend of his. Sure I said let’s do it. It went ok. It was easy and fun, we played, ate, and drank. It was a pleasant evening.

A few days afterward I am asked if I wanted to do a show with them at the club. It was not a paid gig, but a showcase. We were to be the opening act for a couple of known groups. A test run as it were. I was asked about getting together for a practice session the day of the show. I said it was better to have a couple of practice sessions more so since it was our first time together. He agreed. The practice went well. I learned of their weak points, we all have them, so I adjusted the songs I wanted to do, to their skill set. Again overall it went well. The day of the show we again met and rehearsed. We were set. After rehearsal The drummer and I went to get something to eat. He is also a quasi Vegetarian, so we went to a place that I had gotten soy burgers from before. I was not really looking forward to going to eat with the drummer. He is a nice guy, likes to talk, but does not speak any English. That means I have to deal with only Japanese and figuring out what he is saying. Work!! We went to the restaurant, called “Mos burger”. Bummer bummer! They changed their Menu, no more soy burgers. Crap! I took a fish sandwich instead, as did the drummer. We spoke some, about Kung fu, a blues club nearer to my house, music, etc. it went ok. I did not get somethings, but I got enough to communicate. I am always surprised when I can do that. We ate, and went back to the club to wait.

 

We had several hours to kill before show time. The other two bands showed up, and did their practice. I knew a couple of the players in one of the other bands, and one player in another. The one band where I knew two players, is a smoking hot band. I think for what I have seen the best Blues Band here in Osaka. It is good to be an opening act for them and not to follow them. They would be hard to follow, they are a tight sounding band!

Show-time came, we were up. We did 6 songs. The one song I have been really wanting to do good, did not turn out so well, as least parts of it. The drummer forgot about the breaks I wanted, and I messed up badly once. Some parts were ok. With some more practice it could be a good song. We only really practiced it a couple of times. The other songs, went better, not perfect, but still ok. They were simple blues type songs. We played through the errors and just rolled with it. When it was done, we got a fair share of approvals.

I figured out how to set my smart phone timer camera to record video on a start stop, start timer. That was cool and helpful, as well as painful to hear the mistakes. A good training aid. I did some editing and put together a sample vid, which can be seen here.

 

A few days later after things settled and such, it was suggested we keep the band together, we could be good with some more time together. So officially I am with a new band now. One thing I have noticed about bands and players in Japan, players often belong to several bands and no one cares. It is normal, in the states, usually one is with just one band. A player can do more than one, but unless they are just floaters usually just one band is the focus. Another thing I notice is more people here just play to play for the music, not to become stars or get a gig. A gig is a Paying job, not a freebie showcase or something of that sort. Work is the goal not just playing to have a good time, that is what jam sessions are for, in the States.

So this new band could be good, it may give me some possibilities of different expressions in sound. It is not a “Blues” band per-se. The term I heard was Neo-soul. Good, I like being able to do other songs other than just blues. I do hope we can get one other member, a pianist would be sweet, but a good horn or guitarist would also be nice. So this is something to look forward to for the upcoming year. I still will pursue my own solo path as well, but the band with give me a different musical outlet. I will still play with the Doc’s band when asked, but is a minor priority as he does not want to put in the work and time to be more than a “fun” time playing. I want to do more than play some little dive live house bar. I may never make it past that, but…one needs goals to be more than you are now…ones spirit, at least mine needs to grow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

弓道 – Hatsukai 2018

 

Hatsukai – 2018

 
This is my 4th Hatsukai, I believe, if my count is correct. This year there was a new years gift exchange, of sorts. Everyone joining the Hasukai this year was suppose to bring in a gift of more than 1,000 yen ( $10) to give away. Nice idea, it was just our club, so it was sort of intimint.
 
It was a fairly cold day, but not too bad. If I say it, it true. There is a sailing expression, no bad weather, just bad clothes. So I was dressed for Kyudo, and keeping that thought of being ready I had on several layers of understuff, then silks, for outside travel I had my big long coat. Socks inside my tabbies, and long johns legs were long enough to cover my feet to the toes. Yeah! I was ready, freddy.
 
I arrived a little before the 1:00 pm start, and did my New Years geetings and got in a couple of shots before things started. Now after a few years of these things I can follow along easy enough even though sometimes, well most times I do not know what is going on. I just roll with it. This times was not different. I thought I knew what was happening at times, like the start, but I am corrected and adjust my sails.
 
After everyone is signed in and ready there is the opening ceramony and annocement stuff. Then a “Sharei” of some sort, then round of shinsa shooting then the taikai rounds. I fall into my regular routine, I watch I shoot, I take photos, repeat.
 
My first two shots missed, maybe I hit one, of the set of four, that followed. Maybe two, lost track. When I was warming up, Watase Sensei, I could feel watching me. As I was leaving the floor , he intercepts me and give me a correction on not drawing enough right out of DaiSai, I was cutting to short. Arigatou I saw and bow. I ask is my elbow height arch any better? He shook his head, said something I did not know but “knew” it meant no! He laughed, as did I as I bowed and turned off the floor.
 
Later after my Tai Kai round, Yamashita Sensei intercepts me and says. Good job! I say, eh?! He was talking about a correction, adjustment he had given me last time I shot with him. It is a blessing to have these Sensei caring for my progress, even though not in a formal class. That is real concern for the student and honoring the practice from the heart.
 
Ok, so moving on, things started warping up we are down to final shooting. Small targets, a single arrow per turn. I got in three shots, all misses. I did not care, I was in a it’s a practice mode. For some reason even though small than a regular mato, I expect the good shooter to make quick meals of this, but no, it was taking some time even for the good shooters. I was up again soon. Ahh, yes, it was taking shorter time between rounds becaus eit was only our dojo there not several for the area. Anyway…I digress. I am up again, I shot and bam, I get a hit. Lucky, it was a causal event, and subconcously I knew that, so when I hit I put up both hands, yatta! Thoses that saw smiled.
I could not help but smile as left the floor… my posse’ was happy for me! So was I. My day was made. I had a “feeling” it was the day I was going to hit one of those mato. Yatta!
Although it was not really skill, more of a calulated luck shot. Even still though, it is a sign I am improving, it when mostly where I planned. I should be ready by the summer to make my bid to breath the air of Yon-dan altitude 🙂
 
So yeah, it was good start to a new year of Kyudo.
 
 
*Next up the new band “Sieki”