Music, Kyudo and social media

The music part of the month is mostly over. I have another gig up coming at the end of the month with another band. I will just be playing Bass, no singing, no worries. I can just play. It is kind of nice to do that from time to time. I can focus on only that. When I am playing and singing and doing harmonica, if I lose focus I hit a wrong note. Most times I can cover it. Miles Davis once said when you hit a not planned note. it is the note that follows it that makes it wrong or not. Herbie Hancock tells a story about a wrong cord he used with Miles and he thought he blew it. However Miles just rolled with it and made it work. That is skill. I am not anywhere near that but I can fake it a lot when needed and bring it back. LoL

Ok yeah Kyudo. So this week I am finished with music projects and can focus on Kyudo. I got up today a bit on the “down” side mentally knowing I am not ready for the shinsa, I wasted a not cheap entry fee. However I just need just focus on doing my best. I went to the Dojo for Kimono practice, there was none ( kimono day practice, not the dojo). I was expecting it to be somewhat crowded as our dojo is hosting the shinsa this time around. I had heard form a friend from another dojo in Sakai, there dojo was closed so they would be coming to our to practice.

On the way to kyudo, I am expecting a quiet introspective ride to class. I hear my name and a woman who I know from kyudo was coming at me. She says she saw the Yumi and then me. MY first reaction is always…Ohhh Snap I have to have a Japanese conversation * ok, relax, breath, you can do this * We sit a for the most part it went well. Part of the trick is to control the conversation. If I asking questions, I do not have to answer them! It went ok, for the most part, I was glad when my station came, and I could leave. She was going somewhere else, A nice person but I was glad to see her go. …exhale .

 

I arrived as some of my dojo mates where leaving, I got a couple of do your best wishes from some for the up coming shinsa, only a few stayed, as the Sakai folks arrived. I was asked if I was ok with training with them on Tai hai by a Sempai Sensei, who helps with the Kimono class even though he is from another dojo. The one at the shrine. I said ok, even though I just wanted to shoot on my own. I got ready to do Tai Kai with everyone. I figured it was still something I needed a refresher on anyway…just do it! One can never do basics to much! Then I see my Sensei, the head guy is there. Oh Jheez I thought. Ok, roll with it. I will be under stern watch but, it is a good check on what I am doing. No different from the shinsa, but with no pressure. I feel much more confident about my Tai Hai skills than my hitting skills. I joined the group. I was surprised with no warmup or anything just step in and make my first two hits. I always tend to do better with my first shots. Most times, except in a Tai Kai….anyway. My classmate who rarely talks to me, gave me great job sign and words!. Thx, I said yeah, it was this time…

The next round I did not hit any, as I figured. Sensei gave me only a couple of small things to be aware of and change. Having to do with holding my Ya, stepping back off of shai, and my right arm angle. The woman who speaks little, said she noticed that I leaned away from the target on the next two shots which I missed. She also gave me a little pep talk. We had done shinsa together several times in the past. She has been at Kyudo longer than me, but still working on yon-dan like me. She was not testing this time, said she was not ready. I know the feeling, but I figured what the heck, it is a practice run and it is too late to back out now. All my Sensei’s and sempai there are expecting me to do it now also. No pressure though except that which I place on myself. We (most people I think) tend to judge ourselves harder than others. Also nothing will change except my yearly dues fee. LoL!

I brought my bamboo Yumi this time also to see with which I shoot better . Even though I know it is me not the bow I still think I do better with one more than the other. I made my first two hits with the Bamglass. The power of it feels good, but the Bamboo as I said give me the space to get everything within me in place….sigh. I am still out to lunch with way to go. I am leaning more towards the Bamglass today. I maybe change next time I go in and then again when I return. I have three days planned on spending at the Dojo. Today I was there for 3.5 hours, finishing with a poor average. Oh well. The mind thing is really a hard thing to deal with, being non attached yet doing one’s best. It really is a zen training. Do not focus on the results, do not be attached, be in the moment only, totally, mindful, yet not attached to the outcome. Yet there is that part that says, you have to use your vision and see success, everything happens in your mind first, imagine, visualize success, but do not be attached…Mu

Today is Tues, the shinsa is on Sunday. Most likely this will be posted in the shinsa day. I have had a Que of several posts.
I have only a few days left to endure this suffering and focus on training. I am looking forward to it being over in truth and considering if I should plan for the next one in Nov or hold a positive thought, or even plan on skipping the next one and work toward the Spring one, which I should feel better about because over all I am making headway. Yeah it is a mind game. Once this is over I can return to my Komuso practice with cooler weather temps and less other stuff that affects no one but me. I have a couple of trips to Nara in the plan… Amitoufo

In other news I am so tired of Facebook, it is so negative mostly these days. For my part in it I need to make more effort into posting positive stuff or environmental. Skipping the political stuff there is plenty of already. Also it will not make a bit of difference if a supporter or non supporter reads it. Minds are set. I figured out the reason I am on it so much, at least my rational is I do not have any other English-speaking contacts, news, social interaction, outlet. I thought about it for a while as my platform for speaking out against injustice, doing a low key priest vow fulfilment thing. That is pretty much useless, everyone’s mind is set. My world is mostly Japanese. I can not even lose myself in Sci Fi TV any more my underground TV has been cut off.  FB gives me the chance to interact with others in English. Those that think like me, and even those who do not and some of who are my friends and I respect . I see the logic of their view, I think they are partly right-on, but do not think they see mine. On the other hand, those who do not understand “my truth”, make me sad, I feel like they have lost their heart way, and I can do nothing, they believe in what is happening in the States is the right way. I believe differently, maybe it is me who is wrong. I am just lost in some Hippie, zen priest fantasy about what should be real life and truth. Time will tell and it useless to argue about it, especially on-line and with strangers, jhezze! Either way I am tired. I wonder if Google + is this way as well? I need to check into them again. I understand the world is not a fun place right now, I would like to find a place that is more fun, much less drama. Yeah I know, that is was meditation is for. I would not call meditation fun though. Sui Zen is the closest to that.

Anyway that aside, the total focus on money, and profits at all costs, especially to environment and our humanity, other life forms, the separation of people, and playing one against the other, hate and mistrust on both sides, and selective truths is not going to end well. Both side have their version of truths. Oh well, the great Spirit, the Universe, God, Tao is in charge. I am just along for the ride. I am really tired of it all…all is impermanent. I have to detach better, part of my living Zen challenge. Zen is not just sitting at a wall not thinking, it is how we interact with others, all forms of life, their suffering is our suffering. Our Oceans are suffering from our waste, this is coming back to us in our food. The Air is suffering from our waste, this is also coming back to us in poor health and really messed up weather patterns. We all are a part of everything, not above it…Amitoufo

Now back to my regular programing schedule…

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Jedi – Day 3

In the wake of Jebi – day 3

Into the third day now afterwards, still no power. There is some just a couple of blocks away. By what my wife says, it will be another five days. She is saying the outage is big in this section, pole down or ?

Anyway once leaving these couple of blocks the rest of the world seems normal. I went out last night to band practice, Band #2. It was my first venture into the world since Jebi. There was some damages here and there, but nothing like what pictures I have seen on The Net! The overall damage for us and the hood was minor.
A train station just a couple of stops down from us, burned down! Some places were intense! What a blessing to only have to deal with no power and some minor Fixable damage, and some inconveniences. Nearby, some have no power or water!!
The last couple of days I just made do with things as they are. I practiced and chilled, while being thankful, that is all we had to deal with in our lives.
The sights on the way to the rehearsal location all seemed pretty normal. Coming back home I could tell a deference in the lighting, watching though the window.
I am going back out today soon. The plan, lunch, buy more batteries an a couple more of LED lights, go to Kyudo, go to Band #1 rehearsal.
Tomorrow we have our first real paid gig! Hopefully some people will show up!

Typhoon 21

 

Typhoon 21…the day after

 
Last night after the passing of Jebi the mighty, I just chilled. I really had n choice with no electric. Interesting how much we as modern people rely on it. Without thinking, it is just there. Many times I caught myself thinking, ok, I will just blah blah, nope, no power, or bah blah blah, nope no power.
 
I ate a small dinner of a salad w/cheese, some Seaweed, nuts, wine, bread, maybe something else, on the early side. So I would not have to eat with any of that in the dark. I did on hand a small array of light to see by stuff about the house. I gathered some while there was light. 
 
Also since I still had some light outside, I went out and did some Kyudo Makiwara training. The neighborhood was mostly quiet. The next door guy asked me some things, while I was setting up.
Another neighbor was doing some picking up of trash at her house front driveway. We also chatted a little. We usually do not speak other than konnichiwa. I spoke first and said something about the strong wind. So we did typhoon and damage small talk before continuing what we were doing.
 
I practiced for a while. Makiwara practice has changed for me over the time using do it. Evolve to more than just pull and shoot. Even though it is a external practice form, it is really an internal practice, with an external face. Same as doing Tai Chi, or Sui Zen. Searching for that perfect “feel” with a shot , is seaching for that perfect note tone, I did not practice long, as people were busy cleaning their yards, I felt off not having to clean, just shooting. Not that I did not have house damage but there was nothing in the front for me to do, or could do in the rear, not already done. No one cared , it was just my trip.
 
It was near to dark, and with no street lights shortly it was a good time to call it a wrap. Back on the house I prepared for the coming of darkness. Place a couple of light sources about at key spots. Added batteries to one unit. Opened a bottle of wine, selected a flute readied a spot on the floor, by the open sliding door. It was quite warm and with no fan some ventilation was needed. Several of the neighbors were out in the street talking, like a social meeting. Chatting some laughing. Usually I would not sit where I was to play, with that much activity in front, but …things were different tonight. I had chosen my large Shakuhachi so it was not too loud or easy traveling high pitched. I had a oil lamp next to my music chart, but really just played from memory, and then later just whatever the rain told me. After a while of just going through my song list, it started to rain, quite hard. The streets emptied and became quiet. I could see small lights glow from the house windows. Soon it was only the sound of rain and the breath of my flute in the darkness of night.
 
The next day, today I checked over the full damage as best I could. Still no power, that is a bummer. My balcony garden was a wreak, the roof cover to the balcony had blown off as did the downstairs back extension roof. I am talking about those plastic sheet panels. Real damage was to a section of the house roof where the bathroom is. There were many , well several broken tiles. I am pretty sure this type of repairs are handled by the owner. There are things that we have to fix, but I hope this is not some them. It is structure. Hmmmm we’ll see. If I had a ladder I could do most of the work myself.
 
I am supposed to have a band practice tonight, our only one for this group before our show. Hopefully I can make it. As of yet there is no electric in the are, so no trains. It is noon now, maybe later this afternoon. All I can do is let things work themselves out…Amitoufo

 

 

A musical interlude…

 

A musical interlude…and typhoon break

A typhoon just passed. It was the largest they say in 25 yrs! It was intense. It is the first time since I been here that we lost power. I am writing this powerless on the iPad. Good I have some emergency things on hand. More on this later

Kyudo has been fairly intense on my mind with about two-week to go. I do not feel ready. However there is other to life than kyudo Shinsa. I di have an added pleasure moment at Kyudo, an old classmate from Ca came to shoot with me at the Dojo. It was sort of nice to chat a bit about kyudo in English of a change.
I had my first teaching Japanese boating practical exam class. However that does not go here, it is the “by sea” blog. Nothing really interesting about it. 
Then I had the spot at the Snafkin by the Sea concert. This is my third year doing it and the first year since the Snafkin Master pass away. I was not at all nervous about doing it. I knew many of the others performing. I had one of my favorite keyboard players, backing me and a percussionist he recommended. So I would not use my drum machine. I opted to go with a more organic sound. Also using my acoustic Bass rather than the electric. Even though the keyboard was electric, the overall sound was different from my regular “live house” sound.
I had a music plan of three songs. I have been working on this idea of doing Summertime, with the shakuhachi and my friend playing Shamisen. Also I would sing a version in English she would do one in Japanese. We had one practice session, but she did not play shamisen, she wanted to work on the vocal. Sigh… it went well. It sounded as I wanted. My next two songs, just the percussionist, keyboard and me. A small club warm sound, bluzy, and jazzy, with a touch of funk.
Day of the show, there was some talk of rain, but other than being hot it was clear. There was not a lot of people but some, plus folks walking by up and down the beach. It was going to be long day. I was to go on at 12:20, and wait around for the ending to do a group song together at 5:00. Sigh…ok agreed as it was sort of a memorial for the late club master.
I had a fairly large breakfast and did not except to eat again until dinner. There would be no food there I could eat. I took along a small terms bottle with some ice water and a shot or two of Shochu. At the show I added some French Orange soda. I had a pretty good drink to sip on during the day.
The show went pretty good. I was really disappointed my friend did not play shamisen much very little and very soft. I had a feeling when she was ready to not play at all when she thought we did not have enough mics. I know now not to ask he again to play. She I not comfortable. E
Ben th ugh she plays a lot with her group and singing Okinawa songs. I think she feels it is too complex with my style. Anyway I will need to find another player if I want to use that sound live. I can always track It into my looper myself for solo work.
The song we did “Summertime” went pretty good. People liked it. I had trouble playing my Shakuhachi! It was a struggle at times. My mouth was dry, the wind was blowing. The wind can interfere with blowing across the flute. Between the two I missed getting notes out, but, I do not think many , if any could tell sometimes the shakuhachi has a very breathy sound. Also I know how to cover well, and just kelp on going like it is supposed to be that way. I played the vid, someone made of the song, for sensei. He said you did well because you are a musician. He also recommended that I should get a different Shakuhachi for this playing. I was using my traditional one, which is not made for the type of playing I did. 

The other two songs, went better, I was more in my element and warmed up at this point. Here are a couple of links if interested in samples.

Here my train Coming ( full version)

Summertime ( cut )

If you want me to stay ( cut )

Next up this is a busy week. I have two different gigs with two different bands. Really only somewhat different. The keyboard player and I play together in other bands. We are both doing songs we already mostly know. I am trying something a little different with one band, but not that far off from what the band sound is, but still added my sound “mark”. It will be fun. I have practice then week with both bands. This is how professional minded players do, they want to practice and sound good, not just have fun.
Then…I have a week to really focus on Kyudo. I am pretty set on using the Bamboo bow. As for me, I am still not feeling ready. However I will do my best. That is all one can ever do. If it does not work, and get knocked down. Then stand again, and get stronger…yosh!
The typhoon…
It has passéd on as I write this. It sort of feels like a disaster area. People are out on my street, the few that are here, talking. Sirens going off in the back ground. Someone making pubic announcements, which I can not understand. Sort of weird feeling. I see nor hear anyone from my hood in a panic or packing to leaving, so I will just chill. There are no lights, I have some battery-powered lights and a charge on my phone, and a laptop. I will do stuff until dark, practice some then. Watch a movie on the laptop, with a glass of wine then go to bed. Then deal with aftermath tomorrow morning, then maybe go to Kyudo…Amitoufo

Solar circumnavigation celebration…

 And so another Solar circumnavigation is done, and as one thing ends another begins. Here I am in Japan at sixty plus something, feeling blessed. Sailing on occasion, Shakuhachi study, Kyudo Study, Still able to do Kung Fu, although not teaching. Still it is a part of my life. It was my first stop in the morning of the day to go to the local Shrine and practice yet another form of Meditation, “Motion Chan” aka Kung fu. The grounds are peaceful, most of the time, but early morning had that extra quality about it. Under the shade of trees, the sound of the birds, danced in my ears. It was going to be another hot day. Even early it was already quite warm and humid.

I have four items to practice, that I have made as my “practice”. Yang 24, Chen 24, Hsing Yi, Bum bo Mantis. I have been getting in Tai Chi in the mornings on the way to work. But it has been a while since I have done my full practice. Today was good, I wet down with oil the mosquitos do not like and was able to get through the sets without being bothered. Even into playing some Shakuhachi and grabbing a few pictures I was unmolested.

The next morning was fairly much the same. Less humid maybe, I did not sweat as much. or it was the clothes. I played more flute. I figured since it was the first day of Obon I should as a Komuso play a few traditional Komuso songs. I played Tamuke the offering song for the departed. Even though I was at a Shinto Shrine not a Buddhist temple, it still seemed fitting. Thanking the spirits there for letting me practice on the scared grounds.

I returned home with my top almost soaked from my water-loss, in the humidity, but it was cool. I felt in a good place having got my full practice done. I had done a little garden work in the morning before I left to train. I had a turf battle with a horde of caterpillar which had invaded my parsley. I was surprised that they tried to bite me when I went to remove them. I was reminded of a saying. ” your arms are to short to box with God”. As such was the case with them. I am very good with chop sticks!! The conflict was short. Banishment was carried out.

Next on the list for the day was getting a sail in. I was looking forward to it, but not overly so. I did not want to go to the “master’s” marina, or see him. More so not see him, and the boat was going to be hot hot, no shade, no cover. However, since I was able to take advantage of that perk as a instructor, I did.

There was not supposed to be much wind that day, however the wind was perfect I should take advantage of the opportunity. I was able to sail at a nice clip even under just the main sail. I was feeling lazy and mostly just wanted to get the sailing “chi” but did not want to work much. As in trimming and tacking, putting the extra sail on off and away. If there was a roller jib that would have been nice , but no, none. So I just used the main and it was perfect. I got the vibe, the energy, the Chi without a lot of work.

While there was good wind there was also a lot of chop. I could feel myself really needing to focus on the horizon a lot, even with taking the seasick pill. I did not wear my wrist bands, I should have. maybe I needed that little bit of “xtra”since I had not been out on the water in long time. No sea legs I guess it is called. Even still it was a good sail, a good reconnected to the water element and wind. Feng Shui of the earth. I felt like the return of Capt Zen.

I was exhausted when I got back to the dock. I am glad I had chilled water with me. I did not work much but the heat and sitting in the sun took my strength. After I got the boat put away I went to one of the seaside shops there at the marina and had a “softcream” cone. and relaxed in the a/c for a while. Once a felt normal again I mounted my bike and headed home.

My wife and I had dinner plans at a restaurant we had received free dinner tickets. They were given to us as part of thank you for attending a funeral of an “aunt”. Interestingly it is the start of Obon, a remembrance of the deceased time in Japan. We had received the tickets a long time ago but it worked out to go now for a couple of reasons. So it was like a birthday gift from “auntie” for us. My wife’s birthday is the next week.

It was a mediterranean meal. For me perfect! I ate a lot it was an upscale buffet type setting. Somethings had meat , but enough other things did not, so I got to double down on some things. My wife was not as pleased with things as I was. She was also surprised how busy it was, because the place was so new and Obon was the next day. Anyway I enjoyed.

It was a good day, a blessing. As one gets old, one understands more how short the good days grow. On the other hand, in Zen it is said, “every day is good”. But I am talking number not quality. Live so to enjoy each one, we can not see the bottom of the cookie jar….Amitoufo

 

 

弓道 – Already Down…

 

I took my Shinsa paperwork into the dojo today for Watashi Sensei to review. As expected there were errors and changes to be made. He had me call my wife to explain, after some time on the phone with her all was clear and I was told with the correction I could just mail it to the headquarters. Hopefully it will turn out ok.

However…

I am already depressed. The Tourney on Sunday gave me enough of a lift to think I could have a chance at being successful in the Shinsa. Tuesday at class I was not so sure. However after a little poking I figured to go ahead anyway. Sort of as a practice Shinsa again and also to be with my five classmates of the same rank also testing. Sort of like one for all, and all for one musketeers thing…sort of.

On Tuesday one of my Sempai noticed me hand shaping my Yumi. I was told by another Sensei I needed to do it often maybe every time I shot. This sempai did not think it was good what I was doing. I explained why. Hmmm he said looking at the Yumi. This is a Bamboo yumi made in the States by someone who learned in Japan. Other than the very top part which he did differently for better rotation, I guess, looks the same as made in Japan. I have to shape the top often as I said, I was told. My Sempai told the Kaicho, the Kaicho came an looked at the Yumi. Hmmmmm he said. This part is delicate, it is not good to shape it the way you are doing it. Then then showed me a wooden piece which can be placed on the Yumi and string to help set set the twist correctly. So this is not all that uncommon I guess. Set it and leave it for a couple of days it will be fine he said.

oK, So I am thinking I should just use my other Yumi as my main practice bow. It is Glass and Bamboo and heavier. Made in Japan.
I placed the “shaper” on to the bow after practice and left it to reset.

I returned on Thurs, to check on my bow and to have Sensei check my paperwork for the Shinsa. The Bow was better now, it worked, however it soon returned to the original shape. I was disappointed. I shot the rest of the day with the “Bamglass” bow. I shot poorly which was expected. I had to adjust “things’ to use the stronger, thicker, heavier Yumi. I asked Sensei which was a better yumi for me to use on a daily shoot. The Bamglass or the Bamboo. He said the Bamglass was the one to use for “everyday”. The Bamboo for once in a while. Sigh. The Bamboo being lighter and weaker was easier to shoot for long practice periods. but, Oh well in Kung Fu we train with heavier weapons for a purpose. So I would look at it that way. However Which should I test with? I have to set focus points for both, as both are different. Switch back and forth before and event to get use to both ?

Again my shooting for the day sucked. Worse now with a different bow. Oh well I am already signed up to go for the most part. Sometime we need that push, like a bird from it’s nest. I also faced the real truth of in Kyudo it is not the equipment, but the Archer. After I got a little better with my height adjustment. I notice my Ya going to the same place as they did with my Bamboo Yumi. This proves, I am the Problem. The issue is with in me. Very Zen. Yeah Bad choice to attend this Shinsa session.

Watashi Sensei gave me some time on corrections. I did get some helpful things to work on.

I returned on Sat, today. I figured If I am going for it, I should do it right and put in some more practice time, as much as possible. I am working sort of again so I should be ok with the minister of finance.
With the Shinsa so close and it being at our dojo the place today was busy. It usually is on Sat but seemed more so to me today. More Senseis on the floor.

I did some warm ups then shot. I hit with my first two shots. Big surprise to me. It went down hill from there. I ended up with a 25% or so hit rate. Not good going into a Yondan Shinsa.
The Kaicho gave me some one on one time today. I got more helpful corrections, Seems the explanations are getting more detailed now. Or making more sense to me now. I sent a lot of time today watching others shoot and get corrections. I found the shoulders being to tight, raised, alignment is a common issue. So it is not just my issue…Still others are shooting better, more hits it seems…Yeah I am not ready.

However, Shinsa is part of the training pass or not…it is a mind thing.

Before Shinsa you train
After Shinsa you train…

 

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

…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.
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