Blowing Zen the New Year


Blowing Zen the New Year…

 
It was cold, it was raining, it was not how I like to start out on a mission, trip, Journey, whatever. However, nothing to do but do it. The rain did not last much, just some light stuff that went away I was grateful and prepared. I had plans for the day, when it was early, Tai Chi, Indian lunch, then to the Society Shakuhachi session. I had this plan the other day, now like then it did not work out. I just went to the Shakuhachi gathering and even then I was late. Not a big deal, but there I was. My lateness was enhanced by stopping to buy food to bring in and one of the shops insisted on wrapping the purchase. sigh, ok, I sat, I waited, I drank tea. It was finally ready. Yeah, it was full on Japanese wrapping, very nice. A bit much for just the guys, but one rolls with it. If my language skills were better I would have explained the wrapping was not needed.
 
Ok, after another quick and simple food stop, I trucked on over to the Shaku Dojo, the few Sempais that were there had already started of course. I did my happy New Year greetings and put the food on the table, amongst a bunch of newly finished Shakuhachi from Oota Sensei. Some looked interesting with a different root end. I mentioned that it was shaped the same as the lotus bud, which is on the temple in Angor Wat. This had the same shape as a lotus bud, not a club. I was thinking when I saw it, it would be a cool Buddhist Symbolic Shaku for a Komuso.
After settling in a bit, I was passed one of the new shakuhachi to play. It was very nice. Easy to play and nice sound, not as shrill as I was expecting from a 1.8. There was some chatting from Oota Sensei if I wanted one or what size did I like, something. I did not quite get but was told he would make one for me if I wanted one. I do not recall if I said yes or it was interpreted as yes… I think one is being made for me. In ‘D”. I do not really need another Shakuhachi, I guess need is subjective. If it happens, it is supposed to, if not…
 

Meanwhile, everyone is getting settled. The main Sensei is there today. Shimura Sensei, I had heard about him before that he was going to start coming again. I meet him once at Myoanji. He is the official leader of the group. I found out later he is a Professor @ Osaka University of Arts he teaches the only class in traditional Japanese music or something like that. I also found out he is a Komuso and a noted performer. This guy is the real deal!! What good fortune to be in his group. He sent me a picture later.

I have gotten an idea to put some questions to the group about Shakuhachi and Komuso. That could be an interesting post. There is a mix in the group, I believe of Philosophy types. One day we had a short talk on Spirit vs Technique in playing over some food and sake!

I had brought along my extra flutes today. The 2.0 and the 2.5 made by Oota Sensei, but also the “bell” the plastic bamboo hybrid for the guys to look at. There was only mild interest as I expected. Only a couple blew the Bell. Shimura Sensei took the most interest, he took pictures, looked inside, etc etc. when he played it he said musugashi, meaning difficult, or perhaps something else as well. He has a doctorate in Shakuhachi Research and quite a personal collection I hear. So naturally, he would take an interest in the new kid on the block. I did not “pick up” that he was overly impressed though. This is a long flute Ryu, so the 1.8 is not the choice tool. Kishi Sensei was looking at it more from a good for a student level, whereas Shimura Sensei was thinking from a performer level. I am guessing this only. Seems logical, life is perspective.

Back to the story… I was surprised to see the 1.7’s or whatever had been on the table when I arrived. Oliver was picking up one for a new student of his from China.

 
Ok, so we played through a few songs and listened to a recording of songs some “Master” was playing, ( maybe their former Sensei) then we played the song. I have the sheet music in front of me and I can, for the most part read and play along. But something is sounding funny today! Something is weird, very weird. I am playing with the same size Shakuhachi as everyone else but mine is sounding different, not in key. I am thinking must be my angle, so I try to adjust, but nope no change. This really throws me off when playing along with the group. So I stop trying to read the chart to follow. I had to transpose whilst playing, I watched the Sensei’s fingers. So I just listened and played along that way. There were enough others and slack in the timing, that I could sort-of follow along, done softly. It was sort of like doing a Musical Tai Chi Push Hands drill, or maybe a Sticky Hands drill. The musician in me helped again, maybe some of the Kung fu Shifu. Otherwise, I would have been totally lost. Yet still a couple of times I was shown where the group was at, in order to rejoin. 
 
Ok, we had petty much gone through everything, and Oota Sensei says it is my turn to choose something. So I am thinking this is where I suppose to show if I am making improvements on Cho Shi and I will play solo. It is time for the grasshopper’s lesson. So I wanted to try out playing the 2.0 on this song, for a change. I can hit all the notes on it, but not the larger flute. As I am about to play everyone else does also. Ehhh, I say, everyone is playing? Yes! Ohh! So I am thinking this will be not good because I am using a different key flute. Yet for some reason, I did not change flutes. However, slap me down and call me Shirley, it sounds right. We where all in tune now. I am thinking, ehhhhh??? Oh well, I rolled with it. So we finished the song, no comments, so I guess I did not screw up. oK, I guess it is time for me to pick another song now to work on. Maybe the other version of Cho Shi. Yamoto.

About now we start misc stuff and again someone plays something. Then I hear Fuu-San play something your style. Ehhhhh! Again I am surprised. hmmmmm, Ok, I have been thinking about doing a Jazzy “Summertime” on the 2.0 it is my performance flute. Even though, Kishi Sensei thinks it is junk and will give me bad habits if I play it. I like it. It is in tune for playing modern music, it looks funky cool. so I gave it a shot. It went well. I was pleased. My next performance of the song I will use that flute and not the short one. Also, people end up with more than one instrument, when playing for a while. I saw one famous woman on FB that had her collection up. Maybe more than 20! She said different sounds, different feeling, emotion when playing Honkyuko. She is a pro, as a musician and teacher, I understand what she was saying. I have been using restraint with my gathering of instruments. Many Bass players and guitarist have many several and are not even collectors. Anyway Yeah, I use restraint and not having money to throw around also helps maintain the will power and discipline. I digress…

After another song that, pretty much was a wrap for the practice session. Out came the food and drinks and we relaxed and hung out for a while before heading off into the night to go home. We walked not quite so steady after the drinks, well maybe it was mostly me. Because I have not been drinking and I kept getting my glass filled. Three of us took the fast train back to south Osaka and for a change, I did not have to go the furthest.

 

 

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The piglet session ….2019

 

The first Kobe Jam session… 2019

 
Wow, seems like not that long ago it was 1999, my life was completely different but kind of the same. Now 2019, I was invited to a new year jam session, by a friend. The first musician I met when I arrived in Japan and was just stepping out. This was out in Kobe area. Which was where originally I would have liked to live. I’d not know then as I do now it is a very active music scene. I would have more paying gigs if I lived there and Kung Fu students. But, the cost! 
 
Anyway, the first Jam of the new year was held in a Kobe area music studio, I went to last year, it was crowded. A good mix of gaijin and natives. This year a little fewer people, still a bunch, but more manageable size. Still, there was food, and a lot of drinks and stuff. Some were already made, some was being made on the spot. This year the Stage was half the room, instead of squeezing the band in a corner so much. There were about 20 people there when I arrived.
Things were already going. It was different music and people than I expected. I hooked up with a few old peeps of mine. We went and chatted a bit and I slowly worked my way into the scene. I was called for next up to go live. It was a good thing I got the warning, it took me a while to get unpacked to play. I had planned on staying the night so I was really packed, along with stuff for the party, all strapped on a cart. Easier than lugging it all on my back and shoulders.
 
I saw a few more people who I knew as I made ready. I played along with the band to warm up on my harp. I kept getting pushed to go up and join, but no, I did not want to, not yet. Ok next up my turn. What had been before was sort of a rock blues. Then there were four of us, picked, we set up. We never played together or knew each other. We worked it out that one guitarist was going to sing and start with the first song, he wanted slow blues. I just played bass, as it was not a key for my harps. It went well it was rough in spots but that is to be expected. It makes it part of the liveness of Jamming. My turn, I tell the guys the format. Lucky they understood enough English. We had at it, a funky mid speed jazzy blues. It was different from all before. It changed the vibe of the room. Not in a bad way, more in a laid-back tap your foot nod your head, have a sip of a drink kind of way. The vibe felt comfortable and
I felt that way as well. I felt no need to rush just let the groove happen. We ended, fairly well and got a lot of yays! It was that kind of crowded though, loose. We mulled about a bit seeing if we were finished or not. Ok, I say let’s do one more since no one was coming to replace us. I pick a slow blues, we pull it off well and leave the stage area.
 
The next group is up with a drummer, who I know, we played together sometimes. He always takes pictures and sends me some. I grab a seat in front and take some shots. I another friend comes over and she shows me a plate with food it. She explains about it being a vegetarian quesadilla. It was being made by two women she turns and points to at the nearby table. They smile, we smile. I say I will go get one in a bit, (as I was trying to take pictures,) she says this one is for you. Thanks, I say and take a bite. It was good! I Munch down on it whilst taking a few pictures. I went back for seconds, this time as I took my seat the band started playing an old Rock Roll by the Stones. Three of my friends sitting next to me on the front row had a mic and were doing background vocals, I joined adding another harmony. I had not been drinking much for a long time. The glass of wine was good and I was feeling quite comfortable. We had fun on a couple of songs.
 
 
The rest of the evening others played, and switched, I was called up again to play bass, but another player who had not played went up. I changed over to vocals and harmonica for the rest of the evening. I was surprised I was really the only Harp player there. My lip I felt like it was getting sore by the time we stopped and people slowly left. It was a fun evening. It is rare for me to be to hang-out with other foreigners and chat in mostly English. It was a nice change.
 
There ended up being four of us guys who spent the night. I think it was three last year. Anyway, we chatted for a short while after everyone left, before turning in. We had futons and rugs to sleep on. The unit space is not set up for sleeping, it is set up to be a band rehearsal and misc room, with a small kitchenette and bathroom.
I did not get much sleep. Uncomfortable, sort of chilly, but mostly the snoring of the other guys. First one, then two, the third joined. It was an oddly rhythmic merge of sounds. I took it as sort of meditation practice, just to lay there, an listen, then not listen, just to lay. Somewhere around 4:30 I got a little sleep. I know so because I was woken by someone’s alarm to get up about 5:00 am to catch the train. I had no need to rise that early. I had the day off and a pass from the house Shacho to hang out. She was going to work that day. I would be home alone when I arrived.
 
I had a little bit more light sleep, before getting up, just after my host. I casually made my way home. It was a good musical start to the new year. It felt like a blessing…Amitoufo
 

Festivus…2018


Holiday Jams

 
This is not the kind of Jam you eat, it is the kind you dig, dig?
 
I was asked to fill in with a band at a session at Chicago Rock, by a friend who plays keyboard in a couple of groups I am with. The regular harp player and the bass player could not make it to the gig. So I was. Invited. There would be no rehearsal, just pick a couple of simple songs to do, which we would test out just before the show. Ok, not a big deal, we just do something simple and listen to each other as we play. Listening to the others is Key. Something Matsuo with the blues band did not do well. Anyway. It was loose and fun, we pulled it off like we had played together a lot. The club master ( it was his project this band) asked me to join them again on a later date in January. We will do a trio, the keyboard player was busy so it will just be three of us, drum, guitar bass. It will be my first time with a group where no one speaks any English. LoL it will be interesting, but not that difficult I do not believe. Just some simple blues songs again. The guitar player is good and entertaining as the lead man. I will not have to do much other than just do my thing.
 
I came across a post by a friend who I have played with on several occasions. He and the Iyo band were playing at Snafkin the past Sat night gone. IYo-San is my favorite sax player, she has a jazz band I have sat-in with them before. Always fun. I decided to stop by the cafe and hear the group. I figured they would ask me to play something, so I figure to use the chance to try out my Shakuhachis. I took the 2.0 and the new bamboo hybrid 1.8.
I arrived after they had started. When I entered it was announced by Iyo-San. I was shocked to get applause just for showing up. I took a seat and relaxed into the music. Which was mostly Christmas stuff. They played one modern piece, upbeat and funky. I was asked as were a couple of others to join in. I said I did not bring anything, thy aid, said sing then. Ok, I joined and did a bit of scaring along. It was fun.
After a while, it was time to wrap up the show. They asked if I would do a song, what did I want? Piano, guitar, bass? I said let’s try an experiment, I have my Shakuhachi. I heard the sound of surprise form a couple of people who were listening. Ok, I gave the bass player a pattern I wanted and key, the keyboard player had done the song with me before, so I was not concerned. It was going to be loose which was ok. We started, had some issues with the mic and my Shakuhachi but I worked it out. I could not get the volume I wanted but made do. Also some small issues with a few notes but nothing to be concerned about. Overall it was loose, funky, and fun. We had a good time on the song. It was a learning experience for me. A live test with a band and the Shakuhachi. I just played the one song. Learned I really need a mic or amplification system just for the Shakuhachi. I ordered later a clip on mic holder so I can put a second mic on the voice mic stand I use, this new one I can mount lower. I also learned if I am going to play seriously I need to bring my own mic and a little amp to play through. That way I am covered by bringing my own sound system. I have been slowly putting that together of just such a thing. I have a small portable bass amp that is battery operated, easy to use and some small effects are built in. So I can add a bit of reverb to the mic and that is just on my mic, not the whole system. I also have a mic so adding just the clamp on mic holder is easy then good to go. A strap on mic to the Shakuhachi would be better, but they are costly. For the amount of using I will get, that I can foresee, it is not worth the cash outlay. So the session was fun and educational. I can work the Shakuhachi into some Blues jams, the Shakuhachi from Ota Sensei I have will work! I just need some better amplification…and more practice.
An added plus from this session is I was invited to come to another open session with many old friends attending, next month. It should be fun and something to look forward to attending.
 
There was suppose to be a Sieki band practice up next on my schedule, however, it was canceled. I found out about it on my way to rehearsal. Good thing I was going to contact them to say I was running late when I found it there was nothing none. Some error cause me to get the notice late. Not really a big deal, just some time lost.
 
Next up is the monthly blues Jam in Kobe. Rarely go, it is too far. Since I had some other reasons to be out there I attended. I also arranged to meet a couple of friends there who live in the area. It is a 2-hour train ride from my home, so I like to make the trip worthwhile. Also, I need to catch a train in time to get back before the pumpkin hour. I arrived a little later than I planned but still in time to use the happy hour for food and a drink. I was spotted by one set of friends. A sailing friend from Team BLISS the sailing friends. A bit of chatting then another friend spots me, the drummer form the old blues band. I had also contacted him about coming by, we still jam together sometime. He got to talking with my other friend and joined us. Meanwhile, we are both called up to play. I notice they are short on musicians tonight. Usually, there are more musicians to play than there are customers to enjoy. Tonight was different. After I insisted that I eat first I went up afterward and did a couple of songs, playing Ba and singing. I had gone up on stage earlier and played the harp and sang a bit when I first arrived and after ordering my food. At this point I was spotted by another couple of friends, I had arranged to meet there. I had not seen them in several years, so a quick chat then back to, my food before going back on stage. Usually, I get to play a couple of songs then I am done because I have to leave and there are many others playing. Tonight different I played Manabe six songs before I had to catch the pumpkin train back home.
It was a fun night chatting with misc friends, in English and playing a lot more than planned. It was a good night!
 
The next stop on this music train. Chicago Rock with the Seiki band. After several issues, with sickness, broken bones, hurt feeling, it was show night. I was not expecting much of a turn out. The weather during the day was pretty sucky. There was another band playing as well so that would be a larger split afterwards.
I arrive on time and went in, we got setup and did a small practice sound check. It was well. As I was waiting for our turn to start, we were the second band. A couple I meet on the plane back from the states came to the club. It was a big surprise. This was the second time they have shown up for a show. This time they brought along their son. They speak English but spoke in Japanese. They took a seat and waited and watched the opening band. A very short while later another friend showed up. I friend from Kyudo, the shrine school. She had said maybe she could come but never said if she would or not, or followed through with my question about her job. So I was very surprised to see her.
After a short while, we were up. The mainliners for the evening. There was a fair amount of people, but it does not take much to fill TheRock it is very small. We played without issue. Some songs went very smooth, others went ok smooth. Nothing was really poor. Overall we did well. I usually keep an eye on the watchers. Seeing if they are nodding or tapping to the beat to judge. My friend showed nothing, I could not read if she was enjoying or not. No foot tap, no head nod, a cool number she is. Overall people seem to enjoy. With Americans you can tell if they are enjoying, no question, with Japanese… not so easy, except the drink ones 🙂
 
Our final song, the encore, which was clapped on by the last band, as we did to them, was pulled out of the hand, by me. Not one we usually do. The singer and harp player from the first band joined us for this song. He sang some. I was glad he did not play harmonica because his playing is hard to listen to for me. We shared singing and I played harp and bass as normal. It was a good session, people gave congrats afterward.
 
It was a good evening, I took a few pictures with friends before bounding out the door to catch my pumpkin train.
 
That was a wrap on the Christmas sessions. I have a New year, jam session coming this weekend, it is very very loose more of a party, potluck than an official Jam, although that will differently be happening as most attending are musicians and we will be in a rehearsal studio of my friend. The nice part here is I will crash over at the studio so I can stay and hang out without turning into a walking home pumpkin.
 
For now, it is preparing for the New Year, cleaning house, organizing, etc. the Kyudo 108 ya is upcoming on New Year eve. I was expecting and hoping to hear about the New Year shooting at the shrine dojo, but no invite has been forthcoming so. I will write that off for this year and go back to my solo New Year Kyudo 108 ya ritual.
 
Oh ohhhh I forgot there is one more jam tonight @ Chicago Rock. I suppose though it is an end of the year Jam rather than a Christmas. Not that it matters. It is in a few hours. I am still mulling over the idea of going or not going…it is always good to be seen and recognized..good PR even among just musicians.
 
Well, I caved on the idea.
I was dressed and walking to the train station when I changed my mind. Doubtful if it matters, and I did not commit to attending. C’est la vie, my zensence said no.
I will stay in a practice Shakuhachi and chill in general, on this cold windy night. This makes the minister of finance, happy because I am not spending money. I have only maybe two or three work days before the job is over for the winter. For me it will be cut back on travel and spend time doing at home study. Reduce spending, increase knowledge. Tomorrow is house cleaning for the new year and the Un-party New Year’s dinner with my in-laws. How fortunate that we get along well…Amitoufo

Shakuhachi Pilgrimages: Cambodia- finale

Have Flute will travel: Cambodia

It was the last day. The plans had changed some during the evening. We opted to pay for an extended stay at the hotel. Instead of 1:00 pm check out, we went for 4:00pm. The typhoon had fizzled out so the planes were flying. That was not going to be an issue. Our flight was at 9:00pm. we had most of the day to hang out. I had arranged with my driver to pick me up at 12:30, to take me around town. My wife wanted to do something or another then just hang out poolside in the Jacuzzi.

After my morning drills, a light breakfast, my ride came and I was off. The first stop was the Killing fields Memorial. He gave me the story about what happened. I was under a different impression from what I had heard. He gave me the story then let me walk around. I read the posted writings. It was sad. I went around to the Misc statues and bowed in respect and silent prayer. Over in one unit were the bones of those they had recovered. I paid respects there also. Then we left. I had thought of canceling that part of the day at first in the morning because of the time, but I am glad I went. Interesting, and educational. I just was watching a youtube show about the 7 wonders of the Buddhist world. Some of story of Cambodia was included.

 

We next went to a local Buddhist temple. It was old but not like the Stone ones at the paid sections. This small shrine/temple complex also had a new temple being built on the grounds and it was an active temple, with monks there. Nothing spectacular but still interesting.

Next stop was a local made in Cambodia marketplace. We pulled into the parking lot. I thought the place was closed as there were no cars or anything in the lot, not even people. That is other than a few musicians lounging on a raised platform. My driver tells me after I say something about no people, it is lunchtime. Ohh. I said.

When the musicians saw us they sat up and started playing. I looked at them for a small bit. My mind flashed back to my earlier thoughts a few days ago. I had seen no street musicians other than a trio of the same instrumentation at a marketplace the other day. I had thought briefly them about asking to play with them. As were ever I went I had my Shakuhachi. However, I did not follow through on my brief thought at that time. Again I had the thought now should I go up to them???

I was taken over to the entry doors of the main store by my driver and entered. I walked around looking at stuff. I felt uncomfortable. The people here have a habit of following you around the store and jumping on selling anything you touch or look at for more than a moment. It is irksome. In the states that is done more so to make sure people of my color are not going to steal something. I have never had that in Japan. Here it is for a different reason but it still was irksome. I walked through, and I found nothing of real interest to buy at least. In my price range in mind.

I went back outside. My driver was waiting. The musicians sat up and started playing. I listened for a bit. Then walked over and gave a donation. These were not just street musicians they were disabled in some way or another. I bowed and made a motion asking if I could join after pulling out my shakuhachi. They smiled and nodded yes. I tried to play along, but could not quite find the notes. Other than one or two I could not get the tone pattern. The tuning was different. They finished that song. One of the players of a violin type instrument played a note for me to hear and sample. Hmm Ok, I could get that and another. Hmmmm I thought maybe it could work. I asked to take a picture with them. They made a spot for me to sit with them on the platform. I gave my driver the camera and sat. This time I lead the music and they followed. It was better, not perfect, it was rough but ok, different and interesting. I think if we did another take on something it would have been a lot better, but I did not want to stay too long, my time was limited for the day. A few other local people from the next stand came over to see what was going on as we played for a bit, then stopped. They asked a few questions about me of my driver and the shakuhachi. Also, I had on my old kung fu pants. I did not change from my morning Tai Chi set. loose and very comfortable. They had some Chinese symbols on the legs. That was noticed and commented on. My Driver translated. I explained about my background being a Cha’n priest and a Komuso in Japan doing sort of what they do. I showed them a picture of me as a Komuso and gave the one guy who spoke a little English, my card. This little session was the other high point of the trip for me. I bowed and we took off just as a couple of Tuk-tuks pulled up with other tourists.

We made our way through the town and along the river. Interesting views all around. Interesting, but not always pretty. The next stop was at the Imperial gardens and another Temple. This was a mix of Hindu and Buddhist. Cambodia is a very Buddhist country however at one time it was Hindu. There was a big conflict at one time in the past between the two. It was resolved that they could get along. The Angkor Wat building design is a sort of reflection of that past. It foundation design was Hindu in nature. Later the Buddhist influence became more dominant at Angkor Wat. This temple we visited today was mixed, but more in practice than just design. Hindu dominated here though it was a more modern building it leaned more to the Hindu side of Spirituality. A combined worship place. Sort of like how the Buddhist and Shinto con-exit in Japan. Just that here it was the same temple. I walked around a bit here and ended up getting overrun with ladies wanting to sell me scarfs. When I spoke with one, then others seeing that came over. I was surrounded. I politely got away. I told one I would think about it and come back. She got on the cell phone. I walked away. I few minutes later she comes over to where I am, with another price. I speak with her, then others see and again swamp, me. I am ready to buy one, then the others overwhelmed me. I start to get pissed and strongly say NO! One of the women “got it” from my tone and laughed and backed off, as did a couple of others. One keep at it! I made a purchase from the first woman. The other woman is still at it. I ask, are you married? She looks weird and says yes. I say, “you must drive your husband nuts being so pushy”. She goes back into her selling mode. I walk away she follows still talking, I ignore her, and she walks off, to another person.

I go back to my ride and say I had enough for the day. Off we go back to the hotel. I have not yet paid this guy for the two days he drove me around. I ask the price. It comes out to about $28.00. I give him 30.00 it was worth it. If you go to Cambodia, I will give you the hookup for him if you want.

The rest of the day is spent after packing, poolside until dinner. Afterward, we are taken to the airport and it we are off back to Japan.

It was a good and educational trip. My wife really enjoyed the hotel and wants to return. She felt comfortable. Most people spoke English so she could cope. For me once to Cambodia was enough. I would rather go to Taiwan. Even though the hotel was not all that where we stayed, and did not really get to spend any time outside the city, other than the Ch’an monastery. Modern cities are the same, and Taiwan is not poor, but I would rather go back there. I am sure they have some scenic places. The food there was better for me, there is a nightclub I can jam a bit at, there is Kyudo there, there is my Cha’n Shifu, I have local friends. If I could find a Kung Fu Shifu it would be wonderful. Maybe maybe maybe, if the Kyudo seminar turns out to be real thing I can go back. That is a big maybe, almost doubtful due to finances.

Our reality starts with a dream…so we’ll see how the Universe wants me to roll with this…Amitoufo

 

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia /pt 1

 

Have flute, will travel: Siem Reap pt-1

One of the places I wanted to visit was Siem Reap, Cambodia. The once largest city in the world, Angkor Wat always seemed interesting from a historical standpoint. I loved history in school except remembering dates for a test. I digress
Later I found out about the Buddhist aspect of the place, and I grew a larger interest. From a photography viewpoint as well, always was interesting. 
In our conversations about travel, my wife and I agreed on Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia. For me it is a nice thought, but for she makes it real. We went to Vietnam Nam, now it was arranged and we were off to Cambodia. She says we are getting older, we need to do this now while we can. She is right, as are all women, all the time!
Continuing, we set off for a five-day adventure. We were booked at one hotel for two days another for three nights. She had a deal going. My focus on the trip was the Angkor Wat complex and some food. Her’s was food and chilling. I would do the temple exploring on my own.
We traveled on Vietnam air. It was a pleasant flight and got served food and drinks, like in the old days of flying. The only problem we had, was changing flights. There was no clear marker for changing flights in Vietnam. So we just followed the sign that said all passengers this way. We end up at immigration. My wife was able to get entry, but I was not without a visit, being a US passport holder. This caused some issue being understood I did not want I into Vietnam. My wife was already cleared and stamped. She had to get that canceled. Then we were told to go to another window, that line was slow, my was becoming antsy and asked someone else. We were again in the wrong line, just go through these doors and up the steps. Ok, we rushed. Now at security, again. Wife starts to panic, tells some official, person we will miss our plane, not our fault, blah blah, we get sent to the front of the line and mark the plane easy. Whew, now we (she) can relax.
Day 1
We arrived early evening at the hotel, after checking in, I take a walk around the hood to explore. and scout. Mission successful I return with a good Idea of where we are and how to get around to the main drag. Then settled in for the night. There was some couple of hours difference in time from Japan, which is later.
Day 2 
I mostly I stayed in the room, after a brief outing of hunting and gathering after renting a bike. I stayed on our balcony, ate happy pizza and played shakuhachi with the birds. Perhaps the second coolest part of the trip. I was surprised at the variety of different bird songs. I record some of the sound of them singing. I tried to copy, or ad-lib with them. The weather was perfect! For some reason no mosquitos! Perfect! Our balcony was perfect, private, yet I could see. It was a small pleasure yet held great joy and gratitude…Amitoufo
Day 3
For a large part of the day, at least the morning, again after the breakfast buffet, I stayed and practiced on the balcony. We were supposed to change hotels at noon and I was to be picked up for a horseback ride. This I just happened to find online. The ride was a three-hour tour. LoL. Through the countryside and a few villages, and up to a temple.
A tuk-tuk driver sent by the stables picked me up at the hotel. Handy. After a small mixup about who and where I was, we were off. I arrived at the stable after a short ride through the countryside. The driver aid he would come back for me. Great I said.
I went to the office and checked in. The stables were large and clean. As I was filling out my paperwork, some other people showed up. I thought they were coming to be with me. However, once I checked in, I got a guide and a horse, and we were off, after asking if I was comfortable he saw I knew how to ride. My horse was named Mexico. He did not want to go. He had to be pulled at first. My guide said, Mexico is lazy but he is a good horse. I laughed. We started pretty slow. The guide wanting to chat some as we rode. Which has hard because of the distance. Mexico had his own pace and distance he wanted.
We rode through the rice fields, along with lotus ponds and through several small villages. Poor people but seemed happy. The kids, if one yelled hello, they all would copy when they saw me. Houses on poles, sometimes you could see beds outside beneath the house, Kids, fishing in dirty water. It was kind of sad. I had a lot of imagined thoughts of being in the war there and Vietnam. Sad, scary, and blessed I did not have to go, even with no bone spurs. However, right now, I was blessed to ride a horse through the countryside with no worries about bullets or bombs, or traps… Amitoufo.
I was there taking pictures with my smartphone from horseback. I had a little hand camera but I’d not think to use it at the time. Oh well. I would have like to have gotten a shot of the villagers that looked amazed to see someone as dark as them riding horseback through the village. They waved and pointed. I gave them the traditional Buddhist gassho. They got a thrill from that, laughing and returned the bow. I wish I had a photo shot of them. Overall the trip through the villages remind me of deep Mexico, but greener. One thing I noticed in Mexico different was the number of musicians, there was a lot! Not in Cambodia. I only saw a couple. More on that later. Another common thing I noticed beside the poor factor that was in Mexico if they play recorded music at home, It is usually loud. Some of there’s house in the countryside was like that. LOUD music. I do not know if it was because of the festival, holiday, that was just ending or what? I saw some stores in town that sold A LOT of BIG speakers. I thought they were for clubs, but they are home use!
 
Back to the ride. So my impression of the countryside was it is like all poor places. Hawaii, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, American Native reservations, poor is poor. Everyone does what they need to live, with what they are dealt. People are people. Even with torn or no clothes, the children play. The kids on the route were cute. The farmlands were nice to ride through, although the waterways are filled with dark water in many places. It was not as “jungle” as I thought. I would call the wooded landscape more forest like than jungle.
 
We arrive at a temple. It could not enter because I had no pass. However, I did get a few pictures outside of the temple. For my shakuhachi pilgrimage photo collection.
We returned to the stable just at dark. It was well time, there were a few times we brought the horses up to a trot. It was hard on my privates, the bouncing. I was ok just at a walking pace, but we needed to get back, I guess on time.
My TukTuk driver was waiting. He was a good guy and his English was good. I made arrangements with him to give us a ride the next day, to the massage place my wife wanted to visit. Also to a vegetarian restaurant I want to visit. The food was only so-so. Tawain rules as far a veggie food go! Another reason to return for me. There is a Kyudo seminar there. If I could return to Taiwan for a Kyudo, Chan, Eating, jam session Iw ould be quite pleased. But I digress.
Day 4
For the most part, I hung out in the room and practiced. That to me was fun and pleasure. My wife spent most of the day poolside. Later we went to get a Khmer massage. The woman I got was strong, bigger than some of the others I saw. She asked if I wanted soft, med or hard. I said hard thinking, she was not to be that strong. I was wrong. It was quite painful! She knew how to use her weight and bones. Reminds me of a Kyudo saying ” shooting is done not with the hands, but with the bones.” At least on my legs, painful! My back and shoulders were fine, but man she brought pain to my legs. The next day I was sore from her treatment. I had a spot to practice TaiChi and some Fu, boy oh boy, some stances hurt hurt hurt from her. I rolled with the pain while under her hands, thinking, ok this is training. I am Shaolin. Yosh!
Day 5
Ankour Wat …to be continued.

尺八 – The blessing…

In the broad Cha’n sense, every day is a blessing, Gohan Shifu says every day is good. Narrowing it down though to a smaller scope here I am referring to a blessing pilgrimage of sorts I took. Hmmm thinking on it more, it would be better called a purifying pilgrimage. I went just before going to Myoanji, the last trip.

While practicing some songs on different flutes to determine some sound differences. I got carried away on playing with my “A” shakuhachi. 2.0 , that Oota-san from the Shakuhachi society gifted me. I had not thought of it in my Takuhatsu practice, but it could be used. This thought came when I could play some high notes on it but not the 2.5. Also about taking it to Moriji next time and use in an offering at the temple.

I also wanted at some point to go to the nearby bamboo grove and get some bamboo for a new project, several in fact. One of which was a simple as stakes for the tomatoes and anything else. Instead of buying tomatoe racks. This grove was on or next to my favorite local Buddhist temple. I have gone there before and sat and played. Most times it is very very quiet. The thought was born to take the 2.0 to the local temple and give it my own purification ritual.

So now with the need for bamboo and the thought of taking my 2.0 flute and do a purifying ceremony. The next day was chosen, the weather was excellent. A lovely autumn day I mounted my bike and peddled off to the temple. I gave inner thanks for the beauty, peace, and blessing of riding my bike to the local temple in Japan to play my flute and do some Tai Chi. Also, grab a few photos. I am still a stutter bug. I do not get off on taking photos of myself but I am a handy model whilst out and about.

It is a fairly easy trip to the temple, other than the last bit, where it is easier to walk the bike up the hill or leave the bike at the bottom and take the steps. There is some kind of tradition to the steps. I think it is 100 steps. If you use the stone steps one gets a blessing or merit or something, a wish filled…? Usually, I take the steps just because, I can. However not today I walked the road outside and around the temple grounds to another entrance. I wanted my bike there. and I had to go to the bamboo grove just across the road, the lot, something. Anyway, nearby and still needing to climb the hill. From that side of the temple, one must also go to the highest point around for quite a ways. One has a great view of the countryside.

From the other side of the grounds, one can see to the bay. That is the side of the grounds where the 100 steps are and the old main gate with the two stone guards. Next to that is the cemetery.

So I guess technically I enter from the back side of the temple. No matter. I had some concern about where I had parked my bike but, unwarranted concern. I enter the grounds and felt the spiritual presence of the area and again gratitude for being there. I went to the main temple urn, and found insense burning. I took out my flute and passed it through the smoke and bowed. Then played a single Ro note. I did this also at the main temple steps.

Once done there I went to the front side of the temple to where the great bell is located. There I played more. Maybe Cho Shi and/or Tamuki. I do not recall. Afterward, I did some Taiji, to bring my physical vibe up speed. Balance out, it a good thought. Sort of like doing walking meditation after doing sitting.

 

I left this spot after a while and went to another of my favorites. It is next to a pagoda just behind a sand and rock garden. I can climb up on the rock and hang out. There I settled in an do some playing. A group of people came onto the grounds, they were heading for the great bell and one of the other smaller pagodas. I kept playing at one time I would have stopped, or tried to play softer, now I am Komuso and I play for others. On Buddhist temple grounds and people coming to pay respects or homage to their departed loved one, it felt appropriate…Amitoufo

 

 

 

Return to Myoanji

This maybe a boring post if you are not into Shakuhachi…

Today there was a Shkuhachi concert at Myoanji temple. in Kyoto. Myoanji is the home temple of the Komuso SuiZen sect. It is now also my home temple. It is hard to believe it has been a year since I was there, listening to the same concert. It is some kind of event, but I do not know what.

I did realize it had been a year until I saw the leaves starting to color today. I am aware of that because I want to go to Muroji soon. I am trying to work out when is the best time. Next week is sort of early I am thinking. I want colors still on the trees mostly, and not too cold. So I am on tree watch for the color changes, today I noticed it starting in Kyoto. So the tree in the temple yard today gave me notice and I recalled it was like this last time I was there.

Not only did I go because I am now a member, but mostly because my Shakuhachi group had players there. I wanted to support them and get some shots for the group’s FB page. Last time I got there after it started. This time I was almost right on time. It had just started when I arrived. They started with chanting the Heart Sutra. Then played “Cho Shi”. I was sort of surprised to hear them chanting, but it was a good lead into Cho Shi.

After that and a few brief words, the players started. Almost all of my group was playing in the morning, including the group leader who I had never met. Only one of the group was scheduled for the afternoon. He was number 45, I would miss him. I had no plans to hang there all day.

I was surprised how chilly it was in the hall. Cold in fact. I was glad I dressed as I did and wished I had a something else, like a heavier coat or another sweater.

 

One thing that came to my attention was the different colors and patterns of the Buddhist neck wear…the Rakusu (O-kuwara (大掛絡) for Komuso). I do not know if it is just a Komuso thing or what. In the states I always thought, Plain solid blue was for Novices or the like. Black was for Priest, Brown was for teachers. I found out later Purple is for “Masters”. Here I heard any Buddhist wears them. The colors, hmmm unknown about that I will have to research, seems like it does not matter. Here at least I noticed with the Komuso they have other colors and patterns. I am wearing my black one, that my Abbot gave me. Which gives it some personal significance. Other Komuso wear more colorful ones. It does not matter really, it is just a “thing”. Sort of egoish to desire something more than my functional black. I do get twang of fashion desire when I see the other Komuso “feathers”. I saw a cool purple one with a nice pattern. Yeah, I love purple and it was a dark purple. Nice, I had a moment of lust. It passed 🙂

 

It was good to listen to other players. Hear their phrasing on songs that I knew. Listening to the quality of their notes and the sound of their flute. My ear has changed. It rolled along smoothly. At one point there was a fairly large number of people in attendance listening. I was surprised.

After my group had played. I got to met the head guy, said my good-byes and took off. I was invited to stay for lunch but, I chose to hit the road. I did stop at a local “Indian” restaurant before catching the train home. Last time I was there the guys asked me if I was from India, this time another guy asked if I was from Brazil.

The wrap, it was a good day, listening, learning, the visuals. It was on the chilly side but bearable. I am pleased I went. It was a good day trip…Amitoufo

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Days in the Life

I spent most of the day doing gardening. When one reads that you would think I have a big yard . However it is quite small, my rear Balcony mostly. There is a small front yard. In this case I am speaking mostly about the vegetable space which is on the rear balcony. The front yard space gets too many bugs! The rear space is manageable.

So I spent most of the  day there and doing related stuff instead of going to Kyudo. More on that later. The veggie garden is a good source of Chan awareness of life, interdependence and a sort of meditation. Working the soil, watching something grow, nurturing it, then eating it. A life cycle. I picked up a bunch of chicken poop for plant food the other day. Cheap. I was not getting the results I wanted with the Fish poop. I am hopefully this will be better. It is what the farmers use around these parts. I also picked up new soil for some bigger pots I got for tomatoes, and some new shelf making items. I did not really do much planting , just getting organized for the spring planting and arranging some things for the autumn stuff. There are a few things I can grow pretty much all year round, like Kale. It is a blessing to have mild winters.

Right now I have some cayenne peppers I am looking forward to harvesting I picked a few here and there now drying. Also just did a new group of lettuces plants. My one pot of Kale is recovering from the caterpillar attack this summer, and planted some news one that are coming up well. Yeah the Bamboo mantis Veggie garden is doing well.

 

 

After 4.5 years of experiments I have a good sense of what is needed, and what will work. Part of the time was also spent going to the store and picking up a few things for the gardens, front and back. It was good to do and a blessing to have and do…Amitoufo.

Kyudo…

In other news. ( that more readers care about)…Kyudo. The next shinsa is a few weeks away. I have a different attitude about it this time. I am less mental intense, but at the same time, more focused. I have gotten some new adjustments I am working on, angle of the Yumi after release. If it is the wrong way it means I messed up during the release and most likely opened my hand. This I was told by Yamashita Sensei.  Do not when going from DaiSan to Kai bring the Yumi straight down the cheek. It should be away from the face until at the lip line then brought in to the face. Left arm is completely straight, the small twist comes when pushing the left thumb toward the Mato. Not from turning the arm which makes the shoulder rise. Yamashita Sensei, Nanadan told me the other day. Your hitting on the right side of the mato is a good thing , even missing. Hitting on the left is not so good. There was a because stated, but I did not get it!  Anyway little by little it is coming together. Even if it is not time yet, when it is time, I will be awesome… Amitoufo

 

Music:

Two of the three bands have gigs schedules, so that is picking up, sort of. I had one practice session with band 1, Sieki Band, the other day. It was ok, not everyone was there, some it was very loose. But ok, by way of just reconnecting. The 3rd band has a gig next month, we will practice a couple of days before that. The gig is the same night as my Shinza. Then up at 4:45 am the next morning, Monday to go to work. It will be a looonnnng day, really a long two days.
Casually thinking about my own solo show. Slowly getting a song list together. I am really more focus right now on Kyudo and Shakuhachi.
I really have no goal plans for shakuhachi, just to get better. The goals I had were learning to play the right way , not just by ear, and self-taught and then becoming a Komuso. I got both of those now, it is just to improve for the sake of improving. Also explore more of the Sounds and Meditation/healing aspect.

Music life has two parts. Pop/Blues and Shakuhachi…The Spiritual Side. It is not as fun, but it is an internal spiritual thing. The reward is different.

I am planning a trip to Muroji next month to do Takuhatsu and visit Matsutani Sensei. I am looking forward to playing there among the Autumn colors. I hope I can time it right. We have a trip to Cambodia also coming next month. It is be a busy interesting, hopefully fun month.

The survival job…

Work at the silver center goes on. At least for another 2 months before I am off for the winter. I am up at 4:45 so I can do my morning thing and get to work by 7:00 am. There after I do my morning greetings and check in, I find a quiet spot for some Qi Gong and a bit more stretching. Then find another spot to just sit and meditated. This spot is sometimes right there with the Lads who are chatting or just off to myself. Everyone is pretty friendly with me at this point. I am one of them some have taken to calling me “Chan” instead of “San”.

I from time to time get asked to do some Qi Gong/point Pain relief for some. Sometimes interrupting my meditation, but it is ok. I am usually looked out for when refreshments are being gotten for the crew. I have a good relationship there. It is much more comfortable than working for Marina for the zen “master”. Much harder physically, but that is ok, I look at it as training and exercise. It is all perspective and gratitude…Amitoufo

At lunch I usually go off to a quiet spot and sit alone. Depending on the location. When I am alone I can eat for 30 min, practice Shakuhachi for 15, nap for 15. Sometimes I grab a selfie for my SuiZen @ Lunch photo series. Once in a while depending on the location I just eat and nap like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

生活 – so now what…

I had written on my last post we had just had a Typhoon. This weekend, now, we are supposed to be the middle of another. The Force was with us on this one and it turned to rain Havoc on China instead. Even still the winds here are up with stronger gusts. Nothing to be concerned about though. I am doing a bit of blog work, listening to the local drums, it is a holiday weekend. Drums, flutes and those pull or carry floats are out and about. I forget the name I will check it out for later…if I remember…Matsuri.  It really has nothing to do with this post, other than it is what’s happening now. One thing about this Matsutri festival, they go late into the night. One of the main stations is just around the corner. With the drums, chanting, flutes, in my head I am not in Japan, but at a Native American Pow Wow ( tribal gathering). The sounds take me back there…

I will be going off to Kyudo soon as soon as there is a break in the weather, it is raining on and off from the passing typhoon.

Things has been quiet with the bands lately since our last gigs. Band number 3, our job was cancelled due to the Typhoon ( two ago), just got a notice to play in Nov. Band # 1 the drummer is out-of-town and I have not heard anything other than our submission to the Sakai Blues fest. Band #2 no news there either. I expect this means it is time for me to get back to working on a single act, to help support this addiction to play. Really “help to support” is kind of a joke, a lame one. Japan, at least this music life I am in, is not structured for band living support. For Real not as/with a single band, one has to have several items going, several pans on the fire you could say.  Even then still need a regular pay check from somewhere.

So yeah, Pop music life for me here will be from all “signs” purely a hobby. No money to be made, can be fun or a fantasy, not a way to make a living, at least at my level, at my age…even making transportation cost would be a good thing. A blessing!

And speaking of a good thing, –  I will use that as a Segway into  – …my Shakuhachi of which the Komuso aspect is a good thing. It gives me a sense of doing something worthwhile. Not chasing fame or fortune, but a more spiritual goal to my music study by blending Cha’n practice. It gives it all some point, some purpose other than making me feel good. Trying to get that musical orgasms playing. However the band players are not quite that good, and there is no money. So at this time in life, with no real dreams to fill, and the clock winding down on my earth passage, it is important to feel, at least for me, like I am filling a purpose. Making a contribution to easing suffering for someone on some level. Doing it via music is a big plus.

Hands in the dirt…

My summer gardening is for the most part done. I started a few Autumn plants. This year was, I think my most successful in terms of crops. I did not get a lot, but there were several and some variety. That was successful not the volume. I need to find a good organic fertilizer. I am more aware now of what will work. I need to develop a bug repellant formula and some way of applying it. The spray nozzles I have been using clog after a few uses.

I had an interesting time growing cayenne pepper. When it finally starts to grow, after many tries. The peppers did not look like the package picture. I was excepting small, thin and long. These were fat , thick and long. Also they were purple! Not red or green…ehhhh? Now that they are older, the Peppers turn green then red! Wow different! Now I have to let them dry once they are mature. Maybe mid winter or late winter I will finally have my shaker cayenne seasoning. I am thinking of making my own special mix, two kinds of pepper, some pink salt, lemon peel, maybe something else. I will wait for inspiration, I have time. 

Ok what else, boating. After working through a few things with the boat owner from BLISS! I am going to give another shot to a sailing club. I feel like my marine life was taken from me by the boatyard owner who I thought was my friend but now shall remain nameless.

I did go to kyudo after I started writing this post. it was sad. I got really depressed afterward. However…oh well, no one said it was gong to be easy. Going out to Takuhatsu the next day at Osakajo castle was a lift to my spirit. Out from under desire, other than to make a good sounding note, breath, take a step. The day pilgrimage is posted on the Komuso Blog it was a worthwhile day. Not in money terms but in sharing wordless Dharma.  Small blessings can be huge…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