Return to Paradise – My Chan Ancestral temple…Hsu Yun

My Chan Ancestral temple…Hsu Yun
My next stop for Sat which was a two-part adventure was to visit the home temple of my Chan sect in the States. Hsu Yun Chan temple. This is where my late Abbot was ordained. I wanted not only wanted to visit there but to pray for my departed clan members. My Zen/Chan teacher and my Abbot who ordained me.

I made my way to the temple which turned out to be on the same street as the Kyudo group’s meeting place. When I approached the temple I could hear chanting and prayers being said in Chinese. Ohhh. I hope I will not be Interrupting something, I thought. I could see people inside walking around in a ceremony, I could see a couple of people outside taking pictures and one person involved in the ceremony doing some filming with an iPad. Earlier I saw someone with a phone camera outside taking pictures. So I figured it was ok to take pictures and walk around. I would, however, try to be low key about it. Which is kind of funny when one thinks about it. A Black guy hanging around a Chinese temple taking pictures, being low key!! hahaha. Not disruptive, and respectful as possible would be a better thought, wording.

I walked up the main steps as walking on rice paper. I hung back from the doors, yet, even so, I was out in the open and got looks as the line inside walked past the open doors, as I made my way up the stairs. Just observing, trying to be small. I slowly walked around the outside. In a moment of boldness and a break in the line, I took a few quick pictures. Thinking to myself this listed as a sort of tourist place, people come to see the temple, so I should not be so self-conscious. I slowly walked around the front grabbing a few shots of the building.

I walk around to the side, as I am starting to feel the call of nature. I spotted a woman just sitting on a chair by the steps, looking like she was just relaxing or waiting for someone. I asked her in Chinese if she spoke English? She looked at me like I just landed from the moon. Sort of like when some people of color say they get the blank look when they speak Japanese to a Japanese. Perhaps she was in shock that I spoke to her in Chinese. So I asked in English where is the toilet? She snapped to awareness and smiled and gave me directions. I thanked her and bowed in Gassho, she smiled.

I walked around to the side and saw more buildings, smaller, and they also were open and no people, nice I thought. After making my pit stop I went exploring. I went into the first one and saw it was some kind of memorial hall I am guessing for the departed souls. There were a lot of plaques on the wall and an Altar in the center of the floor, with a stand, marked offerings. Ok, cool this would be easy enough. I went in slowly, checking things out grabbed a few pictures and went up to the altar. I did the multi-bows thing and finished up. I moved on to the next building. It was the same. However, there was a man sitting outside. I wondered would he say something about me being there. I went by him with my palms together and bowed. He returned the bow and motion. Something I did not get from the Young Priest guy at ChoZenji, in fact maybe from anyone there except one person who was just on a stay there. It is felt in Japan if you bow to someone and they do not return it is rude. I also did not get it from the monks there at the temple when they looked at me from inside the temple. In their defense they were busy. I am guessing they also just saw some strange black tourist dude, watching the show. Still… Anyway…I digress.

I continued into this building, it was open and had misc food on trays and bags on the floor. It also had groups of birds eating stuff off the offering trays around the room. I did a repeat of actions of the first building and departed.

Now I went up to the rear of the main building, again took pictures. Next went around to the front of the main building. I watched more and made my way around to the other side. Many eyes watching. I am not sure what they were doing at that point. Not walking around still singing and chanting which had been going on the whole time I was there, even before I arrived because I could hear them when I was still up the street.
I walk around now with palm facing. I watch some of the proceedings from the other side of the building at the open door. I couple of the monks who are doing the ceremony look at me, I bow, they continue with they are doing, chanting and beating on a drum. I think hummm, kind of rude, but this is not Japan.

I head down the stairs on the other side, I had seen another open set of doors when I was first coming up. Some kind of lower level room. I walk by and peek in. It is mostly empty except for a couple of Nuns. I notice there is a small library of books and statues in a corner. There are several Altars. and some chairs and kneeling benches as in the other building. Ok, I figure it must be ok to go in here. I go to each of the Altars and make full bows. Another nun enters, I continue. No one says anything or gives me more than a brief look. I figure I am ok. I take a few pictures and look at the photos on the wall. A couple of other Nuns come and go. No one says anything. I leave, I am considering looking into one more building I saw, I am unsure it kind of looks like a kitchen area or something. I start to walk as someone comes out of there. She sees me and comes over to me as she is walking by. Are you here to see the temple, she asks in English. I say yes and show her a print out of the clergy on our sect’s webpage. I point to the Master, she says yes that is him. I point out my late teacher, she says I do not know her. I explain why I am here and to pray. She says yes, go inside and pray. She says there are people up there, go in and join them, they are praying. I say thank you. However thinking, no way will I just walk in there. I do not know what is going on. I will just hang outside and observe.

I did that, taking a spot just offset from the door, but I could see, I could also be seen. When the group bowed, I bowed, I stood palm together, quietly. Now inside the were taking something off the wall and stuffing it into a large trash can. Then the group came outside. I stepped back, but still stayed, now standing with the group. I watched, the can was taken down to the parking lot and the insides set ablaze. I knew what was happening and spiritually became part of it standing off to the side, a part of, yet apart. The group afterward went back in. Then the monks left out the side door along with many others leaving by front and side doors. I am thinking ok it is done. I can go inside once everyone leaves.

It is then I am approached by a man. Who says something I could not understand. He is handicapped. I reposed in Chinese “I speak English”. He nods and says something else. It took me a moment to understand his English because of his voice deformity. He asked something that sounded like are you from Tibet? Are you something-something, I had on my Kyosho at this point, when I had come to stand outside because I wanted to be seen as not just another looky-lo tourist. I had something to do with Buddhism.

Ok, so the guy is talking, much of it I am not getting. I am thinking he is nice but maybe just a bit mental. I cannot be rude and just blow him off so I try to listen and understand. I am starting to get something about the Dahli Lama visiting and also some other ranking Buddhist Monks. Did I see them I was asked? No, I said I missed that. He continues. Then I am getting to understand I can come inside and sit. Hesitantly I do that. I ask, may I go to the main Altar to pray? He says no, but here where he is pointing is ok. I thank him and do the Chinese full formal bows. I kneel, bow, then open and raise both palms. Three times I do this. When I am finished, he comes again. He now takes me around to each of the smaller Altars and explains what each of the Buddha’s represents. I full bow at each. We make our way around the main hall, with him explaining as we go. He waiting while I do respects at each. We are back to the main hall and floor. He is explaining now about the three main Buddhas and their function and colors and meanings and some other things that I was not quite getting. The Monks return, he says something about me to them, they smile, and nod a bow, the ladies seated in the hearing range also smile nicely and nodding their heads. A kind smile, like welcome not like a weird smile. Another ceremony starts. The guy leaves me and returns to where he was in the beginning. I stand off to the side and follow along, chanting the sounds but not the words. I do this for a while then slowly make my way back to the other side of the hall stopping at a couple of the Altars to bow again and grab a few snapshots. I am ready to slip out the door. The guy that greeted me was there, also the woman who told me where that toilet was there. I bowed, they bowed. Then I figured I would take one last picture of the Altar of Kwan Kung. The guy motioned that I could go over to it to take the picture, while he still stood as part of the now started chanting and ceremonies group. I did so then make my way out the door bowing, they bowed in return. Chinese I have encountered tend to be much nicer once they know who you are. Some say they are much more real, some Japanese come off as nice at first but it is a fake nice. This has been told to me by Japanese. There is an old song that comes to mind. “Smiling Faces they sometimes tell lies”

Outside I am thinking …

WOW! That was a trip!
Amituofo!!

A link to the full photo album for this post can be seen here:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/Yav8hFujrgMcd9Af7

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Return to Paradise… Kyudo at ChoZenji

 

Return to Paradise… Kyudo at ChoZenji

Sat came around there was morning classes at ChoZenji, but no evening stuff, zero on the weekend at night. Overall the amount of classes is limited. Maybe due to the are taught by volunteers.  Sat. during the day there was an array of classes at the center’s dojo. After the sitting of course, there was flower arranging, calligraphy, Aikido and “zen” archery .

I arrive at the Center early and sat in the community room, with several of the others. Everyone was introduced and what they did. An archery person was introduced. I said, oh you will be teaching the archery. He was a bit surprised and said. “I am just a student”…
The young head priest, (remember this guy he will come up later) says. Oh, you might as well teach, since Honda Roshi is traveling! Honda Roshi is the main guy for Kyudo also he is a Shakuhachi sensei. He is the one I really really wanted to see while there at the center. Major bummer he was not returning until next week!! Crap! Yet another downer! Anyway, after some chit chat with another senior there who was doing Aikido, I think or something. We all went to the main Hall to do Zazen. This time I had no problem with posture, only with my leg falling asleep, but that happens. 
Afterward, everyone split up and went to what class they were doing. I noticed the Archery guy went to the Kyudojo. The Young priest says to me there is a flower arranging class and demo being held, you can attend. I said, what about the archery? He replied oh, with Honda Roshi traveling it maybe not be a good day for that! Then he walks off. Humph, I thought, I will see about that and went to the Kyudojo, to speak with the guy who opened it up. Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi was my whole purpose for coming. Yet I kept getting cut and shorted out from attending. I was not about to just take it with no questions. Sometimes you got to flow and sometimes you gotta take a stand. The bamboo bends but it has deep roots. In Tai Chi we bend to power but we stay rooted.
The Archery was getting set up when I came over. I explained to him my interest and background. He said well you can shoot with us no problem. I asked if I could do Kyudo not western archery, I’ve been there did that not really interested. He said sure, you can just go for it and not follow us. We ( him and one other guy, Les who had helped me before when first starting the Zazen) will just do our routine. We shoot about 12 arrows, then do the ChoZenji 10 step TaiChi, then shoot 12 again, then TaiChi, then repeat. This was explained by the other person, Les, who was I found out later is a senior, and that ran the Tai Chi Class. He had some other background in TaiChi I found out, and said he did a little Kyudo before and still had a glove. However, had not shot in a long time. Les was quite talkative, nice and helpful. He had been there for a long time and knew the founder and had trained Zen under him. As it also turned out he was familiar with my Chan teacher Zing Ming. He asked me are you also a priest? I saw you wearing a Rakuso, which I wore the first couple of days! He then went on to tell me his wife was friends with a white woman who went to China and became ordained, who lived in Las Vegas. Wow! I was shocked. I got a few interesting stories about the late master there from Les. We developed a connection.

Ok, so they got set up as did I. The equipment was funky! I found a bow I could use, however, I needed to re-tie the string. It was way too loose! The bow would flip around to it’s unstrung state when I shot. That took some time to correct. Next I had to find arrows. The only ones near my length were Makiwara ya, with Makiwara feathers. Sigh. After trying to shoot them and not have them not go near where I was aiming to shoot, I looked for some different ones. There was another set of range mato arrows, however, they were short for me, quite short, since I had no other choice than the markiwara ya, I figured I would try at least. With a lot of conscious effort, I was able to shoot. As I drew the bow I had to keep touching the tip of the arrow to see how far I had left to draw safely. Then I needed to compensate my right pull to be able to straighten my left arm as it should be. I was able to make a couple of hits, after much effort. It was a challenge but I was able to pull it off being fully mindful of what I was doing. I guess in a way it was helpful because I had to really pay attention to all parts of my draw.

The others continued with their shooting. A woman joined us. So the three of them did western shooting I did Japanese. In order to maintain harmony with the flow of shooting and fetching the arrows, I set my timing with them so everyone could retrieve their arrows at the same time. They shot 12 arrows to my 2. Their twelve arrows time also included them doing their weird funky, to me, Tai Chi. Which should have not even been called Tai Chi! I was told the founding master had learned Tai Chi Chuan in China. He was very accomplished in many Budo arts. He had several high ranks in Judo, Kendo, Karate, maybe more things which I can not recall. It is said he was a martial art genius.

He took what he considered the most important elements of the long form of Tai Chi Chuan and condensed it down to 10 steps. It was not supposed to be a Budo from, but a way to build “Chi/Ki” and focus the mind and spirit for shooting or whatever. There was also a loud Kiai in the form at times. It was a Zen tool for them, not a “Budo” or even a health art. Ok, I thought it was lame watching them do it, but that was just my opinion and perhaps a reflection of their skill. Either way, it was just my opinion which does not matter. So yeah, their 12 shots to my 2 shots. Kind of funny when you think about. I reflected at one point that my going through one cycle of Shooting with the correct breath, grounded stance, mindfulness was much more centering, calming, a release of attachments, focusing, Ki building than the soft karate they were doing. Just my opinion. If it worked for them, the program and the master…so be it! This went on for about an hour.

It was brought up at some point, not by me that maybe I could come In and shoot on my own since the Kyudojo was not being used much and I was coming back on Monday for an early class plus later that evening or another class. It made sense I could just hang out there and practice on my own, no one would be there using it. I thought as well it would be great. I had seen a back room where there were longer Ya so I thought ahhh! That would be cool! I would ask. We closed up the Dojo and I was shown how to put things away.

Les and I chatted for a while about, Tai Chi and his current Tai Chi teacher. Not the current in change person there. This was someone the founder or ex-master recommend he train with or something like that, to learn full Tai Chi. Anyway, he was I find out the person there at Chozenji that runs the Tai Chi class. I would join this class on Monday. Anyway, we spoke of misc martial things and training there at Chozenji. The difference between the old ways with the founder and former master and the current young admin, and his sometimes displeasure, with the new “way”. Also the strong point of the Martial art training there was Kendo/Hojo. A Shotokan Karate class was just added fro Sunday’s.

Afterward, I went back to the community room to gather my stuff to go to my hotel. The young head priest in charge since the master was traveling was there. When I came in he says. Oh, so you got to shoot! How was it? I said it was challenging, I had some issues with equipment. He replies I learned early on it is not the equipment but the shooter!

I took a breath…and replied, gently. I was feeling/reading a certain “vibe” from his comment. One could say the hairs on the back of my neck bristled a bit. I deepened my breath and then spoke. Yes, that is true, except in the case of safety and being the wrong equipment for me. The arrows were way too short, the string was not tied correctly. If I did not take care and make adjustments I or someone could have lost an eye or gotten otherwise injured. However, I did make it work, as I said it was just a challenge. My reply was not in a mean or a smart-ass way as he was in charge. I was respectful.

 

Next, I say, ahh since you are here I have a few questions, is that ok? He says ok, so I continue. Since we are talking Kyudo …I will be back on Monday for the early morning class and then that evening for the Tai Chi class. Is it possible for me to just hang out here and practice on my own? He says… I do not think that is a good idea. We have ways set, and it is better to have someone there who knows our way and rules. We do not want to get into just letting people come in and do their own thing. So not really a good idea. Ok, I say and drop the subject. 
I roll to the next question…

I ask; the music you were playing the other night, that was not a Honkyoku was it? Now he replies, that was something from Honda Sensei, we play Shakuhachi as Zen tool, not as a musical instrument. We use it to develop breath and the like. Some times blowing until we completely empty the full breath, not in keeping with a musical piece. It is ChoZenji Shakuhachi not a music piece like most people play these days. Me: again a breath and reply hmmm Honkyoku are Zen pieces. He said, not with most people I know, most I encounter they are playing as them as music. Honda sensei says one can play one note your whole life to work on getting it right, developing it fully, as Zen training. It is about breath and mindfulness… I say slowly “those you have met in your circle”. Yes, he says in my circle. I drop the subject again.

I move on to safer ground.

The next thing I ask is about some books that are there, earlier had I noticed for sale. In Hindsight, maybe I should have started with that question first. A couple of the books are about the founder, the late master. His background and philosophy. Basically how ChoZenji came to be as it is. One of the books is a recent publication. He also shows me a couple of smaller older books. He suggests if you are interested in purchasing I would recommend these two. I thanked him and asked if it was cash only or could I charge it? Charging was ok, I am told.

I next asked about making a donation, I saw envelopes. I was told where to do it. Donations were not something that they pushed on people. The person had to want to make it enough that they asked about to do it. Ohhh, different from other places. Ok, Thanks. Or maybe this would have been a good starting place first. Oh well.

I made the arrangement and purchase via his “girlfriend” I believe she is, from watching how she serves him lunch, maybe, maybe not, but I got that vibe. She is the first person I was dealing with when I was arranging to visit and did my orientation and gave me the tour. She was nice enough I thought at the time. Even though she would not let me join right into the Zazen when I arrive, therefore wasting a day. She was fairly pleasant and professional.

I went back to the hotel afterward not feeling pleased with the whole exchange. Feeling like this guy has an attitude. Not extreme, but it is there. I told my wife she thought it was the typical White vs Black attitude he had, that many have. He was being hateful. I was not so sure about that. Attitude yes, but racial, not so sure. More of a, I know it all, I am in power type of attitude.

The more I thought about it the more I was irked about it, and not just him, but the sense I felt there. Having traveled from Japan to experience the center I felt they should be a bit more accommodating. I asked to attend a Zazen session on my first day. I said I had the experience,  I could follow along fairly easy. But was told no! I had to wait until the proper orientation class. In which it took all of 15 min or less for her to explain things and was the only one attending the intro class. Therefore causing, me to waste a whole day of the trip and miss a class I wanted. Now this, with the denial of grounds use, so I would not have to spend hours traveling back and forth to the dojo. Hmmm. Not really helpful folks, are they.  I thought more and got more irked, however also came the thought. Why should it be all about you (me) why should I get special treatment, just because I traveled a long way? That was an ego minded thought. One thing came to mind often during this thought process was something I was told in the beginning ” we here are more in the Japanese tradition than Hawaiian tradition.” Also recalling something I read about they do not encourage just casual visitors or something like that.

“we discourage tourists and recreational visitors from attending zazen or class.”

Just because I did not consider myself a recreational visitor, does not mean the same to them.

With that thought came the ahhh moment! Hawaiian style is laid back, more flexible. Japanese are not flexible, the rule, the way is the way. It can not be changed! Although they are doing just that with their Kyudo, Tai Chi, junk food treats and meals. It is still their way, their “DO“! What an ego, I had to make things about me, I am nothing, but a passing visitor to their home, center, Way ( Do ). Ok, my bad…

Once that clicked in place. I was able to let the negative thoughts go…mostly. When I told my wife that she said ahh yes, he is not being mean he is following the Japanese way. He is in charge and has to follow the rules.

Still though…a bit of compassion and consideration goes a long ways…Amituofo

Next off to Hsu Yun Chan Buddhist temple…

 

Return to Paradise…getting real on day three


Return to Paradise…getting real on day three

I killed time on the third day. Really do not even recall what I did, besides sleep, maybe a little shopping. Ahh we/ I move to another hotel where we would stay the rest of the trip. We had a nice view this time. Part view of the ocean overlooking the marina an park, plus the city. The marina /ocean view made me nostalgic for my Waterworld days. Sigh. I have a friend who lives here in Hawaii and has a sailing business, the boat I believe is docked in this marina. However, just like several of the other bad timing bummers with this trip, he is on vacation in Greece! So no boat ride for me. Sigh, oh well. More to roll with.
So back to ChoZenji for the second day. I made the trip there with no problem. I did not arrive as early but still within good time. This time I sat in the community room with a few other before class and got to speak briefly with a few people there. I was told I could join the class session if I wanted to after the sitting. It was called Zen and Aloha. I did not really know what it was about, but it was not something I had originally planned on attending. However, since I had my whole plan disrupted, I figured ok why not join and experience what the universe was giving me. Then it was time to do Zazen. I did my entry as I should and took a seat. I did have a little help with something or another by an older local man. Older as in about my age and experienced there at the Zen Center. Then we sat. I received a bit of straightening shortly after sitting, but not like the first time. It was not as bad this time, the long sit. However, it was going to be a long session. I was told beforehand, the session would be the standard 45 min, then some breathing drills, then another sitting session! Then whatever the class session stuff was. I was not really looking forward to 1.5 hr Zazen but, it was training so I ready my mind to deal with it! 
After the first sitting, we walked around, not slowly and mindfully like with the Soto group I practiced with before. This time starting slowly then speeding up and staying close-ranked. It was sort of weird I thought. However, I went with it. I found out later from the older guy, named Les, this is the Rinzai way. Also changing direction. Start slow for those whose legs are not quite there yet. Then the speed up close file.  followed by another 45 min sitting. Legs hurt, but not too bad. I could cope. 
One surprise about this sitting was as we started, someone started playing Shakuhachi. Wow, I had seen this on the floor earlier in the community room, but I not inquire about it. It was petty good playing. It was not a tune I had heard and did not sound quite like an Honkyoku. It went on for the full 45 min we sat. I figured it was something else made up by the Shakuhachi master there, or the person playing was improvising. It was pleasant to listen to that and do Zazen. I asked the young head priest later as I was leaving if that was him. Yes he said, I gave him the thumbs up.
Next started the class, we did some seated breathing drills, some with making vowels sounds. Basically while seated we raised one hand then the other in a half circle. Sometimes silent, sometimes with making vowel sounds, or a hmmmm. Totally unlike any Chi Gong, I had experienced. I did not really feel anything other than a little weird. Not from being self-conscious about the drill, but that felt no Chi change.

Next, we stood in a circle held hands and did some Hawaiian call and response chanting. After that we sat and did introductions around, who was who, was who, your name, where do you consider yourself from, and why are you here. That was sort of interesting, where do you consider yourself from, sort of like what was your face before you were born type of question when you thought about it. After I did my part in the circle sharing we did some movement drills, is the best way to describe it. Moving around the room in a line, not in a line, avoiding someone else moving around the room with their eyes closed and try not to hit them. It was explained as a drill in awareness. Like moving through your life, trying to get somewhere, but needing to avoid some random item, issue, person, a thing. Needing to be aware of it and that it is coming, but continue to move forward.

The last section of the class the leader asked about who wanted to do some Tai Chi or do some chanting. I wanted the Tai Chi, but the group wanted the chanting. So I remained quiet and went with the flow to learn, experience something new and different. I have never been big of chanting. Maybe to self-conscious, weird for a person who sings in a band. Anyway, we sat in a circle. We were given a book of chants. A bit was discussed about the nature of the chant. It was not about the words, in some cases, the words have been lost. It is about the sound, the vibe. The body as a sound chamber. The same as what is being done playing Shakuhachi as SuiZen. It is not the music it is the sound, the vibe.
We chatted for a while with the leader banging the fish for the timing. It was interesting, more so now that I am thinking back on it.
We ended the session with another Hawaiian hand-holding group call and answer chant.

The class session name “Zen and Aloha Spirit” makes sense now. It was not what I was looking for, but I got something out of it. I learned something, which was part of the point of going to this Hawaiian pilgrimage.

“Sometimes times one learns what they need, not want they want.”…Brown Buddha

…Amituofo

 

Back to the tunes


Back to the tunes…

I kind of lost my place in my blog tales, near as I can figure the last thing was the Jazz band jam. Ok so yeah. I had the Shakuhachi thing at Shintannoji. I wrote about it on the Komuso blog. A brief recap here. Shintennojiis considered the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, I was invited once again to join the memorial concert and play a song on the Shakuhachi. This is my second year doing this. It is both a big deal and nothing. I was the only “gaijin” in attendance. This is event is something that has been going on for many many years. Once again I was the first one to perform. I figured out later it was because I was the new kid on the block. It went well. I played a different length Shakuhachi this time. The one I use for modern music, because I like the deeper sound than my 1.8 standard size. It went well. I did not make any noticeable mess ups and was only somewhat nervous. A new music friend who had contacted me on-line came over to me meet and listen. She was interested in doing some music collaborations for YouTube. We went for coffee afterwards. We came across a place where there was an open mic session going on. As it turns out one person there knew me and mentioned to the club owner I was a Shakuhachi player. I was pretty surprised that he knew that as I thought this person had only seen me play bass.
Next up was another Jam session at Chicago Rock. I got in touch with the keyboard player from m band. We meet up at the club. I had planned this time to do a blues song on the Shakuhachi. The same one I did with the Jazz band. This time I was more prepared to deal with the sound issues I had before. At first, I was going to start with the group play with me on the Shakuhachi then switch at a certain point and play the bass. However, at the last moment, I changed my mind. Since I had the music chart written out I figured I would let someone else play the bass. I would just focus on the Shakuhachi and singing, maybe do a little harp depending on how it was going.
I did a couple of songs playing bass and singing, they went ok as expected. My last turn up on the mic, I chose to just play Shakuhachi. As usual, people were surprised when I bought it out. I had the bass player from the last group play bass and my friend on Keyboard plus a couple of guitar players. We started. It went well. It was a bit rough but that is to be expected at a Jam with no rehearsal and a new song for everyone, plus a new arrangement. I had no real problems with the sound this time. It was not great but I could hear myself and others could hear me. The middle section did not go as nice as I wanted but, as I said expected. However, overall it went ok. There was no point I felt embarrassed. So that was a win. I asked a couple of people afterward online what they thought all said it was good. So I have the confidence now to continue. I have figured out the getting the sound out issue, so I can move forward. Also now I am getting established as a Shakuhachi blues player, something rare on the blues world. I am getting to do something a little different, in a place where everything is the same.
The band has a concert coming up at the end of April. A big blues festival. Last year I played solo on keys and Shakuhachi. This year the new band is enrolled. I will be doing two songs with them. The guitar player has no nite a second guitarist to sit in with us. That will work out fine. I will have one of them play bass whilst I play only Shakuhachi and sing. I had thought of doing the opening with Shakuhachi then switch up midway to playing bass. This way will be better. We have two practice sessions, before the concert so there will be time to work out the rough spots in the tempo change. It should go over good and be unique and memorable if we can pull it off. Diffinetly something no other band will be doing, I want that.

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi

 

We had our monthly meeting a few days ago. The day before my return to Shitennoji to play. So it was another good chance to practice in front of serious ears.

Today we were supposed to have a guest. A student of Oliver, a sempai to me of course. He is a college prof and a writer. You can read his blog/webpage here on Komuso, shakuhachi,  Ok,  so his student from China who is visiting in Japan was going to be there. Hopefully, she would bring her Chinese Koto and play.

I was coming for sure that day. I came from another part of town than usual, I wanted to attend a Buddhist meetup I had been pushing off for a long time. A spent a lot of lost time that morning searching for the location. However, all of that is another story. I arrived at the Shaku group meeting a little later than planned but not enough to have missed a lot. I needed to pick up food to bring and grab something to eat then.

I slipped in and joined in the song that was upcoming on the agenda. A short while later another elder sempai bows his way in. We continue and also repeat Cho Shi together once more.

The way is made around the table for everyone to play a solo piece. I did Tamuki as a test for the Komuso offering event at Shitennoji. ( FYI: that whole story is on the Komuso blog). It went over ok, no one gave up any corrections except do not move the flute around so much. ( I was trying to find the sweet spot). The correction I was given last time I got the ok nod from another sempai when I asked him it was, ok? So ok, past that. I am feeling better about the performance on Sunday.

The visitor is up. She says she will not play shakuhachi but will play her Koto for the group. Perfect! we all some questions about the Koto as she was tuning. We all looked it over from all angles.

When she played it was heavenly. We all loved it. It was suggested that since I was the musician that she and I do a song together. If there was the time I would have liked that, however, I was feeling a bit shy about that at the moment as was she, so neither of us stepped to make it happen. Thinking back now I should have tried. It was not like a big deal to sound bad. Hahahah. It would have been all in fun. Sometimes being humble and shy is a fun blocker. I still need to step out of my comfort zone more, yet another personal challenge to work on….Amitoufo

 

 

…and so we are here.

Life can get in the way of blogging. LIfe rules. Life goes on, blog or not. You can not blog without life. I am in the deep post stage of healing now from the operation. No side effects I can see. ( hehehe) . I am so glad it is over. My eyes sight is still recovering, I am told about a month for vision to stabilize. Even I am so much better off now, visually speaking.

…In the world of bows and arrows.

I will get back to Kyudo training now, I can see clearer. Visually and mentally. I think I should make some progress now. I do not expect a lot of change because of the vision thing, but because I am understanding more about alignment, holding it, without tension. The other “seeing”. I can go back to shooting now, the weather is warming up a little. Summer shinza will be here soon. I will pass this year! I have signed up for a Tai Kai at Osakajo park dojo. It is the end of the month. It has been a while since I have gone to a Tai Kai outside of Kishiwada. I have not felt confident. I am better now and improving. This will help strengthen dojo ties, focus, form and be fun…I hope 🙂

…In the world of Sounds and beats.

I have been working on a couple of musical projects. Oh, wait did I tell you the drummer with the Sieki band quite. Not a big deal, I did not think he was that good. Ok in a limited scope. The leader has found a new guy. I do not know if he is long-term or filling in for the spring Shows. I hope he is a good player.

Then there is my stuff. I have a Komuso Shakuhachi memorial coming up this weekend. This is the one had to play at in front of the masters last year. to have my sponsorship announced. Now I am back,  I have been putting some extra time as possible. Trying to memorize the song. Having eye surgery and no job kept me time free to get some practice in. I decided this year to go with the long length Shakuhachi. At first the 2.0 now I am thinking the 2.5. The sound is much richer and fitting a shrine performance offering. Also, I seemed to have improved because now I can hit the higher notes. Sensei said to me today at my lesson. If you miss a note, let it go as part of the performance. In other words, It is done, let it go. Make the wind part of the note. In short, roll with it.
That’s something that every musician learns. Life is Zen, Music is Zen.

Life (Sound) is impermanence. When poo happens ( bad notes), learn and move on. The moment like the sound has faded away…Amitoufo

Ok, yeah I am doing the long flute. Another point today in class, I was shown more than told the answer to a question I did not ask but had been thinking about. Did I have to play the way it was written? No, I play what I feel, that is the point of an offering. I was corrected on a way I played a line at the Shakuhachi Club when I was giving a demo of me playing for the temple. Sensei gave me an example of playing the song as an offering in the temple. Much more in keeping with my thought, although much much better! LoL! So my main key to mind is playing to enjoy it, the feeling is more important than the notes!

 

The other project also involves the Shaku, but in a completely different setting. I had not been to the Ozaki Jazz society session in a while. I wanted to make a point of going this month. I organized 4 songs, to play. with whoever wanted to join. I also arranged for a friend who plays Mandolin to attend and another woman friend who attends regularly was going to be there. She agreed to play piano for me. I like her playing. So she and the mandolin player knew in advance what I wanted music wise. So I felt pretty set. The rest of the players could be sorted out on their parts as they felt them.

When I arrived it was quite crowded, I was surprised. Many faces I did not know. I greeted all I knew when I came in and had a seat near my friend. The session was lively and interesting. It was my turn…

I thought I had things all worked out about the sound. The last time I played the Shaku with a band I could not hear it well. I brought along a small amp and a clip-on mic holder, this time. I thought I was set. I explained things to the drummer and keyboardist how I wanted the beat and tempo. Turns out they both speak English, the keyboardist I knew did. I counted off and we started. slowly fleeing the groove. I got organized and stepped-up up to the mic for a note check. BLahhhh. Weak !  Weak! sadly weak I signaled to the MC for another mic to switch with the one I brought. We did a quick swap to the house system, I could sort of hear. I had to make do and just roll with it. I could not get into the feeling I wanted because I could barely hear myself, I am flat or off, or what. I suffered to hear. I could hear a few notes and I could hear some shouts of approval from the crowd. so I played on trying to hear by feeling, by sense. We made the timing change in the song it was a tricky part. The drummer blew it but we got past it and went into the next groove. I kept my Shakuhachi playing low-key, like background strings. Once in a while, I throw in a few solo bars notes. We made the tempo switch again this time the drummer really blew it, I was able to reset the time and get it back up to beat. Listening back on the video, it is not too bad. Some parts were even good. The attendees seemed to love it!

I was only able to do the one Shakuhachi song, then another song on the Bass, two total, because of the size of the attendees. No matter I found out what I needed to know, it was an experiment. It went well, it is no longer a question if I can play well enough or if I can pull it off mixing the sounds. The next issue is being heard. I mentioned that also to Sensei today. He told me the correct position to place a Mic and the best angle. I was way off-putting it at the end, it needs to be next to the mouth like a metal flute. Duh!!! ok, Now I know so it was a successful mission. Next, I will take it to the Blues club for a run. If the sound issue is solved I should be good to go. If you want to hear the cut-instrumental cut of the song, you can click here.

next return to the temple

 

 

Aftermath…this n that

 

Aftermath …this n that

It is a little over a week since I had my operation. It is remarkable the difference in the Vision in my left eye. When I compare it to the right now, which was better before than the left, I find it amazing that I was seeing reasonable at all. I do remember seeing a friend a couple of time in the park at not that much distance and also looking for family coming to visit at the train station and not being able to recognize their faces. Just more of an impression that it was them. Also some text on a box in the kitchen across the room I could not read, now I can. So it was a good thing to get the work done. The right eye is coming up next week. I am both looking forward to it and not. Rather I am looking forward to it being over and done with. I am also not so nervous about it since I know fully what to expect. Not really painful, but uncomfortable for a day or so. The drops 4 times a day is a hassle but, better than getting an infection. 
I went to Kyudo the other day the first time since the surgery. It was weird shooting with the glasses on, which I am supposed to wear for protection. A couple of people thought I was just wearing glasses and were surprised to see me wear them. I explained and they went ohhhhh. 
So the big question that was in my mind, does it affect my shooting. For sure I could see better on the left, however, it was not quite clear, as I saw just a bit of a double image or off image since my right is not balanced with my left. It is differently better but just off a bit. In a different way than before.
However, most importantly I could shoot and my hit average was up. Not only up I got more back to back shots. I finished at 60%. I do not credit all that with being able to see better, but with I am getting better at setting up the shot and maintaining how it supposes to be. Meaning my form is better, I believe. I am not going to go all nuts thinking I am making big progress because in the past I thought that way and the next time I shot I was lower. This time I was higher @ 60% than my last which was 50%. So if I can maintain that or increase I will feel, more confident about the Shinsa in June. I really want to pass in June as I feel it would honor Nogami Sensei since that is where it all started for me in Japan. To finally pass my Yondan there would be outstanding! So, I have to ganbarimasu! 
On another front, another item I wanted to do here in Japan was ceramics. I found a high-level sensei before however, he had retired, so that was a dead end. I found there was another ceramics “club” at the community center I was taking Japanese. My wife thought it may be to a beginner class, too housewifey for me. I did not bother going to check it out at all. Today I went there, I got the inspiration from going to the Budo expo to go check out. Not related but there was an Aikido class nearby I thought. I had heard back before there was one nearby, but also the ceramic clas. I had my wife call the center and yes there is a ceramic class and it was on a good day for me to go.
I went by there today and spoke with the sensei and introduce myself. I rode my bike which I was not supposed to do until I was fully healed. So I took some precautions to protect my eyes, and still, get some cardio exercise.

It is a very small group with me it would be 6 total over a couple of days and different times. I looked at some of the students work. Nothing great but some were a few nice pieces. I had taken photos of some of my past work, they were impressed.

I was shown the kiln and things were explained to me. I understood very little of all that was said enough though I felt welcome and could join when I wanted. Also, I could pretty much do whatever project I wanted. Help advice was available if I wanted. It was nice. It was also limited as there were no real wheels in use. Mostly hand building with a small hand turned wheel. However a fair supply of glazes. It made me realize how much I learned when I took the class back in college. Mixing the powders of my own glaze, using wheels, also Hand building, coiling, and slab. I was comfortable with it all. All the work done here would be by hand building, which was ok. That is how I started. I can also do that at home. So yeah, cool. I have a couple of projects in mind, I will not need to rush, so I can really take my time and work as I see fit. I want to make a couple of pieces for my garden and not houseware stuff, like before, bowls, sake containers, the like. I still have my tools which I brought from the states. So I am looking forward to it. Yeah, another something else to do. But hey, I am here to live and enjoyed the best I can with what time is left. So Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Zen training via SuiZen and some contact with my Chan teacher in Taiwan, plus the band, some occasional work, some occasional sailing. A blessed life here in Japan. If I can add some Kung Fu teaching of some type, and training it would all be perfect. But little by little, small steps. For the amount of time I have been here, it is quite a lot. I really should be looking for some more income, but I have spent most of my life chasing that, now is my time to chase my arts, with my lifetime left. With the blessing of the Universe, I should have at least another 10 -15 years left.
I will plan on starting the ceramics in May, after returning from Hawaii. The day and time is perfect and will not interfere with my shakuhachi class or when I am working during the summer back with the silver center. I believe that if I need to miss a day or time I can switch up with another since it is the same sensei running the whole program. 
Next is to find an Aikido or something club/class or even better a place for me to teach and students, that would be wonderful and the icing. I may have a place to teach, maybe. There is a new community center opening just around the corner from us, also a Sempai in the Shakuhachi group is an Abbott of a temple not too far away. Then there would be finding students. I would even give free TaiChi classes to seniors if there was interest as part of spread Buddhist dharma. It is not really about the money, same as teaching Kyudo, it is not the money. In fact, one does not pay for Kyudo instruction. You pay for club membership, space, not the lessons.
The Band.
The band has lost the drummer. Not really a big deal. I did not think he was that good anyway. Not versatile, and zero funk feel. The guitarist is on the search for one. I have spoken with the drummer I played with in the Doc’s band. He really wants something convenient for him and does not want to travel, bit says he wants to play. Also can not practice not after April 7 th, as he is involved with local politics. Hmmm, he is an option if we really cannot find someone for the gigs we have in Last April and early May. Another is to use the current guitarist on drums. I think his beat is better than the former drummer and his guitar work is ok, but not great. With him on drums and our current keyboard player, we could carry on, even sometimes use my dummy machine. My last major band in the states did not have a drummer, we played with an electronic drummer. The one that I have not is more advanced than what we had at that time. Anyway, we’ll see what the universe brings in with the tide…Amitoufo

Sessions…

Session by the Sea

Sessions are kind of like sex. It is usually good, but sometimes it is great! Depends on your partners. My last visit to Snafkin, I was invited to attend another session there on the 18th, which was yesterday! I was not sure who would be there. However, I was looking forward to it as there were going to be at least a couple of people I knew and played with before.
I had contacted another local musician, a mandolin player I meet at a session at Chicago Rock. We are in the same age group and he lives nearby. I played with him at Chicago Rick a couple of times and we rode the same twin home once before. I invited him to attend the session, but I was n to sure if he would. The keyboard player I have worked with and is perhaps one of my favorite players was scheduled to be there, but he said he was not sure about the time or appearance because of work. I was expecting the percussionist I have played with several times to be there, so I was told. 
The day arrives and I make ready to attend. I had three songs picked out to do. Really just two but this was just in case. I had no idea how long I was to play. I was even ready if I had to do with just myself and drums. 
It was nice it was not super cold, even though I was dressed for it! The temps were mild. I made my way to the cafe! It was not as crowded as I expected. Also, several people, I was expecting to be there were not. But it was ok. I arrived and said my hellos, I was pleased to see the mandolin player there. I was expecting him to be there to do a free Jam, but he said he was there for me! Cool, I thought. I also saw the keyboard player there already. However no percussionist. Ok, no big deal, we have played San-percussion before. 
There were a couple of acts before me. I sat, watched and grooved with them. One of them was another friend. I played with her a couple of times, she and played shamisen with me other times. Tonight she just had her keyboardist and sang. 
Soon I was up. I gathered my players, piano, and mandolin. It took a few minutes to figure out what we were doing and get things setup mic wise. The keyboardist was a little unsure about a couple of songs I spoke of, so I chose to stick with some simple blues. I also found out he remembered how I did Summertime and he played it in the right key for the Shakuhachi I brought along.
The first song was my version of “I hear my train coming,” by Hendrix. It is sort of a Jazzy funk blues. I have done it several places now. It fits me, and the people always seem to like it. It works with any group/band I am finding. Next up was “Summertime”. I played Shakuhachi on this and no bass, which I played in the first song. People are always surprised to see me bring out the Shakuhachi. Not something one expects to see for a Blues player. I was more prepared on what to expect this time as far as mixing the Shakuhachi. So that went ok. Another thing that had come to me when practicing. Is that I should be playing now, as when doing Honkyoku, it focuses on the notes, not how many I played, or how fast a run, but the feeling, the quality, tone, character of the notes. It made the playing better. Also made me less excited and able to blow more evenly instead of losing notes to just air sound. Even though that still happened at times. Overall it went very well. That was really my biggest concern is how will my Shakuhachi playing sound. It is still new to me in this venue. When we finished, we got a good response. From the band and the audience. 
My last song was a simple blues, but in a way sort of complex because of the rhythm change. Usually, I try to explain that to the players, but tonight I did not. I was going to keep it simple and just feel our way through it. Piano, Bass, harp, mandolin, and a guitarist joined us. We did the final song, almost perfect the tempo change came naturally and we flowed right into it. It was great. Again we were all impressed and pleased with the outcome. My only regret is that I did not record. I had thought about it, but after speaking with my friend about taking pictures and she wanted to use the camera, it slipped my mind to turn on my recorder on my smartphone. Oh well. It was sort of like a Zen thing, it was only to be experienced at that moment.
Afterward, we hung out a little, before my friend the Mandolin player and I walked to the train for our trip home. He gave me a lead on another good place to go fo Blues sessions, that was fairly local which also had good players to attend. Nice! I will be checking it out. Also, I am thinking more now about adding this mandolin to my personal group idea. I had thought of mandolin being more of a country sound, but this guy worked it with the blues. People at the club were impressed with his playing. I was even more impressed than when I heard him before. In this setting it was nice, nothing was too loud, so it all could be joyed, unlike at Chicago Rock where everything is so loud.
So yeah, like sex with the right partner, the session was great, a learning experience and a blessing…Amitoufo

Session @ the Rock

I had a gig a week earlier at Chicago Rock. I was part of a trio that the Chicago Rock Master had assembled. We had no rehearsal and no song list before the show. We three had played together once before again with no rehearsal just did it off the cuff. The other time we had Jo-San the keyboard player, this time no. Still even though very very loud it went over well. I was told to turn up my bass. That is really different! I neede to turn it up so it could be heard in the sitting room. In Chicago Rock, one small room is where the band is, the stage of sorts. The other room is where the people sit and drink. I had to turn up so loud it sounded distorted coming out of the amp. I did some recording that night, but because the Bass was so loud and the smartphone mic was not able to handle it, it sounded crappy when I played back. Generally, we, the band sounded pretty good, but the distortion was BAD on the recording. Which is really too bad a couple of songs we actually sounded good on! I am not sure what will happen with this group if I will play again? Nothing was said and I left pretty soon after we finished. I did not even stick around to see if there was enough income money to pay us. I chatted with a woman singer, for a short time who spoke some English. Then I took off for home. It was a good night.

Session Izumisano

Ok last on the music train. My friend the Percussionist, contacted me the other day. The day before the Snafkin session asking me to come by a show he was doing nearby my home. Usually, when I am invited it is to play something. however, nothing was said about me playing, So I was not sure. I was thinking maybe he just wants some body support at the show. However, I thought hmm ok, maybe I should bring my Shakuhachi just in case I am asked to do a ( one) song.


I went to the showplace and small little Cafe. Near the Indian restaurant, I go to and have been meaning to go by lately. The Manager saw me as I was walking by. we talk a little. I said I would be back if he was not closed. For you no worries he said. So off I went to find the Cafe. Without the smartphone. I would have never found it! Ok, I locate the cafe and someone comes out and shows me into a seat. It is a very small place. One big round table and several chairs around. I am greeting by my friend who is playing. I take a seat and settle in to watch. After about 3 songs, they are finished, I am thinking they are going on break. Nope, I am asked to do a song. EhhhH!!!!!! what? really?! hmmm. ok, I take a guitar and give some thought on what to play. I start slowly as I am not warmed up. It went ok. I changed somethings as I went along because I did not know all the Spanish words and did not have my harps. So it was just singing and guitar. Next up, a guy comes out and takes another guitar and starts playing off to the side but right next to me. I am thinking ok, I am done. However, I am asked to another song. Hmmmm ok. I say since there is someone with a guitar, I will play my shakuhachi. I give the guitarist some cords, tempo, and beat. We fiddle with it a little bit then start. It is all improvised for me, as what I was expecting to hear and what was being played were different. So I just listened and went with what was being played, not with what I wanted to hear. Again more on the tones and spirit rather than technique. I rolled with it and just freestyled, again feeling like I am doing musical push hands. Listen, Stick and flow with the energy/notes. It was good practice for me. The more I play, the better I will get, everything is practice, everything is Cha’n. Once again everyone was surprised when I whipped out the shakuhachi. LoL! Then one last song I took up the guitar again. I had been trying to avoid doing a blues but it was that time now. My first song was Besame Mucho, then the medium speed instrumental Shakuhachi freestyle. Now, something a little funky yet simple. It felt to me a little empty without my Harps but …yup I rolled with it. By now my fingers had warmed up and I was feeling more comfortable on the guitar now. It was like driving a new route not quite sure where you are, but then recollection kicks in and you are like, oh yeah I am close to home.

Again it went over well. I stopped and the next act to come on. Being mostly unprepared, but always ready, things went over ok. I wish I had known I was expected to perform, I could have prepared better. I watched the next two acts, then it was over. I made ready to leave. After a few chit chats, in Japanese, always scary. I made my way out the door. Outside my friend gave me money for coming!! I was shocked and tried to refuse, but he insisted, after three times I yield. At that point, a friend of his comes over. She is an English teacher so we chat a little before I head off to catch my train. So, new contacts, meetups, got paid, got lunch, it was a good day! I brought dinner home! Amitoufo _/|\_

 

 

尺八 – 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.

 

 

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