Cracks, Bamboo and Blues

Well travel time is over for a while, sort of, a couple of small trips still on the horizon, but nothing to write home or blog about.

On the Music scene …thankfully my Shakuhachi has been repaired. My Sensei took it to his friend, who he says is one the of the number top Shakuhachi makers in Japan. This makers usually does not do repairs on other makers instruments, but as a friend he is doing/did it. The maker did and outstanding job also much much cheaper than the original repair person I took it to. That guy was really more into selling me a new one than repairing mine.

So now I have a nice whole flute again. He not only fixed the crack but the joint as well. I like the wrapping he did. It gives the flute “character “ and that cool old school Shakuhachi look. Sensei and the maker said even though my shakuhachi is not a professional level model it is still a good flute. Especially says Sensei for playing Honkyoku songs. He says it is rare to find this type of flute these days as most makers are making “modern” sounding flutes. Tuned to western pitch and louder playing. So I am pleased to have it back. I have also learned to take better care of it when it is resting.

Now I can really crack down on my practice for the up coming event I am scheduled for in March. I will be doing my first public performance in front of serious players at a Buddhist temple event. This a big deal for me and it sort of coincides with my 3 years of lessons anniversary.

At this event I will meet a Komuso who is to be my sponsor for joining in the Miyonji Temple as a “real” Komuso. Again something that really only matters to me and in the large picture of life means nothing. Isn’t that the same with most of our individual ego trips, adventures. Gives a little boast to our own self-image.

On the other hand, who knows what help, lift  it will give someone when out as a Komuso to someone who hears the music.

Lastly, I will be placing my order for a new Shakuhachi this weekend. I have settled on what I want. I will order it from one of the members of the classical Shakuhachi Society I play with once a month. This is the member who gave me the large Shakuhachi which I enjoy. I have decided on one in between the 2.5 and the 1.8 cm I like the deeper tone of the larger flute over the smaller. The larger one though is more difficult to play, more so I think with “modern” songs I want to play. If I am wrong I will just make due with it and adjust to the song. At least that is the plan. Man makes plans, God laughs is a saying.

On the band scene, we have had our second rehearsal with the new band. A keyboard player has joined us. It really helps round out the sound.

 

Another plus with him is he also sings so we can work on some vocal harmonies that really adds to the band sound. I heard from the blues  “Doctor” that the band has been selected to play again this year at the big city Blues Festival, however we will be once again in the small club. Reason being our vocals are weak. Quite understandable. Really we have none. The “Doc” is a weak singer and we never practice on vocals, well on anything really. I have on a couple of songs tried to “hear” a harmony with him but he is difficult to harmonize with, not really an expressive voice, he plays better than sings. Which is ok, for the blues, but limits the band appeal.

I am still waiting to see if I have been selected to do a solo act at the festival. The choices are selected and posted on Sat.

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Vietnam 2

 

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

Can’t stop the music

 

 

The beat goes on …

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

弓道 – Hatsukai 2018

 

Hatsukai – 2018

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

4/4 New Year 2018

 

Four days…4 Temples

Temple (shrine) 1: Kakuta- Hachiman.
I had not planned on doing this, it just happened. The best adventures can be had doing that. Even if not outstanding, good is good. The better ones leave your spirit buzzed…like this one. 
Dec 31 evening was spent at the Kakuto-Hachiman shrine, there was the New Year event, praying and shooting of which I posted. Been there did that. FYI : Shrines are Shinto, Temples are Buddhist, I am calling them the same here…deal with it!
Temple 2: Myikojo/Shikoji
 
The next day LZ and I went off to see her Ookasan. On the way there she says to me, there is a temple right next door to Ookasan, can we stop? It is supposed to be famous, historic Buddhist. We can pray there, I do not usually do it, but… Ok, we stop by. It is larger than I thought, but still small. The yard is well done, I like the ponds. We looked around a bit, prayed and then moved on to see Ookasan. The temple yard impressed me. There were a couple of spots one could sit, meditate. I am envisioning this as my staging area when I start Komuso in this area. Go there first sit, meditate, play, then, do the walking practice from the temple gate. Down the street and back, then expand as I get my nerve. Hahaha.
 
Temple 3 – Chokei-ji
 
The next day was to be a mostly home day. The weather was great, cold but not unpleasant. I had an appointment to see my Shakuhachi sensei, after my morning. practice. He was concerned about my not having a flute and the repair, replacement on mine. He offered to go with me to see the person, who suggested I buy a new one’s wares. If I choose to go that route and did not have the money to spend on a basic one from his friend a major Master Shakuhachi maker. This person’s beginners flute started at $1500.00. Wayyy out of my league with no income.
He also checked with this person about repairing mine. He was going to see The Master Maker this week to make a pickup of an order of his. He would take my shakuhachi along for him to check. Ok, I go along as he is my sensei. We met after a mixup of going to his house not his studiohouse.
 
Sensei and I connected and he served tea, we spoke about the shakuhachi. I put a limit on how much I would spend after, It was clear what was happening. This Master Maker maybe doing this, or will do this as a favor for sensei, from the way he spoke they are more than just customer/ client, more friends. I am going with the flow on this.
 
But back to the temples, I digress.
 
After visiting sensei I told LZ to my favorite temple in the area. She had never been there or even know of it. Not really her thing old historic temples. However with the NY on us she was into praying. This temple is about 10-15 bike ride from our house. It is really more of an actual pilgrimage feels like, because we have to really make some physical effort to get there to say a prayer. So it felt kind of cool, without planning it to be that.
 
When we arrived LZ was blown away and was taking pictures like a tourist to show her sister. She was amazed at the size and scope of the grounds. She is not and old temple person. Topping that off with how close it was to home. There. Were a lot of people, but it was not crowded. It was the second day of the New Year, i am sure it was crowded the first day. Still there were ceremonies going on. I heard drums and horns from the main temple. We went around to most of the smaller temples, paid respects and ended up at the big bell. LZ wanted to ring it, another surprise like a tourist. So we both did. Ringing in the new year is the saying. There maybe some Buddhist meaning of releasing, illusions, sins…
 
Temple (shrine) 4
 
The next day, I again was up and going to get into my morning Motion Chan. The last few days I have been in the parking lot, which is comfy. However I thought I would like the shrine vibe for practice since it was the Near New Year. Perhaps it was finished with the crowd there by now, an I can get my practice spot in the back.
 
It was starting to rain a bit as I set out, I thought the trees at the shrine maybe enough, the rain was light. I arrived there were a number a people and a few of them looks rather busy doing something in the yard. I started not to go in, but thought I would anyway since it is my local Shrine. I would not practice but I would pay respects. The caretaker and I spoke and bowed for the NY,. I kept it short at the Temple and bowed and left. Activity was in motion there on the sidelines. I went of off to the lot and practiced. It dawned on me as a was walking , I had done four temples over the last four days. I found out later it is an old Japanese custom to celebrate the first three days of the NY.
I fell into that easy enough, with my own flavor. This maybe my new, New Years Tradition, added to the 108… hmmm maybe as komuso training/ offering at the temples.
 
 
 
 
…. …. …. …. ….

弓道 – 108 ya – 2018 yr – Scent of the Dog


108 ya – 2018

 
As I have been doing for the last several years, I shoot 108 arrows for the new year, same as the Buddhist ringing a bell/gong 108 times…cerimony. A friend started it I have taken on the training. 
I was set this as in the past to do my shots here at the Bamboo Mantis Hidden Makiwara Kyudojo. 
Out of nowhere a sensei, who I am friends with and have played music with, he asks if I wanted to come to his dojo to join a New Year shooting. It took me a while to get all the details correct and figured out. 
Sempai’s (the sensei) dojo is the one kyudojo that I tried to join when first in this area. They said no, after telling me yes, and me showing up, changing and ready to shoot. Then they dropped the no bomb. I was told that the club owner said no new members. I am thinking hmmm yeah right…but let it go. Still I was bummed out!
 
I was told I could go to Kishiwada, which I did and I am pleased that that it worked. Trusting the force to provide for my best. As it turns out several of the Senseis and a Sempai that help me at Kishiwada are from this other dojo. I have heard on other times that the story is indeed true and not a “me” issue. Ok, onward, so this Kyudojo is connected to a Shinto Temple. So this turns out to be a local New Year event. The dojo opens, we shoot, there is a ceremony of some sort, then the windows of the dojo are opened so that the locals that come to tthe shrine to pray for the new year can also watch us do Kyudo. I was told this was to be an all night thing basiclly. Someone give me a ride home. There were a couple of other people from Kishiwada going as well. Cool I thought. After I got all the infor sorted out, I was all in.
 
Now there were some things I still did not know, but i would just go with it and see. I knew the basics, I show up, I can shoot, dress really warm, there will be something hot served, there is a cerimony, do not worry about the train home. I was set.
 
I planned for a full day, a long full day. I figured to do my 108 at home since I had no idea how much I could shoot or how long it would take taking turns, getting the ya, etc. Where they also doing some version of the 108? Hmmm. Ok, i figured, whatever this is a training day a, purifying day. First off some Zazen, and then breakfast. Next out for some physical Chan, and some tea. I am ready to start now. I figured to cruise through this, I the full day to do this, so I would pace myself. I did a four sets of 5 before taking a tea break. This then back at it. This time going just a point past halfway. Break time.
 
I took a lunch, some tea, FB’d a bit. I notice now, my tenouchi hand is hurting. I had been griping wrong, to tight maybe, it is right where, just below a callous from work is located. It is like a little pebble in your shoe…
So yeah, now it is hurting, there is a new little bluster, and torn open on my palm. Warrior training spirit says ” there is no stopping until finished, deal with it”. After some thinking, I had a pair of gloves I was going to use for komuso playing when it was cold. The finger tips are cut off. I dug these out and tried on the left glove. Perfect, white cotton, l with just enough cushion. I tried it out it worked so. i went back to practice.
 
I shoot for about 5 min before it started to rain. Wow, I am thinking, the force is testing my resolve. It was not raining hard. I continued, since my yumi is fiberglass and bamboo. Weather is not and issue. Great I was able to have the blessing of two Yumi, bamboo and hybrid-glass. It rain little on and off through my next set of shots. During my next tea break, the weather app said the rain would be fully done about now.
 
Yes after my break the rain was no more. I continued, shoulder and chest starting to feel the strain now, still, I pushed. I tried to stay focused , a mindful practice, attention to each detail of each shot, not just shooting for the numbers. Kishi sensei says don’t just play your shakuhachi to make sounds , notes, make the note have the best quality. As I neared the end of my 108, I had another break pre-planned , bit decided to press on and just do it. I stopped when I had completed 106 shots. I figured no matter how many people there was at the dojo tonight, or the order of things, I would have time to have at least two or three sets of shoots. I would wear the glove, I would try to anyway. It was plain white, this was not a class, so it should be ok, I thought. I will removed it if I have too. Another reason to do most of my shooting at the makiwara, no one tells me how to dress.
 
So for the most part I was finished my 108. I got things organized for the evening. A shower, some food, a bit of sake, then practiced some “Suizen”. It was a great day so far. In the back of mind I was thinking about what to expect tonight at the dojo. Really the main concern was how cold would it be? I was dressed for some what I thought would be fairly serious, at least for me, I am a cold weather wimp. I had on maybe for or five layers of tops, silk, and cold weather poly things, plus leg’ns . My main concern would be for my head, with no hair. I had a silk kimono, and coat, we were going to be inside, so that part should be ok.
 
I arrived early to the shrine, way early. I walked around, did few New Years prayers, took pictures…facebk’d, killed time.
 
Finally someone arrived. I did not know him, he asked if i was from Kishiwada. Shocked I thought everyone knew that. Maybe just checking. He made a small joke about me being early. I did know him so I continue to wait outside while he opened up the dojo. Short while later my dojomates showed up. I went in with them. Slowly others arrived, we all settled in as they lite the heaters, and setup the bean soup, made ready the yumi and ya, everything set to shoot.
 
Little by little they started, there was nothing official happening everyone just went up and shot. All was very relaxed, many sat by the heaters chatting and staying warm. Little by little things got more organized and more started shooting.
 
Near 11:30 we were instructed to go to the next building, to where the ceremony would take place. We all went into the main temple, the Shinto priest where all ready. We all had a seat on small folding stools, no kneeling. That was a relief, my knees could not have taken it. Ok, i wanted to take some photos but I thought that would be not cool. I resisted! There was a little bit of chanting, incense, bowing, usual stuff. However short and fairly simple. The priest blessed the group everyone bowed and it was done. Everyone went back to the Dojo. I got a few photos outside.
 
Once back in the dojo, the sweet bean soup was ready. Mochi was added a short wait and it was ready. Bowls were handed out. It was not to have something warm and sweet, perhaps a little too sweet, but it was still welcome and good! I had a second, but small helping.
 
Now people really started shooting in earnest , it was almost 12:00 now. I heard someone start the happy New year phase when it was midnight. Everyone said it to the group and continued to shoot. It was not a 108 shooting, just a New Year’s shoot. 
 
I made my final shots earlier and surprising hit, my last (108) and the first shot (109) of the year . Really surprised because i could not tell where my first arrow of the night went. Where I was off. My ya are black, it was dark, dim light by the mato, and my growing old man eyes issue. So I was focused on my position and alignment more than “seeing”. Those were the only hits for the night, I think I shot 5 times, three I needed for my count. My last shot for the night came just after midnight. I had thought earlier that I would change my string for the New Year. I had taken it off to adjust the tension, and it looked shabby in a couple of spots. Then I got lazy let it slide. I forgot about doing it
Just after finishing my home shots, when took some time to do SuiZen after the 106 shots. Anyway, yeah, the string broke, i had a spare, but since it was so late i just stopped. I was under the impression that something opened at 1:30 am. But what it was , the Dojo was closing at 1:30 am. So my string bit the dust at 12:40. I was done for the night. All worked out. Good I did most of my shooting at home for my counting goal. I couple of people asked about my glove, did I hurt myself, or what. i explained, they said ohh. My Sensei asked, when I told him I was screwing up my tenouchi in my practice. He laughed as did I .
 
My sempai came to me as everyone was packing, and said he would take me home. Argatou. It was a good experience. I am pretty sure the first Gaijing involved and attending.
 
So onward into the New Year. I am feeling this is the year I will go to the next level of understanding. I can feel some improvement when I shoot. I still have much to do, but I am finally feeling some progress. Year of The Dog will be successful for my Kyudo endeavors. 
 

Winter…

Winter is coming…

 
Technically winter is here, but in Osaka I do not think of it until really January. Then we have two months of, ugly, for me cold. It has started a bit early this year with some yukky days. 
So on other fronts, the breath of winter is here, I am now laid off from both of my jobs, until business is better. The boat yard is fairly dead, at least for me. My wife is still working which is lucky because we would be in a world of hurt otherwise. For me zip, nada there, other than the lost of income, I am fine with not working there. My spirit for being there is still damage from the owner sending me out in the Typhoon, almost getting killed, and not so much as thank you, from someone who is suppose to be a friend! So much for that my respect is zero.
I got a call the other day my work for the silver center is done for the season. Until maybe late spring or summer. Although I was just asked to work Christmas day. After that it will be dry. So cuts backs are in order. Mostly food, which is ok since I am, not working I do not need to eat as much, also it cuts into my travel and other stuff, oh well. Oh well. The strong survive. “Trump” happens. Yeah I am not a fan of Trump. Mostly because he lies and has zero feelings for the non-rich. But I am not going into that, it is just my view. I have friends who love him, blindly. There is more than enough of that political talk else where. Sickeningly so. So I will not go there.
 
Yeah so with no work and less money my activities will be reduced. I had a session the other night with a possible new forming bad, from the owner of the Red House club. It was a fun session. A small trio, we drink ate chatted and played. I hope we can do it again with a plan.
Either way I am continuing my quest for a solo career. I applied for a spot in the Sakai Blues Festival in the spring. There is no money involved but it maybe good advertising for me, getting my name out.
 
So as I was saying with limited funds, it is time for me to go inward. Winter training. My Kung Fu, needs work, a lot I have been really slacking with that without the external motivation of having students. I need to get back on it for myself, just like doing meditation, just because I can. Music wise, I get some piano practice in everyday, so more time and songs are part of my training agenda. Oh musically I had a Major bummer the other day. My shakuhachi developed a Major crack. It was heartbreaking to see. The weather change , plus a combination of heating my studio, then getting way cold when I am not there, whatever. Big time crack it will cost I was told by Sensei about 2-300.00 dollars to repair. ouch!! This takes away half of my saved money for a new Shakuhachi. Sigh.
On a better note someone in my long shakuhachi group said they could make me one for a reasonable cost. However the problem is I do not know if he can make the type I need, with a “western” tuning. The maker does not speak English and the person, who will translate the conversation is not sure how to explain, nor am I. So this maybe a dead end. With half of my funds going to repair my crack one and the other left over is enough to pay this maker, but, can he do it? A lot is up on the air on this, maybe I do not even need it, as the “band” playing idea for this type of music is not happening, and someone else says I can do it with my current Shakuhachi, but my sensei says no. So it is all up in the air right now.
 
Kyudo, training I can step up with not working, but it will need to be at home with the Makiwara. Hmmm, I guess I can make some difference in my form with mostly home practice, but it is difficult to judge until I can actually shoot at 28 meters, if I am making a difference. I believe the finer points I need to work on, form wise will to be as big a factor as hitting at this point. But hard to tell, oh well, just shoot, because I can, like Zazen sitting, just because I can.
 
Yeah, winter activtiy, is all about training. Music, Budo, Cha’n. 2018 is suppose ot be a good year for a Tiger living in the year of the Dog. Good I can use a break!

The beat…


The beat goes on…Dec 17′

 
It has been a while since I did a post. Fairly too busy and lazy to write. I think it is a good practice of some of sort to do the journal thing. It may matter to one of the kids one day, or even an internet traveller. One never knows what effect will, rarely knows what effect we have one someone’s life, by something we think is a small thing. 
  
I would say my life is pretty different from many coming up in the hood. Besides the being alive, and not in jail part. I guess my mother’s prayers worked on that section. Thanks Mum!
 
So yeah, here is this Black Zen Chinese Buddhist Priest, living in Japan, retired, low-income, aging senior dude. His ministry is Music. He plays Jazzy Blues in Clubs/bars and Zen Buddhist traditional shakuhachi songs as a Japanese Komuso Priest on the streets of Japan. Did I mention this guy also teaches Chinese kung fu. Yeah, I know it sounds sort of far fetched but hey, I like Sci fi and fantasy stories. So that what this blog is about this character, named Fa Chuan Shakya. 🙂

For the cause of understanding, I, me the writer will put myself in his place, so I can get a real feel of this story. There is a Cha’n enlightenment thought to this if one thinks about it. 
 

Ok yeah, so moving on. I have been busy musically of late. The Snafkin master passed away. I went to “wake” after the cremation. There was a fairly big turn out. Many did songs, including me. I did a couple. I played a Buddhist Shakuhachi song, it had to do with prayers, an offering for passing/passed spirits into another realm. It is more complex than that but that is a simple break down. It was my first non-shakuhachi related playing of this song. I had done a recital a couple of weeks earlier and played this song then. I was somewhat nervous about doing this song, but I pulled it off with no mistakes and it seemed everyone enjoyed it. So that was a success.

I next did a song on the piano. A New one I was just working on. I am getting more comfortable playing the piano now after many years of being shy about it. I have had enough practice and figured out I only need to play well enough to back-up myself singing. The cool part was my favorite Sax player sat in with me. I am not a big Sax fan , but I really like her tone. To bad it was not recorded. A few people were surprised I played the keys, including of couple of piano players I had jammed with in the past. I was surprised I did it with no errors for my first playing of this song.

Another spot, I was invited to do a spot by the percussionist I play with from time to time at a small concert he was putting on locally. It went fairly well. Not as planned. Life is like that. I had packed up my guitar and new ( to me) keyboard I had purchased to bring. However I was told there was a piano already there so no need to bring mine. The problem it turns out with that was it was not on stage. So after I did my guitar songs and moved to piano. I had no drum tracks, so I had to wing it with the beat. Not as effective as I had planned. Even though I have done it beat-less before. Also something sounded off to me. unknown if the piano was not just in tune or I was playing in the wrong register. Anyway I cut my play time on the keys to just one song instead of two. Which was ok, because the show was long already. I had a total of three songs instead of four. No big deal. I got good feed back for my key work from another pianist. That is my new musical challenge to up my Blues keyboard skills. That has been a desire of mine for a while, now I am making it real.

The doctor asked me to do a small session with him at his favorite club “live house” they call them here in Japan. I agreed , but under conditions. I was not going to sing all the songs, he needed to do that. Another was I wanted a song list before the show not on stage at he show. I gave him two days to do that. Even then morning of the show he wants to change things and do a couple of song I had never played before or sang. I refused! So we stayed with the original plan. It went well, in fact we sounded pretty good, I was surprised. The drummer filling in is steady and the keyboard player listens to me and the drummer. So the three of us are listening to each other to stay on track, the doc not so much. However it was ok. We did not embarrass ourselves (me).

I was asked by a club owner called the Red House, to play bass for a guy coming into town on tour. He is sort of famous being Japanese, but living and studied Harmonica in the states. It went well. We had a short rehearsal before the show, the day of the show. It made for a long day, but we rocked the house. It was fun and I got paid. The two guitar players were great and the drummer was steady. The Harmonica player is good , but I did not think he was all that. I do nt think I am all that, but I am truthfully better, even when playing bass at the same time. Anyway, it was fun and I got paid.

last week at the same club I entered a contest. I played a couple of songs on piano and one of guitar. It went over well. I got a lot of positive feedback afterward. I did not win, which is not a big deal. I did not expect to do so. The majority of the bands were hard rock, myself and one or two other people were the only ones not doing hard rock. I was also the first act, that is never good in a contest. Still it was a success to me. My purpose was to just get out and play live keys. The other bands were loud loud loud, after I played I went outside and stayed until it was over. When it was done I listen from outside. I heard clapping and not my name so I left after chatting with a few people there.

The next day I sent the club owner a note. Thanks for the spot I would settle the entry fee with him next time I saw him. Also said I was planning on doing more solo spots, did he had any suggestions for my act. He said he loves my vocals and I would have more impact with a band. I said yeah, band are more fun, but I am limited with my Japanese. I did most of the singing in the past for the Doc’s band. However he does not like to practice or care about being organized for a show, so I limiting my playing with him. A couple of days later I get a note from the owner asking if I wanted to do a session with him and a friend. Sounds like there maybe a new band in the making. I had mentioned before I was looking for a band that needed a singing bass player. He had said he was looking for one. Now it seem like it is going to life. If I couple get with a serious group that worked even once a month I would be pleased and feel fulfilled.

Another venue…It had been a while since I went to this club. It was where I first got the first Japan gig with the Doc’s band. We worked there for a couple of months, then did not get asked back due to lack of people coming out to see us. This club has a couple of Jam sessions a month. I had been not going. However as of late I decided to show up for one. I can see other players and also get my “rep” out more. The club owner was pleased to see me and I was recognized by a few. Even though arriving late I was given a play spot. At first just for playing bass, then the owner told the organizer to have me on the mic. It went over well.

My actual purpose for attending this jam was to meet the person doing the organizing. He was going to be the drummer for the band I was sitting in with for the touring Harp guy. He is pretty well know and I see him playing a lot in the Blues circle here in Osaka. I wanted to meet him before hand. This writing is not really in order of how things went down over the last month, but it is the general idea. This was before I did the bass only gig at the other club.

I went again to this club the other night for another session. It was my plan to play keys, but it did not work out. I was called up to play Harp on a couple of songs and sing. Later called up to play Bass. When it came my turn again to play this time of the keyboard that had been setup. I had to cancel in order to catch my train home. If I missed it I was screwed. The train stop at 12:00 am here. Which sucks! I found out when in Taiwan it is the same there.

So lastly, there is a Big Blues festival which is held yearly. The Doc’s band played the last couple of years. He asked me if I would play with them again this year. I said ok, however if it would not interfere with my playing on my own in the festival. I had asked the organization committee if I could perform with a band and also as a solo artist. I got the ok. This is a non-paid event, mostly just PR. I still have to submit a video audition, but I can can do that. I have been told in the past my vocal are my strong point. I am finally accepting that and making use of it. I like playing the piano and singing blues more than playing guitar and singing. I like the fuller sound of the keys, even though I am not that skilled with them …yet. With the drum machine and the combination of piano and harp it sounds reasonable enough to step up and out. Being one of the few Blacks here, and can sing and play gives me some marketability, I think. So I will see how things go from here. Possible new band, new solo act. Some progress.

On the Shakuhachi path. I spoke to my Sensei about my wish to be a full real Komuso, not just a dressed up player. HE in turn spoke with a friend of his. This person turns out to be on some board for the main temple in Kyoto that deals with Shakuhachi Komuso affairs. It has been arranged for me to meet this person and he will “sponsor” me for membership into the main headquarters temple. Only thing is I have to wait until spring. This priest lives in a fairly far off place and he says it will difficult to reach in the winter. In the spring there will be a large Komuso gathering in Osaka. I should attend and he will give me the details on joining officially and make the arrangements afterwards. I will be “In like Flint. “Yatta!

Next Up Kyudo world…

尺八 – The Myoanji Pilgramage


 
I had never been to the Zen temple Myoanji in Kyoto. It was on my list of places to visit as a shakuhachi player and a Zen follower. It is considered the main home of the Komuso these days, well at least in Osaka Kansai area. I was told by a Komuso that the kokokuji temple in Wakayama is not really a headquaters per say for the Komuso, even though there are some there and are of the same branch. I was told the kokokuji temple was originally the first place of using the Shakuhachi as part of their practice of Zen but not as Komuso.
 
 
There was to be a shakuhachi concert at the Myoanji temple. I thought it was some type of Komuso meeting concert in full dress but no. Anyway hearing about the event I made plans to attend. There were members of the Shakuhachi group I have recently started playing with going to be performing. So now I had several reasons to attend. To see the temple, to hear the concert, see a bunch of Kuomusos, support my group. 
 
Another early day start, I was up at 5:00. I dislike getting up at five, I dislike getting up at 4:00 even more, so i looked at it as at least it is not 4:00. As a musician I am geared to just going to bed at 3:00 or 4:00 after winding down. Clubs in the US close at 1 or 2. Not so in Japan. The trains stop running at 12:00 so unless you have a car or a place to stay you are screwed! But that is another story.
 
I was up and out early for the event. I got on the road early as there was some issue with the trains in my location. However that did not affect my travel, I was still late and missed the opening ceremonies, but not from missing the train. I made my way to the temple, as I was near I stopped at a local police station to get , confirm directions. They were very helpful and got me going correctly as I was. As I neared the temple I was still not quite sure which, where I it located. I was very close but was not sure, 100% sure. I asked a crossing guard , he was not sure either but pointed sort of the direction or told me to check with another guard on the other side of the street, I was not sure which. I walked to where he pointed which was a parking lot, also another guard. I heard shakuhachi music and followed the sound to the temple. Once there I found the music was coming from a speaker outside, but I went inside the courtyard and say the famous stone sign for blowing meditation so I knew I had arrived.
 
The place was much much smaller than I thought it would be, so this kind of threw me off, but I went inside and say I had made it. I was offered a flyer, i said no, I had one and entered. It was even smaller than I thought. More or less one room, mostly with people waiting to play with only a very few people sitting on the floor to listen. I stood next to the doorway for a while, then went back to ask if this was the place to sit. Yes, I was told so I grabbed a cushion and a floor spot. I had missed the opening but not by much. One of my group members was playing and he was one of the first 3 players. 
 
I checked out the room and listened. After a bit I spotted Oota-san from my group. He had made and given me the 2.5 shakuhachi I had. A short while later I spotted a couple of others from my group and they saw me. 
 
I sat and listened. A couple of the players in my mind where not that pleasing to my ear. However I wrote it off to their style not their skill. One player seemed to have more breath sound that notes coming from his flute. Not pleasing to me. None of the players had the komuso dress, many in Kimonos and kesas. A few wore suits with kesas and few wore samues. I took all this in and sat and listened. There were about four gaijin also playing and I heard them speak to their Sensei in English. So I was not the only gaijin in attendance, but for sure as common the only one of color. No one seem to care as usual.
 
I was able to take some pictures no one seems to care and others did so as well. However I was discreet about it and had my smartphone set to quiet mode for pictures. I had serious camera the Nikon with me, but did not use it until near the end and a small bit outside.
 
It was not a life changing experience, by sound or vision, but it was interesting. The temple itself was basically the size of a small house. About the size of my Sensei’s house as he told me at my next class. Anyway it was a good day to be out.
 
I went out for a Lunch break to a local Indian shop I passed on the way. I wanted something small but tasty. I order tomato soup and samosas. The samosa were small, the soup was so so. I asked of they had some traditional sauce instead of catsup for the samosa. No they said. disappointing. I am finding it is hard to find that in Japan. Only one place I have been to had the real deal. That place is near my home but not easy to get there and a lot of walking. I have only been once. Anyway. I finished my lunch as was leaving, the guys asked me if I was from India! Ehh? I said no California and went back to the temple.
 
There were about 50 or more players throughout the day, so it was still going on when I got back. Another member of my group was player #48, the last of people I knew. I sat I waited, I listened, I nodded off as did others. One guy was even snoring. I was able to move off the floor on to one of the seats vacated by people who left. That was nice beside my legs being tired it was also a spot in the sun, it was chilly in the temple so that was nice in the sun. Finally it was a wrap for me and I slipped out to head home.
 
The ride home was uneventful, other than at one location a large group of very young school kids with the handlers got on the very crowded car. One poor thing was so tired she was falling asleep standing, the handlers kept trying to hold her up. It was cute, poor thing. I find out later the reason the line was so crowded was there was a bomb scare earlier and all the trians were stopped for most of the day. Missed out on that part by being at the temple. Lucky me coming and going!
 
My Shakuhachi class was the next day. I showed my Sensei the printed program for the concert. He knew most of the people and gave me some info on the temple and groups.
 
I had also asked him earlier about how to become a real Komuso and what could be done? His student had said joining Kokokuji was costly. Sensei said he would check into it. He had some info for me by that time. Another friend of his was a komuso director at Myoanji. It was not that complex a task for there. He could make the needed introductions to this person and arrangemnts could be done. I was also told by my group member it could be arranged. He translated some information that had been checked on by other members. So now armed with a clear info and a path from two directions I should be official by the spring as I had hoped. Yatta!
 

Impermanece

 
About two years ago, maybe more , I was asked to play at a cafe called Snafkin by my Kyudo sempai. He was going to do a Shakuahchi concert there and wanted me to play bass with him and another Sempai. It was fun. I went by the club on my own before and met the owner. Very very nice people. The wife spoke English, the husband, the master ( Japanese term for the club owner ) only spoke a little. Both also played music, he guitar, sax, a little this and that. She played piano, both also sang. It was a comfortable place. 
 
From time to time I would go by on my own for lunch or something. I became somewhat of a regular. I met a lot of nice people through there. Also some people outside of there who knew about the place. Whenever I went by I was asked to play and or sit in for a session. It was nice. 
 
The cafe was right next to the bay, you could sit and eat and watch the bay. There were a lot of instruments there you could play while visiting. I got to know some nice people and good musicians there and through there. My picture was placed on the wall. The owner’s wife knew I was not a meat eater, so would fix me something special when I came by to eat. Soon I could just ask for the Fuu special. She and I at times did a song together, like Summer time. She would sing in Japanese and play piano, I would sing in English.
 
I was in a couple of concerts they put on, which also helped me meet people. At the last concert I did for them I was shocked to see the master in a wheel chair. He had had some type of head operation earlier that year or there about, but had recovered. So it was shocking to see him in a wheel chair. I got more details at that time, but still thought it was only temporary. 
 
I do not have enough words to express the feeling of comfort the cafe gave to people who went there. I could go eat and practice on something, sometimes the master would help me with a Japanese song I wanted to know. The last outdoor concert he sat in with my group playing guitar even though in a wheel chair. Over the last couple years the shows I did without the Matsuo Blues band were mostly all from the contact I made with the percussionist I met at one of the cafe’s concerts. It really gave me the confidence to be out there on my own again and do something besides just play bass.
 
A friend from working at Aoki Boat school, also a musician and a regular at the Snafkin club sent me a Facebook message which was posted by the master on Facebook. I had seen it when posted, but did not pay much attention to it as it was in Japanese. She sent it to me directly, so I had it translated thinking it must be important. It was saying the cafe was now closed do to the illness of the master. He condition was non-reversible ! I was shocked. It also said please come by if able.
 
I responded to her and said I would visit. As did many just today (that day). My friend was there early and left and I did not get to see her. I was the last to show up. The wife said that was good as it was so busy earlier and crowded, my timing was good as I could spend some time with the master.
 
He was in good spirits and pleased to see me. As other had said his face was peaceful and he looked good even though he could not get out of bed and only had the use on one arm left operational. He was in the cafe , facing the picture glass window looking out over the sea. We spoke for a bit in Japanese and through his wife in English. She was smiling and being strong but fighting back tears as we talked, as I am while I write this. It was sad yet we all had to show a strong face as did the master.
 
I told the master how thankful I was to have made contacts through him and the club of the people who came there. This was a common statement by all that came I was told as well as what I read on-line. It is a blessing to know you made and difference in people’s lives and to be told that while living. She said they had planned to keep the cafe for 10 years, they made it for 5.5 yrs. There are other cafe’s around but this was unique.
 
So weird to say goodbye to people, you know are soon leaving this world, and yet a treasure, a blessing for both self and them at the same time. Arigatou Master. Amitoufo . _/|\_