The local news…July


Wow, time flys! I just noticed it has been a while since I posted. The blog quandary, if you do nothing there is nothing to blog about. If you do stuff, you are too busy to blog. The last post I see was the monthly Shakuhachi meeting, and now that has just past for this month.

 
So I will need to backtrack and do a multi-section update.
 
Starting from the last post. This month’s meeting of the Shakuhachi Society was interesting. There was another new person and one less than last time. Our group is growing. The new person this time was another new player. My new friend the priest returned again. He will be a regular I am guessing. I have been invited to return to his place next month for another dinner after the Zen Cafe. I am thinking, I will need to miss this next month as it will be held on a Friday. Bummer. Oh well another month, if God wills and the creek don’t rise.
We went through our range of songs a usual at the meeting, then had drinks and snacks. It was fun. I had thought briefly about not going. The only English speaker was not going to be there this month, so I would have no help. Then I thought that is ok, I can deal. I am glad I went. It was all good. I got by easy and I was given a new Shakuhachi by Omoto-San the flute maker. It is different from my others. It has a large bore. It is also cracked. Which is why I was given it, free! It has been repaired and still plays well. Once at home I went through several moods with it. At first, I liked it, then not so much, then liked it a lot.! I have a spot of it in my Shakuhachi arsenal.
 

On other Shakuhachi music and such. I was asked to play at the club one of my bands has as a home base location. I was asked to play in a Bon Odori event. Sort of Japanese summer festival.

I was asked to play bass with the band on three Japanese folk songs. Also to play something on Shakuhachi as a solo. Ohhhhh. I was surprised by that but agreed. Learning the Japanese songs was tricky, but I was able to pull it off. One song I only had a couple of days to figure it out. I was lucky my wife was able to find the song music chart.
The Shakuhachi solo part was interesting. I had to speak to the people as an intro. That is always scary for me. The groups always have a chatty section, my Japanese is not that good. So I always shy away from that but get in a few words an have some type of connection with the viewers. I played two songs. One song I explained was an old Komuso song, I would play it two ways, once again n a traditional style, the second time with a hip hop beat from my “looper”. The second song was a classic American song, Summertime. I played all the backup instruments on the loop beforehand so I was set. Both songs went well.
 
On other band news, things with the Seiki band have been quiet. However, there was an event with the Kuseders band at the pub Chicago Rock. That went over ok. We had fun. I did not think we sound that good. We really need to practice more. Still afterward, listening to the recording I did, parts were good. We had a sax player sit info a few sets. I am not a big Sax fan, but it did give a nice another dimension to our sound. It would have been better if the Sax player had also done a rehearsal with us.
 

I have been told the sax player with be joining as a member another band the keyboard player is forming for a show in Late Aug. I do not know if it will be a one-time affair or what. This is the idea of the Club owner to form this band for a show there at the club. The keyboard player and I will carry all the lead vocals for this project. It will be nice to have a bit of different sound.

In other news, I have been going to the ceramic club for two months now. It is ok. I am pretty disappointed in the speed, of the firing sessions. I have completed three forms that have been ready to fire (bake) for the last month. I can not continue with the next step, the glazing until they get the first firing. Now we are on break until Sept!! Crap! I want to get at least these three (four, soon) done so I can see if there is any interest in them. I have figured out to market the items under the Osaka Lohan Chan Charities, as a way to help bring in donations and support for the organization. Seems fitting, a charities setup via donations from Shakuhachi, also support by another Art form dealing with shakuhachi. I will not go into what that involves because I do not want my idea taken as yet. So no pictures of the Projects.

I will a fair supply soon, enough to test the interest. Time to give some thought to what other things I want to do. in clay. Perhaps it is better not to have a wheel so everything will not be based on having to “throw” something. More interesting things can be built by hand. I do wish I could mix my own glaze like we did in school. Also being able to do Raku was nice. Anyway it is all new here and yet old having done the foundation in college.

I did pickup something the other day from watching one of the members. I got the idea to make my own slab form press. I did a quick one as a test the other day it worked well. I just need to get the right size sides. The test was thicker than I wanted but still usable.

 
I am back to labor work for the city for the summer. Two days a week. It is helpful for the house budget and me getting up and out early. I have been lucky so far and the temp has been reasonable…so far!
 
Kyudo, no change, just practice…daily! Even just three arrows, same as with the Shakuhachi, even if it is just 5 minutes of one or two notes. Like Meditation even if just 10 min, daily discipline is the key to improvement.
 
Amituofo
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The Bamboo path


The Bamboo path

The Classical Shakuhachi Society
The Shakuhachi journey has various roadside stops. It is interesting along with the people one meets. We had our monthly Classical Shakuhachi Soceity meeting last week. This time we had a full house. I had invited a new aquitence I meet, via my Komuso Sempai. He is a priest, of a Jodo Buddhist temple, as is another our of group. Another member had bring along someone who had contacted him and there was a new player/student of another member there as well. He was new to playing Shakuhachi. In total there were nine. Three more than usual. It was a nice size.
We did a round of introductions, I got very little of the info, of course. However it did not matter I got the gist of it! Afterward we played together a few songs and individual songs. Afterwards we had the refreshments. Misc foods, wine, sake, words and laughter. I am not suppose to be drinking, but I still had some. Just did not over do it. Once in a while is ok! It was a good session, we all had fun. One nice thing about this group we are all about the same age.

Zen Rhythm Cafe
The following Sat, my new friend the priest’s temple held their monthly Cafe session. I went this time. It was my second visit. This time I had prepared some songs. The cafe is held inside of his temple on the second floor of a wonder building. There are a few tables set up for buying gifts, coffee, a small meal, foot and or back massage, and fortune telling. Also there is floor space for music acts.
I arrived later than I planned, but still in time to do several songs. I played Shakuhachi with myself as backup. I had made a recording of myself on Sansen, piano, bass, an guitar. I wanted to test how it would go, as part of my plan for solo performances. As I arrive late there were not late many people there, but it was well received.
I hungout afterwards and spoke with a few people. I spoke with the fortune teller as she was starting a group session. I learned she was doing the Japanese version of Tarot Cards. She said she is the only one in Kansai who does them. She also said it is a Shinto tradition, I did not know that. I passed on joining and just watched.
Another guy comes to me, he is a friend of the priest. This person speaks English. He is like a Japanese Caropractor. He studied in the states. He was invited by the priest to act as a translator so we could speak easily. The guy was interesting. We spoke of natural healing and energy flow as well as sound vibrations.
After all was done, and the “cafe” was over, we went downstairs to the kitchen. There the priest’s wife made a “Hotpot” ( Nabekura) meal for the priest, his friend, the new student from the Shakuhachi group who had also come and myself. We ate a lot and drank. There was a lot of wine and some sake, but I did not feel over loaded. We chatted and drank. After eating we went to the garden area and sat on the porch and listen and watched the rain fall on the garden. We spoke spoke of gardening and life. The priest’s wife brought us dessert and tea, the men sat and talked. It was very Japanese.
A nice way of spending a Sat night…Amituofo

Playing in the mud


Playing in the mud 

 

When I first started thinking about moving to Japan, there were a few things on my to-do list. Study Zen, Kyudo get my Yondan, Sail the inland sea, play music and study Shakuhachi. There were some other things that included the boat, but those were more business related, like teaching Martial Art classes. It could still happen and it did for a while, but it dried up. I have pretty much been blessed to have done most of those things. Even on a small scale.

I have gotten to sail the Sea of Seto, not as much as I hoped for, but I did do some. My Zen studies continue although not Japanese Zen so much. But I did have some exposure to it. The Kyudo is an on-going struggle. I am with several bands on and off as well as having and developing a solo music career. Shakuhachi is included in that along with finding a teacher and becoming a Komuso. Something I had not thought of but find rewarding, Spiritually.

Finally, I have joined a ceramic workshop. Not a class perse, but a workshop, where I can practice and develop my skill and projects. It is in the next town and I can ride my bike to the location. which is very nice. I started a couple weeks ago. I have some Art project I am planning and I have free rein on what I want to do. So that is very cool. There is no wheel in the class, and tools are limited, but that is ok. The project I have in mind are all hand built items anyway. It is good I had some background in that. As I look back on my former study I learned and was exposed to quite a bit in my college classes. I had a small introduction to ceramic as part of my Graphic Designer major. I enjoyed it to continue with additional classes outside of my required credit.

So another item checked off on my Japan bucket list.

弓道 – Two steps back, a step forward

 
I went to Kyudo today. I got to see a couple of classmates and a sensei I am fond of. It was nice to feel missed and welcomed. I did not expect to really get a lesson, just to practice and try to figure out why my shooting was so bad the other day. I thought the Kacho would be there to check me a bit. However, he was not. My Main sensei was there yesterday, but I did not go due to the rain.

Today was pretty quiet. Right off my string broke, yuk. Anyway, I got set up and started to practice. My classmate gave me a couple of pointers she noticed. It helped a bit. During one of the transsions, I asked the Sensei who was there, who is also my friend and fellow musician about my release. Wow, that really turned into a major makeover of my draw and release. Jheeze I was not expecting that. I apparently had the wrong image of what I was supposed to be doing, and position at full draw. Pretty sure due to my poor Japanese understanding. Well, I can only do the best I can do. Sigh…My fear is that I work on it over the next few days and return to have another sensei say it is wrong. Perhaps not wrong, but not right. Oh well, step by step, inch by inch I move.
I was able to make the last two shots in a row after the adjustments. It also felt much better, more relaxed. Something that the Kaicho has been telling me for quite a while I am not relaxed.

 

Well, all I can do is practice the best I can and see where this takes me on this Kyudo Koan. I continued to practice after the time I had set aside, and most everyone left. I put in a three-hour practice instead of the two. I was able to make my last to hits back to back along with another back to back pair earlier. I finished with a 35% hit rate for the day. Which is back to my normal average for a shooting session. Well, an improvement over the other sad and sucky day. It was said to me by my Kung Fu uncle in the past, sometimes when you lose you win. So without this setback, perhaps I would have continued on the wrong path and just have been lucky, not skilled. I will count this as a win!

The adventure continues…Amituofo

Chonzenji revisited thoughts

 

It is interesting the impact Chozenji has had on my thoughts, ideas. Re-evaluating ideas, goals, training. Before going I was hoping for a deep impact. Afterward, I was unsure I had any and if so it was small, little by little it surfaced. In my meditation, in my Budo training, Shakuhachi. yeah, it was a deep experience. However subtle. Afterward, due to my expectations a little bitter.

Now after some time has passed I have a more positive outlook. It is still doubtful if I would plan to return. I say doubtful because sometimes, many times, in fact, the Universe has different plans from mine. Man plans, Heaven ordains, something like that is the saying.

I had pretty much though let the thoughts pass. Even after my dearest friend’s comment on my post and her agreement “manners” should have been better from them. Anyway, suddenly a letter shows up in my email box. A reply to the letter I sent after my return. I was surprised.

An apology for the delay in reply. Also an apology for the Roshi being out of town. “No one here is on “payroll” so sometimes things come up which need to be attended to, sometimes travel is needed.” “And in general, we are geared more towards local students who are training long term or folks living in for an extended time.” Yes, as I surmised afterward. Lastly thanks for the referral to others seeking zen practice. Which I had done in a couple of places, as I thought overall it was a worth while place of study, depending on one’s goals. Fair enough I felt much more compassionate after reading and time has passed. I appreciated the writing intent.

Lastly, the question I had asked was about why the hand position. I reader and friend replied privately to me he was aware of that style of hand mantra from other Rinzai sects. The explanation I received from Chozenji: the hand position in zazen — it is a yang position that builds strength. Many other hand positions are more receiving, yielding and yin in their energetic effect.

Ok, now I know more. I understand it is more fitting with the overall philosophy of the temple, “Kiai first”. Building that Yang energy, Ki. It fits their sect.

So now I can close the chapter on the Chozenji Pilgrimage.

 

 

Focus shift : External to Internal

External to Internal

 

In the world of Kung Fu, there is a false calcification of Internal and External Kung Fu. Hard (external) and soft( internal) Kung Fu It’s really all Kung Fu, with the purpose to arrive at the same place, top of the same mountain you could say. The difference is one trains from the external development toward internal development. The other Is the opposite. Example, Tai Chi is considered an internal art it works from inside power to outside power. Ki, breath, centering, then develop external power/strength. Shaolin is an External style working on outside power first, then to an inner power.

What this is about is Kyudo. I consider Kyudo and boarder line art. It is both external and internal at the same time. My opinion. Up until now, I have been focused on the external part. Fixing my form. In Zen there is the thought of form and formless, practice, action. etc. The form is chanting, sitting Zazen, reading sutras. Formless is acts of kindness and compassion, sharing.

In Kyudo I believe the stances, the grip of the bow, the draw, elbows, all forms. Formless would be the breath, the Ki, the mind, the spirit. After much time and frustrations in advancing. I have decided to change my approach. After reading the Book from the Chozenji master, where he states Kiai first, I figure I need to change my training direction. Even if it is is wrong, it can not hurt. I have decided once again to put off the next Shinsa. I am not ready.

I am now putting my focus into my internal workings, the use the building of chi, internal balance on not just shooting, but on all things.

More focus Chi and the waist when doing my Chuan Fa, more focus on Chi, Tan Tien, Hara when playing Shakuhachi. More focus on centering when doing Kyudo. Compacting the breath in the Hara, expanding from there and not the muscles. Sinking more.

I have been at this for the last month since returning from Hawaii. My wife says she thinks I will pass the next exam, my “Ki” has changed, I have leveled up. I do not know about that, but even a small step forward is a step forward.
It is easy in Kyudo, well Federation Kyudo to get caught up in the goal, seeing the rank as the purpose for shooting better. Not just to shoot better, just to shoot better. It is challenging to keep one practice pure. That is one of the nicer things about Kyudo study outside of the Federation. That rank distraction is removed. Practice is simple, you practice to practice, you practice to better your self. Sort of like Soto Zen, when you sit you just sit. In Rinzai there are Koans, breath focus, in some sects, Chi building and movement and just sitting, but the posture needs/should be “right”.

So yeah the struggle with Kyudo continues. It is sort of my Koan, passing to Yondan. I dislike koans! The result of my pilgrimage to Hawaii was I wanted to understand the connecting link between Kyudo, Shakuhachi, Kung Fu better, now it is a matter of applying it, better. That was my lesson from the trip. Everything is connected via the breath, Kiai, the spirit. Really a reenforcement, not a new revelation. As I retrace my shooting past, I shot better when I was focused more on the Formless of shooting instead of the Technique of hitting. Even now, when I just go up to the line and shoot, no care if it hits…I hit. When I care and I get lost on the parts, the mechanics of shooting, I miss. My thought I need to stabilize my Chi more, sink and balance. It is said if one is missing, then it is an internal issue. I am finding inspiration from re-reading some old books. The One Arrow, One life book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and the Ten Shin Myo book.

Overall I am rebuilding my lost budo “spirit”, restoring some forgotten Kung Fu, in front of the Makiwara daily, more walking meditation. Even making shakuhachi practice part of that oneness training. There is no separation, no duality, even though one is not one or two. The whole is not one thing, it is many things, but it is one thing. I have understood this mentally but I believe I need to put this more into actual physical practice when practicing.

ok so I am giving this a shot (hahah), let’s see where it goes…Amituofo

 

Terra Zen


Terra Zen

 
This is a new term I have coined. There I standing Zen, motion Zen, SuiZen. I am now referring to gardening as earth meditation. Maybe it should be Terra Fauna Zen. Hmmm. Doubt if it matters.

It is that time of the year for planting here at Osaka Lohan Buddhist Hermitage.

I am actually almost done. Having tested things for the last several years I know what I can grow and plant according. Kale, Tomatoes, basil, Shiso, peppers, lettuce, are the main crops. With a few herbs here and there. I am also keeping it down to 1 plant per pot this year mostly. The multi in one pot did not seem to work well. Therefore growing several plants of the same in different containers is my next step. Hopefully, that will increase my harvest. Another thing I am doing different this year is by using chicken manure instead of fish emulsion. In just a couple of weeks, a couple of the plants have really taken off.

 

There is a simple pleasure and peace about growing one’s own foods, even if just a small amount. Care for the plants, nurturing them. It’s all very Zen. Of course, everything is Chan. It is everyday life. Even though I am working on a tiny balcony garden, I feel like I am in my mountain field. Just outside the temple grounds doing my Zen work practice for the day. I can for certain can feel a connection to the earth and nature when doing gardening. We are all part of the same source-ness. It is that same type of feeling form doing ceramic working with clay. I understand how the Late Roshi at Chozenji would include that as part of their curriculum. If I had such a Place I would have. Chan ding ( Zazen), Ceramics, Gardening, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Shakuhachi, Tea. It was a dream at one time to have such a retreat on an island in Japan.

 

I never dreamed when I was a child on my grandparent’s farm helping in the garden behind the house, I would be in Japan growing in my little home garden. Life is interesting, things we carry from Childhood into another time. I was just getting started at that time in life and now I am putting the wraps on it. Interesting.

A Garden is one thing I found to be missing from Chozenji grounds. Unlike Sonoma Mountian Zen center which has their own garden and most of the vegetable dishes are prepared from that.

Anywho…the Hermitage garden is off to a good start. Soon the bug wars will start…not fun.

 

Ten Shin Myo

Ten Shin Myo
The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind

Since I have returned from my pilgrimage to ChoZenji I have been piecing together the value, the lessons of the Hawaiian Shugyo. More thought to my Practice, the parts and whole. In recalling some of the words of those I was in contact with during the visit come from the late master Tanouye Tenshin.

After reading his book Ten Shin Myo, I have come to understand more of his path, his philosophy.  I think purchasing the book was the next best thing to getting the classes I wanted. Perhaps in someways better.  I first saw this book and thought it looked interesting, but was not going really buy it, based on what I just glanced at. I am glad I asked the “Resident Priest”, the young one who I thought was … well never mind. He told me the book was a new release and was the life story of the Roshi and how ChoZenji came to be now. Ok, I thought it could be a good read. I was not really expecting alot from it, but, I was wrong…

After I read the book a lot more made sense about the Center. and words the instructors used. One of the things, were Posture, Breath, Focus. These things were part of the core of the Roshi teachings. Also after reading the Ten Shin Myo book I re-read the book by his student, Kenneth Kusher who runs the Wisconsen Chozen archery program. The book called “One Arrow, One Life”. It was the book that got me interested in Chozen. It had been so long, I had forgotten. In re-reading the book, I recalled the desire to study there. It was kind of sad to understand having been there, that part of the study there is gone. Although if one is looking for this Zen/Budo/fine Art training via Kendo or another Art other than Kyudo, I say go for it!
The is no real place other than the Wisconsen for this type of Zen training in Kyudo. At least on a live in bases. There are good programs and teachers around. Such as Sensei Rick Beal out of Ca. Who holds workshops and seminars around the globe. He is a Zen Priest, a Martial Artist, and a Kyudo Sensei. If he was a musician it would be perfect, but no! 🙂

A far as Hawaii Chozen, and the book “One Arrow One Life”. A lot of things said in the arrow book made much more sense now. Not only because of having been there, read the master’s thoughts, but my own Cha’n and Kyudo growth.

I had gone to Chozen with the hope of improving my Kyudo. Then with the off chance hope of making some connection with Kyudo, Shakuhachi and Zen. Other than my own mental theories which I could not quite put into words.
Unexpectedly I was able to find that link in training. The thread of spirit that runs through them. It is partly in the statement of Posture, Breath and Focus, a good training focus for everything, but it goes deeper than that. As the Roshi said “Kiai first”, with that in the front, Zazen, Kyudo, Tai Chi, Shakuhachi, Sword, Ceramics, Tea are all linked tightly. All are expressions of one’s CHI. How you tap into that is via, Posture, Breath, Focus.
In Kyudo when I focus on drawing, opening the Bow only… my muscles are used. I can feel my power balance high. When I focus on Tan Tien and expanding that, my muscles are more relaxed power is lower, expanding is a full body experience not just a muscular,  balance is more stable. It is said in the Kyudo handbook that proper breath within the moves of Kyudo brings life to all the movements and shooting.

With Shakuhachi, breath is stronger, but more controlled, note has life, is stable.

In Kung Fu/Tai Chi, Movements have more power, spirit when used with the breath, center is lower, stances are more stable.

The Arrow, the Music Note, the punch, the kick, the clay bowl, the grouping of flowers, the brush stroke, the pouring of Tea, all are outward expressions of our Chi. The stronger our Chi, the better our control of it, the better, clearer, more accurate, sublime, colorful is it’s expression. The core of understanding, tapping into, controlling that is meditation.

Another unexpected meal of knowledge from the books came in the form of the Roshi’s speaking on Sound, vibrations, and connecting with people. He spoke of touching their spirit with sound, with the vibration of the sound. He was also a musician, so his understanding of it was in depth. His referrals to sound were in his thoughts on chanting. He felt not enough focus was given to chanting to older people, beyond the age of starting a hardcore physical Shugyo. or even as a “DO/Tao” !

Although aimed at chanting as a “Tao/Do”, Shado, Kendo, etc. All he was saying to my mind also related to Shakuhachi playing or SuiZen. The sound as was something I had thought of about when doing Komuso practice, a wordless transmission of dharma. However I had not thought of it in terms of vibrations as a label. I had thought of tone effecting Chakras, and healing, but of course that would be in the realm of vibrations. Some tones vibrate the head more than others. Bass is a low vibrations, earthy, one feels it in your body. This is how one touches people with sound, matching their vibrations. We are walking electric patterns and vibrations.

When doing Komuso Takuhatshu something ( the vibe, sound, note) “touches” people, something harmonized with their spirit, personal vibe enough, they feel moved to donate. Even if not the sound pleasure, vibe, was their gift for that moment. Maybe some vibration was given to them that was helpful, up-lifting in some way. Some songs can do that even without having words. It is the cords, the tones, the vibes of that/those tones. That is the Modern Komuso Takuhatsu, we give, without asking for anything. It is the Buddhist giving to humanity, being engaged, through sound. Abiding in the Law of Cause and Effect, engaging the Six Paramitas. The Komuso Takuhatsu is also our Shugyo.

According to Tanouye Tenshin enlightenment is not limited to a mental experience. It can be via physical as well. Once one goes into the “field” or Mindset of Samadhi via whatever the means, meditation Sitting, motion, picking weeds, doing Kung Fu, washing the dishes, the break through comes because you are in a receiving state of mind.

So in a final wrap ChoZenji was a worthwhile pilgrimage. I did receive some enlightening insight from it all. However not the Sensei for Kyudo I hoped to find in the flesh.

Another good note from Kyudo acquired from the trip is I did receive some helpful advise from a Senior. What he told me about the thumb pressure I would not have been able to understand in Japanese. It may not be a big game changer for getting to Yondan, however little things add up. So I ended up with something for the outside and inside to work on to improve my Kyudo.

For the Kung Fu efforts in Hawaii. I was able to get a vid of a Sihing doing a form I wanted to relearn. It was done slow enough that I could follow and review. Some parts are a little different from my Shifu. but it is ok. Reactivating this set, will help fill out my personal training “Tao”.

I do feel more reactivated myself for training since the trip. So it was good to get me re-energized with training.

So although not as I had planned, the Pilgrimage was successful. It just took me until now to figure out just how it effected me. While I do not recommend Chozenji for everyone. To all those doing any form of Budo, Art and Zen, I do recommend their book:

Ten Shin Myo
The Mysterious Wonder of the Universal Mind.
The Way of Zen Master Tanouye Tenshin

 

“Zen is to transcend life and death (all dualism), to truly realize that the entire universe is the “True Human Body”, through the discipline of ‘mind and body in oneness’. Miyamoto Niten (Musashi) called it iwo no mi (body of a huge boulder-going through life rolling and turning like a huge boulder), Yagyu Sekishusai named it Marobashi no michi* (a bridge round like a ball- being in accord with the myriad changes of life). Besides this actual realization, there is nothing else.”

Zen without the accompanying physical experience is nothing but empty discussion. Martial ways without truly realizing the “Mind” is nothing but beastly behavior. We agree to undertake all of this as the essence of our training.”*

…Omori Sogen Roshi

Gathering @ Tofukuji

 

What is Tofukuji you ask? click the link. It is the main Zen temple where Myoanji is located as a sub-temple. There was just held a Komuso gathering. It was sort of low key as there were no Tengai. It was a nice event to attend for my first playing attendance to Myoanji.

Good weather, not crowded, nice after mini party with other olds school Komusos.

Since it is Komuso I am just giving it honorary mention here as a place marker and doing the full writeup on the Komuso blog for those interested.

The next day a visit to the second hand Kyudo shop was in order. Since I was in Kyoto and not too far away. I headed over to the shop. We took the Japan version of Urber. Only I went to the Kyudo shop.
The shop was open I only had one interest. I replacement Makiwara ya. I had broken mine at home and wanted another Bamboo. I found it and was surprised I had a even had a choice this time in my size. I made my score and called it a successful journey ended.

…Amituofo

…and Now for Something Completely Different

 

 

Shakuhachi Blues in the Temple Cafe

Now getting back to Japan life. There is a lot going on, it has already started a few days ago. Several band performances, Just finished one at the Sakai city Blues festival. Maybe a post about that…maybe. Up coming a performance at My SuiZen temple, Myoanji and just finished a small prayer, and visit and performance at the temple of a new friend.

Via my Komuso Sempai in Nara I made the acquaintance of another Priest Shakuhachi Player. He has a temple that is not too far from here. Just below Kobe. I go out that area from time to time, because of the Band, or Boating. Shibata Sensei’s temple runs what they call a café, once a month. Hot drinks, snacks, misc items for sale, neck massages, card telling, musical entertainment. It runs all day. From 11- 5:00. Very casual and low key.

This Priest is looking to bring more of the Shakuhachi into his Buddhist practice. He already plays at some of the temple services. He is not Zen he is of the Jodu sect. He holds formal weekly services.

I contacted him via FaceBook and made arrangements to attend the next Café, so we can do a face to Face meeting and chat. He spoke no English and my Japanese is basic and poor. However, I have nothing to lose by going and giving it my best shot to communicate. What could go wrong…

The day arrives I get directions with the help of my wife and I set off on a mini Shakuhachi adventure. I found the location rather easy and entered the Temple Yard. I was taken with the large Buddha statue. That was my first stop, bow then on to the temple. I heard voices when I enter, but I saw no one. I looked about a bit and saw through some glass and reeds people leaving a small garden. They were just on the other side of what could be a small tea room or sitting room.

I made my way to the door they were heading toward. There I met Sensei. We did the intro formalities and I was taken up stairs. There was more people than I expected there. A few sitting around a large fire pit, roasting coffee, then in another connecting room which was a large space, there were several small booth tables, food, etc out from there chairs. Next an open space which was the “stage area”, off from that a table with chairs. It was quite the place. The Sensei introduced me, then we went into another section. This was the temple “Heart”, where the ceremonies are done. We talked there for a while. I might have been asked to join now or the next ceremony, would I play?? or something. Anyway, a pray/chant, something started, a few people came. We took places at the “fish” drum/beater. Sensei explained some things, I did not understand also about following his beat.

OK we started he started chanting, then started the beat on the drumette. We followed. those who knew the words or could read them chanted along. Me I made the sound and beat the drum. It felt cool. I did not feel out-of-place, for some reason. It felt very “Native”, very basic beating this drum and chanting.

Next Sensei asked me to play. Hmm ok. I did the Tamuke offering, Fuu style. I was not bound by any “rules” on what or how to play. I was able to use a headset, which was cool. I could hear clearly what I was playing as could those in the temple hall. I dig that I could hear and so I did not think I just played.

I did not clearly know what was going. I said, I would play another tune and did something contemporary. I thought this was all part of the ” TempleCafe“. Even though I was not asked. I thought something for the Buddha, something for the folks, since I was there. Turns out I did not have that over my head.

I finished the second song and then the guy managing “the club” came in and ask would I also play in the Cafè. I thought that is what I did. Now I had used up the one non-hyukyoku I had prepared. Oh well. ON-ward, breathe…

Ok I said. We then, all in the temple hall, moved to the other section were, others sat, drank, ate, listened to the ukulele player.

I met a few other people there , one of who spoke English. I grabbed a chair and watched the show, also chatting with Sensei some. Also with the show “MC” he spoke just a little English, but we communicated. He would like me to play a song after the next act. Did I want the Ukulele player to help me? I said sure let have him and I play together. I had been thinking that for a few moments after listening to him. I felt I should have something other than “Fuu’s Tamuke” to play or any Honkyoku. Also I had done Summertime already in the Temple. Having thought I was doing the performance. Yeah, so I was only planning to do one song this time. I figured quickly to jot down a few simple cords changes on a paper and give it to the guy. Basic I/V/IV.

I said yes, we can play together…ok.

I sat through the next act. This was the Ukulele player and a woman who played an old style flute that was like a “gourd”. She was/they were pretty good.
I was up next. I was not nervous, I felt pretty relaxed during the intro…and then show time. I counted off and we started. The guy played pretty good and I tried to blend into his pattern and the changes. It went ok. The people enjoyed it, I was not that please, as it was “all just then”, birth on the spot.

It is kind of a “Mindmelt” with playing with strangers and a new piece of music. Even if it is just two cords, behaps that is more of a challenge. One reaches out with your spirit to touch another(s) and create another form, eity. This song, this vibration, and share it, giving it to humanity. It is weird, interesting amazing when one thinks about it…

I was ok with the piece. I heard a small bit of the recording. It was i the beginning, unsteady… Like a child walking. It started to find it’s balance just as the film was cut.

The people enjoyed it, it was one time vibration they experienced. So it was successful. I was asked to play one more. ehhhh,

oh snap, what am I going to play now? I thought…

Ok I fell back on Summertime. Since no one there heard it before other than Sensei. Also I never play it the same way. A little longer version with a bit more “flavor”. So it was done. People were impressed I think. Surprised for sure. Good chi was raise, so…cool

I was just pleased they enjoyed it and I did not lose face. I figured I would be asked to play that is why I brought my shakuhachi. This whole meeting was about Shakuhachi. Ok I was done. I played in the Temple for the Buddha offering and I played in the Cafè for the people. It was very Buddhist in for the benefit of society way. It was engaged, but private, sort of like doing Komuso Missionary.

I hung out for a while longer afterwards and just watched. When leaving I came across Sensei in the temple Hall with some others. He was telling them about … something to do with the shrine there. He brought out a couple of long Shakuhachi for me to look at. They were quite nice. He played a song for the couple. Amazing Grace. Japanese seem to like that song. Hmm gives me an idea for the next visit.

I put the wraps on my visit and made my way out.
I will return…Amitoufo