Back to the tunes


Back to the tunes…

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

“Koten-shakuhachi-kenkyuu-kai”

Society for the Study of Classical Shakuhachi

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

…and so we are here.

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

…In the world of bows and arrows.

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

…In the world of Sounds and beats.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

next return to the temple

 

 

Sessions…

Session by the Sea

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

Session @ the Rock

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

Session Izumisano

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


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

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

 

 

尺八 – Blowing Zen the New Year


Blowing Zen the New Year…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Shakuhachi Pilgrimages: Cambodia- finale

Have Flute will travel: Cambodia

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia part 2


Have flute will travel: Cambodia part 2

 
This is the morning I am supposed to go to Angkor Wat. This is the main event. Angkor Wat, which is just a small part of a much larger complex I have learned. After several days here, now it was time for the main event. I had only a couple of things planned for being here in Cambodia, see the Angkor Wat temples, take pictures, do SuiZen and have a Cambodian pizza. Everything else was just on the fly as to how it rolled. I was for the most part alone tripping around. My wife has no interest in temples and the like. The only thing she wanted to do was, eat, rest, shop, eat, rest. I had to trip alone, quietly to my self…ahhhh
 
I started early got in the morning, Zaizen and TaiJi and was ready to go at 7:00 am. I chose not to the morning sunrise thing at the Angkor Wat grounds. I did not think it would be all that cool to me and then there was the crowds, the people…the noise…clouds
Nope passed.
A good move on my part.
 
I was ready to go, the only thing that I needed to pay heed to was my stomach. I developed the “runs” last night or so. Bummer! I was up a lot through the night. I felt reasonably ok now. Hopefully, there will be “restrooms” on hand nearby. This could turn into something unpleasant. For now, though I felt ok. So Onward!
 

My driver, the same guy, as before, took me to where to buy a Day Pass. They have gone up to $37.00 for a one day pass. Every place you go where there is something to see, on the grounds. You are asked to see your pass. I understand the tour is the livelihood.

Then we took off to the first spot on the tour, he had planned already for me. He said he was not an official tour guide, but he knew the history and studied the details of what was what. He would not be one of those who just drops people off. So I could get the background from him in English. He gave me a good deal of info. Before each stop Interesting stuff, and then set me off on a route to walk and said where he would meet me. I took the trails he suggested. There were others out there as well, sometimes not too bad as far as crowds. Some tours had only one or two people in the group. I was actually glad to be alone and meander as I may. The guides were always talking.

 
My first stop I had to walk a fair distance to the ruins. The walk was through a forest on a wide dirt road, easy. Once there I dodged the people best I could. I grabbed a few pictures and felt the need in my gut, to not stay too long. It was interesting. Once I found my way out of the complex. Next stop toilet! Ahhhhhh.
 
This was pretty much the tale for the day. There was more walking than I expected. Thankfully it was not too hot. I could imagine how terrible it would be in the hot season, yuk. I trucked on, upstairs, downstairs, through stuff, under passages. Centering internally more when caught in crowds. I wished several times I had brought along my Nikon, but others times glad I did not have to carry all that. I did get a few good pictures with my limited stuff.
 
At a couple of the temples were monks doing blessings for a donation. I got one and a bracelet wrist-tie. Same orang color as the monk’s robe.
 
At a couple of temples, I passed on exploring too much as there were some serious steps to climb. I was not up to it with a long day ahead of me.
 
Another stop I was taken to is called the Victory Gate. It was the entrance for the King and his armies to re-enter the city after winning a battle. Another called the Ghost Gate was for when they lost. That was nearby. I was told a route to go I could walk along the wall to the ghost gate. I did that. I was surprised to see no one else, as I walk through the forest along a river. After a while. I notice someone comes from the opposite way towards me. I did not pay much attention at first then notice when he is right up on me, it was my driver coming to intercept me. I sort of resented that, as there went my quiet space. Oh well, it was just for a short time.
 
Another “Loo” stop then a lunch stop. I told him about my weird stomach and just wanted something light and also vegetarian. He took me to a place, where I found something I could eat. I had offered to buy him lunch, but he said he had his own. I Had a nice quiet lunch, no need for small talk! nice. The food was pretty good, a papaya salad to help my digression and a papaya shake and some rice. I did not eat the whole thing about half. I was feeling so-so ok and did not want to push it.
 
The last stop was Angkor Wat. Usually, people start their visit here when they want to see the sunrise. Some others end the tour here to see the sunset. I was in for the Sunset…maybe. It was only about 1:00 pm, I did not feel up to hanging out all day just to see an iffy sunset, with my poor cameras. I will see how I feel later I thought and set out to Angkor Wat. I had to cross a moat or river to get to the city. It was sort of a long walk just to the outer gates. Then another long walk to get to the temple. Again interesting and crowded. Up and down steps, dodge people, repeat. I did find a few quiet, semi-quiet spots for some photos. Then, more walking and climbing.
 
Some of the people were interesting. Trying to figure out where they were from was my little game. Mainland Chinese were easy to spot, as were Japanese, French, Americans.
Ok, so a lot of walking, a fair amount of pictures, the carving, and remaining statues were interesting. After a couple of hours, I had seen enough. I started back to the parking lot. It was starting to get fairly cloudy. I figured it would not be much of sunset and I would just head back to the hotel and chill out for the evening.
I did just that, we order room service as it was cheap and surprisingly good. My wife ordered first, I tasted it then ordered the same, it was that good. Yet simple. Cream of potato soup and a lightly grilled tuna salad. After that, I practiced flute and chilled before passing out.

The next day was our last. We had plans to check out at 2:00pm. Then just hang out. I made arrangements with the driver again to pick me up at that time. The plan was he would pick us up and take us around to some local stuff, local free stuff, then back to the hotel to hang out until time to take the Tuk-tuk to the airport, that night to head back to Japan.

There was some concern if we were going to have to spend another day in Cambodia as a Typhoon was approaching this area. It would have been a hassle to make the contacts in Japan to advise them of travel issues, but otherwise, both of us were ok with it. He had to wait to find out… Like you do, in order to read part 3…

Shakuhachi pilgrimages : Cambodia /pt 1

 

Have flute, will travel: Siem Reap pt-1

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

尺八 – The blessing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Return to Myoanji

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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