Sound steps

Sound steps in MusicWorld,

It has been a busy couple of weeks. I was in a concert last week at the community center in the next township. I did a solo well mostly solo, I wrote about this already right?
I was just invited to perform at another show in Dec at the marina where I work sometimes. I am not sure if I should try to put a small band together or just go solo with the percussionist. Hmmmm, I have some time to think…some time.
I finished my latest song with Shakuhachi. A tune called Tamoko. It was somewhat difficult, at least parts of it were. I am fairly comfortable playing it now. It is my favorite now. So I have two full Honkyoko songs now under my belt from my Sensei after 2.5 yrs of study. I also have the song from the other group, a Komuso tune. So that is really three Honkyoko songs. Honkyoku songs are traditional Shakuhachi songs. It is good timing on cutting back now to one class a month. I have the basics. I can develop details now as I go along and practice. Also with the other group, the 2.5 flutes I will still be learning so really it is still lessons twice a month when I am able to attend there is not pressure. 
I had my second Shakuhachi recital yesterday at the community center again in the next township. It was a fairly good turnout considering the limited interest in Shakuhachi music. There was koto and guitar accompaniment for some of the players. I only had me. I did ok, no mistakes so yeah, that was a cool thing, sensei was pleased. After the recital we the student and sensei went to dinner. Sensei and I did a quick stop at a music shop before dinner. That was interesting. The shop does repairs to shamisens. Nice to know, i have wanted to get a replacement shamisen for the one lost with the boat, but the cost has been the hurdle. I have seen ones that are broken, the skin, going for cheap. However I had no idea where to have the cover replaced, now I know. They use real animal skin to replace 😦 . Cat and something else. Cat cost the most. That made me sad , not the cost but the use of the Cat skin still. 
From there we went to dinner. I was somewhat concerned that I would not have much to eat, bummer for my 50.00 payment. However it worked out ok. I had indian curry for lunch because I did not know what to expect. However it was all good, I had some sashimi, salmon pot pie, veggie tempura, miso soup. There was to be as much as you can drink , drinks, but, my chuhai was weak, mostly sweet, got zero buzz. Sigh. Anyway. The whole thing with me going was to talk with my Shakuhachi Sempai. He is on staff at the Kokokuji temple, a priest and leader of some type for the Komuso. He gave me some background on the kokokuji temple and shakuhachi. He said a license is needed for Komuso, unless I am with an already licensed player. He also said , yearly dues are not bad , but the two Kimonos required are expensive. He said he did not recommend my joining, which was not difficult. However because of the kimono cost I would/maybe better off just going around with my friend. The komuso gear for the Kyoto temple and the wakayama temple are different. He said there is a call and answer tune Komuso play when they encounter another, this tells if they are real or not. So the small chat was interesting and helpful. I will see how things develop with the group I am with now in Osaka, if it falls a part or gets too weird I can join the Kokokuji group now that I have a connection.
I have been invited to do a couple of shows as a bass player for some visiting harp players from out-of-town. One show is next month, the other in January. This is the club I went to a few weeks ago with the Doctor. The one where he asks me to play with him in a talent show, then has me do the singing on songs he picked at the last moment. He did one and messed up! Yeah, so it was good I went anyway, I got this connection with the club owner from that trip. I had told the owner I was looking for a band, if he knew of any looking for my skills. He came through. Hopefully this will lead to other things. So far my group playing has been a disappointment. So I have three music projects on going. 1. blues Band, 2. Solo act, 3. Shakuhachi. The shakuhachi project is a mixed bag, Buddhist and traditional songs so far. I want to at some point bring the shakuhachi into the blues field, but I need a “modern” tuned Shakuhachi for that. I have not gotten that as yet. Finding one I can afford may take some time. Sensei did not like the one I purchased from NY. So my quest continues. I may not consult sensei on the next one, if my Sempai from the local Shakuhachi group can make one for me, reasonable.

Onomichi, Hiroshima


A while back, a couple of months, we took a trip to Hiroshima, via bullet train, regular train, shuttle, and ferry to reach a very nice hotel LZ had found. Great view ! Great Food ! Spoke Spanish, Tagalo, English and Japanese with some of the staff. This is the photo blog for that, it took me a while to get it together. Sorry to my three readers.
LZ has a new p/t hobby/job, doing reviews on hotels and resorts for a magazine so we will get to visit some different places, for free! Cool or what!

A day in the life-April

A day in the life
LZ decided wanted to ride the bike the other day. It was a lovely spring day. She wanted to ride the bike over to her favorite udon shop. I agreed and off we went. It was a pretty easy ride, she said it would take 20 min. It took 45, she is a slow rider. I would just pump it out alone, but I held back.
Lunch was good. It was worth it. Fresh made Udon, fish cake tempura, the good kind. Yeah, it was nice.
She wanted to ride back along the beach way. I had never been, but it sounded interesting and I am up for an adventure. However that was the second part. She suggested that we check out the ceramic master’s gallery since we were in the area. I was definitely up for that.
Stopped and purchased some home made fish item for dinner later. 
We followed the normal pattern of her getting lost , not finding the place, before she called to get direction. The master was on his way to his shop, we could wait and he would speak with us.
We hung out for a while before he showed up. The gallery was not the running down room extension where we waited. That was some addition to his house he used for whatever.
We walked around the corner to a nice house this was his gallery.
Once inside I was shocked. I loved his style!
I was so impressed. It was western, yet asian and unique. Unlike the ceramic guy, couple we visited in wakayama who pieces were more utilitarian, old school Japanese. This master’s were, useful, yet art! Nice glazes, different shapes, glaze textures. Even LZ loved it. Enough so she said she may want to take classes with me. Now this is something unique !
I asked to take a picture of him. He did not want to do the typical Japanese pose. 
We spent some time talking with the master. He is self-taught, 70 something, and one of Japan’s top ceramic masters. Some small bowl items were selling for 1,000 dollars !!!!! However, he is so down to earth, friendly, funny and easy-going.
lZ found several things she wanted to buy, within our limited price range. A couple of rice/soup bowls. He gave her a couple of small plates as a gift. She was delighted. 

We spent some time there just chatting with him. The bummer came when he said he was not taking any students right now. He was getting away from teaching so much he wanted to spend some time on his personal projects. Perhaps in a couple of years, when he retires he will hold some kind of workshop at his studio. Well, we were not ready to start classes anyway. I have my Kyudo and Shakuhachi to focus on right now. So perhaps in a couple of year the time will be right for the rest of the ceramic story to unfold.After a while we made out way out to hit the road. As we were starting off, LZ figures out she left her sun glasses and stopped the bike and left it right were it was while she went back to get them. Meanwhile while she was on the way back, she come running and the Master is with her, her bike is somewhat in the middle of the street (a side small side street), I am standing with my bike off to the side so cars or whatever could get by. As she coming back so are the police on their scooters. They see the commotion and me. They stop by me and ask if there is a problem, asking her but looking at me sideways. I ignored them after pointing to her and went back to my smart phone business. She told them what happened and they left quickly as they came.

We made our way to the waterfront and had a pleasant ride home. It was nice to have another view of the area and the weather was perfect for a bike ride.
A good day in the life.

The ZenBike-Fleet

We have now a fleet of Bikes! There has been an addition to the fleet of three making it now four. This one has it’s own story although not as complex as the last. 

I got it from the same company. LZ was not completely please with taking over my old bike it was a bit too heavy and tall for her to feel comfortable. I took a look in the yard of the realtor on my way from Kyudo the other day and saw the bikes were still there. I looked over the other bike i had spotted for her. A multi-speed, in fairly good shape. It looked a bit lower sitting wise than my old one. I told LZ we agreed to get it. I would go back to Kyudo the next day and picked up the bike on my way into practice. 
She called the realtor in the morning, thanked him for the other bike and asked could we have one of the others. He agreed readily. So I headed out by train to picked up the bike. Getting it was easy, the tires needed air of course but that was also easy as a station was right on the corner. I took off for Kyudo. The bike road well, and smooth. It felt smaller than mine and lighter, so I thought LZ could handle it. 
As we had been through the procedure with the police already this time the plan was for me to stop at a police station on the way home, have them check out for a stolen bike report give me the info, needed then we could register it.
I passed three Kobans ( police stations) on the way home, no one was in any. Finally close to home I found one manned. I stopped in and with a call to LZ she explained what was needed. They took my info, called the realtor office and I was off to home. Simple, so I thought…
Once home some 2 hours later LZ had received two calls on the bike telling her the progress. They found no stolen bike reports, but they were checking further. (Why, bored I guess, something to do) another hour passes we get another ok, please wait just a bit more. Another 45 min and another call, everything is fine. Talked with the original owner all is well. Please get a new registration. Hello that was the whole point! Anyway. 3.5 hrs later and four phone calls everything was settled with the police check. 
Ok so what is interesting about this is the amount of effort they put into checking on this bike, even after finding there was no report filed. In the states, my friend had his truck and all his work tools stolen. He was told by some people who did it! He knew them! He told the police and they would not even go check it out. Not even investigate the story! Wow, what a difference!

The tale of two Bikes…final

When I closed the last entry, we had gotten an ok from a bike store to register the new to me ZenBike, upon giving them the name of the policeman who checked out the bike history. 

Upon waiting a couple of days for the policedude to return to work, LZ received a call from him. She said he talked a lot, but finally understood all she wanted, and needed was his name and phone number to give to the bike folks. Ok, it was secured, another step done.
Meanwhile, LZ rode the ZenBike-1 to see if she could get used to it. The day before the police call she rode it to the train station without trouble. I followed on the new 2 me ZB2 ( ZenBike 2). We, she parked next to a little shrine which was next to the train tracks, next to a store that was most times closed. We had seen other bikes park there. So even though I notice there was now a barrier there I gave it only a moment thought, along with noting the “ZenSense” was tingling. We did not park behind the barrier, but next to the building, leaving the space open in front of the shrine. I have noted to self on several occasions when I ignore the ZenSense tingle, it is not pleasant afterwards. This was no exception. When LZ returned from her visit to a friend’s house, both tires were flat. People think that Japanese are all always so polite, kind and helpful….wrong. Many are, but like ALL people, no matter where, there are bad apples. In this case someone had let the air out of the tires on purpose. I am guessing they did not want bike parking there. A Sign, a note would have been kinder. The air thing was just mean. 
LZ walked the bike home, I walked it to the gas station and refilled the tires. They were not cut, thankfully just air let out flattened. Lucky we did not have to buy new tires and that it was not raining. Ok, parking lesson learned.
The next day we rode over to the mall to the bike shop. I stayed outside to watch the bikes whilst LZ went in to advise them of our need. She came out shortly not too pleased. She said at first they said no, they needed such n such. She explained that I was told we just needed the info from the policeman and the guy said ok, bring in the bike. I did so. They were very helpful did the paperwork, even went through a bit a of hassle to remove the old sticker, replaced it with the new, said arigatou, blahblah, and we were done! yaTTa!
Outside LZ says. ” Sugoi! , when they saw it was you, they changed their whole attitude to humble and helpful. They were almost rude at first to me, until they saw it was you with the bike, then sugoi polite! Sugoi American privilege pass! No matter your color! THey also said it was an expensive bike, so you did good picking that one. Yatta!
So ends the tale of two bikes. Now I just need to change the brake pads which are worn out and change the front basket which is rusty and funky. Otherwise I am good to go. Up up and away! Have bike will travel! ZB2 in da hous!

A tale of two bikes …con’t

day later…we have been trying to contact a small local bike shop to get the bike registered. I have taken the rear rack off the old bike and put it on the newer one, changed the rear view mirror, also from the old bike. I have also checked in to a lock. Japan has these lock that fit on to the bike so you always have it and the key stays in the lock until you lock it. Pretty cool and pretty low cost.
I also checked into a new front basket. The old from the other bike will fit, if LZ is not going to use it. We may pickup another bike with a basket from the realtor for her, another multi-speed. We’ll see if it is still there later this week when I go to Kyudo. I was going today but it was/is way too cold, even snowed some , yuk! The plan is once the seat is lower LZ , who is short can ride it. If so we will get her another bike the multi-speed which maybe easier for her to ride in somewhat hilly places. Right now she is riding a 16 in folding single gear bike, with no basket. A bigger bike that can carry maybe better for her. My old one will work, but it is single geared, she would like multi as well if possible.


So we have been calling bike shops, no one answers! We decided to try the bike shop at the mall in the large department store. We had thought to avoid them because figuring they would be less lenient. Turns out we were wrong. They said, yes no problem. Just bring us some ID and the name and phone number of the policeman who checked we can file the license application. We do not issue it, but we can file it. Oh, snap we thought how simple, cool!

this is Japan…
Simple is only in Zen and art, not life
LZ recalls the police, they are like huh?, ok after about 10 min of explaining. They say they will call back, they have no record. We wait, they call. The officer is not today. Then more explaining for 10 min. Ok they said the officer will be in tomorrow, they have to check with him, as there is no other way to know for sure! OMG, there is nothing simple here. They send a man out to check on a bike that called in for information, but there is no report written and turned in, no file! Sugoi! This is why people complain when something big happens in Japan, the system is so complex, and inflexible. Why when the earthquake happened, the Yakuza got help to the people before the government did.
Ok, so I digress. Progress is being made. We can go to the nearby bike store to get registered with no problem. No problem that is once we can give them a name of some policeman who checked that the bike is not stolen as far as can be told..

This is turning into an adventure.

Saga of the ZenBikes

When we first arrived here in the countryside, I began a search for a bike. I wanted a folding one with gears. I found out later that the train will not allow one to carry bikes on the train cars, unlike the states. Even the folding ones are not allowed unless they are in a case so it can not be seen it is a bike. That is really weird thinking for a place that suppose to be bike friendly. Ok so, I gave up the idea of a folding bike. I did not really need to carry it on the train anyway. I kept and eye out for a good deal. One day on the way to Kyudo I noticed a used bike store. A stopped in one day and found they had a used bike, with a basket and a rear rack. It was only $30.00 bucks! It did not have gears but for $30.00 bucks I could make do. We did not have a lot of hills in the area I needed to ride anyway. So after practice I made the purchase, paid the county fee and I rode it home. It was all good. It became my main transport. Mostly to Kyudo…
However also to every place else near and far, instead of walking or taking the costly train.

So I have been riding it here and there, to Kyudo, to the mall, beach, photo-outings. Last Monday I rode from the boat harbor …
up to the World Heritage Zen Temple in the local foothill…
This is where I go for group Zen sitting once a month. So yeah, I have been getting my $30.00 use out of it. I have been still wanting a multi gear bike. There is not a lot to deal with locally for hills, but there are a few places where gears would be handy both up and down some long slopes.
One day on the way back from Kyudo I pass a fenced yard that has stuff in it, like a recycle yard or trash gathering. I notice several bikes. There are two men’s and two womens. Three of the four are multi-gears. I see this for a couple of weeks. One day I stop and get the phone number on the fence. I have LZ call and ask about if the bikes are for sale. She at first received no answer, then received a call back message they need to hold the bikes for a while.
Ok so a couple of weeks pass. I have her recall. She get in touch with someone at the office and explains her husband is a foreigner, so please excuse the unusual question. Apparently this is something very out of the normal for Japan and us Gaijin get a free pass on weirdness. Someone calling about something thrown away or recycled, ranks in this category. Anyway once she explains, they they are helpful. No need to buy I can come a just take whatever I want, more than one if wanted. No problem, someone should get some use from them. Otherwise they will just get trashed. However do not wait too long as the trash/recycle people show up without warning to take away the items. This company is an apartment realtor and stuff that is left in vacated apartment they clean out and the trash people haul it away.
Ok, now I am thinking happy thoughts. We are told the office is closed on Tues and Weds, other than those days, I can just come by the office. Someone will let me in the yard to take what I want. It is Monday morning when we are speaking with them. I make plans to go that later afternoon. I am expected to visit my mother-in-law in the hospital that day, so I will go afterwards so hopefully get there before the recycle truck and the rain.
Ok, so after walking around a lot looking for the office and getting directions from a couple of different people I make it to the lease office. I am taken to the lot. The bike that I wanted had a lock on it, and they had no key, so I chose another as my second choice. It was in good shape more or less and a Street/dirt bike, perfect for jumping curbs, potholes, the like. Ok. So now thinking ahead I ask for a receipt, to avoid any hassle with the police and knowing I need the bike registered. I am told after much discussion, and language hurdles, sorry they can not do that. They can not really do anything not even give me a business card for the police to check with the manager. Sigh. Ok I say I will just go to the police and sort it out. They say ok, good, Sumimasen, and I reply in like and I am off for the ride home.
I walk over to the Esso station fill up with air the low tires, get a mini Japanese lesson and I am off to home. The ride home was ok, the bike handled well. I am pleased the headlight, generator powered works as do the brakes and gears. I do get wet, because it starts raining. Not really a big deal I was expecting it, and lucky the day was fairly warm. I am not alone on my bike ride home I see several others out and about in the rain.
Now things get complex. The next day LZ calls the local police. She is told, since the bike is registered in Tokyo this is a big problem. They can not delete the former owner from the record of ownership. They can also not check with Tokyo PD to get any information. We are told perhaps a local bike shop will still register the bike, but they can not do anything to help. WTH! One police dept can not get info from another in the same country, a small country like Japan! A small High tech country, with mountains of rules! Ehhhhhhh?! Sugoi okashi na!
Sugoi, this is unbelievable! Ok, LZ says, maybe it is just the local Sennan police, so she calls Osaka police. They say, ehhh who told you we could not check Tokyo? Blah blah blah. They wanted to know with whom we spoke. Then also said pretty much the same thing about no can do with the registration. It is a problem. They mostly repeated rules and regulations. Japan is not a flexible country for things, even minor things, rules are rules. Even things that are not “rules”, but just the way it has been done…for ages. Ok, we say, and let it go. Figuring we will try a local bike shop to just get a local license, they can call the realtor to verify we did not steal it, maybe we can get lucky.
We make ready to head off to a store to pick up some things. While outside I am showing LZ how to adjust things on my old bike and check if she can ride it. While there a motorcycle cop pulls up. He stops a few houses down from us and makes a call on his two way. I flash in my head hmmm is he here about us? The mailman also pulls up with a package for us. We have the street kind of blocked with our three bikes, the postman and now the cop is coming towards us. Turns out, yes he is here for us, checking on the bike, because of our call! Sugoi!
I surprised, but in a way not, since that is what I flashed on soon as I saw him, still. This is worth sending a cop to check out? In the states, no way, police are too busy dealing with murders, break- ins, car Jackings, rape, robberies, etc. Hmmm, well this is a small town, not much to do. Ok, so he explains some things to LZ. He calls in the bike numbers to HQ, and talks to LZ. I am kind of embarrassed since the street is small and the cop is talking loud. Not unfriendly but still loud, I am thinking , oh jheez, everyone will hear this. The busybody Obachan will be out to see what is going on! Ok, this is a big problem we are told. It would be best to just return the bike to the company, he says. They should not have given it to me. Not something that is done. Sigh, good grief I think. 
Ok, we need to wait…for some return call or something. The Cop is on the radio, walking back in forth, talking, waiting…Finally he has LZ call HQ. the final judgment is, they have contacted Tokyo. The bike, as far as they have back-tracked to several people, is not stolen, however the original owner can not be found. I can use it but if I get stopped, it will take some time ( about 30 min) for to them to track the numbers with Tokyo ( again), and release me, if I want to risk using it. oMG what a system.
Ok, so where we are now is, since the police have checked and the bike as far as they can tell it is clear. We will try to get a local bike shop to issue a local license because the local police have cleared the bike …mostly. If we have the local license then I will not have to go through the hassle of being checked. Since the local police have cleared the bike, the shop owner can call them to verify that they checked and hopefully give me the bike permit.
We’ll see what happens next.
To be con’t…