Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day in Itsukushima (Miyajima) and Hiroshima

I woke up early this morning to go to the nearby island of Itsukushima, also known as Miyajima, the island of shrines.  It is famous for its water tori which appears to be floating during high-tide; thus the need for an early departure.  We saw the tori and Itsukushima shrine and then some of us stayed to do a hike to the top of the Mt.Misan.  We headed back to Hiroshima and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, but realized we hadn't given ourselves enough time for it.  We'll return tomorrow morning before we leave at 11.  We hurried back to the hotel for a 5 minute shower then made it to the hall for the sound check with 12 minutes to spare.  After the concert, some of us went to the Peace Park and saw the A-Bomb Dome Building lit at night.

That is the outline of the day's happenings.

At the end of the day I faced a thousand people, each smiling and grateful, clapping their hands, and wondered how we forgot our humanity.

sunrise over Hiroshima

from the ferry

deer conference

attempting a school group picture (with deer)

the floating Torii

many school children were taking field trips to Itsukushima 

Itsukushima Shrine

Itsukushima Shrine

Five-Storied Pagoda

at Daishoain Temple

hundreds of hatted buddhas at Daishoin Temple

Fun on the hike

the scholarly one

view from the top

deer along the river

leaves starting to change

the fire department

maybe no one will notice

What??? It actually happened:
a kinako (soybean) and azuki (sweet red bean paste) prepackaged sandwich.
This is the peanut butter and jelly of Japan.

Our section leader likes paisley

his cello case

four hours of sleep and a hike later, before the concert and dressed for Halloween
(response to the question:  How are you doing, Christy?)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Long Day Before Another

Indeed the day was long.  Severals hours on a train, another performance and another several hours on the bus coming to Hiroshima where I'm on the 16th floor.  The hotel this morning surprised me with an English newspaper under my door (the Japan Times–whose motto is "All the News Without Fear or Favor– and The International Tribune) and breakfast was beautiful.

rice porridge, daikon, greens with chrysanthemum, konbu (seaweed),
salmon, miso soup, pickles, sour plum, egg roll, oden,
and a mystery in the left in a red bowl of slimy yellow stuff
(this happens a lot and it's actually pretty tasty)

We took the shinkansen through many fields and towns....

...and arrived at our destination.  We played a concert and our soloist surprised us with bentos for everyone which we enjoyed on the late-night bus.  It was a long day and people are starting to get a little tired but still happy.

Our maestro's dressing room door
We are in Hiroshima.  When my brother Ben came to Japan last summer, he took a solo trip to Hiroshima.  He figured out the trains, the hostel, the travel within the city, and a hike on the nearby island of Miyajima, all by himself.  His first time outside of America, he executed his plan on a small breakfast of oysters.  I'm channelling his sense of adventure and listening to the wide-eyed wonder he conveyed after this trip.  For you, Ben, an early morning to Miyajima comes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moving Memories

I'm not really even sure where I've been today and I think tomorrow is going to be even more confusing.  If I look at the schedule, it says that I started the day in Utsunomiya, took a shinkansen for about an hour, transferred in Tokyo and took another shinkansen for another hour and a half, arrived in Nagoya, took a bus for about an hour, played a sound check and a concert in a small town called Tajimi, and then took a bus for another hour back to Nagoya which is where I think I am right now.  I know that I'm on the 11th floor of a very nice hotel somewhere eating marrons which are what the Japanese call chestnuts.

I'd more likely anchor my day to the long naps that I took on the trains, seeing an ocean and some mountains speed by between winks, the new paisley shirt of our section leader who seems to have a strong propensity for paisley in general (and embroidered jeans and a zebra patterned cello case).  

I might remember the marron okashi (Japanese sweet) that a friendly Japanese orchestra member shared with me in the dressing room, or the red bean paste sweets set out for everyone as a gift, or the combeni food I bought at the station, or the green tea in the hotel room I drank this morning.  Perhaps I'd remember the little girl in the front row that wore white tights and black shoes, reminding me of my own excursions to the symphony and the uncomfortable squeak of rubbing patent leather shoes, and the itch of thick stockings.  Although I never presented flowers to the maestro at the end of the concert.

I would also remember that today I was bequeathed with the nickname, "Cool, cool, cool sensei," by some of the Japanese members for an odd idiosyncrasy of mine to say, "cool, cool, cool," in rapid succession to mean, "alright/that's cool/sounds good."  And "sensei" because I taught them such a thing.

But I likely would not remember where I've been.  The ground moves so quickly and tomorrow even more so.  So tonight, I will add a memory of a hot bath, and happy hotel room on the 11th foor.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Utsunomiya Day Two (Hachimanyama Park and Jazz)

More adventures in Utsunomiya.  A morning walk to Hachimanyama koen, a huge beautiful park, an afternoon sound check and evening concert, and an evening excursion to hear some live jazz.  Utsunomiya is known for its gyoza and live jazz scene, but to us it is also known as the place where things are closed.  There was one jazz bar open on Monday evenings, and when we arrived they were taking a chotto yasumi.  Luckily they soon started to play again, and we were able to sit down and enjoy their music for a couple of hours.

the streets of Utsunomiya

walking along the river towards Hachimanyama koen

Einstein's Forest: Shades of the Past
on the door underneath: Homemade Hair
(This has sparked a lot of questions and curiosities for me concerning semantics.
What does this mean, or what is it meant to mean?  Hair like Einstein's?  Nostalgic Hair?  Hair like a Forest?)

One of the many shrines around the park

the tower which one can climb,
if it isn't Monday, the day when it is closed, which was today

The Adventure Bridge!

Adventure U!
(children's park in Hachimanyamakoen with Go-Cart track, also closed on Mondays)

Bernice and a Japanese child

rooster and guinea pig, best friends

kittens in the morning

Highbrow Imagine Indulz Dream (jazz club)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Travel Day to Utsunomiya

A day off, a day of travel.  Four hours by shinkansen,  pausing in Fukushima, a city that exists beyond news reports of doom.  We arrived in Utsunomiya, a town with wide streets and large Starbucks, visible stars in a clear night, known for its gyoza.  We went for a short walk to the Utsunomiya Futaarayama Shrine which was lit up at night and had a stall of horses in the back.

A rumored restaurant where monkeys serve water and hand towels turned out to be closed and we enjoyed the short taxi ride there and back.  We next attempted a taco restaurant (they have one in Japan?) but the 10th story of the shopping mall only had beauty salons, wedding planning boutiques and a music store, all closed on this Sunday evening.  We schemed a few more potential potentials before deciding to enjoy a Thai restaurant, a cuisine not often encountered here.

We get to stay in this hotel for two nights, no packing required tomorrow morning.

Main gate of Utsunomiya Futaarayama Shrine
(modernity rising alongside)

stairs leading to the shrine

glowing vending machines

Bernice with the horses

outside the train station, Christmas cheer

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Akita (Autumn Rice Field)

My camera lost its lens cap but the pictures decided to load onto my computer.  I take no part in the anthropomorphized existence of my belongings.  The good news is that I have some pictures to share!

Empty seats with no one to sit in them
(one the way to Tokyo with Christy)

rain goes sideways on the shinkansen

the Rainbow Bridge (Tokyo)

trying to get pictures of the Rainbow Bridge

Bernice on Roger's shoulders to get picture of Rainbow Bridge

shinkansen (they mean business)

cleaning the pillars of the station

a job done well

only one of the many beautiful pictures from our shinkansen trip to Akita this morning

Fall in Akita 

outside the concert hall

Bernice and Christy in the fall leaves

a festive Japanese family who let us take their picture

sake at the after party this evening

the dining room

Christy and Bernice

Fanny and Yoori

Christy got the dancing and the good times started

Karaoke begins

our librarian organizing the Karaoke catalogue and song line-up

Sado-san sings

sneaking between sets for another sip