Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Semba Building Dress Shopping

Dress shopping in Osaka.  I got a tip from some friends that a certain building near Hommachi Station had a few good shops for dresses.  Little did I know that "a building," of shops was actually ten buildings.  Consumerism in Japan still impresses me.  Along with the number of train lines it is an indicator of the population density here.  There are so many people that all these businesses are able to thrive and prosper.  Amazing.

I found the first of three shops and starting looking at dresses.  Luckily my limitations in color and simplicity narrowed it down to one plausible dress.  The shop owner seemed to think the size might not be right.  I asked if I could try it and she agreed then pointed to the tag and told me an unwritten price, "34,000 yen," or about $340.  A little too much, I said.  I let her walk from dress to dress trying to find something that would work even though it was clear there was nothing for me in the shop, until finally she excused me and I thanked her.

Shop number two had nothing but bedazzled flowers and bows.  Shop three the same, but upon leaving I noticed that across the way there were some simple-looking dresses.  Aha!  I had found it!  The size looked right, it was sweet and simple, and the price was reasonable.  The woman from across the way came running after me.  She explained that these were clothes for children, not adults.  I said I understood but kept looking at the dress thinking, "but this could work."  But I could tell I would not be buying this dress from her.  She would not let a grown woman make do with a child's dress.  

Sometimes intention gets a little blunted.  Sometimes the goal gets a little lopsided.  Sometimes the route needs to be a bit gerrymandered to actually work in the end.  So there will be another solution and it will not be bought from the south side of the 1st floor of Semba Building number 6 in Osaka.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just For Your Information

Several days ago, there were only had two busses and so I found myself sitting next to someone I hadn't yet met, an extra horn player who used to be a core member.  The ride was only 15 minutes long and we talked about how nice the weather was and how nice it was to visit Fukuoka and enjoy its large park.  He mentioned that he had visited the art museum there and when I expressed interest, he told me about his recommendations for art museums in Kyoto.  I asked him to write down the names for me in my little book which he very kindly did so, but he seemed a little concerned.  He couldn't explain the names in English.

This morning at breakfast, while I was balancing my tray to scoop yogurt into my bowl, he happily greeted me, again.  "Ahhh, Andorea!"  and he held out something in his hand, more information on the museums he had discussed.  Somehow he had it on his person along with his tray and the fruit he was getting.  (Did he know how much I liked yogurt, or that my morning would deposit me there at that exact time?)  He had drawn in great detail, a map of the area in Kyoto in English and Japanese, along with all the information on the museums, their hours, the current exhibits, their websites, and how to get there via several modes of transportation.

 details: "Nice for walking,"  "waterway," "udon restaurant (always long long cue!)", a zoo, the location of the museum cafe...

and all the details for travel including the train platforms
even the names of the current exhibits and how long they will be running

The information is a gift, but so is that act of giving it, perhaps much more so.  I hardly know this man, but I feel indebted, not so much to him but to all the people in the world that I encounter to a such a small degree.  I feel as though he has taught me something.  An act of kindness.  What does it give and to whom?

Monday, April 28, 2014


A rainy day took us to Akashi and a bus brought us back to our home away from home, Himeji.  Tomorrow morning I will look out onto the same broken clock that always faces me when I'm here in the Hotel Nikko Himeji.  It is a central location for touring the smaller towns in the area that cannot accommodate rooms for a symphony orchestra.

In the course of service to get us here with as little rain on our heads as possible, our bus driver backed onto to the sidewalk right in front of the hotel entrance.  He then stood outside the door of the bus with his umbrella.  I feel bad that some rain penetrated such caring protection, but such is life.  I will have to weather the storm on my own in the end, but I will not forget the care shown to me in the process.

Only a single picture from today's rainy indoors weather.  I really enjoy looking out to the audience and wish I could share the feeling more often.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fukui (Harmony Hall)

Today we had the pleasure of playing in Fukui's Harmony Hall.  It's one of those space that makes a performer feel at ease, open, and secure.  The acoustics, the lighting, the audience, even the view outside the hall was beautiful.  Any mistake made on the stage simply seeped into its soft wood and melted in its light.  We took a train through flooded terraced rice fields reflecting the mountains and setting sun behind them.

Musician's entrance to Fukui Harmony Hall
one long road through rice fields to get here
Harmony Hall

warming up backstage

the waiting audience, through bars and basses

Sado-san speaks before the concert

Rostropovich's stamp of approval

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Wadayama.  There was a Culture and Food Festival next to the concert hall so many of us went over to check it out.

Cellos backstage

Wadayama Culture and Food Festival

Even the Power Rangers were there!

Japanese cotton candy, a very fluffy version

sitting under umbrellas in the afternoon sun to enjoy local foods

 "harmony, rice fields, mountains"
bus ride from Wadayama to Fukui

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pit Stop

I've been enjoying the tour, enjoying the feeling of moving from place to place,  enjoying the feeling of being a tourist in this country that is currently my home, but doesn't really belong to me.  Somehow it feels more honest to carry a camera everywhere I go: this world still amazes and excites me.  It feels more honest to have a map in my hand:  where am I, really?  And it is comforting to enjoy the encouragement of shop owners that praise my Japanese and ask me what country I come from.  I somehow feel closer to them than when I am a person who lives here.  There is the feeling of an active welcome.

And now,  a night at home in the midst of many travels.  My laundry is drying on my balcony.  The sound of wind through the leaves.  Nothing to do today but time and sunshine.  And a bit of practice, of course.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


We left Fukuoka and Kyushu this morning and are in Okayama for the night.  A walk through the city and the park and a concert for the people of Okayama.

Acros Mountain
(from the side)

Acros Mountain
(3/4 profile)

Acros Mountain

dashi (fish broth) in a vending machine
fish in bottles

Okayama Castle, near the hall

Okayama Castle

Korakuen Park, near the hall

sunset on the river

people lining up to cross the street for our concert
fun to feel their excitement 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Last Day in Fukuoka

It's really beautiful to listen to our young pianist evolve his understanding of Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto.  After nine performances he is settling into the piece, and there are still several opportunities to open it further.  Wonderful to have the experience to try something so many times.  To overcome fear and be able to explore something with greater freedom and curiosity.  A good thing to remember that if we run away from the first or the second or the third time, we may miss something that just needed another opportunity to grow.  And that if we practice what it is that we want to achieve, what it is that we want to become, if we stay with it and learn from each experience, we give ourselves the opportunity to make it happen.  It's a pleasure to be sharing the tour with him.


Fukuoka has been beautiful.  The weather today was close to perfect;  I took the city bus to see the castle ruins and surrounding park.  The building where we played our concert was covered in trees and called "Acros Mountain," making for a short and enjoyable urban hike.  And after the concert another short walk along the river.

outside the castle ruins

trees and stone

view from the top of the ruins

view from the castle ruins

outside Ohori Park

picnic in the park

lake in Ohori Park

relaxing by the water

path along the water

entrance to ACROS Fukuoka, where we played our concert

From the top of ACROS Fukuoka 

There's a building under all these trees

the chandeliers in our concert hall
they were distractingly beautiful with rainbows sparkling from the crystals
my inner five-year-old was in heaven

cat along the river

and his ice cream stand

which he ran with his friend

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


We headed to Kumamoto today for our concert and played in a huge cavernous hall that somehow still managed to generate plenty of warmth in sound and from the audience.  Being on tour can have it's challenges including finding spaces to practice.  I think we all manage to balance it fairly well for the time being.

Kumamoto Prefectural Theater

warming-up in the audience

carefully balanced practicing

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dazaifu and Night Fukuoka (Tenmangu, Komyozenji, and Yatai)

Close to Fukuoka is a small city that is considered the "Kyoto of Kyushu."  I ventured to Dazaifu to look around, something that only took about 2 hours of slow walking.  It was beautiful.  Tenmangu Shrine was first built in 905 on the burial of Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician who was exiled from Kyoto.  He had a life-long love for plum trees and one of the plum trees on the grounds is said to have flown there from Kyoto from his longing for it.  At his burial, the ox carrying his casket reached this spot and refused to go further and so there are many statues of them throughout the shrine. The shrine is one of the main shrines in Japan dedicated to Tenjin, a shinto god that is the deified version of Michizane, important in scholarship and academic good fortune.  Many students come here for good luck during exam times.

surfacing rocks

camphor tree gets a little help

the three bridges leading to the shrine:
the first is the past, the flat one in the center is the present, and the last one is the future

outside the main gate

outside the walls of the main building

tucked on a hill behind the shrine

enjoying the big fish

the main building
the tobi ume (flying plum tree) is close to the main structure on the right side

approach to the main gate

feeding the ducks and fish

the ox that wouldn't budge

ponds and bridges
After Tenmangu shrine I walked along the streets of shops and vendors just outside and made my way to Komyozenji, a zen garden.

sweet rice cake with red bean paste filling

making of umegaemochi
before the garden at Komyozenji 
Komyozenji garden

sky and trees above

tending the garden of the light of Buddha
the large rocks are in the formation of the Japanese character for "light," referring to the halo around Buddha
trees drop many leaves which need to be carefully removed from the garden

And then I headed back to Fukuoka.  Later in the evening I went out to see Fukuoka at night, when it supposedly shines its brightest.  Food stalls, and shops along the river.

Nishitetsu train

inside the train, waiting for departure

food stall

night skateboarding 

waiting for customers 

line of food stalls

stories of things to do (building directory) 

some of the many romantic Fukuoka flowers available for purchase