Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dinner with Fukunari-sensei

This evening Fukunari-sensei treated me, Andrew, and another HPAC friend to an incredible Japanese dinner in Osaka.  After several Japanese course dinners I'm starting to realize a trend to the order.  The appetizers (this evening was eggplant jelly, a tofu-corn soft gel, and chicken); followed by sashimi (octopus, tuna, sea bream, and one unknown); the first course (a whole cooked fish with delicate soy sauce seasoning); the second course (miso-rice sauce over fish with several vegetable garnishes); the tempura (sweet potato, fish, shrimp, pepper, and broccoli) with seasoned salt or sauce; and the rice finish (octopus and village-potato rice) with tsukemono (pickles).  It was a delicious dinner.

Throughout the course of the evening Fukunari-sensei engaged each of us in our varying degrees of Japanese ability.  And then she paid the bill.  She carries herself with such grace and generosity that it is hard not to feel taken care of and to reciprocate the respect.  We three English speakers all deferred to Japanese for the evening in her presence.

An incredible amount of strength in such a small woman.  Many things to learn from her.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hiking and Baseball

Hiking Mt.Rokko and baseball.  The Tigers won!

Andrew climbing...

Andrew really climbing!

finding our way by kanji, through the gates

going down to get to the top?

but we made it!

the visiting team's section with their own band and umbrellas to celebrate a scoring run

sunset over the stadium

preparing for the seventh inning

balloons raised

everyone is getting ready

and release-
we won!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Annual TIFA Concert

Once a year, members of HPAC have a concert to thank our Japanese tutors at the Takarazuka International Friendship Association.  They took many pictures throughout our dress rehearsal and many more following the concert.  We stayed long after the end in order to mingle, speaking different languages and enjoying the International Friendship.  It is always such a pleasure to share music with others.  It seems to open something no one realized was closed.  It's a reminder of the importance of sharing whatever one has to share, whether it is music, friendship, language lessons, tea, or time for another picture.  Perhaps next year I will get to organize this concert, to have the opportunity to give something more.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Bits and Pieces

Chamber music, hiking, biking along and to the river.

waterfall on our way up Rokko-san

Above Kobe and Osaka

かぜふきいま (風吹岩、Wind, Blow, Rock)
about an hour of rocky hiking from Ashiyagawa train station,
we turned around after this point not having time to get to the summit and return before sundown
(this is on the way to the summit and is the kanji to follow on signs)

claiming new territory

biking home

evening trip to the river to look into the sky

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Over and Now

Cosi fan Tutte has finally come to a close.  At one point in the finale of the second act yesterday I realized that I was playing beautiful music and had been for the past two hours.  If only I was graced with the ability to remember this a little more frequently.  How often does beauty pass by, unnoticed?  How often do I judge the libretto to be offensive and close myself to the harmony and melody supporting it?  Maybe there's something beautiful happening right now.  The rain has pushed away the hot humid air and the cicadas are asleep.  I think the evening doesn't know what to do with herself, sitting here, soaking in the new breeze.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Japanese Wedding Dinner

Many ways to get married.  Tonight I joined some HPAC friends for a Japanese wedding dinner.  The bride and groom had their small formal wedding about two months ago and this was the dinner party. The came in and proceeded through the seated tables, bowing as they entered, and finding their way to the head table where they sat alone together.  She wore her wedding dress and throughout the dinner on a screen in front, they played snippets of the wedding and showed pictures of the bride and groom growing up and their life together.   It is customary to pay a fee for for these dinners, for which one gets food, drink, and games (in this case, bingo) with prizes (some being vouchers for air travel and signed towels from Sado-san).  The food was amazing and it was fun to experience a new way to celebrate the beginning of a life together.  

Wedding dinner at the French restaurant, iGrek in Kobe.
Core members of HPAC are gathered around the bride and groom.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hakuho Falls

Several times a year there is a sumo tournament and now is one of those times.  For 15 consecutive days in Nagoya, large men are pounding against one another, attempting to push the other to the ground or out of the ring.  There is a lot of show to the whole ordeal.  Throwing salt into the ring, stomping, slapping thighs, angry stares.  More and more displays of anger.

While Hakuho is not without his own displays, the first time I saw him I was impressed by his composure and calm.  He is the ultimate of sumo wrestlers, having long winning streaks and many tournament wins.  But today, I saw Hakuho lose.  What happens when a hero goes down, when the flawless becomes tarnished?  Hakuho has lost before and he will lose again.  He is human and this is perhaps part of his heroism, that he loses and still maintains his fearlessness in the face of the possibility.

But I wonder who has more fear, the champion or the amateur?  Does one have courage without fear?  The calm in Hakuho's face is not impermeable.  I don't understand the sport of sumo well enough to understand why he is a good wrestler.  But in his stance and gaze there is a look into fear and fearlessness to which I think humans can relate.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Old Japan has become new again.  Riding bikes through rice paddies, the colors of Nakayamadera temple, the experience of trying to communicate a simple need in another language, sitting on a river I normally only bike along.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Old New Friends

Two years ago I came to Japan for the first time for a summer music festival called PMF.  This was how I discovered Japan and heard about HPAC.  During that time I played with a Japanese violist in a chamber music ensemble.  She spoke practically no English and I spoke even less Japanese but somehow she became a good friend during that time.  Our friendship was based on timing, on facial expressions, on physical jokes and gestures.  But after my departure there was no way or reason to continue it.  We shared a wordless relationship that lived only in one another's presence.

I have just learned that she will be coming to HPAC next year, so I sent her a message on Facebook in Japanese.   And suddenly there were words.  We can speak very elemental sentences to one another; we can have a simple relationship through words.   It feels like growing up and realizing that the people around you are actually just people like you.  Teachers are not gods, no one is perfect, everyone has thoughts, hopes, fears, loves.  I don't know her's in the slightest, but I've come closer to realizing that she is a person like me who speaks a language that has meaning.

It is amazing that within a lifetime it is possible to bring the shadow of a person into greater focus.  I suppose we do this with everyone that we spend time coming to know.  People are people.

So what does it mean, what will it mean, to add words to our relationship?  Will it change the way we see one other?  Will we have greater scrutiny, greater understanding?  Will there be any change at all or will it be only on a scale of knowing that occupies every relationship?  A new beginning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Righting a Can in Japan

I'm still debating if it was the right decision.  Next to the bike pump at the Asahi bike shop there was an empty aluminum can.  So often in Japan this dilemma arises.  In America, it takes very little to carry a piece of garbage a short distance to the next receptacle.  It is a small act of good will that many people exercise.  In Japan, it could be hours until you find one.  Additionally, by taking a piece of garbage into your own hands, you take away that responsibility from others who are meant to do it.  And you may dispose of it improperly.

But today, this can was two feet away from a receptacle.  It seemed a mere matter of putting something into its proper location so I did.  But from the moment I intervened in the fate of that can I felt overwhelming doubt.  This had not been a recycling receptacle.  Perhaps I was creating more work for someone who would later need to sort it to its proper place.  Perhaps that can was supposed to be there for some reason.  Perhaps the owner would come back and find it missing.  Or perhaps a worker had already noted the can refuse but had been called away to do other things before able to attend to it and now would have to undo the wrong place I'd put it.

But there was no turning back.  I had done the deed, thinking it was a good one.  And maybe it was.  But maybe not.  Sometimes it can be very hard to know.  Culture can do so much to help condition these ideas of right and wrong, good and bad.  Many of them are universal, but there are others that are not always so clear.

In the grand scheme of these, this can is likely a small offense.  In truth, the pinch of guilt is not so serious.  But it is an echo of that feeling of uncertainty of one's own benevolence which can emerge in any culture, familiar or not:  am I doing what is good, what is right?  Such uncertainty can undermine one's actions, call into question one's motivations.

Japan, my intentions are good.  To the best of my knowledge this is true.  I hope that can finds its place in a righteous universe.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cosi fan Zombie

From a morning river, to a morning meeting, to an afternoon opera, to an evening opera party.  I moved on the banks to the sounds of cicadas and the sight of birds wings touching the water.  I moved in a hotel event room to the sound of Michael Jackson's Thriller and the sight of a rosy opera cast and crew.
The opera parties are always a variety show put on by the members of the production.  And this year's orchestra pit contribution was a dance of Thriller.  We slashed shirts, put on make-up and learned the famous dance from Thriller.  Why?

Why do people make productions of Cosi fan Tutte?  It's fun.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Morning

I woke up this morning at 6:30 and...silence.  The sluggabed cicadas were sleeping in and endangering me of doing the same.  Where am I?  Might even the sound of a hungry Sunday-morning-with-no-garbage crow help orient me?  But slowly I got up, slowly I got ready, and got on my bike.  And there was Japan.  Running on the bike path, walking dachshunds, holding umbrellas against the rising sun.  The cicadas slowly roused and sang from the trees as I biked through their grove.  Shi, shi, shi, shi, shi. It is summer in Japan.  Remember me, remember me.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Italian has now taught me the kanji for "love."   As the tenor and baritone in the opera arrive in disguise to woo their own fiancés to betrayal, they begin, "Amor.......amor....," serenaded by the surtitle, "愛."  Throughout the opera our little kanji friend joins to help tell the story with other kanji friends making many different types of love and love contexts.  Perhaps in the next few performances more will be unveiled.  But I have a start.  

And now I have encountered this word in Japanese.  I wonder when I learned it in English.  And I wonder if I have, yet.   What does it mean?  It seems like such a vague word that includes so many feelings and possibilities.  Love for one's family, love for one's friends, for places, for experiences, for arts.  Is it temporal or everlasting?  On the brink, or in the midst, or waiting its arrival?    

I've only just barely learned this word in Japanese to the point that I should be able to discern it from most other kanji.  I cannot write it, I don't know how to use it in speech or writing.  Something so familiar and yet so unknown.  A slow learning and that through time perhaps something will begin to emerge and make sense in a way as it always has from the beginning.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Words can help us communicate and makes sense of the world.  We explain things to ourselves and to others and start to create some bearing on our place in the world, our values, how we ought to act.  But sometimes words can create things that are untrue–identities that are incomplete placeholders for what could actually become; relationships that are only partially defined, and left unrealized; values that might benefit from reconsideration.  Sometimes words cause miscommunications, thinking that we have relayed something to another when in fact they have met us in an entirely different place.  How far away are we from ourselves and those around us?

And then there is the comfort of hearing Japanese, of reading it, of not being able to understand it or to use it.  I'm without its benefits, without its detriments.  Communication comes through my will, through my courtesy, through the way that I take up space.  Understanding is an act of trust and open listening.  The sounds are empty and the voice that speaks them is a friend.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Children and more children, and the HPAC parking garage was filled with bikes with seats on the front and back.  Balloons–red, yellow, and blue–hovered over their heads outside of HPAC.  As I began my journey home, I watched as three started their solo ascent above the rest.  Another universal.  The inevitable departure of balloons from children.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sharing the Heat

Summer days and summer nights.  The mosquitoes are out, the cicadas are shi-shi-shi-ing from 4 am, the air is always wet, and I have a pet cockroach I've named Sal.  I think his home in the pipes of this apartment building is too warm for him, and I think he is lonely.  I've seen other lonely cockroaches out on the stairs these past few days, searching.  Last night Sal followed me from room to room, but when he crawled onto my mattress I decided perhaps it was time he go back to his friends.  I put Sal outside, as sad as it was to say goodbye, but there is now another Sal.  Perhaps she is looking for her other Sal.  One Sal or another, everyone is hot.  It's summer in Japan.  We're all in this together.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Living in a foreign country is to constantly be meeting otherness.  But then this is true of life no matter where one lives.  Sometimes to reach beyond otherness is a conscious practice, and sometimes it is handed quite easily.  And when another extends it, or when it falls to us so easily, it then becomes easier to hand it off again.

Today on the bike path a dachshund was running full force along the grass.  I couldn't help but smile at the cuteness and at the elderly man walking calmly behind the four rapidly moving little legs. He saw me, and we shared a moment of eye contact, of universal understanding for things that are cute.  And I took that with me and used that courage and feeling of belonging to ask a woman in the grocery store to tell me what was in a rice ball when I couldn't read the kanji.  And she was happy to help to help me as I opened to needing to her help.  And otherness was bridged by luck and by my own hand.  I'm thankful for its coming when it comes.  I hope I will come to create it fully of my own accord wherever I go and in whatever situation I may find myself.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Beautiful Language

It was strange and exciting last year to hear a canonic opera sung in Japanese.  Throughout the entire run of Barber of Seville I watched the super titles on the screen and tried to make sense of what I was hearing.  I was able to piece together a fair amount of the action over the course of two weeks., and learn the pronunciation of quite a few kanji.

However, this year, for whatever reason, Cosi fan Tutte will be sung in Italian.  I suppose it makes sense since that is the language in which it was written.  However, I can't help but be a little disappointed.  It was fun to hear an opera sung in Japanese, something that will likely not present itself very often after my time in Japan.  And it was fun to use the 3 hours to practice the language.  However this year presents a double language challenge with sung Italian and written Japanese supertitles.  My brain computes this simply as being unintelligible.  It tries to make the sounds it hears into the words it sees, neither of which has any really meaning.  Can I use one language I don't know to learn another?  The next two weeks will be an experiment.  Or I may just stare at the beautiful iridescent fabric of the costumes on the stage while I count my rests.  So many ways to enjoy an opera.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Colored Meaning

Every morning I walk into a certain hallway in the HPAC basement and enjoy the beauty of the painted pipes in the ceiling.  There are few things in Japan so colorful, and perhaps even fewer that exist without purpose.   I've enjoyed the pipes for these extrinsic qualities as well as the sheer pleasure of their color in a dark, sunless world.

But today, exiting from the opera pit through the labyrinths of the HPAC basement, I discovered a sign that has changed my view of the lower level world.  It was a color key.

Does it change their beauty that their appearance is a matter of function?  Something in me had taken delight in believing that their colorful painting was the frivolity of humanity, creating uselessly but persistently in this dark world.  It is absurd how we spin around without meaning, and perhaps absurd that we try to make meaning of it.

But these pipes have meaning and I wonder if that makes more sense than beauty for the sake of itself.  I suspect that regardless of seeing this sign on the wall, I will still enjoy their appearance, meaningless or not.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Reduced Price Debts

There was very little time before the grocery would close.  I had no yogurt, nor bananas, and most terrifyingly, no kinako for my breakfast tomorrow morning.  It would have been so easy to bike straight there, but how could I show my face without the coupon the kind cashier gave to me a week ago.  The coupon she gave to me after secretly gifting me a 10% discount without one.  The was no answer other than to bike as fast as possible, to go home first to retrieve the coupon so that I could present it to her out of gratitude for the giving.  If I were to find myself in her lane and be asked once again if I had a coupon and have to shake my head, "no," and leave to her to decide if she had more benevolence to would have been to much to ask of both of our hearts.

Luckily, I made it.  And luckily my favorite yogurt was one sale and there was a discount vegetable stand in front.  Luckily, I am well-supplied in food for the coming days and a fresh coupon for next weekend.  And ironically, because I came so close to close, she had left her cashier's post to fulfill other duties.  Our eyes didn't even meet this evening, though I saw her putting away the produce as I left.   And yet I've been so touched by her.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Opera to the Pit

The stage is set and the costumes, worn.  We have descended into the pit and are fueling the fires of magic.  My bass line is only a small part of the action, but an integral one.  In my heart I sing with those above me, happy to have their voices.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Takarazuka Revue

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female musical theater group based in the city in which I live.  From the performers, to the costumes, to the plot and music, and not least of all, the audience and fan culture that exists around it all, it is a spectacular, superlative, unique gem of Japan.  Today was my first experience.

The programs change about once a month and are based on novels, operas, Japanese folklore, manga, musicals, movies, and so on.  Each is original.  Showtimes are at 11am-2pm and 3pm-6pm with a half-hour intermissions.   The first half is the narrative with some singing and dancing, and the second-half is a completely unrelated song and dance revue that more than rival the Ziegfeld follies.  Today I dozed intermittently in the first act, as the performers in beautiful kimonos performed a complicated piece about samurais and ninjas (confusing even to my Japanese friends who could understand the language).      They slashed their swords to sound effects and suffered in courtly love.  But I couldn't understand any of it.

At intermission I witnessed the audience pull out their bentos–bought and homemade lunches–and eat in the theater seats or in the surrounding lounges.  Everyone seemed to be eating rice balls, or enjoying small amounts of a variety of Japanese lunch foods.  I had expected to keep myself awake for another hour in the second half, but when the curtain rose, it was different world.

A mirror ball, sequins and feathers, a stage filled with lights like a carousel.  One song and dance routine after another with evermore increasingly fantastic costumes and company choreography.  Kick lines and headdresses galore.  By then end, a staircase stretched across the stage, sparkling with lights as each member of the company descended.  The stars wore huge feather plumes, and more and more sequins bedecking their slim tuxedos.

The productions itself was incredible.  The lighting, a live orchestra, trap doors in the stage for entrances and exits,  costumes and make-up, a bridge extending into the audience which the stars would step upon to loud applaus.

But even more imaginative to me is the culture around this phenomenon.  I wonder about the original conception.  It was created by the head of Hankyu Railway company Ichizo Kobayashi, in order to give people an incentive to use the railway to Takarazuka.  It's been said that the choice to only use women was a counterpart to the all-male Kabuki troupes.  If I were an entrepreneur concerned about the need for a railway line I wanted to create, would this be my solution?  Incredible.

I also wonder about the cultural sustainment and marketing and how this reflects Japanese culture.  Showtimes are during working hours, the audience is at least 90% female and of this, the vast majority are in their 40s or older.  The stars, most especially the male roles, are more than doted upon, with fan clubs that must write them postcards and wear colored scarves to show their support. There are posters, and program books, and cards, and much more with headshots of the stars filling the giftshops surrounding the theater.  Plenty to plaster a wall.  And as long a performer is with the company, they must remain single.  If they wish to get married, they must leave.

Some suggest that the fascination comes from lesbian undertones.  Others suggest that in a culture that is oppressive to women, there is an appeal in seeing another woman gain a position of power in a male role.  It is also interesting to me that the production quality and style is so akin to American Depression era movies and shows of immense grandeur which provided escapism from the reality of a difficult life.

It's incredible that something like this exists so close to home and that it is possible to get a ticket for only 2000 yen by waiting in line the day of the performance.  I'm not sure if I understand enough Japanese to fully get into the culture that has captured the hearts of so many, but I always enjoy a live performance.  Certainly lucky to have the initiating experience.

Poster for the show I saw today
(performed by the "Snow" Group)

Poster for the next show
(to be performed by the "Star" Group)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Perhaps because it is an easy and neutral thing to talk about, everyone talks about the weather.  Accordingly, it's usually it's hot or cold in Japan.  Even on the most temperate and mild days, it has to fall one way or the other to make its way into a conversation.

But these days, it is indeed hot and humid.  And everyone is very excited about the huge typhoon that is supposed to hit tomorrow and Friday.  As simple a thing as it is, the weather is pretty incredible.  I could believe that it would keep on going, unending, as it is today.  How incredible that in a few hours we will be inundated with water.  Could it really be true?  And that in a few months I'll once again wish to wear a sweater.  It's unbelievable.  Because right now it is the Japanese summer that the Japanese always speak of with a touch of pride and discomfort.  We're in it together.  Spinning through the days and the seasons, weather changes and who knows what's to come.  But for now, I live in the Japanese summer with millions of other Japanese people.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hiking Kongo-san (Mt.Kongo Hike)

Kongo-san (Mt. Kongo) is the highest mountain in Osaka.  We looked through various blogs and links to find maps and directions for the course, and in the end it worked very well.  We took a trail that went up to the peak of the mountain and exited on the other side.  There are many trails and trailheads but ours began with Kawachinagano Station and a bus to the Kongo Tozan Guchi(金剛登山口) stop.  

The day began with an early morning train to Osaka and a very unhike-like scene of commuting Japan.  

Hankyu Train Ori 

From there we took a series of trains and buses to get to the hiking trailhead.  The trail had many stairs, several shrines, and a beautiful view at the top.

Our Itinerary (for others interested):
In Osaka:  Go to Shinimamiya Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line; transfer to the Nankai Line.
At the Nankai Station at Shinimamiya:  Go to Platform 1;  take the Koya Line (any train will work) towards Mikkaichicho;  get off at Kawachinagano Station

At Kawachinagano Station:  Go outside  the gates and turn right, then left down thee stairs (follow signs for taxis and buses in English); at the bottom of the stairs go to stop number 1 and take bus 8 or 11; here is a timetable for the departing buses:
Middle Section are times for the 8 and 11 toward Kongo-san Ropeway Mae
(Saturday/Sunday and Holidays)

Again, middle section for bus 8 and 11 to Kongo-san Ropeway Mae; Weekdays
 (There is also a Tourist Information Office by the bus stop with bus schedules and maps.  It is possible to buy a day transit pass at a machine under the stairs near the office, which may save you a hundred yen or so, depending on which bus stop and trailhead you choose to use; the further distance you ride, the more expensive and therefore the greater the savings you get using the pass.  For our itinerary, it was worth it.)

Take the Nakai Bus (8 or 11) to the Kongo Tozan Guchi (金剛登山口).   You can look at the front of the bus as you ride to see the kanji displayed for the next stop.  It will take about 35 minutes to get to this stop.  

Get off the bus and turn left to walk in the direction that the bus came from.  At a green map (about 2 minutes), turn right onto a small road to go up the hill and being the hike.  After a series of shops, there is a fork; turn right to go up the mountain.  

After this there are various trails that lead to the top and there are maps throughout and plenty of people to help.  We took a side trail to go to a shrine on the way up and after many stairs, we made it to the top in about 90 minutes.  At the top there is a restaurant and restrooms.  Another 25 minutes (or less) got us to the ropeway but we decided to take the path down instead.  In finding our way down, we looked for the arrows towards Kongo-san Ropeway Mae ( 金剛山ロープウェイ前), the bus stop on the other side of the mountain that returns to the stations.  You can use this kanji to identify it on way-finding signs.  The descent was a long cement service road with a steep incline that went along a small stream.  Very beautiful but a bit dangerous when wet.  

The bus stop was at the bottom and the bus (on a weekday) only stops about every hour.  Go to the far bus stop and take the 8 or 11 Nakai bus towards Kawachinagano Station (河内長野駅).  This Kanji should be written on the outside display of the bus, as well as the bus schedule at the stop and you can confirm with the driver by simply saying "Kawachi nagano eki?"    

It's a beautiful hike and not too difficult.  The course we took was about 7.4 km and may take about 3 hours to complete.  

Here are some other links that were helpful:

Short narrative and itinerary:

Another group's itinerary:

Map of the hike in Japanese:

And here are some more pictures of the hike:

at the restaurant at the peak

frog of frogs (outside the restaurant) 

view from the top

hiking buddies for the day

shrines in the woods near the top

one of the side trails at the top with beautiful woods to explore

two loving cedar trees

the path to another shrine

another view on the descent

another shrine in the woods

woods and mist 
fortunes at the shrine

the bus stop at the bottom
(I took this picture while sitting at the desired bus stop)

bus ride back to the station

bus ride back to the station

Monday, July 7, 2014

Return to Shodo

It was difficult to return to Shodo class this morning.  It's been about two months for me since I've been there and even longer for Christy.  We warmed up to the idea of drawing black lines with our brushes by opening our kits, pouring our ink, laying down the paper, and talking to one another for two hours.  There's a certain realization of the temporal and fixed nature of life in drawing those lines.  Time creates them, and its expenditure–fast, slow, heavy, light–leaves an imprint on the page.   And also in looking into the eyes of someone you've come to know for two years who will be leaving soon.  Something fleeting and something lasting.  Something breathed and something built.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

World Cup in Takarazuka

We are in the throws (or kicks) of the World Cup and tonight HPAC had a scrimmage at a nearby sports center. We had three teams–Paper, Rock and Scissors (another of life's universals)–which took turns at 7 minute games.  It was my first time kicking a ball and my first time playing a team sport of any kind.  Throughout the evening I learned which goal was mine, how one knows who gets to kick a foul ball back in to the field, and that passing is a good strategy, especially when there is no one to receive the ball in the direction that I kick it.  I was guided by the words, "Kochi!  Kochi!" (Here!  Here!) helping me know where to go.  Everyone was very nice and encouraging.  A very gentle introduction into something I've been afraid to try my whole life.  Thank you, Japan.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, America!

It's raining today and the days around today, but not so much that one can't light some fireworks.  Today was my first experience with Japanese sparklers which are delicate strings up which nerve-like sparks crawl once lit.  They require a very steady hand and protection from the wind and work best when held between the knees in a squat position.  Not a lot of action, noise, or fuss, but really beautiful and simple.  So that's the 4th of July in Japan.  It was good to see you America.  Any many more.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Home is Where

I had a question about a bowing stayed after the first rehearsal to ask our guest principal cellist.  I knew that he and some of the others in the orchestra had flown just before yesterday's rehearsal from Vienna, because the office had had to reschedule the rehearsal to accommodate them.  So after the bowing clarification I casually asked, "So you came from Vienna?"  And he paused and processed and then slowly started, "Well actually I'm from Argentina.  But my mother is Italian and my father is French. But I studied in Italy.  With Navarra."  And yes, he had come from Vienna, because that is where he lives.

My family has been situated, more or less, in the Ohio River Valley since around 1850 when they first came to America.  Every time I return to America or Japan I have to readjust, I feel the distance between me and my home, I feel uprooted.  I can't imagine what "grounding," or "roots," must mean to our guest principal cellist.  I understand the pause he had before answering my question.  How many languages did it have to pass through, how many questions of identity?

More and more I encounter people like this, or at least other people who are living away from their home.  It is a tale unfamiliar to me from my own family experience.  In my upbringing, "home,"  was always a fixed idea of location and people and way of living.  How different it must feel for home to be so diffuse.  Is it as undefined as I imagine?  Is it liberating or confusing?  How does such an implicit part of our upbringing shape the way we interact with the world?  What other things are like this?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Land of Spontaneity

Today was our first rehearsal for the opera, a month-long project.  After the break, our rehearsal proctor,  held up a long-sleeved black shirt and made an announcement.  Because of the hot Japanese summers, men would not be required to wear tuxedos for the opera.  Instead they could wear all-black.  There was a lot of cheering.  He went on to say that there may be an exception to this for the last performance: for this, we might wear an opera-logo polo shirt, however, this is yet to be decided.  I'm glad I have time to prepare myself.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Value Way

4:45am.  My longing for the past three weeks held my ear to the pillow.  But everywhere is beautiful and challenging, people around the world are kind and afraid, my existence goes on.  In each place, in every way of life there is something of value.  There are so many ways to live.  To live with family, to live alone, to live in a place filled with the things that brought one to one's self, to live far away from anything familiar.  The chorus of birds that awoke me at my parents home every day became a single crow this morning.  Life is quiet for the moment, and there is something of value there.