Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Blog Address

From now on, you can find post on my blog about New York City through this link, http://borrowingmanhattan.blogspot.com

Thank you to all who have read Land of Tomorrow.  It has meant a great deal to me.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The End and New Beginning

It's time for this blog to come to a close.  I'm simply not in Japan anymore, not in the Land of Tomorrow.  It's not that all of me has left, nor that there is none of me left in it.  I think both are true and likely will be for many years, if not for the rest of my life.  But being in America, again, I find that so many aspects of living seem different.  The context is no longer that of Japan.  My body moves more freely and creatively, my posture has more options, and I feel as though my face goes through more expressions, and my hands more gestures as I interact with and notice all the people around me.  

And the same seems to be true of these people.  I'm in New York City.  It is the next chapter of life and there seems to be no limit to the possibilities of human expression.  There are so many different accents, so many different clothing styles, ways of walking, topics of conversations.  And nobody seems to notice anyone around them.  There is no need to do so when there is no goal of fitting in or assessing oneself based on others, at least not in public circles.  To my early eyes, people seem brusk and to the point, but also quite accommodating and non-judgmental given the diversity of people with whom they must live.  No need to be friends, and no need to be enemies.  Everyone is just living together.

I was relaying to a friend a sentiment that I read of General MacArthur's regarding the Japanese people as he facilitated the post-war restructuring of Japan: that they are like children.  To my western eyes I can see what aspects of childhood MacArthur might have seen when he said this.  There is an innocence in the trust and collective spirit of Japan that we in the west seem to equate with childhood.  I see and feel this strongly in the contrast between Japan and New York City.  In the west I think there is an expectation in adulthood that you have strong values and convictions and that you assert them to others and live strongly by them.  And also that you take care of yourself, learn how to look after yourself in a world of, perhaps, less-than-trustworthy individuals.  But my friend suggested that there is also something very mature in the ability to express a collective spirit, to know oneself well enough and be willing to accommodate others, that part of growing up and adulthood is learning to work together, and that to Japan, westerners might also seem like children in our self-entitlement and belief in the absolute truth of our thoughts and emotions.  There are many aspects of childhood and many aspects of adulthood, and probably a great deal that both cultures can learn from one another about the balance of the ideas of individuation and communcal spirit as leaders for a collective good for every person.

I'm looking forward to this next chapter.  Last night I revelled in jet lag as I walked around the dark rooms of our Manhattan apartment, feet on polished wood floors, the ceiling high above me and the windows that connect them filled with the walls of apartments, windows with fans and air conditioners, the sky impossible, surrounded by people in a way I'd never imagined, surrounded by possibilities.  I imagined the air filled with snow, the crisp inhale of winter.  It seems that most people only live in New York for a short period of time.  Maybe it's a year or two, maybe ten or fifteen.  But it seems there are few lifetime New Yorkers.  Most people seem to be making something of and out of this city. Perhaps I'm wrong about that, but it is certainly a description of my projected existence here.  It will be fast, floating, just like Japan.

It still seems so magical to me.  Just as I was reopening my eyes upon leaving Japan, I find them in a ready state to take in New York.  The buildings seems miraculous with their decorated facades, the trees seem strong and hearty in their triumph over the cement and exhaust, the mannerisms of people tell so many stories and beg so many questions, the resources seem endless.  I'm ready and open to take it all in.  But just as I recently reflected on the familiarization that accrued in even the unbelievable land of Japan, so too am I aware that this will become home in the coming months.  And I want to watch it, to savor it as best I can, to see what can be learned, especially in the aftermath of such a different world.  

So as I end this blog, I will be beginning another one called "Borrowing Manhattan."  It will only be a short time that I'm here, about the same amount that I experienced in the Land of Tomorrow.  I'm still not home, and still wanting to take in as much of this incredible world while I'm here.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New York Beginnings

My transition to America begins in New York, a city similar in population density, and yet very, very different from Japan.  There are still seas of people in the subway stations and exchanges, yet this sea is one of pushing and pulling currents.  Everyone is so much much larger, their steps are so much stronger, their volition so much more assured.  There are garbage cans everywhere and yet still so much litter.   We walked and walked today.  Thirty blocks north to get some furniture, 90 blocks south for an adventure.  We stopped in a Hungarian bakery, got some free lemonade from a lemonade stand closing down, went through Central Park, and Hell's Kitchen, and Chelsea and along the Highline which walks above the streets.  We then descended to an Italian restaurant which claimed to have the best brick-oven pizza in New York.  Well, why would we go anywhere else?

Everyone is so different here that, as my mother put it, there is no point of reference for judgement.  In my Tae Kwon Do practice in Riverside Park this morning there were many friendly dogs and apologetic owners but no one cared at all that I was there.  Everyone seems focused on themselves.

photo bombing at St. John the Divine

walk along Central Park West

Columbus Circle

cranes rising 

"New Yorker"

Layers of the City

train tracks


Group effort lego project


23rd Street

I will be traveling to various points in the states in the coming months before finally settling in this incredible city.  I've yet to determine how to frame the coming experience of living here.  What will this come to mean, how will Japan frame what I see and how I respond?  This is a new chapter and the context is still unclear.  Hopefully in the next few days I will come to an understanding of how I might represent this return to America as it fades into a newly defined life.

I remember before I moved to Japan that a friend asked me to reflect on the reasons I was going so that I could reference them in times of challenge.  And perhaps now is another chance to reflect on the why of the next chapter.  It is still so undefined.  Perhaps in the next month something will start to form as I shake of the jetlag and awaken in America a little more fully.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


It was a frenzied morning at the airport to leave Japan.  But I suppose I won't have much more occasion to better adhere to my rule of arriving at the check-in 2 1/2 hours before an international flight with a cello.  I stood at the counter for about 40 minute while the staff worked to get my boarding passes figured.  At one point there were five people behind the counter, on the phone, with clipboards flipping through manuals.  I wish someone could tell me a universal procedure to help the process.  I go through this so many times and for the majority of airline workers, this is their first time dealing with a cello.

It I finished with the check-in around 8:25, 35 minutes before departure.  Close enough that a long security line could pose a problem.  I asked them about it and they agreed and had me go through an expedited lane.  I was still in the cradle of trusting that everything would be ok until on the other side of the scanner, the security staff said they would have to check my small luggage.  And then I realized to my horror that the hand-crafted Kyoto knives were in there.  And to airport security, they are not a souvenir, they are not a gift.  They are a weapon.  And now they are gone.  

If there had been more time, I might have been able to go back out of security and mail them.  If I were coming back to Japan, I might have been able to pick them on my return, if I had a friend in the lobby, I might have been able to call them and pass them back.  But there was no time.  I pleaded with security, not that they should allow me to take them, but to help in some way with a solution.  But there was simply no time.  I was in a time deficit and risked missing my plane as it was.  "Give it up," the man said, several times.  It was a hard thing to give up.

I went down the escalator and found long lines for immigration.  I waited.  8:35, 8:40...  I got to the counter and the man asked for my resident card.  Thinking I hadn't gotten back from the check-in (I didn't recall receiving it and had been told it would be taken from me) I tried to explain I didn't have it.  A phone call, the side office, "Please have a seat," 8:45.  And then I double checked and it was there! 

I gave it to him, had to fill out a quick form, he worked at the computer, 8:48, handed me my passport and my punched invalidated resident card, and I ran ran ran.  The signage saying that gates 26-41 were just to the right of immigration actually meant there was a shuttle to them.  8:50.  I jumped in past a confused woman standing outside the door and waited waited waited for the shuttle doors to close.  

We teetered and creeped to the next stop and I jumped out at 8:52 and started down the stairs, seeing a beam of light at the bottom holding a sign with my flight number.  I ran past her through the corridors to gate 39, 8:54.

I found my seat at the back of the airplane, stowed my security-approved luggage and sat down, hot, shaken, and still upset at having made such a careless, regrettable, and irreversible mistake.  What was I thinking?  I sat there processing my emotions, thinking through the loss, acknowledging my feeling of stupidity and with that the feeling of entitlement for being flawless.  What a feeling it is to lose something you hadn't realized you had.  

And then I looked out the window.  And I realized I was about to leave Japan.  I realized I had just lost my residence status there.  This was where my mind had been when it wasn't thinking through packing clearly.  And now that it was focused on the loss of this material thing that really had no personal value to me, it was distracted from another very real separation that was unfolding at that very minute.  

The stress of the acute loss is still with me.  I keep replaying that feeling of dread at the security line over and over again.  It is an easy sort of loss to fixate upon.  A clear having and a sudden not-having. But the loss of Japan still hasn't hit me.  I no longer live there.  It is no longer my home.  And it is no longer a place from which I can miss my home of America.  There are so many things in Japan.  In the place, in the people, in the history, in the word itself.  My point of reference for the past three years is gone and as I sit in this airplane in the sky, I've yet to touch down upon another one.  

It is difficult to give up something.  I wish I had just thanked the security personnel for whatever help they could give and moved on, but I could not yet relinquish my ownership.  It was mine only a few minutes ago.  Mine.  But I'm not entitled to anything.  Japan was never my home.  I only borrowed it with kind permission for three years, and the knives have become a piece of that.  I can understand what I've lost materially in the last 24 hours, but I don't think I have any real idea of what I'm leaving.  

What is of value to us?  Why?  How do we watch over it?  What does it mean to lose it?  I already miss Japan, and yet somehow wonder if I will ever comprehend its meaning, its significance, or the loss of it.   

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport

Here I am.  Back at the Kansai airport hotel.  Slightly less than three years ago today I was marveling at the Teachings of Buddha in place of the bible.  I had figured out the kanji for "day."  I was beginning this blog.

Where am I?  Have I traveled anywhere since then?

After my housing check-out (the culmination of lots of organizing, careful garbage planning, helpful friends, strategic packing, and lots and lots and lots of cleaning) the women from the office asked what I would do next.  I said I was taking a bus to Nishinomiya to get my cello before busing to the airport.  They looked at my two large suitcases and smaller one and backpack and bow case and offered to give me a ride.  But they had another housing check-out to do and it would be about an hour-and-a-half before we could go.  Fine by me.  So I got some lunch and ate off my incredibly clean floor while I stared at the empty rooms.  And then I did one of my favorite things to do: lie on my tatami floor and stare out the window.

I remembered the first time I did this three years ago, while I waited for the same people to come help me with my internet connection.  Then as now, I was taken with the apartment, and with the tatami room in particular.  Looking at the thick summer sky I felt incredible gratitude to begin this next adventure.  Gratitude for the teachers that had helped me deserve this, gratitude for the organization that made it possible.

And today it was the same.  Only this gratitude was for Japan.  For all the people that I've met here, for all the kindness that has been shown to me, for the opportunity to have had this incredible experience.

The women that drove me back to Nishinomiya were actually so nice that they allowed me to keep my luggage in the car while I stopped in the mall to make one last purchase, and then joined them at HPAC to pick up my cello.  I stuck my head in the office to say goodbye before we went back to the car and everyone got up from their desks, gave me a hug and then walked to the entrance of the lounge where they did a familiar wave-until-out-of-sight sendoff.  The two women drove me to the bus stop and pulled all my luggage out of the car for me while I bought my ticket.  And then they parked the car and hugged me and waved goodbye as I boarded.

If I were blind to any other indiction, it would seem that I have a family here.  But when will I see them again?  Can I make an assumption about connection and commitment like I can do with my own biological family?  What makes a family a family?  What makes something familiar?  How can we learn to trust?  Does it matter that I may never see my Japanese friends again?  Does it matter that we have completed our exchanges of giving and receiving?

This has been a forgivingly slow transition home.  It has been a long process of sifting through the apartment to return it to the beginning.  There have been several "last" concerts (last subscription, last opera, last last), and last rehearsals.  Several final social gatherings, final classes, and farewells.  Last night there was a going away party and then another going away party.  There were many times to say goodbye.  Many times to reflect on the swift end as it has been coming.

And today I merely left Akuradanchi and Takarazuka, not yet Japan.  I did Tae Kwon Do at the river one last time with a brave soul who tried for the first time with a 6:30am workout after a late night of partying.  It was a pleasure to share the morning air with her.  And a last farewell to the apartment, and to HPAC (again) and to the Nishinomiya Gardens shopping mall, and the bus ride over the symbolic bridges to the airport.  And yet I still have one last night in Japan.  Still 14 hours of being in this country, surrounded by this culture which seems more and more familiar to me.  More and more like family.

It's taken a long time to get here, but did I ever arrive?  And now it's time to go back.  Now is the time.  Tomorrow morning will be the last last.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


It's almost 2am.  This day is much longer than usual and the night will follow suit.

This was the last time to walk on the stage at HPAC.  And the last time to stare out at a full audience of Japanese faces, a sight that has become so familiar to me over the past three years, like a friend. I wonder if any feel the same way about me.  We are so anonymous to one another, and yet so familiar.  Familiar.

Afterwards, one of them whom I had briefly met on the train one night and then subsequently at another concert, but not seen for two years, managed to send a bass player after me to bring me back to the stage, to meet him at the edge of a dwindling audience heading for their trains.  He wanted to say goodbye.

I had been crying.  As musicians we learn to control the fire with which we work.  Audience members may become caught up in a moment, but if we are to do so entirely, we might lose it and all it's worth.  It's a difficult balancing act to perform, to be within and without at once.  But sometimes, one permits it.  And today I did.

I don't know what it means to be good.  I don't know what goodness is, but sometimes I feel like I can touch it, and today was one of those moments.  There is something so good about playing with other people.  And something so sad about not seeing it.  I feel a little like I am dying and realizing how much I love to live, wishing I had the clarity to see all that I love so much.

And yet it is time to go.  There is something else waiting for me.

Tomorrow morning I will say goodbye to the river, goodbye to my apartment, to Akuradanchi, to Takarazuka.  And after one more night, goodbye to Japan.  The folds are closing, bit by bit.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Nodame Concerts and Audiences

One Nodame concert completed, one more to go tomorrow.  This is a very interesting concert premise to me.  Based on an anime series about conservatory music students, this concert features some of the major pieces that are featured in the series, along with sketches projected on a back screen.  It also serves as an adult Wakuwaku concert with a fair amount of talking by the conductor.  We play some excerpts from the pieces and alter them to see if the audience can spot the difference.  The conductor speaks with the soloists after they perform, and whenever there is a solo in the orchestra, the instrument and player's name are projected on the screen, sort of like when someone makes a great play in sports.  At the end of the concert, as we play the encore, credits roll along with pictures that were taken of us during the orchestra rehearsals.

It's an interesting idea for making orchestral concerts more accessible.  We do play entire works.  But things are broken down a little more and personalized a little further as well.  It's cool that classical music can be the basis for an anime series in Japan and great that such a concert (two of them) can sell out for it.  I wonder if such a thing would be possible in America.  It's the golden egg to figure out how to sell out orchestral concerts in America, and it happens without fail here.  Just trying to take note.  Perhaps there is something deeper than anime to answer why there is such an appreciation for classical music in Japan.  Whatever the reason, I appreciate this appreciation.  Many thanks to all the people who listen.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Pulling Away

There are so many going away sessions.  It's hard to keep them balanced, especially when they sneak up after I've planned to have the night in for various other chores.  I think all the people who are leaving have a similar experience, caught between taking care of everything that needs to be done to move away and seeing all the people there are to see.

It's a funny thing to leave Japan.  I've been thinking about what I will do with this blog.  It seems like it would be nice to continue a separate blog after my time here.  But life is not the same elsewhere.  Living in Japan is, in a way, a separate living, an excision from life.  It is worthy of a framed blog with a name.  But what does one call normal life?  Under what banner does it fly?  What would be the purpose of such a blog?

Maybe it doesn't need a purpose.  I'll still have to think about it.  But the exercise of thinking of normals life's context has highlighted for me the exceptional experience I'm living, and goodbyes are not excluded from this.  How does one say goodbye, when really, you might not ever see one another again?  In America this is always some chance.  But Japan is so far away.  How does one say goodbye?  I'm leaving an unusual part of life, like leaving the dead, or the living, or stepping out of Brigadoon.  To connect to leave.  What a strange act is saying goodbye.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cleaning (Orchestral Appreciation)

There are few things as satisfying as a really clean refrigerator.  Actually, that's not true.  There are many, many more things far more satisfying.  A truly clean refrigerator is certainly a joy, but far more so than this is playing Brahms, or Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations.  And I get to play both, along with other wonderful pieces on this quickly rehearsed program.  Everyone has to think and apply quickly in order to get these two very large programs up to speed in just two and a half days, about a quarter of the rehearsal time we would normally have for this much music.  And it's refreshing and exciting.  Music is so incredible.  It seems somewhat tragic that I was exposed to the possibility of a life with it.  And now I can't give it up, even though I imagine my efforts towards this seemingly futile and unprofitable pursuit would probably be better absorbed if directed towards environmental action or social work.  Or I could I could play the stock market.

But there is something perfect about it.  Like nature there is no good or bad.  It simply is.   I'm not trying to solve a problem of humanity, but I feel as though I am engaging in it.  It is an act of perfecting, of trying, of learning, of rearranging, of learning about oneself and reflecting on any number of aspects that comprise the practice of "music."  It is a life-long pursuit.  I continue to grow in it.

And so now it seems very scary to say goodbye to it and not have something to jump into on the other side.  Scary enough that it is motivating, scary enough that I appreciate even this thrown-together project.  I appreciate my colleagues in this orchestra, I will miss them.  I appreciate being able to make sound with so many people.  I remember the first rehearsal we had in the large hall playing Dvorak 9.  I remember the sound of the brass overtaking me.  There are some things that can't be done alone.

I have the impression, from personal accounts and statistics, that being an orchestral musicians is one of the most unsatisfying jobs one can have.  And after these three years, I can understand why.  It takes so much skill, and you have so little voice or individual input.  You become the puppet of a conductor.  He takes your skill and uses it.  Good conductors know how to alleviate this and empower musicians from the podium, but in the end, it is a dictatorship and a hierarchy, one that isn't always perfect.  Happiness in this orchestral world is means to hand over control and obey, to desire to blend in perfectly.  But at the same time, it is such a wonderful thing to do.  When you are truly with your stand partner, living in the exact same time together; when you can sing vicariously through all the voices of the orchestra, and play with them, giving to them as much of yourself as you can; when you can live the lives of others through their music, breathing meaning into the harmonies and counterpoints they composed hundreds of years ago, there is a connection to humanity that rivals any other humanistic work, as tempting as it might be.

As much as it has at times been a struggle to make orchestral playing my life, I will miss it terribly until the next time.  I don't think it can be a life by itself for me, but I have become so attached to it in these past three years that I can't imagine not continuing to pursue it.  And so now a jump.  Memories sustain me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Seeing Again

It's the last week and it has finally begun to feel like the first again.  I'm seeing everything as though it was new, because it will soon be gone.  The elderly couple that feeds pigeons every morning by the river, the kids playing soccer in the fields, the way the path curves around and crosses a small tributary allowing me to become one with the water for a brief moment.  And in the grocery store, all the things that I will miss, though I never buy them.  The vegetable granola, and the bean and tofu one, too, the various chocolate filled cookies, the flavored soy milks,  the prepared foods of dozens of varieties, matcha taiyaki, and a diaper brand called Moony.  These things aren't a part of my daily life, but their possibility is.  They are all collected together, here and now, accessible, viewable, purchasable, in a way they will never be again.

How long will it take for my eyes to become accustomed again?  Is it a change in perception, or is it the cleaning off of the assumption of existence?  Is it possible to keep this open and clear over time, or must we necessarily gain familiarity?  But in the expectations of the daily, there are still so many beautiful things.  Nothing is every truly the same.  Even day after day.

It's just the larger things that I've come to assume that are becoming more beloved in these final days.  I can navigate the bike path so well, knowing the various characters that frequent it and how to accommodate them.  I know what foods I need to buy at the grocery store and which others aren't really essential for daily living.  It has been helpful to become familiar.  But I will no longer need these assets.  I'm happy to go back to my new eyes of ignorance.  To go back to not knowing Japan so that I may come to know it again, at least for each of the final days I have here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Farewell to Familiar Voice

Hearing his voice on the phone filled me with regret, but at least I had overcome my trepidation and answered.  Something about this voice I hadn't heard for a long time, isolated from its body, suggestive and open to any memories and associations I might attach to it.  Far more dangerous than a farewell hug.  Distant already.

Dear Kaneko-san.  At some point I stopped scheduling lessons with him.  I believe there was a period of frustration in our communication, a slacking in the progress of the lessons, perhaps even a few slight offenses I felt from him.  A likely occurrence between an older Japanese man and a younger western woman.  And I had started lessons also with Fukunari-sensei, who seemed a far more natural teacher, certainly she had spent more time doing this work.  At the time, it seemed a better fit.

But hearing his voice reminded me of the Sunday mornings of chipping away at understanding, perhaps far more naturally if less efficiently than with Fukunari-sensei.  Lessons weren't really lessons, or at least the best ones weren't.  They were explanations of one another's countries, one another's hobbies, families, and interests.  We armed ourselves with dictionaries, gestures, and scrap paper.  And yes, on the one hand there was always an awkwardness unfamiliar to me that I would attribute to the difference in our gender, age, and culture.  But if I looked beyond that and sat with something else that was also there, I could enjoy a kindness and beautiful generosity that ought to have been undisturbed by such surface relations.

At the very least, it seemed rude not to at least call him to tell him I was moving back to America.  It was a slightly scary item on my list of things I hoped I would do, but didn't know if I actually would.  Tomorrow is the end of my phone service.  And I found myself just picking it up and dialing this afternoon, leaving an extremely awkward message.  And my fear even enticed me to consider not answering when he called, just to continue to listen to NPR when his name appeared on the buzzing screen.

I might have left without ever hearing his voice again.  We could have faded away, every now and then remembering that we existed and wondering what happened, where the other was.  And I suppose it will still be the same.  He will continue and I will continue, separately.  But having conjured the courage to make the call, to do something uncomfortable, I'm given a chance to reflect and remember something so incredibly valuable and touching to me in my first months and years in Japan.  And to realize that despite the circumstances that nudged me away, there was something wonderful there.  People are so huge.  They are possible of so many things.  I hope this will encourage me to look past the distractions of offenses and frustrations more often in the future.  There is so much good.

Our conversation was brief, very sweet.  "Japanese isn't used very much around the world, but please continue to study."  Yes, dear Kaneko-san, you are still my teacher.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Final Shodo

This was the last day of shodo.  After being so moved by the book Chihiro and Yulia made for me, I thought it might be nice to make something similar, though far more humble for Sensei.  So with a little help, I managed to format my shodo related blog entries, print them, and put them together in a booklet.  I didn't realize that today was a last class for everyone, before a long break, and that there were many people present that normally would not be and many people giving gifts to Sensei.  But it was still wonderful to present it to her.  There were so many pictures of the work that I'd done and my attempts to learn from her.  And also pictures of a spring walk that we shared with Christy over a year ago.  I think everyone in the class enjoyed looking through the booklet and it was fun to make it.

And of course she gave me something, a sample of her own work, mounted so that I can hang it on the walls in my new home.  Three beautiful cards that can be interchanged in the hanger, one which has multiple writings of "百福、hyakufuku", meaning roughly a hundred good fortunes.  It's matted in the same way as my sakurafubuki sample, so it will be a really nice set.  And for work, she gave me several samples that I can presumably continue to work on in the coming year.  They are a step more difficult, but are the beginning of a set of exercises from a book that she works from.  My last class and a new beginning.

Also a new beginning for the friend that I brought for the first time.  And this concluded an interesting period of viewing old blog entries of my beginnings with shodo, in particular the friend that introduced me to the class, Christy.  I was suddenly in her place, trying to help this other colleague, while myself still feeling so new and uncertain.  It's fun to share something with others, to pass something along that I am grateful I was given.  I don't know if she will continue, but it was a good way to end the class.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Opera and Onsen

The opera is finally over and the final of final bows complete.  Sado-san gave us the memorial books that several HPAC members have been creating for everyone who is leaving.  There are pictures of us, pictures of other HPAC members, and little notes from everyone in the orchestra.

And after the end-of-opera toast, Ani and I departed to the onsen, a magical place of comfort and community.  There's nothing really like it in America.  We wondered what it would take to sell it there.  It can be a tough hurdle to cross, but most who decide to try discover how wonderful it is. Especially when there is green tea soft serve afterwards.

And here are a few pictures from the end of opera, the reception, and the journey to onsen....

guidance for proper attire to the reception

ice sculpture for opera reception

dessert table at opera reception

final bows

Kumichan, the local fashion cat
(for more http://yaplog.jp/kumichan77/)

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Last quartet rehearsal today.  A week ago, Chihiro had asked if we could plan to play through the entire Beethoven quartet at the end of this rehearsal, and of course I said yes.  So we worked for an hour and fifteen minutes and then decided to take a break before doing the run-thru at noon.

At 11:59 Chihiro was not in the room, which was a little strange for her.  I don't think she has ever, EVER, been late, by which I mean, not early and warming up.  And then the doors opened and there was Chihiro with several other HPAC friends to make an audience.  They pulled up chairs and we had the pleasure of a surprise audience without the stress of preparing for a performance.  An informed reading, a true sharing of the pleasure of experiencing this incredible piece without worrying too much.

And that was the end, except not quite.  Chihiro and Yulia got up and got two thick envelopes for me and Keita and presented these gifts to us  They had taken all our quartet photos and turned them into a bound book, with title pages for each piece and performance, personalized, including additional pictures that they had taken that morning at the beginning of rehearsal and had a friend develop at the convenient store across the street while we rehearsed (or so I assume).  It was such a touching surprise.  Such a surprise, so touching.  I'm so happy to now have this very special memento of the time together.  It has been such a privilege.  I feel very, very lucky.


After this emotional start to the day, I enjoyed the opera for the penultimate time.  Afterwards I wasn't in a particular hurry to get home and as I lounged on the 5th floor, looking through some music, our facilities manager, Frank, stretched out his evening to spend some time with me, just sitting and chatting about my time in Japan and his time in America, 15 years ago.

Japan is so far away from America.  Not just in distance.  The language makes it far away as well.  There have been few other times in my life when goodbyes were so final.  I am so grateful for these people that have made life in Japan so rich and wonderful.  Can I get through the last ten days without some hope that it will not be so final?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Crossing Another River

I just want to rush to the finish line.  I want to clean the windows in my bedroom, the inside of my refrigerator, the washer, the floors.  I want to have the next month perfectly scheduled, the bus trips, the closing of my accounts, the apartment check, the buying of furniture, and the arrival in the next and the next bed.  I just want to push through it all.  

But these few days require something different.  They require that I sit and enjoy the friends around me, that I eat wonderful food with others, that I enjoy playing this opera over and over again because it is at least three hours that I can be making music in the midst of doing many other non-musical things.  It is so wonderful to find oneself comfortably in the arms of inconvenience.  What a blessing inconvenience can be.

I biked home after dark and waited for a line of cars to cross the tracks parallel to me.  Waiting to cross the road upon which they drove.  And an inconvenience became an opportunity to look into all these lonely cars, tired cars, happy cars, all these little bubbles, with one or two people, each in their own little pocket of life, looking ahead, somewhere in some thought, listening to something, feeling something.  What a blessing inconvenience can be.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015


It's been a simple day of Skyping and cleaning with a brief break for a BBQ.  It always seems to take a move for me to really clean a place well.  I always say I'll take better care of it in the next place I live, and I do have an intention to try to do that.  But at the same time it's much more fun and cathartic to clean things that are really dirty.  And secondly, it doesn't really take that much time to make something look nice again.  It's certainly a more respectable to clean deeply regularly, and probably healthier.  And with that in mind, I will continue to strive for that way of living.  But if I do ever successfully undo this procrastinatory lifestyle, I will look back on these days fondly when rags became dirty and kitchen surfaces glistened magically.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado

Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado of Japan came to today's opera and post-performance reception party.  We couldn't use the normal elevator to get to the stage from the orchestra lounge on the 5th floor, the shades were drawn on the 5th floor as well, we had to stand and applaud with the entire audience when she entered the hall and had to wait for her to leave at the end of the performance.  And similar protocol followed at the reception party, all of it very explicitly dictated as to how we were expected to behave in her presence.  We don't have royalty in America, so this sort of treatment seemed a little strange.

After she entered to the planned applause at the reception, she was seated at a table in the front, with a man kneeling behind her chair to pull it out for her.  This was the first time I saw this wide-smiled little Japanese woman of 62 years.  After sitting through several formal speeches by various government people, the announcer said, "Please listen as we can hear some of the precious words of Her Imperial Highness The Princess Takamado."  Her chaired was pulled away from her as she stood and she walked up to the stage as the microphone was magically adjusted to her height.  And she began to speak in slow, sometimes halted, but very gentle sounding Japanese.  She gave no pause for the translators and I saw them in the corner, quickly trying to get down everything they would have to convey.  And then much to their relief, she seamlessly switched into the most beautiful and expressive English.  It seemed to flow much more smoothly than her Japanese.  She spoke of the how the specific aesthetic qualities in the production made it especially effective, how powerful the performance was for her.  It was like listening to a art journal's review being composed extemporaneously.  She was so gracious, so graceful.  The room was silenced listening to her.

I had heard some interesting things about this Her Imperial Highness.  She married into the family but before this had been educated at Cambridge.  In fact, she had lived in England for much of her life, having moved there with her family as a child.  She has degrees in anthropology and archeology and a PhD as well, and worked as a interpreter before meeting her future husband at a reception and saying yes to a proposal a month later.  I had heard that she had had a difficult time adjusting to a non-working imperial lifestyle and that there was some stigma associated with the fact that she did not give birth to any boys,  thus ending the succession through their family.

An interesting life.  Before she spoke to all of us, the anti-royalty heritage in us thought this kind of treatment for a figurehead to be over-the-top.  And some of me thought that maybe it's just an opportunity to give excellent service, which seems to carry a certain pleasure in itself.  But she seems wholly worthy of it, perhaps for the fact that she is just a human being.  Her husband is no longer living but this Eliza Doolittle has been transformed into royalty and carries it flawlessly.  Of course she was extremely well educated, of course she was given many resources even for her "commoner" beginnings.  But still, she was not royalty at birth but has become it and worthy of the service it endows.  Maybe we are all princes and princesses.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Get a Move On

Finally, I woke up with some stress about the upcoming move and all the things that need to happen in my apartment before it comes in less than two weeks.  Less than two weeks.  It's all very manageable, but items need to be relocated or thrown away, sorted and sifted.

I went a step further this morning and even took some bags to the consignment shop, nodding my way through the process of exchanging things.  They sorted through each item, determining its value while I browsed the shelves and racks looking at everything from towel sets to yukatas to wet suits to turn tables.  It is a store of many wonders.  And when I was finished they gave me 850 yen for everything.  It's not much, but it's a few less things to be incinerated or put in a landfill, a few less things in the apartment.

Yet to do is to collapse many boxes, hand off a few more things to friends and clean clean clean like I've never cleaned before.  I think I've realized how dirty I feel in Japan.  Foreigners just don't know how to clean or keep things clean like Japanese people do.  Or at least I'm given that feeling.  We didn't grow up with the same kind of intense cleanliness ethic and so I always feel very dirty.  It's a strange way to feel.  And in the next two weeks I will have to look for cleaning products and tools that I've never considered to accommodate the shapes of drains and the prevalence of mold in tiny places everywhere.

Yes, a healthy amount of stress has begun, but it's a good thing.  There is still much to be done, but still plenty of time to do it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

It Takes a Lot of Energy......

It takes a lot of energy to be an orchestral musician.  It also takes a lot of energy to be a mother, or a father, or a doctor, or a teacher, or anything else.  And likely it is the same for any profession or task, but one of the things that is quite consuming for a musician is the amount of focus and criticism that occur at any given second.  There are a thousand ways to make a mistake.  One must constantly assess what one's peers are doing and what information the conductor is giving in many dimensions: time, duration, quality of attack and decay, pitch, dynamic, sound color, and how all of these things work together to connect notes and create shapes and phrases.

The work happens in real time.  In a performance there is constant evaluation of oneself and how one is doing.  Are my eighth notes too long?  Am I playing sharp or flat?  Does my vibrato match?  One really has to work with oneself, to take one's own criticism and be willing to listen to it and change immediately.  And in rehearsal one has to constantly be tailoring one's playing to what others want.  There is a lot of input, and to be a good musician is not just to be a good musician, but to be flexible to what the situation demands, and to do it cordially.

And in orchestra, you can't take a break whenever you want.  You can't go have a minute to yourself, get a snack, use the bathroom.  You are on another person's time and must act as they wish.  They dictate your music.  It takes a lot of self control to give over the reigns so completely to another person.  And a lot of energy to be constantly adjusting yourself at the slightest suggestion for three hours.  As we follow these singers in their arias, they need constant support and attention for the lengthening of the bars and even of every beat.  Following the sound as completely as possible.  Allowing another voice to enter and change your own.

I don't know what kind of energy it takes to be other things.  I imagine each one has a unique set of skills and challenges.  But when I think of orchestral musicians and all the strengths and weaknesses that we have, all the insecurities and frustrations and hypersensitivities, the nature of our job seems to make it all make sense.  We are so skilled at what we do.  So well trained.  And we hand it over to another person.

And this is why chamber music is so valuable.  It takes a lot of energy to be a chamber musician.  After opera yesterday, my quartet wanted to do a score reading session, something that we never do in America.  When we sat and looked through the whole quartet together and talked about the form and the way the piece worked in various regards, individually and collectively we thought about the piece, something allocated to another person in orchestra.   And then we rehearsed it today, and asked one another to change things, to do things differently, asked ourselves to do the same, were asked to change.  It takes a lot to change oneself.  But somehow having it come from oneself is a little different.  It still takes a lot of energy, but we determine to give it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Opera Going By

We're halfway through!  My stand partner said it might be time to re-watch Groundhog's Day.  Time is quite confused.  Didn't we do this yesterday?  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Post Typhoon River

The river was incredible today.  It was swollen and rushed passed the barriers where cranes usually pose in the wind.  The playing fields were filled with stones that had been deposited during an even higher period and parts of the bike path were consumed by sand and rocks.  I turned a corner on my way this morning and had to suddenly stop.  Nothing to do but go forward.  People came out to see the damage and the change, the birds have found new gathering spots.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Sky is Definitely Falling

There were somewhere between 60 and 80 people lined up at the taxi stand at the station.  While I waited for a bus that never came–at least not in the 45 minutes I stood there before giving up–I estimated that a taxi came probably about every 10 minutes.  I'm not sure how this math was supposed to work in terms of getting people home before they would have to return the next day, but maybe there was no other choice.  Maybe all the capsule hotels were booked.

waiting for a taxi in the rain

Until now I don't think I had ever imagined I would have a limit to the rain.  I love it.  I don't love getting wet in it, but well-protected or indoors, it could last forever and I would have thought I could live happily.  But the rain that has come with this typhoon has been strong and steady all day, without a breath, one long run-on sentence of white noise, never letting up, clouding the landscape, putting everyone on guard, and I'm ready to come up for a bit air.  I also don't know what shoes I can where tomorrow.

Regardless, it's still really exciting when unusual weather happens.  It feels like Christmas. Everything is sparkling, nothing is the usual schedule or order, people make exceptions to their routine, and we live in the upset of it together.  I felt oddly close to my baffled and tired–but incorrigibly patient–Japanese fellow bus waiters.  We are all in this together.  And it's also exciting because it is a small glimpse of what nature can do.  There has been so much rain.  Even on my morning bus ride as we crossed the bridge I saw a river full to the brim.  What has it become now? Can there be more water in this world to come down upon us?  And incredibly, the answer is YES!  There is a million times more water in the world.  And so it makes one think about the oceans that are always surrounding us.  What if they rose upon the land either by rain or by wave?  They could devour us.  We are at their mercy.

And so these days are very thrilling in a way.  To get closer to the people around us, inconvenienced and wet together.  To get closer to understanding how terrifying and sublime nature really is.  To try something new, when a dry world becomes wet.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lunch at Wada-Sensei's

Sensei was planning to have a dinner for our shodo class this evening, but due to the coming typhoon which should be arriving in the next few hours, she changed it to lunch.  A former HPAC member from the class who moved to Finland with her husband–also an HPAC member who joined the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra last year–were in Japan to visit his family before heading to Korea to visit hers.  It was an occasion for Sensei to pull out her incredible culinary skills.

Kizaki-san, one of the members in the class, picked up me and another member at the train station and drove us up the winding hills above Takarazuka to Sensei's house.  Along the way we talked about expensive parking in various places and the change in strength of the yen to the dollar during the time I've been in Japan.  And when we arrived and Sensei was still finishing up various parts of getting ready, we continue to talk about family, her sister who lives in the States and had her first children, twins, at the age of 46.  We talked about how the birthrate in Japan is decreasing because women want to have a career first, how this compared to America, and how it has changed over time.  I wish my Japanese was stronger.  It would be so interesting to deepen and broaden these conversations.

Once my HPAC friends arrived, there was some translation help, as well as an additional interest in their multicultural existences.  The conversations were ones of sharing different cultural experiences, catching up about the everyday, and letting the time pass easily.

The food was incredible and in many different courses.  It's so inspiring to see what can be possible in one's home.  Soft tofu with roe and sesame oil was set at our places; then we were served a salad of greens, raw salmon, and tomatos; there was pasta that seemed to have a mustard sauce and sausage; tons of vegetable tempura as well as shrimp and fish tempura; eggplant with diced tomatoes and green onions in a ponzu-shiso leaf-sesame oil sauce (an incredible Japanese taste); okawa, a seasoned sticky rice with various vegetables mixed-in and topped with seaweed; watermelon, green tea, and coffee or black tea.

After eating, the group lingered for a long time, even after the guests of honor had to return to Kyoto.  I sat there like a child at Thanksgiving while the adults spoke about things I didn't understand, just soaking in the feeling of this group of old friends of many years, just sitting in one another's company, talking about whatever, seemingly not minding the time, picking at the remaining watermelon, drinking another pot of coffee together, eating a sweet cake here and there.

I wondered what their friendship felt like to them.  How would such a group friendship feel to me?  My friends are all over the place, it feels like years since I've shared such a thing.

It was an afternoon that has inspired me to look into more ways of cooking.  And also an afternoon that has inspired me to think about more ways of creating a home to share a space with others.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Opera times Opera

We've done two performances of the opera.  And there will be eight more.  Every year it's an opera marathon.  The mind counts the time by page numbers, the body molds itself around the key changes and accidentals, the reflexes move in time with the tempo changes and recitatives.  And we are only 20% of the way through the run.  It will become ingrained in us in the confines of a dark cramped pit. I cannot see anything that is happening onstage.  My role is one of many experiences in the room.  Crawl in, play, crawl out, crawl in, play, crawl out, and then three hours have passed and an audience is happy but also sad because it's that kind of opera.  A day off tomorrow and then four more days before another break.  It's marathon summer opera time!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Open Day

The sky was such a deep blue and it spread to white edges of the horizon.  The river was quite empty today, the heat and humidity were on high.  But the wind was changing the skies quickly and there are few things as beautiful as a dynamic sky and an empty field.

In shodo this morning, I discovered I've been using the wrong side of the paper all along.  It was not until Sensei graded my last assignment and didn't give me another one for the remainder of class that I resorted to my used papers to continue to focus on strokes from the figures of the day.  I had graduated from them, and I realized that I returned to them as though they were mine.  I had to use the other side of the paper and I realized that its roughness interacted with the ink and the brush in a most caring way.  What might have been, became.  Was it too late?  Only in time.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Appreciation Day

Today was a busy day of appreciation.  I did some final shopping for a gift for our stage manager who always does incredible work for us, and especially for our chamber music concert.  I'd collected money from everyone and with a friend had bought a nice sake set and then some gift fruit, prosciutto, and olive oil as a gift for him.  Today I printed off some pictures and my friend decorated a large card.  We passed it around for everyone to sign during the breaks of the opera.

After rehearsal we waited to intercept him in the lounge, but he was busy working so didn't stop by as we had hoped.  We he finally entered we all cheered for him and he became incredibly confused, "But it's not my birthday."  We gave him the card and the gifts anyway.

It was also the last day to write messages for core members who will be leaving (I'm included in that).  Whenever a core member leaves, a few people create a book with pictures and messages from everyone.  And so during the opera today, everyone was writing notes of thanks or reflection on another person, Frank, or all the people leaving.  It feels good to recognize that we have one another.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Meeting Fear

Fear is a mighty powerful thing.  And that isn't necessarily bad.  It protects us.  But it can also put up walls when they are not needed.  How does one coax down those walls?  How does one build trust?  Perhaps it can only be done with time and diligence and patience.  Perhaps there are some situations where it is easy to wish that fear would leave, but these resources are not available.  There isn't time, diligence, or patience.

What would it be like to live in a world without fear?  Would people walk into burning buildings?  Could we ever be able to trust our reason enough to take over for our wellbeing?  Fear keeps us from moving forward, fear causes us to retreat.  And these things can be hurtful when they are unwarranted, when there can be another way to respond to the situation.  Every time I perform or audition, I have to look at fear.  It tells me to run away, but that isn't the only option.  It is powerful to look at fear, to understand it better.  It need not be our master, though it can be an important messenger.

Today I feel a bit hurt by the fear of others.  But I have to respect it.  From my work experience, I'm led to conclude that this is not a country of risk taking, not a country of novelty, not a country of allowing subordinates to begin new ideas.  After this meeting, I might have added, nor is it a country which has much trust.  And then as I was walking to my apartment, lost in my thoughts, a woman smiled at me and wished me a good evening.  And then the walls came down.

Friday, July 10, 2015


When I first began Tae Kwon Do, there was an middle-aged gentleman from Spain that was also beginning.  He started coming to the club perhaps a few weeks after I did, and only stayed for one semester.  I didn't know much about him, except that his English was not as strong which made him seem slower (something I'm now so much more sensitive to), and that he was older than the 20 and 30 year olds around him.  But he kept trying and kept coming to class.  There was something very silent about him, and I assumed it was due to the language difference.  When he received his yellow belt at the end of the semester, and was preparing to leave (to return to Spain I suppose) he spoke to all of his and I remember very clearly the way he looked around the circle and said, "I have learned something from each and every one of you."  He really meant it.  He commanded our full attention with his sincerity and gratitude.  What could he have learned from me or from others, this silent older man from another country?  I had so little personal interaction with him.

Today, one of our masters, who is herself from Spain, sent us an email to inform us that he had unfortunately passed away.  She had been in touch with him and his family and said that he had been battling cancer for a while and that it kept coming back, three, four times, and that this was the last time.

It's amazing how blind we are to the people around us.  It's amazing how much somebody right next to us can be carrying and we can have no sensitivity to it.  I'd like to believe that as I get older and become more aware of what one can carry that I have become more sensitive.  As I look back on this gentleman from a few years ago, from my eyes a few years younger, I realize how little I saw.  What incredible strength stood next to me.  To be battling so many things, to put himself in the situation of our Tae Kwon Do class, which is strenuous for a 20-year-old, in a foreign country, perhaps having seen death and overcome it, perhaps continuing to look at as he did front kicks.

And when he said he had learned something from every one of us, I realized I could not have returned the comment to him, and I wished it weren't so.  Having gleaned the love and the nature of his perseverance I think I can.  May he rest in peace, and may his lesson reverberate through the world.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Picture with Sado-san

After a long day, Sado-san gave us his image for pictures of the members finishing their contracts this year.  It's a strange thing.  I have little personal contact with this man who leads our orchestra and began this organization.  He's a very busy man.  But today I stood next to him and we smiled and had our picture taken.  I'm not sure what will happen with the picture but I suppose it will be quite commemorative, despite not having any emotional investment.  He stands for a time, a place, and an incredible experience.  It will be a good memory to have.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Dentist Visit!

I would never have thought of a trip to the dentist as an activity high on the pleasure list.  But after today, I realize that it is possible.  I've never been in such a clean, friendly, high-tech, office, and don't know that my teeth have ever been as clean as they are.  As I sat down in the chair, I noticed a flat screen TV on the wall in front.  But instead of ocean life peacefully drifting by, it was a computer screen showing information about the appointment.  My name was there, along with my exact age and what procedure was happening.

The dentist came in and spoke to me in excellent English.  He inspected my teeth, checked my gums, and then took a wireless wand and held it in my mouth.  A few seconds later, a picture of the back of my teeth appeared on the screen showing the plaque that was there.  He said my teeth looked really good and all they would do is just clean this off.  And then the dental hygienist put a nice smelling soft towel over my eyes and I just relaxed as they gently and thoroughly cleaned each of my teeth.

When he was finished, he put the wand in my mouth again and another picture appeared on the screen of clean white teeth.  I ran my tongue over the surface.  So smooth.

I felt refreshed, cleaned, and very kindly served.  And now my teeth are ready to go.  I wish I could come back and enjoy another cleaning at this friendly dentist, but perhaps I will be so lucky in America as well.  I now know it's possible.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Last Lesson with Fukunari-sensei

It was a little more inconvenient to get to my lesson this morning because of the rain.  And I felt slightly sick and not fully prepared or invested in learning Japanese.  Or maybe my reticence was knowing that it would be the last lesson.  I thought several times about emailing Fukunari-sensei to cancel it, but I realized that none of these reasons, even in the composite, was enough to warrant a cancellation.  So I wrote a short essay yesterday and reviewed the lesson, and made my way to her apartment this morning.

I had come with a small gift that I bought for her from the trip to Kyoto last weekend.  It was less a goodbye present and more of a response to the box of cookies that she gave me for giving her a ticket to the Morning Chamber Music Concert.  I had thought about a final gift but couldn't get what I wanted to give her, a photography book of places in America.  I gave her the sour plum tea with gold flakes and before we began the lesson she asked if this would likely be our last.  I said yes, it probably would.  So she left the room and came back with a desk supply holder upon which she had painted flowers.  It was already wrapped in plastic.  I thanked her as I envisioned the closet filled with ready-to-go gifts, beautiful hand-made things that she had made in preparation for a material show of kindness and appreciation.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

We spent a lot of time talking in Japanese, and then she read over my essay.  It was short and just about how much I've enjoyed my time in Japan and how I would like to share some of the admirable qualities of Japanese culture when I return to the states.  There were some difficult expressions to communicate in it, especially with this last sentiment.  I could see her trying to come up with a good way to phrase it.  I still have so much to learn about politeness courtesy.  It suddenly felt audacious to even suggest that I would be capable of sharing any of the qualities that I had hoped to learn in Japan.  Young grasshopper, indeed.

We finished the lesson unceremoniously.  There seems to be a good chance that I will see her next year as her friend is suggesting that they travel to America.  Of course I invited her to be in touch should she be in the same place.  And she encouraged me to also be in touch with her, which I will surely try to do if I'm not too afraid of Japanese in two months.  Even if I am.  It has been wonderful to have her as a teacher.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Moving On Moving Out

Moving out time is getting hotter.  I've been in touch with the next tenant of my apartment about passing along certain items and he requested some pictures of the apartment.  I took them and then realized what a state of transition I'm currently in.  The rooms are sparse and cluttered.  And I made latkes for a dinner party last night, because these things need to be eaten.  I'm sifting through the cupboards and pantries and closets.  It's that time of life.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Speedy Summer

The cicadas are starting.  They're late but it's understandable.  The rainy season keeps going and the air just can't get as hot as it usually is by this time in the summer.  This is by no means a complaint.  The only sad thing about this is that I have a little less material with which to empathize with strangers.  It isn't really hot.  And it isn't really cold.  And beyond that, what is there to be said?  We aren't suffering enough.  But I can hear the cicadas beginning to begin.  In the early morning they start and then take a break.  In the evening they are singing before they sleep.  Before I leave, I imagine that they will have acquired their full potential and send me off in true Japanese summer fashion.  I don't have much left of it.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July in Kyoto (Sanzen-in and Hosen-in)

Some friends and I went to Kyoto this morning to visit two temples in the north east, Sanzen-in and Hosen-in.  We had intended to then do some pottery in the afternoon, but the gardens were so beautiful that it seemed a shame to hurry back to Kyoto when we could roam in the green rain.

we took a bus from central Kyoto out of the city and into the surrounding mountains

walking up a path lined with vendors

a local mascot, woman carrying wood on top of her head

vendors along the way

garden inside Sanzen-in

the grounds of Sanzen-in


faces in the moss (Sanzen-in)

Can you find them all?  (Sanzen-in)

in the roots

hydrangea garden

bridge over the stream connecting to hydrangea gardens

under tall naked trees

many many


sour plum tea with gold flakes 
sweet matcha tea with gold flakes

leaving Sanzen-in over the shops to the misty mountains

crane and turtle garden
the ponds are the wings of the crane, the turtle is the green to the left
they in peace and harmony

drinking green tea while staring at the 700 year old tree
(Not pictured, the ceiling panels were once the floor of this place upon which 400 years ago defeated samurais committed ritual suicide.  The blood stains were still visible.)

contemplating the tree and sipping matcha

matcha and old tree 

listening to the sound of enlightenment
it sounded like little clicks with an occasional ding, perhaps the echoing of water sounds down the bamboo tubes
I looked under the planks for the source of enlightenment but found nothing

shiso (sour plum leaf) soft serve

shiso leaves
something for which this area is famous
After taking the bus back to central Kyoto and then the train back to Takarazuka, we met some friends and had Indian for dinner.  Something to celebrate the birth of a nation.