Thursday, April 30, 2015

Re-meeting HPAC

The orchestra is so tired.  While I was in America they did a two-week tour in Japan.  It takes a lot of energy to travel and to be around the same people all the time.  There is no time to practice, little time to be alone, little time to really take in the place where one is staying.   There are lots of parties because it's sort of vacation, and so everyday is a bit hungover and the concerts start to drag and unravel in the wear of the journey.  People can get touchy, irritable, frustrated; alliances of friends build, become shaky, offenses and insecurities mount.  Jumping in, having been in America, some of these things seem to really stand out.  People are doing pretty well, all things considered.  There is a lot of fortitude and courtesy in the midst of it all.  But everyone seems really tired.  

Our soloist and leader this week is a French violinist who seems to be doing everything he can to extract musicianship from the oversized string section he's been required to use for three Bach concerti and Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  Everything he says ends with an upward intonation and stress, "oK!"  "We start from zee beginnING!" "I will play meajhour twentysree for YOU!"  And it is always so enthusiastic, with a spritely smile.  It's a lot to put together seven concerti in a little more than a day of rehearsal and with a travel-worn group.  It takes a lot to be able to play all that music, and amazing to also be responsible for preparing the orchestra.  And his energy and good spirit (and wonderful playing) is going a long way.  

Despite that–and perhaps because of the current lethargy of the group in contrast to the spontaneous and lively energy of our leader–coming back to the orchestra feels admittedly a little stale.  I wonder about this way of making music for me, about the notion of being a section player.  And likely it is the contrast of having just been in America, of having played a solo recital and on a radio program, of having interacted with a group of people with diverse interests.  It strikes me that at least in this orchestra, there is very little additional outlet for people to express themselves, to develop in a creative way, or have an individual identity.  And egos seem to be bouncing off the restrictive walls, trying to be in the center of attention or at the very least, to be worthy of survival.  Survival, but even this doesn't seem to be a thriving existence.  

Next week, the whole orchestra will have a break (minus the two people in the percussion section who will be doing a chamber music concert).  And perhaps people will have a chance to reconnect with something important to them, to reestablish, to recoup.  It seems so important to have this space, a space that is safe and free from others, that belongs only to oneself.  And in an orchestra, especially one of this nature, especially on tour, it can be a challenge to find it.  

It's interesting to be back in this close-knit world.  It's a rare place, and I think there is a lot to learn from it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Treading the Gray Zone

Audition preparation is one type of music, one type of practicing.  And for this period of time in which there is no posted audition in which I'm interested, I find myself looking for another way of practicing.  Always outside of my safety zone has been playing by ear, playing for memory, improvising, and I've never felt I could commit the time needed to work in this way given that I had so much work to do on classical technique.  But I'm feeling fairly comfortable in this regard, for some reason, for the first time in my life.  It seems the least of my concerns, musically.  In the past I could have faulted it for interfering, but now I'm looking to strengthen an internal voice, to connect more firmly the sound of my cello with my own sound.  I'm trying to restructure practice sessions a bit, to include more playing by ear, more arranging at the cello, more work on memorization, while maintaining some projects that will continue to encourage solid classical technique.

Where does novelty come from?  Where do new ideas or ways of thinking emerge, how can we get the mind to think in a new way?  It seems there is a large part of it is about stepping outside of that safety zone, of allowing oneself to be somewhat uncomfortable, perhaps frustrated.  It's so much nicer to know, but knowing is actually only thinking that one knows.  It's always a fallacy.  I'll never be the cellist or musician that I could be; there's always a cloud of the unrealized surrounding me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I've entered into the post-audition/recital phase.  It's another part of the striation that seems to contribute to growth; stress, release, stress, release.  What happens in this process?  I feel I've gained a greater trust in myself having survived something worthy of stress.  But how many times through the striation does one need to go in order to really have that trust?  And is there a different way?  Perhaps one can simply focus on that trust, to have it bulge through the process and define it from the beginning.  Against this is the fear of failure.  Somehow we have to learn to balance these things,  to feel the fear but be strong enough to use it as a sling to propel us forward.  And perhaps there is no way to replicate this sort of learned experience but to do it.  To step up to fear again and again, to learn how to embrace it, to learn to trust oneself.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Late Spring

Late spring.  The trees are green and the bushes are full of wonderful flowers.  And Japan is still Japan.  I watched the Japanese stewardesses do a pre-flight huddle in the boarding area in San Francisco.  Each one beautifully dressed in their ANA uniform, giving full attention to their supervisor, presumably about the flight game plan.  And as they left the boarding area to enter the jet bridge to the plane, they each turned around to the room and bowed on their way out.  Service is always attentive, almost always without a hitch, with a smile, a gentle tone of voice.  It is impossible to enter the wrong line, to go the wrong way in Japan with so many guides taking care of every single step.  Of course there is often guidance in America, but it's erratic, sometime non-existent.  One must always have their head up looking for the next step; self-reliance is a virtue.  And once again, the bathrooms are clean, people are very self-contained, and they seem not to see me.  The fourth wall is back, and everything in its safe and proper place.

This is the last time that I return to Japan.  It was the last time to leave America to come home to Japan.  So much of me wanted to stay in America, and so much of me felt relief that it wouldn't be long before I would return there.  And I still feel that way;  I'm very much looking forward to the next chapter.  But the realization that this was the last time to be welcomed back to Japan made it more nostalgic.  I only have a few more months here.  And this is indeed a magical land of courtesy and service, of perfection, efficiency, and care.  It isn't my home, but I appreciate the tone that it contributes to the world and that it has contributed to my life.  I have a lot of respect for the deferential abilities that I've witnessed here, and hope that I will remember them.

I imagine that there will be another return to Japan in the future, but it seems unlikely that it will be a return home.  So here is a new beginning.  A beginning of an end to another chapter in life.  I imagine it will only grow more poignant as it fades.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

Despite having an international flight tomorrow, I took up liz's offer to do a road trip to Arches and Canyonland Nations Parks.  I'd seen pictures of these sorts of formations before, but to be in the middle of the ancient sea, to see the silent drama of millions of years, was incredible.  Also incredible was to see the teamwork parenting that got two young children through the trials and travails of such a long day.  An incredible way to complete the visit.  So happy and grateful to have had the time with this family and to get to see more of America.

Here are just a few quick pictures from the day.  Unfortunately most of the pictures I took were on my friend's iPhone, so this doesn't do much justice.  Perhaps in a few days I'll be able to post those pictures as well.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Recital Night

This morning as I was eating my breakfast, Eliot, the 2-year-old of the home, wanted to watch tigers on my iPad, because they're his favorite.  I told him that we would after breakfast, but then he got distracted by something, and then I started a project to get things ready for the recital, and then we went on a series on errands while the cleaners came, and then they stayed out of the house in the afternoon while I practiced.

I played the recital this evening.  Everyone was very nice, very friendly.  It was a pleasure, such a pleasure, to have the opportunity to play in such close proximity to the audience, to be able to prepare this program after so much time of only playing in orchestra.  The world of music is so much bigger than it has been.

Lots of people came up to talk to me and I got to meet them, another difference from the world of orchestral playing in Japan.  And we had herbal tea and peanuts and M&M's and Teddy Grahams.

And afterwards, I found Eliot and we sat down at the kitchen counter with my iPad.  He separated the peanuts from the M&M's and gave them to me and we had a post-concert snack while we watched tiger videos, and dolphin videos, and some videos of dachshunds.

A few people came back with their Mexican dinner and we all sat around the kitchen table, chatting, talking about raising money for the music groups in which they play.  Just talking and hanging out as the evening wore on.

Tomorrow morning we leave very early for Arches National Park.  I'm not sure I could squeeze much more out of this trip.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Revisiting the Fourth Wall

Because my hosts are pretty cool, they connected me with a radio show that airs from the BYU campus.  So this evening I went to the studio to record a few short interview segments and a few clips from the music I'll be performing tomorrow evening.  Liz had said that the interview would be more about me than the music, but I was still surprised to see how thoroughly the producer had stalked my online presence.  She told me why I played the cello, when and where I had begun,  knew about my blog, and even put a few of the topics in the interview.  She may even be reading this now, or my thoughts.  Perhaps she can tell me what I'll be having for breakfast tomorrow morning.  She had done her homework.

And I played a few things to a studio and microphones and the people who were a part of the production, a scarier experience than either live performing (where physical presence and ephemerality can dissolve errant moments) or recording (where multiple takes is a given).  I can see why good studio musicians are such a commodity.

And because my hosts are in the know in the arts scene in Provo, they suggested attending a play in which one of their friends was performing, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg.  It says it's a comedy and perhaps it was my scant knowledge of the context of 1960's England, when it was written and takes place, but to me, the story of a broken marriage and a daughter with cerebral palsy was anything but dark.  Still it was good to see some live theater.

A day of audiences of various kinds, seen and unseen.  And tomorrow another kind of concert.

*The radio performance from this evening will be broadcast for the first time on Tuesday, May 19th at 8pm MSTon Classical 89.1 & 89.5 FM and and rebroadcast on Saturday, May 23rd at 5pm MST; it will be archived for on-demand listening at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Deposits of the Day

The day was edged with plans but filled with practice.  Rain means no hike, no babysitter means no play this evening.

In a quick relay, I'm bouncing off an audition and headed towards a recital which seems to be approaching a little faster than I can sink into this music.  I'm not exactly worried about it, but it's an opportunity to get to know something a little better and to share it, and that in itself gives me some sense of urgency.

Soon I'll have to go back to Japan and leave behind many things in Provo and Salt Lake City and Utah, untouched and unseen.  And then I will leave Japan and do the same.  There is only so much time to get as much as possible.  And there is so much to have, so much to take in, even in not doing.  There is no way to win, no way to lose.

The youngest one here seems hours away from walking.  He is giddy and speaking in non-words.  The world is opening up, and every object, every person, even solitude, seems full of miracles to him.  What a world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Outdoor Near Provo

A hike to a nearby waterfall with the kids, a dinner at grandfather's cabin, a scenic drive over the canyon at sunset.

Bridal Veil Falls

View over Provo

Monday, April 20, 2015

On Passing the First Round

I felt quite sick yesterday with a stomach bug that began the day before and is just now starting to leave me.  It's significant because it left less room for me to feel nervous, or really even very much concerned for my audition.  I was more focused on simply going through the process, granted I was fairly well-prepared and in control despite the discomfort.

A few things I might have chosen to go differently, and when I walked off stage I assumed I had earned a free tomorrow, i.e. not passed the round.  But they called my name and number.  I should have been nervously excited to have made it, but I hadn't been particularly happy with my playing and wasn't feeling very well.  The assistant told me and one other girl from our hour to return at 2pm the next day.

So I relaxed for a bit, then did a blitz practice on the remaining parts of Dvorak that I thought could be requested today, as well as a review of all the other excerpts and Bach that could be asked as well.
And then I lay in bed, feeling a little more proud to have made it past that first hurdle and a little further on the path towards winning an audition, and yet wondering about that pride.  What if I won?  What would I be proud of?  In what have I invested, what of myself have I given, towards what cause and what purpose?   It's something towards which many classical musicians strive, and sometimes I wonder if it isn't blindly that they do so.  I don't think I have a passion for orchestral playing.  But I think it's a career foundation off of which many other things can be built; teaching, chamber music, community involvement.

I went back today, still feeling sick but better enough to have a little more involvement in the process.  And yet still somewhat ambivalent about the outcome.  I played well, felt very in control of myself on stage, but I think there is still some more work to do (perhaps which could be helped with some guidance from a professional player).

I feel very happy with the process, and liberated to have had some validation for my work.  There is a paradoxical problem with auditions:  one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is to believe in oneself, to turn off the mirror that is constantly criticizing and wondering if one is doing is the right thing.  One has to play outwardly, but how con one do that until one knows that they are doing it correctly?  It's like growing up and learning all the rules for how people conduct themselves in society.  It's hard to find comfort and freedom in middle school.

Having passed the first round gave me a feeling of security.  In a small way I've earned the right to play freely, to do as I wish and believe.  I know it's only a magic power that will last for a short while until it expires and needs to be renewed, which is why this drug of auditions, of validation, continues to continue.  In me and others.  Even those that win an audition and play in an orchestra are looking for something better and brighter, something bigger, more worthy of filling them with pride, of granting a new dose of freedom.

Is there another way?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tour of Temple Square

After my audition today, my friend Liz, who had given me a ride to Salt Lake City from Provo, took me around Temple Square on foot and for a short drive through Salt Lake City.  She grew up in the area and is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  When I asked her, she gave me a very nice tour of Temple Square, answering my questions about how the church worked and what they believed.  Mormons are often shrouded in a bit of mystery for non-Mormons.  They are a very strong community and perhaps because of that, they seem to find their communities wherever they are, and stick with them.  It's been interesting to start to glean how they can accomplish such a feat of strong community.  There are a lot of systems of support that come from the church community, many ways to be involved, people assigned to look after one another, and a rotation of responsibilities in everything from watching the nursery to giving sermons to serving as clerk, all of it apparently volunteer.

It's been interesting to visit this pocket of America, where roughly 50% of the population is Mormon, a far higher percentage that anywhere else.  It's almost like a separate country within America.  And the grounds of Temple Square were beautiful, especially on this clear Sunday, with blooming tulips and pansies.

Assembly Hall

Salt Lake Temple

Model of the interior of Salt Lake Temple;
because only members are able to enter, this is a way for other to view the inside

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Irish Cello Fiddling on Audition Eve

Taking an audition is very small percentage of music making in the world.  Super small.

Liz, my hostess, is also a cellist but specializes in Irish music, to the point that she lived in Ireland for a year to study it after attending Berklee in Boston; and she's written a method book for adapting Irish fiddle music and fiddling ideas for cello.  She gives monthly workshops to groups of cellists and teaches Skype lessons online to people as far away as Germany.  And this morning she allowed me to sit in on one of her workshops.  In the midst of audition prep panic I got to witness three high school cellists work together (under Liz's guidance) to create an arrangement of an Irish folk tune.  They planned the order in which they would take turns playing the melody and experimented with different ways of accompanying, taking care to think about texture and register and how the structure of the whole work would be.  And by the end of the ninety minutes, they completed the work that had begun at their last meeting.  Something they created, without any sheet music, employing melody and ear training, with little direct attention given to the things that I obsess over- pitch, articulation, exactness of rhythm, bow usage, vibrato, and on and on.....  And yet a number of those things started to fall together.

There are so many facets of making music.  Liz, herself, laments the amount of expertise that she has in her area in that it has somewhat put her above a number of opportunities that might exist.  We train to find some perfection or level of skill to allow us to enjoy our art, and sometimes it gets away from us.  I still enjoy the pursuit of perfection that preparation for these auditions encourages, but just spending a bit of time seeing this other part of music, one that occupies a much larger percentage of how people generally interact with it in the world, was interesting and inspiring and a bit relieving.  

We only have so many senses, what more are we missing that is around us?  Is it still possible to de-differentiate, to open the pool again, to see more that what is right before me?

Things to think about.  An open world.  And an opportunity tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Another day in the life of an American household.  My practice is being supplemented with activities with a 2-year-old.  I don't have any real knowledge of taking care of young children, but I offered to look after one of them while my friend taught a cello lesson for 45 minutes.  He had pulled out a box of yoga card poses and wanted me to do the ones that he handed to me.  So I got to stretch for a bit.  And then we read poetry about penguins and I learned a lot of facts about their Antarctic life.  After looking at some more animal books we started to watch Youtube videos of tigers and lions and I learned even more about these incredible large cats.  I can see why they are his favorites.

And later in the evening, his mother thought it would be fun for the three of us to go to an art museum and see a dance performance.  One solo dance in particular caught our attention; a man moving in silence, in large, demonstrative gestures, some of them counting, and then the whole performance repeated with a monologue accompanying it, telling a story (perhaps his?) of growing up in Provo, being Baptized in his parents' church at the age of 8, being the token male in the dance classes there, being gay, feeling very alone for it, leaving Provo, and then a very dark ending.  It was a really captivating piece, for the way he danced, for the words that he spoke, for the message, especially as performed in this city.  My friend and I really enjoyed it, but oddly enough, though perhaps for different reasons, so did her young son.

It's a lot of work to take care of children, but it's really cool to share things with them as well.  It takes a lot to be on call every second and it strikes me even more so as I come and go from my practice sessions.  I have a privilege in this period of my life to be in control of my time.  I don't think people are really aware of how much work it takes to raise children.  It appears to require constant giving and awareness, and even though that's not the same as some of the demanding tasks that people might experience in a typical work day, it's a skill and energy that has few other parallels.  I also think it's really different to do a simple childcare task (or hour) than to be a parent, or perhaps even a mother.  There is so much that is understood, accrued, and expected in that relationship and so much responsibility.  I have incredible respect for the work that my hosts do to raise their family and maintain a balanced relationship for themselves.  It's a big commitment, but between my privileged practice sessions I can see why someone would respect and follow through with such a thing.  Certainly an additional privilege to be able to partake of it, even if only part time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Audition Vacation

One of the many great things about taking auditions is getting to stay with friends and family and live their lives for a few days.  For this audition/recital, I'm staying with some friends of mine that I met in Madison during my doctorate.  We were all always a bit busy and so there was very little casual hanging out beyond the projects in which we were engaged.  But now I find myself in their home, with their two sons who are 34 and 10 months old and new since I last knew them, living a life in a beautiful home in Provo, Utah.  It's refreshing to witness and take part in the challenges and joys of taking care of two boys of this age, and it's refreshing to have the companionship of their parents who are as interesting and engaging as I had gleaned them to be from our interactions in Madison.  I can almost forget I have the obligation of playing an audition in a few days and a recital in a week.  Eating crackers, reading Winnie the Pooh, having conversations about this time in life and what it means to be a musician.  A good audition vacation, indeed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Arrival in America

I think it was 24 hours door-to-door.  Strong winds in Salt Lake City meant that the airport was closed and my flight had to turn around and land in Reno while the storm passed.  So I got to see a little more of the country than originally planned.  I had no idea there were actually slot machines at the gates.  

America is much dirtier than Japan.  And nobody gives you their full attention, service is an inconvenience to the staff that administers it.  And yet I'm very happy to be back among so many different people, each one with their own way of problem solving the duties of their job.  It's chaotic and diverse and open and haphazard.  But good to be here.

By Way of Narita

 I'm sitting in the Narita airport.  I've taken the 2:15pm flight from Osaka Itami to Tokyo Narita several times now.  Everytime I've arrived, chugged my water, gone through customs, visited the same bathroom, and refilled my water bottle at the same fountain.  It's become a routine peppered with differences.  A rainy goodbye, a new international departure gate, the wavering between plain or maple Calorie Mates.    But always a meditative calm to travel.  Being nowhere, in notime.  Already I know that it's 1am at my destination and part of me is there.  Soon.  Soon I'll be in one place again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Preparing for Departure

I'll be leaving tomorrow for Utah and feel pretty stressed with weight of the audition and recital and trying to make decisions about cost saving ways to move certain belongings.  There are a lot of moving parts right now.  And soon my physical being will be one of them, moving above the Pacific Ocean to America.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


These days have been primarily spent preparing for the upcoming trip to Utah where I'll be taking an audition and giving a solo cello recital.  Yesterday several of my colleagues in the orchestra were kind enough to listen to me play through all of my audition music and share comments.  I could hear so many teachers, so many different approaches, so many ideas that have been shared with them.  There is such a valuable resource here and incredible to think that we are continuing to foster the value of it by creating these opportunities for exchange.  And these exchanges are in part, sponsored by our endeavor to strive for something more.  A reason to keep trying, even if the odds are against us.  There are important things to create along the way, not just for oneself but for those in one's community and all those people in all the communities they will touch in the future.  Growing and sharing, making the world bigger.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Visit to Osaka Mint

Andrew and I spent the afternoon viewing the cherry trees at the Osaka Mint.  Every spring they open their garden to visitors where there are 300 cherry trees of 100 varieties.  Needless to say, there are a lot of people that come, and many vendors selling delicious smelling food along the way.

people gather around a street performer outside the Mint

roots to blossoms

patrolling the crowds


wading through

fallen blossoms

Friday, April 10, 2015

Impromptu Conveyor Belt Sushi

Had it been just me, I likely would have just stayed in on this rainy evening.  But Andrew suggested we go for a walk to get out of the house.

So we stepped out into the drizzly dark and started walking, turning whichever way, walking through a park of cherry trees by a river, along a driving range, down to the big river, back up towards home. And along the way the bright lights of the conveyor belt sushi restaurant glowed above us and I suggested the possibility of getting dinner there.  Andrew agreed and so we ventured into the mysteries of patronizing a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

First there was the automated kiosk into which we correctly figured out how to request a table (not counter) for two during a specific time.  It gave us a ticket so we figured we should sit down next to the Japanese families with children and let them be amused by us for about 10 minutes before hearing our number called.  The woman simply gave us a mini clipboard with our table number and a little map for how to find it and we headed on our way back to the row with table 17.

Once there, we acquainted ourselves with our surroundings.  There was, of course, the long conveyor belt of sushi that ran along the wall-side of the booth, connecting the tables to one another, off of which anyone could grab whatever they like.  We also figured out how to get cups for water, and how to make our own tea at the table.  When we finally felt comfortable enough to start the eating process we learned how to raise the covers of the sushi plates on the belt and pull plates onto the table.  We discovered that the double plates could be deconstructed and were used to calculate a plate that was worth twice as much as the normal ones.  We figured out how to order things from the screen above the conveyor belt and were excitedly surprised to see those items fly to us on a second conveyor belt, above the first one.  We dined in the future tonight!

After ordering several flying dishes, and grabbing several plates of sushi (only 100 yen per plate!) we were ready to end our impromptu sushi evening.  We took the plates and loaded them through a hole at the end of the table, right under the conveyor belt.  The screen above started to play a game and then said "Atari!"  We won!  A little ball came down from a prize machine and Andrew now has a tiny DragonballZ refrigerator magnet as a memento of the evening.

We had done so well with gracefully figuring everything out.  A flawless evening of fascination, especially so on the part of all the many children that we there with their families and stared at us (it seemed a perfectly family oriented and friendly sort of place, perhaps not one many foreigners frequent).   We intuited that we should then go up to the register with our table number clip board and they would have the tally of our plates and the items that we had ordered through the screen.  So close!  Lest we leave without one final awkward foreigner flourish (Andrew's words)  we had neglected to push the "That's all" button on the screen after depositing our plates.  They quickly and politely amended the error, as usual, and we were on our way.  Well-fed, well-walked, graceful but humble.  A lovely evening of impromptu adventurous dining.  

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Successful Bow Rehair

I needed a bow rehair before leaving Japan next Tuesday.  But doing this in Japan can be daunting given the language barriers, finding a new location, and trusting the person doing it.

Some friends of mine at HPAC recommended a person that lives a short bike ride from Akuradanchi.  They said his place was a bit difficult to find, that he did a good job but didn't use enough hair in their opinion, that he was fast, but that he didn't speak any English.  They gave me his number and address and said I could just ask him to put a lot of hair on the bow.

So today I inquired the into Japanese word for "rehair" and summoned the courage to call his phone.  Receiving the voice mail, I demurred before regrouping, calling again, and leaving a message.  He called back, I answered, and successfully maneuvered through a conversation of figuring out a date and time (today!) that would work.  I felt a small sense of triumph over this first hurdle; phone conversations take a little more work without the aid of gestures.

I looked up his address on Google Maps but Japan doesn't do street names or house addresses, just sections of neighborhoods (kind of like American zipcodes).  I found the general area and as I slowed my bike looking for a clue, several neighbors were coming out of their house and looked at me invitingly.  "Tanaka-san?" I asked.  And they happily pointed around the corner, "To the left!" they said.  I pulled up and found his name on the house they had indicated and rang the bell.  He answered and showed us to a little back room, his workshop.

Unlike Okuno-san's immaculate studio of light and wood, filled with the smell of varnish, glue, and polish, Tanaka-san's studio was cluttered to the ceiling with various oddities relating to instruments and bows, and it was filled with a soft smell of cigarette smoke.  Everything seemed worn, well-used, and never cleaned.  The one exception was his work desk, a little oasis of space to where he took my bow and began his work.

I had figured out at least a clumsy way of asking him to put a lot of hair on it.  He agreed and then we had a conversation about how much hair was on my bow currently (from a rehair done in America).  He seemed amazed at how much and said it might be warping the stick of the bow so he wouldn't put so much on this time.  I was concerned and tried to think of another way to express as politely as possible that I was used to this amount of hair and would prefer if he would try to maintain the same amount.  He said yes, but maybe a little bit less, please.

After only thirty minutes (it can take more than an hour, or some people require more than a day) he was finished and upon examination, it looks quite good.  It was a relief to get through the ordeal so smoothly and it was an adventure to find a home in Japan.  People's addresses are the names on their doors, there is no order to it but to seek.  Buildings have names not numbers and there is an element of simply knowing in order to find anything.  So now I'm a little more in the know in one more little pocket of Japan.   Navigating through, day by day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Looking Ahead

As the air warms, there is always a feeling of an opening in the chest, of releasing the space between the ribs as the body ceases to protect the vital warmth of the core, clenching the stomach, hunching over against the wind.  This spring has an additional unfettering from the coming year in which so many opportunities, seen and unseen await me.  There is a further loosening than usual, seeing Japan not as a foreigner trying to make a life, but as an America temporary residing here.  After this I will step foot somewhere new and have a new sense of self having put away so much of it for such a long time.  Opening, opening into a new spring.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Two Curries and Three Nan

In the temples, shrines, and gardens I have seen the lanterns that must alight the blossoms by night.  But I haven't gone to any at night.

This evening we walked along the path by the reservoir to go to a beloved local Indian restaurant, really the only place I go to when I eat out.  And I generally order one of three dishes, all of which I enjoy.  Tonight, because it was a night with Andrew, we ordered two favorite curries, and an additional red bean paste coconut nan.  And then returned home by the well-worn path along the reservoir thinking about the places we've been in the world, bodies of water in France, customs in England; walking under street lamps snowing in spring in Japan.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Different Side of HPAC

For a change of pace, we ventured outside today.  Even all the way to HPAC in Nishinomiyakitaguchi.  It's not often I get to hear the orchestra from the other side of the rehearsal room doors.  All my colleagues were rehearsing for an upcoming subscription concert and tour that will extend to nearly the end of April.  And although I will be here long enough to join them for the concert at HPAC, I will be departing before the beginning of the tour.  It's one big package deal.

So instead of sitting in my seat in the cello section, Andrew and I went to a practice room where he listened to some of my audition and recital work, coaching and giving comments.  In the lounge I saw the office workers take a late lunch, allowing themselves to relax after being on constant call for us, something I've rarely seen before.  The off-hours HPAC.  And while we took a break, the orchestra also began their break and the doors opened and my colleagues came out, very energetically and happily saying hello, surprised to see me there, filling the space with their voices.

Strange to be on the other side of things.  To have such a familiar experience redefined and refreshed.  How do we feel about something and what is that something about which we feel?  Life at HPAC; what is that exactly?  When I think back on it, what will I remember, what will be the common denominators?  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Everyday Day

It's been a day of practice.  Just relaxing in the home with Andrew.  Practice, exercise, dinner, perhaps a movie or reading a book.  Just everyday things, but everyday things with another person.  And so it's not quite so everyday.  Dinner is a little different, practice breaks are a little different, even sitting in silence is a little different.  It's amazing the difference that the presence of another person can make.  When I go outside, sometimes I'm surprised that I'm still in Japan.  The world isn't quite the same as it was two weeks ago, even on an everyday sort of day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

You Can Fill Your Life With It

Spring is wearing her finest jewelry.  Even a simple ride to the grocery store is dripped with cherry blossom beauty.  I wonder if there is a person who has seen every cherry tree in Japan.  Would it be possible to catch it all?  It's everywhere.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pictures from Hiroshima and Miyajima

And finally, some pictures from the trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima:

Shukkeien Gardens;
the planning of this garden took as its model, a lake in China,
the garden is a miniature version of the lake, with every inch of it packed with beautiful detail

bridges in Shukkeien

from the 2nd floor of the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, which abuts Shukkeien

Hiroshima Castle with a photo bombing Japanese family

the grounds of Hiroshima Castle and the moat

Hiroshima businessmen enjoying a Sakura lunchtime

Sakura spot in Hijiyama Park;
many families with picnics and children playing outdoor games

a vendor;
I enjoyed the continuation of the blossoms onto the top of the tent


into the cherry blossoms;
Hijiyama Park

Near the Contemporary Art Museum in Hijiyama Park;
a hidden oasis of Sakura picnics

dinner date;

deer at sunset;

Torii at sunset,

Me and Andrew;

moon over Itsukushima Shrine; Miyajima

Five Story Pagoda;

alight at night

the dawning of a new day on Miyajima

Itsukushima Shrine

Torii through the walkway of Itsukushima Shrine

two pagodas

Daishoin Temple;

daily practice

on top of Mt.Misen

Torii at low tide

little people, big gate

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Takarazuka Revue

Kick lines, feather plumes, sequins, a disco ball, a lit stair case down which the entire cast descended several times; it was the Takarazuka Revue.  It never disappoints.  After a first half with a romance dramatic musical about the independence from France of a fictional island in the Mediterranean, the second half was a revue of song and dance, beautifully escapist as any Depression-era follies might hope to be.  There is a mystic to the entire Revue: that it is only women with half in cross-dress, that so many women attend and idolize the stars with Beatles fan club enthusiasm, that Hankyu has produced the musicals of this theater for over 100 years, that they find it profitable enough to continue to finance about 10 shows a week, rotating monthly through five different troupes of performers, two different orchestras, and who knows how many choreographers, directors, costume designers, and lighting designers.  And every production is original material, all written and composed for the Takarazuka Revue, rarely reused. A healthy show business indeed.  I'm so curious about so many things about it; the social aspects, primarily concerning gender, the business model of Hankyu, the contracts of the people involved, the strict school which feeds the cast.  How does this whole thing work together?  It would seem to reflect so many things about Japan.  And it seems so inaccessible.

It's an incredible production.  The dancing is great, the costumes spare no expense, the compositions are whimsical.  Today, one number in the revue portion focused on a nerdy basketball player who, with a little help from some rainbow clad ladies, gets his team in shape to win the cheerleader, beating out the competitor "cool" kids.  This was all done by way of melodic reference to "Love Shack" as well as La Marseillaise.  In another number, the fourth movement from Dvorak's New World Symphony was sung almost in it's entirety (I have no idea what the lyrics were), another was Mozart, another referenced Tchaikovsky.  Another was almost completely "It's a Wonder World," but not quite.  Everything is almost some other song, compiled in a creative repackaging and reinterpretation.  

It's so dazzling.  It's so mystifying and intriguing.  And it's in my backyard, a new production every month.  An incredible phenomenon.  Lucky to have found it and to have the friends to show me how to get in to a show.  

With an audience of almost entirely women, the bathroom planning needs to be well-engineered;
in the above diagram, one can see the flow of traffic by the arrows through the many stalls

The theme of the revue portion of the show, top of act two

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Safe Return

The return bus ride home was a little more tiring than the ride to Hiroshima.  After an early morning in Miyajima, a hike to the top of Mt. Misen where we owned the world from the top of a rock we climbed, and then back down for more walking, more food sampling and we began of a long return trip home.  I became one of the sleepy people on the train and realized how easy it could be to ride the train back and forth between Umeda and Takarazuka.  I fell into my bed and slept in on this rainy day.

I took many pictures which I'm going to go through and hopefully post soon.  Spring was blessing Hiroshima and Miyajima.  It was a good journey, but now it is also good to be back and slowly returning to the work that is ahead of me, making dinners, and planning to see the Takarazuka Revue tomorrow morning.