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.