Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bi(non)lingual Chamber Music

It's such an interesting thing to rehearse in two languages.  Yes, music is the universal language, but words really help to clarify.  And yes, much can be said without words, but thousands of years have done a good job of categorizing and labeling certain human expressions so that they can be easily and fairly accurately transmitted to others.  I think my time in Japan has helped me to respect the beauty of language.  And also that it is possible to work without it, with practice.  But I do think that it takes practice.  It is a skill that requires nurturing and perhaps has to be grown between specific people or groups of people, getting to know what to expect, learning to intuit something and make valid assumptions.  And so growing with a new chamber music group in this way is a really beautiful opportunity.  Just as in any chamber music ensemble, musicians have to really put out their "feelers," have to "read the air" and infer what another person's intentions are.  Listening is so important, but listening in a very active way.  Even with those that speak the same language, there is a point past which words cannot go.  They certainly help in getting there, but to work without them is a wonderful exercise in the art of chamber music.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Seeing Fukunari-sensei Again

Yesterday I returned to Fukunari-sensei.  She was the same as before but with a broken wrist.  But she was just as sweet, just as eager to teach, grabbing the pen with her left hand.  It is such a pleasure to be in her presence.  I wish there were some way that I could bottle it up and take it with me.  And the way that she moved and tried to get through more material seemed to suggest that she too was aware of the passing time that we have.  I wrote in my short essay that I had gone to see Arches National Park in America.  When she read that there were red rocks in the shapes of arches she seemed confused.  I showed her a brochure that I'd brought and she couldn't believe it.  She'd never seen anything like it.  She's never been to America.  But there is a possibility that she will visit next year with her friend, maybe even to where I'll be living.  How wonderful to be able to see her again, to see someone so familiar from a different side of "home."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wakuwaku End

This was the last Wakuwaku ever.  It's a pretty unique experience to play for a huge audience of uniformed Japanese 5th graders, something I don't think I'll ever get to do again.  And it was really wonderful to hear their voices singing Furusato with us.  And it was fun to hear the narrator describing the music and the hall the same way every performance in Japanese and understanding a little more every time over the course of three years.  Like a statue being shaved.  And to hear the creativity and humor of my colleagues in the instrument demonstrations, something I wish could happen in other performances, but which is truly unique to this sort of repetitive educational concert.  Perhaps it was the repetition that drove people to such extremes and gave them the opportunity to try so many different things.  

As I walked off the stage, the girls in the front few rows started to excitedly wave and then more joined when they saw they could get a response.  It's an image I hope to save in my memory, to remember the huge smiles on their faces.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

For Being You

As I was rounding the corner on my way home from HPAC, I had a rare foreigner sighting.  He was a middle-aged gentleman, an American judging by his accent, speaking to someone in English on his cell phone.  It was one of those moments when I ceased to be in Japan.  He had grayed facial hair and a convivial smile, "Oh great!  And how are you getting along with....?"  And then I biked away.  I imagined it to be "medical school" or "the new puppy" or some other topic of such nature.  Perhaps it was that I could understand the combination of smile and words, or maybe just the posture and way that he walked, but there was something in his demeanor that was so comfortingly familiar.  I see foreigners every so often, but rarely are they of such age or so open in their body language, facial expression, and voice.   Usually they seem to be grappling with conformity in Japan.  Maybe having an English cell phone helps.

This man gave me absolutely nothing, probably didn't even notice me, but I received quite a lot from him, just from his demeanor, from something to which he was giving little or no conscious thought.  There are so many ways to live.  And we can pass them along to others, just by existing.  It's possible to be different from what is around us, from what is suggested by our circumstances.

I think it's been a good experience to be in a place where I feel different, and yet not wrong.  I think it takes a lot to trust that.  And I appreciate any instance of verification from others, such as this gentleman just talking to a friend on his cell phone.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Happy Crows

This morning as I was practicing Tae Kwon Do by the river a man came up to me and gestured to the nearby tree.  "There is a crow's nest up there.  You are causing them stress."

I felt bad at the idea of causing the crows stress.  I don't want to be causing anyone (animals included) stress, so I moved away from it to give the crows a little more space.  I would like to say that I did so with no curiosity as to how that man knew I was causing them stress, how he knew there were actually crows in the nest (I knew there was a nest because I had heard sound coming from it a few weeks ago, but had heard nothing recently), wondering if he would have said the same thing to me if I were a different person, and wondering about all the other loud things that occur on the river (such as children playing baseball in the same place).

It made me think about what happens when someone throws something at you that challenges what you are doing or suggests you should do otherwise.  I think it takes a lot of flexibility and self control to be able to immediately go with it.  And I think also a lot of courtesy, which happens to be one of the aims to achieve in Tae Kwon Do.  It was an opportunity for me to reflect on courtesy.  Of course I want to show the crows courtesy, even if the life of a crow is going to have far more danger and stress than me kihoping harmlessly below their nest.  Perhaps I can give them an easygoing start as this thoughtful gentleman had envisioned for them.  It can be hard to balance courtesy and the right to do as one wishes.  And it can be hard to trust the source and motivation of the suggestion.  But to extend courtesy at the suggestion is a skill worthy of cultivating.

So from now on, I will move to a new place.  I don't know if the crows are in their nest, if they are stressed about me being there any more than having baseball coaches shout and children yell, if that man was just exercising whatever power he felt he could, or if he was an ornithologist.  None of it really matters.  If it is possible to reduce some suffering (be it the crow's or the man's as he takes on their stress vicariously) I'm happy to do it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wakuwaku Week

It's the last Wakuwaku week.  Only 3 more days of seeing 2,000 middle schoolers, of hearing instrument demonstrations, of hearing the narration about our hall and the thunderstorm created by the lighting and sound engineers.  Only 3 more days of Radetzky March.  It might be the last time.  What a thought.  I hope I'm ready for it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Move-out Meeting

We had our meeting concerning procedures for ending contracts and moving out of Japan.  And the stress begins.  It's good to have some advanced warning of how expensive it will be.  There will several different expenses each around $100 and the big one, an estimated $3000 in taxes.  We'll lose 20% of our last pay check because we'll technically be Non-Residents by the time it is issued mid-month.  We'll have to navigate our way to the city hall to close out our health insurance, and to the phone company to end our contracts, and to the bank to close our accounts and transfer the last amount.  We'll have to make appointments with garbage disposal to take away anything larger than 30cm and purchase coupons to attach to the items.  We'll have to plan our cleaning and sorting to align with the different garbage days, making sure that nothing is put in the wrong type of garbage.

It's the same every year.  I've seen two years of core members depart and live through it and this year is probably the least difficult.  There are only 5 of us departing.  Usually the number is 10 or more.  And this small number means more attention for each of us and our needs.  The office will be better able to help with every step of the transition.  And as from the first day we arrived in Japan, we continue to lean on the experience of our forebears.  We knew it was going to be expensive (I seem to have forgotten the $3000) and we knew it was going to take a lot of work.

For me, it's probably going to mean shedding a lot of things.  I recently read about Marie Kondo a Japanese home making wiz who has tips for tidying up.  I think it was perfect timing.  Thank the thing for being in your life, and then let go.  

I'm hoping that this zen approach to things and the Pointer Sisters will get me through.  And I'm planning not to go into stress mode about it until July.  I should have enough varied garbage days in July to get through most things.  Well, maybe I'll start at the end of June.....

Sunday, May 24, 2015


I got to share a Tae Kwon Do workout with another member of HPAC today.  A few days ago I sent an invitation to everyone to join me and she was the only one that responded.  It's a difficult first (and second and third time.....) workout, and usually they don't come back for another despite the best of intentions.  She seems interested in returning, but even if it was just one day of pointing my toes to the blue sky with another person and kihoping to the river, it was worth it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Peace Out

After about two years, I met Tanaka-san on the bike path again.  The last time he caught up to me I naively acquiesced to give him my email address and we had a few exchanges since.  The first one was quite direct in his intentions but after telling him that I had a boyfriend and would not meet him again, the messages came sporadically about four times a year, mostly writing about the changing of the seasons or going to the shrine with his wife for New Year's.  Recently he had written with a request for help on a translation for his business.

Oh Tanaka-san.  How I wish that giving someone the benefit of the doubt were the way to go.  Perhaps sometimes it is.  But this will be the last meeting.  Harmless, but not enjoyable.  Goodbye Tanaka-san, and thank you for making it so easy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Finding the Words

This is one of those uncertain times of life.  Maybe all times of life are uncertain, but this is one of those times where I'm really aware of it, where I have little familiarity with what is to come, with the place to which I'll be moving, with the way that I will be able to identify myself.  It's a shaky feeling.  And shaky feelings come with more than uncertain times.  There are many things in life that can cause one to feel instability, to wish for some comfort.

This morning, as on many Friday mornings, I connected with the Madison Tae Kwon Do Club for their Thursday evening workout session.  Master Nitschke usually leads and he was there for this class.  The room they use on Thursdays is large and the sound bounces around the mirrors, windows, and wood floors.  Through the computer it can be hard to understand clearly, and so for the closing reflection I couldn't make out specifically what he was saying.  Just a few words here and there.

I wanted so badly to understand.  Being in this time of uncertainty, I wanted words of guidance, words of comfort, a strand of some certainty from this teacher that I trust.  But all I could hear was a wash of his tone of voice, speaking clearly and calmly.  The words that I wanted were there, being spoken, even being heard by me, but were without meaning.

But there was some comfort in this, perhaps an even more infinite comfort than if I had understood.  I don't know what words I was seeking, but I knew he was speaking them.

Somewhere, the words that we need are being spoken.  They exist, even if we can't hear them, can't understand them, don't know their language.  Even if they are on the other side of the world, or in a time that will never be again, they are still there.  We don't have to know them, but we can know that what we need exists.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dream Concert Begins

We have entered into a fly-by concert of concerti and aria for the Rotary Club of Japan.  Our conductor is young, but full of energy and the soloists bring a lot of energy as well.  I don't know that I've ever heard a pianist make so much sound or a clarinetist smile so much.  "Accompanying" can be such a fun art, playing others' melodies vicariously.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summer Days

BBQ today.  The wind was blowing and some of the children in the play area let us use their swings.  The sun was setting, bright orange in a purple sky over the mountain.  And then we climbed a tree.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bike Friend

It's a beautiful day today.  After a night of rain the sun is shining, and the air is laden with the promised humidity of summer and the sounds of children's voices and weed whackers (are there lawn mowers in Japan?)

I went for a destination-less walk around the neighborhood entering one little park and exiting it, moving around the oddly shaped blocks of houses and rice paddies, cutting through the angled intersections of the hardly traveled roads.

As I approached one of these intersections or roundabouts I noticed a little girl on a bike.  She turned back to look at me and I noticed the handle bars of her bike turn in curiosity as well.  I kept walking and then heard a little squeak behind me.  It was fairly regular and moving very slowly, probably five to ten feet away.  Squeak....squeak...........squeak......squeak.

I turned one direction and then another and still, squeak...........squeak........squeak.

I entered a slight larger though still very empty road.  Silence.  I kept walking.  And then......squeak............squeak.

Several times she got back on the path, at one point going ahead of me.  I thought that would be the end.  She turned off and I noticed her looking back over her shoulder.  I kept walking straight and then....squeak.....squeak............squeak.....squeak.

I wondered if she knew I had some clue to her presence.  I slowly became so accustomed to her being there and even started to feel responsibility for her well-being, making sure that there were no cars, that she would have enough room to get through safely.  

And like all things, there was an end.  I turned off to return home and she squeaked in another direction.  I wish I could have a recording of the slow squeak of her bike for the times when loneliness hits me.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I rode by the grocery store in which my friendly clerk, the one that used to slip me coupons if I've missed a week, worked.  The one with whom I had an occasional short conversion about the weather or one's health, or perhaps having been in America as an explanation for missing last week's coupon distribution.  The one with the very friendly and familiar face.  I remember those store aisles.

And it was closed, everything gone, empty, packed up and no longer.  Where is she?  Where is has she gone?  I wonder.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Impromptu Tae Kwon Do Lesson

I went to the river this morning to do some Tae Kwon Do as I occasionally do, and as I was finishing my basic kicks a girl of about ten years old started to imitate what I was doing next to me in the field.  She was excited by the movements of the jumps and turns and wanted to do them as well.  I smiled at her and she immediately pulled off her socks and shoes and left them with her mother and came right over to me.  So we did some jumping jacks and counted to ten (in Japanese instead of Korean) and then I showed her how to do a front rise stretch (forward swing kick) and some punches.  I thought that would be enough so we bowed to one another and I spoke with her mother for a second in the very minimal Japanese that I have saying that I was a cellist.  This little girl was also learning to play piano.

And they walked off and I started back into my own practice with a series of kicks and after only a few she was back next to me, hungry for more.  She just couldn't get enough.  So I taught her a few more basic kicks.  Side kick, roundhouse, inside swing, just the basic idea of each, mostly through gestures.  I just kept working with her until she seemed to be full.  And then we bowed again to one another and I saw her go off to the knoll that rises from the bike path along the river and I managed to continue my practice while she was distracted by the flowers.

And then she was back again!  Only this time with a gift, a wreath of flowers.  I put it on and she corrected that it should go the other way.  So she taught me to wear the crown she had made for me.

The last time this happened to me with Tae Kwon Do was in a park in Cincinnati with two African American women who wanted to do sit-ups with me.  Something shared in these people, those two women, this young Japanese girl, some ability to share themselves so openly, and what a gift it is.  Thank you.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


There was a moment in today's concert when Sir Neville Marriner's razor sharp focus seemed to be slightly diminished.  It was still more than needed, but slightly less than it had been all week, just a few tempi that were slower than expected.  Seeing him slightly less for a very short period made me remember that he is human and that perhaps he has struggles and difficulties hidden to us, like so many of us do.  We all carry so much with us, physical pain, emotional pain, worries, memories, but we keep going.  And this man that seems invincible is actually just like us.  He just continues to try, to take risks as we all do.  It was good to have the reminder, to see him continue on in the face of difficulty.  It was something not shown in his face or any part of him in anyway; in his person there was no change, only trying.

And the entire concert was thrilling.  The audience was so ecstatic to see him and it is so much fun to play with him and the orchestra.  It's been a wonderful week.  One more concert to go.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Beginning Farewells

Tonight is a farewell party for one of the first people I came to know in Japan.  She's leaving a little early from the season in order to start a job as ground crew with an airline, and incredible dream that she has had for a long time.  It's exciting to see her off to something that she has wanted so badly for so long, but a little strange to start the goodbyes.  People have been leaving the entire time that I've been here, but somehow the reality of it is beginning to sink in, the coming year is starting to take shape for all of us, in many different ways.  And after this project, in the middle of next week, off she'll go, back to Taiwan.  Goodbye, goodbye.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

More on Marriner

It's tempting to want to capture what is so wonderful about working with Sir Neville Marriner.   Admittedly, it's tiring.  He still likes to run through portions more than I might prefer, but there is something very exciting about his conducting.  And so I'm going to give in to temptation and list a few of the things that he has been working on in rehearsals, things that are surprisingly neglected by many conductors.

He is always aware of balance.  It seems a great deal of rehearsal is spent on making sure that certain voices are loud enough and that others aren't getting in the way.  And he is aware of color.  There are a variety of textures between each section of music.  Sometimes he's verbally expressed what he wants, but quite often it's something that can be detected in his gestures.  It means that there is reverence in some places, mystery in others, joy, anticipation.  He's also put a lot of effort into getting longer phrases, focussing especially on the melody, sculpting its direction and volition.  There is a story to be told and he is very serious about telling it.

I wondered today, as he worked again on the very opening of the Mendelssohn, trying to convey a sense of time and phrase with his hands, to have it materialize in a sound from the orchestra, what it must be like to still be improving.  He hasn't given up and he hasn't become a perfect conductor.  He hasn't fallen into the trap of thinking that he will never become a perfect conductor so why bother.  That isn't the goal, he's past himself.  At this point in my life I still have some vague idea that I will arrive.  I've lived enough to know this isn't true, but my knowledge is nothing when I see Sir Neville Marriner rehearsing.  Nor has he transcended to the point where he just wants to enjoy waving his arms in front of an orchestra playing great music.  He's very particular and insistent on doing real rehearsing, he isn't afraid or adverse to work.  

It's been a pleasure to work with him this week.  And now we will have three days of performing with him.  Likely more to learn.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

There's No "I"...........

Rehearsals with Sir Neville continue and he continues to be demanding.  His age is truly perplexing.  I wonder if he's taken some magic potion or something.  There are no signs of slowing down; we're the ones tired at the end of the rehearsal!

And our concertmaster is also quite demanding of the violin section, making them stay 45 minutes into the lunch break today, and also after rehearsal for at least an hour (rumors were that it might last more than 2 hours).  It's a strange thing to be in a non-union orchestra, and strange to be in an orchestra that straddles an identity between professional and student.  In America, that couldn't happen; but only one of the violinists isn't Japanese (though another was born and raised in America by Japanese parents) and there seems to be little resistance to this sort of demand.

For me, as a foreigner, there have been many times when I'm happy to have a sectional or even ask other members to go through various spots.  And that could certainly happen in America.  With most jobs there is an expectation to do more than what one is required to do.  But to infringe so heavily into someone's personal time is a little extreme.

It's also difficult, because in an orchestra there is a hierarchy of power.  Yes, we all have ownership of the final performance, but the conductor and the principal players have more.  But if one of them says more time is needed, the others must follow them and listen to everything that they want.  It isn't like chamber music where everyone has a more equal investment in the performance and has more of a voice about the course of rehearsal.  One has a deeper incentive in chamber music, more responsibility, more leadership.

And it's led me to think about obedience.  In Japan, there is a lot of it.  I don't know that any American, used to a world of individual rights, can imagine how obedient a population can be.  It means great things can happen with a group of people.  And it means that egos are small which can be good for individuals as well as the community.  I've learned a lot from that deference.

It also means that sometimes things are not voiced that could be.  It means that progress happens slowly, that people with power keep that power and don't even realize the power that they have.  There is a hierarchy of respect based on inherent qualities, one's sex, one's age, on'e class, and not based on things that can be earned through merit.

Obedience is something I've thought about since being in an orchestra, where my job is to do what someone tells me.  In an orchestra it can feel very strange to move or emote or input one's personal expression.  One is meant to be a gear in a large machine and too much individual volition gets in the way.  Perhaps that's why orchestral playing can seem so impersonal; its execution kind of is.  But there is also beauty to it and obedience towards the goal serves that beauty, as long as the goal is truly a shared one, if everyone's volition is the same.

I'm skeptical of whether this is truly possible with a conductor.  I tend to think that musicians need empowerment, need to feel a sense of responsibility and ownership that goes back to the last stands of the section.  I think the best situation is chamber music, conductorless orchestra, or finding a conductor truly worthy of following.  I've only encountered a few, but it has been a privilege to work with them, to feel fully onboard with the vision.

Orchestra is a wonderful thing.  This week has reminded me of that and encouraged me to reconsidered continuing to pursue an orchestral career.  But there are some difficult aspects of it apart from the discipline and perseverance.  One has to blend oneself into others, and that can be a very difficult thing to learn to do.  I'm grateful for my time in a Japanese orchestra to help me learn the value of this lesson, one that is practically impossible to find in America.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sir Neville Marriner

Sir Neville Marriner is with us this week.  It's remarkable that someone can conduct and rehearse an orchestra at 91 years of age and to do it so well.  But what is really inspiring about working with him is how clearly chiseled the characters of the pieces are within his imagination.  They are pieces he has probably known for decades and they are still incredible vivid and alive within him.  He is resolute in the tempos and interpretation that he wants, but not dogmatic or militant.  He is gentle, but demanding.  He is understated but very clear.  What he asks of us seems to be driven by a vibrant imagination, one that is very young.  It's really incredible.  And beautiful, and funny, and inspiring to be working with him.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Remembering Sakurafubuki (the falling blossoms)

After more than a month away, I emailed Sensei to ask about future class dates and learned that there would be class today.  I didn't confirm I would be there given the fact that we had a rehearsal at HPAC in the afternoon and I thought I might need to practice in the morning.

But I came, and when I arrived Sensei had faithfully carried my piece that she had displayed in the exhibit last month, while I was in America.  And with it, was a long letter in English, explaining several details about the exhibit and that I could purchase the frame in which Sensei had set my work for very little.  Sensei doesn't speak much English and I certainly don't speak much Japanese, so I imagine she had her husband write a note to explain the situation to me.  It was beautiful, and just another extension of her kindness.  It's so exciting to have this memento from my time in the class.

It was also the last class of one of my friends.  She'll be starting a job in an orchestra elsewhere in Japan.  I have a few more classes ahead of me, but it was the beginning of the taste of the end and the many inevitable goodbyes that will happen.

Sunday, May 10, 2015


What does it mean to try?  I find myself in the aftermath of an audition and in a void of external challenges.  Certainly I have some goals and projects, things to prepare for the future, but when another person or entity doesn't pose a pointed challenge to overcome, a challenge that spurs some internal desire to rise to the occasion, how does one try?  

It seems very important to keep growing.  Without trying, it seems unlikely that growth can occur. And without growth, without moving forward, there is decline.  I'm reminded of Woody Allen's analogy between relationships and sharks: they have to keep moving forward or they die.  And maybe it isn't actual death that one experiences when they cease to grow, but it is in the direction of death.

So much of life is easy without trying.  Most of us don't have to hunt for our food anymore, or fight for survival.  It takes little or no trying to survive.  There must be something else.

We are lucky when we find a cause and a passion.  It means something towards which to direct that energy.  People run races, they enter competitions, they campaign for causes.  The world is full of challenges if we take them.  But what makes us take a particular one?  What drives us?

It can be easy to jump onboard a popular passion, a meme being spread through the internet or in the media, to take something as a cause.  Or perhaps to take any challenge that comes within one's grasp.  But if we were able to step back from such impetuous solutions to purpose, and ask towards what we might direct ourselves, what would we find?  Is it possible to try without another's pushing and pulling, without something outside ourselves dangling a carrot?  How can we find internal growth?  Or is it a matter of opening ourselves to all the resources around us as fully as possible?

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Yesterday I finally emailed Fukunari-sensei.  I'd been intending to apologize for taking so long to be in touch and to explain that the next few months were busy with preparations for moving and projects at HPAC.  Having only a few months left in Japan, I'm not particularly concerned with trying to improve my Japanese.

But as I was writing the email and trying to remember how to form the sentences and which words to use, I got sentimental for learning Japanese, and missed having lessons with her.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye to lessons, to diminish our last meeting to dinner.

So I asked her for a few more.  And she immediately responded that would be fine and I should just let her know when would be best.  So now I will have to brush up on my Japanese again, to reinvest in a place that I'm about to leave.  I don't really need to be stepping away so soon.  Mastering Japanese was only a peripheral goal anyway; why not enjoy one of the most unique opportunities here in the few remaining months that I have?

Friday, May 8, 2015

From a Distance

I watched another Promotion Results class this morning.  During the past two-and-a-half years I've seen new students try their first Tae Kwon Do class, heard their voices, watched them come closer to the front of the class as they earn higher belts.  It's amazing to see the growth in the punctuated spurts of my internet hangout sessions.

And there is a part of me, a large part of me, that watches and wishes I could be there.  It seems like a shadow puppet play.  I cannot touch them, or talk to them, or interact with the people on the screen.  I cannot learn the things they are learning, cannot hear or see everything said, cannot teach or be taught, except in a limited capacity.  I'm not there, I'm not taking up a place in the class, my efforts are not inspiring anyone, they can't hear my kihop.

And why does that matter?  Except that it does.  Love seems to thrive in a community, to grow when it is received.  It's so much easier to give it that way.  Love that goes out and hears no echo, how does it know that it spoke?

What inspires us to keep endeavoring?  Sometimes I think of the Tae Kwon Do masters in my club.  Sometimes I think highly of my ability to uphold myself to certain ethics and ways of life, to pursue certain ideals; and then I see them and am humbled.  What inspires them?  To whom do they look?  How do they know that they are heard, if there is no one around them so able?

When I think in this way, faith seems very important.  Not necessarily faith in a god or a religion, just faith.  Belief, perhaps in love; belief in its existence within oneself, and its existence in the world.  Is there a foundation for such a belief?  Upon what does the sun rest itself?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Opening Transition

This is a time of straddling two, if not three worlds.  Certainly the one in which I currently live, also the one to which I'll be going, but also the past which seems to hang over the two, defining them, encouraging them.  What can I do with what came before?  What am I doing now, what am I planning with what has been given to me and what I've learned?  There is excitement and perhaps a small amount of healthy anxiety, something to give a fervency to the endeavor.  What matters in my life?  Am I living that and am I poised to live it beyond?  These times of transition can be wonderful times to reflect on this, periods of chaotic decompression where possibility lives.  And it can be a challenge to swim in the possibility, a space without definition, uncertain and insecure.  So for the next few months, I will try to find comfort in this place that has none of the elements of comfort contained within it.  Living in the stirred dwellings of beginning.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Extending outward, further and further, it seems there must be a breaking point.  Perhaps it is assumed that life is a work of progressive tonality, but no one ever says it.  I'm still waiting for that familiar refrain to wrap itself around me.  But it or I or the space in between is moving and I'm awed by the reach we can sustain.  Such is memory, such is distance and time.  Moving forward, helplessly, an impossibility like a child's balloon traveling to the clouds, free and lost.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Children's Day

It's Children's Day in Japan, May 5th.  Before they claimed the heavenly sky, I grabbed the swings and contemplated the monkey bars.  A timid boy biked onto the scene.  I'd had my time.  And now I can hear them all playing, filling up the last light of the day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Going By

It was my last time in Tokyo.  Before I left, a friend of mine was mentioning things that I still hadn't seen. But it was the end of my time there.  Maybe one day in the future.  Years from now.

And then the last time for a Shinkansen ride, at least one of such length, at least one along the tracks between Osaka and Tokyo.  

And below are pictures, perhaps of little interest in themselves.  It's amazing how amazing it is to see the world fly by.  It's mesmerizing;  maybe not because of anything seen, but simply because it's going by.  Going by, going by.....

Sunday, May 3, 2015

There are a lot of People in Japan

Today a friend invited me to join for an excursion outside of Tokyo to Kamakura, the city seat of an early shogunate.  In this town are the famous Kotokuin with it's Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) as well as Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine.  Pictures!

Looking down on people since 1252

Buddha's back, well-ventilated

Walking through the "Shopping Street" to get to Tsurugaoka 
(There are a lot of people in Japan I)

The approach to Tsurugaoka 
(There are a lot of people in Japan II)

The remains of a giant ginkgo tree

Leaving Tsurugaoka Hachimangu 
(There are a lot of people in Japan III)

Bridge and wind-blown tree near the entrance

The trains are still being patrolled by station masters with megaphones trying to keep the crowds in order.  I'm not sure what they are saying; probably just, "keep moving."  There are so many people in Japan and yet there are still lines within the crowds, patience on the jammed sidewalks.  If one is going to be swimming in a crowd of thousands, this is a pretty good place to do it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Green Tokyo

Today was so green. 

I woke up at a jet-lagged 4:45am.  The sun was just coming up, the air was warm, so I went for a run, and I saw the people that are normally up and about at 5am, enjoying their gentle morning walks.  The crane in the river, the woman leaving the cemetery and bowing at the exit.  What compels the morning?

By 6:30 I had showered, eaten breakfast, packed, and caught my bus to begin my journey to Tokyo. Today was a travel day, paid for by the organizer of these concerts.  We had to get to Tokyo by some means, but the day was ours and a hotel waited for us from 2pm.  So I Shinkansened to Tokyo, one of my favorite things to do in Japan, watching the rice paddies and cities speed by through a window attended by a sleepy gentlemen.  

I had decided to go to Ueno Park.  It's very famous (a bit like New York's Central Park) and I'd never been before and there are lots of museums there and the weather was beautiful.  All great reasons to go.  So I went.

And here are some pictures from the day.  

It's Golden Week which means everyone in Japan is on vacation.  It's even more crowded than usual.  Above, people wait in line to get through the Shinkansen gate with station employees directing through megaphones.

Part of Ueno Park, near the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Please wait here in four rows till then."  Obedience.

Universal fascination, Chicago to Tokyo and back

This is Tokyo, in fact, it's what a lot of Tokyo looks like.  Tokyo is green to me.  There is unchecked green in so many of the city spaces.  People don't think of Tokyo that way, but it's true.

Combined old and new building for the sake of the International Children's Library, an intriguing walk through of the history of the children's book in Japan, including a Japanese version of Frog and Toad.  And in the downstairs reading room was a section of American children's books most of which were favorites from my childhood: Owl at Home, Mike Mulligan, Blueberries for Sal, Doctor DeSoto, and so many others.  Wonderful to see that they found a home here.

The museums I had intended to visit were all very expensive for highly specialized exhibits in which I had no interest.  It was an easy choice to make.  While I failed to find a satisfactory lunch for two hours, I happened upon Ameyayokocho which was a lively market filled with many sounds and spicy smells.  I got some pineapple on a stick and kept walking.

Selling fish in one if the stands in Ameyayokocho.

view of the street

Fruits and nuts

And then back into the park for more views, here from Kiyomizudo (modelled after Kiyomizudera in Kyoto) looking to Bentendo in the pond through a coerced tree


One section of the Shinobazu Pond in Ueno

Shelter overlooking another section of the pond

Path between two portions of the pond

Swan boats!

Children everywhere!

After Ueno Park I realized that although I had been to Shinjuku, I'd never been to that famous park.  So I got on the subway and headed there for more green.  Shinjuku is interesting in that it has several styles within it.  For ¥200 you can choose to stroll through the Japanese gardens, or the French or the English, walk through the wooded areas, or just lounge in the huge open spaces.  

Enjoying the woods

View of the Japanese area

From the tea house in the Japanese garden

Azalea Hill; Alice in Wonderland 

French portion

Park in the city

I was outside for so much of the day, and it was wonderful to be so on a day so beautiful.  I made my way to the hotel and found a large room waiting for me, with a small balcony in the trees.

Day of Green

Friday, May 1, 2015

Summer Air

The weather is so perfect for biking.  And tatami floors are so perfect for lying.

Tomorrow is a perfect day to ride the Shinkansen to Tokyo.  And maybe I won't stop there, just keep on riding and riding.

And the bushes outside the apartments are so beautiful right now.