News for November 2007

The Bible Banger

This morning I woke to the unmistakable sound of a midwestern American voice. At first, I was excited to hear the sound, and eager to talk to it’s owner, until I discovered that he was preaching, and getting downright biblical on some Malaysian guy staying at the hostel. All of this happened outside my window, so I couldn’t ignore it, and the American’s voice was too loud for me to go back to sleep. Why does it always have to be a Bible-thumping American who sticks out like a sore thumb, who feels it’s important to convert the world to his world view? Ugh.

Posted: November 11th, 2007
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Back to Kyoto

It was raining when I woke, so I decided to skip my sightseeing plans in Tokyo, and head back to Kyoto.

Emerging from Kyoto station felt like coming home to a smaller, warmer place.

Posted: November 10th, 2007
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Tokyo is an endless, sprawling megalopolis, a bustling sea of humanity, neon eternity.

Upon my arrival, I was blown away by the sheer volume of people in the station, and when I made my way via subway to Shinjuku to find a hotel, I was even more blown away. Shinjuku station’s daily traffic is one of the highest in the world, and one has to almost fight one’s way through it. Better yet, simply go with the flow. This place makes NYC seem like a farming community.

Posted: November 8th, 2007
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Maiko in Respectful ReverenceI was wandering aimlessly around Gion today, when I nearly blundered into a Geisha. It happened when I was crossing a busy street (Shijo-dori), and she sort of appeared out of nowhere. She could have been a Maiko, or apprentice Geisha, but I really don’t know how to tell them apart. As the next hour unfolded, I managed to spot a few more scurrying around, and even snapped up a blurry pic of one being escorted to Pontocho by her matron. This place is so surreal. It’s almost like living in a story. Almost, but not quite. The illusion got ruined when I walked a few more blocks and found myself in the red light district, surrounded by Japanese business men in their starched suits. Eyed warily by seedy sentinels posted outside various establishments, I quickly made my way back to the hostel.

Posted: November 6th, 2007
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My birthday came an went like passing clouds. It was an eventful day, complete with travels to a new city, new accommodations, and the feeling of independence associated with cutting out on one’s own.

After I did some sightseeing, I checked out Kyoto Station for some meal options. I found a place which allowed me to feed money into a slot and choose my meal by pushing a button. Then, a hostess came and seated me, and I looked around as I waited for my food. Most of the patrons were locals, but there a couple of foreigners inside. I watched carefully how the natives handled their chopsticks with their right hands and their spoons with their left as they deftly attacked the bowls of soup. When my food arrived, I managed to mimic them effectively, down to making the slurphing sounds characteristic of the eating style. However, I cant figure out how to do it without splashing my clothes with soup.

After I ate, I met Meri (a Japanese native, who is an acquaintance through my musician friend Jan Sebon), and we took the bus to the Kyoto Art Institute Student Festival, which was quite the event. There were beautiful student art works, cool bands playing, and great food. I had a blast. At 7 pm, I went to see Meri perform in an African dance performance, performed entirely by Japanese women. OK. I have seen, heard, and performed African dance and music. This was something else. I was blown away. From the first few beats of the dun-dun drums, I knew I was in for a good show. Imagine a group of attractive, young Japanese women playing African drums, while others danced skillfully to the music. Wow. There was one djembe player who could have given some of the drummer I know a run for their money, and she’s only been playing for two years! I told Meri they should seriously consider touring.

Posted: November 2nd, 2007
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I met Soke Tanemura Shoto (the Genbukan Ninpo World Bugei Grandmaster) today. Nick Shihan helped me get introduced, and I shared with him my emotional experience at Ise Jingu. He told me to continue with my training, and that he would see me in Milwaukee for the Tai-kai in 2008.

Posted: November 1st, 2007
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