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Project Japan 23

Apart from a couple of quickies earlier today I’ve not posted here for a week. I cannot tell you how busy we’ve been. As I sit here typing this on a Saturday afternoon I am absolutely knackered, burned out, washed and wiped out, fried, brain-dead, the lot. But, really, it has been an absolute blast—not an adjective I use very often but entirely appropriate here.

Thursday 16 August
Music tech shopping. Not so straightforward in a city you don’t know and where the language is alien to you: even Google Translate struggles with detailed and technical Japanese-English Internet searches. Eventually we found one of these at Ishibashi Music:

Bizarrely, we ate that evening in a Hawaiian restaurant. No: don’t ask.

Friday 17 August
After some gift-buying (for our soon-to-be-hosts and their daughter Yoshino) we took the JP Rapid service from Osaka direct to Notogawa (avoiding the change at Kyoto):

We were met at Notogawa by Sueko Boland, wife of Dr. Carl “CJ” Boland, lately of this parish, who were to be our hosts for the weekend. They live in a small village called Sugoshicho which is north of Kyoto and just south of a small city called Hikone, right on the edge of Lake Biwa:

The contrast between the urban craziness of Osaka and the rural calm of Sugoshicho could not have been more stark, and again I had that sensation of someone channel-flipping me:

Meeting Sueko at last was great—we had been in email contact with her for going on six months and she had been doing much of the logistical arrangements for us ahead of our arrival—and their lovely daughter Yoshi, and of course it was good to see Carl again. They live in a restored traditional-style house right in the middle of Sugoshicho and about 100 yards from the beach. Say hello to the nice people in Swansea, CJ:

After dumping our bags we headed straight down to the beach: very warm but quite breezy. Lots of catch-up chat and beachcombing. Brilliant:

Little did we know, but our day was only just beginning. Sueko’s father (now sadly deceased) was head priest at one of the local Buddhist temples (and I say “one of” because there are several despite the small size of the village). This role has now been taken over by her brother-in-law, Akira, who had kindly granted us access to the temple for a private visit. Whilst it was all relatively informal, due respect was observed and Akira performed a short ritual for us upon our arrival. Incredibly, he later brought out a prototype Japanese-style Kalimba that he and Carl were developing (with a view to fitting contact mics at some future point) and some funky improvising ensued:

The temple bell. Note graphic score!

(Left to right): Sueko, Heather, CJ, Akira.

Thanks to Akira, Sueko, and Carl for arranging this visit. An absolute privilege.


Dinner time. Yakiniku: cook meat at your table. The Japanese like their meat good and fatty and they’ll eat almost any part of the animal. I’m far too squeamish for some of the more (ahem) choice cuts but great fun nonetheless: a very sociable and involving way to eat.
And so to bed. One crazy day…

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