It’s Tuesday, November 14 and we’ve had many adventures since my last post. We are way busier this time with social and professional engagements which really cuts into my blog time! Besides friends and work, we are exploring more restaurants and bought a Grutto Pass, which is a booklet full of entry and discount tickets for museums all over the Greater Tokyo area. It cost us just under $20 and since most museums are $3.00 to $8.00 it’s a great deal if you actually make it to enough places. We are trying to cram in all the ones we want to see, but so far four places have been closed inexplicably on “open” days or for renovations. We tried one yesterday that was supposedly open on Mondays, but nope. We began our Grutto quest in the Ueno Park area October 25 for the Shitamachi Museum that shows how craftsmen, merchants, and fishermen lived in old Tokyo known as Edo. We posted a few pictures and short video clips of Ueno on Facebook while we were there. Ueno has many amazing museums, a zoo, an amphitheater, shrines, statues, fountains and a gorgeous pond filled with lotus. We stumbled upon a dahlia exhibit at one of the shrines and you’ll see how expertly they grow them below. Flowers grown so perfectly they look like drawings, if you ask me, and VERY tall examples were our favs, but we also loved how they protected them from the rain with individual umbrellas. We’ve visited the Printing Museum, which covers both east and west printing techniques, Showa Kan, the museum which shows how Japan lived post war including devastation and grief and the Nakagawa Funabansho Museum, which showcases what life was like on the river in old Edo. (Without a word of English to be found within the museum walls, I might add!) There are three large pictures below of Ueno and then the collage contains: shrine pics, statues, toris (gates for Shinto shrines), a stone lantern that has inspired me to look for one for our yard once we are home because I really like them, dahlias, a pagoda, a golden gate, the VERY moving Peace monument eternal flame from a burning house in Hiroshima (please try to read the plaque in the picture), and Ueno ends with a picture of fish that were for sale at a festival on the park grounds that day. I’ll explain the rest of the pics below.
The almost three weeks straight of rain, including two typhoons in October, didn’t really get us down as the title says, but you do get to a point where you’d like to not have to prepare so much for a full day out with all weather possibilities and heavy backpacks to carry around unneeded things throughout certain periods of the day. We just adore sightseeing and I feel like a professional tour guide as it is my job to make sure I plan our days off, know important info (like closed museums – argh!), which trains to take, etc. We make a total full day of it and with some transit rides up to an hour you WILL be gone all day and must have what you need with you.
Besides Ueno, our recent adventures have taken us to Kyoto and Nara where we stayed with our friends, Toru and Chieko Miura. Toru was one of the founding members of Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra and is a famous euphonium player in Japan. I’d post a picture of them, but there are a few days that aren’t uploading from my iPhone to my laptop for some reason. Grrr. Toru studied at Eastman and in Mississippi during his younger days. He was instrumental in making the joint ABA and JBA convention, where Terry served as President, a success. Terry and Toru had to communicate a great deal over the span of 2 years to make the ABA-JBA convention happen. You make lifelong friends that way. Toru and Chieko were amazing hosts and spoiled us rotten with an amazing kobe steak and lobster teppanyaki style dinner in addition to driving us all around historic spots in Kyoto and Nara. We posted pictures of The Golden Pavilion at the Rokuon -Ji Temple and the Great Buddha Hall at Todaiji Temple on Facebook (a few below as well), but we also experienced the free roaming deer in the Nara Park, the Toshodaiji Temple, Daikaku-ji Temple and the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, which is where many samurai shows and movies are made. They built a huge set years ago for something and decided to continue using it for shows and movies and by turning it into a theme park. That’s the selfie below in the collage. And yes, I just learned that you can’t add too many pictures at a time or they will all be locked in a collage if you press the wrong button. Oh well. Time crunch. By the way, deer in Nara Park are protected and roam freely. They are considered a natural treasure and roam on the grounds of Todai-ji, Kofuko-ji and Kasuga Shrine. They sell what they call deer cookies on site so you can feed them. The Kyoto/Nara pictures begin right after the fish arrangement.
There was a wedding at one of the temples and I snapped a few pictures of that beautiful event. One is of just the bride and groom and one is them overlooking the lake. The picture beside the close up of the wedding couple is from the studio theme park and the selfie and picture beside it are both from there as well. Then there are: two shots of dinner, the small garden just outside the tub room at the Miura’s, deer, Terry at the river museum, the Tokyo 2020 sign we’ve seen ALL over Tokyo, the Memorial for those who lost their lives in the WWII bombings in the Sumo area of Tokyo (hopefully more on that later in another blog), the lovely entry way at the Miura’s, shrines and temples. SO sorry all these pics are clumped together, but it would take me forever to undo it.
My pictures of the Great Buddha Hall were some of the ones that didn’t get on my laptop. I mentioned we had some professional things happening. Former Musashino student and our Kawagoe tour guide, Tomoko Kawaguchi, invited Terry to work with her band last Sunday evening. She works at a high school in the country, but lives in Kawagoe. It is an hour drive for her each morning to get to school and we loved seeing a new part of Japan. The students were amazing. We entered the room and there was a young man in a suit working with the band. Unbeknownst to us, he was a student, but we thought he was the assistant director. He formally greeted us and then the band commenced to perform Armenian Dances by Alfred Reed as a chamber group – meaning NO conductor. They maneuvered all difficult tempo changes flawlessly and we learned they had only worked on the piece for three weeks with one of those weeks having many students in the U.S. on a field trip! Band rehearses everyday after school for 3.5 hours. Terry enjoyed working with them and at the end they made a special presentation where they stood and sang. I had tears flowing, of course, and then lost it completely when in the last verse they began doing sign language. It made me miss my students so much. Those pictures did not upload either for some reason. I am on my way to being an award winning blogger, I’m sure. As we were leaving, the students lined the parking lot and waved to us as we departed. Such a special memory.
The following day, we traveled outside of Tokyo for Terry to work with another band at the Christian Academy in Japan. Instead of watching Terry work, I ended up in the choral classroom and got to teach some of my fav warm-ups as a guest director! I had a ball and we even got to stay after school for a bit to watch some of their rehearsal for CINDERELLA. I was so happy.
I do need to back up and tell you about Halloween. First of all, the specially packaged products, desserts, etc. for the holiday are just like at home, but the scary factor is not so evident. Everything seems to be orange and black for a few weeks and then it’s gone and Merry Christmas decor is up and Christmas music is playing everywhere all day long. Anyway, one of the grad students in the wind ensemble, Erika, was in Terry’s band last time. She is an amazing cook and offered to come to our apartment and make dinner for us. It turned into a party with Chef Erika (pictured below in Terry’s new chef coat), Teruko (band manager and pictured wearing my 100 yen cat costume ears that I used to deliver treats to the band), the band inspectors and concert mistress and last but not least, Nanako, the other grad student in the band who also was in Terry’s band four years ago. Erika showed up with EVERYTHING for the party – paper products, all food and beverages, dish soap and new rags, decor and even trash bags! You can see the students doing all the decorations and they even did all the clean up. The food was delicious and we are hoping Erika will come and cook for us again! She did offer. The band members just enjoy each other’s company and were so kind and helpful. These aren’t great pics (shocker), but they give you an idea of our evening.
The last thing I’ll tell you about is the Muse Festival. This was October 26 – 29, so I’m really working backwards in this blog, and is an all student run festival that fundraises for school clubs. The students begin working on it in August to choose themes and plan and once October hits, they hold daily rehearsals for everything from solo performances to full on marching band and concert orchestra. The dance club performs lip synch, hip hop and sometimes traditional dances. The Japanese traditional music ensemble performs. It’s a wonderful weekend of performances, but our favorite part is visiting each booth where the students prepare and cook certain items. Alcohol is served from 5 – 7:30 p.m. only and there is a fanfare played to announce that it’s time for legal drinking to begin. It is such a fun event, but unfortunately a typhoon caused an early shut down of the food booths. Costumes are involved in some of the performances and you can see the Minion antiphonal brass below. I mostly took video, which I can’t post here. Once again, Blogger of the Year. You can also see the calm before the storm. Everything was set up the evening before. They even have a tea ceremony and the students participating do flower arrangements. Our former band manager and dear friend, Wataru, spent some time with us one evening which was so fun.
It’s hard to believe we have just a few days left here. Terry has begun holding sectionals and the December 4 concert will be here before we know it. For now, we are enjoying our life in Japan and can NOT wait until Friday comes when our dearest friends, Dennis and Carol Zeisler, come to visit! I will be journeying out to Narita airport to pick them up via public transit and we will be coming to Tokyo during rush hour. Should be an interesting ride. Ja mata.