Fukui Concert 1/2


Due a misunderstanding, no room was reserved for me the at the Fukui Central Hotel. I was lucky in that there still was one room available but unlucky in that it was a smoking room. I’m not sure when I last saw a smoking room in a European hotel, but in Japanese business hotels that is still very common.

If you follow this blog, you may remember that I had previously left Fukui without paying my hotel bill, and was quite worried about what to do. So I was a bit anxious of how this would turn out. And … of course it was no problem. The ママさん (mama-san) just laughed, and waved my apologies aside.

I can also report a minor linguistic victory: Yes, I managed to make myself understood, although my Japanese must be torture to a native speaker’s ears: Stay one more night, no problem. Swap to a non-smoking room for the following night, no problem. Get WiFi for my room, no problem. Understand the instructions of how to combine power socket, USB box and LAN cable – well it took some fiddling, but then all Informatics studying must have been of some use! High tech Japan meets oh-but-this-still-works Japan!

Kurumaya sensei and I had one more short rehearsal on the day before the tech rehearsal. Playing together got easier, showing again, that it is easiest to play together when you’re familiar with each other’s playing style.


As I had nothing to do the next morning, I had planned to get in some shakuhachi practice. But – as everywhere in Japan – it was impossible to find a rehearsal space, so Kurumaya sensei kindly offered that I practice upstairs in his dojo. This way, I finally got the experience of walking from 小和清水駅 (Kowashozu station) to the dojo, which will be very familiar to the participants of the international courses.

There were many fishermen in the 足羽川 (Asuwa river), which seems to be very popular in the fishing community. There were cars from as far as Kyoto or even Kyushu.

A downside of the picturesque location of Kurumaya-sensei’s dojo is it is the only place where I couldn’t get a connection with my fancy mobile data device. This is true 田舎 (inaka, countryside).

The preparations for the concert were on a whole different scale compared to what I am used to at home: We had a day and a half to set up for just one show. (Even when we played a full three week run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe we only had a few hours at the venue to set up.) And there were eight members of staff involved: a person for lighting, one for sound, organisation, more organisation and a few I couldn’t really figure out.

The concert venue was in the 風の森ホール (Kaze no mori Hall) in the building of the 福井新聞 (Fukui Newspaper). It has great acoustics: very nice natural reverberation, but not picking up every little movement like most concert halls. Ideal for shakuhachi. But, as always, these same characteristics make it problematic for taiko – lots of reverb results in a mushy sound and the many reflections make keeping time difficult.

As a consequence all drums were individually mic’ed, resulting in loose cables all across the stage. This made moving drums quite awkward, because the drums got caught easily in the cables. Luckily I didn’t have any drum moves. Whether that was because of my ‘special guest’ status or my difficulties communicating I don’t know.

I also noticed that there was considerably less equipment compared to a Mugenkyo show – it helps to only play one style. After the load in we spent most of the day with the soundcheck and then running the whole show with sound. (On the next day, we would run the show again, and then do a full rehearsal.)

For you taiko geeks out there: One interesting difference I noticed was the different style of spiking the stage: Instead of using two marks on either side or behind the drum, all marks were corners on the back right leg of the drum, using the same colour. The name of the piece was written on it and then it was sealed with clear tape.

Further geeking out: When I was supporting Kensaku Satou at the Fringe Festival in 2016, he used the same method of single colour plus name plus clear tape but used two spikes for each position. What do we learn from this? Use a system that works for you!