During the first days in Chichibu, the taiko teams were preparing for a small festival on the 20th (when I was due back in Fukui), so when walking around in the evening I could see the teams practicing (except one – the doors were closed). I’m also trying to keep up a more or less regular running regime, and this way I think I spotted all 6 of the teams, including the ones outside the city centre. Yes, running in this humidity takes getting used to: there’s double the sweat, half the distances and slow times.
On the Monday after the last Fukui rehearsal I finally travelled to Chichibu. But of course it wasn’t as easy as that. I had to take the train at 5:30am, because I hadn’t realised that only special ticket offices exchange vouchers for the JR Rail Pass. Fukui is not one of then, so I had to schedule extra time in Kanazawa.
However, I had not yet paid the hotel. After a spontaneous dinner on Sunday night with Wendel Broere, who had come to watch the rehearsal, there was nobody at the hotel reception. And I didn’t have enough cash. And – a common trap for Japan visitors – no ATM accepting foreign cards was open. Yes, I walked around central Fukui for an hour trying to find one. So, I either had to leave without paying or change my plans at 1am. In the end I came up with the – in my mind ingenious – solution of writing a note in my best hiragana (and with the help of some translation technology) giving my apologies and card number. Of course that didn’t work, because without the PIN the card couldn’t be charged. To be continued …
Chichibu is a small town in the mountains at the foot of Mt. Bukoh with a population of about 60,000. In the taiko world it is obviously famous for its 夜祭 (Yomatsuri, Night Festival), but this is actually only one, albeit biggest, of a large number of festivals and ceremonies. Chichibu is the home to 34 Buddhist temples, which constitute a pilgrimage route, the Chichibu 34 Kannon Sanctuary (秩父三十四箇所, Chichibu Sanjūyon-kasho).
So … How to start this blog? Well, maybe by confessing that I’m a shakuhachi and taiko nut. A more proper way to phrase this would be: I am a shakuhachi shihan (master), teacher and performer (licensed by the KSK (Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan – 国際尺八研修館; see here for KSK Europe), and I am a senior member of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, Europe’s only fully professional taiko touring group.
Because I have been awared the first KSK Europe scholarship earlier this year, I will be living in Japan for three months, from July to September 2017, studying with my shakuhachi teacher Kaoru Kakizakai sensei. This seemed a good point to start a blog about my journey into taiko and shakuhachi. I do love both equally and cherish practising shakuhachi in solitude just as much as being on stage with my fellow taiko nutters and working up to the grand finale of a big show. Continue reading