ATM Woes, Chichibu and Trailer Life

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).

Mt Bukoh from Seibu-Chichibu Continue reading

Fukui Rehearsals

Once I had arrived we dropped off my big suitcase in the Fukui Central Hotel, famous among taiko visitors to Fukui and infamous for low door frames. Then Kurumaya sensei took me to his dojo to start with a first two person rehearsal. I think he needed to make sure I really could play shakuhachi. Of course, we had never played together, so he was taking a gamble in inviting me, relying just on Mugekyo’s reputation. Later that day he said 「安心です」 (I’m relieved).

After lunch in his favourite restaurant (also famous among dojo visitors) we playing some Fukui style with members of Wadaiko Za Miyama (和太鼓座美山), the group playing at the concert. For me this took a bit getting used to. Even though we are playing Fukui style at home, there are slight differences, eg here the mitsu uchi (三つ打ち) has a slightly stronger headbeat than I am used to. Continue reading

Kanazawa to Fukui

After quickly packing my things and rushing to the lobby I had to figure out a way to contact Kurumaya sensei, who had already been waiting for me at Fukui station for more than half an hour. Because my UK phone company had told me that I couldn’t make any phone calls in Japan, I tried to call Kurumaya sensei from reception, but the receptionist apparently entered the wrong number. It took me a while until I understood that I wasn’t speaking to Kurumaya sensei at all but some random local person. Poor man – I don’t think he spoke any English and my Japanese is atrocious at the best of times (incomprehensible otherwise). As it turns out I can call mobile numbers here after all, so 1 minute later (and £4 the poorer) a haphazard mashup of English and Japanese on both sides worked to let Kurumaya sensei know what had happened. Continue reading