March 6, 2007
Japan isn’t just for crazy watches
AEJ and I are flying to Japan a week from Wednesday, where we’ll be for a week. We’re flying there for the premiere of my new piece, “Kingfishers Catch Fire,” commissioned by a consortium of Japanese high schools and colleges. (I haven’t written much about this piece, but that’s because until a few days ago, I didn’t know if it worked, as I hadn’t heard a note of it. I received a recording last week, though, and I have to say that I’m cautiously optimistic about it. It’s ridiculously difficult — it’s for Japanese bands, after all – a county where there are middle school bands playing “Redline Tango” — but difficulty aside, I think the piece is a keeper.)
This will be my first trip abroad. The only foreign country I’ve been to previously is Canada, and lovely as Canada is, the most “foreign” difference is the fact that the money has pictures of chicks instead of dudes. Japan, though, will be an adventure.
Wataru Hokoyama, our friend (and first-rate composer) has been helping us a great deal as we prepare for the trip. The trip is shaping up nicely. Here’s the current itinerary…
- Thursday, March 15: Arrive in Tokyo. Stay in hotel in Tokyo that night. Maybe have some sushi.
- Friday: Bullet train to Okayama / Shin-Kurashiki. Rehearse with the band. Ichiro Saito conducts.
- Saturday: Festival opening concert, including Kannonji Ichi High School band performance of “Redline Tango”
- Saturday evening: premiere of “Kingfishers Catch Fire”
- Sunday: “Meet the Composer” session. This should be interesting. It’s me, in front of a Japanese audience. I’ve no idea how this will go. I think I do okay on panels when the audience speaks English, but I’ll be at the mercy of my interpreter, Tetsuya Nakayama. Mr. Nakayama used to be a student of Eugene Corporon’s at North Texas, so I’m sure that’ll go just fine — but I’m still a little nervous.
- Monday: AEJ and I head to Kyoto. We’re staying in a standard hotel in Kyoto on Monday, but on Tuesday night, we’re staying in the Tawaraya Ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn. Tawaraya is reportedly the best ryokan in the world (and some have called it the best hotel in the world), and has been run by the same family for 11 generations. The place is 300 years old. Guests have included members of the Imperial family, as well as Leonard Bernstein! (There are only 18 rooms; I hope we get the Bernstein room!)
- Wednesday: head back to Tokyo.
- Thursday: fly home to LA.
I plan to take a zillion pictures in Japan, especially of the Tawaraya Ryokan, but I need to make sure I also just enjoy the experience. I just found this little blurb by the travel writer from the New York Times:
On a recent business trip to Kyoto, I stayed at the Tawaraya Ryokan, one of the oldest hotels in Japan. We had a traditional multicourse kaiseki dinner one evening, and with each elaborate dish they poured more sake. While everyone else savored their meal, I was scribbling notes and asking people around me: “That was mackerel, right? What was in the soup again?” I stopped documenting our dinner only after the sake made it difficult to write anything coherent.
That could be me on this trip. I don’t want to worry too much about taking pictures of every moment — especially since those pictures will be increasingly blurry as the sake kicks in. Who knows if I’ll ever be back to Japan, so I want to take it all in, and not just worry about getting a picture of every delicious piece of sushi. Wow, it’s going to be an incredible trip.
And hell, maybe I’ll buy another crazy-ass Japanese watch while I’m there. Like this one! What the hell is going on here? It makes no sense at all! It’s perfect!