Saturday, November 25, 2006

Autumn in Kyoto, Part 1

After visiting Tom, I headed for Kyoto. This time of year it's especially beautiful - the colours are just luminous...

The first morning, I visited a place called Nanzen-ji, in the east, and followed a trail up behind the temple way up into the mountains. Right on the top was a wonderful, dense forest of tall, slender trees - cypress or cedar, maybe. I couldn't resist pulling out the flute and playing for a while.

Partway up the trail, I came across this. Its a waterfall shower, for brave monks who wish to get closer to nature...

It looked like it would be quite refreshing. The kind of refreshing where you feel so alive you can only stand it for a split second before involuntarily leaping around yelling, flapping your arms and gasping for breath... :)

Later, I trekked out to one of my favourite places in all of Japan - Koto-in. I'd timed my trip perfectly and the garden was stunning.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Beishu Mei Shakuhachi

Weekend before last, I went and stayed with Tom Deaver, at his place up in the mountains above Matsukawa, in Nagano. He had been out visiting friends, so he picked me up from a train station half way there, and I got to enjoy a great scenic drive up(down?) the river valley and then up to his place.

Autumn was in full swing, and the colours were great - there had been a strong wind through a day or so before, and the less-travelled roads up near his place were literally carpeted yellow.

Tom is a Shakuhachi maker, and my 2.4 flute was made by him - obtained on my last visit, a year ago. This is his workshop:

A wonderful, comfortable place, up high in the barn attached to his house. during the day, it looks out, more or less onto the view in the previous photo. Tom told me that over in that mass of green somewhere is a temple, and at a certain time of the day, the light reflected off the temple's roof shines directly in the window.

In the evening, Tom left me up there to play, and try any flute I liked, finished or not - a wonderful experience to play so many flutes back to back. Very quickly I found a 1.8 flute that seemed to really stand out for me - I found it easy to get a good strong sound, while still having a lovely woody, airy natural voice. It was by far the flute I most enjoyed playing - much more like my 2.4 in character than my current 1.8.

There was another flute there that I also liked - a 1.8 that was 'nobe' - translates as 'total' - meaning it was a single piece of bamboo - not in two pieces with a centre joint like most shakuhachi.

The next morning, Tom told me about wanting to take closeup pictures of some of the detail in the bamboo and joints of the flutes, and so I took a bunch of flutes outside and took some for him...

the next two shots are not flutes, but the root-ball of the bamboo that is cut off the end when the bamboo is being prepared.

Normally something that would be chucked out, Tom has polished a few of them up - a deceptively large amount of work - and they are just wonderful things to pick up, hold and look at.

After lunch, it was time to go - I had plans to be in Kyoto, though in that present reality I would much rather have just stayed there. Maybe next visit... I really enjoyed the time spent there with him. Cheers, Tom.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sunrise Dreaming

Sunset, Moonrise, Sunrise

This is where I watch the sunset from, most days. When I first arrived, this field was full of tall grass and other plants, well over my head. At the end of summer, a local farmer comes out in his tractor and mows it. by the end of next summer, it will be over my head again. Its a lovely spot, and there is a regular bunch of people who always seem to be around just on sunset. I think we all belong to Sunset Club.

I've been neglecting the blog a little - not for lack of things to write and photos to show, but the opposite. So much stuff the weight of it is overwhelming. So I took a bit of a break.

Tomorrow I'm teaching a bunch of high school kids some basic shakuhachi along with one of Kakizakai's other students. Saturday and Im off into the mountains of Nagano to see Tom Deaver again, the flutemaker who made my long flute. From there on to Kyoto, to really soak up some Autumn colour and revisit a few favourite places. :)

The photo below is actually sunrise, very near my house one misty morning last week. More to come soon. I promise...