Wednesday, May 28, 2008

tom's place, and back

At Tom's place, much time was spent playing in the workshop, trying different flutes, and just keeping up daily practice.

Tom had repaired the utaguchi (mouthpiece inlay) and made a few modifications to my new flute, a nishakunanasun (2.7) that I had picked out earlier this trip, at my request. A few 'safety' bindings on the top half to ensure it wouldnt crack on me, and a slight widening of the mouth hole.

I finished Sokkan, the piece I was working on with Kakizakai on this flute, and am now revisiting Shingetsu. I enjoy alternating new pieces with going back to add another layer of refinement to ones ive already learned - there's always improvements to be made, and new levels of understanding and focus to reach.

While at Toms, the last few days of a major Sumo tournament were being televised. So at about 5 o'clock each afternoon, we parked in front of the telly with cups of tea and enjoyed watching Kotooshu, a Bulgarian, become the first European to win a major tournament.

This crazy thing is a wasp's nest, just outside the window of Tom's workshop. the large one is about 60cm in diameter. There werent many wasps around though. the layers of different coloured mud are quite incredible. I can understand the wasps getting different coloured mud from different places at different times, but the way the patterns are in this seems much more deliberate than that. Maybe it was an artist's colony.

Sunday afternoon saw me back on the scooter and heading for home, with a plan to take it easy and camp out somewhere halfway home. I was thinking about somewhere high up, with a good view of the sunrise. As I was coming back over Mugikusatoge pass, in foggy weather, I was looking for a potential spot, and I happened to glance down off the side of the road while coming around a corner, straight into the eyes of what could only be a bear - though it looked more like a very very large, shaggy wombat to me. I decided that maybe i would camp a little further on, perhaps somewhere closer to human habitation...

So I ended up at a lookout, at 1800m with a wonderful view. I pitched my tent once the sun was down, cooked up some pasta on my camp stove, and watched the clouds fill up the valley below. An early night, and up at 4am, to watch the sunrise...

Odd though - I woke up at 4am, but could hear people around outside the tent, and the sounds of equipment being set up. I stuck my head out and found half a dozen Japanese photographers with all their camera gear set up, trying to catch that perfect sunrise moment. Not what I was expecting, but the view must be well known.

Its lovely being up that early. the roads are empty, the light is beautiful and everything is so still.

I left the lookout at 5am, and had a wonderful ride home with the morning sun coming out and warming me nicely (its cold at 1800m!). I was home by 8am, and ready for breakfast. Not a bad way to start the day :D

I knew the scooter would give me freedom to explore a bit more, but I really had no idea it would reward my investment in it the way it has. The experiences it has enabled are worth a million times more than what I paid for it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Over the hills and far away

This is where I woke up this morning...

I've been on a bit of a road trip. Decided the weather looked good, so 6am last friday morning saw me head out on the scooter, loaded with camping gear, off to visit my friend Tom, the shakuhachi maker, in Nagano.

Route 299 would take west me over three high passes, before I turned south down Route 152 towards Tom's place. The first pass was the one that took me out of the Chichibu basin, and out of Saitama prefecture and into Gunma. The roads were wide and well maintained, until the beginning of the climb that took me over the second pass, Jukkokutoge, just on 1400m.

This was the view back the way I came, just before the top of the pass. The road was mostly single lane, with some damage in places, and a couple of small repair teams at work. As you can see from the photo, there isnt much out this way but trees and mountains. The road was narrow, but lovely, and the scooter took me up at a steady 30km/h without too much complaint.

I became quite attached to the Route 299 signs, feeling little surges of enthusiasm at the sight of them. As well as indicating that I was on track, each one seemed to promise even more wonderful things than the last. this was especially true of the ones leading up to Mugikusutoge pass, which at 2127m, was the highest point on the trip.

The tree above was up on the pass, which still had a good two feet of snow on it (thankfully not on the road). The bark had this amazing pattern, colour and texture. Anyone know what kind of tree it is? They only seemed to grow right up on the top of the pass. the bark on a lot of them was peeling in layers, like a paperbark tree, but the layers were so fine you could see through them, but still quite strong, unlike paperbark. A bit like wood shavings from a very fine plane.

From there, it was down to civilization again, before heading south up into the mountains again along Route 152, which is the back way to Tom's place, and another wonderful piece of foresty mountain goodness...

Friday, May 09, 2008


This is my teacher.

Dont mess with him.

He's Badass...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Lame Excuses for not updating the blog

I was away.

I was visiting friends.

I was sick.

I was busted trying to sneak into a top secret research facility.

I was stuck in traffic.

I needed to buy some new shoes.

Samurai Penguin needed my help.

I needed to go for a walk.

I needed to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

I was in a hurry to get somewhere.

I have to practice.