Sunday, November 4, 2007


Just had the oddest ending to my week with parents (which won't be able to write about now). Was wandering towards Ueno station to figure out rest of travels, get tickets, etc., when was stopped by woman fundraising for something.. can't remember what now, but seemed good at the time, so donated 500 yen. Had odd conversation, own understanding unfortunately less than usual because woman deaf enough to have hearing aid, slurred words. Eventually gathered that was offering to take me to concert this evening, if 1500 yen entrance fee was okay. Agreed, thinking would be nice to see concert.. violins were mentioned. Was told to return at 5:45pm when she finished volunteering for cause.

Had frustrating time in between, was trying to reserve spots at hostels, but stupid phone card ceased to work. Asked about it at service desk, then couldn't stop them fussing about it for longest time.. finally decided to use coins. Made reservations in Kurashiki and Nara, all in Japanese. Ouch. Also scored ticket to Kurashiki. Figured was all set, so returned to corner where fundraising happening.

Soon left along with first woman, another fundraising woman, and man who seemed to have been recruited for concert too. Never really figured out what his deal was, but he kept half-scolding women for dragging the poor foreigner off to depths of err.. wherever we were going. Was soon somewhat lost after wandering diagonally through parks. Discovered first woman also likes cats, so viewed cat pics on cellphone.

Arrived at small cafe where ate dinner while conversed. Discovered first woman was Hyuga Aya (nickname Sakko), and exchanged other smalltalk. Seems is also programmer, and is from Miyazaki, near Kumamoto. Had many interruptions, as almost every person entering cafe had surprised reaction to foreigner and had to ask same basic questions: "where are you from, what do you do, and how long are you in Japan?". Had couple longer interactions, one about how Ottawa is capital of Canada (expressed by Tokyo is to Japan as Ottawa is to Canada), another about violin.

At 7pm, was ushered upstairs to small theatre where paid admission and found a seat next to Sakko. Explained programme a bit, pointed out songs in songbook (???) and mentioned one was Chinese. Soon learned that some of programme was sing-along style. First rendition of song done as performance, then everyone got out song books and sang along for second. Second song even had audience-participation dancing. Yes, was almost as corny as sounds. Had figured out before then that everyone involved sort of misfits in some way, sort of like.. well.. the kind one finds in a highschool band.

Middle part of performance not as audience-participatory, but still had two renditions of each song, which confused the heck out of me. Would sing/dance/play something, then audience asked to contribute tickets (different amount based on who performed), tickets collected and names read out off back of tickets, then thing performed again. Backup band played for every song, consisted of keyboard/violin, french horn, guitar, base guitar, drums and grand piano. Had two main performers. First was local star, sang and danced (perhaps a little awkwardly). For one song just danced, and another woman sang. Second was guest star, played traditional string instrument and sang. Beautiful voice, probably classically trained in Japanese opera. Quite enjoyed the music, but was confuzzled by ticket thing and double performances. Did find out that tickets cost 300 yen and were available at front, but didn't feel comfortable doing anything about it. Not everyone participated.

Near end of evening, local star introduced me to crowd (eek!), but also introduced another guest. Another interesting part of evening was when singer said something along the lines of "oh you must all be stiff from sitting, let's stretch with this next song!", and led song where had pattern of shrug right shoulder, shrug left, right, left, both, both, both, both. Now imagine whole room doing that and singing. Quite the phenomenon.

Took a while to leave, as many people wanted to greet me and thank me for coming. Also received contact info from Sakko in case am able to drop by again when in Tokyo before leaving Japan, and small keychain gift of bottles of sand and shells. Hope will be able to see them again, were very welcoming and kind.