March 2010

Unwanted Guest

So,after a good rehearsal in the hall,taking full advantage of the acoustics and enjoying the worlds of Beethoven,Elgar and Massenet,I was immediately brought back to reality.

For the past few years there has been something that has been a problem in our home and because we couldn't get rid of it,it has always been in the back of my mind. Part of the house that we live in is quite old and is made of wood in a Japanese traditional style.Some of the walls are made of clay which means that they adjust to the humidity naturally. The problem is that we've had some unwanted guests in between the cielings for several years!

This has become a common problem in Japan as there have been several animals which had been imported into our country as pets and have gone wild. Because they don't have any natural predators apparently the numbers have just exploded. We've had raccoons at one point and have been trying desperately to get rid of them by trying to close off any parts of the house that they use to enter the house. But because it's a wooden house and some parts are clay they seem to just bite or dig their way through! I've often tried to scare them away by banging on the ceiling with a snooker cue stick! They've become really obnoxious though as recently they would just slowly move from one end of the ceiling to the other as if they knew that I wouldn't do anything but scare them off. If they just lived there and didn't do any harm I wouldn't mind. But they rip all the walls and heat insulation to move around the house and also they leave so much behind them that it not only smells terrible but at one point I had found that the ceiling over my piano (Steinway!) was collapsing! We had to quickly get the whole ceiling redone. The carpenters found the hole and closed it off. I was so happy as it seemed like we had at last gotten rid of the problem only to hear the footsteps again over that same ceiling (just a week later!!!!!)

So,I hope some people will sympathize with what just happened yesterday...
For years,we've been trying to get rid of these animals in a defensive way. But,nothing has really worked and so I had to go to the town hall to get some help. They were really helpful as it seems that so many people have been having the same problem. Even the person whom I had spoken with at the desk has been a victim!

They give you a cage and show you when and where and how to use it. There are several rules you have to follow and it had become a daily chore. Because these animals are nocturnal I would have to set up the trap at night. When nothing is caught I would have to collect the fruit that I had set in the trap and then close it the next morning so it wouldn't catch any cats or squirrels during the day. I knew there were at least three of them around but I hadn't had any luck for about a month. So this had become my daily routine. SO far from the beautiful world of music!!!

Anyway,although I was exhausted after this rehearsal at the hall,and although it was slightly raining,I cut some apples and put them in the cage and set the trap up.(I was told that they are often caught after the rain.)

%E3%83%8F%E3%82%AF%E3%83%93%E3%82%B7%E3%83%B3_resize.jpgI woke up the next morning,went to the cage thinking I have to get the apples out again so I wouldn't catch anything else,only to find,to my surprise(!!!) a masked palm civet.(It's something like a raccoon and a badger but together.)

It wasn't very big but it was quite scary to find a wild animal that I had never seen before, They are now the most common nuisance alongside the raccoon which have been tearing up peoples houses and also many temples!

I was a bit stirred up by the whole thing which isn't really good before a concert. I didn't realize something like this could shake me up so much! I guess it's a mixture of things but I realize I shouldn't be doing things like this too close to the concert. Glad that it happened now rather than the day itself!

Like flying...

Kirara%20Hall%202_resize.jpgIt's been a busy week getting ready for this concert on the 30th and also having to adjust all my teaching so they don't interfere with each other.

I'm accompanying a violinist and I'm not involved at all with the organizational side of the concert so there's actually time and room to enjoy the practicing.

Today we had a rehearsal at the hall and I had the first hour to myself. It's always wonderful to suddenly come from your own practicing room to a hall and feel how the sound just travels. It can,at times,almost feel as if you're flying!

I've updated my "information page" so if you are interested,please try and come!

Hidden Between the Seconds

Enoshima%20Sunset%201_resize.jpgJust saw a great film on cable called "Cashback". It's one of these great films which is funny,amusing,creative/inventive and also quite profound and the cinematography is amazing. There was a lot of dialogue(monologue) which was really philosophical yet touching and so I was amazed to find that it was written by a young photographer. I wonder if it's common to be a successful visual artist and also be able to write something so beautiful. If one has a single philosophy and way of looking at life,maybe it carries over naturally into everything that he does.

Here's a quote from the film that I think is absolutely beautiful.It just makes me happy to know that there are still people who think and can write like this.

"Once upon a time I wanted to know what love was.
Love is there if you want it to be.
You just have to see that it's wrapped in beauty and hidden away between the seconds of your life. If you don't stop for a minute,you might miss it."

A Historical Day in Kamakura

I live in Kamakura which is quite a historical town. The government was once placed here over 800 years ago and so there are many temples and shrines and places which date back from this time.

The main shrine is "Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine". The land is quite big with huge ponds surrounding it. The main building is reached by a huge stairway in the center and just by the steps stood an amazing Gingko Tree which is said to be nearly 1000 years old. It has it's place in history as one of the important warriors was killed here as the assassinator hid behind this tree.

The height of it reaches the top of the steps and in the autumn all it's leaves turned golden so it was an amazing sight. It was absolutely beautiful. It was looked upon as a holy tree,and almost thought of as the guardian of Kamakura.

Yesterday though,we had a mild snow storm and in the early morning,the tree was discovered to have fallen down. They were saying that they might have imagined it weakening and dying but no one could've imagined it to fall down. It was a surprise to everyone.

The shrine is a five minute walk away so I went to go and see it. I was planning to take a photo of it but on my way up the steps I started to wonder whether this was a respectful thing to do. Because the main stairway was closed off I couldn't see very well so I went down again to see if I could see better from ground level although the area was closed off. It was really sad to see the fallen tree. It almost seemed like it was a person that was helpless. I decided not to take a photo.

I was looking at some articles written about this news and was quite touched. Apparently after it had fell,there have been several ceremonial prayers held for it and holy rice wine has been sprinkled over it as an offering. There were comments by people whom were really saddened by the news but also saying that they hoped that the "spirit of the tree would rest in peace". Also,on my way home today,I went to the dry cleaners and the first thing the shop owner said was " It's so disappointing that the Gingko tree has fallen...".

This is a side of Japan that I really love. The respect and love that they have for nature is real and is heartfelt. And it's not even a religious thing either! I hate the fact that at the moment Japan is only famous for it's cars(!),electronics,Playstation and comics. I wish the world could get to know the more beautiful side of our culture.

I've attached a picture so you can see the Gingko tree in it's glory.
The Golden Gingko tree. It's the tree on the left.

Also this is a link to the history of Hachiman Shrine. (I know it's Wikipedia... I just hope it's accurate.)

Girl's Celebration

%E3%81%8A%E9%9B%9B%E6%A7%98_resize.jpgIn Japan,March 3rd is a day to celebrate girls and to pray for their prosperity and good health. It is tradition for the grandparents to buy their granddaughter a set of dolls. The main two dolls apparently represent the Emperor and Empress at the top in hope that the girl grows up as elegantly as the Empress (I've just looked this up on the internet! Didn't know that!) You can also have additional dolls such as the court ladies and ministers and court musicians and also furniture such as tables and chests and rickshaws! The dolls are only put on display for about a month up to this day (March 3rd) and then are put back into their boxes until the next year. There's a superstition that says that if you don't put your dolls away immediately after the 3rd you'll end up a spinster!

I also was given a set by my grand parents. I never used to appreciate these things when I was younger but as I grow older I think I'm capable of being more sensitive to traditional beauty and things that are more subtle.

I love the dolls that I have and am really grateful to have been given them. It's interesting how the times reflect the look of these dolls. Many of my pupils are still quite young and when I visit their houses and see the dolls that they put out at this time I'm amazed at the differences. First of all,the modern dolls are much slimmer(!) both in the face and the body and also the facial expressions are much more modern - meaning much more defined. Mine are much more chubby but have a softness to their expression which I really like. Although I think I'm very westernized in my thinking,I'm happy that I am starting to be able to appreciate my Japanese heritage.