Tag Archives: Japanese

The Koto Concert – by Melissa

In the women’s dressing room, a concerted kimono effort was taking place. As if my entrance had startled a flock of birds, layers of kimono flapped in the air and floated down around the necks of my fellow koto players. Two helpers per woman kept the wings up while the wearers’ arms slipped in, the fabric was wrapped and tied, and a third helper stood on a stool behind, up-sweeping the hair in a fashion that screamed prom. Butterfly clips and sparkling feathers adorned the sides of these up-dos. Here, it wasn’t kitschy, it wasn’t tacky. These women, ages 17 to 60, looked elegant in kimono passed down from their grandmothers who wore them the exact same way. Continue reading

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Filed under For the Love of Japan, Inspiration!, Music

O-koto – by Melissa

I have been living in Japan and taking koto lessons for 6 months.  I have a students’ concert in one month and here I am, full of mistakes and cold reading the last part of “Sakura Saukra” in practice with my teacher, Mizutani-sensei.  She gets the patience award. Big time.  I take lessons weekly in her traditional home. She serves me tea and we bow with an “Onegaishimasu” before we begin the first song of the lesson. Continue reading

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Ninja Proofing!

Nijo Castle

It’s what every house needs, but no one has done right since the construction of Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Constructed in 1626 as a residence for the Tokugawa Shogun, Nijo Castle is equipped with uguisubari, or Nightingale flooring, that chirps when walked on. Visitors walk through the corridors looking in on the immaculate tatami rooms once used by the Imperial Court, admiring the murals and the woodcarving, and all the while the enormous cyprus floorboards creak beneath their their feet. To dispel the magic, the gigantic nails used in the flooring are designed to rub against clamps and sound like birds in case an assassin should try to sneak along the castle halls. The softer ninjas walk, the louder they creak. This bad cat was not supposed to use a camera in the castle, but here is a YouTube video of the floor in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJThECzA1bc&feature=related

This post is also featured on the Japan page.

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10 Mile Walk – by Melissa

In Kentucky we used to walk a mile to Kroger’s grocery store to buy Soy Delicious peanut butter chocolate swirl ice cream.  We would bring our own spoons and eat out of the pint on the way home. We didn’t keep soda in the house so that I could take thesis writing breaks and walk to the corner store.   Earlier on than that, a few friends and I walked to a creek 15 miles outside of town. We packed olives and bread and apples and forgot to apply sunscreen to the backs of our necks.  Our long hikes on the trails of Mammoth Cave National Park and through Daniel Boone Forest changed what we considered “walkable.”  Continue reading

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Christmas Koto Jam Session – by Melissa

On Monday, I played Jingle Bells on the koto.  Mizutani-sensei tuned it on a traditional Western do-re-mi scale and sounded out the sheet music’s title in katakana.  “Jinguru Beru,” she said and beamed at me. I had been playing Sakura Sakura and other Japanese folk songs whose names in Kanji I could not read.  Jingle Bells seemed unsuited for the koto, but her eyes were excited, like we were in for big fun.  Even with the new tuning, I had to play in funky half notes. This was hard for me and I kept losing my place on the vertical sheet music.  I could tell I was disappointing her the same way I disappoint other Japanese people when I don’t know something about American pop culture.  Like when my supervisor was shocked to learn I haven’t seen Bad News Bears and that I don’t own any Police albums.

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