The crows are a constant sonic companion. Once away from the traffic a bit, they are the loudest sound element in the city. What a strange counterpoint they provide the jet-lagged traveler vulnerable to macabre associations with other places and times. In the past few days, my being here has consisted mostly in fits and starts of sleeping and writing at odd hours, entirely in the confines of R’s house in Nakano. But yesterday afternoon, a different relationship to Tokyo unfolded. B, one of several great expatriate shakuhachi players in and around Tokyo, came up from Yokohama to retrieve a 1.8 尺八 that RS was returning to him via my formidable courier services. B, in turn, handed me another shakuhachi for RS to try out. This one got National Treasure, Goro Yamaguchi’s approval, before his unexpected death in 1999. B and I chatted for a while about shakuhachis. I demonstrated the Birdmachine, which I'd set up in my room earlier.
B and I finally left the house and made our way to Harajuku station, from which point he continued on on the JR train to Yokohama where he lives with his Japanese wife. Despite the struggle finding the place, plus being an hour late, dinner with Y at Mominoki vegan restaurant in Shibuya was glorious... and very fin de siècle Paris! Y was a student of mine at Chatham University fifteen years ago. She's going to help with videography and editing the Birdmachine footage once the performance with Kudo has happened.
The place was packed full of fancy people and one large brown dog who mingled with the crowd. I walked up to Joni and extended my hand with a big smile. When there was no immediate response, I said, "Do you remember me?" I realized that maybe the beard was throwing him off. Skipping only a slight beat, he said, "Oh, yes, nice to see you, and who's this?" I introduced Y and that was it. No, wow, you made it, so nice to see you. He just walked off the way people do at parties when something else catches their eye.Y and I then we dove into the crowd and made our way up to the stage where two scantily dressed GoGo girls were gyrating in front of two gigantic screens. Later, Joni's husband, a Zulu warrior came on stage with them as well.
Soon Joni had the microphone and was asking the audience to quiet down. Easier said than done.
The projections were footage of Bacon, the Irish wolfhound after whom the prize is named. The dog, in turn, had been named after Francis Bacon, the painter. Here's the new mascot:
I expected to be bored by the whole thing, but it was fun, anthropologically speaking. The only thing that bothered me was the odd reception I had gotten from Joni. Oh well. On the way out, Joni was talking to some people at the exit. When they moved on, I thanked him for a great party. He responded with, "You coming to the event on Sunday, I hope?" I laughed and said, "I'm in it!" "Oh, it's you Michael. I didn't recognize you in that beard." I replied, "Yeah, they come and go." I gave him a hug and all was cleared up. Y and I drifted toward the coat check.
My overwhelming feeling that night had to do with the complexity of arriving in a different place. Getting out and about was exactly what the jet lag doctor had ordered. One never arrives in Japan from the West in one day! Here's a picture of the doctor: