On Dec. 22nd at a store in Tsudaka, Okayama, Ryoko and her Mae Maes bandmates held a Christmas concert with 2 shows which included their originals, some festive standards including some sing-a-longs. I rolled out with M-i-L and met up with some of the usual fans, enjoyed some conversations and coffees.
The ladies were in fine form and their new pianist Kazuko-san getting more comfy each gig.
Christmas isn’t really an “event” in Japan, more of a marketing campaign and a prelude to New Year’s Eve which is laden with tradition, nostalgia and routine. It’s kinda my speed as i am def turned off by rampant commercialism quasi-religious sabre-rattling which comes around.
Regardless, with new family (and more family arriving in 2020) i wanted to wrangle a bit of festiveness – also acknowledging been a long while since i had vaguely “regular” christmas and while this was atypical, established some new routines, scratched an itch… after all, with the turmoil in my life the last years, there is admittedly some misgivings and rather tough emotions which come around during all this hoolpa. Most importantly, got to show love and respect for wife and in-laws.
What follows are a few poorly-photographed artifact of activities from Dec. 24 – 26 JST. Carry On!
First off, Dec. 24 (christmas eve) we made dinner of grilled mackeral, squash, pickled cucumbers and tsukemono carrots, greens, miso soup, tea, rice, lotus root, and whatnot. Yup, not off to a very traditional start – ha!
Christmas morn, we opened our stockings (pictured above) purchased from a 100yen store ($1), nothing but the best! and enjoyed toast with cream cheese and my kaki (persimmon) jam which i am always talking about, and nashi (pear). My sock had snacks, Ryoko’s had expired 35mm film and a necklace and snacks.
Then we went to post office (one of my fave activities of course) and i wore a Santa cap (borrowed from Ryoko who wore at Mae Maes Christmas concert) to the amusement of the post office staff and the kids at the grocery store which was our next stop. Folks are stocking up for New Years time during which many stores are closed or scaled back hours and folks generally wanna hunker down.
Then we picked up a pre-made feast from a great lil cafe called Sakura-mi we had ordered a while back when we went on a little lunch date. Here’s the café’s post box.
And i got to make a fire in the wood stove. So yeah, post office and fire making in the same day! Pleased.
Took the grub home and set up at parent’s house (next door).
We headed out on some errands to return the felt sheets used in the tea ceremony at assassinated Prime minster Inukai Tsuyoshi’s home to a strange little office in a corridor with the cigarette smell cemented into the cracked linoleum floors which all evoked the lost Showa times.
Along the way, a saw some shops, ate ramen, developed film, checked out cameras and whatnot.
First though, along one of these covered shopping arcades which i totally dig (how does Vancouver not have these everywhere?), continued my rather absurd documentation of phone boxes.
I would call you but haven’t figured out where to buy a phone card. Also noting these “midori denwa” (green phones) are abundant and in beautiful condition but i (not shockingly) never see one in use.
PS Did someone call a doctor? #joke My friend in Adelaide Australia made the snap into a fun cartoon-y image. I might do this with all photos in future.
A few years ago (or less), each day was quite tough. Now, each day i deal with pain and confusion but enough joy and interestingness to compensate. My brain fires but i have to throttle as i get headaches and eye strain very easily, i remain very sensitive to light and sounds so use dark glasses and ear plugs when out and about.
Anyhow, there are several recent “standalone” dispatches of activities and outings (Mae Maes concerts, tea ceremony, museums, tours…) but this post simply gathers up miscellaneous whatnots which don’t really chronicle anything but normal day-to-day tasks and action with brief annotations.
Reason number 182 I love Japan life: thrift stores/recycle shops are absolutely fantastic!
This one features racks and racks of good > great clothes, and great bargains if you aren’t looking for specific “fancy“ import brands, and everything properly washed, labeled, tagged and arranged. And today everything is 30% off!￼
Oh, and this one also has a whole section of kimonos, dozens and dozens and dozens. But today, we’re looking for a dress for Ryoko’s next MaeMaes concert￼.
Noting there are lots of “hip“ secondhand stores with mostly imported stuff, picked from North American stores and marked up to eye-watering levels, this one is just a “regular folks” store yet treasures abound for day-to-day life.￼
Purchased: three dresses and a plaid overcoat for the wife, and a groovy blazer, cardigan sweater with pockets, trousers and lounging robe, all wool, for me
Also noting how pleased I am when wool items are properly prepared for sale, and not thrown in the washer and dryer as so often happens, rendering them useless (so many lost Pendletons!)
While dispatches and re-caps of various outings and events exist elsewhere in this archive, life is so wonderful right now i don’t want to miss a thing or fail to appreciate the glorious mundane details of just existing.
As such, what follows are bits and pieces which don’t fit elsewhere, a round-up of miscellany and odds and ends and mild annotations.
Starting with the pleasantness of stopping for a coffee and receiving a free lil sandwich plate (and seeing Ryoko’s adorableness :)).
The internets instructs food photos be posted with frequency.
I tagged along with Ryoko and her Mae Maes band for a gig in Setouchi at a community centre. There was an autumn arts festival of some kind with musical performances, a few food stands and an exhibit of crafts, arts and tea ceremony. Such pleasant slice of life, just being part of the local scene.
Mae Maes played a short-ish set but a song i hadn’t heard before, Ryoko laid out some good stage banter and the room was small and more acoustically pleasing than the big convention hall the day before.
The band (usually a 4 piece) had 2 guests, frequent supporters/collaborators Yano-san (who is a noted player, arranger, teacher and has released a few albums) on an acostic-electric bass ukulele – great sound! + Mitsuko-san on congas and percussion, she rode with us and is such a charming elegant lady.
Ryoko’s band Mae Maes had a performance lined up at a handmade goods market fair at a convention centre type place between Okayama and Kurashiki so i tagged along. It was a big hall with rows and rows of booths, a special exhibit of sequin-ed up outfits used by a famous figure skater, a food court and a variety of entertainment with a sorta Hawaiian theme.
Plus a young lady called Suzu-chan with huge stage presence, solid banter and performance confidence.
I strolled around checked some stuff – not the super arts-crafty-crafts i would usually expect but great to see small-scale entrepreneurship in action.
Dug the fabric crafts – especially this Kaki (persimmon) tree in country scene which seems to be representative of my life these days – such pleasantness!
Along the way, i documented a few slices of every day life, plus visited Okayama castle which was destroyed in WW2 by bombs and rebuilt in 1960-s. I ate lunch, dressed up in a cool outfit, wandered from the top to the bottom of the castle, checked out outbuildings and foundations… then walked to the library to find it closed so rode the bus home.
These images were captured along the way, with minor annotations added from time to time.
Ryoko has her own small company doing tree trimming, garden planning and various workshops (like tree trimming for seniors) and sometimes does a gig teaching children and their parents about gardening using a couple plots in the parking lot of a grocery store (who sponsor the event).
Anyhow, i tagged along to see her in action, drink coffee and do a bit of grocery shopping at the awesome store (plus take care of our household recycling while we were there).