hozumi nakadaira

2021-11-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Hozumi Nakadaira photographs jazz performers. Tonight I attended the opening reception of his photography exhibit in downtown Tokyo.

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Mr and Mrs Nakadaira hosted the event.
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I arrived a bit early. Nakadaira gave me his autograph and told me the story behind his favorite photograph of
Bill Evans that has become his signature work.
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Nakadaira was at the
Top of the Gate jazz club in New York city. It must have been 1968 or 1969.

"Bill Evans plus a bass player and a drum player were there, but nobody else -- the place was deserted." said Nakadaira. "The performance was scheduled to start at 21:00. I assumed that the band wouldn't play to an empty house, but I was wrong. I learned afterwards that musicians were paid by the hours they played, audience or not."

"You don't get to photograph Bill Evans", he said, "So when Bill Evans hunched over the piano and started to play, I crept towards the piano, thankful that the place was empty. The manager let me get close to the stage. He even offered to turn on a light." That's how the spotlight fell upon Evans in the dark club.

Until I heard Nakadaira's story tonight, I had interpreted this picture as Evans in pain, in agony, contorting himself into a capital letter E in order to focus and create music. I had wondered whether Evan's drug problems were affecting him.

But it turns out that Nakadaira's camera captured Evans when the latter was simply getting to work as usual.

I confessed my revelation to the photographer.

"Each work of art has lots of valid interpretations. Yours is okay."

He continued his narrative.

"They played until 04:00. Only a handful of customers came. But the cats played 4 sets, just like they said they would."

Nakadaira paused and said, "That would never happen in Japan. An empty house? Never."

My mind went back to several jazz performances I have been to in the last several years. Some, if not most, were poorly attended. Perhaps times were different in 1961, the year I was born, and the year Nakadaira began photographing jazz performers.

In 2014, Nakadaira published a collection of his photographs leading up to that time.

One of photographs shows
Thelonious Monk drenched in sweat after a performance.

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"Monk perspired a lot. He had 2 ginormous suitcases full of suits. I think he brought like 20 suits for his Japan tour. The morning he was leaving Japan, my wife and I visited his hotel room. He was fast asleep, and his wife -- Nellie was her name, if memory serves -- was complaining while she packed his suitcases. We helped. And I gave him a gift, a music box, you know, wind up a spring and music plays ... It played 'Koujou no tsuki' (moon over castle ruins). Monk loved it. He played it over and over during his flight. The stewardess told him to stop. So he locks himself in the lavatory and continues to play the music box! Finally it was confiscated by the cabin crew."

Aha! Nakadaira was the person who gave Monk that music box!

"The next year, I went to Newport. Monk's wife comes up to me and says 'Thelonious is playing a song for you.' And that was '
Japanese folk song'. You need to listen to the album."

The tiny gallery became full of admirers and fellow photographers. I sat in a corner so that others could talk to the host of the show.

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In college, Nakadaira majored in art with concentration on photography.

"My academic advisor -- he was a photographer too -- his pet peeve was that 'People ask if they can take a picture. But they always wind up taking several! If they want 2 pictures they should say so.' Maybe that's why I usually take only 1 picture during a performance."

This curiously parallels
Francis Wolff's approach to jazz photography. According to the documentary film "Blue Note records: beyond the notes", Wolff would customarily take 1 shot only of jazz performers.

Nakadaira loved jazz as a young man. He started his jazz cafe, initially named "Dig", and later, after relocation, "
Dug".

I visited Dug a few weeks ago. They are in a tiny 3-story structure that appears 2 stories taller because of a billboard on the roof. Still 10 stories shorter than the neighborhood buildings. Great location though.

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Dug is in the basement.

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Nakadaira began photographing jazz performers in order to support his jazz cafe. He wanted to decorate his shop with his photos.

He published his own calendar. 2 weeks per page.

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After 60 years, he has stories to tell, pictures to show, and coffee to serve. The cafe is run partly by him and mostly by one of his sons, who went to college in the US.

"I attended my son's commencement ceremony. And sitting next to me was a person whom I recognized but couldn't remember his name. I asked him 'Have we met somewhere?' He says "No we haven't.' He was Tom Hanks! I had seen him in a movie."

And I hadn't met Nakadaira either, until tonight. I am grateful for his spending time with me.

His autographed photo is placed in front of my music stand in my soundproof practice room.

trumpet online

2021-11-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- John Bringetto, my trumpet teacher, gave me a trumpet lesson using an online conferencing tool. This was our first time doing this.

So wonderful to see and hear my cheery encouraging hero! We hadn't chatted since 2020-03-20 -- 20 months and 1 week ago! Plenty of time for my learning to go astray. He had kindly responded to my email messages but we hadn't heard each other for ages.
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A few things I learned today: (1) I need considerable improvement on my lip buzzing, (2) more and more practice is the sole solution for mapping piano keyboard positions to trumpet fingering positions, (3) I need to practice hearing a note and replicating it on my instrument, and (4) I might run out of time (that is, die) before I become a mediocre player (right now, I am far below that!).

Most worrisome is that my embouchure might be wrong. After being away from my mentor, my mouthpiece placement seems to have slipped into a bad position. I am terrified at the prospect of spending a few years correcting my embouchure. I need to see John soon! At this time, I cannot judge the extent of damage.

Some news: (1) a restaurant a block away from our house in Oregon prohibits wearing masks -- astonishingly, a store person asked a customer to
remove their mask, (2) John is performing at multiple locations where it is safe and sanitary -- whew! what a relief -- wish we could be there!

thanksgiving

2021-11-25 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- Japan is 17 hours ahead of the west coast of the United States. We celebrated Thanksgiving a day earlier than our friends in America.

We bought a 7-kilogram (15-pound) Butterball-brand frozen turkey at Costco, just like last year.
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I followed a recipe that I found the day before, and, as a first for me, rubbed olive oil on the turkey's skin. Then I sprinkled paprika all over, just like my mom taught me.
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I was astonished that the bird was ready after only 80 minutes in our combi oven.
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We gave half to Noriko's sister, and the other half to mom. This was one of the fastest turkeys in terms of cooking time and eating time!
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Mom gave us her hand-made
hoshigaki, which are persimmons that are peeled and sun-dried. I did not know until now that the word persimmon comes from the Algonquian language. There is the Algonquin Park near Toronto where I spent my early childhood.
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The day after Thanksgiving, I made soup with the carcass.

komatsuji

2021-11-19 MINAMI-BOUSOU, JAPAN -- We visited Komatsuji, a buddhist temple known for its autumn foliage.

We had dropped by the previous day, however because of rain we did not walk through the temple grounds. Today the leaves and tree bark were beautiful because they had become moist and rich in color by rain from the day before.
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We walked around a pond. The path was steep and slippery in places. The elevation we gained gave us a nice view from above.
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I enjoy both mixtures of colors, as we saw here today, and solid colors, for instance streets lined with ginkgo trees that turn a bright uniform yellow. Both are wonderful.
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We arrived early, and had the place to ourselves. By the time we left, the parking lot was full!
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manazuru again

2021-11-10 MANAZURU, JAPAN -- We visited Manazuru again.

This time we had lunch at a restaurant with a view of Sagami bay.
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We walked through the lawn of the
Endo Shell Museum. The single rail in the center of the photo is a monorail track that ends behind the museum building.
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The sky was beautiful. Alas the wind was too strong -- sand kept getting in our eyes -- so we had to curtail our walk on the bluff.
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We walked along a rocky beach that reminded us of our house in Oregon. We want to go back!
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shinjuku walk

2021-11-06 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We went to another exhibit of the frog artist Kawanabe Kyousai, and then walked through Meiiji Jingu (a shinto shrine for Emperor Meiji) to Shinjuku station.

The art exhibit was a bit disappointing because ghosts, monsters, and non-frog animals predominated.
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When Emperor Meiji the Great (the only "great" emperor in Japan's history) was enshrined here, some people protested because the shrine was located far from the Imperial Palace. They chose a spot away from the city center because large tracts of land were unavailable in what was then downtown Tokyo. Today the shrine grounds are a valuable area of greenery in the concrete asphalt city.
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We walked along the shrine's perimeter. From time to time, the tips of tall buildings peeking from behind the trees reminded us that we were in downtown Tokyo.
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Kero said hello to his friends in a pond.
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Shinjuku station is slated for a massive rebuild. The tall building in the background is scheduled for demolition.
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Talking about disappearing acts, Eddie Bauer is pulling out of Japan. Too bad, their prices were sky-high (unlike their factory outlet mall in Lincoln City, Oregon). I will miss them, as I do Ford Motors (another brand that is a favorite of mine but left the country several years ago).
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What happened to the COVID-19 pandemic? Restaurants were so crowded that we went to Burger King! (Japan has them too.) Half-price sale!
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jazz cafe

2021-11-04 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I visited the jazz cafe Eagle located near Yotsuya station in downtown Tokyo. This was my first time ever visiting a jazz cafe in Japan.

I walked from home. Gorgeous autumn day. Part of the path I took was along a shady brook.
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In Japan's music scene, a jazz cafe is a coffee shop where audiophiles listen to recordings of jazz. Jazz cafes were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, good music was expensive -- fans needed to buy LP records or their illegal bootlegged copies -- unlike YouTube of today, music was not free. Live concerts were infrequent (and horribly pricey, as they are today). Radio or TV shows were scarce too, because only a handful of broadcast stations were licensed by the government (as they remain today). So aficionados -- mostly males who smoked incessantly and wore permanent scowls on their faces -- would hang out at jazz cafes, contemplate music, and growl at strangers who walked in. Jazz cafes were scary places for the uninitiated or uninvited (as they remain today). If you wonder why jazz cafes manage to exist, then you are correct -- jazz cafes are disappearing all over the country because being a curmudgeon isn't cool anymore.

The jazz cafe Eagle offers a slightly more accessible aspect of the jazz cafe tradition. For starters, they face a busy sunlit street, instead of a deserted dark alley. Do you see the trumpet sign beneath the Indian tea house sign?
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Eagle's staircase leads to the basement. They are non-smoking. Yay!
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Most jazz cafes are equipped with impressive sound systems. The photo below shows Eagle's turntables behind a window that looks out into the dining room.
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I planted myself in the corner of the rectangular room, because I wanted to avoid sitting close to other people. Turned out that my table was adjacent to the loudspeaker playing music on the left channel. Although I missed out hearing the right channel, the loudspeaker completely masked the sounds from the dining hall, so I was able to drown myself in the music.
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Some jazz cafes host live performances by small ensembles, often at night when alcohol is served. I wish there were more daytime performances. I prefer lunch over booze. 960 yen ($9) for pasta, salad, and iced coffee. Jazz cafes have a reputation for bad coffee and worse food. The grub here was quite edible. A tad better than my trumpet playing!
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Eagle is owned by jazz critic Masahiro Goto. I own one of his books -- to be precise, a collection of audio recordings that were selected by him, accompanied by his written commentary. The cafe has a mini library of jazz publications. Next time, I would like to read for a while.
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I enjoyed my visit. I intend to visit again, especially in combination with
Shinjuku Gyoen (a park nearby) or the Camera Museum.

suwa jinja

2021-11-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We walked from our house to Suwa jinja, a shinto shrine that Noriko's grandfather was involved with.

Our first stop was Kaichuu jinja. The shrine's name can be interpreted (among other valid interpretations) as "all [shots are] bullseyes" or "everything [is a clean] hit". It was a favored deity of Noriko's grandfather's family, for they were riflemen of the shogun for over 2 centuries. Even today, Japan's army rifle's safety mechanism is marked with 3 letters
a, ta, re, the initials for anzen ("safe"), tampatsu ("single fire"), rensha ("repeating fire"), which combined become atare (the verb "hit" in the imperative sense). I guess we are still superstitious!
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Here are bilingual plaques of the shrine.
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We walked by
Tsutsuji doori ("azalea street"), an area that used to be full of azaleas grown by the shogun's riflemen to supplement their income. Side businesses were encouraged by the shogun and daimyo. Samurai were cash poor.
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The gingko trees were turning color at Toyama park. In feudal times, this area belonged to a Tokugawa daimyo (feudal lords) who governed what is today Nagoya city. After the Meiji era (when the emperor was restored to political and military power) the area belonged to the army, with schools for medical doctors and other non-combatant branches of the service. My mother remembers the parade grounds.
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Suwa jinja is across the street from Toyama park on the north side. Before World War 2, the shrine grounds must have been substantial. Today, both Toyama park and Suwa jinja are tiny slivers of their former size.
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The rifleman tradition continued after the Meiji restoration. Emperor Meiji inspected his troops here.
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A pair of
koma inu ("Korean dogs") guard the shrine gate. They are so named because in ancient times these mythical beasts -- resembling more lion than wolf -- were thought to have originated in the Korean peninsula.
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Noriko's grandfather donated this pair of koma-inu to Suwa jinja in 1936. I used a flashlight (in broad daylight) to cast shadows on the engraved lettering in order to read the text. Yes, his name and address are here all right.
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This was my 2nd visit to this shrine that is sacred to Noriko's family.
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The shrine's name written by a prince hangs above the doorway.
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An old-fashioned vending machine dispenses oracles.
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The gods and goddesses inform me that my luck is shining!
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On our way home, we stopped by a confectionery store that has a dining area for lunches, desserts, coffee and tea. We learned to our dismay that they are closing in 2 weeks. Oh no! They will be missed.
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Wrapping paper and ribbons for customers buying cakes as gifts.
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My favorite,
omuraisu ("omelette rice").
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Noriko had shortcake and coffee.
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We paid homage to the frogs at the Kaeru ("frog") park near our house. This frog is a water fountain.
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Noriko walked more than 20,000 steps. Well done!
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hangyodon

2021-11-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Hangyodon is an amphibious male creature created by Sanrio. We are collecting Hangyodon-themed items.

Noriko switched today to warmer winter indoor slippers.
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I spread a circular mat in my room. Like the entrance to the CIA building! (I have never been there; my imagination is based on theatrical depictions.)
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I also have a Hangyodon pedometer. I keep it in a plastic pouch so that it doesn't get scratched.
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manazuru

2021-10-28 KANAGAWA, JAPAN -- We walked around the tip of the tiny Manazuru peninsula.

Gorgeous weather. Do you see the moon overhead? I almost missed it myself.
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Rocky beaches.
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A monorail track. In Japan there are 2 kinds of monorails -- one for carrying people and one for carrying small amounts of cargo. This track carries a car (an open box) about the size of a household refrigerator laid on its side. Great for steep slopes.
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Sacred rocks connected by a shinto rope.
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In the evening (sorry no pictures) I played trumpet on the beach to the sound of crashing waves. That was relaxing.