Friday, November 18, 2011
They, meaning my closest loved ones, say I never finish anything. I know what they are talking about, the half-painted living room, the dining table that's been waiting to get its legs for over a year (it makes a great tap dance platform by the way), etc. It's really not true though. I do complete some things that I start and I've got evidence, photographic evidence, to prove it.
Witness this photo clipping form the local section of one of Japan's major dailies. That's my classmates and I standing with our instructor, master sanshin player, Yasuhiko Oshiro, for a photo that appeared in the Mainichi Shinbun newspaper some years ago. The sanshin, an instrument that's synonymous with the sounds of Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, is kind of the banjo's three string cousin from the east. The photo was taken shortly before wrapping up a two-week-long class devoted to learning the finer points of playing the kankara sanshin (kind of the Okinawan sanshin version of the cigar box guitar only using a tin can) that was sponsored by the newspaper. So there! That's something I've completed and I have a certificate (somewhere around here) that attests to that fact.
The Mainichi Shinbun didn't have to go too far to find someone with the perfect credentials to teach the class, Yokohama's Tsurumi Ward (where Temple Valley is situated) is home to one of the largest Okinawan communities outside of the tropical island prefecture itself. Dubbed Okitsuru,a linguistic blend of Okinawa and Tsurumi, this unique little corner of Yokohama sitting in the shadows of one of Japan's largest cluster of towering smoke stacks (the Kehein industrial belt) has been an ideal getaway for residents of nearby Temple Valley for years. Yokahama-based journalist/poet Jon Mitchell paints vivid pictures of this vibrant area in a couple of outstanding articles appearing in the Japan Times and Metropolis. You can visit Mitchell's website to learn more about Okitsuru (a.k.a. Okinawa Town)and then visit the place yourself for a taste of tropical meets industrial, it's bound to add a little more spice to your life.
Mitchell's recently completed book of poetry, march and after -poems from tsunami country, which "chronicles life in Japan following the 3.11 earthquake" is now on sale. All proceeds from the book go to the Nobel prize-nominated NPO, Peace Boat, to aid its recovery work in disaster ravaged northeastern Japan.
The Japan Times says: "At its heart, "March and After" tells a contradictory tale of apologetic survival and downward redemption - the fragile and soaring possibilities of man."
I don't think the post would be complete without the following video sampler featuring sanshin master, Yasuhiko Oshiro, playing at this year's Haisai Festa in Kawasaki.