We hustled into the train station, me with newly streamlined luggage, and purchased tickets for the Shinkansen, the famous Japanese bullet train, that gets you where you are going FAST. It doesn’t stop at all that many places, so it can reach a velocity of nearly 200 miles per hour. We had to take a bus from Karatsu to Fukuoka to get to its nearest stop.
Touring by train is a science. You have to be able to carry everything you need for the gig and to keep yourself together, up a set of stairs if necessary, since not all train stations in Japan have elevators or escalators.
I need two guitars for my gigs, because I play one in an open tuning and one in concert tuning. I carry my laptop for selling my products, setting up gigs and publicizing them, reading the news, doing vocal exercises, listening to music, broadcasting the karaoke version of my last CD onstage, political activism, research, correspondence, shopping, photo editing, writing this blog, and working on other writing projects. I also need performance costumes and other clothes, toiletries, and my bag of natural supplements and immune-enhancing herbs, because travel is the immune system Olympics. Everywhere you go, someone is sneezing. For an almost 58-year-old, 105-pound woman, carrying all this by train is a marathon. But I am a muse-driven specimen of my age group, and I will do whatever it takes to get my art where it needs to go.
The Shinkansen looks like a large, dangerous snake. Inside, it’s much more comfortable than the local trains. We ate rice crackers and peanuts from the station kiosk and chatted the time away amiably.
We took a local train from the nearest Shinkansen station to Yamaguchi, a town so blessed with hot springs (on-sen) that there are public foot baths in the parks. Right next the train station stood an on-sen with a giant white fox in front, exuding the advertising cachet resulting from the Japanese national passion for cute animals. The Grateful Dead dancing bear does lots of business here.
Eizo, the owner of Organ’s Melody, a small night club (in Japan it’s called a “live house”) picked us up at the station, and he and his wife Yuki made us comfortable with a room above the club with futons and a bathroom. Nowhere to wash up, though. No problem; Yamaguchi is hot springs heaven. We even strolled over to a nearby park and had a VERY hot foot bath before the show.
The poster for the evening (May 9, 2007) featured the cover of Living on the Earth and a photo that Yuko Tsukamoto took of me performing last year at her club Yukotopia in Tokyo. There’s my name again in Katakana, starting with the letter P. Next to the photo of Sachiho playing her lyre is her name written in Kanji, Chinese characters.
In typical urban hipster style, the entrance to the club was practically unnoticeable. You had to know it was there.
Inside the club, the walls were black, the bar was stocked, and a bunch of little tables and chairs welcomed the patrons.
Up a narrow, kinda scary staircase, the dressing room displayed Eizo’s wild poster collection. This was my fave.
It was a pleasure to soundcheck with Eizo. His system was fantastic.
The opening act, a local musician known as Sensei because his day job is teaching school. He sang original songs; his friend played drum, and you had to love his traditional old style Japanese clothes.
Sachiho and I both enjoyed ourselves playing at Organ’s Melody. It’s always fun to play and sing through good sound system with an excellent technician at the controls. Afterwards, one of the patrons, who was celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday, took us (me, Sachiho, Eizo and Yuki, plus his friends) out to an expensive and fabulous Mediterranean style dinner at the restaurant next door. It was all I could do to stay in my body, between the gourmet cuisine, the happy, flowing conversation that I couldn’t understand, and the overwhelming presence of a large screen TV playing a dreamlike performance by Cirque du Soleil. After that wild meal, Sachiho and I walked in the rain to a large, nearby on-sen, and soaked for an hour. We slept well that night in the room above the club.