My Last Day in Fujino

In the morning of my last day in Fujino I took another walk using a map made by Setsuko, on a road going over a mountain pass and into another valley. From the top of the pass, I could see the Steiner School, and Lotus House quite near it.

A roadside sign with a bunny, probably about protecting the local wild animals.

The entrance to the ridge trail was well marked. I was sorely tempted, but I knew I didn’t have time.

As I descended into the next valley, I passed a busy tea farm. The owner saw me taking photos and came over and invited me to come into her home to drink some of her tea. I knew I was expected soon for lunch with friends back at Lotus House, and thanked her and did my best in my limited Japanese to explain why I couldn’t stay. I was stunned by the kindness of her offer to a mere passer-by.

The tea farm owner’s house was traditional Japanese in style, but it had a solar water heater on the roof.

Down the hill further, I got a view of Fujino’s mountain hot springs hospital. What a splendid idea.

When I returned to Lotus House, Setsuko and Jun created yet another a gorgeous luncheon on their porch, and invited over their neighbor Tomoko, the television director, and Yamazaki, a holistic healer who treats patients with acupuncture and moxibustion, teaches natural diet, and owns and runs an organic farm in Fujino from which he supplies local subscribers with weekly boxes of fresh vegetables.

Jun prepared an elaborate rice dish, with strips of fried egg, nori, and pink pickled vegetables, slices of lotus root and bamboo shoot, whole peapods, and whole tiny fried shrimp.

This amazing dish was accompanied by miso soup with chopped garden greens in it, plus a selection of cold cooked vegetables. After the delightful meal and visit with my new friends, I thanked Setsuko and Jun profoundly, and packed up the last of my bags. Jun drove me to the train station; an hour later I was changing trains in Tokyo, and heading out to the beach town of Hayama.

A Macrobiotic Luncheon in Fujino

May 21, 2007. When I returned from my walk, Setsuko had gathered some of her dearest friends for lunch. They all were involved with the local Steiner (Waldorf) alternative school, and they all were all fans of my books. We had a lovely time together.

To my left, in red, with glasses, is Kyoko, a macrobiotic chef and teacher. She gave me a quick shiatsu massage to help strengthen me for my travels. Behind Kyoko is Hitomi, a fashion model and writer about macrobiotics. A magazine with her face on the cover appears below. Behind Hitomi (in beige jacket and glasses) sits Tomoko, Setsuko’s neighbor with the bamboo grove, and a fellow television director. Behind me, in a beige blouse and short hair with long bangs, is Naoko, an artist, actress and singer. Her art is displayed at the Steiner School. Next to her, behind me is Setsuko Miura, my hostess, and the producer of television documentaries with environmental themes. Harada, the only male guest, works as an acupuncturist and body worker. He also did a short healing session for me, right at the table. Each summer he leads a purification ceremony on Mount Fuji. He plays harmonium, he’s a devotee of Babaji, and he’s a friend of Sachiho’s. To his right, holding my hand, is Yuko Urakami, a teacher and the mother with young children at the school, and a dear friend of Setsuko’s that I met at the Natural High Festival.

Here is Hitomi as a cover girl!

It was a potluck lunch, full of surprises. I thought macrobiotic people didn’t eat potatoes (too yin), but these baby new potatoes were freshly harvested from someone’s garden, so they fulfilled the macrobiotic principals of being local and seasonal. They were exquisitely flavored with garden herbs.

I was aware that macrobiotic people like chummus. This was the first and only time I encountered this dish (ubiquitous in natural foods stores back home) during my seven weeks in Japan.

What I did expect (and I think this dish was prepared by Kyoko, the macrobiotic chef) was a hearty whole grain dish, this one with azuki beans in it. The other dish is also a potato dish, this time mashed, with rosemary garnish. Redundancy is one of the dangers of potluck meals, but both potato dishes were delicious, and quite differently seasoned.

A walking tour in Fujino

On May 21, 2007, the next day after the Natural High Festival, I was ready for some quiet time, and went for a walk by myself (with a map drawn by Setsuko), from Lotus House around the mountain village of Fujino. First treasure I noted on this walk was a spectacular bed of iris.

Another prize man hole cover!

And a weathered fire hydrant marker.

A pond through a veil of bamboo.

A tea bush, close enough for inspection. I see the family resemblance to camellia in the leaves.

I revisited the Shinto shrine in woods near Setsuko and Jun’s fields.

This time I noticed a small separate altar to the side of the shrine.

I walked through the woods past the shrine and its outbuildings…

…and came upon the cemetery of a Buddhist temple with a wide view of the valley with Fujino town below.

Nearby buckets and ladels hung, available for people visiting the cemetery, so they could pour water upon the headstones.

Outside the temple stood a cherry tree over one hundred years old.

I could make out the outlines of the roof of the temple behind the trees.

I was fascinated by its ornate covered entrance…

…with its stylized lions and the top of the columns.

In front of temple, I stood before this statue, wondering what the role of this man in traditional garb had been. Perhaps a founder?

Natural High Festival, Day Two

Cover of the program for Natural High Festival, printed, of course, on 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper with soy inks.

Here’s the part about me in the program notes, with a photo from my set at the Happy Flower Beach Party music festival in Nago, Okinawa, last October 2006.

The program includes a map of Doshi Camp. There’s a little fire icon next to the dark blue circle with the number 7, where I played at the bonfire concert on the night of May 19th. Next to the purple circle with the number 3 is the tent where I would do my second show, a story and music show on May 20th. My table was in the same tent as Greenpeace and Kurkku, adjacent to the festival information booth, right across the road from the #3 tent and the pond.

On the second morning of the festival, a friend of Setsuko and Jun’s, Masahiko Sano, came over to Lotus House and presented me with a piece of charcoal he made. Masahiko owns and runs a couple of businesses, is married and has a couple of kids, and he’s been a big wave surfer for twelve years and was an extreme skateboarder for five years before that. Making charcoal is his hobby and humanitarian cause. He says it clears away bad vibrations and creates centers of positive energy. He told me that he will dig a hole in the earth and fill it with charcoal to create a power spot. Masahiko makes his charcoal from ubamegashi, the hardest wood in Japan. He had installed pieces of charcoal underneath Lotus House both to reduce moisture in the house, and calm the vibrations in it. It seems to be working!

When we drove over the high mountain pass on the way from Fujino to Doshi, I was awed by a fairly close view of Mount Fuji in its startling symmetry and majesty.

My show at the festival that day was filmed for Midori no Kotonaha, Setsuko Miura’s ecological TV documentary series, to be broadcast a fews weeks later on Asahi Broadcasting Station. I told the story of how I came to create my book Living on the Earth when I was a teenager in the late 1960’s, and what happened afterward, and I performed tunes from my CD Music From Living on the Earth, a collection of psych folk songs and instrumental guitar pieces I composed during that period of my life.

After my show, Setsuko, Sayaka (the director), and Jun (the cameraman) continued working on the documentary with me. They interviewed me, and they filmed pieces of my art, mostly from my book, but also five drawings they commissioned for the show. They also integrated recorded music from my first CD.

After the interview, I met three wonderful new friends. On the left of me is Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan and author and translator of dozens of books, both fiction and nonfiction, all with an environmentally conscious point of view. On the other side of me is Keibo Tsuji Oiwa, an anthropologist, teacher, author and translator who teaches International Studies at Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama. I recently read (and highly recommend) a book he co-authored with David Suzuki titled The Other Japan. Next to Keibo is Natsu Shimamura, the author of books on Slow Food, and, along with Keibo, a leader in the Slow Life movement. They invited me to Cafe Slow, the Slow Food cafe they founded in the Kokubunji suburb of Tokyo.

I got a hug from fellow back-to-the-land author Sherpa, and we tried to take a photo of our faces together with my camera. See the bicycles on his head scarf?

This gorgeous gent is a well-respected yoga teacher, but I forgot to write down his name. I hope we meet again!

At the end of the second day of the festival, the tents surrounding the pond quickly disappeared…

..but one last tent was still broadcasting music, and this lovely girl danced to it, twirling her poi balls.

Natural High Festival, Day One, Afternoon

Wandering along the forest path, the next booth I encountered was festooned with indigo tie-dyed clothing. This color has special meaning for me. I named my business Indigo With Stars, as this is my answer to the life path question What Color is Your Parachute? Indigo with stars is how I represent the night sky, which is our constant, visible evidence that we live in an infinite universe. I consider the infinite universe the source of my sustainance, so that is how I chose the name of my business.

So, here, at this booth, I could be clad in a hoodie of indigo with stars!

And henceforth tote my belongings in indigo with stars (and a lotus!)

So, I bought them from these four women (collectively called Toshka) who made these magical indigo garments and sachels.

Next Jun introduced me to his friends, who were selling musical instruments from their booth at the festival. Left to right: Masaomi Ito plays didgeridoo. Teppei Saito makes musical instruments, some of which strain one’s incredulity. Me, happy to meet them all. Aya Uegaki, bead worker.

For instance, here is Teppei’s three-person didgeridoo, being played by Teppei, Masaomi and Aya.

And here is Teppei’s community-sized kalimba with a huge open resonator.

By now, the good folk at Kurkku were wondering when I would ever come and open my booth. So, I borrowed a tie-dyed sheet from my friends at 88 Magazine and set everything up: the Soshisha editions of Living on the Earth and Being of the Sun, the EM Records releases of Music From Living on the Earth and Living in Hawaii Style, my own release of What Living’s All About and my Living on the Earth t-shirts, the catalog and posters for Aya Noguchi’s Living on the Earth clothing line (with the scarf as a sample), a copy of the October 2006 issue of 88 Magazine, open to the interview with me. I’m wearing a festival t-shirt from the Rainbow Festival at Aso Mountain, also printed with the cover of Living on the Earth. In Japan, my dancing goddess is the icon of the Evolution.

Across the road from my booth I could see the pond with its surrounding booths…

…and next to it, a large tent for lectures, where I would do a story and music show the next day. Today my fellow author Sherpa (who I met last year here at Doshi when I lead a weekend workshop) is being interviewed about his backpacking and hiking books. He lives in a homemade house in the woods.

On the side of the festival information booth (next to mine) hung an exhilarating poster for the Kodo Drummers tour.

On the other side of me, the Greenpeace booth offered informational DVDs and books.

Sakaya Matsukawa, the director of the television documentary Setsuko is producing about my work, visited me at my booth. Behind her, the Kurkku booth display of environmentally friendly products, below curtains emblazoned with their logo.

A lovely couple brought me a gift from their artist friend Tomoko Yamada, who had been unable to come to the festival.

She had made me a colorful mobile of satin scraps, felt and cardboard, with messages lettered in acrylic paint, and weighted with pieces of wrapped candy.

At the top, a heart with the greeting, Dear Alicia-san…

On one scrap, her appreciation, which I shamelessly replicate here.

On another, the date and place the piece was made.

And, on a sail at the bottom, more praise and her name. On the back of the sail she wrote Thank You, Alicia. So, I say, Thank You, Tomoko!! I hung it outside my booth as the rainbow of hope it is. I hope I meet you someday, Tomoko.

Natural High Festival, Day One

May 19 and 20, 2007, I attended the Natural High Festival (logo above), two hours drive from Tokyo at a campground in the forest, just outside the mountain village of Doshi. Last October 2008 I lead a weekend workshop here for Kurkku. This time, I would do two performances and sell my books and CDs at a booth. Kurkku sponsored my participation in the Festival and let me use part of their booth to sell my stuff.

Soon after Jun, Ren and I arrived, we spent our lunch tickets at the vegetarian curry booth, which Jun’s chefly nose discerned as a good choice. It was! I came back for dinner.

All around us, open-air booths, handmade clothing and drums, undulating banners, and relaxed people enlivened the forest.

An air of friendliness permeated everyone.

I could hear a tabla player drumming and chanting.

Nearby, I heard a musician playing a jew’s harp. Like the didgeridoo, another favorite instrument for drone-saturated trance music, and like Mongolian and Tibetan throat singing, the jew’s harp is an instrument whose melodies are overtones created by changing the shape of the mouth cavity.

There was, of course, the requisite tipi.

There was a booth with a banner that said “Slow Life,” perhaps from the Slow Life Cafe in Tokyo, where they serve Slow Food. Slowly.

I visited the Good News booth (on the left), where tie-dyes, batik and patchwork hung for sale.

There I met Michiyo and Takeo, the owner/operators of Good News, and signed their copy of Living on the Earth. They knew I’d be at the festival and brought it along.

They presented me with one of their peace sign wash cloths. I knew I would display it on my bedroom wall instead of wash with it. So sweet.

Next I visited the Go Hemp booth, representing the Go Hemp Store in Shibuya, Tokyo (motto: “Enjoy Life”), where they were selling hemp clothing.

To my astonishment, they, too had books for me to sign, and hugs to spare. They even had me sign a t-shirt.

They presented me with one of their adorable signature hemp t-shirts.

Two Meals at Lotus House

When we returned to Lotus House, I noticed this drawing in the foyer, and was fascinated by the rows of images, which, to me, symbolized the continuity and changeable nature of experience. Rows of clocks displaying different times. Rows of musical notes. Rows of faces expressing a variety of feelings. Rows of eyes looking in different directions. Rows of hearts with pluses, minuses and question marks. Rows of I Ching hexagrams. Rows of trees and rows of cars. Rows of fish and rows of boats. Life.

Jun began to prepare the bamboo shoots to be part of our supper. First he cut them in half lengthwise.

Next he removed the inedible outer layers and upper point of the bamboo shoot, and cut the edible inner shoot into bite-sized pieces.

He also prepared pasta for lunch, and served it on (what else?) lily pad plates. I realized this was one of the very few times I’d been served food on a full-sized plate in Japan, and certainly one of the few times I was offered a fork. Usually food is served in many small dishes with chopsticks. But eating spaghetti with chopsticks is probably beyond my skill level right now. I’m not even all that graceful eating it with a fork.

Jun topped the pasta with sauteed vegetables and baby squid, brewed an intense onion soup, and tossed a green salad from his garden vegetables.

Setsuko and I enjoyed this superb meal at the table on their wonderful porch overlooking everything and God.

After lunch, Setsuko took her daily walk, and I sat down at the outdoor table to make some drawings for the television documentary. Sayaka, the director, had asked me for drawings from the animated show on which I am working now. I told her that my animation consultant, Jack Enyart, had suggested that I add myself as a character in the show, and she immediately wanted to see how I would portray myself as a cartoon character.

My character not only makes music; she plants trees.  She always has stars twinkling around her head.

The trees grow to be the centers of “guilds,” a permaculture term meaning groups of plants that benefit one another by growing in proximity. Usually a guild includes plants that not only feed humans, but, also, feed birds and beneficial insects, fix nitrogen in the surrounding soil, build biomass, provide shade and mulch, and create a moist subclimate in arid places. Many plants can grow in a small space if they are placed so that each can fill a different elevation according to their natural patterns of growth.

In the evening, all four of us gathered for a splendid meal featuring the bamboo shoots stewed with a melange of Jun’s garden vegetables. We each ate half of a small fish, perfectly sauteed. Homemade daikon pickles (from homegrown daikon) and homegrown rice completed this lovingly prepared, typically Japanese meal.

One cannot eat this rice without thinking of Jun and Setsuko’s beautiful rice paddies, which I visited the next day with their daughter Ren.

A Walk in Fujino with Jun

While Setsuko worked in her home office (preparing to send a television crew to Bangladesh), Jun gathered and prepared foods for lunch and dinner. I love taking walks and was eager to see the neighborhood, so I tagged along. First we walked to a bamboo grove just down the road where Jun would harvest bamboo shoots, which can only be accomplished in springtime.

He dug up two, enough, he explained to me, to make a meal for four people. Previous to this trip to Japan, I’d only eaten bamboo shoots from a can, and I was delighted with the delicate flavor of freshly harvested and cooked bamboo shoots. It’s like comparing canned peas to fresh peas picked from a garden.

Jun and Setsuko’s vegetable gardens, wheat and millet fields are on land about a mile from their home. Walking there, we passed a number of large abstract sculptures made by local artists. Above is an artist’s home and studio close to Lotus House, and below are some of the pieces situated along the road.

Not far from the sculpture, we passed a magnificent piece of sacred architecture:

A Zen Buddhist temple…

…with monuments in front…

…and gardens on one side.

Across the road from the temple I saw a tea farm…

…and, nearby, a pond with bamboo growing around it.

Of course, I didn’t miss the local man hole cover.

We walked into the valley where Jun and Setsuko’s gardens are.

Jun picked a variety of greens for our lunch and dinner, and then we headed back to Lotus House.

Lotus House

I left Tokyo by train the next day with Setsuko Miura, to be a guest in her home for five nights, while I did two performances at a (sort of) nearby music festival and participated with her in creating a TV documentary about my work. Setsuko, her husband Jun, and their daughter Ren (which means “Lotus”), live exemplary and extraordinary lives in Fujino (which means “covered with wisteria”), a mountain town an hour by train outside of Tokyo. There, they grow and prepare almost all of their own food (including rice), live in an energy efficient house they designed and built themselves from sustainable materials, and participate in the creation and maintainance of a local Waldorf school, a community natural farming rice field, and a permaculture center.

Setsuko and Jun both work hard to create their healthful, sustainable and elegant lifestyle and to raise a happy and broadly-educated daughter. They abandoned the traditional gender roles; Setsuko supports the family with her income as a television producer specializing in environmental issues, and Jun maintains the house, grows the food, and provides a large portion of the child care. Setsuko clearly derives inspiration and satisfaction from her career. Jun’s joy in gardening and cooking are palpable, and he is a master chef. Setsuko enjoys cooking and gardening, too, when she has time, and she adores her family. She radiates peace, joy and good health, quite unlike many of people I see commuting by train to jobs in Tokyo.

They call their home Lotus House. There’s a lotus on the front door…

…an old Chinese painting of lotus in the hallway..

…and a basket of lotus pods in Ren’s room…

…plus a pine cone collection on a window sill.

The great room looks out over a wooded canyon.

In one corner of the great room hangs a print of my painting Zephyr.

On cold days, the great room is warmed by a woodstove.

On warm days, the table on the porch outside the great room is the perch of choice.

From the other end of the porch, one can see the town of Fujino below in the valley.

Across the canyon from their home, on a wooded hillside, one of the many artists of Fujino set up a giant pair of blue eyes that seem to gaze into space.

The bedrooms and bathroom are downstairs.

I was particularly struck by the serene aesthetic of the bathroom…

…but I had to laugh when I noticed an Indonesian priapus near the ceiling in the corner above the toilet.

Every night before I slept (on an organic cotton futon in Ren’s room; she still sleeps in the same room with her parents), I took a long hot soak in the tub (gotta shower first!) It was divine.