Big Train Day in Tokyo


Tokyo man hole cover.
May 16, 2007, Tokyo. My first big change after turning 58 is that I begin to travel by train in Japan by myself, lack of language skills notwithstanding. Usually one of my friends studies the train schedules online, and hands me a paper telling me which trains to take and at what stations to change trains.

If I don’t know how to get to the next train I’m supposed to take (some stations have dozens of platforms at different levels and cover several acres), I ask the officials working in the station to help me. In one particularly large station, the friendly young man in the office actually walked me to the correct platform, which took quite a while, going up elevators and across shopping areas where hundreds of people walked purposefully in all directions. He was happy to practice his English. It was sweet, and by no means a singular occurance. I met friendly and helpful people everywhere I went.

Often I can find my own way by the signs (which are normally in both Japanese characters and in alphabetical letters), and just ask people standing near me for confirmation when needed by saying, “Seimasen (excuse me)” and stating my destination. If they start talking to me in Japanese, I say, “Gomenasai (I’m sorry). Scoshi scoshi Nihongo (very little Japanese).” After they help me, I say “Domo arigato gozaimas! (thanks so much for what you just did!)”


First stop today was in the Chiyoda section of Tokyo, to meet for the first time the literary agent with whom I’ve been doing business for years by email. Isn’t she gorgeous? This is Miko Yamanouchi, director of Japan Uni Agency.


We met for tea in the Koseto Cafe, where the walls are covered by dramatic murals painted by a famous actress. I discuss with Miko my current projects. Her English is perfect, and no wonder, she’s off to New York, or London, or Sydney, at the drop of a hat.


Next stop, I have a lunch date next with Setsuko Miura, my dear friend who produces television shows with an environmentalist viewpoint at TV Man Union. We dine at a very modern looking natural foods cafe in fashionable Shinjuku, near her office.


I have come to her office to discuss the interview-documentary that she and her crew will be filming of me the following Sunday, while I am performing at the Natural High music festival at Doshi, at a mountain campground two hours drive from Tokyo.


Colorful posters in the hall clue me to the wide variety of shows TV Man Union produces.


Sayaka Matsukawa, the director, (on the left, above) wants me to sing the songs from my first CD that have the most meaning to her: Hang Out and Breathe, and Pain and Love. I’m happy, of course, to oblige. She would like me to draw some line drawings typical of what I plan for the animated educational series for children on which I am working now. No problem. I always carry my pens. Mita Yutaka (center), the executive producer, mostly just listened as Sayaka and Setsuko unfolded the plans. Setsuko, who lived in California in the ‘70’s, and no doubt studied English mightily, translated for me.


Setsuko drew me a map so that I could walk to the Kurkku building from her office in about 45 minutes. I took this photograph from a bridge over Omotesando, an elegant shopping street on the border of Shibuya and Shinjuku. This part of Tokyo is full of trendy shops, and caters to young people especially.


I stopped into a natural foods market, and marvelled at the mix of imported, familiar products and typical Japanese foods, grown and prepared without chemicals. In the bins nearest me are organically grown mizuma (delicate salad greens), daikon (giant radishes), gobo (burdock root), and negi (green onions).


I passed a cute store selling “green” clothing (organic cotton, hemp, and other natural fibers). See the “Save the Earth” sign inside?


Here’s what Kurkku’s compound looks like from the street. There’s a garden store on the first floor, a natural foods cafe on the second floor, and a garden on the roof. Down the alley is their other building, with an elegant natural foods restaurant on the first floor, a bookstore and a “green” store selling sustainably produced clothing and gifts on the second floor, and the Artist Power Bank offices on the third floor. Both buildings were built from recycled and sustainably produced materials. Last October I performed a concert and storytelling show in the bookstore.  Next May I’ll do it again, as the opening of an art exhibit I’m having there. Artist Power Bank is an environmentalist arts notforprofit that runs Kurkku and funds community projects that raise awareness of sustainability and the environment.  They sponsored my tour last October.


When I arrived at the office, two Ainu tribespeople were visiting from Hokkaido. The woman is a fashion designer who makes clothes using traditional folkwear designs from her culture, including the beautiful robe she is wearing.


They insisted upon dressing me up in their clothing, and then instructed me in placing my hands in the proscribed mudra (hand position).


I had a productive meeting with the Artist Power Bank and Kurkku staff regarding the upcoming Natural High festival and my participation in it. Several of my friends from last October are working with me on this event, including Kaori, the translator (second from left), and Keisuke Era, the project director (third from left).


After the m
eeting, I walked to the Shibuya train station via Takeshita Street in Harajuku, the brightly lit shopping alley for college age and younger people. Varieties of pop music filled the air from each store, and the crowded street had a carnival vibe. Lotsa wild hair colors, costumes, tats, and piercings saunter by.


Besides the many shops selling punk clothes, sports clothes, and cutesie girlie fashion layers, there was a store with conservative shirtwaist dresses typical of the 1950’s. Is it really hip to be square, AGAIN? Although, God knows, these women have the waistlines for that style!


The only shop that lured me was an India import store. I guess I loved their handpainted staircase. But I continued to the train station, rode two trains for an hour and a half back to Zushi, took the bus from the Zushi train station to the bottom of the hill where Koki and Ayako live, and walked up to their house, well pleased that I am now able to get around on my own.

A Little Stroll in Hayama


The next day I awoke at Koki and Ayako’s house in Hayama (on the closest beach coast to Tokyo) to sunshine and soft breezes. My friends were both gone for the day, so I took a little walk by myself. I had new shoes, and a new skirt (a birthday gift from Sachiho, made of ultra-comfortable hemp and cotton jersey by a company called Little Eagle), and I felt pretty spiffy, so off I went…


…down the steep street at the top of which Koki and Ayako live.


The coastline of Hayama, with its volcanic, green hills and luxurious homes.


I walked down to Standing Stone Park again. This time Mount Fuji was not visible on the horizon, but the Stone has an undeniable drama to it. A beach with an erection.


A plein air painter worked in the park that day. I turned to see what she was depicting.


Yes, I think I might choose this view, too, if I were into making oil paintings of landscapes.


However, for reasons I can’t fathom, when I go to Japan, I want to photograph the man hole covers.


All of them. One of each.


Even rusty ones.


But Hayama definitely has a sense of place. One homeowner painted the Standing Stone onto his garage door, including a full frontal of Mount Fuji, with snow.

What I Did on My Birthday


At 5 AM on May 14, 2007, my 58th birthday, I sat in Fumon-ji Temple in Ako City, Japan, and listened to Eiyu Fujimoto, a Soto sect Zen Buddhist nun and leader of the temple, chant the Lotus Sutra, punctuating her rich vocalizations with beats on a wooden drum and an occasional chiming of the temple’s big bowl gong. About twenty people attended the early morning service, which took place in both the large and the smaller halls of the temple.


After Eiyu chanted, she invited Sachiho and me each to sing a song in the temple. Sachiho sang a lovely song with her lyre.


There was no guitar to borrow today, so I sang, a capella, my meditation song “Hang Out and Breathe.” It felt wonderful to let my voice resonate in the big wooden hall.


Ryu Umehara, an artist who lives in the house closest to the Donto-in (the house Sachiho built in honor of her late husband Donto) in Tamagusuku, Okinawa, brought one of his paintings to the temple. Here are Sachiho, Eiyu Sensei, Ryu and his wife (whose name I forgot to write down!)


The painting is representative of Ryu’s work, delicate, playful and colorful images of people in nature; these two are playing stringed instruments, one plucked and one bowed.


Ryu invited us to come to Mau Chai, a nearby teahouse and gift shop in Ako City, where he was having an art show in the upstairs room.


Sachiho and I went over there, and I tried to buy a book of Ryu’s paintings to take home with me. However, Ryu insisted on giving it to me as a birthday gift! He signed it for me, with a drawing of a dragon, which is the meaning of his name.

birthday07-ryu's book.jpg

What a treasure! 


So I bought myself another birthday gift downstairs – a pair of Italian shoes with
Turkish wool kilim uppers. Sachiho approved, saying that usually ethnic shoes are uncomfortable, but the Italian soles would be comfortable and last a long time. They ARE comfortable.


When we returned to the temple, Eiyu’s cook had prepared us all a splendid breakfast…


…with miso soup, pickles, rice, tofu, land and sea vegetables.  Afterwards, Eiyu brought out her photograph albums and showed us photos of a Tara Dance ritual held at Fumon-ji Temple.  Eiyu herself had danced in the ritual, looking elegant in a sari.  In the Tara Dance, a mandala of dancers in many colors of saris depicts the 21 Praises of the goddess Tara.  I danced in the very first of these ritual dances, on Maui in the 1980’s, because the choreographer, Prema Dasara, a classically trained Odissi dancer, was a personal friend.  She had been asked to create this ritual by the Tibetan Buddhist master Tai Situ Rinpoche.  Since the mid-1980s, Prema has been traveling internationally teaching Tara dance, although the Fumon-ji ritual was organized by one of her students.


Afterward, Eiyu gave me a birthday card with a playable keyboard that would also play Happy Birthday. She also gave me and Sachiho each a set of little bells to ring above our heads whenever we were troubled by negative thoughts. I keep mine handy!


Sachiho borrowed Eiyu’s car, and we went off to bathe at an on-sen (hot springs bathhouse). We passed this large and beautiful Shinto shrine, which is just down the hill from Fumon-ji Temple.


In front of the on-sen, I found another lovely specimen for my collection of Japanese man hole photographs.


This on-sen had outside pools with a panoramic view of the huge bay that lies between Ako City and the Pacific Ocean. We relaxed in the pool for over an hour, sharing stories, laughing, or just floating and listening to our breathing.


When we got back to the temple, we packed up, thanked Eiyu Sensei profusely, and took one last look at the big view of Ako City from the hill above the temple…


…and the beautifully restored buildings of the temple compound (this is the smaller hall where we’d had the second half of the service that morning), before we hopped into a taxi to the train station, and took a train to the airport. Sachiho flew back home to Naha City, Okinawa, where her sons awaited, and I flew back to Tokyo, where more adventures were about to begin.

Mothers Day Celebration at Fumonji Temple


After our dinner in Nara, Sachiho and I got into Ryoko’s van, and Ryoko drove us to Fumonji Temple in the lovely seaside town of Ako. We arrived late at night and bedded down in the dormatory (above) of the temple on futons in a tatami matted room. Already a group of women slept in the next room; all had come for a Mothers Day celebration organized by our dear friend Mana Koike (who created and runs the Alohana spiritual center on Oshima), in part to honor a visit by Clara Shinobu Iura, one of the Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. Clara’s an indigenous tribeswoman TWICE; her parents are Ainu tribespeople from northern Japan, but, because of her birth, lifetime and work in Brazil, she identifies herself with the indigenous people of the Amazon.


Fumonji Temple had to be the perfect location for the celebration, as it is the home of a famous 1200 year old statue of the Goddess of Compassion, Quan Yin (Kannon in Japanese). And also, the keeper of the temple, Eiyu Fujimoto, a Zen Buddhist nun of the Soto tradition, is revered as a great mother.  Most people call her Eiyu Sensei (teacher).  She’s seventy, but she’s got skin like a teenager, and the loveliest smile.


The old temple had been in great disrepair when Eiyu took the reins some years back, but through persistent hard work, enormous patience, and good cheer, she inspired people to donate funds and labor, and the temple was renovated to its current perfect beauty.


We gathered in the temple and sat quietly for a while. Our celebration began with a musical offering by spiritual singer/songwriters Takahiro and Rie, who played the day before I did at Happy Flower Beach Party music festival last October in Nago, Okinawa.


Next, beautiful Minaru danced her Earth Dance. She teaches this.


After Minaru, an a capella vocalist sang two of her songs.


Then a singer songwriter performed with guitar.


I borrowed Takahiro’s guitar (I’d already shipped mine back to Tokyo), and performed a couple of songs. I had to sing sitting down because the strap was not adjustable.


Last of all, Sachiho performed her spiritual songs.


Mana, with infinite elegance and grace, danced to Sachiho’s singing.


Sachiho’s last song was her husband, Donto’s, song “Nami,” which almost every hippie lady in Japan can perform as a hula. Even Clara was dancing.


After the performances, some little children brought Clara a gift.


There was a new mother to be celebrated that day, too.


I thanked Takahiro for lending me his guitar and was delighted to connect with him and Rie again.


Another friend I hadn’t seen since the 2002 tour on the Big Island of Hawaii that I set up for Amana came to the celebration. Her name is Miki, and she’s a ceramic artist.


Before everyone left, we gathered for a big, happy group shot, and I got a special hug from Clara, whose first language is Portuguese; we could meet on a common ground in Spanish, which we both speak as a second language.

A Shinto Benefit Concert in Nara

Sachiho’s starring role today was in a show benefitting a Shinto temple, and in honor of its departed greatest teacher, whom she referred to as “my Shinto master.’ The widow of this teacher attended the show, and all of the performers in the show had studied with this teacher, whose name, alas, I did not write down. When we got to the theatre, Manami, a bharatanatyam dancer, was rehearsing onstage.

Next, a modern dance class rehearsed their two numbers, the first of which starred their teacher.


Backstage, I watched, fascinated, as Manami assembled her make-up, hair ornaments, jewelry and costume. It took well over an hour for her to prepare for the stage. Sachiho’s preparation took a fraction of the time. She must have shipped her costume to herself at the theatre, because I’d certainly never seen it before in the several weeks we’d been traveling together. They both looked smashing when it was time for the show to begin.

The show opened with the modern dance troupe in flowerlike handmade costumes.


Next, Manami danced solo. After that, she danced accompanied by Sachiho singing with her lyre in duet with a percussionist, while a talented nature photographer projected a long series of his works on a screen behind her. I don’t think my photos do this piece justice; it was really quite dramatic and splendid.


Last, Haruko, a singer/songwriter, performed. I had met her before on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2002 when Sachiho and her band Amana and about fifty fans of Sachiho’s departed rock star husband, Donto, came to Hilo for a memorial to Donto and a music tour for Amana afterward that I arranged. Haruko’s got sass. When she arrived backstage, she came bearing a dish she prepared from an octopus she had speared herself.


When the performers came out together to take their bows at the end of the show, they presented a bouquet to the widow of the great Shinto teacher.


There was just time after the show for a little group shot backstage before everyone got back into their street clothes and we all went out for dinner at a restaurant at the top of a pachinko building near the theatre. That’s Manami, me, Sachiho and Haruko.

We Go To Japanese Heaven, Part Two

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Sunset from the window of the serene and luxurious Sakoya Ryokan on the evening of our stay. Before dinner, we each took a hot springs bath in our private tubs.


In a small private dining room, Sachiho and I were presented with an amazing collection of meticulously prepared delicacies, that kept arriving long after our small stomachs were quite full. We were glad we’d taken a long walk up a steep hill that day, and we took our time, attempting to do justice to this feast. When we returned to our suite, two thick and comfortable futons with floral quilts on top had replaced the dining table in the middle of our tatami-floored main room. Sachiho went out to visit Yatchan and his family again, and I relaxed on my futon, astonished to discover an Ethernet outlet in one wall of the tatami room, allowing me to check my email before preparing myself for sleep.


Dawn from the window of our suite at Sakoya. We would be blessed with more hot springs baths, but no time afterwards to relax; Sachiho was starring in a show benefitting a Shinto temple that day in Nara, and we had to pack up and catch the train after breakfast.


Our breakfast would be served down on the dining porch overlooking the forest, to the sounds of wild birds, in the chilly mountain morning air.


Yet another selection of flawlessly prepared treats arrived on our trays, thankfully only a fraction of what we’d been served the night before.


We savored our hot tea and miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables, fish, sea vegetables and eggs, and the sights, sounds and fragrances of the forest.


One of the ryokan staff drove us down to the train station, where I purchased some kudzu candy as a housegift for Koki and Ayako, to whose home I’d be returning in a few days. There we met some members of the forestry division working in Yoshino, including a man in white traditional-style clothing. He told me his name, Mori, which means “forest.”

The Rest of Our Walk in Yoshino


After visiting Kinpusen-ji Temple, Sachiho Kudomi and I continued through the quiet streets of Yoshino on our walk.


We looked into an apothecary store, where what appeared to be a hippopotamus’s head looked back at us.


We visited the Organic Cafe, bought some healthful slow food treats, and made friends with the owner.


I bought a beautiful handmade card with cherry blossoms on a gold background for my mom at the paper store.


I, of course, photographed the Yoshino man hole cover, and was surprised that, here in the premier cherry blossom viewing town of Japan, the man hole covers didn’t have any cherry blossoms in their design, as they did in so many other towns. Instead, Yoshino’s graphic is strictly geometric, not unlike some of the crop circle designs.


Next to the road I saw a small shrine that reminded me of a southeast Asian spirit house, with a gorgeous gathering of moss on its roof.


And just off the road, someone had set benches for picnics under the tall trees.


We saw several shops specializing in handmade kudzu candy, made from the starchy and medicinal roots of an aggressive wild vine that environmentalists strive to keep from engulfing the forests.


Seeing the kudzu roots in the window display, I realized that the interesting floor lamp in the lobby of the ryokan was made from kudzu roots and handmade paper.


In Yoshino, you can even buy decorative molds for making kudzu candy yourself.


Another display showed candy-makers using these molds.


Sachiho and I visited a temple where she had led a meditation retreat the previous year. The woman who cared for the temple (Sachiho referred to her as “the mother of the temple”) welcomed us warmly.


She even allowed me to photograph the murals with the couples in yabyum inside one of the smaller rooms of the temple.


I wonder why there’s a guy who’s on fire. Surely these murals illustrate a story. Or several!


When we got close to the ryokan again, we turned down a small side street, actually more like a little mountain trail with a cool driftwood sign, to visit Yatchan, Sachiho’s ceramicist friend who had gotten us the amazing room at his parents’ ryokan.


On the trail to his house, we saw a praying statue from Bali, no doubt a souvenir from one of Yatchan’s travels.


Yatchan, his wife Fumi-chan, and their lively little daughter Nagomi, were all pleased to see us. Fumi-chan had just harvested fresh bamboo shoots, one of which she is holding. Nagomi danced about and laughed, hid and burst out of hiding, grabbed a large bamboo shoot, and giggled. The language barrier did not prevent me from playing peekaboo with her.


When we returned to the ryokan, we met Yatchan’s mother, and thanked her for the fabulous room and service.


She proudly showed us a glass case of Yatchan’s ceramics.

We Visit Kinpusen-ji Temple in Yoshino


When traveling with Sachiho Kudomi, one does not merely take walks. Given her proclivity for worship in a variety of settings, she cannot help but take you on a Sacred Sites Tour. So, we set out from the Sakoya Ryokan through the quiet streets of Yoshino village. Sachiho told me, “I have always loved old ways more than new ones. When I was a teenager, I studied tea ceremony.” Like Noh theatre, the ritual of tea elevates consciousness of even the smallest gesture.


The circular impressions in the street made the pine needles compose themselves into perfect circles.


Soon we espied the main gate of Kinpusen-ji Temple at the end of the street.


Across the quiet street from the temple gate stood an open air store selling handmade mochi which we found irresistible. I bought a piece of dark green mugwort mochi, and Sachiho bought a white one with a sweet red bean paste filling. Mugwort is the English name for the herb used for moxibustion.


Under the eaves of the main gate, two fierce and muscular Shukongoshin (guardian statues) kept all bad juju at bay…


…flashing their buff abs and formidable teeth.


Clearly this has worked well for centuries. Once inside the gate, all is serene, shaded by beautiful old trees.


The main temple hall, with its breathtaking architecture and embellishments, is said to be the second largest wooden temple in Japan, after Todai-ji in Nara.


Inside the courtyard of the temple, a sign in four languages elucidates. My camera and I are reflected in it.


We approach the main hall entrance.


At the entrance, one places coins inside the donation box, takes a few sticks of green incense, lights them all with the large votive candle, and stands them together to burn in the sandfilled stone urn at the entrance to the temple.


Another pair of fierce ancient statues guard the inner sanctuary.


A Miro-like artwork on the right hand inner wall of the temple.


The temple’s store sells photographic guide books of the artwork, and articles for worship, including handcarved prayer beads.


Outside the main temple, a lion statue, bibbed by worshippers to show respect.


Even though it’s a Buddhist temple, a Shinto Inari (fox diety) shrine also stands on the temple grounds.

We Go to Japanese Heaven


In the morning, after Sachiho and I folded up our sleeping mats at the home of Sachiho’s dear friend Ryoko Okuda, the owner of Planet Flower (“Fashion from Nature”), a natural fiber clothing store in Osaka (who I’d met first at the Rainbow Festival, and who came to our show at Chakra and then drove us to her home to spend the night), a Buddhist monk came over to lead us in prayer in front of Ryoko’s home altar.


Ryoko’s home, a one-story house in a quiet neighborhood on the outskirts of Osaka, has, in traditional Japanese style, windows that are also doors, and tatami covered floors that change from bedroom to living room to dining room to temple as needs dictate.


Her small bedroom is full of the beautiful clothes she sells in her store.


Even the bathroom wall is blessed by angels.


Ryoko feeds us a lovely breakfast of fruit and raisin bread toast and tea, and walks us to the train. We bid her a fond goodbye. She will meet us the next day in Nara and drive us to Fumon-ji Temple.


Across from us, three generations of Japanese women snooze to the rhythm of the train, and, above them, an advertising model grins.


Sachiho and I made friends with four little girls on a school field trip.


We got off the train at Yoshino, a mountain village famous for its hot spring resorts and temples, and took a taxi to this lovely place, where we would relax for the night.


Sachiho’s friend Yatchan, a ceramic sculptor, is the son of the owners of Sakoya, the most luxurious ryokan (traditional style Japanese hotel) in Yoshino, and, for a special family-and-friends price, he has gotten us the premier suite, and the price includes gourmet dinner and breakfast, served by our own personal hostess in kimono!


We had a suite of rooms, one large room where we would sleep and eat…


…plus this lovely sitting room…


…with this gorgeous view of the mountains, with bamboo and pine forests…


…and our own outdoor hot springs bath…


…and our own indoor hotsprings bath. Plus a two-sink bathroom with a huge mirror, loads of bath towels…


…a kimono with jacket each for our stay…


…and tea served upon our arrival…


…made from sakura (cherry blossoms) with a sauce made from kudzu (arrowroot starch), two products for which Yoshino is reknowned. Yoshino is lush with cherry blossoms each spring, and packages a famous, slightly salty tea, made of the dried blossoms.

Chakra in Osaka


Handmade sign above the entrance to Chakra, an import, craft and clothing store with cafe and performance space in back, in Osaka, Japan, where Sachiho and I performed the final show of our tour together, on May 10, 2007.


On the shinkansen (bullet train) from Yamaguchi to Osaka, I spotted this ad, reminding me that the largest number of solar panel manufacturers, as well as the largest manufacturer of solar panels, Sanyo, are in Japan.


As soon as we reached Osaka’s main train station, Sachiho and I took a cab to Chakra, where we would perform that night. I got out there, and Sachiho hurried off to lead a meditation workshop elsewhere in Osaka. The store is an oasis of calm and beauty on a small back street in a densely urban part of the city.


Atchan, one of the owners of the store, came out to greet me.


Her husband and co-owner, Tatchan, joined us. I’m not sure what their formal names are; “chan” is a suffix implying endearment usually following the first syllable of a person’s given name. “San” is a suffix implying respect, and usually follows the person’s entire first or last name. (Only, in Japan, you say the family name first.) Anyway, I can see why everyone calls them Atchan and Tatchan. They are adorable.


The poster for the event features the cover of Living on the Earth! Tatchan told me that all sixty seats were sold out several days ago.


The interior of the store: musical instruments, exotic and local artisan clothing, low lights, handmade crafts, incense, East Indian music and CDs of local bands – everything for a spiritual/hip clietele…


…with all the cool accessories to match…


…even macrame!


I went out for a walk around the neighborhood. Japan’s cities burgeon with bicycles (better get out of the way if you hear a ringing sound behind you!)


I saw bike riders of all ages. Since people don’t steal in Japan, you can ride your bike (or lighweight motorcycle) to the nearest bus stop or train station, leave it there, go where you are going by public transportation, come back and bike home. Green all the way!


To my delight and astonishment, Minehiko Tanaka, an excellent sitar player, joined us for our performance that evening.


He accompanied Sachiho while she chanted sacred songs with her lyre.


I had always dreamed that someday I would be able to play my song Vai Raga with a sitar player, and that night was my night. I did a set by myself (with a volunteer translator from the audience), followed by three songs with Sachiho and Minehiko, including Vai Raga (from Music From Living on the Earth, my first CD).


I think they liked us.


In fact, I think they liked us a lot. I sold out all of the books I’d ordered, again, and almost all of the CDs.


I told everyone in the audience they’d be on my home page, and here they are. This is why I come to Japan. It’s a love fest!