Rainbow Festival, Second Day


This way to the Rainbow Festival at Aso Mountain!


On the second day of the festival I met the silkscreener who had licensed the cover of Living on the Earth to print on the festival t-shirts, and he offered me my choice as a gift.


The hemp-organic cotton camouflage tank top caught my eye.


On the back, the moon and the lovers from the back cover of Living on the Earth, plus a tipi and a puffing volcano drawn by someone else, nicely summing up the scene here.


Roku and Tako, the festival organizers, who also manufacture tipis, had just put up one of their largest tipis in back of the stage as a combination dressing room and shrine.


They created a shrine inside the tipi, in the most ancient Japanese style, according to Sachiho.


The big tipi made a gorgeous backdrop to the stage.


On either side of the stage Roku and Tako added their huge handmade and handpainted carp windsocks floating from bamboo poles.


And, I learned that, in addition to making superior tipi poles, bamboo makes a fine geodesic dome.


I was gifted a delicious meal at the Thai curry stand by the chef.


Back to the hot springs for a bath, this time with Kanako, the koto player. In this very natural bathhouse, there are no showers; you pour warm water from the springs over yourself from a bamboo bucket.


Kanako (on the right) doing a card reading with Doreen Virtue’s Goddess Cards for the owner of the on-sen (hot springs bath house), who is in the middle of having her hair coiffed.


Back at the festival, a troupe of dancers performed a ritualistic modern dance.


The children were fascinated.


After sunset, my favorite group of the festival played: Rabirabi x Piko, with electronic avant garde improvisational vocals and synthesizer by Azumi, and percussion by her husband and by her friend, Nana. The percussion got the crowd dancing, and Azumi’s wild vocals (some electronically processed and some not), her skillful synthesizer playing, and her joyous dancing took them to an ecstatic frenzy. I’d never seen a crowd react this way to electronic improvisation before. I wish I had a better photo. Sorry!


After the stage show, the nightly drum circle began, this time with fire dancers!

Opening Day of the Rainbow Festival at Aso Mountain, Kyushu Island, Japan


A Japanese carp windsock flies from a tipi on the opening day of the Rainbow Festival at Aso Mountain.


The festival information booth is manned by the children of the organizers and performers. When Sachiho, Kanako and I returned from Kumamoto, we offered them rice crackers, which they happily ate.


When you pay your admission to the festival, you get a necklace made of cotton cord and your choice of nine stone pendants, all shaped as a curved teardrop, like half of a Taoist yin-yang symbol. Each stone is noted with its healing qualities. I dowsed with a pendulum and chose the blue sodalite stone, for clearing the mind and communicating.  Good idea if you are in a country where you are illiterate.


Daisuke, now the honcho of the information booth, made a special necklace for Sachiho, weaving together several colored strands of cotton and using three stones.


The festival programs and t-shirts all bear the art from the cover of Living on the Earth.


I returned to my cabin, and was met there by my first customer for books and CDs. Her name is Sakura (cherry blossom) and she played me some songs on her ukulele.


I went out to see the newly erected food, clothing and gift booths that the festival attendees had constructed. At Garammasala, an import and beer stand, I bought myself a longsleeved cotton t-shirt from India.


Rokuro Matsui, the organizer of the festival, chose a stage design reflecting his love of tipis. Here he is about to open the festival with a solo vocal/guitar performance…


…appropriately attired in a rainbow sweater over a tie-dyed t-shirt.


At this festival, children are allowed on stage during the performances, and these little ones were so pleased to join Rokuro.


On the first day, the audience is sparce, but, since the festival occurs during Japan’s Golden Week, when just about everyone goes on vacation, soon there will be up to one thousand people watching the shows.


I met Satomi, Toshi and their baby Sola. Toshi goes yearly to Arizona to attend Native American dance events.


I bought vegetables on my way back to the festival, and, since tonight was the last night the pre-festival community kitchen still stood, and I took the opportunity to prepare a huge California style salad as a gift to the people at the festival.


Peace activist author Takashi Masaki (known to his friends as Maisa) sang with two friends at the festival. The latest of his many books is called Flying Buddha. He recently organized a very long peace march called Walk Nine, which is to protest the proposed end of Article Nine, the part of the Japanese constitution imposed by the USA after World War II declaring Japan shall not have a military, ushering in an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Maisa’s group is also speaking out against Japan’s nuclear power plants, which plan to begin releasing radiation into the air starting next November.


Next we heard an Okinawan group presenting traditional music.


After that, a very avant garde jazz singer, accompanied only by bass guitar and bongos, performed for us.


I was happy to meet so many new friends.

Loveland


On Monday, April 30th, I again began my day with a dawn walk up the road from camp.


Clouds were gathering around Aso Mountain for a big rain, but it politely waited until after my walk.


When I came back to camp, I presented Mikiko with two gifts, a silk scarf made from a vintage sari (bought at the Adams Avenue Festival) and a linen purse made by Aya Noguchi.


Then Sachiho and I, with a new friend, a beautiful young koto player named Kanako, driving, left for Kumamoto town to do a workshop and concert in the yoga studio above Shoko Akashi’s elegant natural fiber clothing and metaphysical gift store, Loveland. Here Shoko warmly welcomes us to her store. Shoko owns three stores in Kumamoto; the other two being Earth Collector and Fair Trade Student Cafe Hachidori.


The beautiful exterior of the store, with solar panels on the roof and a totem pole in front.


First Sachiho lead a meditation class.


After a break for tea and snacks, Sachiho did a solo performance, playing her lyre and singing sacred songs.


After Sachiho’s concert, I played some of my songs, and, at the end of my set, we played and sang some songs together.


After our show, we drove to a hotel that housed a hot springs spa to bathe and relax. Before our baths, we had dinner with three members of our audience – a Zen monk and his mother and sister.

Benzaiten


As jet lag would have it, I was wide awake at 4 AM, so I got dressed and went out for a walk. No one else was stirring in camp.


I walked up the road to where I could get a better look at the summit of Aso Mountain. Although it appears to be a volcano, it’s actually part of the wall of an enormous ancient volcanic caldera that includes the mountains on the other side of the valley where Aso town lies.


The mountains that form the other side of the caldera, with Aso City below.


View of camp as I headed back down the hill.


The driveway into the festival.


I shivered in my bed my first night in an unheated room high on a mountain
with no electricity and no running water, and I remembered the old way to heat a bed with stones warmed in a fireplace. So I borrowed some bricks, bought some small towels, and heated the bricks by the campfire the following night, wrapped them in the towels and had a warm bed for the rest of the festival.


The Matsuis, ever the gracious hosts, added their beautiful old-Japanese-style hot water bottle, wrapped in a fabric from India, to my bed warming equipment, to place under the back of my knees. Elevating the knees makes the neck flat, eliminating the need for a pillow.


Mikiko Sato, who will be hosting a concert and workshop in June for me and Sachiho at her place in Sendai, Tohoku prefecture, also lent me her hot water bottle, which is made of metal, like a canteen, and has a quilted cover. The two hot water bottles provided me with a supply of warm water with which to wash myself in the morning.


Mikiko (on the left) working in the pre-festival camp kitchen. She teaches classes for parents and children together doing Steiner pre-school activities.


The way I got clean most days of the festival was catch a ride into Aso town with friends and bathe before soaking at a hot springs bath house. On this day, Sachiho and I squeezed into a van with Yu and Saori and four other friends for a whole day of fun that included soaking at an on-sen (hot springs bath house) dedicated to Benzaiten, the Japanese goddess of music and wealth who parallels the Hindu goddess Saraswati, followed by a delicous soup at a noodle house. We would also do a ceremony to Benzaiten at a shrine in her honor at a Shinto temple on the same road as the festival grounds, about a mile down the hill. Eight of us crowded into a van for this outing, and we made music while we traveled.


View of the mountains from Aso town.


Cherry blossoms (sakura) in Aso town.


Sign at the entrance to the hot springs bath house.


The bath house from the street.


The shrine to Benzaiten on the path from the office to the baths. Everyone took a moment to offer a little prayer.


Painting of Benzaiten on the entrance to the women’s section of the hot springs.


Painting of Ebisu, the god of fishing and merchants, on the entrance to the men’s section of the hot springs.


Sachiho soaking in the hot springs.


On our way home, we stopped to offer prayers to the goddess of music for our upcoming performances at the festival. We pass under the torii at the entrance of the Benzaiten shrine on Aso Mountain.


Stairs to the Benzaiten shrine.


The Benzaiten altar.


The famous pair of albino snakes who live at the Benzaiten altar. Yes, those are real snakes, and they are alive.


Sachiho leads prayers at the Benzaiten shrine.


Shrine to the seven fortune gods (of which Benzaiten is one) at the Benzaiten shrine.

Rainbow Festival, Day One


When I arrived at Kumamoto Airport in southern Kyushu Island, from Haneda Airport in Tokyo, I knew I would wait for Sachiho and her sons to arrive from Okinawa, but I didn’t know anyone would be waiting for me. When I came out of the baggage claim, there was a long-haired young man in a purple shirt, and I thought, “That must be one of my people.” In fact, it was the bass player in my band for the festival. His name is Daisuke, and he is 22 years old. Beside him stood Auta, the 12-year-old drummer who amazed me at Happy Flower Beach Party Music Festival last October. That made sense. Auta’s father, Rokuro Matsui, is the organizer of the Rainbow Festival.


An hour or so later, Sachiho Kudomi, leader for 10 years of Amana, former punk rock  bass player and leader for 17 years of the famous girl band, Zelda, widow of New Wave rock superstar, Donto, spiritual teacher, and mother of Donto’s two young musician sons, Nara (named for the ancient city, but pronounced “Nala”) age 12, and Laki (pronounced “Lucky”), soon to be 17-year-old rock lead guitarist/singer. Laki, born in New York City when Donto was recording there, and personally named by his dad’s guru, Bo Diddley, has his heart set on attending Berklee College of Music in Boston. Good move.


Daisuke drove us from Kumamoto city to the town of Aso, and up to the mountain meadow where the festival area was under construction. Rokuro Matsui and his wife, Tako, have a business making tipis, and quite a few housed their guests at the festival. Today, four days before the beginning of the festival, they erect the first few.


This gorgeous tipi is where Sachiho and her sons lived during the festival.


I lodged in a portable cabin which doubled as the musical instrument storage for Amana’s instruments and as my shop for selling books, CDs and t-shirts. Those are bamboo tipi poles leaning on the roof. Talk about East meets West.


The first people to turn up at my cabin were improvisational multi-instrumentalist Yu and and his lady, Saori, my friends from Happy Flower Beach Party Music Festival last October in Okinawa, and who have arranged for my concert June 3 at Hobbit Theatre in Tokyo.


They gave me a stack of the flier they’d prepared to publicize the concert, which I offered in my store, along with fliers for Aya Noguchi’s beautiful Living on the Earth clothing line.


A mandala sunset over Rainbow City…


And a gibbous moon over Aso Mountain.

The Living on the Earth clothing line


It’s really true! Adorable fashion designer Aya Noguchi (on left above) made a line of clothes for Fall 2007 printed with illustrations from Living on the Earth. Her company, Balcony and Bed, boasts two stores in Tokyo, and she wholesales to stores throughout Japan. She came over to Koki and Ayako’s house with her assistant, Chihiro (to her right), bearing clothing samples. I am overwhelmed with joy.


As you can see in the mission statement from her catalog (above), Aya created the line to harken back to the 1960’s and 70’s (was she even born yet then?), so, of course, I feel quite comfortable in her clothes!


I tried on a black background print wool jersey dress over my long sleeved olive green t-shirt (it’s kind of a chilly day). I love it! I think when I wear it for events, I’ll wear a black long sleeved t-shirt under it. All of Aya’s wool jersey items are also available in a brown background print and a light gold background print.


Here’s a closeup of the black background version of the print.


And here’s a closeup of the brown background version of the print.


Here’s an organic cotton knit cowl collar long sleeved t-shirt.


Here’s a loose fitting short dress with elasticized hem in the light gold background version of the print wool jersey.


Here’s how the long dress looks in brown.


Here’s a much more feminine organic cotton Living on the Earth t-shirt. All of Aya’s organic cotton knit items are available in light gray-green, pale salmon pink, or cream.


A big serged square of the printed wool jersey makes a shawl or ample neck scarf (Aya calls them “boas”).


A flowing light gray-green organic cotton knit smock printed on the back with moons and stars. The front closure is asymmetrical.


Aya gave me three of the samples (my choice). I chose a gray-green t-shirt, the black dress I’m wearing in the photo above, and a black print scarf. I’m thrilled I get to wear these during my tour. By the way, the wool jersey does NOT itch. I’ve had the scarf around my neck for four hours at this writing, and, while my skin is often irritated by wool, I am totally comfortable in this.


Throughout my tour I will be distributing Aya’s posters at the tables where I sell my books and CDs, and showing her catalogue to anyone who asks. I will also be importing her clothes next fall to sell from my website and to stores in the USA. So, if you’d like me to advance order any of the clothing for you, please let me know. (To convert the prices into US dollars, go to www.xe.com.) Each piece is available in a choice of three colors, and only one size (“free size”), which should fit women size one through ten. Few Japanese women wear sizes larger than ten, and most wear size six and under, a tribute to their magnificent cuisine and natural moderation.


Early the next morning, Aya and her husband, Kouichi, who is also president of her company, drove me to Haneda Airport on their way to work in Tokyo. She brought me a homemade breakfast – a rice ball wrapped in nori with a bit of baked salmon inside, and a delicious tea made from roasted buckwheat (soba cha!). What sweet people! When I return to Hayama in mid-May, I will visit their home, where I’ll be interviewed by their friend who writes for Switch, an arts and culture magazine. I will wear Aya’s clothing for the photos!

Hiya Hayama!


I spent April 25 and 26 flying from LA to Tokyo, and was kindly met at Narita International Airport by my friend Koki Aso. Between the gasoline and toll roads, the round trip cost him about $70. I pressed newly minted yen from the airport money changer into his hands, but he took little of it. The patience and generosity of this man in monumental. Upon awakening from eight hours of deep slumber on a floor futon in Koki’s home office, I dug the view of the ocean and hills of Hayama (HI-ah-mah) from Koki and Ayako’s second floor balcony. They live in a very Japanese house on a steep hill, only two blocks from the beach. I love it here already.


The Japanese take their cherry blossoms (which they call SAK-ur-ah) very seriously. Even the animation on my rental cell phone screen shows a young couple bicycling through a shower of cherry blossoms, and Ayako thinks that, as the seasons change, the animation will be changed to match.


The cherry tree in front of Koki and Ayako’s house is blooming a little later in the season than most. They are pleased I came in time to see it.


The plums bloom in March, and already there are ume (pronounced OO-may) (plums) that Ayako will use to make umeboshi (salted pickled plums), a fabulous condiment whose vinegar I use to make tofu taste like cottage cheese or yogurt (depending on the texture of the tofu).


I couldn’t wait to take a walk around the neighborhood, and Ayako kindly obliged me with a tour.


At the end of the street where they live, a Shinto shrine (called a JIN-ja) overlooks the ocean.


The red torii (TOHD-ee-ee) (gate) is the dead giveaway it’s a Shinto shrine rather than a Buddhist temple, although some places of worship in Japan combine both religions.


Ayako was as stumped as I was as to why the shrine’s funerary statues wore red bibs.


I picked up where I left off last trip to Japan, photographing their creatively designed manhole covers. Have you ever seen one in the USA with cherry blossoms on it? Hayama’s got ‘em.


Lordy, here’s one with an alien on it!


Looking down from the seafront street, we gaze upon gardens of sea plants swaying in the amazingly clear water (considering that Hayama is one of the closest beaches to the mega-metropolis of Tokyo).


And, across the water, snow-capped Mount Fuji rises above the clouds. I had to disproportionately increase the color depth on this shot to make it more visible, since the air was hazy. But, I mean, isn’t it, like, HUGE?


We walked in Standing Stone Beach Park.


A smiling lady dressed in farming clothes was out gathering shells.


Mount Fuji is vaguely visible from the beach park…


…and beloved Oshima island is barely visible on the horizon as well.


Ayako prepared us a gorgeous, healthful breakfast when we returned to her house: grilled saba fish, freshly picked cherry tomatoes and peapods from their garden, nattoh (sticky fermented soybeans, an excellent fortifier), a richly flavored tea made from roasted black soybeans from Hokkaido, and miso soup with daikon (long white radish) in it. When I eat traditional Japanese food, I feel so good that taking vitamins and other supplements becomes superfluous.

The next morning, Ayako sent me off to Haneda airport with a packed picnic lunch of individually wrapped small treats on a small tray wrapped in an elegantly printed large cloth napkin: pickled cabbage, homemade umeboshi, two cherry tomatoes and three peapods, half a hard boiled egg, two rice balls riddled with sea vegetables, and a small portion of grilled chicken. Ohashi (chopsticks) included!


Mari (on left), Ayako’s friend, came over, and they went out for a while together, leaving me alone to practice vocal technique exercises without disturbing anyone (Koki’s at work today).

Ayako’s husband, Koki Aso, is the journalist who came to Hawaii to interview me for Be Pal outdoor living magazine in May 2005 and determined to help me tour here in 2006. He managed to convince the people at Artist Power Bank, an environmental arts organization in Tokyo, to fund my trip and put on two concerts and a workshop for me. I then contacted my other friends in the music business in Japan and cobbled together a four-week, eight-concert tour in October 2006, all of which is journaled on this blog (look in the left column under “Tags,” click on “Japan,” and all of the entries will come up in reverse chronological order). During the October trip I met the organizers of two music festivals, who each invited me to play at them this May, so this time I bought my own plane ticket and am performing sixteen times in seven weeks, selling the Japanese editions of my books and CDs as I go.