Japan KMC Showcase and Tour
The tour went by too fast and was such an amazing experience! The first 2 beings I saw on the tarmac when landing were a pair of crows, I thought how auspicious and indeed it was!
The Japanese people were very friendly and so helpful. They really liked Canadians and wanted to know about my culture. I managed to get by with my paltry 20 Japanese words/phrases (including numbers 1 to 10) and gestures and great gut instincts. Most service people (hotels, subway) could help as they spoke much better English than my Japanese. Efficiency, order, politeness and respect are huge in the culture and I was in awe of how things worked there. They actually held the connecting plane to Osaka for me and 20 others as the flight was delayed. I was running down the moving walkways when I saw a sign in Kanji and then my name in English. I said to the uniformed woman, that's me and pointed to my name. The polite agent bowed and said please hurry to immigration, as we are holding the plane for you Ms. Braun ...wow! There was another agent guarding my guitar at the baggage claim and she showed me the way to domestic flights. They processed hundreds of people in about 8 minutes at immigration, I was amazed! I love the bowing custom by everyone though was taken aback at first. I was walked to elevators and bowed by the hotel staff, bowed to by cabbies, fellow artists, shopkeepers... everyone! I loved getting hot steamy cloths every time I ate, even convenience stores gave moist wipes with food purchases and the yakata robe in my hotel room with slippers was cool too! The western style bidet toilets were an adventure for sure, so many dials and effects, it took me awhile just to find flush! The subways were overwhelming but thankfully, the lovely interpreter Mana on my first day in Osaka showed us how to use the system. With patience and time to think about how the system worked I finally got the hang of it and was traveling alone the next day.
The first gig on an old narrow and bustling street at the Bamboo Club, was small and intimate. Dale Campbell an enthusiastic and brilliant guitarist from the UK shared the bill. Mama-san Rumi the effervescent owner made us special deserts and teas before we played and Chai in the middle and delicious Japanese pizza and beer at the end. We shared much laughter and stories in between song sets. She showed us where she was born! Her father had been a dentist and she came into the world in his waiting room. She converted it to the club later. The tatami room has pictures of her parents and is a sacred room where we had to remove our shoes. The room was like I had imagined a traditional room to look.
The Sunday night KMC showcase was great! It was located on the Okawa river at Keihan Tenmabashi. Mama-san Rumi from the Bamboo club showed up at the conference to come to see my showcase! She was wearing the Haida designed silk scarf I gave her as a gift and showing it to the sound techs and staff. Later that night she said it was keeping her warm. She was so sweet. She was a godsend and gave me a tour of the station and rooftop gardens and views and most important bathrooms!
Later, the Kabuki clown wrestlers opened the showcases. They were a real crowd generator and the folks loved them! I of course could not understand any of the dialogue which was an unusual feeling but the energy was great. One of the wrestlers who looked like he must be the origin of spiderman had been to Vancouver 10 times, we hit it off and he posed with us for pics. I played for a full house including many watching from above on the docks.
It was a perfect night for playing outside with a slight breeze and clear sky while river boats cruised by. Lights lit up the tree lined riverbanks with sparkling city lights all around. The sound system was great and the large audience was appreciative of my songs and at one point someone got a section chanting my name Nori Nori. It was touching in a very kawaii way. Techung the Tibetan folk and freedom singer had also joined us at our table along with Michel his drummer/tabla player. Techung gave a great performance, very moving and engaging songs and he played an encore too! He had a large following there and I met some other very nice Tibetans. After the show as I was leaving a young Japanese man in traditional dress decided to serenade me and began singing very loud Vive la Canada over and over as I ascended the ramp. It was quite surreal and a great end to a wonderful showcase.
The next day at 6:30 am after tossing and turning, worrying about sleeping in and finding my way I managed to get to the Shinkansen station and on the bullet train for Tokyo. The trains move like bullets and are aptly named so at 300 km an hour things sped by rather quickly. I transferred to the subway up and down numerous stairs and found my way to the hotel. I had a couple hours to shower and get ready as I had to be in Shibuya for a sound check at 2:30 for Big Fish Live VOl. 8! I also found my way there to my amazement as the signs were all in Kanji but the hotel clerk gave me an English map so I figured it out somehow.
Lugging all my gear, guitar and cds up and down numerous stairs again was real workout and I was tired and sweaty but rallied for the soundcheck and show. I had to soundcheck every hour as I was playing a song in each set with the artists and it was our first time ever together so we wanted to run through the songs a few times plus the songs in my set. Masayoshi Yamamiya had organized and promoted a terrific event. We had a producer for the show, sound tech, lights, video and audio recording, photographer Kazuhiro Nakamura ...the whole works!
The Japanese artists were outstanding I so enjoyed listening to their music and despite language barriers we were able to communicate with ease, had great chemistry and had an instant friendship. Hana Saito grew up in Australia so was fluent in both languages and could interpret for us. Her wonderful song Waiting for you has been continually popping in and out of my mind ever since I have left the show! Our duet of Smile was so lovely and our voices blended so well together, her guitarist and percussionist really grooved and set it up great and Big Fish Live folks liked it so much it is on youtube now. Hiroki Oshiba really added a warm and embracing texture to my song Ballad of Magic Man too. We had a great mood and feel going and this is also on youtube. Kaori Tsuji's beautiful song Mizukagami where I sang in my best phoenetic Japanese was well received too as was Sala Life, Hiroki's song I dueted. Hana hadn't realized she was to sing Crystallize with me and learned the verses in like an hour amazing wow and she sounded great! I loved Kaori's interpretation of Be Brave with ethereal ooh and aaahs making it beautiful and haunting.
I also gave I think I gave one of the best performances of my life that night. Despite lack of sleep, exhaustion from carrying my gear, finding my way in a strange land with strange language with millions of people on a national holiday, in a sold out standing room only smoky venue I gave everything I had to give as it suddenly dawned upon me, they can only feel my music they cannot understand my words. What I gave was pure emotion, my pure soul and it felt soooo good!!
After the show Kaori and I wandered down to Ginza line subway and she suggested dinner and saki or beer. Of course I quickly agreed. At the restaurant we were met with a friend of hers a drummer for Huckleberry Finn, whose name escapes me and who treated us to a delicious Japanese dinner. We enjoyed so many wonderful dishes when Kaori realized suddenly we had to run to make the last train and we barely made it!
The next day I slept in and wandered around Ginza and then to Hibuya Park. My soundcheck was for 6 and I found my way to the Pink Cow. A very funky and artsy venue I loved it. The warm and friendly David Mashiko met me and helped me set up the gear. Paintings and stuffed animals abounded, they had a good crowd out too. A group of Canadians from Montreal were on my right, on my left were Americans Pete Kronowitt, his bassist John Coppola and Japanese interpreter Mamicko, Japanese and Australians were in the center including David's friend Lindsay, a real international event like the conference in Osaka. I was very surprised and happy that Pete, John and Mamicko came to the gig as Pete also showcased at KMC but we never met until he came to my show. They were in Tokyo and liked my song on the compilation so decided to check me out. Daniel Edmonds opened, then my set and V1 Rockets David's band closed the night. The sets went well and I enjoyed the evening!
The next day was my only free day and last one in Japan. I met Kaori in old Japan (Edo) now called Asakusa. When she heard I was going there she wanted to meet me as that is her home area.
We met for lunch at a noodle house and then to the Sensoji temples and market. Kaori bought me a lovely yellow fan for a keepsake of my time there. She had a meeting and had to leave and I wandered around the area the rest of the day taking pictures and exploring the temples, shrines, wonderful food and amazing sights.
Next day I was dead tired and slept on the long flight home thinking that this was a most spectacular and most wonderful tour that I could have ever imagined and I felt so blessed! I look forward to returning and playing in Japan again and I think I may have been bit by the travel bug!
Visit my homepage www.norinebraun.com to see the live Tokyo videos and also pictures of the trip which are also on http://www.facebook.com/norinebraun