Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Clouds and Rain

Zach said that the gods hate Tokyo. The rain seemed to fall only in the city, while the rest of the country had fair skies. The Shink ride in had been a testiment to this. A beautiful crisp autumn blue, offering the clearest view of Fuji that I've ever seen. Tokyo's streets on the other hand were slick, distorting the colors of neon. I dropped my bags at Casa Daza, having a quick beer and "arribas" with Zach, then backtracked toward Shinjuku for the workshop with David Swenson, one of the world's primary Ashtanga teachers. I arrived fairly exhausted and grumpy after trying to find the right room among the dozens that make up Studio Shinjuku. I looked forward to a mellow night of pranayama, but found that I'd misread the schedule and was instead faced with two and a half hours of 'jump-throughs" which require a fair amount of upper body strength. It wasn't long before adrenaline caught up with me, and by the time I closed out the night with a glass of red with Dana, I was pretty amped.

The next morning came too early and I quickly found myself back at the Studio. So commenced what was probably the hardest single day of yoga I've ever done. Five hours of waning strength and increasing sweat. The mat got so soaked that I decided I'd need to buy a rug before I ever did Ashtanga again. Despite these mild traumas, the day was incredible, and I got a lot of new ammunition for teaching. After practice, a group of us went to a cafe for tea. It was closed, but the manager said he'd do drinks for us. Our numbers soon increased to twenty, and we eventually occupied every table. The staff looked less than pleased. I had a nice talk with Chama, who impressed us with his new camera. Many of the others were teachers from various studios about town. (The funny thing about "booms" in Japan is that rather than scattering things, they tend to draw people together.) Besides myself, a couple other teachers had commuted in: Andrew from Kyoto, and Natalia, one of the top Ashtangi in Spain, who was winding up a few months in town on her way to Mysore. She had a few groupies in tow, taking the form of some young cookie-cutter Japanese girls quietly talking at the next table. At six, the cafe officially opened, and everyone went their separate ways. Some of us went to a cheap, local Indian place with Japanese cooks but did good chai and huge nan. Plus the beers were cold. (I'm starting to find that Japanese beers taste better after martial arts than they do after yoga. Post-yoga imbibition requires something fuller-bodied, liked red wine or Guinness.) Over dinner, Andrew kept us quite entertained, no surprise if you know him and his devilish grin.
Back at the Casa, I found Zach and Dana both up. We watched the latest episode of "Extras," then high-browed it awhile, talking yogic philosophy. At my mention of the word "Genesis, " Zach said something about "Abacab," which is of course the chord progression that best approximates the sound that the universe made at the time of the Big Bang. Whether this chord structure was progressive or was composed is currently the focus of much debate in music schools across Nebraska.

Two year old Eli joined us on Sunday morning. I always enjoy playing with him, and he seems delighted when I come to town. The look of happiness crossing his face is often tinged with a brief look of fear, due to my frequent outbursts of spastic and dramatic motion. (Not unlike my yoga, actually.) Get used to it kid, such is the unpredictible nature of fun.
Zach and I headed up to Furla on Aoyama-dori. The sidewalks were packed with umbrella-toting dawdlers. There was some bizarre procession going on, with a marching band and costumed groups of folks dancing and weaving and clacking their clackers. At the head of a group of middle-aged women was one foreign guy who had outstanding choreography. This Furla visit kicked off a day which emphasized the business of yoga. I found myself at two other studios within the next 90 minutes. Crossing a bridge into a park in Shibuya, Zach told me that here he'd once walked into the middle of a yakuza turf war. (Sumimasen with a downward karate-chopping hand motion just doesn't cover it.)
I bought my yoga rug at Chama's studio, where I met Kengo who I remembered from the workshop, then set out for tea with Leza and Cameron. Waiting for my train at the station, I ran into a woman I met at EC. (She'd pursued me but I wasn't interested. The next morning I saw her leaving another guy's tent. Today, she was hand in hand with a multi-perforated J-punk. Ah, the fickle energy of youth.) I boarded my train, and as the doors closed, it began to move. Not forward. Back and forth. As I removed my headphones I heard people whispering "Jisshin. Jisshin." I'm no strangers to earthquakes, but standing on a sealed train three stories above the street in Tokyo is enough to soil the shorts.
Met Leza and when asked what I've been up to, the poor woman, who I hadn't seen in nine months, was forced to endure one of my patented babble-logues. Later, at Sun and Moon, she proved that she was a good sport by signing a copy of her new book for me. Dashed up the street to Integration Matsuri, held at the Claska Hotel where candle-light was throwing some wicked shadows on the fashion show and demos that followed: capoeria, belly dancing, yoga. One of the main reasons I'd gone was to try to meet Gio, who was spinning that night. (I love the CDs he puts out, under the name, "Makyo," and I highly recommend them. You can stream a few tracks at the Dakini Records page. In fact, do.) I wanted to ask him if he was the film reviewer for the Japan Times. He bashfully he admitted he was, and I praised him to great heights. I've been following his reviews for a decade now, and they're perfect. In fact, back in 1997, I'd almost met him in Hong Kong, when I'd been doing minor acting gigs, and had scammed a press pass to the HK Film Festival in order to meet directors and producers. Gio told me he had been busy hanging out with Christopher Doyle. Dude!!!
The party was, as they say, craic-ing. I saw a lot of familiar faces and made lots of new friends. Integration indeed. The words, "Yoga Boom" resonate still.

Next day, headed back to the 'Nog in order to share with my students the flying lessons I'd recieved from David Swenson. Left under heavy Tokyo skies, which cleared by Izu. The usual scenes followed. Shizuoka's tea plantations. Unbelievable Nagoya ugliness, today highlighted by the ongoing destruction of the Expo grounds. (In this city, someone has apparently decided that colorful tiles add cheer to a drab cityscape. Gray river birds scream "Bullocks!", wings spread wide like a flasher's raincoat.) Chubu plains a quilt of rice buds and cosmos, stretching toward the always magical Kumano mountains. Kyoto ringed with scarred hills. Tunnels of Kobe. Sanyo's industrial seashore. Pachinko lit Okayama. Then over the mountains to the 'Nog.

That night, Monday, I'd hoped to answer emails, but got sidetracked by the lunar eclipse. Laying in bed with a glass of red, watching the sun's slow shadow creep across the moon's face, I suddenly flashed on the word "hatha."


On the turntable, "Poi Dog Pondering"
On the nightable: Lawrence Rogers, "Tokyo Stories"

1 comment:

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