Monday, November 14, 2005

Okinawa Getaway, Getaway

As I do every November 3rd, I set off to Tokyo to see the koryu demos at Meiji Jingu. It's a day of flying bodies, swirling staffs, and flashing steel (and worn out martial arts cliches). It culminates in the firing of ancient matchlock weapons, their surprisingly loud retorts filling the sky with crows startled from their treetop aerie. It's also a good chance for me to temporarily plug back into the Tokyo budo scene.

The next morning I headed out to Haneda to catch my Okinawa bound flight. The traffic was horrendous, making it look entirely possible that I'd miss the plane. So I sat there formulating a plan B: more yoga, more live music, more hang time with friends under blemish-free autumn skies. Plan B won. Though I made it to the airport on time, I cashed in my ticket and headed back to town, spoon-feeding my spirit a week of hedonism.

A major factor in my decision to stay is what occurred the night before. My jazz-singer friend Yumiko took me to see Toku at Body and Soul in Aoyama. He is amazing, alternating between flugelhorn and vocals ala Chet Baker. His jams were loose, his backing band incredibly tight. It's no wonder he's a major player on the J-jazz scene. Yumiko and I had a table dead center in front of the stage, the perfect position from which to watch the magic.
Near the end of the second set, Toku's attention was drawn to something going on in the corner of the club. It turns out Cyndi Lauper was there, with some famous kimono-clad enka singer. They came on stage to engage Toku in the usual babble best left on Japanese TV. Then Cyndi joined Toku in singing "Time After Time." The crowd sat with jaws on the floor. When Cyndi came off stage, she had to pass my table, so I held out my hand, which she took. I said, "Cyndi, thank you so much," to which she said, "That was a trip!" Toku took an encore, calling another celeb out of the crowd. Ogura Maki is a R'n'B singer, hot about a decade ago. She and Toku sang a couple songs together, then two more apparently famous jazz singers joined the fun singing backup to Cyndi Lauper doing Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" Crazy. By the time they'd finished, the trains had stopped running. I was forced to take a cab home. Just another $200 night in Tokyo. God bless that city.

--------------------------(Cyndi, Toku and Ogura Maki on piano)------->

On the turntable: Gorillaz, "Demon Days"
On the nightable, Thad Carhart, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank"
Jumpa Lahiri, "The Interpreter of Maladies"

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