Friday, February 08, 2008

New Year's Past

Marcin came to town midweek, followed a few days later by Taiko Tari. Hideyo rounded out the foursome, and we all went up to see the PPC thing put on by three of the livelier Kodo members. On the way, we joked about what PPC stood for, Tari trumping us all with her "People Playing Concert." The hall was funnier still, this tiny place where puppet shows get star billing. The show seemed hastily put together, but the amateur aspect was the most endearing part, befitting the surroundings. We took some of the silliness with us as we walked through Takaraga-ike Park under a sky slowly falling, eventually winding up at that Indian place that I consider the best in town. Apparently the owner of rival Sujata must agree with me, for he was at the next table. Well into his shochu, he regaled us with tales of....something. Over his shoulder, the man who made our Naan stood in the doorway picking his nose. I decided not to tell the others, but they know now.

We had a slumber party at my place. In the morning, Marcin and I went down the hill to DONQ to fetch brunch Later, we decided to climb up Fushimi Inari. Tari and I ate whole sparrows on a stick, then washed our hands using the ladles at the entrance to the shrine. The whole place was gearing up for the Eve ahead, vendors setting up their stands. Surprisingly, the best location had been scored by a kabab stand.

We followed the trails partway up, then wandered down through the woods toward Tofukuji. We caught a train back up to Shijo, warming up in Starbucks awhile, until Okera mairi was ready to start at nearby Yasaka Jinja. The priests carried their fire through the crowd, the atmosphere like a subdued India somehow. Tari got her rope of fire, which she twirled with a certain coolness as we walked through Maruyama Park. All that was missing was her Zoot Suit.

Tari and I set off on out own to Tom's Bar for a pre-party. Nearing midnite, we met up with Big Paul and Shino-chan to ring in the New Year at their small local temple. Shino is a friend of the priest's family, so we got the invite for toshikoshi soba. Warm and full again, we walked to a crowded Shimogamo to join the rest of the Kyo in their 'traditional ways of spending money."

The next morning, I thought that this had been one of the best New Years I'd ever had in Japan. Later it dawned on me that it had been the first really good Eve since losing Ken. Each new year brought with it the same thought, "Another year without you in it." That mantra had been created a few months after his death, somewhere in deep Osaka, walking unfamilar streets while trying to hide my ceaseless flow of tears from the strangers all lined up to ring the temple bell. The worst had been the following year, tearing myself abruptly away from a table of surprised friends in a whiskey-fuelled despair that led me to his grave, where I sobbed for an hour in lightly falling snow, finally arriving at the place that was, and thankfully continues to be, rock bottom. The next few Eves were slept through, as if denying the arbitrariness of the whole thing, though one year, in New Mexico, I did awaken briefly to the sound of celebratory gunfire, the bullets falling onto the desert like that cemetery snow of a year before.

The snow fell again lightly this quiet New Years day. In a while I'd board a train for Hiroshima to join Miki. She'd had a completely different experience altogether. A sudden bout of norovirus had inspired her creative side, brought up in representations of meals past, done in green.

On the turntable: Angelique Kidjo, "Djin Djin"

On the nighttable: "Jungle Crows" (Hillel Wright, ed.)

On the reel table: "A Trick of Light" (Wenders, 1996)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Ted, thank you so much for the wonderful New Year. It was my best New Year in Japan. And you have provided me with a little sanctuary that was much needed - for which I am very grateful.

And I am so sorry about Ken.

Look forward to seeing you again in Tokyo in a couple of month.