Nihon ni Imasu!

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Friday, January 15, 1999

Hi Everyone! I finally made it to Japan to begin my six-month visiting artist fellowship. I'm in my Tokyo apartment and starting to get settled. Happily, my computer arrived in one piece (sound cards and all) enabling me to start working on recording and editing, and allowing me to write you this little update about my trip!

Just getting to Japan was quite an experience. I was supposed to fly on January 6th and arrive on the 7th. I did make it to the airport on the 6th, but that's as far as I got. That turned out to be one of the most exhausting and painful days I've experienced in a long time. It started with a cab too small for my luggage. I had told the dispatcher I would need a station wagon, but instead a small sedan arrived. After ten minutes of trying my six heavy bags of gear and clothing every which way with the meter running, I paid the driver a kill fee and sent him on his way. Lucky for me Karen (my cowgirl neighbor) was watching from her window like a hovering angel and offered to take me. I arrived at SFO an appropriate 2 hours early with my customary 0 hours of sleep only to find out that I didn't have the proper visa to stay in Japan for 6 months. I had to return home in a shuttle and then spend the afternoon going downtown to the Japanese Consulate to get my papers in order. I then had to call my travel agent and order new tickets. The change cost me $100 if I was willing to wait 3 days to fly. My little error wound up costing me that and about $40 or $50 in cabs, shuttles, and skycab tips! But suddenly having 3 unscheduled days to rest, re-pack, and catch my breath was more than worth it! When I flew Monday the 11th, I think it was the first time in history that I flew anywhere with a full night's sleep!

I arrived at Narita Airport on the 12th and got through customs without a hitch. (The customs officer spent more time puzzling over my earrings than he did with my computer or other equipment!)

I took the Japan Rail Narita Express to Tokyo and a cab to the International House, where I spent my first night. In the morning I met Naoko Shimamura who took me to my apartment, and showed me around a bit. I bought a biligual Tokyo atlas, learned where the bank is and enjoyed a delicious sushi lunch at a modest little restaurant like dozens of others that line the main strip in my neighborhood.

I really lucked out with my apartment. It is in a nice neighborhood (Nishi Azabu) centrally located in Tokyo, and close to the International House (the organization that administers my grant.) A previous fellow (Beliz Brother) from the program emailed me about a month before I came saying she hated to give up such a great sublet, and would I care to take it over. She saved me probably a week of hotel rent and searching for a place. It is modest by American standards, but very roomy by Tokyo standards. It has a bedroom of about six little tatami mats, a living room (with a little dining table that has become my recording/office work station) a small kitchen and a small bathroom with a tub and laundry in it.

A few blocks away, there is a little shopping street with many little convenience stores, shops and restaurants. I am also not very far from a larger street that has bookstores, banks, the subway, sushi-ya's and ramen-ya's galore.

I made contact with a gentleman (Rick Dyck) who I met at Djerassi, and who is on the board of the Tokyo Symphony. He has invited me to join him and some collegues for brunch and a concert on Sunday. I'm also in touch with Noda Shiganori who I met during the Interlink '96 Festival. He's sure to have some interesting events happening soon. I also met several of my neighbors today. It seems to be somewhat of a "gaijin" (foriegner) building I'm living in. There's a French couple (Jean-Luc & Daniella), a Black guy with dreadlocks, and only one Japanese woman so far. I also heard some British-sounding neighbors talking downstairs.

Almost all of the meals I've eaten since my arrival have consisted of sushi or noodles. I did have one meal of curry and a cup of coffee ("karei raisu" and "koohii") at a little restaurant that specialized in non-Japanese food. It wasn't very good, but everything else I've eaten (including nigiri from the corner convenience store!) has been delicious! I'm tired, but I'm having fun walking around and exploring- reading signs that say things like "Let's Kiosk!", "Just Spot", and "Boss Coffee", and practicing my kana-reading on the more coherant signs which are the ones in Japanese. (It's a good thing I can read kana! I've had to rely on it a lot so far. I just wish I knew more kanji!)

I'll keep you posted on my adventures. And I may see some of you in March when I return briefly to play with the Bang On a Can Allstars at Lincoln Center and to do a special engagement at the "Expanding Your Horizons" Conference at Mills. Otherwise, I guess I'll see you when you pop over to Japan to visit!



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