May 22 – 10:20 AM en route to Tokyo
Did some duty-free shopping before leaving airport. Three giggly girls want to know what I have in my shoulder bag and I show them – Bob’s hand drum. Bob says,”You can have it”. She bows and takes it. I buy ginseng powder and the girl wants to sell me the store. She shows me jade earrings and knocks the price down to 1000 won when I tell her it’s all I’ve got. Also purchased a 750 mL bottle of Majuang for 3000 won. Half bottle at the hotel was 5800 won. I see an ad for Majuang wine and it says it’s made from Riesling and Muscat grapes.
12:20 PM – Narita airport and Mr. Koyanagi (Toru’s manager) after eight years – he looks good. On the bus for an hour’s ride into Tokyo. Toru (Takemitsu, composer and friend) is at the hotel.
May 23 – 1:15 PM
Welcome Shibuya Tobu – tiny prefab rooms stacked up floor after floor. It feels good to be in Tokyo again and great to see Toru. We go to the hotel bar and talk for a while and then Toru calls his favorite sushi bar for reservations. Two cabs to Ginza. Incredible sushi. Perfect. I’ve never had sushi that can come close to this. The man behind the bar explains to me how to sharpen the Japanese knives. Finally I’ve got it together. I haven’t been wrong, but not dead on. Huge, brown, fine stone looks like woodblock.
We leave for a bar and it turns out to be the same one Toru took John (Wyre) and I to when we were here with the Toronto Symphony – GASTRO. The Chinese firewater with the lizard in bottle is no longer there, but the vibe comes back. Great bar! Nine stools. When seated, one can lean back and rest one’s back on the wall. Jasper Johns and other artists’ work on the walls. Still sick, with headaches, sore throats and slight fevers, Russ and I order Drambuie. Unasked, the owner serves us side glasses of ice water. I’ve never had ice water chasers with Drambuie – very good. Russ and I have two before the evening ends. Bob drinks Old Parr.
Toru remarks that Japan is too far gone. Two successful. China and North Korea is hopeful. He cannot get a visa for South Korea because of his North Korean friends. He recalls congratulations on his “successful concerts” in America. He says “What do you mean successful?” We comment that Nexus has been avoiding success for 14 years! We discussed banquets – receptions – speeches and ponder the realities.
Toru believes people now are removing themselves from sex. “Too bad”, he says. Biggest problem now is language. All talk is politics -political. He quotes John Cage’s expression “Friends for life”. I remark that it is good to get mad – really mad once in a while and he agrees. It is good in personal relations to fight but not war. “Have you ever hit Eleanor”? he asks. “Never,” I reply and he says he has hit Asaka and he laughs and says, as he throws a fake punch, “To show you how much I love you”. Maki (Toru’s daughter) is starting comparative culture and has developed a Boston accent. (Maki stayed with Seiji Ozawa while she studied in Boston.) Toru says America has become very conservative. Bob objects that it is just a fad. We try and run that down but the close air and booze are interfering.
While we are there, an art critic comes in (a good one according to Toru) and later three artists. Joanne (Tod, artist) tries to make contact but no one is really in the mood. During the cab ride back to the hotel, Bob suggests she should carry her slides with her. Joanne says she doesn’t want to act like a parent showing baby pictures.
The coasters for our drinks say GASTRO for gastronomy or gastronomic. Bob takes the pen and adds: Fidel,interitis and layout artist. Toru likes this very much and leaves the coaster on the bar opposite him before we leave. We get back to the hotel around 11:30 PM and I call for a massage. The desk clerk says in 30 minutes. I wait an hour and call back. He said my name is not registered for massage and massage will be impossible tonight. I’m pissed off but go to sleep and pass out.
Still sick in the head, but 2 cups of Brazilian coffee get me started. Joanne and I hit the streets, but department stores are closed today. Joanne is looking for hard core Japanese pornography. Specifically, bondage. Toru says he does not know where to find this. I suggest she ask the Canadian consul at tonight’s reception. Strictly for art’s sake, of course. (During a later trip to Tokyo I found a book of photographs devoted entirely to bondage and upon returning home, I gave it to Joanne.).
Before going to bed last night, I went to the Dunkin Doughnut shop across the street and got two chocolate covered and a cup of coffee. Terrible doughnuts – coffee okay. McDonald’s is still in business down the street. The people in this area of Tokyo look like parodies of men’s and women’s clothing ads in the New Yorker.
When we arrived at the airport yesterday, we left Bill there to wait for Ruth (Cahn, wife) who was arriving three hours later. Still haven’t seen them. I guess they are out roaming. Something they like to do in every town they hit. They always get the subways together.
Joanne asks Toru if he knows where she could find an arrigata, a Japanese dildo. Toru explained that this is an old word and he did not know where to find one. He said that years ago John Cage met a sailor who brought one back from Japan and it had a tiny bell inside. According to Toru, John said that hearing that bell made him decide to be a composer! Toru was doubtful, but swore that is the story John told him.
I’m waiting for my male masseuse here after an incredible evening with Toru, Yasanori (percussionist) and his wife Sumire, and Jo Kondo (composer). We go to yakitori house near the hotel. Beautiful food and conversation. It is raining as we gather for reception. We need four cabs and some of us get wet hailing in Shibuya. Victor Feldbrill (conductor) and his wife, Costa Pilavachi (booking tour for NAC Orchestra) and Fred Marrich from Kori Marimbas, various embassy officials – one wife from Youngstown Pennsylvania. A rather mindless evening – lots to drink – I had glasses of Chablis – medium quality. Victor seems very happy in Japan. Toshi Ichiyanagi (composer) is there and it’s nice to see old friends.
The yakitori house dinner is the climax to this entire tour. We all feel very close and many stories are told. We sing old songs. Between Jean (Donelson), who has a remarkable memory for lyrics, and Toru, who is famous for knowing old songs, we had an evening of reminiscence. John sings “April Showers” while some conduct. The last few lines are harmonized. Much sake. Toru was born in China. He flew to Japan when he was eight years old. His parents separated – date unspecified. His mother died recently. He was in the US at the time and had to fly back. We toast friendship forever. Toru’s research into Bryce’s (my son) name is related. (To learn about Toru’s composition Bryce, see on this site, my article titled Toru Takemitsu.)
Yasunori (Yamaguchi, percussionist) and I feel very close. Last time in Tokyo, he was not in such good shape. Now he is father of a boy, Toma (winter horse) and his wife Sumire is a great keyboard player (marimba). Toru says son must be a percussionist. I tell Jo and Yasunori I will give them ginseng. It is very expensive in Japan so will be a good gift. Toru says when you reach 50 years, happiness comes. He repeats that he is free of sex – free of everything. Most of us say we are not free of sex. Very drunk, we close the place and walk back to hotel in the rain. Jo, Yasunori and Sumire have missed the last train and have to take taxis. Jo lives in Kamakura. I get my massage by male masseuse. Very firm, sometimes very painful. My neck was particularly tight and I go to sleep as soon as he leaves.
May 24 – 9:10 AM
Woke up coughing at 6 AM. The phlegm in my throat is like glue. Have two coffees with my Japan Times “All the news without fear or favor” and slide it under Russell’s door. Black drummer with orange shades leads the band on kiddies TV show. He is also one of the hosts. Speaks perfect Japanese. This morning we meet with representatives of Yamaha to learn if they are interested in supporting Nexus with some of their electronics in return for our endorsement. Then we rehearse in theater – other side of Meiji Shrine for our concert tonight. This concert is not part of Music of Today, but was arranged by Toru’s manager. Music of Today starts on the 29th. At 10 AM we had a meeting with Mr. Takeguchi, manager of R&D for Yamaha. We told him what we wanted in electronic percussion instruments. We will visit Yamaha tomorrow morning to play their instruments. Very interesting discussion. He understands problems of attack – sound – duration – overtones and is trying to sell Yamaha on developing this field. He was happy to have spoken with us. We help to confirm his approach to the company.
After meeting, Russ, Dave (Campion, roadie) and I have tempera lunch at the hotel. Dave buys. Now we go rehearse – meet with Kori people and play concert. Nice hall, but strange separation of sound on stage. Each of us feels isolated, but sound quality is good. Toru programmed the concert for us: Drumming, Part 1; Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood and Marimba Phase;Takemitsu’s Rain Tree; Intermission, Cage’s Third Construction; some Rags and the silent film, Teddy at the Throttle. No translator for Teddy. Toru says most Japanese read English but do not speak. Fred Marrich and people from Kori are at concert as well as Victor Feldbrill and his wife, Louis Hamel and his wife, and local drummers. Much applause for Toru’s piece. Long applause after concert. Three bows and encore of Xylophonia.
Fred Marrich was with us all afternoon and evening. Also Toru. Asaka came to the concert and is speaking English very well. After concert, we go to a Spanish restaurant for a beautiul meal. Costa Pilavachi accompanies us.
A friend of Bob’s owns a vineyard and bottles red and white wine under his own label. He gives Bob a bottle of red and Bob leaves it at the hall and notices only when we get out of the cab at the restaurant. The owner of the restaurant asks for our autograph. Toru writes Nexus in Japanese characters and signs his name in a like manner. Then we all sign and John asks me to draw a drum. Finally, Toro writes NEXUS. The card is pretty well filled up by the time we’re finished. We’ve drunk 15 bottles of beer and Toru ordered garlic soup for Russ, Bob and me. He says it will help Shanghai flu. I was soaking wet after the Cage and wondered if I’d make it through the rest of the concert. Actually it felt good afterwards to have sweated that much. Tomorrow we play Cine Vivant, a tiny movie theater, book and art store in Roppongi district. We will play a few rags and Teddy. Just one hour. They have displays of Toru’s scores and photos of him as a child and with Cage and Ichiyanagi in the early 1960s. It should be interesting and a lot of fun.