Japan

2018 Tour Stop #8 (part 2): Tokyo and Choshi, Japan

The Perfect Storm  GIF by Ethan Craigo #237

The Perfect Storm

GIF by Ethan Craigo #237

I was miserable, and I was laughing. We were suddenly sprinting through warm soupy air, struggling to support umbrellas against the heavy howling wind, failing to avoid puddles rippling beneath the falling torrents. We were surprisingly spry given the weight of our nearly distended stomachs, having just consumed a $7 feast of local Okinawan ramen and fried chicken—approximately $1 per pound of food, it seemed. After our mad dash delivered us to our hotel and heavy tropical winds delivered our umbrellas to the junk heap, our feet squished softly in to the beige hotel lobby as we sat down in a soaked stupor to catch our breath. The typhoon had arrived.  

It was the end of break, the night Andrew, Ethan, and I were supposed to fly from Okinawa to Osaka—but instead we found ourselves air-drying in the Beachfront Hotel (actually separated from the water by a highway), near the temporarily paused Naha airport. This night served as quite representative of my entire tour experience; it was a strange coordination of leisurely exploration, momentary discomfort and physical adversity, surrounded by good friends and fueled by pounds of delicious local cuisine—in which I have found myself having some of the most fun of my life. 

A beautiful Buddhist Temple in Choshi, near a school where we performed.  Photo by Eli Troen #250

A beautiful Buddhist Temple in Choshi, near a school where we performed.

Photo by Eli Troen #250

Two days and one typhoon later, Ethan, Andrew, and I finally made it to Osaka on separate flights (I was required to travel solo to Seoul for a night before flying back eastward to Osaka). I got to spend a day in Osaka, joining the Dins for the rest of Japan, with two days in Tokyo and three days in Choshi. 

Japan was particularly fun for me. All school year I had been eager to return to Japan because I had spent four weeks the previous summer in Japan teaching English. And getting back, I practiced Japanese with taxi drivers and at our performance in Hyogo, in Osaka, I saw two of my host families, and at our performance in Saitama, Tokyo, I saw my other two host families. It was so special to share the Dins, an essential part of the last two years, with them. 

Conveyor Belt Sushi is a modern miracle  GIF by Brian Rolincik #240

Conveyor Belt Sushi is a modern miracle

GIF by Brian Rolincik #240

One of my favorite nights of tour was in Tokyo when Lee took us to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, a place where food is delivered exclusively by conveyor belts; the huge belt slithers out from a back preparation-kitchen on one side, snakes between the tables, and recedes into its culinary cavern on the other side. The rules were simple; either grab a plate as it plods by the table on the belt or use the virtual tablet-menu to have plates whiz by and stop obediently next to your table. Once you finish, slide the empty plate into a slot beside the table. At 100 Yen per plate, approximately $1, returning empty plates soon became a game of one-sided air hockey, and the “returned plate” count on the tablet-menu skyrocketed into the 40’s as if the defense had quit. After this highly automated feeding frenzy, we managed to convey ourselves to a nearby Onsen (Japanese bath house), and enjoyed a relaxing evening of steamy baths, nude camaraderie, and mild dehydration. It was truly a memorable evening.

Choshi was a particularly wonderful part of tour, as well, as our hosts and the town went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, with phenomenal food, we visited one of the oldest lighthouses in Japan, and we even got to spend another evening at an Onsen (yes, that nude camaraderie is something special). The Dins have been going to Choshi for a while, and the response that we got after performing there was so gratifying and so wonderful. It was a great way to cap off our experience in Japan.

With Japan as no exception, tour has been beautiful and uncomfortable, like a sunny day that brings oppressive heat and humidity. With enough good food, friends, family and meaningful engagement with art, even a thunderously stressful or uncomfortable experience can precipitate memories of lasting joy and personal significance. Though I might have missed out on a few experiences, I know that the weather is never going to be perfect, so I’ve just got to let storm keeping rolling by…sort of like a plate of sushi ;)

Brian Rolincik #240

All of the Dins together with our amazing friends and hosts after our final performance in Japan.

All of the Dins together with our amazing friends and hosts after our final performance in Japan.

2018 Tour Stop #8 (part 1): Osaka and Nara, Japan

After an amazing break in Florence, I arrived at the Osaka airport with Kevin and Michael to be greeted at the airport by Lee Selligman, Din #203. Lee is one of our most dedicated alums, and was so generous in showing us around Japan, translating for us, and hosting Dins in his home.

A smiley and freshly shaven Sam #245!  Photo by Eli Troen #250

A smiley and freshly shaven Sam #245!

Photo by Eli Troen #250

I arrived in Osaka a day early, and had my first authentic Japanese meal: a bowl of hand-made udon with raw egg and tempura. I was so beyond excited to try traditional Japanese cuisine, and the noodles were phenomenal. Michael, Kevin, Syd, and I decided to visit the Osaka castle. Outside of the castle, we met a man who made origami, and he made some for us. If you fold the origami a certain way, it looks like a fish, and if you fold the paper differently, it takes the shape of a traditional Japanese hat. I think it'll be one of my favorite souvenirs from tour!

The next morning, we performed on Japanese national radio at the ABC Radio station in Osaka. In addition to singing two songs from our repertoire, we improvised a jingle for the radio station in Japanese, using part of our arrangement for September by Earth, Wind, and Fire. Later that day, we visited Kyoto, the so-called ‘cultural capital’ of Japan, and went to the Kennin-ji Buddhist temple. Having seen many spectacular cathedrals in Europe, it was a really nice change of pace to view my first Buddhist temple in Asia. In Kyoto, I tried authentic mochi (it’s not ice cream!) and had a fantastic Japanese curry, which is cooked with boiled onions to give it a certain sweetness, in addition to the spicy notes of flavor. I am amazed it hasn’t made its way to the US yet!

Dinny Dins led by fearless leader Lee Seligman #203 through a peaceful Japanese garden in Nara.

Dinny Dins led by fearless leader Lee Seligman #203 through a peaceful Japanese garden in Nara.

Since Brian, Ethan, and Andrew were stuck in Okinawa due to the horrible storm, we had to give several performances with only 9 members: one at the Keihanna Plaza in Kyoto and another at the Osaka International University. We were able to perform pretty well considering our obstacles, even though I had to sing very loudly as the only T1 present. We learned two new songs in Japan: ‘Hana wasaku’ (an anthem about rebuilding after the Osaka earthquake) and an arrangement of ‘Let it Be’ by the Beatles. It was relieving once the three others arrived before our performance at the Hyogo Performing Arts Center. This was one of my favorite performances of tour, as the hall had very live acoustics and the audience was very receptive to our music and humor. Most notably, we were surprised by the Kwansei Glee Club who performed a set of songs in our honor. The Kwansei Glee Club is known to be the best glee club in Japan, and a group that the Dins performed with on their 2016 World Tour. It was a riveting moment!

Kevin #244 and his new and dear deer Friend.  Photo by Eli Troen #250

Kevin #244 and his new and dear deer Friend.

Photo by Eli Troen #250

After departing Osaka, Lee took us to Nara, the original capital of Japan. Deer walk everywhere in Nara and are not afraid of people; in fact, some deer will even bow to you as you walk. In Nara, we visited the Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple, the largest free-standing wooden structure in the world, and went to Isuien Garden. I was amazed by the intricacy of the garden, and how the layout of the trees, stones, and buildings highlighted the mountains in the background. There, we also recreated a Japanese tea ceremony, although it was quite abridged (ours took about twenty minutes instead of the traditional four hours). Following our time in Nara, we made our way to Tokyo for our second stop in Japan.

In Dindom,

Sam Rosner #245