Stumbled upon this nice troupe on a warm day in Yoyogi park yesterday afternoon. Like a magnet, I was drawn to music, and watched from a distance until a member of the party invited me to come closer. It turned out it was a party-reunion for friends, half of whom had gone to school together in Okinawa and moved to Tokyo as adults.
There were a few nice people whom also spoke English well enough that I was able to talk with about a variety of things with them, while listening to traditional Okinawan songs. The Sanshin is such an instrument, and closely related to the Chinese San xian, both being 3-stringed instruments with a snake-skin stretched over a resonator without a sound hole. Not too surprising considering that Okinawa was historically closer to China than mainland Japan. I also drank some aowamari, which is, again, strongly reminiscent of Chinese baijiu, both strong drinks.
A guy there had a crappy half size guitar I played for a bit, for which I was complimented on. Sadly, I think that outside Spain and possibly South America, it is still not the norm to own a good guitar, if you own one, or actually know now to play it well. The guy who owned it said he played mainly punk music, which apparently means, “this instrument has been kept badly out of tune and the strings desperately need to be changed.”
Outside the Latin-sphere, guitar is not taken seriously the way “proper” orchestral instruments are in America and Europe, or say, Guzheng or Koto is in China or Japan.
I wish I could have talked to this woman playing the sanshin and singing, about music, but she didn’t speak a word of English, which is normal here. Nonetheless, there was communication through music. I will never be a real linguaphile, but I think I can say that bring able to practice the musical and martial arts has opened up a lot of doors for me all over the world, even when there was no common spoken language between me and the other people. Science/math are also universal languages in a way, although among native English speakers, it might as well be Chinese, for most people.
So far I’ve been here for 2.5 days and eaten sushi almost every meal. I’ll get tired of it eventually, but it’s pretty awesome that you can eat a pretty filling lunch of fish that’s fresher than what you can get in many US restaurants for <$10 if you buy it from a supermarket. Japan isn't necessarily expensive, but service here is expensive, because of the extensive nature of it. Which a kind of comfort. And comfort, like power, is all corrupting. So for now, I take note of the (fake) smiles, bows, and superlative thank yous, and walk with my take-out, trying to find music and conversation where I can.