Peter Autschbach in Japan
Our first sight was the view from the 27th floor of our hotel in Shinagawa where we could see the southern part of Tokyo behind the huge Shinagawa station. You lose one day when traveling eastward, the first concert was scheduled on the second day after arrival, this was hard because it needs a few days in terms of jet lag until the body is adjusted.
On the first evening we had the first typical Japanese food: raw fish in all variations, which tasted sometimes good, sometimes surprising, but we felt so sorry about the poor lobster, which appeared on the table still being sort of alive – my girlfriend Selina did not want to eat from it. But half a piece was tried, hmmm, oishii, they say here (delicious), but Selina found it to be just "interesting". The drinks menu can only be read by a few gifted Europeans and an English translation does not exist. Luckily, our hosts Tadayuki and Kiyomi Fujii are very helpful in the selection, there is white wine for the lady and Japanese beer for me, which tastes good.
A young man is tasked with creating photo and video material, he accompanies us throughout the journey and he makes a lot of photos and records all concerts on video.
Sato’s main job is creating wrestling videos, so he is very familiar with video work. Sato is also the one who stows away the lobster (and much more) almost alone, the next day he is about to sleep very long with his full belly. Our host Fujii and his wife Kiyomi are very nice (she and Selina appeared to be one heart and one soul from the first moment) and we have lots of fun together. The Shibuya trip, recommended by them for the next day must wait because of our jetlag. I’s better to rest for a while and then concentrate on the first concert. There is still plenty of time.
On the flight we were allowed to take the guitars in the cabin, which was great, praise to Lufthansa. But my effects unit (Fractal Audio Axe-Fx) had suffered during transport in the ice-cold luggage boot, the control knobs didn’t work anymore. The problem, however, solved itself after two days, that was probably condensation on the boards.
Off to the "Minotaure 2" on Friday afternoon, it's the first venue. You can feel the Japanese punctuality everywhere. Even the Swiss could learn something here. At exactly 4 p.m. the doors open as agreed and we can bring in our instruments for sound check. Fujii wants to use his Yairi guitar for the preliminary program but it has no pickup installed. He then decides to try my Striebel PA 12fret, but the neck is slightly wider than Fujii's guitar, which is unusual for him. The sound engineer speaks little English and she misunderstands my wishes. Instead less reverb she gives me more, rather than less bass she turns it up. But Fujii translates and soon it sounds very nice and the concert can start.
People do not only bow, they give me a hand and so do all who welcome us this evening. Another Japan-myth less. With people who are close to their hearts Japanese don’t shy away from a hug, that's good, everything is so much more relaxed this way.
Fujii starts the program after the audience has taken seats. About 10 people in the audience are wearing T-shirts with "Autschbach-Summer-Breeze" print. I did not expect this, it makes me happy and proud, what a nice gesture! And I understand from the gestures, not the Japanese talking of our host, that he probably just tells the audience how he became aware of me on the YouTube platform. Then he plays "Walkin '", he grabs a few notes in the wrong fret at times, because it is not the guitar he practised on. The next two concerts he will play his Yairi, he’s so used to its neck shape and with that he feels much more safe. The audience, however, is just as excited by his great playing as I am and he is rewarded with a lot of applause, which he deserves!
I noted on a set-list what I would like to play, I also wrote down a few Japanese phrases there. "Konbanwa" I say, and people also wish me a good evening. "Watashi wa Peter Autschbach des, Tanoshinde kudasai" (I’m Peter Autschbach and I wish you a lot of fun at the concert). My pronounciation seems to be correct, because they understand me and they smile back. I start with "Your Eyes", because I can improvise very quiet tones before the actual song starts. This helps me conquer stage fright, from which I only suffer in the first few seconds of concerts. Once everything works, it dissapears quickly and the music begins to take over.
I had previously wondered whether I should sing at all, because with me singing is not always easy. I do not have certain typical characteristics of a sonorous voice. So - being a singer - I can only convince people with parameters that have nothing to do with my voice. The "Suitcase Blues" from the new CD, "You And Me", however, attracts the audience a lot, and I'm happy that I did the piece this evening. I don’t play "Walkin '" because this was already – and nicely – done by Fujii. But I play some new songs, for example the "Dragon Flight" from the new Autschbach-Illenberger-CD. And "You And Me" for Selina.
During the concert the audience stays absolutely silent, they appear to be equally interested and concentrated, wow, it is so nice to play for these people. In the break many (!) pictures are taken, even after the concert there’s a lot of posing. Mr. Inaba has shot hundreds of beautiful pictures which he handed to me later, burned to CD, being a beautiful reminder of the concert. Sato has recorded everything on video, his work will soon be in my mailbox.
The typhoon Phanfone is about to hit Japan. Our flight to Sapporo might be cancelled. Luckily we have a buffer day before the next concert. The flight is planned for Tuesday, Monday it begins to storm. In the picture you can see some wind blowing but also the typical outfit of young Japanese women: blouse, boots and hot pants. The transparent umbrella belongs to Tokyo, as well as the mouth guard, especially worn by young people (mainly for fashion reasons). We can see Thousands of them on Monday, because the trip to Shibuya takes us into the heart of the metropolis, where mostly young people go, who will determine the future of Japan. It is surprising: Despite of so many people in the street no one bumps into each other. All keep some respectful distance, so that even with the crossing being completely crowded you don’t feel much tightness. It feels safe, like in Singapore, when I played there in 2011 there also was this feel of security. But no wonder, crime was exterminated there with draconian penalties. In Japan kindness feels much more true.
Fact: Our flight is canceled, however rescheduled on the same day in the evening. The Japan Airlines are also very relaxed with the guitars, thanks.
In Sapporo we went for a very funny lamb-grilling, after this the Olympic ski jump was on the program. From there we have an incredible view over the huge city where it is much cooler than in the warm summer-like Tokyo.
There is plenty of fresh air in Sapporo, but not directly at the fish market, which is quite impressive. You can buy fresh sea spider, oysters, squid mouths and other more or less appetizing delicacies. Sato showed us how to eat oysters, which we will probably never imitate. We have tried a tiny piece but, well, it’s not quite so "oishii", you have to really get used to it, which we probably never will.
The sea spider comes in all variations, they are so huge in size, some were still alive in aquariums, others were made palatable and draped for sale.
When it comes to food, there is everything in Japan, and most of it tastes very good. You can have dishes of all nationalities in Tokyo, the exchange rate Euro / Yen is currently quite cheap, so eating in Japan has become affordable.
Once we risked it and went in a Japanese restaurant ordering random from the menu. What they brought us was very good, but the best was a Thai in Shibuya, which was visited two times in a row by Selina and me.
A lot of restaurants show their food outside in plastinated form, this looks almost real. And everything is very clean, even the toilets, even at major stations. In Japan, the hi-tech toilet obviously has taken over, with shower and blow-dryer. For people who like it ...
In the evening there is the concert in Sapporo, in a small cafe (Café Kian). Many people show up, and Fujii knows a lot of them, because he was born and raised here.
Again, the concert is a success, people listen enthusiastically and very concentrated and we make many new friends. Shimode once was a guitarist and he has played with Fujii together in their first band. Fujii plays on his guitar and he plays beautiful, effortless versions of "Walkin'" and "Take Your Time".
After the concert everybody is very tired, because it was an extremely long day and we all fall into bed.
The next day, flight back to Haneda, Tokyo. We go back to the same hotel in Shinagawa, this time it's the 30th floor and one sunny morning you can even see the Fujiyama from there.
Speaking of sight: That we had from the Tokyo Skytree, being the second-highest building in the world. The first platform was enough for me, because I suffer from latent fear of heights. 350 meters were already enough to produce a very queasy feeling in the groin area. But the view from Tokyo Skytree is really stunning, it's worth it and you should not miss this when staying there. Normally you wait several hours to go up, we were lucky and were able to go to the lift immediately.
The most important Buddhist temples in Tokyo are attended quickly, they allow free admission. The Meiji Shrine is surrounded by a vast forest, which is a green oasis in the concrete jungle. Here you can hear birds, they know where to stay.
The third and last concert is then in Nakano in Do-Nichi-café. It starts in the afternoon, so we have to set up early. The improvised stage made from empty beer cases is masked by a chic rice mat and the P.A. system sounds excellent. Sato is also responsible for the sound gear and its operation, plus video recording and photographing. The man works like a horse, I’m very grateful.
With Selina I have practiced a Duo-piece ("Shinagawa Station") in the hotel room in Shinagawa. We perform this at the beginning of the concert in the Do-Nichi-café, it was her first performance in front of an audience. Sure, first time and then in Japan ... The piece was very well received, despite a small wrong note.
It is a small café, every square meter is planned with military precision, and it is incredible how many guests can be seated in the small room. In fact the Do-Nichi-Café is Kiyomi's café, she runs it during the weekend. The rest of the time the room is Fujii's architect office, it takes about an hour to make the office a café and two hours to change back from café to office. It feels really comfortable there, Kiyomi is a master cook, she has a lot of faithful customers who stay in her café whenever they can. We talked to a lady who admitted that she uses to stay at Do-Nichi almost the whole days during weekend. Kiyomi runs her café with passion, people realize this. The way she gives Selina a hug tells a lot about her.
The Do-Nichi is indeed a very nice place, an island in the middle of the roaring ocean. A quiet place for talk and good music. In the last weeks Fujii mostly played Autschbach-CDs, he's got them all and it takes a while until his player starts repeating, because there are more than 200 songs of me on his harddisk. No less than ten posters with my photo are hanging on the walls, you can tell who's doing a concert there for sure. From the beginning of the concert I have the feeling that everything will work, no matter what I try to play. Now it is not always true that the concert in which one feels best is really the best from the audience view, so I'm once again looking forward to see Sato's video recordings.
After Fujii and me are done with playing (including a little duo improvisation which came out nicely) everybody was completely satisfied and happy because the music has brought people together here!
Fujii is planning to participate in one of my workshops in Tuscany next year. That would be nice, I maybe could also show him Germany (once he’s in Europe), he would be here for the first time. For everyone involved the whole trip was a pleasure. Japan is worth seeing and we want to come back.
We have met many nice and interesting people, had a lot of very interesting conversations and we are so happy for all the valuable impressions.
I am very grateful. Nice to see people come together through the Internet, which otherwise would probably never meet.
Bye for now, Fujii and Kee and until next time :-)