It's getting pretty cold here finally. I'm starting to wear sweaters around the house, and for more than a week now, I've been wearing a coat when I go outdoors. The leaves, however, are only just starting to turn colors. If I recall, the peak season for fall color in this area of Japan is closer to the beginning of November. I would imagine that in Michigan, and the mid-west (where many of my readers probably are) it is about the peak season for fall colors. Actually, if you compare latitude, I believe Michigan is around the same spot as Hokkaido, so it makes sense that the colors would turn a little later down here in Kanazawa, which is probably more like Kentucky, as far as latitude is concerned. (And I hope I have not mixed up latitude with longitude, if I have, what I am refering to are the lines circling the globe from East to West)

Before this turns into a weather blog, I suppose I'll get back to the topic of taiko. Things are moving right along, as far as our training goes. We are practicing with different groups/classes about three times a week, and our daughter is attending twice a week. She is 4 years old, and we are wondering if twice a week isn't too much for her, or if she should maybe be a bit older. She is very reluctant to join in the practice for the first half. After a great deal of arguing and so on, she finally joins in, and although before the practice she is insisting that she does not like playing taiko, after the practice, she says how much fun she had playing. Anyhow, when this class finishes (in March) we are thinking about giving her a break, or finding a group where the parents and children practice together. She seems to do better in that type of setting. Furthermore, she is not the only child reluctant to join in at the start of practice. There are a few other classmates (close to her age) that also make a fuss about practicing, which is what makes me wonder if she would do better in a year or so. The other option I just mentioned is a parent-child group so that we could practice with her. This seems to be the way that the Kojira group, taught by Jige san of Hono Taiko, which I mentioned in the last post, is set up.

Over the past two weeks, my wife and I recieved several very encouraging comments from some of our instructors/mentors. In the Kaga taiko class this week we were each asked to improvise a solo. We each had two chances to play. In the end, we learned that the instructor was trying to gauge each of our ability in order to decide what each of us would be expected to do at the recital coming up on December 9. So it was sort of like a test. Most of the class, actually, has been practicing about a year longer than we have, so they did quite well. I think there were only three of us who just began learning in August. Since we started, we have learned probably about 20 different rhythms for this style of drumming. The improvisation, of course, is simply stringing these rhythms together in different combinations. Actually, I shouldn't say simply, because there is some style and guidelines about how they should be connected, so it is not necessarily simple. Anyhow, when it was my turn (both times) all I could remember was about 3 rhythms, so my improvisation was very short and very repetitive. Needless to say, I didn't feel all that great about my "performance". My wife, however, was by far the best of the beginners. Of course, I may be a bit biased, but the instructor validated my feeling by his statement after she finished her turn. He looked ever so slightly impressed and said, "Well, you've certainly been studying (practicing) haven't you." Of course, she played down the comments, when I mentioned it to her, but in my opinion, he wouldn't say something like that unless she had exceeded his expectations.

Although I didn't perform so well this week, I did receive a compliment from the same instructor last week. We were practicing a set phrase of about 8 measures or so over and over. The instructor was moving around the class, giving advice to each individual about areas to improve and so on. When he came to me, he stood and watched for minute, kind of smiled, and sincerely said, "you're doing really well!" Not to say that I'm suddenly an expert Kaga taiko player, (as was shown at this weeks practice), but I guess, last week, I was just "feeling the spirit".

The other compliment came after our hozonkai practice on Tuesday. I mentioned in the last post about the group named Yume Mitai, which advertised that they were looking for new members, and that we are interested in joining. Three of the members of the Hozonkai are also members of Yume Mitai, so I mentioned my interest to them after our Tuesday practice. One of them said, "Actually, Kinoshita san suggested to us that you could join Yume Mitai". Just to remind you, Kinoshita san is one of the members of Hono Taiko. Needless to say, I was filled with pride to hear that she had actually suggested that I join the group, without any suggestion from anyone else. Again, I don't take this to mean that I am suddenly a virtuousic taiko performer, but the fact that in professonal, internationally known taiko player saw enough potential in my playing (after only seeing me play twice) that she would suggest that was a great encouragement to me. After all, if I wasn't any good, she wouldn't have said it, and I probably wouldn't have been able to play with the Hozonkai in the first place.

Just in case we are getting too much encouragement, we are attempting to arrange a visit to some other well-established professional taiko friends in Nara next week. These friends will almost certainly give us a healthy dose of reality. Which is always good to balance things out, and keep focus and perspective.

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