January 31, 2009

It would be an exaggeration to say that today was an altogether normal day in Sasayama, but not much of one. Just about everyone I've met has an interesting hobby-- say, cushion-making, pottery, bread-oven building, or weaving. But this one takes the cake.

I decided to go into Sasayama town to get some new yarn (I'm making slippers) and check out the Peruvian cafe in hopes of finding some Spanish speakers to chat with. Over black-bean tea (a Sasayama tradition) and delicious coffee, I spoke with the Peruvian owner (she married a Japanese man) and her daughter for a half hour or so until an older Japanese man came in telling, in broken Spanish, of his trips to Latin America. He mentioned the famous song about that condor (Simon and Garfunkel did it on one of their albums, it's the song with the ocarinas) and I hum it back to him. He asks me if I like South American music, then leaves and returns with what looks like a big basket of garbage. But it's not garbage. They're just musical instruments made out of garbage.  He pulls out a paint can shamisen, an ocarina made out of a salvaged wooden foot, panpipes made out fuses, shakuhachis made from bamboo and plastic piping, and a ukelele made out of an inflatable pool toy. And he made beautiful music! Amazing! He even gave me his paint-can shamisen (he said it only took 2 hours to make, and that he has other ones).

With the coffee shop owners translating my Spanish into Japanese, I set up a lesson with him on how to make/play these instruments for tomorrow... I'll let you know how it goes.