We’ve got the day off but we have a bit of promotion to do today. We’re driving from Yokohama, basically a city in the greater Tokyo Metropolitan area, an area with over 38 million people, up into another suburb of Tokyo Sangenjaya. At least that’s where our hotel is but first to the offices of Digimart. An on-line magazine that we’re to do a live performance video shoot and I’m also to do an interview for a Japan Vintage Guitar Magazine. When we get there we find out another shoot is going on and we have to find a way to spend a couple of hours before they’re ready for us. We set out to go find a little bit of food.
We stop into this Soba place but they’ve got other types of noodles too and the best thing about it is the price is right. Tokyo isn’t one of the most expensive cities for nothing. Your money can quickly ebb away when it’s just your daily intake of food that you buy. This place is for the office workers in the area, you enter and go to this vending machine looking thing that has the food choices on it. After you make your choice and you feed money into the machine, a ticket is dispensed and you then give it to a person at the counter. Much like the truck stops here. Lots of people are just standing and eating and they eat so fast, hand in their dirty dishes on the tray and quickly exit to return back to their office. As I sat at a table, I eat slowly, 4 to 5 people sat at our table with us and they finished and were out the door before I was done. Commerce stops for nothing.
We then notice that the controversial war hero’s shrine, Yasukuni Jin Ja, was right there in front of us. So happens that this very day there was an explosion or a terrorist attack on the shrine, somebody blew up a bathroom there, yeah that might not seem like a lot but that’s big here. Police presence was out but the shrine was open and we stepped in the area. It’s a nice looking shrine and there seemed like the normal amount of traffic was going in there; westerners and locals intermingling and reading the signs. I’m sure most people know what shrine this is, the westerners that is, I’m just there to satisfy a curiosity. It was close too. Normally I’d ascend the stairs and pray and call the ‘Kami’ but not this one. I’m reverent of the families and loved ones that died in their armed conflicts, but I don’t want to give a blanket tacit approval to some of the people revered there who gave orders for their subordinates to carry out those horrible atrocities. I’m against the same thing in my own country. But I’m not here to create controversy or demonstrate, this is their country and I just have to let them deal with it. So we leave there and head back to the building where the video is going to be done.
We enter the room and it’s a real small room, why am I not surprised? It’s Tokyo and not only is space at a premium but they’ve learned how to be very efficient in operating within limited areas. For the vintage Japan Guitar magazine the owner has brought down two guitars from the 80’s; a Tokai and a Greco. Both are Stratocaster models. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Tokai. Back in the 80’s in Austin, a lot of players I knew were buying them because the price of Fenders were going up and a Tokai was regarded as just as good as a regular Strat. Some even liked them better. The Greco I don’t see too much at all, only when I come over here in Japan. The Greco is a 1984 guitar and it’s in immaculate condition. It just had one ding on it on the lower horn of the body, but absolutely no scratches on it. I was amazed with that, and it played well. Greco’s were not made to be for the high caliber professional but they’re not bad. I could see some of the tell-tale signs of its mid-level status; the finish, 3-color sunburst, didn’t have the right symmetry or aesthetics to it but that was about it. Had strong colors, the black on the outside, then the red paralleling the black and finally the yellow surrounding the pickguard. But someone had over sprayed the red so that there was no yellow showing on the top of the pickguard. That matters to some. Plus the slab wasn’t a consistent thickness down the length of the neck. That was about it though. The Tokai was a Clapton ‘Blackie’ looking copy. Maple neck and good tone. I was asked about them and asked to play and give my opinion on them. In the end I liked em’ both but I chose the Greco cuz’ it had a rosewood neck and that’s what I prefer to play on. The sounds were real close. I also had to demonstrate with some different distortion pedals to compare the sounds. I’m never good doing these kinds of demonstrations in a solo type setting. I work better when I’m playing off interaction so my solo chops are just not happening. I hope they edit out the mistakes.
Then came the video shoot and the crew prepared the area for our scaled-down performance. No drums for John but they did manage to get a Cajon and Yoshi was playing through this laughably small bass amp but just fine for our purposes. I had the nice late 70’s Deluxe Reverb, with a light blue jewel for the power light I might add…nice touch. The staff has requested two songs off the Lucky 13 album and for one to be instrumental, so we gave them ‘Jump The Trane’ and ‘Angry Man’. Trane was cool and I tried my best to keep it harmonically interesting but that’s not always the case with me. Angry Man was fun because when it came time for the vocal harmonies on the bridge, we were all it a tight circle so we all kind of leaned in with our heads like a bluegrass band huddles up around a lone microphone. Plus for playing early in the afternoon I was surprised at how good our pitch was. After the song was done we looked at each other with the same unspoken expression – ‘did that really happen and wasn’t that Awesome?’ Maybe not awesome but it sure felt fun. The staff was impressed though. One guy couldn’t believe I didn’t use my pedals once for solos and I stayed with the clean tone the entire time. Done this a bunch and it always sounds better when you just go straight up when in a low volume scaled down situation. We pack up and say our good-byes and we dive into Tokyo rush hour but to me it’s only a little bit busier than normal work hours. I also started to wonder how many people were moving beneath us in the subway system since a majority of the populace does not have a car. I sit in the back of the van and I once again start practicing my reading and try to decipher the billboards and shop marquees before they’ve passed us. Like learning new things in music, it’s a never ending endeavor for me.