Yoshi and Kato are discussing which route to take to Yamagata. There’s the direct route through mountains but there’s also the scenic route, also through mountains but the views are prettier. They decide upon the scenic route for our benefit. It’s rainy today and even though it’s gray and a bit dark outside, the views are nice and I decide to put down the book I brought along to read, cuz’ I’m not doing the driving here, and I crack the tinted window on my side of the van and stare out, part ruminating, part sightseeing. The effort was made to give us these views and I wasn’t going to be an ungrateful or insouciant guest. We stop at this small place that sells local produce and toys and they also have a restaurant inside and its lunch time. This place is also situated above a small waterfall on a stream that is fed from the mountains.
While I sit and eat, I only have to turn my head to the left and I can watch the water rush over the rocks and flow. I get Tonkatsu, breaded pork cutlets, one of my favorites, and we mirthfully eat our meals. That being done it’s just a short drive into Yamagata. The drive today wasn’t long to begin with, about 60-70 miles so it was an easy travel day for us.
Arriving at the club I was intrigued by the venues name when I saw it appear on the itinerary; Frank Lloyd Wright. Really, named after a famous architect? The must be some kind of structural design to either the exterior or the interior or to the tables and chairs or how it’s set up inside? Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t just do buildings you know. When we pulled up there was nothing I could see to even grasp a remote reference to FLW, so when the owner came I queried as to the namesake; turns out his little brother really liked this Paul Simon song called – ‘So long to Frank Lloyd Wright?’, I didn’t know it but the reason was of sentimental origins.
After sound check we ready ourselves with a little bit of time back at the hotel and I turn on the TV so I can watch Sumo Wrestling. The Nov. Tournament is almost over here so the big match-ups are gaining more popularity and with increasing magnitude as to the outcome towards the winner. Sometimes it’s a runaway affair and the winner is pretty much revealed by the halfway mark, determined by one wrestler, usually the top-dog, Yokozuna, will retain a perfect winning record and the others will start to lose too many matches that the numerical odds become an inevitable forgone conclusion. Not this time, there’s one with a perfect record, and the next has only one loss and they’re fighting today. I start to change my strings and I wait in anticipation for said match to come. Sumo is not just two fat guys smacking bellies together and pushing. It’s a very nuanced competition and there’s a psychological element to it as well. During the pre-fight ritual when the wrestlers ascend the circle where they’ll grapple, they go through the ceremonial moves and squats but all the while they’re staring down each other while there and these stares intensify when the assume the starting posture; bending over and placing their balled up knuckles on these lines that determine where thrust out towards each other. This ritual is done 2 times with the third time being the start. Both wrestlers jump off the lines when both the wrestlers have touched the ground on the lines. Sometimes one wrestler will already have his hand on the ground waiting for the other wrestler to do the same, and the other will wait and squat there and stare before snapping down their hands just barely brushing to ground then jumping off the line as if to gain the element of surprise. I’ve seen matches last anywhere from one second to several minutes. It’s always thrilling to watch and I don’t have the time to type out all the observations and technique involved in this very old sport. It’s no wonder that it’s survived this long due to its complexity and traditions. In the big match today, the Yokozuna with the perfect record lost to the Yokozuna with one loss. That sets up and epic battle for the final day. What’d I tell ya?…this stuff is great.
Back to the club and we listen to the opening band. Local guys but they’re playing interesting songs. The open up with a Steely Dan song and do like a rocking boogie-woogie blues and play some other progressive songs. They were a lot of fun to listen to.
We set our stage back up and I change my clothes and head to the stage. It’s a lot of fun tonight and I feel that I’m moving better on the guitar but the sound quality in the room is absorbing too much of the high end and I’m having trouble hearing my guitar. Even after I request for more of my guitar in my monitor, the absence of high frequencies still make it a bit of a chore to hear and play with ease but I man up and soldier through it. Still had fun but I had to wonder what could’ve been if we had a stage we could hear well on. Oh, that’s the way it goes on the road and you just adapt the best you can and play with heart. Always play with heart. The crowd thought wasn’t disappointed at all and they call us back for an encore. A great time and beginning for Yamagata and I hope I get to return here and play.
Next stop – Fukushima.