5am, 8 degrees. I write down my dream before heading to the bay where I’m greeted by a vivid amber glow peeking through the silhouette of the trees. Past the trees I see a perfect colour wheel, spinning through yellow into white before meeting the navy sky.
Around 6, I check my phone and sunrise is predicted for 6:32. With the sun worshippers nowhere to be seen, I figure this means I have time to wander and head over bridge and imagine the sun starts to speak to me from her position in the wings. She whispers: “Today has arrived. Are you ready?” “Of course not” I protest, “I’ve hardly slept, I have so much to practice, I’m not ready.” “Yes you are. You have time. You have this time I am gifting you.”
And I think of my Aunty in hospital. I think of the children suffering in the wars going on right now.
I feel so lucky to be upright, walking, thinking, talking, We all share this sun, it’s all we have.
Before I know it, I hear the murmur of their voices across the bay, they’ve started! I missed it. Damn. I can’t really run but do my best gallup towards the singers, joining in time for the repeat of the Insen scale as the she steps out from behind the curtain and rises up, taking her spot on centre stage. The elderly gentleman next to me stumbles through the scale, wobbling on the notes with a tender fragility. His conviction is unwavering, determined, and he claims this day as one of his own.
Once complete, our leader packs away his battery powered synth and out comes the transistor radio from the satchel. It’s 6:30 and Radio Taiso is broadcasting live on NHK across the nation. I realise now why they are always so timely – they have to get the singing wrapped up in time for the exercise routine broadcast – as they follow this live. Many more people join at this point, emerging from the shadows of the trees here in Rinko Park – and 30+ people stretch, swing limbs, bend knees and hop in unison to the piano accompaniment of Radio Taiso – this traditional daily exercise routine that has been practised for 100 years in Japan.
After the exercise I turn to leave, but my sun worshipping bandmate Tanogestures me over towards a group of his mates, keen to introduce me to more members of the female part of the group. “This is Dan-san, he’s from England.” “How tall are you?” is the first question from one lady and when I reply “6 ft” the group is left baffled. My iPhone helps us reach the “182 cm” satisfactory response, I go on to use the phone to show them pictures of Taiga, in an effort to explain what brings me to their shores.
Tano then leads me over to talk to the men of the group, whose first question is: “What is your business?” I explain i’m a musician, and they kindly invite me to a poetry recital of traditional Japanese poetry they are hosting. I’m honoured and excited by this, though I have no idea when or where it is taking place, hoping to discover more tomorrow…
At lunchtime in the cafe, there’s a group of 3 young men (late teens/early 20s) dressed in street wear (beanie hats/ headphones, NFL shirts) snapping selfies with their frappée’s for insta. I’m waiting for my order and I smile at one, but he’s doing that looking mean/macho shield thing that some men feel is necessary. Never mind! I’ll just keep my head down and give these glasses a really good clean, and whistle whilst accepting I won’t be adding to my friends list any further this lunchtime 🙂
Then, in a single swipe, he puts his phone away and stands up, and the other two swiftly follow suit. But as the trio turn to leave, one hangs back, wipes their table, and softly pushes each chair back in place. I can’t quite believe my eyes. There they were, giving it the big one, bossing the cafe with swash-buckling swagger, yet no one here is is too cool for a bit of cafe etiquette. Love it. Good lads.
Seemingly on cue, the girl next to me stands up and stretches. And I don’t mean a single stretch – this is the kind of body bending I’ve only ever seen on yoga videos or in the gym. And why not! Such a healthy thing to do. Is it linked to the work culture? I mean you can’t do such punishingly long shifts and not stretch I guess. Or is it Japan’s history/culture of martial arts?
I have mentioned before that I love listening to Taiga sing? He sings when he’s happy and it’s the most glorious sound on this earth. I have been known to make audio recordings through the glass door when he’s in the shower, as this is when he really goes for it. The unadulterated joy he’s expressing feels tangible in these moments. He is most frequently free styling melody and words at random but lately has taken to a rendition of the football anthem “Ole Ole” rounding it off with “Nippon! Nippon!” which has a glorious frivolity and joy to it
There’s a young woman wearing the fleece lining of a Barbour jacket, inside out, and over the top of her denim shirt. It’s a strong look and works surprisingly well. Fair play to her.
Taiga sustained an injury to his pinky toe at training last night, and he’s walking with a limp. I’ll pick him up today to help carry his school bag randoseru (?????). Which reminds, this is another little thing I’ve been meaning to talk to you about: all school children use one of these heavy backpacks – made from a firm leather (or leather-like synthetic material). They are expected to carry all of their books and stationery to and from school each day themselves. I’ve witnessed children topple over on more than one occasion whilst being a bit ambitious with how fast they can move with this thing on their back. Traditionally, a bag is given to a child upon beginning their first year of school, it has their name engraved on it on a small plaque and they’ll use the same bag until grade 6. So I’ll carry that home for him today, and I guess he’ll miss Tennis tonight, but I don’t think it’s anything serious.
There’s a loud, voice booming throughout the café, it’s the voice of a male American student in his early 20s who didn’t get the memo about the library vibe in here. I scan the room, no one else is speaking, two customers are sleeping, all others are reading books or tablets, the lady that was stretching now has two screens on the go – it’s clearly good for productivity!