I am writing in Yokohama on Monday night June 25th.Laura and Chad have gone off to Shinjuku tonight to visit jazz bars with Maya Amagishi. She is Laura's former classmate, now known as jazz singer, Grace Mahya. We heard her last week in the Starboard Lounge at the Yokohama Grand International Hotel, in the Minato Mirai section of Yokohama. All her classical piano training was still there in her fingers, but she was using it to accompany herself while singing jazz standards with a string bass player, a saxophone player, and a percussionist. She added riffs from Bach, Bizet, and Mozart between verses of her songs. Her band smiled at her when she did so.
Maya's mother and sister, plus assorted friends, other alumni of St. Maur International School, and some hard-eyed businessmen were there too, in that elegant place. Maya seemed completely at home, a master of the room and of her repertoire, looking much the same as she did as a little girl, except sexier, in a strapless black dress.
I well remember Laura and Maya singing "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to" in a little bar (!) in Chuuka-gai Chinatown in 1990 ( Maya with a big bandage on her head from slipping on the pavement) while Mrs. Amagishi and I looked on. Mana, Maya's sister, reminded us that 11-year-old Laura and Maya used to get dressed up and do shows, dancing on the beds in their apartment in Honmoku.
Today I faced down Mitsubishi Bank again, the Yokohama branch this time, and was able to withdraw from my account. I was not so successful last week when we went to Asakusa. The branch there told me that, as a non-resident, I couldn't have a bank account here! Therefore I certainly couldn't withdraw any cash. "Even though it's my own money?" I opined in Japanese. "Yes, that is so, isn't it," replied a young woman bureaucrat with silky pseudo-politeness. Years ago I learned that showing anger in these situations in Japan doesn't help at all; so I went away, fuming.
Last night, Sunday night, Chad, Laura, and I had dinner at Mrs. Honda's. When we saw her on Wednesday, we also attended a performance at Miyoshi Engeijo theater, we ate at a soba restaurant. "I don't cook much recently,"she said. Most of the meal was takeout. However, Yokohama-bashi Shoutengai shopping street take-out is delicious; so it was delicious. She also put tiny little Asahi Dry beer cans on the table.
After dinner she showed us a DVD of a documentary about the theater broadcast recently. "The cameramen were with us for a year," she said, "and we forgot they were there and Hiroshi [her son] and I argued in front of them. And the documentary is all about our quarrels!" Mrs. Honda has retired now from day-to-day management of the theater, leaving her to son to take over. He used to work for C. Itoh, the big trading company; so his style is quite different from hers.
The film makers had made the documentary into a contrast of old and new methods, interspersed with dramatic clips of kimono-costumed actors on the stage actively confronting each other, as warring ya-san no bouryoku-dan gangs of the past often did. On the stage, the combatants had swords; but from our point of view, the "quarrels" between Mrs. Honda and Hiroshi seemed mild and polite, especially when compared with many American family fights that I've witnessed. In addition, all parties were represented as sympathetic and attractive. I think it's actually a great advertisement for the theater (the architecture is strikingly beautiful and functional), the management, and the traveling geki-dan acting companies that play there. It also fit into one of the three categories of taishu engeki popular drama plays.It's an oya-ko shibai, the parent- and-child genre.
Sunday morning had been more sacred, in contrast to our secular experiences. We attended Yokohama Union Church, where dear friend and Australian attorney Leah Billiam used to be a member. We saw the brand new building for the first time. Mrs. Okuhara, Laura's piano teacher, is music director there now. I remember all the work Leah did to clarify the title for that property. Despite the fact that it's a congregation made up largely of people stationed temporariy in Japan, some folks there still remember what she did.