I have been a BAD BLOGGER for the past handful of weeks, sorry! November saw me quite happy as AJ visited and we truly "Did Fukuoka" in the ten days he was here - we hit a couple of nightspots that were very fun (one a country bar that had hundreds of beers and more American country music and beer paraphenalia than I've ever even seen in the states, and played only old-style - i.e. REAL - country music on the jukebox) and one a cool little traditional Japanese restaurant/bar where we had our own secret hut to hide inside as we drank. We saw many temples and shrines, walked all over the city, went to visit the beautiful beach, Yahoo Dome and Fukuoka Tower, the Fukuoka Castle ruins, and much more. I had saved all my sightseeing for his visit, and am pleased to say we hit up everything I wanted to see, except the brewery. :)
In terms of my performances, I'm down to 20 remaining, in a total of 89 I will have done in my time here. Things are getting busier and busier as the hotel gears up for Christmas and New Year's Eve, and there are decorations decorating, dressed-up dancers dancing, fake snow a-blowing, and recorded carols a-caroling, all over Canal City. I may be spending Christmas alone over here, but it is hard not to feel the 'spirit' when around here everyone else definitely celebrates the season.
I have been asked to do two sets of piano/vocal and one set of guitar/vocal on New Year's Eve, so I'm preparing for that, and excited to mix it up. The crowd will be full of people coming from Tokyo to visit family for the first part of the year, I'm told, lots of young couples ready to party.
To sum up my performance experiences here in Japan, I have a couple of anecdotes. A couple of weeks ago, a couple came and sat right in the front of the audience. They were obviously really engaged, and right before the last song of my second set, the gentleman approached the stage. As the staff does not allow anyone onstage, someone came to escort him off and tell him 'no requests.' He had started to tell me how much he loved my voice and music, and to ask me to play a song, but didn't get to finish his thought before the staff started to pull him offstage, so he held out his hand to shake mine, I thought, and there was a piece of paper in it. I thought maybe he had written a request on it, but instead he had given me the yen equivalent of $125. I had to speak to him and see if I could do anything to fulfil his request, especially since he had given me the tip even without being able to ask for what he wanted. On my break I went to his table, thanked him profusely and asked him what song he had wanted. He actually hadn't been asking even for a specific song, just one song dedicated to his lovely wife on her birthday. (He was wanting to surprise her, and was asking me this while she was in the restroom). He wanted me to pick any song and just mention her birthday. It was so touching. When I got back for my next set, I wished his wife happy birthday and dedicated 'The Way You Look Tonight' to her. They were so thrilled. I approached them afterward to thank them again and wish her another Happy Birthday, and expected to either shake hands or just bow in recognition, but the wife grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. I was absolutely astounded and touched by this rare display of warmth. It has never happened to me here, before, or since. And it let me know just how important what I had done was, for them. It was a reminder of the power of music, and its ability to cross any boundary. Then, a far shorter and simpler example of what has made this job so enjoyable for me: last night a table of three, as I was leaving the stage for the night, stopped me and said: "your voice makes us so happy." These things happen frequently, and give me back the energy I put out, ten fold. I love playing music for a living!
Looking forward, I depart in late January for France and Italy - several shows in France and recording the album with Euro Ferrari in Italy. Then it's back to the U.S. for full-speed-ahead wedding planning! I also will be performing with The New County Line during that time, and hopefully reuniting with the Hilary Scott Band for shows as well. And I will do my best to keep up with all of you through this blog. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your patience!