Today, in a 3+ hour Marathon, I had my last lesson with Mr. Takahashi. We were observed by two students (violinist and pianist - the pianist is also the beginning flute student whose lesson I watched yesterday) which I have to admit made me a little nervous. Afterall, I came all the way from the U.S. just to take lessons from him; I didn't want to suck-it-up, so to speak. Plus, he started with Suzuki Book 1 instead of the Hüe (which I thought would be first) and spent over an hour on the middle eight pieces of the book (Twinkle through Moon). The exasperating thing is that I had no idea what he wanted from each piece before I played it. If I played it more musically, then he said that he included the piece just to get attacks and not worry about music, if I played rhythmically, then I was missing the point musically. Sigh.
It can be very discouraging when you're playing and the teacher is shaking their head and you have no idea why. (I'll have to remember that for the future! Sorry to anyone I've done this to)
The good news is that I was able to do what he asked at least somewhat satisfactorily, and afterwards he admitted that the way I was playing them is the way you would teach beginners. The bad news is that all of you who think you never have to review Book 1 songs, think again! I've spent well over two hours on the book with Mr. T (without finishing...) and I have two degrees! Ha!
The Hüe was great and totally worth working on with him. (although it was also a workout and I was literally panting when Mrs. Kawakami interrupted to give me my bill - eep!)
You know those people who use praise very sparingly and then all at once they say something and it means the world to you? Mr. T told me that he would miss me starting tomorrow and that he appreciated the way I was able to change whatever he asked right away. (He tempered this with some cautions about my embouchure, but I'll take what I can get.)
He drove me back to Ishii-san's for the last time in his Nissan-Skyline (for those of you interested, here's the article on the car from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Skyline his is the 2000-GT sedan that's silver in the article, but his is white - very cool). And we were half-way there when he asked what I had for lunch.
I told him that "I enjoyed hunger" (to quote him!) and he asked if I wanted a sandwich. I sensed him stalling a bit, so I agreed to tea and cookies since it was close to dinner. We went to his brother's coffee shop in the park that I took all those pictures of and had a really lovely chat. His brother had wanted to be a professional classical guitarist, and after bemoaning Mr. T's lack of interest or knowledge in anything that could even be remotely considered "pop music" (as in Norah Jones) he pulled out his guitar and played two songs for us. I couldn't think of a better way to end my stay in Matsumoto.
On one of my first walks around the school the first week I was here I found myself in one of the "alley streets" that would describe most of the travelways around here. At one point I reached out and touched the wall of the building I was walking next to, first to feel the plaster and then to feel the wood, just to try to convince myself that I am here in person. Sometimes life can feel like you're inside a big television screen and it can be hard to convince yourself otherwise, particularly when you find yourself in a surreal situation.
And now I'm leaving.
Well, sort of... Going on to Kyoto where I'll meet up with Sebastian (brother) and enjoy the first full-on English conversation I've had in three weeks! I leave tomorrow morning and will take a train to Nagoya and from Nagoya take a bullet train (eep!) to Kyoto. Should be there between 1 and 2 pm.
(Let that also serve as a word of warning to all of you who have come to depend on my paltry scribblings as part of your morning coffee routine - I cannot guarantee that I will have internet access consistently or at all. I will try to write (and more importantly, post pictures) when I can, but I will plan to catch up on some entries for those who are interested when I get back to the States on the 8th for sure.)
Hooray for my poor mangled hands! They made it!