Tuesday, February 20, 2007


it's strange to leave japan at 11am monday and get to chicago at 730am monday. i tried to stay up and force myself into the new time zone but alas here i am at 3am writing my blog, drinking coffee, getting ready for a humble yoga practice and power cleaning my house. i have 2 white cats who have had the run of the house for a month with friends just stopping in to feed them, so you can imagine the hair and dirt buildup. the luggage arrived safely without even a chopstick broken. it's good to be home, but it's so dirty here compared to tokyo. we had a lot of snow and it has been melting into the dirty sludge, creating a mess everywhere you go. something to get used to. many people don't care about garbage here either. often they throw garbage on the ground, the alleys full of flying trash and rats, and many people are too busy to pick up their dog's poo, which is really disgusting. one hand for the leash, one for the starbucks and cellphone.

my final day went by fast. i taught my last led class, which was expectedly small, it was a moon day, but many of my favorite students came to support me. in the evening, over 25 students led by katsu threw me a big sayonara party, which was very sweet. everyone was very kind to say goodbye and express their thanks, and present me with really nice gifts. gifts are so fun and a huge part of the culture. the gratitude in japan is top notch, it humbled me completely, and i felt especially shy because i do not feel comfortable being the guest of honor. we started at a western style restaurant katsu, jeff and i used to frequent, then half the party went home and the rest of us continued eating at a traditional japanese restaurant where we had many parties before. jeff got to eat the natto bowl with raw eggs one last time. it was a very classy send off. i am grateful for all that attended.

on the plane we were trying to make a top 5 list of things in tokyo. mine looked like this:
1-yasuko-emi's mom, my second host. she cooked for me every day for 6 weeks, often lunch as well. it was a true japanese culinary experience that i will never forget, and she was a spectacular and fun human being.
2-asakusa-old tokyo. the temple is the most beautiful, the town is so different from the rest of tokyo. great people watching, great vibe, great area. kappabashi, too.
3-the parties-thrown for me, jeff's birthday and kuma's birthday. katsu is one of the greatest organizers and human beings i have ever known.
4-mori museum of art-this museum blew my mind, and i enjoyed all of the art that i experienced in japan. tokyo city view is great, too as i went day and night.
5-harajuku-a really fun area just to walk around, shop, eat, whatever. i always felt comfortable there.

so thank you, tokyo-yoga, thank you, mindy, for hooking me up with this gig. thank you chama, for having me, yuka, emi & miyuki for hosting me, katsu, jane, zen and many others for befriending me and taking me around the city. special kisses to miho, eriko and kuma and a big arigato to all the students that worked so hard and made my job very fulfilling.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

a whale of a time

we started in kappabashi today. this area is known as the restaurant business center. we intended to search for the plastic food company which was supposedly located in the niimi building, known for a 39 foot chef head atop the building. but on the way we saw more. much more. many buildings had giant strange sculptures on top. from weird birds and foxes to little girls and giant cockroaches. there was definitely a trend in large animals and food related building top sculptures. but the best one of all was a building where all 5 floor's porches were giant coffee cups in different colors. this area is where restaurant owners shop for goods for their businesses, everything from pots big enough to cook people in, to antique signs, and of course, the plastic food, which, by the way, we never located. even though we did find the 39 foot chef head. so we went across the river and saw the magnificent golden flame building, or better known by locals as the turd building. it's a strangely shaped building topped with a huge golden flame that is supposed to be the head on top of a freshly poured beer, but does actually look kind of like a gold turd. giant robotic crabs on buildings as well. then wandering into asakusa, my second time here, and glad to have more time to spend walking through the time warped streets of old edo. we found the comedy area with the vintage movie theatre showing japanese movies from the early 60s through the 70s. jeff was almost crying. and the horse betting areas and gamblers, the old winos, stuck in time, drinking outside falling down drunk, girlie movies with naked posters prominently displayed next to the old movie posters of japanese lesbians in action, old men just dazed at this. jeff laughing. me a bit creeped out by now. and we found a very original store, one i have never seen before in my life, a whale store combo restaurant. they had cans of different grades of whale and pull top sardine cans as well as fresh meat packaged beautifully, dried whale, whale blubber, oil, etc. interesting. of course jeff got a high grade can for home and a pull tab square can for now, which i will photograph as soon as he opens it, as i have never seen whale meat before.

i also found the hot tempura coated sweet beans i had been thinking about since i tried them with mindy 3 months ago, which there is only one stall in all of tokyo, selling one thing, same, for god knows how many years. so delicious. and jeff tried street food- osakan okonomiyaki, which is basically cabbage and noodles topped with fatty bacon slabs, bean sprouts, scrambled eggs, several types of dried fish, smothered in a sweet brown gravy topped with tons of mayonnaise. i just had to watch him eat, as i was stuffed from the bun and the purple sweet potato stuffed with cream cheese i had eaten earlier. and then we had some grilled mochi balls, which i thought were hazelnuts, but alas more dough.

these areas of tokyo are a treasure. you feel like you have stopped time, the buildings are all old and washed out looking, there is a calm and seedy air to it all, the people are very anti-fashion, which is refreshing after being in shibuya so long. a good way to cap off a very interesting trip.

Friday, February 16, 2007

all about laughter

so i finally made my way into the mori art museum, and what a delight it was. we probably spent 3 hours and could have stayed longer. it explored humor in contemporary art beginning with ancient japanese art 3000 b.c. through the edo period and then into the 60s through the present time with the subject broken into 4 categories-"anti-art and avant-garde laughter," "everyday laughter," "the flip side of laughter," and "deviant laughter." there was over 200 pieces by over 50 artists from around the world, many installations and video. i can't even begin to explain the many pieces, but some that stick out in my mind were a piece that was a bunch of dirty laundry that you look into and see a video of a guy spitting out coins, washing laundry with meat, eating cat food with his cat, and using a fish in his mouth to slurp though a straw, smoke, and brush the fish mouth afterwards. the artist was kimura taiyo. another one was a whole room of 100 g.i.joes, asian, american and english businessmen crawling on their bellies all over the plastic grass into buildings and each other, capturing the way they globally transcend boundaries, bumping into each other, bunching up in one place, bumping into walls, and running out of batteries, an ironic metaphor of reality. the artist was torimitsu momoyo and the original piece from 1990 had a full sized business man crawling the streets of tokyo and new york. and my favorite was of a teacher who taught spoon bending to the young students and the video was of each of the kids performing this feat, it is such a treat to watch their faces go from surprise to pride, to laughter. the artist was yamamoto takayuki. and another fave was a fat house talking about whether he is art or architecture, or wheter architecture is art. "can i be fat and also be art?" "are there fat houses?" by erwin wurm.
this museum was one of the best places i have gone in tokyo. the exhibits change regularly, so you can visit several times a year. a real treat for sure.

tomorrow back to asakusa, for i did not have the time to peruse the streets before. instead of a temple visit, we will walk the old edo streets.

i am finished teaching mysore. my body is happy. lots of pain. i have one led class on sunday, it's new moon day and there is no mysore. and that will be it for me. i leave the students to their teacher, who will leave again in a month and another teacher will come for 3 months. i wish them well. and a party on sunday night. sayonara.

there will likely be one or two more blog entries, then i will give the link to my home blog if you want to continue with the journey as i try to run my own astanga school in chicago.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

where will i find the sweet bean buns?

what will i miss and what won't i miss when i leave here? it's hard to imagine how i am going to feel, if this experience has changed me or my perception in any way. i did notice i have been thinking about how to dress up my dog when i get home, and have gone in my first doggie boutique. i have begun to try to figure out where i will find the ingrediants for oden and onigiri, where can i get fresh fish, what kind to feed my kitties. where can i get kombu, and is it as good? where will i find the sweet bean buns?
whenever i return from a long trip in india, it takes me months to re-adjust to life and in some ways i am permanently changed. tokyo feels a bit like home, because it's somewhat "americanized" still, it's hard to know.

things i think i will miss
-definitely the food. noodle houses, sushi, the luxury of having good food at any time, anywhere. and the sweets here have totally stolen my heart. curry noodles and curry rice are things i never heard of until i came here, some of my favorites. where will i find the hot buns stuffed with sweet beans?
-the clean people, the clean streets. people bathe daily and wash the heck out of their streets in the wee hours each morning when i'm walking to the studio at 4 am.
-the way everyone and everything is organized. they wait in lines to get on trains, line up the left sides of escalators and always leave the right side for folks who want to climb up. there are lines for everything, and no one ever seems to get mad about anything
-the yoga students. as i have said many times, they are the hardest working, the kindest, and by far, the most respectful i have ever met. it makes my job a breeze and a joy.
-some of the music. although i don't like all of it, i do enjoy the rock and the jpop stuff.
-the shopping. you can get the most original things to wear, or for your house, or whatever. they have the best selection of shoes by far i have ever seen, the coolest clothes (as well as some of the worst) and anything goes as far as fashion is concerned. people know how to dress. and they have amazing hair, too.
-the weather. it's been very mild. just frequent rain, i can't really complain.
-the lack of crime. i can walk anywhere alone at 4am and not worry. no one seems to steal here, either.
-the clean-ass bathrooms, hot toilet seats, deep bath tubs

things i think i won't miss
-crowds. way too many people. the trains are a drag to ride between 5pm and 1am. and 7am to 10am. the streets are so full of people it's very hard to walk at a decent pace. especially when it rains and the umbrellas come out.
-the restaurant hours. you have to eat lunch between noon and 3, dinner after 6. and bars don't open until 730 pm.
-organizing garbage all the time. it's great that they recycle like mad, but hard for foreigners to throw out trash properly. there are barely any garbage cans anywhere, so sometimes you can be stuck carrying a cup for miles.
-hot cones, hot trains, hot busses, hot hot stores, hot restaurants.
-the coffee. pretty weak everywhere except for starbucks, which i hate having to support just because the coffee is strong and they have real cream.

those lists are kind of superficial, but that's how i feel right now. will i ever come back? in a new york minute if i get invited to teach again. to just vacation, it's not possible because it's far too expensive to stay here. it would be nice to see the rest of the country, but i wouldn't dream of returning unless i get the language down. it's not a very english friendly country, unfortunately. something to keep in mind if anyone out there plans on coming here. not like india, where english is one of the main languages.

but japan is cool, and i highly reccomend it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

i will miss them

i knew something was up yesterday in mysore class, because the normal early people were coming late and the latecomers were early and the room was packed so much we could not fit any more students, which is unusual. and the "clubbing" people were up through 7am, also unusual for a monday. i asked some people if it was holiday today, and i was right. founders day.

after class, we went to dhaba india again (really the best indian food outside of india, and even gives india a challenge) and walked around ginza. we went to the imperial palace and park, which wasn't much to see, but it was a lovely day. might as well suck it up, cause its way cold back at home. then we couldn't decide what to eat and spotted a conveyer belt sushi joint right in the ginza train terminal. you can get 2 large pieces of sushi for under a US buck. and talk about fresh. the fish market is just up the road from there. so you can stuff yourself silly for under 10 bucks. the waiter gave us an english menu and helped us out, which is always a welcome gesture, especially at the conveyer belts. it's difficult sometimes. most places have green powder you put in a glass and fill with hot water to make tea, squeeze wasabi on your plate if you like, a box of fresh un-colored ginger, and the choices of fish,veggies and soy are endless. i am very conservative, so i stick to the tuna, salmon,eel and tofu. but jeff likes anything slimy or different. and along came his dream sushi-a combo of natto (his very favorite) and okra. he always has dessert of ikura (fish eggs), but after, along came monk fish liver. he was a happy man indeed.

sunday we went to a popular restaurant called fujimamas. and i felt like i was no longer in japan. expensive, asian inspired western food with gratuity tacked on the tab. one coke costs almost 6 bucks. had to charge it. but it was worth it. delicious.

and yesterday was firestarter with jackie and the cedrics and little elvis at lush, the same club we went to before for supersnazz and fifi's birthday. i decided to stay in, but jeff had a great time. members of jackie and the cedrics befriended him and told him "we must keep in touch." they will be coming to the states in may.

i slept in today, but the 2 hours i stole were wasted in dreams of being late for teaching. nothing but stress. oh well.

today's class was pretty big. i am going to miss the students. they are very hard working and kind. i will miss the "arrigato gozai mas" when they enter and exit the room. i will miss the lack of questions and no arguments. i will miss the discipline, the oh-so-very clean feet from bathing daily. i will miss them. very much.

and masami gifted me for the 5th time with chocolate cake and cash to go out to a fancy japanese restaurant. she leaves for china tomorrow and i won't get to see her before i leave. very generous, very kind.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


i know i've been here too long because i saw a dog today and it was naked. which means he did not have clothes on. this is not a normal observation where i come from. something has happened to me.

recently we tried a recommended cheap thai restaurant. we were seated directly next to a hot cone. and jeff, who is into the weird and unknown, ordered the sunagimo ash plate. it looked nice, rich dark purple pieces amongst onions and spices. the texture was firm, and i was sure it was some sort of japanese root vegetable, maybe a lotus root cousin. jeff thought it was some sort of octopus or squid. i bit down on piece after piece trying to figure it out. and the next day we did a google search.


i ate gizzards. and they weren't bad,

but had i known...

like the time the mexican cooks at a restaurant i was working at many years ago begged me to eat one of their "special" tacos. they refused to tell me what it was.

tongue. and it was good,

but had i known....

friday we had the entire day planned around going to the shinjuku loft to see the amazing 10 piece james brown inspired funk band, "osaka monaurail." we walked a half an hour deep into the darkest areas of shinjuku-the escort services, naked bars with young yakuza wearing "goodfellas" inspired hip and cool black outfits with perfect hair hanging out in front of the hundreds of sex shops. we searched for "the loft". we had a good map, we were in the right area. and 30 more minutes go by. we are still searching, alley after alley, street after street, porn after porn. 30 more minutes. searching. no loft. we look in our book. loft is in 2B, which is a basement. now, if it's called "the loft" why is it in the basement? but then i remember reading that all the live clubs are underground because of strict noise laws. it begins to drizzle and gradually turns into a gentle pour. we pass one of the many "kleenex" passers-the dudes who give out tissue with advertisements on the streets everywhere here. he looks at jeff. he quietly says,



we get half a block away and realize he is commenting on jeff and his long grey beard, and there is a KFC right around the corner, i look at the colonel and see the resemblance. jeff looks. all he can say is "when i get home, i gotta dye the beard."

another 30 minutes pass. still no loft. it's pouring rain now, we have no umbrellas. there are thousands of people out. nothing but sex bars and neon and rain and people and jeff asks an usher where this place is. he does not know. we go to the main map next to the police box. they direct us, but still no luck. we go into a puppy store. not knowing why. they don't know either. we go to the club's sister club, a spoken word club called "loft plus one." they just point and we obey, but nothing. we go into a liquor store. and get pointed right to the club, which is not marked with any sign, not even in kanji. no address. we walked past it several times but there was no way we could have known it was there. and no one else seemed to know anything about it. we go into the club, present our i.d.s, get ready to shell out our 8000 yen (64 bucks) jeff asks "when is osaka monarail playing?" because we have to be up by 7 tomorrow. the girl looks at a piece of paper and says,


secret. ok. like, how late?


like after midnight late or what?

"yes, late"

so we go to the other box and ask the same question.


ok, we are from chicago and know about this gig and it's supposed to be a secret? the first 5 bands begin at 9 and then "secret" band. so that takes us into the 2am zone. a zone we cannot be in. because getting home at 3 or 4 and up at 7 is a bit hardcore, and i have had enough hardcore. we go home. soaked from the rain. and not much to talk about.

and jeff never has given up before when trying to find something. he came very close this time, but alas, we found the "secret" treasure. and saved 8000 yen. and went home to watch "the party" on our laptop with peter sellers.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

coffee break

i'm taking a little break as i have not been doing very well this week. tokyo finally got to me. without going into details, what do you do when you mix 3 months of intense teaching, stress, bad eating, drinking, coffee, pranayama, massive quantities of humans, tiny spaces, language barriers, food roulette, giant televisions, christians shouting through megaphones, massive buildings with neon neon neon, ....well, i think you get the picture.

i hope to post a couple more times before leaving.
keep in touch

Monday, February 05, 2007

young masaharu

young masaharu, originally uploaded by bindifry.

is this photo just a coincidence or did tokyo-yoga copy young masaharu? do you love this? SO kawaii!

i think i'm finished feeling sad.
i hope. at least, for now.

thank you, Azusa, for the lovely sweets!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

that's life

well i am down to my final days working in the studio here in tokyo, 12 more classes in 9 days. i have mixed feelings about this. it's hard to be part of a studio yet not part of a studio. it's a temporary thing, soon i leave and i may never see any of these people again. on one hand i have felt part of the family, but also very much a stranger, an outsider, a foreigner. i can not tell who truly likes me and who does not, because the japanese people do not let you know from their face, only their vibrations, which i can't always judge since i am hyper-sensitive. i have tried to help in the only ways i know how, making suggestions, trying to teach adjustments to the teachers in the studio by holding workshops, but very few attended. sometimes helping hurts and people just want to be left alone and do things their own way.

sometimes i hate being a yoga teacher. i may have said this before, i do not like to call myself a yoga teacher, because all i do is manipulate bodies and try to get students past their fears and monkey minds. so i am more like a combination of a sports coach and a cheerleader. it's too much responsibility for me to accept being any more than that. because my life is so imperfect, i would hate for anyone to follow in my footsteps other than basic asana practice, which i do know a lot about. just because it's been over 10 years, i practice 6 days a week, taught mysore style for almost 8, and have had a lot of training, mostly from 2 very good teachers, but i've checked out the spectrum of certified teachers at workshops, have been to mysore and studied a few times when they tour, so i pretty much know what i'm talking about.

but there's so much about teaching yoga that is very painful. and one big one is when a student gets hurt, one you really like a lot. and you feel responsible. did i push her too much? did i miss something? and why didn't she say anything before? or did she hurt herself? and what can i do for her now? stuff like that. everyone, yes every single person i know who practices astanga will get hurt, has gotten hurt, will always go through pain. part of the reason is the realignment of the body, part of it is practicing too hard, or not enough (if you do not have a daily practice, the risk of real injury is much higher) or simply practicing without bodily awareness or use of bandhas, which both take years to understand.

another thing that i have to constantly work on is attachment. when people disappear and i don't know why. after working hard with them over a long period of time. now i know i have to let this go or eventually it will eat me alive completely. it's just kind of hurtful. and you find out later they've gone to study elsewhere, which is fine. but you never know why they left. they never tell you so you can be sure not to make the "mistake" again. but i keep having to tell myself, "sometimes it's not you. sometimes it's them."

the photo is the new schedule for february for tokyo-yoga studio. i love it. i think it's wonderful. however, there are several super important faces missing from it. which saddens me. at any rate, it's been a very interesting experience teaching here. i have learned many things about myself, about japanese people, students, about life. and once again, i am grateful, but i am sad. but hey, that's life, right?

Friday, February 02, 2007

killing yourself to live

we couldn't decide where to spend the day on thursday because there is so much to do it is paralyzing. so i wrote 7 places on pieces of paper, folded them up and chose, the one that won was sushi conveyer belt in an area i am totally unfamiliar with. we found it easily even though we had to transfer trains, but decided to walk home, which was pretty funny because it took 2 1/2 hours without stopping. the upside to that was we got to see these legendary cemataries i've been hearing so much about. wow! they are so beautiful here, with lovely japanese trees and bonsai. the downside was that my legs and feet were screaming at me by the time i got home, and we had to go out to a show 2 hours after that, so what's the solution? super hot bath with lush bath bomb! did the trick and i was a new woman.

we're also trying to find out where the superbowl is showing at 8 in the morning monday. since the chicago bears are in it, it's kind of a huge deal for us, even though i loathe football. i'm kind of one of those bandwagon sports fans, when the cubs(baseball) were doing great a few years back i watched all the games and i of course watched 10 years of bulls basketball games during the reign of michael jordan. i think that is my favorite sport, cause it's easy to understand, fast paced, and the games are short. like hockey. but cricket....whoa. very difficult to understand and the games last from morning to night. but to the english, aussies and the indians, it's god.

last night i had a very intense dream about Amma , the hugging saint from kerala. and i believe it means something, because i have not talked about her to anyone in a long time, nor thought of her, seen a picture of her, since being in kerala last january. i think i need to find her. because the dream was hardcore profound. so i went to her site and the first line of the latest news was amma tour in japan. in may. but still, kind of weird. if you do not know about her, you should go to the link. she has done a lot of great things and is worth knowing about.

and i have discovered a totally delightful author who has written for spin, esquire and the new york times, and has 4 books out, each one i want to read, Chuck Klosterman . i am starting with "killing yourself to live", a road trip book about death and rock stars that is about chuck (think lester bangs) drives across america searching for answers and stories about rock stars and death. he first visits the chelsea hotel and tries to stay in room 100 like a billion other people, but the room had been turned into an apartment and he was quietly asked to please leave and not to write about it, because the chelsea hotel is more than famous for that night that nancy spungen was supposedly murdered by sid vicious. they spent a lot of time doing heroin in that room. then to the dakota, where john lennon was shot, mark chapman with 14 john cassettes in pocket, believing he himself was lennon, and than onto rhode island, a small city i can't remember the name, where 100 Great White rock fans burned to death. i'm only a few chapters into the book, but i am sure i will read all of his books, maybe even before i leave japan. his writing style is unpretentious and interesting, the kind of writer i aspire to be like. and i can totally relate to everything he talks about, although there often are obscure references that go a bit over my head, but hey, i don't know everything about music. anyhow, if your into this type of subject, check him out. he is known mostly for his book, "sex, drugs and cocoa puffs" but has written a couple others, "fargo-rock city", and "a decade of curious people and dangerous ideas."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

fifi's birthday party

another extraordinary night of rock and roll. this time it was fifi's birthday party, he is a very famous guitar player from the band "firestarter", "teengenerate". he was spinning disco for the first couple hours with old american bandstand on the big screen. we met 4 very sweet young japanese fans who had to drive almost 2 hours to get there. one said he wished to be fifi's wife and gifted him with an abba single and and an abba knockoff group. another was a huge jonny thunders fan, so jeff went home and got him my new york doll dvd and the new dolls bootleg cd so he could copy them. we will get them back at the big "firestarter" show feb. 12th. when we got in the club, fifi was getting makeup applied by his artist. enoky, from "jackie and the cedrics", an extraordiary guitarist/one man band played, he was astounding. then some other dudes played, and then fifi played. he even asked jeff to play with them, but he did not! i can't believe he turned down such a chance of a lifetime. shochu! a little too much, or he would have been all over it. i wish he did, though. all in all, a really fun time, we were asked to sit with the boys from out of town and they served home made oden in the bar to everyone. jeff's first time. so happy, so fun, so lucky!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

reality is never what it seems to be

it's always interesting to me to see that things are never what they seem at first glance. it's easy to perceive moments a certain way and later find out the reality is nothing close to the perception. and as many times this happens to me, it continues to surprise me, throw me off. whether it's getting to know people, or trying to understand a culture quite foreign to your own, or expectations of situations. i know this all sounds a bit vague, but i would rather not reveal the details of these situations publicly. one thing for sure, people are rarely what you think they are. i think most of us hide behind a persona. and the ones who do not really affect you quite deeply, almost in a spiritual way, because it's so hard to find. i often feel like people are only pretending to like me. and it would be much easier if they were a bit more confrontational, as much as that can hurt, at least you know where you stand, and it's easier that way. i like people who say how they feel, what they really think. not pretend to be a certain way only to say quite differently behind your back, only to find these truths out later from someone else, yet the person does not have the guts to say it to your face. most of us are guilty of this. but the ones who really impress me and ultimately become my role models are my friends or "friends",or acquaintances, who put it right out there in black and white without hesitation. my main yoga teachers have done as this as well as a few strangers and friends and even though it stings, it has made me a better person, a changed person, and way more respectful of them. and i really appreciate it, criticism is a very good thing, as long as it is constructive and not done to intentionally harm, although you sure do take your chances when you speak your mind, good or bad. we all have opinions and if open minded, there should not be any hard feelings. how i wish the world were like this. everything would be so much easier. because i feel that there is far too much drama that is created, it is completely unnecessary and a waste of energy.
i apologize if i lost many of you with my philosophy. it's just how i'm feeling at the moment.

are hair extentions the answer?

another day of takoyaki, our favorite osakan street food. found a stall down a small alley near harajuku with 8 types of sauces, we got the one topped with ikura (fish eggs). this is a soft battered octopus fried briefly like little pillows of love, delicately topped with white and brown sauces you pop in your mouth and they are more than delicious. and i'm sure there is no way we can get them in chicago. god i will miss those. osakan food is a bit different from the tokyo food. and it is damn good.

i also am completely bored with my hair and want hair extensions in various colors, but also need some color on my own and a trim. the final price would cost me about 250,000 yen, a whopping US$2125.00, which lasts about 2 months. um, can you say "i'm not paris hilton?" suck. cause my hair is not growing fast enough and by the time it gets to the length i want it, i will be 65 years old looking like one of those hippie ladies hanging out in mysore doing astanga. some things in life we can not have, i guess. i also thought of shaving it bald and getting my head tattooed. something completely different. japan kind of does that to you. what can i say. maybe i can have a benefit for lisa's hair extensions, with yoga performances, local bands, and break dancing.

yoga was lovely, i am back to my full practice and am delighted to be able to start at 4:30am, enough time for my pranayama and full slow practice with a little meditation. it felt hard, i feel like a lead balloon, but still lovely. i know i need to go on a serious fast, but it will have to wait until i leave japan. the food is just way too good, and i introduced jeff to the crepe today, so...

i noticed while practicing that i was thinking about how everyone works so hard when they practice, no matter their levels, and it made me work harder. thank you, tokyo-yoga. you are inspiring me not only as a teacher, but as a practitioner.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

the ultimate adult playground

saturday we spent 12 hours walking around most of tokyo. after daikanyama, after the diner (E24U) we went to "OUTLET" the weird place where you can buy all kinds of cheap strange things. i invested in really neat chopsticks with little froggies and piggies on them, shoelaces with posh kitties, stickers, a voice changing microphone that makes you sound like baby, robot, old man and boy, a monkey lighter that lights out of his head when you drop his arm down, an eyeball popping ashtray, frog and pig trays, a pig yoga towel, a bamboo money tray for the studio similar to the ones you put your money on when paying for items here in japan, some iron on kitty patches for my yogi toes rugs, and some other fun items, but, unfortunately because of space, we passed on the electric crawling hand, lava lamps, mushroom stools, whale mouth kitty houses, and the "choke a chicken" that "bawks and squaks" when you squeeze it's neck. off to ebisu, where jeff found a dried fish snack joint where they gave us natto tea, which was pretty good, considering i do not really like natto, and thinking we were going the right way, ended up almost in roppongi, and then ayoyama, omote sando, harajuku, shibuya, etc. walking off the food we ate throughout the day, including one of those noodle shops that you have to buy a ticket out of a vending machine (this is pictured above) turning it in, and getting your ultra cheap noodles-420 yen, around 3 bucks. something else i've been too intimidated to do until now. we ended up at taco derio of all places, i've been wanting to try japanese mexican food for some time. and it was good, not authentic, but good anyhow. i had a quesidilla and jeff had a meat taco, but there was no explanation as to what "meat" it was.

sunday we met katzu at the local czechoslovakian diner that serves eastern european beers with wedges of brie cheese, and he took us to shinjuku so jeff could spend a couple hours in airs, a 5 floor bootleg store visited by famous rock stars from around the world, their autographs sporting the walls throughout. first floor was basic rock cds, then rock dvds, then heavy metal and hardcore on floor 3, movie/dvds on the next floor, and 5th floor full of kiddie porn and piss and fetish vids. then off to takashamaya, the massive food court below shinjuku rail station. and back to respekt, the local hang out where we will have our sayonara party in a couple weeks when i leave this place.
we got some good bootleg 60s vids that included the monks and some other old german punk bands,old stones, the seeds, question mark and the mysterians, arthur brown, among others, as well as some rare cds-new york dolls live in new york from 1973 and a great stooges bootleg from the recent reunion tour. the packaging being the real three stooges. tokyo is the ultimate adult playground.

my mysore classes are doing very well. i've been adjusting between 20 and 30 people in 3 hours every day, and what this is doing is making me a much better, stronger, more accurate teacher. i can't believe how fast i can put students into supta kurmasana and pasasana now. and i can drop back anybody, any size, any shape, any stiffness. i used to marvel at senior teachers like lino who could do that so quick and with such precision. now i know what it takes. doing it over and over and over and over again. this is really a training ground for me, japanese yoga teaching bootcamp!
today when i was teaching, i was feeling very grateful for this experience, because it is truly a gift from above, and me thinks i must have done something good in a previous life to deserve it, cause it sure can't be this life!
anyhow, i love japan, i love the students that come to me for help, both here and in chicago and all over the world. i am so incredibly blessed.

and on top of all of this, my teaching partner bill, who is returning from kovalam today, has picked up the absolutely perfect gift for the new yoga studio, which, coincidentally, is also in tokyo-yoga...siva in nataraj!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

spike and us

spike and us, originally uploaded by bindifry.

here is spike from supersnazz. she remembered us from a couple years ago when we shared a taxi in goa. she was shocked we knew about her group in the US. they are awesome!

Friday, January 26, 2007

rock and roll night

just a quickie post because i don't have my computer on me. last night was tremendous, and my first live music experience in tokyo. the club was in a deep small dark basement. 5 bands played in 2 hours, which is normal because the djs come after, lucky for me because shows start around 6 or 7, very sensible for me. the first band was the romaines, an amazing 3 girl band doing ramones covers, with black leather jackets, and the perfect joey ramone stance. i loved them so much, but i love the ramones, one of my favorite bands of all time. the second band was the nou, all boy band, one of the best bands of the night, locally very popular. the third was scum city, not my favorite, tended to have their shirts too unbuttoned and eventually completely off. a little on the emo side, which is not my thing. the 4th was the mas melo, a 2 girl guitar and drum duo which kicked ass, and then the big headline, supersnazz! i can't believe we finally have seen them, and got our pictures taken with spike and jeff gave tomoko the song that was written for her. it was so fun. and i have some very good pictures from the show because i squeezed my fat american body right to the stage where the energy is always the best, and made dancing friends with a famous dj who kept leaping on the stage all night long. katzu joined us, as well as a guy named dan who we had met a few days ago and mentioned the show, and he actually showed up. he is from LA and has moved here 3 years ago because tokyo is the best city and he loves it. all you have to do is learn the language, and your set. if you teach english here, the pay is good and there are plenty of jobs. the government pays you, so the benefits are good. it's so tempting. after the show we went to a wild conveyer belt sushi joint, and jeff ate raw horse. he will eat anything, and the world loves him because of it.

today we are in daikanyama again, but this time we have found some truly amazing things, like this 50s style bondage cafe with about 150 snoopy dolls in the window, old fashioned dart boards, a great antique pool table, a front end of an old oldsmobile hanging above the bar, lava lamps everywhere, snoopy fans on each table and all the tables decorated with old bondage and sex pictures, postcards, magazines, etc. and a las vegas book in kanji. underneath is another unbelievable store called outlet, which seems to be a continuation of the same stuff as this memorabilia cafe. we saw a totally un-pc little baby doll smoking a cigarette with a pack of "little smokes" and all kinds of games and weird plastic jungle guitars that play animal sounds, god, i can't even remember what else. i'll have to let you know after we enter the extravaganza. today we have to stay out of our place from 8am until 8pm, so i think we will probably walk to shinjuku and try to find the loft, another club that a sun ra type of band that is very popular is going to be playing at in february called osaka monaurail, a huge funkadelic band that we heard if you close your eyes, you can't tell the difference between them and james brown's band. how cool is that?

antique manekineko

a wonderful night with my favorite person in the world-katzu, and jeff, same place we really like, respekt, the internet and western inspired lounge with good music and great staff. i spent most of the evening fawning over poor katzu, embarassing him, cooing over him. it's just that i do not meet people like that very often and i can't help myself! he's amazingly generous, kind and considerate. also very fun and has one of the best personalities i've ever known. sorry, katsu, that i'm announcing my feelings publicly, but that's just the way i tend to write.

got to wake up at a luxurious noon!!! today, and off to shimokitazawa again for eats and shopping. i found an antique japanese toy shop that blew my mind totally. thousands of old japanese toys, 45 rpm records, albums, dolls, kitch, robots and amongst all of this stuff, my manekineko!!! i've been searching for the "lucky cat"-you know, the one with the raised paw that is in all japanese restaurants, but i do not like the new ones with the right paw raised. they do not have the same character as the antique ones. cheesy, not much attention to craftsmanship. the story behind that one is a long time ago, a man who had a business that was doing very poorly and could not feed himself was visited by a hungry kitten, so he fed it even though he could not feed himself. and his business began to boom. at least that's the story i have heard. so the manekineko, or the lucky cat, has become a sort of "god" here in japan. the raised paw is to lure customers into the shop. it's a tiny one, but absolutely beautiful and i am very happy to have an antique one for my yoga studio. which will be indian and japanese inspired, with the curtains in japanese printed fabrics (julie-maybe you can help me with that one?) the kitty has a history i am not aware of. perhaps it sat in a ramen shop in shinjuku in the 1950s! who knows!

and we played food roulette, which means just pointing to a line of words and wondering what food you will receive, since there were no pictures or english anywhere. i ended up getting a kick ass sandwich with cheese topped with an over easy egg! i like that game! shimokitazawa was like a dream come true for jeff, because it's filled with used record stores, punk clubs, dvds and cds, not to mention an amazing amount of hat stores, something i also am very much into. there's nothing better than a good original hat collection!

tonight we are going to "lush" a rock club 5 minutes walk from the apartment to see supersnazz and the romanes, an all girl tribute to the ramones. supersnazz is also a girl band, one of the members we had met in goa a few years ago and shared a taxi with, and the bass player, tomoko, had a song written about her by our friends the returnables (the lead singer was killed a year ago when a girl tried to commit suicide by ramming her car into his-and i used to play in a band with his wife). so jeff is making a cd of this song to present to her at the show. and only 2000 yen entrance fee, not bad, not bad at all.

we have to be out of our apartment from 8am until 4 tomorrow because it's used for another business. it's not hard to figure out what to do. ginza, akihabara, shinjuku, kichijoji, ueno...easy to waste 8 hours. i can't wait. another 3 weeks to go and i'm finally home. and finally beginning a brand new life with astangayogachicago.com!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

beard papa

another intimidating sweet stall located on one side of the shibuya station was beard papa'a sweets-since 1952. it's so silly to be intimidated by goodies like sweets, and i've been eyeing them for months. they have only a few, maybe 3 kinds to choose from. i just pointed at the gigantic poster of the flakey pastry with custard flowing out of it like a waterfall. most of the time posters such as this one are an exaggeration of the real thing. and for 102 yen, i pointed at it, and it came. i hid in a corner, unwrapped the goodie, and bit down into paradise. light custard oozing out from every direction, like shibuya crossing. and i know i must go again. and again. and again. there are no sweets like this in chicago.

we ventured into muguinbo, an amazing udon shop in the mark city building next to shibuya station. i was taken there my 3rd day in tokyo and was able to locate it and take jeff for the best udon. and off to the best and cheapest food and liquor store in a small alleyway in that same area where we tried to buy the same shochu we had the other night. it's hard to know how to choose sake and shochu because the labels are strictly in kanji. so we took a chance on relento, one that was supposedly number one. this liquor is made from either rice, potatoes or barley. it is similar to arak, a native beverage in indonesia, but way less alcoholic, which makes it a nice beverage to sip anytime without getting hammered. i only wish i could read the labels, because i like sake and shochu very much, and other options are beer, which is too cold to drink right now, and wine, which can get tedious. shochu and sake can also be extremely affordable.

now we are listening to the newest finds by jeff at some music stores, japanese soundtrack music from the 60s, the new supersnazz, fifty taiken, a band recommended by tommy ramone, a rare cornell campbell (rare reggae crooner from the 70s) and some king brothers, and funky instrumental music from the 70s of japanese girl gang movies which came with a book.

i think the next plans are to go back to the czechoslovakian wireless internet place with great food, then to aoyama to show jeff the weird shops, bars, and head shops i found on my journeys on saturday. more later!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

from rock star to rock bottom...and back

so katsu accompanied me on sunday on the trains to the narita airport that is not in tokyo, but in chiba. it takes about 2 hours by train, car, or limo bus, but the cheapest way to go, of course, is by train. and i was glad again to have katsu with me because it's very confusing when it's time to switch trains. you first have to get on the nightmare j.r. shinjuku train and than transfer to another one. however, you have to turn in your j.r. tickets and purchase one of 3 different priced tickets, a local, a limited express, or a skyline express, which costs twice as much and only saves you 15 minutes. so for 1000 yen (around 8.50 plus another 190, a buck 60) it costs ten bucks each way. a taxi would cost around $300 U.S. not a smart way to go unless you enjoy throwing money away. the other difficult part was knowing which terminal to get off the train, because the airport is so huge, there are miles between the terminals, and if you make a mistake, taxi time. taxis are very bad indeed.

lucky jeff got his first taste of shibuya crossing with heavy luggage over shoulder. "how do you know what direction to go?" because people cross in about 10 different directions and somehow it works. after settling, we set off to explore my favorite little area, harajuku. and met people from california who have lived here for 3 years teaching english. we also met fellow chicagoans in the streets, because all the buzz right now is the superbowl. the chicago bears are playing in the superbowl and this is big news indeed! if anyone out there living in tokyo reading this blog knows where we can see the game in real time, please put it on a comment in this blog or email me. i would greatly appreciate it. it will probably air around 8am on NHK monday, feb. 5th.

stupid me left my purse in harajuku and i got all the way home before discovering the mistake, which freaked me because all the money i own was in it as well as several credit cards and i.d. luckily we found it hanging on a coat rack where i left it, all money and cards in tact. another thing that is really amazing about tokyo is usually if you have lost something, people do not usually take it. even money! where i come from, that purse may have been there, but it would surely have been empty. i always notice people leaving bags, purses, wallets and walking outside for a smoke. i like that.
and for the first time in my 9 weeks here, i was a little late for class. about 20 minutes, which horrifies me because i am extremely responsible and hate being late for anything, no yoga for me, but i've actually taken a few days off and it has taken much of the horrible pain in my back and hips away. i will continue this regimen for a few more days. and when i get home, i will not go to a natropathic, massage therapist, reflexologist, acupuncturist, reike healer or a psychic. i am going to northwestern memorial hospital for an m.r.i. and get drugs and cortizone if necessary. because i simply can not take this pain any longer and i've tried everything. this hospital is one of the best in the world, and i recently have blue cross and that is what they take. i am excited about that. now don 't get me wrong, i'm not totally pro western medicine, but after almost 6 years of constant pain, it's a last resort and i refuse to live the rest of my life in pain when i teach, walk, sit and sleep.

monday was jeff's 50th birthday, so katsu and i set up a surprise party at the same place as the last one, with numerous traditional japanese food spread and a special bowl especially for jeff consisting of natto, raw quail egg, seaweed, bonito flakes, and raw salmon chunks. i'm not sure he has ever been happier. 13 people came out to support me and jeff and several even gifted him. i was very touched and i thank all of you reading this who came out to celebrate this important birthday. you all are very sweet people because it meant a real lot to me and especially to jeff, who is a japanophile (a huge fan of all that is japanese).

on monday we went to my favorite udon shop to get curry noodle, but they could not understand what i wanted, so we left and i asked katsu to write it out in kanji for me, so we will try again. instead we ended up in another traditional japanese place i've been wanting to try, and to a czechoslovakian wireless internet place. we tried a staropramen dark, which we've not had before, and was served with 2 huge chunks of brie. we did not know, but it ended up costing 1200yen a piece! yikes!

then off to our place to watch a dvd i bought, called "new york doll-the story of arthur killer kane"-"from rock star to rock bottom...and back". i don't know how many of you are new york dolls fans, but this film actually made me cry. after a few members of the band had died (3) and they only released 2 albums and never received the fame they always deserved, they all went their separate ways. arthur became a mormon and worked in a genealogy library, a job that did not pay well, but he enjoyed very much. and even discovered his long lost father's death through his work. anyhow, every single day of his life he talked about the good old days with the new york dolls, and never gave up the dream of one day reuniting with the remaining members, sylvain sylvain and david johanson. and one day he got a call from morrisy who was hosting in london at the royal festival hall. he wanted arthur to fly out and do the show with a new young drummer and guitar player (replacing johnny thunders and jerry nolan). this was a dream come true for arthur, who was working in this library with cute little old ladies who knew nothing about the new york dolls "we are lucky to be working with a famous rock star!" so the mormon church gave him the 260 bucks to get his bass out of the pawn shop and away he went to rehearse with his old band mates, and after the gig, he went home and felt sick 20 days after, went to the hospital, was diagnosed with leukemia and died 4 days later.
this movie made me very sad in some ways, but also good, because he did not have to suffer with chemotherapy he could never have afforded. and he did fulfill his greatest dream-to one day play with one of the most influential and important bands that ever existed, the new york dolls.

then off to find some food, which is so hard here in tokyo. i decided to try to find daikanyana in the dark. it took a few wrong turns, but i found it, and a line of restaurants, everything from korean, chinese, french, and italian. we opted for the italian, and the owner/waiter spoke flawless english, japanese and italian! what a treat! and ate the most expensive meal i have ever had in japan. and probably the best italian food i've eaten in my life.

that's what i love about tokyo. it never seems to matter what you do, where you go, what you eat. because it's always an adventure and it always ends up being really fun!

if you simply just want his blessing...

this is a blog i have written about a week ago and almost did not publish this, because it is a little controversial, but it is only my opinion, and please do not be offended by what i have to say. but i believe very strongly in these things.

one more month to go. i had another eel gathering for lunch yesterday, mainly to meet another western teacher who is also having a hard time making friends. 5 of us gathered on floor 9 of the tokyu dept. store for charcoal unagi lunch set. and got to know the other new teacher, a recently authorized one who said a lot of interesting things, such as how the authorization does not mean much. she said her only motivation was to simply get guruji's blessing to teach. and prefers the shala in mysore when it's only guruji. i had told her i go to kovalam every year because the yoga is good. and she stumped me by asking what" bad" yoga was. and i'm actually still thinking about that one a day later.

what is "bad" yoga? here's some of my ideas

-when it is taught by teachers who do not practice yoga regularly
-when it is taught by someone who has not practiced at least a few years
-when teachers extort money from the students they teach when they become teachers. i have never had this happen to me, but have heard about it.
-when the only motivating force to teach is money
-when the teachers spread gossip about other teachers to students
-when teachers are too busy performing to notice the students
-when teachers only adjust the bendy and the beautiful
-teachers who elevate themselves above the students
-when the teacher is no longer a student themselves

so this does not really mean "bad yoga" but really, "bad yoga teachers" which can make the yoga bad, or not! the above problems can also show students how the path is not always a positive one. not always a happy and shiny one. because, after all, teachers are human beings and make the same mistakes as everyone else.

we also talked about how much astanga is gossiped about on the internet, and in groups all over the world. how often words are put in sharath's and guruji's mouths. and how it is supposed to be 99% practice and 1% theory. and how tedious many students in mysore can be, talking about their yoga constantly when they're not practicing, talking about their diets, (that one is the worst to me. one of the most boring subjects making one very boring) and weight loss. and body vanity. don't get me wrong. not everyone is like that. but so many are. just do an internet search and read what so many people are talking about. i found a site that contains astanga blogs, i think it's called ashtangi.net and i checked out a few of the blogs. SO exhausting! one girl, who is obsessed with her backbends (so common and i don't know why!) talks only about teachers who can "get results out of my spine". she does not care who it is, and will "try" every single teacher in mysore except the guru! i mean, why go all the way to mysore and study with everyone except the guru? also very common. people don't feel they get enough from the shala, and take 2 or 3 classes from 2 or 3 different teachers daily! and you are required to sign a contract when you go to the shala stating that you will not study with another teacher while in the shala. many people sign it and secretly creep out to all the other teachers, because they get more adjustments. wouldn't it be easier if these people stayed at home and studied with their teachers there? or is it so glamorous to have "studied" in india, regardless of who it is? let me tell you, india is NOT glamorous! and i go each year to study with an italian! because i like lino and his wife tina, and maria paola and serge, and rosanna. but i do not like kovalam. it's basically a western tourist spot with nothing to do and bad shopping. yes, there is the ocean, but it's full of hawkers who will wake you up from sleeping to try to sell you something. and it is filthy.

and i am too much in love with india to stay in one spot for 4 months, i must always see something new when i go there, which is why i haven't been back to mysore. but i began to learn some things about this yoga, about myself when i spent 2 weeks with sharath in australia right before tokyo. and i am intrigued. and guruji is getting old. and soon we won't have the choice to study with guruji. and to me, there's nothing worse than going there just to get that piece of paper, because it does not make you a good teacher. just go there because you want to. and make it personal. and if you simply just want his blessing and it's coming from your heart, than that's beautiful.

Monday, January 22, 2007

what is "bad" yoga

apologies for not writing for so long. ever since i moved i have not had access to internet as easily. so it's been tough, but i will write when i can.

i had an interesting eel lunch again on friday. a new western teacher got to asking questions, i also asked. i told her that i like to go to kovalam to study with lino because it's good yoga. and she stumped me by asking, "what is bad yoga?" and i have been thinking about it ever since. i know what bad yoga teachers are. and i can make a list of the things that are "bad" but i can not make a list of "bad" yoga!

saturday i roamed tokyo alone for the last time for 8 hours. i roamed in parts of harajuku i have not seen before, running into a band that was playing air guitar style near the station, the lead singer doing karaoke to their own music. they were promoting their live shows this weekend. they were good. j-pop. the name was fuzz. i did not really care that they weren't really playing. it was charming. then i noticed large groups of people, families, going towards this huge forest. so i followed them, and in a clockwise direction. all sorts of things we passed. like dozens of kegs of old sake. and then old french wine casks. the emperor meiji had formed a relationship with the french and were gifted with french wine. almost everything is in kanji, so i don't have a clue where i am, or it's importance. so i just keep following the crowds. so many beautiful trees. many ladies decked out in kimono. passing a museum, a souvenir shop and cafe, finally i approach the massive shinto shrine. it is completely awesome, i wash my hands like everyone else, do not make a fortune, and do not throw coins into the water in front of the shrine, like in asakusa. i am blown away by this place, kimono clad ladies are singing, serious monks are hanging out. it is not my place, yet it is pretty powerful. after i leave, i take out my lonely planet tokyo book and learn that this is the meiji-jingu shrine, from 1920, tokyo's grandest shinto shrine. it was destroyed in WWII, but was rebuilt authentically in 1958. there are 100,000 trees that are said to have been donated by visitors all over japan, and the place is on 175 acres of land. it's technically in omote-sando, which butts up against harajuku.

then off to all sorts of weird tiny streets, window shopping only, and stopped for lunch at shanti, a strange curry soup place. i decided i would try to find the spiral building, a mall and gallery place that is famous for it's architecture. i had been there before, but was just following someone. i did find it, and everything that was there before was gone. they change everything constantly. but i did get another orange and clove candle that i'm completely addicted to. very expensive. and trying to find internet, cause since i've moved, i do not have it anymore. funny, tokyo has very few internet cafes, and even less wi-fi. but alas, i came upon another spiral building called the KDDI designing studio, at the top was internet. after wasting some time online, i spiraled down instead of using the elevator, and heard live reggae inspired music. on the ground floor was a band called rock-a-trench playing for television and i had a prime viewing spot. they were fun, and free. good guitar player, keyboards doubling with trombone, bass, drums and acoustic. lucky me, i thought. 2 bands in one day for free.

then off to see what aoyama has. lots of expensive shops, but interesting nevertheless. there is SO much to see in tokyo, it's absolutely mindblowing. but lonely! how funny such a crowded place can be so lonely. but jeff joins me tomorrow, so all of that will be history. unfortunately i'm jaded from being here for 2 months. hopefully he will spark some new excitement into this place. for i am weary.

Monday, January 15, 2007

girly food

i finally did it. i saw it when i first got here. i thought about it. i wondered about it. there were lines around the block for them. it intrigued and intimidated me.

japanese crepes.

i talked katsu into joining me for one today. at first he said no way, cause they are "girly". something that is interesting about japan is that food is man food or ladies food. i have been eating pocky for the last couple weeks, a popular snack food, basically a cracker stick dunked in chocolate, or strawberry, or the limited edition strawberry white chocolate mousse, OR the one i saw yesterday, MAN pocky! bittersweet. sweet sugary treats are meant for ladies. and with the pink girly wrapper on the crepe, watching katsu eat it, i finally understood. so he must eat his "girly" sweets in private. so funny to me! and any place that specializes in meat items is considered man food. and ramen, one of my most favorites, is also MAN food. we pondered marketing black crepe holders for men. hmm...

the reason i waited so long to try these is because usually the descriptions are in kanji and there are hundreds to choose from, i was embarassed. we both had the chocolate mille-feuille crepe. which was stuffed with great chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, whip cream, white chocolate, and home made pie (?). you could get bananas stuffed inside also for 50yen more. it was then i understood the crepe frenzy. so good, so different, so bold, so unique. i will never be the same. you can even purchase crepe memorabilia. i will return to purchase the socks. 5 pairs for 1000 yen. yes, 5 pairs. cause you can never have too many crepe socks.

back to yoga. teaching is going well, classes are packed. many students are making significent progress in their practices. it is inspiring to see. backbend drop back fear is melting away. twists are getting easier. pinca mayurasana is happening. breathing sounds good. and everyone seems happy. i am also happy. the second workshop was as good as the first. the numbers were the same. two more to go-one here and one in nikko. and i am moving on thursday. i am happy about that because i will be much closer to the studio and can do a full practice. but will sorely miss host mom's cooking.

my practice is a bit sad, difficult, painful. but i do what i can and always feel better. it's much easier these days silencing that little voice inside my head that tells me i'm never working hard enough. that's the trick. and you can only do this after practicing for a long time. it's such a hard thing for most people to do less. harder than doing more. much harder. society puts a lot of pressure on humans to succeed. yoga is one of the only places that we do not need this pressure. it's OK to do less! it's OK to forward bend without dropping back. and it's definitely OK to do just primary or even half primary when you have had some time off yoga. and if something is painful in a bad way, lay off! your body will thank you if you put this perspective into practice. it's ahimsa. we must always remember that it is not a good thing to cause pain and violence to our bodies.
to do this is the real success in yoga.
it's not about advancing, or perfecting. because the path is endless and there is nowhere to go anyhow.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

images of tokyo

so many things come to mind when i think of this place. tokyo. this place i feel like i live now. comfy, interesting, fun, intimidating, playful, strange, lonely, colorful, tasty, wild, crazy, outrageous, dark, mysterious, tokyo.

cosplay/onigiri/donburi/ladies moonday/fashion/ramen/shoju/
sweetpotato/manju/sweet beans/jpop/kinoko/neon/giant televisions/
rice/udon/arigato gozai mas/mochi mochi/
thigh high boots/hats/pachinko/down/karaoke/skinny streets/
commuter trains/anime/hot stone/hot springs/manga/go/
vending machines/kimono/plushies/hello kitty/bamboo/unagi/
san/chan/sen/soba/tofu/fortunes/china/sanrio/korea/deep tub/
futon/octapus/oyster/clam/art/police box/bento box/
botan/musaharu fukuyama

those words are tokyo to me. not japan, because i am only in tokyo, but that is what will always remind me of tokyo when i return to my home.

Friday, January 12, 2007

boro-boro doro-doro

today i got my booty out of bed and into the yoga room, atlas in hand with plans of finding a couple of places without the help of anyone. i feel bad depending on others, as i hope it is not a chore for them, but maybe it is. post yoga coffee and my atlas of detailed maps, i navigated my plan. first stop-the watari museum of contemporary art . a cutting edge museum, it showcased 2 artists, both living in brooklyn, one japanese and one american. they are both street subculture artists with a flair for the extreme. misaki kawai displayed a massive installation called "space house" that reached all the way up 3 floors of the building. it contained all sorts of dolls made from scraps with paper cut out faces like the beatles. there were many rooms, a karaoke room, a living room with a giant working television and sunken pool, many pets, and many compartments with people and animals watching tv, drinking, dancing, etc. it had several arms extending out with other smaller cars connected. i took some photos, but that was before noticing the "no photo" sign, so i will not post them out of respect for the artist. it was very fun and colorful. the second artist, taylor mckimens, reminded me of crumb. his figures were melting, and he is very much into deterioration. his installation, "gum, sweat, and tupperware," consisted of a melting man wearing tupperware on his head and huge chewing gums. one of his dolls is posted above. it was outside of the museum, so i figured it was ok to post it. the store in the museum, on sundays, had a great selection of art books, tshirts, and limited edition andy warhol watches. and one of the largest collections of postcards. and once you pay to get in, the ticket is good for unlimited visits. so i will go back next month when they change the exhibit.

i was proud to have found it on my own. it was on killer dori! funny name. and back the other direction to takeshita dori street to try and find the "rock and roll" museum. strolling down this street in harajuku, i realized that i had not really seen harajuku, as i thought. this street was packed with crazy cheap fun stores, costume places, tons of crepe stalls, and brightly dressed "frooties"-the anti fashion people who dress extravigantly. the peacocks of tokyo. i wandered through the backstreets, noticing a good sized jamaican population (i just don't get the connection) and stumbled to the place i was looking for. it turned out to be an elvis store for hardcore rockabilly fans, filled with elvis memorabilia, most for sale. i was expecting a museum of several kinds of rock and roll. oh well. was interesting anyhow, with a big elvis statue in front of the building.

the streets began getting packed, and it was time to go. it has taken me 2 months to have the courage to find places alone. i have a decent atlas, am getting a bit used to the trains now, and feel like i can do more of this. but it's still always better with friends.
damn it's hard to make friends here!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

electric city, anime, tokyo city dome, and art

another stellar post yoga high. intended to blog yesterday, but was wore out from adventures, lots of walking, too hot bath and hot udon cooked by host mom. put me in a trance with all sorts of weird dreams, including friend having strange pcp/coke habit! "but i only snort 6 spoons a day!" what?? i have NO idea where that came from. i haven't even been watching tv or movies, so i don't know the influence of a dream like that. she also stole my man! who was dancing naked on the bed in a high rise building in tokyo for all to watch! dreams are funny, indeed. but i'm not the kind of person who tries to figure out the meaning of life through them, because i believe they are just stimulus in gumbo form, and your subconscious trying to figure it all out. the stimulus comes from dna, life, tv, other people's stories and the imagination. you can choose to find meaning in them just like a piece of art, but there is no real answer, so why bother? whenever i travel, i have bizarre dreams, often in blazing colors, especially in india, which makes sense because that is the strongest stimulus over there-color to the extreme.

yesterday's excursion was fun. after teaching, zen and i had some coffee at the local starbucks (i know, i boycott them, but sadly, they have the best coffee in tokyo and the only place that has regular american coffee with real cream-i hate lattes) and the place was filled with obnoxious loud westerners. we scoped out the day-onto the ginza line and into akihabara-land of electronics and anime. i had never seen so many of these stores in my life. unfortunately i am not schooled in anime, so it did not have the same affect on me as someone who is a fan. i could not count the amount of anime stores that there were. and so big, colorful and crazy. almost scarey. i have to admit many of these furry cute giant "things" can be very scarey indeed.

we began our journey at the tokyo anime centre, and was quite glad zen was there to lead the way. i don't know how anyone finds anything when they are always hiding on an upper floor in any number of high rises. we began to look inside when an american with a dopey grin on his face asked us if we had seen the akihabara theatre. i thought he was asking for directions, but he looked like he just had a good massage, and was telling us to go there. oh, ok. it was the 3D animation centre. we went in and they gave us the glasses. and a tour in japanese. we explored all the latest technologies in this type of technology. there was a 3 dimensional kitchen that looked like the cooks were inside the flatscreen making food in the neighboring restaurant, a giant map of tokyo that you can turn, zoom and navigate just by barely touching the screen, all in matrix style 3D, models being made and put into the ovens, and the coolest, an electronic hologram of a girl behind a desk that you could touch and she reacts, change her clothes and also her language. this was cool and creepy, because the future is bright for entertainment. talk about scarey movies that are holograms that can actually react to the audience! wow.
there wasn't a lot more except life size models of all the latest anime figures, drawings, and lots of things to buy.

we went to explore the streets, so many anime and manga (comics) shops, many of the hentai type (comic porn) and many floors housing little sexy anime outfits to wear for your partner, as well as many dvds, etc. interesting, indeed. and an entirely differnt world from the one i am familiar with. i was too shy to go into the electronics stores because it was just overkill. ipod nano for 2800 yen! (thats about 23 bucks!) so if your in the market for electronics, this is definitely the place to go. we went to a cool store that had a massive key chain collection, many sushi ones that looked totally real, and gyoza! but were in the 20 dollar price range, so i took a pass. in fact, i did not spend a penny on anyting excpet for food. zen suggested a tandon place, japanese fried fast food. similar to tempura, sitting on top of rice. simple, fast, cheap, delicious. and dozens of businessmen sucking it down in 10 minutes flat (really-i timed some of them).

we walked to the nicholai cathedral, a russian orthodox church constructed in the late 19th century, with a magnificent onion dome. i always find it strange to find catholic churches in the most unlikely of places. and on to the tokyo wonder site, which was closed upon arriving until mid afternoon. i was interested in the giant parachute carnival rides in the horizon and so we went on to tokyo dome (the big egg), home of the yomiuri giants, the most popular baseball team in japan. surrounding the dome is tokyo city amusement park, with rides such as a standard roller coaster, water boat coaster, massive ferris wheel, and the 13 doors haunted house, where you are given a key to open a door and discover a murder. the place is very kitch, with really scarey baseball restaurants specializing in giant racks of ribs and nachos-the japanese version you do not want to touch. then back to tokyo wonder site, a gallery promoting new art exhibits. we saw an instillation called "awesome" by dasuke nagaoaka of a film of a hand drawing and erasing a man sitting at a desk, with a mural of the man on the walls, and his books and desk in the room. it was very interesting and made me wanting more art. the art here is so interesting and different from what's at home, i want to explore modern museums, one called watari museum of contemporary art outside of shibuya, if i have the courage to try to find it alone. there's a warhol exhibit there right now (!!)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

tragedy or opportunity?

i feel a bit dry in the creatively today. if i don't have that need to unload, it's hard to blog because it can be as much of a chore reading this as it is writing. but thoughts were flowing through my head in a reflective kind of way today. i guess i got to thinking about what i am learning from this experience, because i've spent a lot of time away from home. tokyo is just an extension of the trip, as many of you know, many of you don't know i spent 6 weeks in australia immediately before coming to tokyo, the grand total when it's all done is close to 5 months. australia was many things to me. i was in a teacher's cocoon for the first month, which is like an intensive, but different from other intensives i've taken before. it involved lots of pranayama, fasting, chanting, sutra study, unloading, writing, and other forms of hardcore spiritual development, leaving one quite vunerable and naked. in the midst of it all, i had lost the mysore program i started back in chicago. via e-mail, but we won't get into that too deeply. i was building it over 2 years and it was doing very well. so the sting was a bit severe. it had me questioning many things, such as my career and my purpose on the planet. and i was very depressed and angry this was done so far away and not in person. and that it seemed no one was standing up for me. so i got to feeling alone, the cleansing that had taken place destroyed by a single human in an extremely vindictive way. and my position given to my partner, who must stay because of money. sharath had come and i took classes with him for 2 weeks, my very first led intermediate classes. it was extremely difficult to get out of bed and muster any kind of enthusiasm because of how i was feeling. i just could not shake the depression, i began to lose faith.

than like a bolt of lightning, i arrived in tokyo and everything changed. i was thrust into teaching, teaching mysore for a lot of hours, to a lot of people i have never before met. whose language i could not speak. and i stepped up to it. faced it full on without fear or reservations. and began to gain confidence in myself once again. and began to forgive myself. and see the situation as an opportunity instead of a tragedy. i have learned a lot from teaching in this way. i am still the same teacher, the same person. nothing has changed, only the space in which i will teach in. and it's only a room, only a space. that's all we really need as astangis. i have learned not to expect too much from students. i have learned not to get attached. to let go. and to hold tight to my self respect. this has helped me grow a great deal and realize that i have the power to do what i do anywhere i please. which is why i will have my own space upon returning to chicago. i have learned a lot about how the studio over here is run, how it started, what is possible, how much hard work it is. lucky for me i am not afraid of hard work. because that's what it takes. four walls, a floor, and work. and i am in a better place now. and i now realize whose loss it really is. because, as dena said to me when this happened, "they can't take away your light."

i was a musician for many years before becoming a yoga teacher. and a part of me still lives in that world-the artists world. and my studio will be able to reflect this. i can cater to my own kind, the starving artists. i have a lot to offer them, and can use the space for gallery as well. yoga opens your creative forces, and artists can benefit greatly. and i am surrounded by good people who do care, about yoga, and about me. and i am very fortunate.

i just want to take this experience, this energy that tokyo has given me, and fuse it with what i already have. i think the results will be original. and over time, i hope, successful.

on a lighter note, tomorrow i get a new tour guide, zen, to take me to akihabara, land of electric town, tokyo anime center, wonder site, and the transportation museum. oh boy!

Monday, January 08, 2007

iggy pop: rock and roll yoga man?

it was a sunny holiday monday today. the holiday, seijin-no-hi is celebrated the second monday in january. it's the "coming-of-age" day. females turning 20 years old today wear traditional kimono, most of the males wear black suits. they get together in packs, many were shopping as i also was, and many were getting ready to party, because they are now old enough to drink and smoke. i enjoyed looking at the pretty kimonos in the streets and on the trains. much like the beautifu saris in india. such amazing colors and patterns, so confusingly put together. i can't figure out how they fold and tie them. and they have to take little tiny steps cause they are very tight around the ankles. and wear sandles with socks. all of the girls were sporting fashionable fur stoles with them to ward off the cold. it's such an interesting clash of styles. and so many people out and about, most everyone having the day off. my mysore class, which is usually full around 7:30, started to pack in at 8ish, everyone sleeping in on a rare occasion.

i got lucky today and got to meed katzu again, my favorite person in tokyo. he is such an easy hang, good to talk to, a good listener, extremely patient-waiting outside of the boutiques while i scouted for goods. we walked to a very cool area close to shibuya called daikanyama. katsu knows the kind of shopping i like, lots of small stores, many used and vintage shops, not the big department stores much of tokyo is infested with. so this hood was very interesting for me. half of the shops were out of my price range, but so many of the buildings are interesting to just look at, it really did not matter. there's a "blythe" store there, selling dozens of blythe dolls and accessories, many blythe kimonos, etc. and i was very tempted to buy, but after investing in a sugar bunny plushie, it seemed a bit embarassing.

and off to lunch at an amazing thai/vietnamese restaurant called "monsoon" for a set lunch of vietnamese spring rolls, shrimp toast, shumai, and pho. they were blasting bollywood music, which i found odd since there weren't any indian dishes on the menu.

then off to 3 different "rock" shops, similar to the one we went to in tokyo tower, selling memorabilia, like osbourne family bobbleheads, slipknot backpacks, sex pistols coasters and fridge magnets, and large sized singing freddie mercury dolls. these places have many rock t-shirts, and i am pretty picky, but i found a good iggy and the stooges t-shirt. and wonder if it's in poor taste to teach yoga in it. i mean, iggy looks like he does yoga. he does a pretty good urdva danurasana while singing "i wanna be your dog".

speaking of dogs, i counted no less than a dozen doggie boutiques. just click here for details. even a restaurant that has a special "set" menu for your dog, including snacks and desert.

yes, it's good to be a dog in tokyo.

Friday, January 05, 2007

i can kiss babies and scale tokyo tower!

today is the official last day of xmas according to tradition. i read it on my friend satya cacananda's blog. it's funny, because i was raised catholic and have celebrated xmas my whole life and i never knew this.

ok-can i just take a moment to thank the universe, siva, god and all my awesome teachers (dena, lino, suddha, manju, guruji, sharath, david and simi roche, gwendoline hunt, amy treciokas & cara jepsen) and whoever else is responsible for leading me down the yoga path? i woke early today, saturday (usually my day off) and ventured into the yoga studio. open up my stubborn little mind and forced myself to do my intermediate practice. the moment i entered that room, my mood lifted right up. and there was zen, set my mat up next to him, and had another happy but horribly painful practice. i would hate to see my grimacing face, especially on the 4 killers (for me), eka pada through titti, and everything that involves a lotus. i have to practice the ultimate in what lino has always said, "don't think. just do." it's simple and direct. as painful as it all was, i feel steller when it's all over. and right now, post yoga, i feel like i can kiss babies and scale tokyo tower!

*tangent time* a tribute to my teachers

there are snippets of spiritual advice passed onto me by many of my teachers, which i would like to share with you:

*dena-they can't take away your light (about being fired from moksha in the middle of an intensive 10,000 miles away)
*lino-don't think, just do (getting up from a backbend and everything else that is difficult)
*suddha-give it to god. (about teaching yoga) always expect the unexpected (about india)
*gwendoline hunt-the more you do this yoga, the more you will understand it
*amy treciokas-yoga does not change you. it just makes you more of what you really are (enhanced personalities)
*sharath-anyone can do astanga. except for lazy people (at conference in byron bay this year and astanga new york movie)
*guruji-mind your own mula bandha! (a snippet told by manju when asked if guruji taught muslims)

it's pouring rain again, and always when i am energized and have many plans that involve scaling the tokyo landscapes in search of a healer for my hips, more bath bombs from lush, skirts on sale, hats, and food. the rain won again, and i ended up in a nice internet cafe where it's free if you buy something. great coffee and food, and close to my future house in shibuya-i move in a week or so. then i went to get those bath bombs, but my bones got cold. turned around, and that was it for me. but not before visiting the ...

tobacco and salt museum!

6 floors of the history of tobacco and salt in japan! i parked my umbrella in the locked umbrella parking outside the building. all of the stores have parking spots for them, many provide long skinny baggies, too. paid my 100 yen (85 cents) and locked everything in my locker for another 100 yen-which was returned to me upon retrieving my goods! my only complaint was that everything was in kanji, so i had to try to figure all this out for myself. the first floor had educational tvs, artifacts, and interesting souveniers to buy, such as a collection of vintage matchboxes, many types of salt, some in rock form, others ground, vintage japanese smoking kits, pipes, postcards, pens, stuff like that. up i went to the next floor, which had all kinds of smoking devices from the 16th century, which is when japan was introduced to tobacco voyagers (spanish?) who got the tobacco from the mayan indians in south america. we have ashtrays, old lighters, pouches, cigarette holders, hookahs, pipes. here you can sit down to the more than half a dozen places and thumb through giant panels with old tobacco wrappers and cigarette cartons.

the next floor had a lifesize exhibition of a japanese family making their own cigs. husband grinding the leaves, wife rolling, child stuffing into boxes. i noticed that the smoking aparatases have not changed much. this floor emphasizes the pleasures and relaxation of smoking, smoking in kabuki, privatization of the leaf in the meiji era, the state monopoly through 1985, and the new age of tobacco. here, we have an installation of 80s cigs, 90s cigs, and the ones from the new millenium. names like sakura, harmony, siesta, peace, frontier, neo, bitter valley, golden bat, it is?, cabin, and my favorite which comes in a neon multi pink mondrian inspired box-bevel fina shineberry!

around the corner was a makeshift japanese living room from 1970, complete with an old color tv playing various vintage japanese commercials! cool! suntory, toyota, candy, and my favorite, U.F.O. noodles!
a video showed how tobacco plants are grown and produced. quite interesting, actually.

the next couple of floors were about salt. these were less interesting to me. the first thing you see is a four foot rock salt in a glass box. and many others, displayed like crystals. they are brown and blue, white, red and orange. you can watch videos of salt miniing and how it's made. and microscopes with salt dna. the top floor was a changing art gallery dealing with the said subjects, including a box you could sniff something familiar, but not sure what it was.

it was time to go, but i wanted to use the bathroom. how happy was i to discover old school flushable squat pottys! just like india, but more state-of-the-art! the highlight of my day.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

that "lost in translation" feeling never leaves

my friend mindy has explained this whole japanese new years thing to me, and i'm glad because it all seemed so secretly frantic, everyone doing their own thing with great intent, me completely puzzled by this entire cleaning business.
"OSHOGATSU is really a big deal to most Japanese. Did anyone tell you the reason we cleaned up everywhere at the end of the year? In Shintoism, a new year is a kind of spirit (god) and we must welcome it. It'll give us a chance to renew stuff and energy. We decorate gates and entrances with KADOMATSU and SHIMEKAZARI so that the spirit can come visit us, and we offer KAGAMI MOCHI inside the house to New Year. However, New Year can visit only the places where people cleaned."
i'm glad i know this now, and am certainly hoping i have not ruined any chances of the "spirit" entering my host house. i'm not sure if my room was clean enough. i really wish this was explained to me. i would hate to be blamed for any ill luck in 2007.

my friend katsu gave me the blog to one of the american teacher's who came to tokyo to teach earlier last year and it's probably the best and funniest blogs i have ever read. leaping lanka . it's particularly amusing to me because he also spent 3 months in tokyo and many of his experiences were similar to mine. one is the total amazement at the machinery, including the washer/dryer combo. i have been confused since i arrived about japanese appliances. the first host i had had a washer that washed and also dryed the clothes in the same machine, with the press of one button! wow! ( of course i managed to screw that up) and a table top dishwasher-mini washer, as well as a combo microwave/toaster oven, the "bells and whistles" toilet-which was my very first japanese experience-one with several buttons, all in kanji. one for warming seat, one for raising/lowering seat, one to clean back side, one for cleaning front, but what i was mostly interested in was the flush one. i had to call in my host to show me how. turns out it's a handle on the side just like anything else. this was the first time i had that "lost in translation" feeling. don't even know how to use the toilet, can't read the buttons, i'm in big trouble. and, of course, all the little buttons for the bath tub. one for temperature, one to turn it on and fill, one to indicate how high you want the water. the host i'm staying with right now has a tub alarm that tells you when it's time to enter, so you can go about your business until the bath is ready for you. screwed that up, too, leaving on heater without water. oops. and pasting instructions next to tub so as not to make mistake again. which i have already, but everyone's too nice to tell me. japanese homes do not have heaters like we do in the US. we have forced air or radiators. they have "air conditioners" which are small boxes located near the ceiling only in the bedrooms. there's a remote, in kanji, for temperature control. i was so intimidated by this in my first host house that i just slept without heat, in a hat and down comforter, fully dressed. even the water handles are backwards. you have to lift up to turn it off.

another observation we had in common was the tokyo power nappers everywhere. so many people sleeping, with full snore, mostly on the train, but also in cafes and restaurants. just "out" every single age group, all walks of life. i also have noticed every day people running. all kinds of people running, old ladies, kids, businesmen, students, everyone. running. and i always wonder, "where are they running to? and why?" of course no one walks up the escalators. they ride them. now wouldn't they save some time if they also ran up those as well? curious.

the cell phone phenomenon is quite prevalent here, too. you are not allowed to talk on them on the subways, but people constantly text message or check emails on them. i've heard you can also pay for things with your phone, like it's a credit card.

we also both noticed the hordes of people still partying outside of the yoga studio when we are going in to practice at 5am. lots of noise, which usually stops around 7am. and always lots of sirens going off. when the fire trucks and police cars come through, its kind of a soft siren with a person yelling something through a speaker. i wonder what they are saying. "get the f..out of the way!"

back to work today, i really hate to call it "work" cause that's such a negative word. it felt good to be back. i love doing what i do. but practice was so sad. i'm SO glad that i have learned to let go of that, because i could ramble on and on about it and really, it's never very interesting to talk about it. i'm tight and sore from walking around tokyo for hours and hours for 3 days in a row. my hip hurts more than ever. i'm starting to be concerned. 30 trips to the chiropractor did nothing. do i need drugs or cortizone? i'm starting to wonder.

and back to my favorite food paradise, the shibuya food show. it's so exciting there. but since i'm bored and fascinated with all that is rice, i WAY over ate. and i hear mom preparing a meal right now, with my stomach crying "why you do this to me?"
i confess. i ate a dozen shu mai. and a rice bun. and 2 salads with shrimp (god they were good) and 2 cheese mauris. these are my new friends. little round moist cake-like sweets stuffed with cream cheese, the kind they use in cheesecake. seriously addictive.

i think i am trying to gain weight. but why? maybe so i have something to blog about? yeah, that's it.