Friday, October 1, 2010
BACK TO MY ROOTS
I am at an obscure onsen somewhere in Akita Prefecture using their computer where the keys are strange. The day went very well, with Shizuko and Shigetoh Miyachi joining me on the Shinkansen to Akita, where we were picked up by Ikuko Iwasaki. I gave my talk on the Blue Revolution at her Akita Prefectural University. If Professor Takagawa yesterday had not bought that interface link, I would not have been able to use my Keynote presentation. But all went well.
More than anything else, I was interested in that one in a million chance that someone in the audience could have been linked to Kenjiro. I shared with the group my quest for one of Kenjiro's grandmothers, who might have been a female samurai in Akita, probably around 200 years ago. No response. Yet, this was a coming back to my original roots experience.
We then went on to Satomi Onsen and had a fabulous dinner with Professor Miyachi's former students and staff who teach at this university. From left to right: Professors Eiji Suzuki, Yasunori Nakamura, Ikuko Iwasaki, Shigetoh Miyachi, his wife Shizuko (who also has a PhD in a bio field) and I. The onsen itself was traditional...but then again, maybe not!
On my way back to my room I noticed there was a bar area called 50's Cafe. I walked into a bizarre scene. First of all, the music, very loud, was only American of the 50's. I'm sure I was the only person who grew up in those times as I don:t think anyone else in the room was as old as 50.
There were about a dozen seated around a large table where one gentleman dominated the conversation, speaking at high intensity to overcome the music. An equal number was seated at three nearby tables very observant of the main one. Although there were six staff members in white shirts or tuxedos, these lower dozen leaped when his person needed a drink, serving as the interface between this high dozen and the serve staff. When anyone walked out to use the restroom or make a call, he politely bowed to that main table first. Outside were a couple of armed (?) protectors.
Had I known what I subsequently saw I would not have gone in. In any case, I was there and the only alien not associated with the above scenario. While Akita I don't think is known for organized crime, my fantasy mind running wild, I could only guess that these were Yakuza. (I later confirmed this to be so, in some astonishment, for they are not allowed to frequent normal public establishments. But this was an out of the way onsen.) I was tempted to check their fingers, but room was too dark.
I had a whiskey on the rocks. Everyone at the main table drank mizuwari, or whiskey and water. What looked like the bossman kept saying to everyone, drink up, but the lower dozen mostly kept to water and a couple of beers, even though it was clear they were all staying the night at this onsen. The main dozen was in yukata (roe) attire, but the others were normally dressed. I would guess they were the drivers for their boss. I stayed mostly because no one seemed to mind, I was fascinated with the scene, and loved the music.
The next morning at an exquisite buffet breakfast, which Professor Miyachi rated as first class, we talked about that Yakuza experience. It turns out that after I told Shigetoh about that bar, the three of them actually were so curious that they too went in, and left only after the group departed. He confirmed they were definitely Yakuza, and had to see for himself, for this was a most unusual experience. Ikuko, who lives in Akita never encountered this type of interaction in her life.
Today we visited the Ganryuji Temple in Daisen City to continue the Search for Kenjiro's Grandmothers. To the right, with new priest, Kenichi Hino, #19 in the line going back 400 years at this temple. A year and I half ago Pearl and I met with him and his father (#18), and since then both Pearl and priest #18 passed away.
The gravestone is of the Nakayama family, the mother of Kenjiro. This means that Kenjiro's grandmother was not a Nakayama nor Takahashi. Still no sign of any Takahashi connection in Akita Prefecture, but the koseki information from Utashinai indicates that Kenjiro's parents were married when they left Akita for Otaru some time in the period after 1870. Kenjiro was born in Otaru, and family moved to Sapporo, then Utashinai. By then, Kenjiro had two sisters.
Tomorrow, I board the Shin Nihonkai from Akita to Hokkaido. Then on to Otaru, Sapporo and Utashinai over the next few days.
The Dow Jones Industrials rose 42 to 10,830, with world markets mixed. Gold, yes, another all-time high, up $11/toz to $1318, and the price of crude jumped to $81/barrel today.