Saturday, March 12, 2011

Prayer For Japan

"You have a Japanese soul." A simple statement. I can't even remember who said it. I think it could have been at the country bar in Fukouka. I was drinking whiskey with a Japanese bluegrass band called "Back In Business." They liked my songs, and I liked them. "Your Japanese is very good. And very strange." These guys really knew me. I wasn't even speaking Japanese, just broken English with a Japanese accent. They just thought it was Japanese, I guess it was in a way. That night I played a song I wrote for a young Japanese country singer who reminded me of an Asian Patsy Cline. Dear Rosey, won't you play another song for me. I wrote it in a hotel room in Kumamoto. Finally resting after my late nights playing at Goodtime Charlie Nagatani's club.

It was the day after I was invited to play at a small festival on Aso mountain. Me and Buddy (Charlie's debauched fiddle player) had driven 3 hours after being up most of the night. I broke three strings during my short set. I also said "Itadakimasu" after a song, which means thank you. Thank you for food. Woodie Guthrie they called me. my Japanese mother adopted me the first time I met her. Gotou-chan, I will return to Kyowa's Coffe shop in Kumamoto. We will drink a glass of whiskey together and I will play a song for you. And since you are my Japanese mother you can then cook me dinner.

I had a Japanese soul as a kid. I was captivated by the stories of feudal Japan. Castles and samurai. The architecture speaks to me. The simplicity. In a Japanese painting every line counts. They were all put there on purpose. Flower arrangements. I didn't even have any Japanese friends and I still loved it. But that would change.

I started volunteering with ESL speakers at 19 and I have kept at it pretty much ever since. I started to learn Japanese from the students. Funny things. I wanted to learn about obscure celebrities. Kitajima Saburo. The Japanese Frank Sinatra. My Japanese father. With good timing, you trick a Japanese college like this. They ask you what you like. Music you say. Oh I like music too! What kind of music do you like? Oh many kinds. I play guitar. Oh sugoi (amazing!). I like American music, but I like Japanese music too! Eh? This always comes as a surprise. What kind of Japanese music do you like? Enka. EHHH!?? ENKA!!!!???? This a pretty big surprise. Then I say that I love Sabu-chan. I tell them he is my favorite musician. It gets them every time because the likelihood of anyone under 50 attending one of his concerts is very low. I should know because I went to one and there were three of us. The girl that got me the ticket, myself, and some poor kid who got dragged there by his mom.

Japan did I mention that I love you? Your people have housed me, fed me, given me wonderful presents, celebrated my birthdays, and given me more love than I deserved. Your pain is hard to bear. I will not cry because I am writing this in a coffee shop in Vancouver BC. It is tough trying to pretend that hunting down celeb's is important at all when I read of the devastation you are suffering. If I could, I would be living in Japan. I almost applied to teach your children this year. I promise I will return, and I will give back as much as I can. To all my Japanese friends, I love you, Ian-san, Iya-Ian, Sabu-Chan jr, and I forget what else you called me.

PS-I miss you Naomi and Sachiko, Rei, Yosuke, Ryosuke, Buddy, Charlie, Jordan & Marina, and the list goes on. Rieko I pray that you do not still work at Disney Sea, I hope you are all safe. Your friendship means so much to me.


  1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, part of your life. I really loved it, Ian. Full of soul and heart. I love Japan too and we have a huge Japanese community here. Our prayers and strenghth to our Japanese friends in this difficult moment. Beautiful BS!

  2. Wow Ian! That was truly a wonderful blog. You are a very sweet and caring person. What has happened in Japan has touched our souls. I hope your friends are safe. All the best.