Tuesday, April 27, 2010

#16: Kei and Sam's Almost Excellent Adventure in Kotohira (Including the Fish that Ate Me): Part II

I will wrap up my almost excellent adventure in Kotohira with this posting. Don't want to make too much of a good thing. The first thing we did when our taxi arrived was drive to the train station to wait for Russell Lifson. Russell is the 22-year-old grandson of my wife's cousin, and, serendipitously, is teaching English at a school in Miyoshi-Shi, about a half hour from Kotohira. He is the only American there and is clearly hungry for some up close and personal with someone from home. Russell is a sweet, very intelligent young man who went to Bard, where he studied Japanese for three years, and decided to join the JET program to teach English in Japan. But JET is more likely to send you to the most out-of-the-way places to do this, not to some wired city like Tokyo or Osaka. It's practically the equivalent of bringing a young Japanese person to teach Japanese somewhere in the Ozarks. You can imagine the feeling after the initial excitement wears off. But at least Russell has the benefit of owning a used red Toyota (if a Toyota can be a benefit). He had to learn to drive Japanese-style, which is British-style, with the driver's seat on the right and the driving in the left lane. Russel blogs his life here at Best English Teacher in Japan.

Russell and Kei.

After Kei and I checked in to the Grand Hotel, an upscale Japanese inn (ryokan) with an elegant lobby seen in this clip, he, Russell and I climbed most of the 700 steps to the top of Kotohira, where the famous Konpira-San Temple is located. We passed dozens of souvenir shops and restaurants. This video shows us descending into the real world again. The area was crawling with Japanese tourists, many of them there for the kabuki performances at the Kanamaru-za, described in my last posting. Those steps are very steep, but we made it nearly to the top before deciding to descend so Kei and I wouldn't be late for the afternoon program. We passed palanquin bearers seeking passengers to carry either up or down the steps. Two men carry a single person in a small bamboo seat, which would be hard enough on flat ground. But up and down these stone steps? It looks like a job for superman although these guys didn't seem especially strong-looking. Whatever they earn is worth it.

Russell walked with us to the theatre and said his wistful goodbyes there, wishing he too had a ticket for the show. I felt sorry for him, although he'll soon be visited by his girlfriend from home--she's already been here--and then will finally leave for home at the end of July.

That evening, back at the inn, I ventured with Kei into the public bath (onsen). In other years, I'd taken hot springs baths in Japan, which is famous for them, but only once before in a public one. They are inevitably to be found in Japanese inns. I simply like my privacy when I take off my clothes, even at the gym. But Kei is an avid bath lover, so I went along for the ride. Each room (Japanese-style, of course, with futon quilts for beds on tatami mat floors) comes with very nice lightweight kimono (yukata) and Japanese-style jackets, as well as split-toe socks and bamboo thongs (zori). You put one on that fits you and head for the onsen, which here was on the 7th floor, against the side of a hill. We put our clothes onto open shelves and, butt nekkid, sat on low stools at individual spigots equipped with small bamboo buckets. Soap and shampoo bottles are there for each customer to wash away all their dirt, and the buckets are for pouring water over yourself to rinse away the soap. Then you traipse over to the beautiful baths, which at the Grand are only about a foot and a half deep, and soak. The baths are NOT mixed; women have their own, although Japan still has some mixed bathing facilities, usually in rural communities.

My name is actually pronounced Samurai-ta in Japanese.

I'd like to mention that some Japanese men, like myself, lean toward modesty when it comes to exposing their private parts. While some jauntily let it all hang out, Kei included, others tend to beard their lions with a towel, large or small as the case may be.

After soaking luxuriously in water that was not as hot as in other baths I've been in, we moved outdoors to a hot tub in which a group of 4 or 5 middleaged men were lounging. They turned out to be a group of volunteer firemen, their "chief"--a man of around 60--sitting higher than the rest on the top edge of the tub, his dignity protected by a small white towel. He kidded about his baldness being from his hair having been singed during his fire-fighting duties.

Kei and I had eaten a substantial dinner of gourmet Japanese cuisine and had a couple of beers as well. Now, for some reason, sitting in the tub, trying to sustain the banter with the firemen, and still digesting my meal, I suddenly began to feel very dizzy. I staggered from the tub into the next room, sat on one of the tiny bathing stools, and tried to come to myself. Kei said he thought I surely was going to faint, that my eyes had stopped moving, and he was envisioning calling my wife in New York to tell her I'd passed away in a Japanese hot tub. I remembered the scene in the kabuki play Banzui Chobei where Chobei is lured into a private bathouse and, when he is naked and at his most vulnerable, attacked by his enemy's men. Would I go the way of Chobei, albeit from dizziness and not a lance thrust?

The fire fighters were all very solicitous, and Kei kept plying me with cold water. At one point, a young woman bath attendant entered this haven of male privacy and brought me ice water. I wasn't feeling especially nauseous but one of the cups I had emptied was soon full again with the remnants of the evening's lovely repast. And then another cup held its share. Finally, after about half an hour, my strength returned and I made it back to my room, got into my futon, and was soon dead to the world--but in a good way.

Our room, by the way, was equipped, as are most modern homes and establishments (not my place at Seikei U., though), with one of those ultramodern Japanese toilets I've alluded to elsewhere. Folks, if you haven't tried one, you're missing one of life's great experiences. You sit on the gently warmed seat and when you're finished with your business press one of two buttons--for a fine stream of warm water or a more gentle spray of the same. The former aims with Robin Hood accuracy for that special target and shoots its liquid arrow in a nonstop stream of cleansing delight. I assume a bidet offers equally pleasurable sensations, albeit to another anatomical treasure. These toilets also have bidet functions, of course.

The next day, after the show, Kei and I killed time waiting for our airport taxi by exploring Kotohira's backstreets. At one point, as this video reveals, we came across several "soaplands," a euphemism for brothels, where you presumably go to get soaped down by young women but end up doing something else entirely. After my bathing experience of the previous night, this was not something I would have been especially interested in, married man or not.

The red characters say "Doctor Fish." Read on to learn what this means.

Being eaten alive.

Town Hall, Kotohira.

During our wanderings we came across a rather imposing building suggestive of an oldtime daimyo's mansion, directly across from the theatre and our hotel. Upon inquiring, we learned that it was actually built in 1925 and serves as the town's hall. Despite its antique-looking exterior, the inside is in typical modern bureaucratic style. The staff from the kabuki productiion is using it as living quarters while they're in town, so we were told we couldn't go inside to check it out.

Finally, while walking down the main tourist street, we came upon a small establishment advertising "Doctor Fish." These, I learned, are small fishes that are used for therapeutic purposes. After watching other people get their lower extremities scoured clean by these tiny critters, I took the plunge with Kei. You soak your feet in a shallow pool and they swarm all over you, actually nibbling at your flesh and eating away whatever impurities may reside therein. They come from Turkey and, despite my feeling I'd discovered something really unusual, seem to have inspired many other YouTube videos before I ever posted mine. The feeling when you first are "attacked" is totally strange--a weird combination of electricity and tickling, and I couldn't stop giggling from the effect. A ten-minute immersion costs about $5.50, and the place was doing a brisk business, although only four people can use the pool at the same time.

And that, good friends, concludes my almost excellent adventure in Kotohira, one I hope you will yourself one day experience.

Monday, April 26, 2010

#15: Kei and Sam's Almost Excellent Kotohira Experience (Including the Fish That Ate Me): Part I

Kei and I returned to Tokyo from Kotohira, Shikoku, last night (Sunday). It was an eventful trip. We flew from Haneda Airport on Saturday morning, arriving in Shikoku a little more than an hour later. Plane travel within Japan is actually a little cheaper than taking the bullet train, and certainly gets you there faster. Shikoku is pure Japanese countryside. It is a mountainous island, with tree-covered cone-like hills, numerous valleys, and open plains. The vegetation is lush and the scenic views quite lovely, especially when combined with the large number of homes built in traditional Japanese fashion. We hired a taxi from the airport in Takamatsu to Kotohira, about an hour away, so we were able to appreciate much of the island's rural atmosphere. Kotohira is a small, but well-developed town famous as a Buddhist mecca to a god named Konpira  (or Konpira-San). To me, it is crucial to the understanding of the history of kabuki theatre because it houses Japan's oldest kabuki theatre, the Kanamaru-za, which was thorougly renovated back in the 1980s after falling into disuse. The Wikipedia essay in the link, it turns out, is largely based on my own 1997 article on the place. (The article was reprinted in my book, Frozen Moments: Writings on Kabuki, 1966-2001 (Cornell East Asia, No. 111) (Cornell East Asia Series).

My article was inspired by a summertime visit, when no shows were being performed. I had free reign of the place to take photos. This past weekend was my first chance to visit the place during an actual performance. Every April, a company of Tokyo actors creates a kabuki festival here, and the place is sold out well in advance. The experience allows you to sense what a traditional performance was in the 19th century. But first you have to make your way to the theatre's precincts by climbing a small hill. You can hear my breathless voice expressing this on this clip, which takes you up the stone steps leading to the theatre plaza. You can enter through the half-height door, the "mouse door" (nezumi kido) if you choose, or through full-sized sliding doors. The "mouse door," seen in this clip, was used as a way of controlling the number of people going in and out.

Entering through the "mouse door."

As some of the shots below reveal, and as seen in this clip, the scene outside the theatre was almost as interesting as what was happening inside.

Outside the Kanamaru-za. The vertical signs list the names of the leading actors.

Next stop, Mr. Met.

A very festive atmosphere prevails.

Kei Hibino

Souvenir stalls are at the right.

Paintings of scenes from the plays.

Many women come dressed in kimono.

The show is over and you must put your shoes on again.

Leaving the theatre grounds.

You must take your shoes off when you enter. A large staff of cheerful local people, the women dressed in kimono, hand you a plastic bag to keep them in. Then you find your seat. Seating is in box-like enclosures surrounded by wooden railings--flat for walking on in the pit, round in the side galleries (sajiki). Our seats for the first performance on late Saturday afternoon were in the upper gallery overlooking the runway (hanamichi) on the left side of the theatre facing the stage. At the earlier show on Sunday, we sat in the lower gallery on the opposite side of the house. In both places, our view was seriously impeded by thick, wooden pillars, just as it would have been in the old days. People who sat right up against the front barrier could see all right, but we were at the rear, near the wall, because the better views had already been gobbled up by the time we arrived. Still, our seats were classified as first-class, and cost us nearly $140 apiece. By the way, I say seats, but there were none per se. We sat on flat cushions placed on the straw mats (tatami) that serve as traditional carpeting. Each show was around three and a half hours. I was amazed at how little fidgeting there was among the spectators, the majority of whom were women, but there were nonetheless a good number of people like me who had to keep shifting their position, including standing up (if they didn't obstruct someone's view) when their circulation stopped dead. I found some relief by leaning against the sliding wooden shutters at my rear, or against the dividing beam at my side.

We at least had the option of standing. People packed in the orchestra or pit (doma) had no such choice. You can see their dilemma in the photos and in this video.

On the other side of the shutters were the corridors that let you out of the theatre proper. There were heavy wooden shutters as well as translucent shoji shutters. When it was necessary to dim the theatre's interior, assistants in the corridors shut the wooden shutters. When more light was needed, they were opened and light came in through the shoji. You could see this happening on the other side of the theatre as the shutters closed in relative unison behind the upper and lower galleries. When we sat on the upper level, you could hear the patter of running feet overhead, closing the shutters at the top of the theatre, where, instead of sliding, the shutters were held open by poles. Nevertheless, in a concession to modernity, spotlights also played their part in the proceedings. Photos were not permitted inside the theatre, not even when the curtain was closed. But, like many others, I managed to take some anyway, including videos.

From my "seat" in the upper gallery, audience left.

The pillar was between me and the stage.

A good view of the hanamichi. In a theatre like this, everyone can see the action on this runway, so the relationship between actor and audience is very intimate. At large, modern theatres like the Kabuki-za, this
relationship is lost and important hanamichi action is restricted to an area close to the stage proper so that people in the uppeer balconies can see it.

You can see that the shoji shutters on the other side of the theatre allow light to come in. But when darkness is needed, assistants in the corridors close the wooden shutters that share their tracks.

The program we saw on Saturday was a single play, while the Sunday program was composed of three pieces. The Saturday play was The Revenge at Tengajaya (Katakiuchi Tengajaya Mura), an engrossing 19th-century (based on an 18th-century original) mixture of cruelty and humor, with a memorable antihero combining viciousness with farce. (A translation is in Kabuki Plays on Stage: Darkness and Desire, 1804-1864 [Kabuki Plays on Stage, Volume 3], which I coedited with James R. Brandon.) An hilarious, newly staged chase scene took place all over the audience, with the pursuers going after the villain right in the packed orchestra area, where the character was hiding among the spectators. At one point he leaped from the first gallery onto the stage, barefooted. Remembering what happened to John Wilkes Booth when he did the same thing after shooting Lincoln, I wondered if this was the wisest decision.

The other program began with a somewhat ponderous old history play borrowed from the bunraku puppet theatre, but it concluded with a long truly marvelous choreographed fight scene starring the actor Kataoka Ainosuke VI in a tour-de-force of stamina and movement technique. It was followed by the comic dance-play, Tied to a Pole (Boshibari), and it concluded with Bathhouse of the Floating World (another lighthearted dance play). The actors were all lesser lights from the Tokyo kabuki world who were being given this chance to star in roles they might not ordinarily have gotten to play in the big cities.

At the end of one performance, the actors took a curtain call, which, despite the formal bows shown here, is not traditional in kabuki.

I will take my own curtain call now and say sayonara until the next post, which continues the saga of Kotohira, wherein I meet my wife's cousin's grandson, tour our fancy hotel lobby, climb the 700 steps to the Konpira-San Temple, wander the backstreets of the town (and find the red-light district), take suddenly ill at a public bath, have my flesh eaten by fish, and otherwise experience an almost excellent adventure.

Friday, April 23, 2010

#14: Shopping to Die For . . . If You Can Afford it!

I finally was able to get out and about today, despite the continued crumb-bum weather. But at least today the precipitation was only drizzling, not a persistent downpour. My first stop was Tokyo Midtown, a gigantic, futuristic shopping, hotel, and office complex in the very trendy Roppongi section of Tokyo. This is not your grandma's mall. It is a towering structure in which one finds the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, ultra-expensive boutiques with names I never heard of--and some I have, like Harry Winstone--selling jewelry, clothes, shoes, housewares, furniture, gourmet food, and so on. I wandered around, taking pictures and videos of the shops, the architecture, the people, the food and restaurants, and so on. Here are some photos of this must-visit place so at odds with foreigners' views of traditional Japan but yet so very Japanese.

An underground entrance, after emerging from the subway.

The plaza in front of Tokyo Midtown.

Another scene in the plaza.

You should get an idea of the pretensions of this place from pictures like this.

One of two such fountains, in which water keeps sliding down over the glass panes.

A shopping corridor.

Looking down from an upper corridor.

At one point, I noticed an outdoor produce market. Tokyo Midtown is known not only for its expansive mall and expensive products, but for a striking museum and beautifully landscaped gardens. To see such an open area of greenery in the midst of such high-priced real estate comes as something of a surprise. The produce market was set up in a u-shape near the gardens, just outside the Galleria shopping area, and each vendor had a small booth selling beautifully arranged produce and other items, including mushrooms, fruit, rice crackers, tomato juice, and so on. I videotaped some of this as I walked through the drizzle, occasionally stopping to taste a free sample of the wares.

Looking out at the produce market from inside the Galleria.

Those guys on the right were waiting for me with a free sample of a big, juicy strawberry.

Schoolgirls crossing the road as I walked to the produce market in the park.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

#13: There'll Be a Change in the Weather . . .

On Saturday night I had dinner with Mari Boyd and Zvika Serper at a yakitori restaurant near Inokashira Park. Mari is an important scholar of Japanese modern theatre (shingeki) and puppet theatre--with a strong interest in British theatre--who teaches at Sophia University, a Jesuit institution in Tokyo. It's where I first met my own Japanese theatre mentor in Tokyo back in 1963--Father Benito Ortolani, who later gave up the priesthood to get married, and, strange as it may seem, got a job teaching at Brooklyn College, where he became Theatre Department chair and held the post for 24 years. Mari recently returned from a year of research in London.

Mari Boyd

Zvika and Mari

The temperature hit 61 on Sunday and the sun was shining. But I'm here to work so back I went to the Waseda library. But I did hit a milestone when I completed all the copying I have to do there. But, as noted below, I'd be returning to sift through their extensive database for photos. And I'd also be going back to the Shochiku Otani Library for more copying. But progress has definitely been made. By the way, going door to door from my apartment to Waseda, which--in Tokyo terms--isn't that far, takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

It was such a nice Sunday that the crowds were teeming in Kichijoji when I got back from Waseda. Here's a video clip of part of the route I took walking home. I've been too busy with my work to do much sightseeing, so I've posted more clips of Kichijoji than anywhere else so far. By next week, the clips should get more diverse, especially beginning this weekend with my trip to Shikoku, mentioned below.

Wish I'd been home to follow the Mets' epic struggle against the Cards today--2-1 win in 20 innings over nearly 7 hours! Or maybe I was better off just getting the results.

Monday was ultrabusy. It actually bordered on warm here and I was able to go jacketless for the first time. But nobody seems to have told the people working at the Shochiku Otani Library; when I walked in I was greeted by a blast of hot air such as I haven't experienced since hearing John Boehner's latest speech. I thought I was going to do a Frosty the Snowman and be little more than a puddle within five minutes flat. I recalled seeing a sign in the lavatory saying not to overuse the toilet paper, but I didn't care. I didn't have a handkerchief with me so, after mopping my brow and neck with the sleeve of my shirt, baseball pitcher-style, I dashed into the bathroom and nabbed enough of that precious tushy wipe to dab my perspiration with, and eventually my body adjusted to the tropical weather. By then, of course, I was perusing old programs in my BVDs, but since the place was fairly empty, the librarians either didn't notice or dismissed my near nudity as just another old gaijin's (foreigner's) eccentricity.

You'll recall that when I made my formal request for copies last week, they said I'd have to come back this week to pick them up. They must have begun to wonder if I'd ever come back, though, because this time the librarian in charge asked me to pay for my new copies in advance. This was Monday, of course, and when I finished selecting what I now wanted copied, I was told I'd have to return for the pages on Thursday. The Japanese are among the most efficient people in the world--but there seem to be pockets of resistance.

At 4:30 I met Kei at the Kobikido bookshop and spent most of my remaining cash on books, which I arranged to have shipped to New York by surface mail, which can take as long as two months. I once had to pay over $600 in overweight fees for the plane trip home because I'd bought so many tomes, so I'm not about to repeat that experience again. A couple of days later, when I learned that I couldn't insure surface mail, I opted to pay for a more secure, but much more expensive, airmail service.

We walked through a nearby underground shopping arcade--really just a few small restaurants and a movie theatre box office--but, as Kei pointed out, the place had hardly changed since the early postwar era. This is the Ginza area, all glass and steel and supermodern shopping emporiums, but here was one corner (or tunnel) that was still redolent of the old days. After a meal of Chinese shabu shabu on a local sidestreet (the restaurant was on the sidestreet, not the meal), we went to the Kabuki-za for the final program. This would be my last visit to this theatrical palace before its demolition, and I experienced a rush of nostalgia for the time when, as a 23-year-old graduate student in 1963, I first experienced kabuki here.

The stars of both plays on the present program were young and up-and-coming back then. (So was I, for that matter.) As per the kabuki system, they've all succeeded to new acting names. These actors include the present Nakamura Shikan, Matsumoto Koshiro, Ichikawa Danjuro, Onoe Kikugoro, and Kataoka Nizaemon. One of the plays was Sukeroku, which was the specialty of Danjuro's father, Danjuro XI (the current Danjuro is the XIIth), who was my favorite. Seeing the son, now in his mid-60s and--despite a serious recent illness--still capable of playing the play's eponymous dashing hero, was a remarkable example of the ghosting effect of kabuki, where many great actors never seem to die because they live on in the corporal presence of their sons, who, when wearing the standardized makeup of the great roles, often bear an astonishing resemblance to their fathers. And the sons of the current aging crop of stars, of course, are on their way up, eventually to inherit their fathers' names, as well as looks and talent.

On the way to the subway after the show, I stopped to have my picture taken at the famous Ginza intersection in front of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Tuesday it rained, but I was at the library searching through hundreds of digital photos on the Waseda theatre database, trying to choose pictures for the book I'm researching. I'll eventually have to make a formal request for each picture, and pay a substantial sum for the copies and the publishing rights, but the photos won't belong to me. They come with all sorts of restrictions, including the necessity of returning them once I'm finished with them.

And it turns out that, despite my high hopes, the database is rather problematic. Its best feature is ease of access. (It's all in Japanese, by the way.) Since everyone has a different purpose in searching a database, let's follow mine to make the explanation easy. First I click on the link to "stage pictures." Then I select the genre I'm interested in--kabuki. Then I choose the specific time period I want to look at (of course, you can search by title, actor, whatever.) So I begin by typing in May 1952, when my project begins, the month right after the American Occupation of Japan ended. An array of thumbnail photos appears. I click on the ones I'm interested in and they open in larger size, with info such as the title, the actors, the date, the theatre, etc. I write down the picture number so I can order it later, and this goes on and on, for each month from 1952 to 1965.

But I found dozens of errors in identifying the actors' names, there were too many duplicates of certain pictures, too many photos were of poor quality, other genres were mixed in with kabuki, and many important shows were not even represented. I could get photos from the Shochiku Library, but their process is far more time-consuming and they don't have a database. Shochiku's prices also far more expensive. I wound up choosing 103 pictures, which I then whittled down to 41 because even at their cheaper price the cost for over 100 shots was too high. And there's no guarantee my eventual publisher will be able to use so many illustrations.

On Wednesday, Zvika left for Tel Aviv, but he's an avid user of Skype, so we'll stay in touch, as we always have.

As I said before, I'm getting ready for a very exciting weekend, and readers of this blog should find a real treat when I report on my trip to the old city of Kotohira on the island of Shikoku, where the oldest professional kabuki theatre, renovated in recent years, still exists. We'll take a step back in time and see what it was like to visit a kabuki theatre in the 1830s. And we'll have a new companion, in addition to Kei Hibino. I'm talking about Russell Lifson, the grandson of my wife's cousin, who has been teaching English since last year in a small town near Kotohira, and with whom we'll spend some downtime.

Wednesday was yet ANOTHER DAY IN THE LIBRARY! How thrilling is THAT! But the sun shone, the temperature climbed, my jacket was shed, my sleeves shortened, and my walk sprang (the knee is actually feeling a lot better). I finished the photo selection process and am nearing the end of the Waseda part of my research. I have to go back to formally request the pictures and pay my respects to Takemoto-sensei, the head of the Memorial Theatre Museum, who is also a well-known scholar of noh theatre. Oyasuminasai (good night), dear readers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

#12: Spring Snow in Tokyo

Last night the temperature dropped into the 30s, and Tokyo actually had snow in mid-April for the first time in over 40 years. Of course, you could have picked up all the snow and put it in your pocket but it was snow nonetheless.

I wore four layers of clothing, none of them winter weight, to brave the cold, but by mid-afternoon the sun had come out and the temperature had climbed into the upper forties. I soon began to match my sweaty friend, drop for drop.

Most of the day was spent at the Waseda theatre library. When I left around 3:15 I spotted my former mentor, the great Japanese theatre scholar, Torigoe Bunzo, walking toward the library. Torigoe-sensei is now in his late 70s, perhaps older, and several years ago recovered from cancer, so it was touching to see him looking so well. I haven't seen him in six years, and wasn't sure how he was doing. We had a warm, if momentary, meeting, as I was rushing to meet Kei Hibino at Ochanomizu.

From Ochanomizu Station, Kei and I hiked several blocks to Tezuka Shobo, a tiny theatre bookshop in a back alley of Jinbocho, the remarkable new and used book section of Tokyo. Bookstores of all descriptions line the streets here, something now totally alien back home; the area around New York's Strand Bookstore  on Broadway and W. 10th Street was once a bit like this, but with nowhere near as many shops. Tezuka Shobo is not quite the hole-in-the wall that Kobikido, the bookstore I wrote about the other day, is; the difference, though, is that here the hole is slightly bigger. It's almost impossible for two people to pass one another in what stand for aisles. But the store is very well organized, and the proprietor knew immediately where every book I asked for was. His inventory is catalogued online so books can also be purchased over the Internet. Like Kobikido, this store also owns the remnants of a previous theatre books establishment. Kobiki-den is what is left of the Okumura bookshop, while Tezuka's books once belonged to the Toyoda store. I made a substantial selection and arranged for their shipping.

While in the store, I spotted a pretty young Western woman buying a bunch of books and speaking very good Japanese. I asked if she was American. She said no, she was Polish. It turns out her name is Iga Rutkowska and she's a doctoral student in Tokyo writing her Ph.d. on jishibai, the rural, amateur kabuki that still exists in farming and fishing villages all over Japan. When I ventured to mention my name, her cheeks suddenly flushed and I was much taken by the charm of her reaction. She said she was very grateful for an Frozen Moments: Writings on Kabuki, 1966-2001 (Cornell East Asia, No. 111) (Cornell East Asia Series)essay in my book Frozen Moments, which is probably the most complete description of the jishibai in English. I was thrilled to learn that that piece, which very few people are even aware of, had had even a slight significance to a researcher in the field from so far away as Poland. Being partly of Polish heritage myself, I felt enormously gratified. But meeting her here in this tiny, out-of-the way bookstore in a back alley of Jinbocho, really made my day.