From the Station to the House
I only had 2 stops to wax philosophical, and got off at Gokurakuji Station soon enough. A charming station built in 1904, it is considerably old-timey. Wood paneling, cobblestone gardens, and one of those old red mailboxes, its got the works.
From there, it was a short walk to Sayuki’s repurposed kominka. As I approached the property (staring at my phone to film), Sayuki herself popped out to greet me. Very good timing, she said as I got within earshot. I would be lying if I said I was paying attention to my surroundings, so I was a bit startled. A wonderful welcome, indeed!
Sayuki and I had a few warm words outside, and then she invited me into her historic habitation. The house was built entirely of wood over 100 years ago in the quintessential Japanese nihon kenchiku style. It is lovingly known as 月の影亭 (Tsuki no Kage Tei), and is about as much of a teleportation device to Japan’s past as one could reasonably hope for.
Another set of sliding doors opens up to reveal the main walkway. Go left to a hallway of more sliding doors leading to bedrooms, closets, the living room also overlooking the garden, the kitchen, the library, and the study. Go right, and you’ll pass floor to ceiling windows overlooking the interior garden leading to another bedroom. Left is perhaps more exciting, but I like right too because I stayed in that bedroom overlooking the garden. It was very relaxing. Very shibui (though I guess the whole house is pretty shibui…).
The Intersection of Geisha and Extreme Metal
And, just like extreme metal, Geisha, or at least those under Sayuki’s watch, are also now experimenting with video streams and other novel approaches to engaging with their clients. Hearing this made me step back a bit, as what little I know about Geisha suggests that its a pretty traditional practice that likes what it’s been doing for the last 500 years or however long and isn’t really one to approach change of any kind with anything more than suspicion.
Just the night before my arrival, Sayuki told me, they had entertained a client group in Italy over Zoom to a pretty high level of success, though that’s not to say it was easy to affect and that they were kind of figuring out as they went. This piqued my already fiery interest as it sounded exactly like what the bands I work with have been going through in recording no-audience concerts for stream.
This makes a bit of a poignant, humbling statement once you unwrap it a bit. Businesses are scrambling to find the best way to address the pandemic, just as geisha are, just as extreme metalheads are, just as presumably everyone else is. But it’s one thing to say “everyone is doing it” and another thing to say what I just wrote above, which highlights the perceived disparate nature of those things while at the same time highlighting the unity of action amongst them.
We returned to Tsuki no Kage Tei, where I retired to my room, checked a few messages, considered and appreciated the decorations in the tokonoma, set up my futon, and fell asleep to the wind rustling through the trees just outside in the garden. A fitting end to a day full of new experiences and new acquaintances.
There are many more tales for me to tell. In traveling to places that I otherwise have no reason to go and know little if anything about in pursuit of information regarding properties no one is apparently interested in, I have had experiences and conversations that really open up new avenues of thought and consideration for myself, at least, and hopefully for those that also find themselves involved in one way or another.
When grasping for straws in trying to name something (an article, a concert series, my bike, etc.), I tend to just default to (preferably goofy) alliteration, but in starting to write these brief glimpses into my foray into the world of vacant buildings across Japan, I think that Akiya Adventures is — while maybe not the coolest — a pretty apt title, for the time being anyway.