26th May 2019: “Komeko Sin Gluten” event in Madrid (Spain)

After almost literally everybody and their dogs ditched me for a cooking workshop in Madrid, literally the day before I decided to bite the bullet and go by myself, so I bought my ticket on Saturday night, barely 12 hours before the event, a promotion of a Japanese-Spanish shop and its products based on rice flour. The shop is called “Komeko Sin Gluten”, which translates as “Gluten-Free Rice Flour”.

Evenbrite ticket for the event: Taller de Cocina de Komeko: crepe, helado y tarta 10 euro

The event happened in a venue-for-hire in Madrid, and consisted in three distinct parts: a small market in which I would have spent a lot if I had not got a few samples with my ticket, a cooking workshop and a taiko concert. I arrived early due to Sunday having awful public-transport connections, and I arrived in Madrid an hour before the event even opened, and then we got a delay with the start of the workshop because someone was missing. During that time I got to sit around among aaaall the Japanese people around, including the head drummer of the taiko group, , whom I admired a lot since I watched him in HA·YA·TO: Drum Masters.

The small market was comprised, of course, of gluten-free products, especially Japanese ones, most of them can be found online, yay. I decided not to buy things upfront as the workshop included a sample of products, and I wanted to buy what I did not get. In the end, I did not have to buy anything because I got next to everything!

Pictures of the rice flour items - flour, noodles, snacks...

Anyway, the cooking workshop:

  1. Komeko crêpes: We made the crêpes on portable pans. There was a mini drama as the cook refused to start until we had chopsticks to flip the crêpes, and I was amused at first until I realised how convenient they actually were. While he was worried that I ahd any problems with the chopsticks, I’m happy to report that I was not the clumsiest in the class! After they were cool, we filled one up with ‘pastry cream’, banana and whipped cream for presentation – but we got to take the rest home and I tried them with chocolate. Serious improvement!
  2. Steamed banana sponge cake: this was really interesting to make, and also really easy – it involved mixing all the ingredients in a plastic bag, and then cutting a corner off the bag to pour that into little trays so we could steam it. That was… neat, and a team effort.
  3. Japanese green tea (matcha) ice-cream: Double team effort! (≧▽≦). As the paste needed time to freeze, we actually observed the chef prepare the ingredients and ate the one that had been prepared in the previous workshop.

Collage. Chef preparing crepes, and a picture of the materials, the matcha ice cream and my own creppes and banana spongecake

We had a snack with our crêpes and the matcha ice-cream. Then we got the haul of goodies: ramen and spaghetti noodles, komeko, komeko with glutinous rice, and komeko with cocoa, well worth the price (10€) I had paid for the whole workshop… Talk about promotion ☆⌒(ゝ。∂).

Different flours and noodles I got as present

Afterwards, I headed downstairs for the taiko concert. Enishi Taiko is a Spanish group, and Keita Kanazashi usually collaborates with them rather often. The concert was, of course, more humble than the one with HA·YA·TO, but it was still a lot of fun.

Taiko group playing and having a lot of fun

Afterwards, I got Kanazashi to sign the HA·YA·TO DVD and the picture I had with him from that time, which was really cool. Furthermore, the main drummer in Enishi Taiko remembered me from the X Gran Exposición de Ikebana y Semana Cultural Japonesa session, and another session I took at their headquarters.

I had thought that I would be eating in Madrid but as I had snacked on the komeko products I was not hungry at all, so I decided to head home. On the way towards the station I found this really cool fountain.

Urban waterfall. The fountain looks like a massive bench, with a thin layer of water dripping from the top

28th October 2018: HA·YA·TO: Drum Masters (Madrid, Spain)

Out of all the taiko [太鼓] (Japanese drums) shows I have attended, this was without a doubt the one I enjoyed the most. HA·YA·TO: Drum Masters. First of all, the core of HA·YA·TO is comprised by the three Kanazashi brothers – Keita, Ryota and Yuta – along with a number of renown musicians: Koji Hada, Takayuki Hashiguchi, Makoto Sekine and Syunchiro Kamija, aside from two special guests: Chieko Kojima (dancer and first female wadaiko master in Japan) and Masato Shibata (shamisenworld champion).

Hayato Premium Ticket I found by chance

Theatre window with the Hayato Drum Masters poster

I was lucky enough to get a premium seat as I attended a matinee show in the theatre Teatros del Canal in Madrid. The show represents the four seasons of the year, and each part has its own rhythm and characteristics, along with energy and colour. At one point there were seven drummers and sixteen drums being played on stage at the same time.

Hayato Drum Masters Poster

Hayato Drum Masters essemble greeting at the stage

After the show, you could take pictures with the artists, and I was lucky I could do so with everybody! Also, I got myself the DVD…

11th March 2017: “TAO: The Samurai of the Drum” show in Guadalajara (Spain)

More than a trip, this one is focused on an event I attended. There was a Drum Tao performance in Guadalajara, to which I was invited. The fun part the person who had invited me used to work at the theatre. As he still had “contacts”, I was allowed to peek a little into the backstage, so I could take a few special pictures.

There is not much of a description that you can write of a percussion performance, to be honest. TAO focuses on drumming, the Japanese taiko style, with bigger and smaller drums, but they also play traditional flutes, koto and samishen (traditional harp and three-string guitar). The show also displays a few acrobatics. It was pretty fun. In the end you could take pictures and get autographs from some of the staff members.

Aaand I own up that I did a little bit of trolling by speaking Japanese to random staff in the merchandise area…

Collage: the big drum, the back curtain reading Tao, and a CD with the booklet autographied

14th May 2016: Ikebana & Taiko in Madrid (Spain)

I went to the Royal Botanical Garden Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid because they were holding an exhibit of Ikebana and Japanese culture “X Gran Exposición de Ikebana y Semana Cultural Japonesa”. There were several activities, and I wanted to watch the ikebana and listen to the taiko players.

I was very amused when it turned out you could actually attend an ikebana class. Ikebana [生け花] is the Japanese art of aranging flowers, and it is one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement (the other two are calligraphy and tea ceremony, I’m doomed).

To my surprise, the ikebana scene in Spain is heavily dominated by elderly ladies who take the whole thing Very Seriously ™, so in the end the workshop was more like two of them giving instructions to each attendee and one of them just taking the flowers from you and rearranging them if you failed to heed the instructions within a couple of seconds. It was interesting though, and behold my creation:

They almost made me late for the taiko – Japanese drums – demonstration, which turned out to also be a workshop, my first time playing the drums. I’m not that good at that one, either, but let me tell you better than the flowers…

Afterwards, I wandered about the rest of the exhibition before I headed off… and this sounds really fast, but it was a good half day!

15th July 2014: Robots and Drums (Madrid, Spain)

A bit over ten years ago, when I was in universe one of my neighbours was paying for a proto-on-demand TV subscription, and it turned out that my TV caught it for some reason. At that time I got to watch a bunch of anime – in Spanish, badly-translated and rather… altered. Among the series I watched was Gainax’s “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, or Shinseiki Evangerion [新世紀エヴァンゲリオン]. Evangelion is a rather confusing series in itself, but the creative translation and censorship made it almost impossible to understand. Evangelion tries to be a giant robot anime with a religious / philosophical background, where humans piloting huge robots (“EVA”) battle monsters called “angels” which apparently seek to destroy humanity. Or something.

The point of this anime-history paragraph is to explain how I ended up at the Museo ABC de Dibujo e Ilustración, the drawing and illustration museum in Madrid. They were running an exhibition about Evangelion and the Japanese katana Evangelion y las katanas japonesas. It was something interesting to see, and the first time I’ve ever seen actual Japanese katana information. The exhibition has three focuses – actual katana, recreations and figures of elements of the series, such as the robots, pilots or weapons, and weapons inspired by the anime.

After the exhibition I took the underground towards the thratre Teatro Circo Price to watch a taiko exhibition: “Taiko Performing Arts Ensemble: Dandan” by Kodo. Taiko are the traditional Japanese drums and there is a whole drumming style for them. It was really, really fun. Due to a fluke of destiny, I had very good seats, so I could enjoy to the fullest – far away from the reverberation and echoes, close enough so I could even sneak in a good picture or two!

The performance was amazing. I think this was the first time I’ve ever seen something so grandeur. Even when I saw a taiko school in Japan, it was just drumming, while Kodo added a lot of acrobatics to the mix. It was really great!

Unfortunately, I could not even check the merchandise after the performance as I had to run for my train, or risk getting stranded overnight in Madrid.

13th July 2012: Modern & Hip vs. Spriritual & Traditional {Japan, summer 2012}

There was nothing to fear about Friday the 13th, considering that Kinkakuji had predicted me an excellent fortune (yay!), and it started with a niiiice breakfast – Swallowtails‘ cheesecake.

The first stop of the day was skipped due to a train mishap: I missed the stop and did not realise until I had transferred to another line, so backtracking would be expensive. I was not deterred and moved on to my second destination: Ginza [銀座]. Ginza would be the expensive shopping district, and to be honest it did not give me too much of a good vibe.

Not too happy with the place, I decided that since I could ride the Yamanote line for free (Japan Railway Pass = ♥) I would do a couple of other exteriors. The first one was Tokyo Station [東京駅] which was being renovated, so most of it was covered in white fabric.

Afterwards I headed off to Akihabara Electric Town [秋葉原], the place of Tokyo that seems to have more gaijin per square metre. Akiba lives up to its reputation of flashy, hentai, and maido-café infested. Sadly, the Mandarake was doing some kind of renovation and the usual entrances were closed, so I could not find the way into the… interesting section.

On top of the usual Akihabara scenario, I also found some remains of old Tokyo, among them this old stone bridge, Mansei Bashi [万世橋]

The evening’s destination involved a transfer in Ginza again, so I backtracked towards it. Instead of going into the shopping district, though, I headed off to Hibiya Koen [日比谷公園], which reportedly was were the first shogun houses were, around the Imperial Palace.

After some rest and chocolate cookies, I set off towards quite literally the other corner of the castle, to Kudanshita [九段下]. We have heard about the Chidorigafuchi Toro-nagashi, a matsuri (festival) that involves a number of boats releasing lit lanterns on the water in the Palace Moat at Chidorigafuchi Koen [千鳥ヶ淵公園]. Sounds a pretty thing to see, right? Right. Thing is that Kinkakuji fortune kicked in, so when we arrived there had been a cancellation on one of the boats and… we became part of the festival.

Chidorigafuchi Park is close to Yasukuni Jinja [靖國神社], where yet another festival, the Mitama Matsuri, was being held. We had matsuri food (yakitori), admired the lanterns and heard a bunch of young men doing taiko (traditional drumming). It was beyond amazing an evening.