On the flight from LA to Tokyo I watched a Japanese movie called Let Me Eat Your Pancreas. I turned it off after fifteen minutes upon realizing it was a touching film of love and loss, and not a Halloween special feature. After bidding a fond farewell to Let Me Eat Your Pancreas, I did manage to get through an entire two-and-a-half-hour samurai movie. This epic was called Sekigahara, about the battle for the reunification of Japan by Tokugawa with a great half-our battle scene near the end in which many people get hacked into pieces. I wonder if they’ve used the same costumes in all these historical sagas as they did in The Seven Samurai. They look suspiciously similar. They must have plenty of holes in them by now.
I had a good reason for watching a movie. Any movie. Two-hundred-fifty-nine of the two-hundred-sixty-one passengers on the long flight—eight hours? ten hours? who knows?—were perfectly quiet the whole time. The two babies in the seat in front of me, however, had different ideas and didn’t stop screaming the whole time. I take that back. Every time their parents and/or their grandparent walked them down the aisle they calmed down almost immediately. You’d think the adults would have done that for more than ten minutes rather than sitting there for hours trying to ignore their poor kids’ bawling. Go ahead. Call me a curmudgeon. To be fair, the last hour the two tykes were quiet. But one time when they were performing a duet that would put hyenas to shame, I donned my headphones and perused the classical music channel on my console. Guess what? There was a performance of my old boss, Seiji Ozawa, performing Beethoven Symphony No. 1 and Piano Concerto No. 1 with Martha Argerich. I enjoyed listening to that, with the volume turned way up.
Other than that one mild annoyance, the flight(s) from Salt Lake City to Japan were relatively uneventful. The seats were eminently comfortable on LA-Tokyo leg (courtesy of a Japan Airlines jumbo jet), including plenty of leg room and a seat console like the helm of the Star Trek Enterprise. Dinner was pretty decent too. Caesar salad, cold soba, pickled vegetables and fish, chicken curry with rice, fresh fruit, and ice cream for dessert. Beats peanuts.
In between movies, meals, and the occasional snooze, I had a great time studying scores for the Vivaldi by Candlelight concert on December 9. Castrucci, Stradella, Brescianello–no, those are not gelato flavors. They’re contemporaries of Vivaldi who wrote spectacular music, and along with Bach and Biber it was so much fun to dig deeper into their individual esthetics.
I did have a couple of curveballs thrown my way by well-meaning American Airlines representatives. First, in Salt Lake they told me my suitcase would be checked all the way through to Nagoya, my final destination. Not! I had to retrieve it at Narita Airport in Tokyo and then reload it. Good thing the JAL rep straightened me out when I checked in at LA or I might be wondering whether it had been jettisoned somewhere over the Pacific. Also, the AA rep at my arrival in LA directed me to the AA gate for the connection to Tokyo instead of to the JAL gate. Another curve, but hey, what’s one terminal between friends? But I managed to foul that one off and ended up in the right place with time to spare.
I joined up with the BSO guys at Narita in Tokyo, and then the final slog to Nagoya and the bus to the Hilton. It was about 9:30PM when we arrived and I was still awake enough to find a tiny akachochin just down the block. Akachochin–literally red lantern–are tiny holes-in-the-wall that serve great food at low prices for the local population and stay open late. The menu was entirely in Japanese so it was also an adventure to order, but I managed to get some first rate yakitori and an excellent draft Kirin. All in all, a very auspicious start to the tour.