Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Speaking of Alzheimer's, I only just remembered that Kami tagged me back in January.

The rules:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Leave a comment on their blog so that their readers can visit yours.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • Share the seven (7) most famous or infamous people you have met. Or go with the original 7 weird things about yourself. Or with Sandra's change and list your 7 favorite writing websites. Lots of choices!
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post.
  • Include links to their blogs.
  • Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okay, anyway...I know this tagging thing can get really annoying, but I don't want to disappoint my longtime dear friend, so I'll go for it. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the Seven Things tag post! I'll go with the first option, i.e. sharing the seven most famous or infamous people I have met. This may not be easy, though. I might have to reach a bit. Anyway, as far as I see it, the seven most famous or infamous people I have met are:

(Image from
1. Dizzy Gillespie
By "meeting" I mean I took a one-time seminar he taught on jazz improvisation during my first year of college. He did answer a question I asked (though I don't currently recall what it was). Considering the man's historical importance to the jazz genre and his indelible influence on it (I mean, the man co-invented be-bop, for crissake!), it was really bizarre to be sitting there listening to him talk as if he were just one of the guys in town. Suddenly the legend was very human. I also very much appreciated some statements he made concerning both pop and rock music and the use of electronic instruments. He said, "If it makes music, and it makes you feel good, I say use it! Music is music, man!" An awful lot of jazz enthusiasts I've met have tended to be very closed-minded snobs, so it was refreshing to hear one of the greats of the genre giving a seal of approval to being open-minded.

(Image from
2. Tex Beneke
And here we have yet another historically significant jazz musician! Tex was the lead tenor sax player in the original Glenn Miller Orchestra and the one who originally sang "Chattanooga Choo Choo", among other things. The director of my first college jazz band was a former member of Tex's own band, formed after Glenn Miller's tragic disappearance, so the two of them were acquainted. Apparently Tex had a strong aversion to performing with amateurs, but he was willing to make an exception for my director's sake. I performed a Glenn Miller tribute concert together with him, myself on second tenor sax. I think the experience had a strong influence on my own approach to jazz saxophone, which still tends to be more inclined to traditional swing than be-bop (sorry, Dizzy!). The man was really easy going, easy to talk to, and seemed unshakable, but after the curtains closed at the end of the concert he turned and dressed down our trumpet section for having rushed during the end of "In The Mood". Now, as a jazz band director, I make damned sure my own trumpets don't do the same!

(Image taken from the Whittler's Workshop website)
3. Steve Tunturi
The man himself has probably never been as famous as his creations, but I still consider him very significant. Tunturi is a woodcarver. I was lucky in that his studio/shop, the "Whittler's Workshop", is located in the sleepy coastal town of Waldport, Oregon, where my mother was born and my parents and sister currently live. It appeared in the early 80s, when I lived in the suburbs of Portland, but no visit to my grandparents' house in the same town was complete without a stopover at the shop. I wasn't just a window shopper, either; I own a number of his works, many of them here in my house in Japan including the "pen dragon" sitting atop this computer. I also bought a book on woodcarving and a set of tools at his shop (and yes, I did make a few works, most of them figurines for role-playing games...long since lost). I met the man himself in the early 90s, after I had already relocated to Japan. It was during one of my Christmas visits home. He happened to be at work there in the shop when I dropped in, and we chatted for a bit. I told him I had seen what looked like his work for sale at Tokyo Disneyland, and he proudly replied that I was correct. He was definitely an interesting chap, and he was very much the sort I had imagined considering the fantasy theme of most of his carvings. As a respected artist he has his pride, which has apparently given him a sort of mixed reputation in town (i.e. some people consider him something of a snob), but I actually thought he was a very agreeable sort considering the profile of his work.

The home page for the Whittler's Workshop, linked above, refers to Tunturi in the present tense (though the site's copyright date only goes to 2005), and I've found current info on his works and their display or online sale dating at least up till February of this year, but my mother said he either died recently or has been down with some sort of serious illness. At any rate, he doesn't seem to be producing any new works. However, his business has always been based mainly on the sale of limited-edition resin replicas of his works rather than the original carvings themselves, so his wife is keeping things going for the time being at least. (Maybe Philippa can give us an update.) I'm glad I got a chance to meet him when I did.

(Image from China Daily)
4. Princess Nori
Again, I'm not sure if my experience with Her Imperial Highness, Princess Nori (Nori-no-miya), now known as Sayako Kuroda, really counts as "meeting", but we did come face to face, and we did exchange words. It was in 2001, the first time that I accompanied our school orchestra to the All-Japan Selected High School Orchestra Festival. I had asked Mr. Ogawa how I should dress for the event, and he had said, "Not formal, nothing fancy, just decent with a necktie." I had therefore gone to the event dressed much the same as I always did (and still do) at work during the winter, i.e. a sweater and tie. Mr. Ogawa, however, wore a dress suit, and I arrived at the venue to find all of the other directors similarly spruced up. The reason, I soon found, was that Princess Nori was coming to open the event. That was bizarre (read "mortifying"). First they lined all of the directors up, myself included. Then a group of attendants started setting up all these very formal, classical Japanese trappings. Then the black limousine with police escort pulled up to the curb outside. The princess, looking quite diminutive in and amongst her massive entourage, made her entrance and was introduced to the directors in turn. Mr. Ogawa and I were introduced together, and I felt more than a little embarrassed. After all, I was the only foreigner in the line...and the only one not formally dressed. As all those people - and TV cameras - looked on, the princess made eye contact and gave me a polite smile before she answered my bow. Then she gave me a double-take as she moved on to the next director.

The story doesn't end there. Mr. Ogawa told me that there was going to be a short reception with the princess together with one teacher and two student reps from each participating orchestra. Guess who had to go? Very good! Still clad in my sweater, I went to the reception and stood along with the cordon of very nervous-looking teachers as the princess went around and greeted the students. I guess I looked especially nervous, for when the princess greeted the students nearest me (but not from my school) she stopped, looked around at the teachers, and said, "Please relax. I'm only planning to address the students now." Then she looked me straight in the eye and added, "Talking to me is really no different from talking to anyone else." As it turned out, though, I didn't talk to her after that. We were quickly hustled off to the opening ceremony.

As an interesting addendum to the story, Princess Nori wasn't present at the opening of any of the orchestra festivals I attended after that, but she did make one rather enigmatic appearance. This was about four years ago. I was in the lobby outside the performance hall when suddenly a group of students from our orchestra came over looking like they'd seen a ghost. I asked what had happened, and they replied that they had been in our assigned storage/prep room after their performance, and Princess Nori had suddenly walked in. Saying nothing but a quick, "Ohayou gozaimasu (good morning)," she'd just come into the room, looked around a bit, walked out, and headed straight to the elevator with her escort. There was never any announcement of her presence at the event, and to this day none of us have any idea why she came into our exclusive room or what she was looking for.

Sayako finally married last year and is now officially a commoner. Maybe it's a relief for her, but it's also a pity in a way. Far from an empty icon, she's an intriguing individual who has been actively involved with both music- and science-related functions since her school days. She's not known for her beauty, but her voice and speaking style are both extremely pleasant to listen to. She talks quite softly, but it's the sort of musical softness that makes people stop what they're doing and take note, as I witnessed first hand at that orchestra festival. I can only guess at what her life must have been like as a member of the Imperial Family, but during our brief meeting I think she tried to express some of the alienation she must have felt. That makes me wonder even more why she made that brief, mysterious appearance in our room four years ago.

5. Jeff Nicholson
Generally fun, quirkily musical, and terminally Canadian, Jeff came to Japan the same time I did as a participant in the same program and was assigned to the same prefecture. He didn't stay as long as I did, though; after only two years with JET he ended his service and relocated to the Tokyo area, where he continues to teach at St. Mary's International School and do various music and hockey-related activities. So why is he listed here? I'm glad you asked! It's because he is the composer and performer of the song known simply as "Hockey". Yes, it's a simple song, but I'd be willing to bet the overwhelming majority of the population of Canada has heard it at least once along with a good number of Americans. Several pro hockey venues have played it, and some apparently still do. Anyone who watched Monday Night Hockey in Canada last year saw the video. The tune is available for download from iTunes, and it is also available as a cell phone ring tone.

You can see the video here. What's really interesting is that, although I played keyboards (sadly buried in the mix) in the recording, in the video I'm the one playing Jeff's '50s vintage Ampeg bass! Man, do I look geeky in that thing...and all of Canada knows my face now! Actually, my geekiness in the video may have been partly because I was really sick at the time. For some reason, possibly a bad combination of Coke, Canadian Club, Kirin beer, and cigars, all of the nasal and sinus cavities on the right side of my face swelled so solidly shut that I seriously thought my skull was going to explode. The swelling was also pushing my upper right teeth out, so all of them were aching like hell. In fact, I went to the doctor the next day and was warned nasal surgery might be necessary. It cleared up, fortunately, but when we made the video I was NOT a happy camper.

I still see Jeff from time to time, and we still do music work together. I was a regular session artist on both of his officially-released CDs, BANG! and Who Do You Think That You Are? (though not on his first album, a tape-only album called The Blooming available only in parts of Canada) and I'm still technically a member of his band, Accidentally on Purpose, though we haven't played together for more than a year. Several of his tunes (with me included, usually on keyboards, sax, various whistles and/or backing vocals) have gotten airplay both in Canada and here in Japan.

I guess that makes Jeff qualify as "famous". Right, Jeff? Jeff...?

(I have no image of both of them to share...sorry!)
6. Kami and Rory Miller
Okay, so they're two people rather than one (so just sue me, alright?), but I can't really imagine separating them, let alone justify it, so fuggit! Here they are, the dynamic duo! Yes, it's the same Kami that tagged me for this thing in the first place. We went to the same high school and the same university and have been good friends throughout. She's a writer, an artist, a musician, and a generally very interesting human being. As a writer she has yet to achieve that elusive breakthrough into official publication, but she is still enough of a fixture in the Pacific Northwest literary scene, particularly of the fantasy genre, that she is often called upon to participate in events related to it, sometimes as a critic or clinician. Ironically, her husband Rory, adventurer, policeman, prison guard, police trainer, martial arts instructor, psychologist, philosopher, and someone who is as likeable and as fascinating as he is dangerous, has had publishing success. He has just put out a non-fiction work called Meditations on Violence which is exactly what the title states. I can vouch for the value of his writing, which is often both riveting and very thought-provoking. (Check out his blog here.) Kami and Rory are almost bipolar opposites, and yet they complement each other perfectly. I feel honored and blessed to be acquainted with them and to be able to count them among my friends. I'm happy that Rory is finally getting the fame he deserves, and I hope Kami gets some official backing to her already considerable literary presence!

(Okay, I'll go wipe my nose off now.) ;-)

7. Pretty much everyone else in my blog list
Go ahead and call me a cheater if you like, but I'm serious! What can I say? I look at the web-tracker stats for this site, and I see that more than sixty percent of the visitors are coming from referring links. Dozens of hits every month are referrals coming off of the Snabulus blog (includes both Don and Ladybug), second in volume only to Google. Interestingly, Pandabonium is currently second in line followed by new acquaintance Nikkipolani, followed not far behind by Mick, Swinebread, and Olivia. Another recent acquaintance, Santa Fe-based artist and writer San, gets many dozens of comments on every post on her blog, as does Cambridge-based astronomer/philosopher QUASAR9, a testament to both the must-read quality and the fame of those two individuals. Meanwhile, architect and kayaking hero FH2o (aka "Unker" Francis) and his Kuching Kayaking are now regularly featured in Malaysian tour guides and attract quite an international following. Bahraini composer/musician Hashim is apparently a much sought-after commodity for the film background music market in his corner of the world (and has had his work pirated for commercial use, unfortunately), and for a very good reason. Then there are people like Agus, Happysurfer, @Low@, Selba, Um Naief, and Wendy whose human qualities have earned them their followings, some like Robin who do it with religious and/or philosophical insight, and others like Shlemazl or Pa've who earn their fame through vociferous controversy. Sadly, a few very significant voices, namely Chris in Manitoba, Leilouta, Saba, and YD, have suddenly disappeared with little or no explanation, and their absence is missed.

If I missed anybody it's because you haven't been posting much lately!!!! GET WITH IT!!!!!!!

Now...who should I tag? about going in the order of blog referrals? That would mean:

Don and/or Ladybug - Maybe one of them will actually do this.
Pacific Islander - I know he doesn't like tags, but fair is fair. Besides, his answers could be interesting!
Nikkipolani - Since she has brought me so much publicity lately, I hope to get to know her a little better!
Mick - I also very much doubt he'll do this, but as interesting as his writing is, and with the incredible wealth of experience he's had, I really hope he does.
Swinebread - He has met a lot of names in the comic world, and I hope to hear about it!
Olivia - She has already talked at length about her unique and/or bizarre qualities, but I hope m'lady Olivia will share some of the famous people she has met.
Happysurfer - Anything to get her to lay off the commercial plug posts for a bit!

Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!


  • That's an impressive list. Really. Dizzy? wow. Tex Beneke - "Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?" And Princess seaweed, uh, Nori. Jeff's name is familiar to me because it is through his web presence that I found you. I'll check out Kami and Rory's website.

    Steve Tunturi's work looks great!

    Cool stuff and new things to explore, thanks.

    I don't do tags...but...
    well... since I have nothing else to do (rolls eyes)... for you I'll make an exception. May not be as quick about it as you'd like...

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 4:16 PM  

  • MM, your list (and fabulous accounts of the connections) is quite impressive. Though I live in Southern California and somewhat close to Hollywood, you'd think I lived in outer Mongolia for all the celebs and/or (in)famous people I've run into. Or, more likely, I'm not aware of enough famous people ;-)

    I've long felt sorry for Princess Nori ever since I've read about the expectations she lives with. Your description of her speaking voice is what I think of when I think of Japanese being spoken in general. At least, my very limited experience.

    You don't post frequently, MM, but when you do, it's always a pleasure to read.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:45 AM  

  • Vociferous Controversy

    Yeah, if I don't raise a few eyebrows, I'm not doing it right.

    By Blogger Pa've, at 8:51 AM  

  • Thanks for the mention in lucky number sleven. Good one, it's like wishing for more wishes for your last wish.

    And thanks for not tagging me. It takes me a while even to update my own stuff. And you know i never respond even if i've promised to.

    By Blogger agus, at 12:25 PM  

  • Whoaaa... you have met princess nori? That's so cool! :)

    I've met a lot of famous Indonesian people (and known some of them).

    During the 80s, I met a lot of Indonesian ministries because my dad got invited pretty often by those government people.

    Then it's pretty easy to meet celebrities at the prestige malls in Jakarta.

    Beside them, my parents know some Indonesian rich people/owners of big companies in Indonesia (famous tycoons), so I've met them a lot of times during some occassions.

    By Blogger Selba, at 2:03 PM  

  • Done with my 7. Whew. Two musicians, an actor, an aviator, two economists, and a dead politician - read all about it...."Notorius" Seven

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 9:52 AM  

  • Moody, you've led an interesting life, my friend, associating with everyone from Dizzy to Princess Nori. You most definitely qualify for Citizen of the World status.

    And thank you kindly for bestowing the label of "famous" on me, let alone mentioning me in the same sentence as mighty Quasar.

    I'm blushing.

    By Blogger San, at 7:12 AM  

  • Hey, there's even seven comments! Cool.... hey wait a sec. Now its eight. Damn.

    By Blogger DewKid, at 7:55 AM  

  • Pandabonium
    I appreciate your stooping to doing a tag for me (again). ;-)

    I've always loved Tunturi's work, and it was a shock when my mother told me recently that he was either down or out.

    A student of mine once bumped into a couple who were both among her favorite TV stars (i.e. a soap opera actor and actress). She asked them if they'd take a picture with her, and they declined, so she just snapped a couple of photos of them...and got snapped at in return. The student couldn't understand how her favorite TV stars could be so hostile. I replied by asking her how she'd like to be pestered by people like herself every time she tried to go out and do something. She replied by saying, "I know, but...what can I do? They're my favorites!" The bottom line is that most celebrities would probably rather NOT be bumped into. In that respect, you're probably doing the celebs in your area a passive favor. ;-)

    With you controversy is a job description and an obligation. You do it so well, too!

    Yes, I noticed you haven't been as quick on the blog as you have in the past. Are you busier these days?

    I'm eager to hear some anecdotes!

    I haven't met all that many famous people, especially not on my own, but I do have an occasional habit of winding up being dragged helplessly and haplessly into high-profile functions. That's how these meetings usually occur. I think the only famous person I've ever bumped into, so to speak, was Santos, one of our local pro soccer players and a former World Cup attendee from Brazil, while shopping in Kashima. I can't classify it as "meeting", though, because we only exchanged a terse greeting.

    Famous is as famous does. ;-)

    Lucky,, NINE!

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 9:36 AM  

  • Steve Tunturi is deceased. Some kind of heart-disease thing. His family is keeping the store open.

    By Blogger Phillipa Scratch, at 10:00 AM  

  • Sorry to hear about Tunturi's passing. Glad that Moody gets to enjoy his work first hand and shared it with the rest of us.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 5:04 PM  

  • Wow, and wow! And Thanks! And I'm glad you got around to this. Dizzy, really? Wow!

    By Blogger Kami, at 12:59 AM  

  • Yah, i've been busier, but it's all good. Doing many things for my future.

    By Blogger agus, at 1:01 AM  

  • Darnit, Minstrel, I would have been higher on the list if you'd done this before!

    Anyway, it looks like I have my homework assignment for the weekend: catch up on your blog, comment, AND do that tag!

    By Blogger Olivia, at 9:40 AM  

  • Oh MM, must you, must you tag me?! You know I don't do memes. Simply not good at them. Now to quote PandaB on Robin's blog: I suffer.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 6:14 PM  

  • Hi The great Moody Minstrel.

    Sir. Done with my 7. I have ‘bent’ your rules slightly and sorry will not list my 7 favourite writing web-sites or tag 7 random people at the end of my post including links to their blogs, sorry that’s just not me.

    By Blogger Mick's Page., at 10:57 PM  

  • Right, having read your post now I can honestly say that the least likely person and therefore most impressive persons you could have met would be Princess Nori. I say this because I know how closely guarded the Japanese Imperial family are, unlike the British Royal family and even less the rest of Europe's royal houses.

    So, point is, how many Westerners can claim to have made eye contact with Japanese royalty?

    BTW, has she officially lost her title?

    By Blogger Olivia, at 10:14 AM  

  • sorry I thought I Left a message here a long time ago!

    and now can't remember what it was! Oh well...

    It was something about the princess...

    By Blogger Swinebread, at 12:48 AM  

  • Phillipa
    Yeah, I thought mom said something along those lines. Funny that I can't find any news about it whatsoever. Even the Whittler's Workshop homepage refers to him in the present tense.

    And now those works have just become even more valuable, meaning I will guard them even more closely.

    You're very welcome. Yep!

    Maybe some of the rest of us should follow your example. Emphasize the should.

    Well, you WERE higher on the list for a long time, but the rate of referrals from your site has dropped recently.

    I tagged you because you were in the top 7 link referrals to my site. It wasn't a matter of choice! Besides, you seem to be good at anything you try.

    Feel free to bend and twist the rules as you see fit! Actually, I've read your post, and it's a very good read! Thanks again!

    Olivia (again)
    Yes, I felt the same way. It was kind of a shock. I also really have to wonder about that time she showed up in our prep room without any warning.

    Yes, she has lost her royal title. She married a commoner, so she's a commoner. The funniest thing about it is that that rule was apparently concocted by the American Occupation, as was the restriction against women ascending the throne!

    Then it must not have been very important.

    (I just remembered! The royal family says they'll sue anyone that posts ab...never mind.)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:01 AM  

  • Naaaahh... I don't think that the anecdotes are interesting and besides you didn't tagged me for this post, wooohooooo... :P

    By Blogger Selba, at 1:06 PM  

  • Shlemazl or Pa've who earn their fame through vociferous controversy

    Not intentionally.

    By Blogger shlemazl, at 12:51 PM  

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