Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Monday, February 17, 2014

Days Like These...

Saturday, February 15th, was the date of this year's Japan Amateur Chambermusic Festival (ACF) in Yokohama.  The ACF is a fairly prestigious annual event which features about a dozen ensembles selected from many hundreds of applicants from all over the country.  All of the performances are more or less of the classical genre, and there are no stipulations as to age or background.  As it happened, the 11th grade string players at Ye Olde Academy auditioned and were selected to be one of the performing groups.  They were to be the only high schoolers on the program; all the others were either college students or older.  It was really quite an honor.

The fact that my own daughter was included made it even better.

Anyway, there were only 7 members in the 11th grade string ensemble, but the music club chartered a full-sized bus so that there would be plenty of room for supporters.  Since I was both a co-director and a parent, room was made for both me and my wife.  The bus was scheduled to leave Ye Olde Academy at noon that day, after my lessons were done, and we would be arriving at the Minatomirai Hall several hours before the performance.  That meant we'd have lots of extra time to play with in Yokohama...meaning it would be a welcome date with the wife free of the usual expressway and parking fees.  It looked to be a nice, easy, and enjoyable day.

Except that it wasn't.

You see, that nasty storm that dumped so much gale-driven rain mixed with snow on us from Friday evening until Saturday morning wound up leaving a full foot of snow on the normally snowless Tokyo Metropolitan Area.  That sent everything into a chain reaction of fail.

First it was announced that, because of the snow, the chartered bus would be leaving the Academy two hours early.  Unfortunately, that conflicted with a special demo lesson I was scheduled to teach for the kids who had passed our senior high entrance exam.  The administration made it clear that that lesson had priority, so I was forced to stay behind.

Not one to give up easily, I met up with my wife as soon as that lesson was finished, and I drove us to Yokohama myself.  I'd made the trip there plenty of times in the past, so it shouldn't have been a problem.  The temperature was in the teens centigrade (40-50 Fahrenheit), but there was still lots of snow on the ground in the Tokyo-Yokohama area.  Luckily, the expressway had been well plowed, so it was mainly just wet.  However, as we raced along those narrow elevated expressways between Tokyo and Yokohama, the snow bank on the side of the road was close enough to reach out and scoop...with big trucks in the other lane.  It was pretty scary.  When we got off the expressway in the Minatomirai area of Yokohama, there was plenty of snow on the streets, but traffic had long since carved ruts on the busier routes.  Nevertheless, the space in between the ruts was still deep enough for my car's airdam to scrape it.  The less-trafficked roads had some packed slush, but I just practiced my snow driving, made good use of my manual shift paddles, and got us into the underground parking garage without any trouble.

The last time my wife and I had visited Yokohama had been several years before, and it was great to be back.  The shopping malls in the Minatomirai area had plenty to keep us occupied, and my daughter had told us that their performance was scheduled to begin around 5 p.m..  That gave us a lot of time to spare, so we just took it easy and enjoyed ourselves.  We decided to go to the hall an hour before the performance to get our tickets and get settled in.  Thus, we arrived in the lobby just outside the hall with tickets and programs in hand just a few minutes after 4 p.m., looked at the monitor screen there...and saw our group already performing!  My daughter had given us the wrong time!  Shocked, we watched the rest of the performance on the monitor screen and then entered the hall as soon as the doors opened.

We stayed to watch a few more groups perform (mainly to justify our having made the trip there and paid for the tickets, but they really were quite good).  Then we left to make the journey home...which turned out to be a lot more difficult.  It was now after dark, not to mention rush hour, and I followed my navi-system to the expressway entrance, turned into it...and stopped dead in front of a barricade reading "Closed due to snow".  Naturally, that lane had been devoid of traffic, so I found myself trapped in the deep, partly-refrozen snow...but only briefly.  Punching out of there, I wandered about (making a couple of illegal abrupt lane changes) until I found an open on-ramp.  Unfortunately, it put me on a different expressway, so I wound up looping around on a rather roundabout route with a lot more traffic than before...and rapidly-melting snow forming all kinds of waterfalls and mini-avalanches along the way.  By the time we finally reached the welcome, wide expressway in Tokyo, our hearts were in our mouths.

Right about the time we got home, my daughter sent us a message saying her bus was on its way.  I nodded off before they arrived at Ye Olde Academy, though, and my wife was merciful enough to let me sleep.  In fact, I got more sleep that night than I had in a long time...which I suppose counts as one more blessing to weigh against all the karmic fail of the day.


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