Monday, April 11, 2005

Three Berry & Cherry Weekend

Prime Minister Koizumi's flower viewing party. Posted by Hello

Three Berry Icecream, the musical unit of singer/accordionist/glockenspiel-player Mayumi Ikemizu, performed on Sunday afternoon at a tiny place called the Cafe See More Glass in Harajuku, Tokyo. If a gig at an arena with mammoth sound and light systems is one extreme of the rock concert spectrum, this show was probably near the other extreme. The cafe was in a non-descript basement floor next to a cheap-looking Chinese restaurant and across from a shop that sells ao-jiru, a bitter, green plankton-like drink that proponents claim is good for you. Inside See More Glass was room for about thirty seated people at most. Its owner must have been trying to bring to life a childhood dream of a warm, comfortable home by creating this cafe - bookshelves were stuffed with hundreds of picture books, and brightly-colored art was everywhere.

Three Berry Icecream live. Posted by Hello

Ikemizu, the performer, is a veteran musician who once played in the 90's Japanese pop band Bridge (Hideki Kaji was the group's most famous member). She's now the mother of a cute and outgoing three-year-old daughter, Ruka, and despite the demands of parenthood has continued to record music, though slowly, and has been doing shows occasionally. Ikemizu is friends with members of guitar pop bands like advantage Lucy and Vasallo Crab 75, and indeed, at this show Lucy guitarist Yoshiharu Ishizaka played guitar, and Vasallo's violinist and bassist helped out too.

The sound system was as simple as could be, but that served to highlight what accomplished musicians these guys are. A pleasant surprise for me was to hear how good the accordion and violin sound together playing pop/bossa nova. Three Berry did two shows, each about an hour for a crowd of around 25 people , many of whom knew each other, like cafe regulars.

Prime Minister Koizumi (click to enlarge) Posted by Hello

Saturday I was invited to, of all things, the flower-viewing party hosted by Prime Minister Koizumi. It was at the Shinjuku Gyoen, or Shinjuku Gardens, a big park in central Tokyo. The day was perfect for the party, sunny, with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. A pamphlet said the park contained about twenty varieties of cherry trees, including a rare type with green-colored cherry blossoms. And it was true, the park was colored that day in various shades of pink and white of cherry flowers. However, many of the 8,000 or so guests seemed more interested in taking photos of the celebrities that Koizumi had invited, than appreciating the cherry flowers' beauty.

Usually though, Japanese people make a big fuss about the cherry blossoms, partly out of habit, but also in part because the cherry's brief bloom I think confirms their view that youth is fleeting, and strikes a sentimental chord within them. Personally I prefer the plum blossom, which is pretty in its own way (either a dark pink or paler white than the cherry), stays in bloom longer than the cherry, but is largely ignored by people because it flowers ahead of the warmth of spring.

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