Perfect egg salad sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) that appear to have been lovingly handmade by actual angels. You can buy these at railway stations even, where no one is counting on your being an hour away on the train by the time you discover your sandwich is inedibly stale as in America. No! These angel-made sandwiches will still be fresh many hours – possibly even days – from now. Everything is so thoughtful. It’s not about getting the most money from you and too bad if you have to buy an entire loaf of bread, never mind that you’ll have to feed most of it to the birds in a few days. In Japan you can buy two slices of bread at a time. One egg. A tiny can of beer. It’s all about what is best for YOU!

And you know how in Macy’s, when you buy something the sales associate screws it into a sort of ball, like a teenager might, before shoving it into the plastic bag and pushing it across the counter kind of at you (as in “Take that!”)? Not in Japan. Everything, even in the 7/11,  is beautifully packaged, carefully folded, sealed and handed to you as if it were a pearl on a pillow (except without the pillow – or the pearl).

It’s all about presentation. It’s how you are handed a business card (with both hands) and how you receive one – in the same way, before inspecting and fondling said business card with the utmost interest and concern. There are so many ideas to copy in Japan but the Japanese attention to detail and concern for the “other”  is my favorite.. This society is not about the money, it’s about pride. Integrity. respect. These things rule.

First night at Mumbo Jumbo in Kobe

We had such an amazing time. From beginning (three sold out nights in Kobe) to the end (thank you, Romero Lubambo  for getting us into the Cotton Club on our last night –  wow! What a concert with you and Peter Martin). It was so exciting to have people show up all across Japan with our CDs and even vinyl to sign! Actually, it was crazy! Perhaps people get used to these things. I don’t know if I would. One person even came with pictures they had taken of me at the 55 Bar five years earlier!

From the 55 Bar five years earlier!
Thank you Masa for epic hangs and help. Thank you Dai for everything you did to make Kobe amazing – and sold out. . Thank you Hristo Vitchev for everything, particularly your riveting musicianship, and your sweet company in our teeny weeny airbnbs.. Thank you, incredible Star Eyes in Nagoya for sheer audiophilia amazingness and great sound. Thank you, Body and Soul and Kyoko in Tokyo for packing the house for us.  Thank you Akihiro for guidance. Thank you Masaki for hangs and lunch and my souvenir phone ring. Thank you to all the clubs – Mumbo Jumbo, Seishin NT, Bar Request, Star Eyes and Body and Soul.. Thank you, Tower Records for carrying on the good work SOMEWHERE! Thank you, Mount Fuji for just being there when we wihizzed by on the train. This was truly a dream come true!

 

Bar Request
Body and Soul with owner Kyoko
Owner of Star Eyes
You can leave your bicylcle unlocked because NO ON E WILL STEAL IT!
These places are so tiny! How do they make money? Anywhere else they’d be closed down for not doing more custom!
Soundcheck on our first night.
The grooves are for blind people’s canes. They carry on along the manhole covers! So thoughtful!

  

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Today I have a question to answer, which  MP left today on Day 1 of the blog.

Question: “I have started on my 5 year plan, resolved to leave “realistic” out of it, and come up with something inspiring and fantastic. A few days into this assignment, however, and I am finding that I am having trouble dreaming and visualizing. Have I become resolved to settling? I don’t think so, because I am not comfortable here, either. Tips, pointers, encouragement??? Any insight would be most appreciated.”

Answer: [book excerpt]

By now we’ve all heard that hackneyed Goethe quote: “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” If only it were that simple. But it’s not. Because, although starting is important (duh!), at no point are you more vulnerable to stopping dead in your tracks than at the beginning. As Martha Graham once said: “The ordeal of isolation, the ordeal of loneliness, the ordeal of doubt, the ordeal of vulnerability which it takes to compose in any medium is hard to face.” 

It’s no wonder so many of us give up before we even begin.

Have you heard of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Emma? No? Ah.That will be because when she showed the first few pages to her new husband (she married late, thank goodness) he said: “Hmm. Not up to your usual standard, dearest….” And she never wrote another word, of that, or any other novel, ever again.

So, MP, are you being your own “Mr Bronte”? Is the problem with your dreaming and visualizing coming from your inability to really believe in the outcome. Are you being too hard on yourself, thinking who the hell do you think you are? Are you stumbling over visualizing all the steps it will take to get there?

For any or all of the above, my advice is to go one small step at a time. “You don’t have to take the whole staircase,” to quote Dr. Martin Luther King. “Just take the first step.”

For example, keep visualizing yourself collecting your Oscar or Grammy or Whitbread or Nobel or other relevant prize. But then visualize only the NEXT step towards it. Not all the steps.

When I started singing, all I had to do was trundle along to the next open mic. The idea of having a CD, let alone three CDs as I do now, was miles away in my mind. It was a dream, perhaps, but absolutely not something I considered a real possibility. The same with being a journalist. When I got my first job as an editorial assistant, actually writing for magazines was a dream but, again, not something I really thought would happen. But I faithfully took the first step by applying for (and beating out a hundred others to get) a job as a lowly editorial assistant at Parents magazine.

Did I think I would one day be writing for The Times or Elle or Vogue — which is what I ended up doing? Absolutely. er… Not. And when I got my first commission, when the Parents editor just announced at a meeting one day that I was going to be doing a piece for the next issue on introducing children to the opera and ballet and other adult leisure pursuits, I was shocked. And terrified.

So I called my writer friend, Sarah Litvinoff, author of The Confidence Plan: Essential Steps to a New You, who at the time I barely knew, and asked if I could read her my first paragraph over the phone.  “Of course!” she said. When I’d finished she said: “Oh, it’s wonderful. I can’t WAIT to hear the next paragraph!” Eventually, paragraph by paragraph (all read to Sarah over the phone), I finished it.

Actually, even while I was writing this book, I struggled with the idea of writing an entire book, until my editor at Random House told me to think of each chapter as its own long article. That made it much more manageable.

So my advice to MP at this stage is:

  1. Keep visualizing the “end”, in a very light way, without thinking at all about allthe steps it will take to get there.
  2. Think about ONLY the very nextstep — going to the next open mic, applying for magazine jobs, writing the next paragraph….
  3. Enlist the cheer-leading skills of a friend who believes in you and (very importantly) the possibilities for you.
  4. For crying out loud, don’t ask “Mr Bronte” what he thinks — even if he’s you.

Let me know if that helps.