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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WJAAS - A trip to Yonago and Sakuraland: meeting Hisashi Seo-san and Hasegawa-sensei-san

Since I (virtually) met Hisashi Seo-san, his Stail super-site and began corresponding with this Japanese gentleman, about 2 years ago, I always, strongly wished to meet him in person.
During last September trip, I did my very best to accomplish the above and, on my way northbound from Hakata/Fukuoka, I cleverly stopped in Okayama, leaving the Shinkansen for a more down-to-earth transportation mean, a Limited Express train bound for Matsue and the sea.

The difference between the snobbish, aseptic softness of Shinkansen's and the chatting of four gentleman while happily - and sonorously - eating their "bento" boxes and "onigiri" (like myself), during the slow trip along a river in a narrow valley, with great landscapes, rice-fields and hills views, was very intriguing: like comparing acting people vs. normal people.

Nonetheless, the trip was nothing short of impressive...

The landscape, well, it was amazing... every kilometer on this (quite) secondary track was better in traditional houses and small villages, at least like Japan appeared like a string of commercial and industrial buildings from the Bullett train...

When I arrived in Yonago, I saw a nice modern mid-sized city with light traffic and a nice hotel few dozens meters from the station... something I always try to avoid for several reasons, but which I accepted due to my (weighty) luggage lazily rolling behind a lazy and tired me.

... furthermore, the name, Harvest Hotel, reminded me of Neil Young's masterpiece and I gladly checked-in.

After reaching my room, taking a shower and surrending to some lazyness - a vacation is a vacation... - I began the amusing, always different procedure of contacting the friends on my route.

With Seo I sort-of "used", as happened other times, the hotel reception clerks. asking to call for that number I was handling.

Things worked quite smoothly almost everywhere, but in Yonago I REALLY sweated a lot to keep my temper and calm positiveness... a smile printed on my face;-)

A young employee after hearing my request, remained for a minutes-long moment with the piece of paper with my friend telephone number in his hands, 'til - I swear - a sweat drop appeared under his hairs;-))) - two younger female employees were at his side during this Greek tragedy-like scene;-) - they both were, telepatically, assisting their poor colleague.... Incredible, strange surreal scene, indeed!

Both me and the young sweating clerk were rescued by a not so tall and extremely kind chief-clerk, whose english, more than average, allowed him to easily understand my request and call at number I gave to him, looking for my friend Seo.

He proudly was able to talk with Seo's brother and arrange for an appointment... doomo arigato gozaimasu!

One hour passed, and while I was reading my e-mails from the hotel pay-computer, a tall, slim, elegant young men with eye-glasses looked at me from behind a wall... "Stefano-san?!?!"

In few moments - after both thanking again the still-proud and helpful hotel chief-clerk - we were in his car, heading to his home...

Short, sparing chatting in the car, when arriving at Seo's home and after my beloved slippers ceremony, Seo introduced me to his wife and I was in his beautiful, seventy years old traditional home, in his music room, sipping green tea and tasting juicy japanese peers.

Seo's system is very unforgiving, yet pleasant: he uses an Oosawa-san's cartridge and Hasegawa-san's handmade arm and an LR-RIAA preamp in two chassis... also by Hasega-san are the nice 2A3 based power amp, superbly sounding.

Our listening session, extremely relaxing, has touched Landowska's harpsichord and some jazz, fist on the tiny handmade speakers near the ceiling, then with a coaxial Altec's.

More than the audio and music, I enjoyed the atmosphere in the house, an old traditional wooden japanese house... among the musical pauses, I was able to hear crickets in the quiet night.

The care for system layout and the taste for music, both classical and jazz, with some high peak on Brazilian and samba were a joy to share, for me and my host, as well.

We chatted a lot, like it was REALLY time to meet. A great evening.

At about midnight, Seo brought me to the hotel for some rest after one of the several SOOOO incredibly rich, enriching and pleasant days of my life.

We agreed to meet the day after, a Sunday, to meet, after about 80 km trip by car, Hasegawa-san, the maker of fine amps and sought-after arms and a close friend and audio technician for Seo for 20+ years.

We met at 9 sharp and... here we went!

Rice fields and sakura blossoming signals everywhere - Seo told me that in March the area is truly magnificient with people coming from other parts of Japan only to enjoy the cherry blossoming along the rivers, in the beautiful, hilly countryside; then found an onsen on the hills where we drank spring water, and more and more superb, old traditional wooden houses, flowers, then some mountain steepness and down again to the rice fields... and chatting and sightseeing and chatting again...

At last, after about one hour, we reached a beautiful house in the countryside: Hasegawa-san's.

Slippers ceremony, handshaking and bows and chatting, and joyful, amusing translations from and to japanese. What a simple joy, pals...

I didn't resist to take some pixes of the SOOO beautiful house interior: true Japan, indeed...

What can I say... the listening was interesting but not really super, due to the small laboratory system, BUT Hasehawa-san, a young and nice gentleman, well knows his business: Tango irons, WE tubes, Daven stepped pots and Shizuki caps everywhere... all speak about classy audio craftmanship and love for the detail.

I really loved meeting these people: friendly, wise, music lovers and tasty attitude.

Brothers in arm, in the name of Music.. the pixes I shot speak more than the words I could use... a secluded, ancient wooden house, a Zen garden, flowers everywhere, the wind moving leaves... this enviroment IS MADE for Music and the soul of this heaven sure is in Hasegawa-san's creations.

The "strange" pix of a link I posted is Hasegawa's own Blog, which he recently created to show his overhauling and restoration projects to the world.

A well worth reading...

Thanks a lot, Seo-san: for your friendship, hosting and kindness and thanks to Hasegawa-san for hosting and empathy.

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