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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WJAAS - A busy day...

A busy day, it was... I planned to leave Tokyo, after some classic sightseeing, and wished to spend my third day in Japan fully devoting it to audio, before going southbound.

I used an old address I read on a turntable mat carton-box, a Shindo-made item, to pay a visit to the great manufacturer.

... as a first time of several to come, the always extremely kind hotel(s) personnell was of great support, to trace Tokyo's area to reach and easiest Metro station and... I finally was on my way to find Shindo Lab's den.

I had no idea of "how" the japanese "chome" system worked, so, just arrived in Hongo-Sanchome stop, as per instructions and I studied the area map, just outside the station.

After some hundreds meters, lots of looking for numbers on blocks corners and a couple of info asking, I found... a closed, abandoned house and a paper warehouse nearby.

Oh, oh... found some people involved in the paper wholesale and, to my surprise, at my request for "Shindo", an extremely kind gentleman accompanied me for some metres, a corner, another corner... and saw a Shindo's Green faceplate with a triode behind a glass...

Thanked and rang the doorbell... a young person, who hinted for some slippers after my shoes, not allowed to enter the workshop.

After some stairs, I met Ken Shindo's wife, the young man was his son, but Shindo-san himself wasn't in the shop.

More stairs and I was in the famous, already seen Shindo's listening "room", a tiny space with an Altec 604-based speakers pair and a Shindo 301, the one-of-a-kind version with super wide platter and "Shindo-ed" Ortofon arm and cartridge.

The "workshop" soldering area was VERY small, in a corner... like some friends use in their basement... BUT, hey, it was Shindo's place!

No sound from amps and speakers and absolutely no chance to buy nothing, nonetheless I enjoyed the half-an-hour I spent there taking some shy pix... I left the grey, small-sized slippers for my shoes and was well ready to head myself to Tateyama-shi, at the very end of Chiba peninsula, to meet Susumu Sakuma-san!

The trip was quite long, with a local train stopping at every small and smaller station along the way... reached Tateyama after a couple hours of relaxing rail noise with hills and seaside views... at the station, the kind young woman at Information Desk, who gave to me a Tateyama's map, kept my luggage while I reached - lighter than before - Concorde Restaurant, a few hundred meters walk from the station itself...

Was impressed by how small it appeared, behind a corner: wooden outside, I entered and the first man I saw was... Sakuma-san, in white shirt and white beard and hairs.

A strong dust and wood smell and... the amps and weird tubes and turntables and records I saw so many times on the web and MJ and Stereo Sound magazines were ALL here...

Sakuma-san was hosting some friends from Kyoto, some ladies who, by chance, spoke some english... pfeew... the communication was quite difficult, BUT an icy beer was served and the surprise to meet someone coming from Italy was solved with some Maria Callas' celestial voice coming from a Garrard 401 with Gray arm and Dl-102 cartridge.

I greeted the Master builder and his wife, behind the counter, with a little (musical) present I brought with me from Italy and some Kyoto nice cookies appeared and were enjoyed by the small cohort.

Audio-wise: the several mostly Tamura equipped amps were dozens and the tubes, 211, 845 and 300B, were spreading a nice, romantic, pleasant mono glorious sound from some Voice of the Theater speakers.

I'll fondly remember this very sound during next days listening experiences, when I'll be exposed to Akihabara's macho sound... two very different worlds - i.e. the difference between sound and music.

Sakuma's was my choice, of course (the music)... well happy and content I had the chance and honour to meet him in person.

A very tasty and humble "sensei", a meeting sure worth the train and time, etc.

... after something less than two hours, I was again at Tokyo station, ready - at last - for my VERY first Shinkansen "Hikari" train to Kyoto, where I arrived in 2 hours and a half, late in the evening... but this is another, different story.

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