Another stroke of luck. In January – March 2017 two of my original Kotojazz tunes are recognized as “Representing the West” at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center annual exhibit. These are pure new age Americana folk songs. “Snow Blossoms” was inspired by the blue violets peeking through melting snow on a sunny winter day along Boulder Creek trail in Boulder, Colorado. “Windy Kansas Wheat Fields” was inspired by strong wind blowing over fields of grass and wheat creating a steady undulating flow like ocean waves. You can see the wind blowing through wheat fields in eastern Colorado and Kansas. Both feed our souls, in their simplicity and stillness (snow blossoms) and their awesome enduring power (windy Kansas wheat fields).
I am reminded that the “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it; you know neither from where it comes nor to where it goes, and so it is with the Spirit.”
The Japanese health care system is imaginatively and brilliantly eastern- western integrated and yes, supremely “ying” and “yang”. To expand on the document I published with the U.S. – Japan Foundation many years ago, the following describes kampo which is covered by health insurance providers in Japan. Japanese kampo is the study of traditional Chinese medicine that began in the 7th century. While kampo includes acupuncture and holistic wellness, herbal medicine has become the centerpiece of modern kampo. Herbal medicines have been used in China for thousands of years. They have been standardized and manufactured for widespread commercial use in Japan.
The medicinal use of plants was called the Shennong Ben Cao Jingoin China which was compiled around the end of the first century B.C. At the time, 365 species of herbs or medicinal plants were identified and classified. Chinese medical practices were introduced to Japan through Korea during the 6th century A.D. From 608 to 838, Empress Suiko dispatched young physicians to China. In those years, Japan sent 19 missions to Tang, China to research and bring back Chinese herbal medicine to Japan. Today in Japan, 148 different, mostly herbal abstracts can be prescribed under Japan’s national health insurance system (source: National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114407/). Modern day Kampo is different from modern traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While TCM incorporates Chinese philosophy such as yin and yang, Japanese campo favors a more scientific approach.
The first volume of the treatise included 120 drugs harmless to humans, the “stimulating properties”. These herbs are described as “noble” or “upper herbs” (上品):
The second volume comprise 120 therapeutic substances intended to treat the sick, but have toxic, or potentially toxic properties of varying degrees. These are tonics and boosters, whose consumption must not be prolonged. In this category, the substances are described as “human,” “commoner,” or “middle herbs” (中品):
The third volume has 125 entries containing substances which have a strong impact on physiological functions and are often poisonous. They are taken in small doses, and for the treatment of specific diseases only. They are referred to as “low herbs” (下品), these include:
Yumoto Kyūshin (1876–1942), a graduate from Kanazawa Medical School, was a key proponent of scientifically interpreting and testing Chinese medicine. His “Japanese-Chinese Medicine” (Kōkan igaku) published in 1927 was the first book on Kampō medicine in which western medical findings were used to interpret classical Chinese texts. The significance of these Japanese publications is documenting the application of clinical trials and empirical data to determine specific chemical properties and their functions within the Chinese herbs.
One such example today is Sho-saiko-to. The Chinese herbal medicine “Sho-saiko-to” is a mixture of seven herbal preparations, which is widely administered in Japan to patients with liver damage caused by chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Sho-saiko-to contains
The herbs include such properties as baicalin and baicalein, and saikosaponin which possess anti-fibrogenic activities and the ability to inhibit hepatoma cell proliferation. Clinical trials have been confirmed in the U.S. by Natural Wellness for their SST product – http://www.naturalwellness.com/products/sho-saiko-to-sst.
The following are not connected in any way to sho-saiko-to, but are similarly organic and naturopathic. These herbs and foods are known to be easy on the liver and/or health remedies for the liver:
leafy green vegetables,
Each of the 365 species of herbs and medicinal plants and various combinations from Chinese medicine and Japanese kampo are either healing agents, serve as preventive health care, or support ongoing health maintenance.
But don’t forget, there are a range of healthy remedies in standard western herbs which we already incorporate into our daily consumption extravaganzas. The standard cooking herbs pictured here are a healthy supplement to your diet.
By Chris Kenji Beer, Koto jazz
Sources: National Institute of Health, Japanese Society of Oriental Medicine, Natural Wellness, Wikipedia , shosaikoto.com, iherb.com.
A dry creek is often preferred over a creek with flowing water. It provides the visual effect of flowing water, and doesn’t require the maintenance of a flowing stream. In this case, using black creek rocks offer a striking color contrast to the green ground covers.
The sound of flowing water can be experienced by adding a simple recycling water feature, such as the mini waterfall toward the back of this mini garden.
This landscaper uses a few types of flowering ground covers along the black dry creek in the foreground accented with Japanese maples in the background.
There are three types of Japanese maples featured here. Two Japanese purple lace maples in the foreground and far rear and the canopy created by the taller green moonlight maple in the center. Variegated hostas, an azalea, tulips, a calla lily, and mock bamboos offer nice fill ins for variety and balance.
This new CD mostly live production was crazy, experimental fun – anchored by a few George Winston covers, a touch of Narada/ Silver Wave- style new age, a koto jazz tune, and some “off the beaten path”, eclectic wacko improvisations . . . and you have a metamorphosis of the senses –
60-80% of a garden’s beauty can be made from resources already available around your home or among friends. Remember, nature offers its own beauty that may only need minor enhancements. I personally don’t care for regularly maintaining a yard, especially constantly mowing lawns. It just brings out the sneezing in me. Lawn mowing is among the world’s biggest wastes of water and consumes unnecessary time in my lazy, stubborn opinion. Frankly, it offers no creativity or inspiration of natural beauty.
We start with creating a garden image in your head. Imagine an idyllic beautiful scene in your head. Then, dig a space of dirt, any shape you want it to be. Apply that idyllic scene to this bare space. First, simply turn over the grass and put it upside down, occasionally scraping off the loose dirt to further expose the grass roots, so the grass is certain to die. Then, take cedar droppings from underneath cedar trees in the back yard and spread it throughout the dug out space. Cedar is highly acidic and will largely reduce if not eliminate the need for weeding the area garden space. Not much of anything can grow under cedars; maybe a few rhodies (rhododendrons) which thrive in acidic soil.
In the case of the above pictured garden, I dug out the entire side of the front yard off of the concrete path. I left a few “accents” of grass to provide lining for the area garden’s borders. These can be easily held at bay with an occasional weed whacking. If you want you can raise the garden, which I did for the area garden beyond the concrete path toward the top of the above photo. You can raise it as much as you like by simply adding more soil to the area and more mulch. I moved the rhody from another part of this house where it was hidden away, and is now featured in the raised garden. A general rule when creating your own garden is to place the larger items – bushes, trees, or stones – toward the back, while shorter smaller flowers and plants should be placed toward the front. As a taller, larger bush, the rhody serves as an attractive back drop to this area garden.
BORDERS & HIGHLIGHTS:
It’s always nice to have borders for the area garden so as to define its space. Borders can be stone, bricks, slate, wood, bamboo pieces, even plants. In this case, I used stones found in the ground when digging out the garden area. As for the larger boulders highlighted around the rock creek, I was fortunate to find a friend who was excavating a part of his property and was trying to get rid of these beautiful blue-hued boulders (with more to come in later phases). These boulders give the impression of a mountainous terrain with a valley carved out by a rolling creek. Reinforcing this mini- mountain scene is the meandering creek. I place various types of sheet moss, tree moss, and fern moss on the north, more shaded side of the garden area. Eventually, all dirt areas you see in the garden will display a plant, fern, moss, or ground cover of some type to add personality.
The dry creek appears to naturally flow between the larger boulders. Each boulder enforces a bend in the creek, as it does in natural creeks. Large creek rocks are generally placed toward the outer borders of the creek, while smaller rocks are toward the center, again mimicking these natural occurrences in nature. The creek narrows and appears to flow into a small lake in the foreground toward the street. I recommend using black creek rocks if available; otherwise, the varied colored rocks will do. To make the dry creek, I dug out the space and put in a thin layer of cedar mulch, then a thick layer of sand to prevent weeds from growing in the creek rock. Soon to come will be a natural stone recycling water feature at the beginning of the dry creek.
FLOWERING PLANTS & THINGS:
As for the flowering plants and things in this area garden, I looked for anything that might complement the “bones” of these area mounds. Fortunately in the Pacific Northwest, there are lots of plant life growing everywhere, some considered weeds in some circles. For example, ferns, wild white flowering heuchera, crocosmia, and wild blue bells grow like weeds in this region, but one can never get enough of their natural beauty. I placed the wild heuchera on the north side and underneath the rhody where it thrives in shady areas. I scatter the wild crocosmias, blue hyacinths, and blue bells unevenly throughout the area gardens to reinforce the natural look. The blue bells and hyacinths will flower in the spring while the crocosmias flower in late summer into autumn. I also have a relative of the ‘lamb’s ear’ ground cover which grows wild here and flowers a gorgeous deep magenta flower at the ends of each antler-like stem. I also have another ground cover that emerges a bouquet of hundreds of tiny white bulbous flowers during the summer and autumn seasons. I plan to add various types of ornamental grasses in addition to the Japanese red grass and the yellow bamboo grass clumps around the garden areas.
I have shoots of Japanese red grass planted to the side of the weeping blue cedar, tulips and other bulbous flowers not yet blooming scattered around the area gardens as well. I was gifted a rosemary to add a year round pungent aroma and a gorgeous orange rose bush.
A work- in- progress of my Japanese garden in the front yard, the garden includes two dry creek rock gardens (one in the foreground of the featured image and the other in the background as a minimalist Zen garden), featured stones, lantern, bamboo borders, a Japanese lace maple, a coral bark maple, yellow, black and red grass, various ground covers and mosses, irises and crocosmias, an elderberry, succulents, a smoke tree, salvia, purple asters, rhododendrons, anenome flowers, echinacea, 3 types of hellebores, 4 types of heucheras, painted ferns, shark tale, razor and licorice ferns, and the featured weeping “dragon” blue spruce pine in the foreground.
PURCHASED HIGHLIGHTED ITEMS:
The low budget provided for a few highlighted features, such as the Japanese lantern, Japanese coral bark maple, the weeping blue “dragon” cedar, Chinese purple lantern flowers, two red dogwood bushes, and a few ground covers such as English daisies, heucheras, and grasses. Outside of sweat equity, the total budget was a remarkable mere $141! For the future, I plan to add another raised garden across the walkway in the front, mock bamboo, a Japanese purple lace maple, ornamental grasses, and maybe a rare plant such as an aromatic variegated pink daphne, a cone flowering hydrangea, Asian tiger lilies, or a few exotic pink or magenta Japanese anemone flowers. The blue pots can feature beautiful maples such as local vine maples, or anything that requires a controlled environment such as bamboo.
From the Sounds from the Coast CD, “WhalesBreaching“is a celebration of life, sharing the seas with our ocean friends, and a hope that we will never take them for granted. Let’s support their rights as our own.
Here is a live recording of a tune I first played at Stone Way Café’s Fremont Art Walk on April 1st, then recorded live at The Royal Room on April 13th with Koto Jazz accompaniment by Patrick Wilson on the SyntHorn –
Sea-Tac Airport – The first photo features CD covers of Pearl Jam by Muni One. Mono no aware in Japanese means the awareness of the impermanence of everything, and acceptance of things as they are. The second photo shows samples of the Chihuly glass productions.
For the off beat eclectic innovator, the SyntHorn is an amazing, fun and crazy instrument. One of my neighbors and friends Patrick Wilson in Seattle created a digital instrument he calls The SyntHorn (short for synthesizer horn). The horn itself produces an unique, distant echoing cavernous sound effect. The SyntHorn includes the horn, a mini- digital keyboard, Oscillator, Chaoscillator, Monotron delay unit, two Internal Horn speakers, and one external speaker. Since the the features and function completely run on rechargeable batteries, it can played anywhere at any time. A carrying strap fits over the shoulder. All this resides in one unit.
Join me in my next performances at C&P Coffee, Columbia City’s Royal Room, and Stone Way Café to hear our progressive electronic jazz. Patrick, a former DJ at a local college radio station, will join me in jazzing up my koto jazz tunes and offer up a few of his own originals with my accompaniment on the keyboard.
It makes sounds and rhythms you’ve never heard before.
Here’s an easy way to enjoy your morning. Build a chicken coup, feed the chicken every morning, then they’ll start feeding you fresh eggs ever morning. These are two Rhode Island Reds and two black sexlinks , all hens and entertaining to watch.
I really got into a zone rockin’ the piano. Sometimes it feels like I’m connecting to the true “Seattle Sound”, an almost eclectic, grunge sound on the keyboard. . . if that is possible. Live recordings will be coming soon. The feedback I have from a handful of attendees last night at Egan’s Jam House tells me these were the most well received tunes:
1) The Hummingbird song (no surprise, I rocked it; Hatchidori wa Hana Kara Hana e Tobu);
2) Tide Pools @ Waves (no surprise, this one reached the top 10 out of 80k songs on soundclick.com);
3) Odds & Endings (same as Tide Pools);
4) Ripples on Creek Rocks (surprised, this is the one that aired on KSFK NPR jazz radio, in S. Alaska, and I still don’t know why)
5) Mount Index Ice Caves (surprised, an acquired taste; haunting sounds)
6) Thanksgiving (surprised, this one by Peter Kater)
Marie Bolla will sing beautiful classic folk/ contemporary jazz songs with Chris at the keyboards. Marie has played piano and sang nearly her entire life, and has received local awards for her performances. She has played with the popular Seattle area bands. The first half of the show will feature Chris Kenji’s new piano instrumental tunes for his second CD “Sounds from the Coast”, to be followed by Marie Bolla and Chris Kenji in a keyboard duet with Marie singing solo.
Come join us OCTOBER 27th, 7:30-9:30pm (Tuesday),“Sounds from the Coast”, by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla at the The Royal Room, Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood ; no cover charge. “Koto Jazz- Sounds from the Coast” by Chris Kenji and Marie Bolla. For directions and map, visit map to Royal Room, Seattle. Address: 5000 Rainier Avenue, Seattle, WA 98118; Call or text: 206-200-2733.