Returning from a mountain vacation, the group hits the road for a grueling series of concerts. If you haven’t read the previous days, catch up here.
Day 6: Cinderella’s Castle – Our bus returned to Tokyo around 2 in the afternoon, which left plenty of time that day for more exploring of Tokyo. Those of us who are Disney fanatics decided to hit the parks again, this time seeing Tokyo Disneyland. Going to the Tokyo version of Disneyland was trippy. Everything I expected to be there was there, from Space Mountain to Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, but it all was in a slightly different place. The designers obviously learned from the mistakes of the original. Paths were wider and better laid out, rides were evenly spaced through the park, and everything worked just a little better.
There’s always some part of the park that blows my mind, and at Tokyo Disney that was the show on the castle at night. Using a combination of projection mapping, lasers, pyrotechnics, and Disney magic they brought Cinderella’s Castle to life. It was an incredible show. By the time we were kicked out of the park we were happy and exhausted.
Day 7: Double Header: A quick bus ride to Yokohama (on a normal sized bus) started our day of concerts. We had an afternoon and evening concert schedule for Salvia Hall that day. The hall was nothing special, but it sounded great from stage. This was our first time playing our normal concert on the tour, so warm up was spent mostly on remember the logistics for the performance and making sure everything was set properly on stage.
After the second concert I had my first big fan-boy moment of the trip. Four of the ringers from Kiriku, including the group’s founder Taiko, came to our concert. Taiko rang with Sonos in the past, commuting from Japan to California for rehearsals, so many members of the group are still good friends with her. It was surreal having a group that I idolize and respect complimenting me on my performance. They were all incredibly polite and stuck around after the show to help us pack up. Unfortunately our concert schedule and theirs overlapped, so we were unable to see one of their concerts while we were in the county. As I would learn on this tour, Sonos has many handbell friends in Japan.
Day 8: Bullet Train: Our hotel was located a short walk from the Shinagawa Station, which is where we met the Shinkansen. This network of high speed rail lines, or bullet trains, is one of the largest and most used in the world. In less than two hours the train hurled us down to Nagoya, reaching a top speed of 175mph according to a GPS one of our members had. Since I have never out grown the kid in me who is fascinated by trains, I was absolutely having a blast. The ride was incredibly smooth and the cars were spacious and comfortable. If I could I would always travel by bullet train.
The concert hall in Nagoya was a marble cavern buried underneath an office building. All of the walls were covered in large slabs of beautiful marble and the wooden ceiling floated above the 400 red seats. The acoustics were wonderful, a fact I quickly learned applied to all concert venues in Japan. Cell service didn’t reach that far down, a convenient way to keep people’s phones from ringing during the concert.
Again after this concert we had another handbell celebrity come up and say hi. Mr Yoshida, the director of the Kinjo Gaukin University Handbell Choir, came to see us and hang out for drinks afterwards. Those of us who were lucky enough to work with Mr. Yoshida at Distinctly Bronze West in 2016 know how amazing he is. His ringers at Kinjo Gaukin are some of the finest handbell players in the world.
Several days after the concert in Nagoya we received some fan mail from an audience member. Yuri Kato is a member of the Kinjo Gaukin Junior High School Handbell Choir, which also is directed by Mr. Yoshida. She sent us some pictures and a letter that said,
I am a member of the Kinjo Gakuin junior high school handbell choir club…I got to know this club four years ago, and I entered this club. I like the sound of handbell. The sound calmed me down and moved me a lot. I love handbell choir. <3
So I was very looking forward to go to your concert. It was great. I was very moved and that was the best concert I have ever seen. I want to keep practicing it and someday I want to see your concert again. I couldn’t talk to you personally in English but I hope you can understand my feeling.
It is fun to think that we inspired ringers who will grow up to join an ensemble that inspires us to ring better. In the handbell world inspiration flows both ways many times.
Day 9: Wash, rinse, repeat: The next morning we rose early to catch the Shinkansen to Kurashiki. To make riding the bullet train easier, every night before we caught the train we would deposit our luggage in the hotel lobby, where it would be loaded into a truck with the bell equipment and driven onto the next venue. When we got to the next city our luggage would already be in our hotel room and the truck would be waiting with our bells at the next venue. It was an amazing piece of logistical magic that made the tour much easier.
After another bullet train ride, followed by another concert in another beautiful hall we fell asleep in another hotel, ready for what another day of touring would bring.