Junshihan Exam in Nagano City 

The reason I moved from the US to Japan four years ago was to was to study the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument, and eventually earn my junshihan koto degree.

Last weekend, I boarded the shinkansen to Nagano city to finally take my junshihan exam. Nagano was an especially fitting location for the test since it's the birthplace of my koto school, Seiha. Even on the train, I was squeezing in some last minute review.

The exam took place over two days. The first day, Friday, was a series of…

Read more

Letting the Soil Speak 

In wine, there's a concept called "terroir" - letting the soil speak. All of the minute environmental factors, from the soil composition to the slope of the hill to how much sunlight that particular plot of land gets - they all influence the grapes and therefore the wine. The winemaker isn't simply making red wine, or Grenache or Pinot Noir (the grapes) - they're making Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Cornas or Volnay. Those are the areas, the land. And oftentimes the bottle will even specify the particular vineyard…

Read more