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Full Circle

Day 27: Sado Island

Sado Island, Japan 
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The Kodo apprentices in class.
Michael Palin - Full CircleThe serving of breakfast is preceded by the cracking together of two drumsticks. We file in and are seated on the ground around one long table. I find the lotus position quite painful, and breakfast is more athletically demanding for me than the run.

I'm introduced to the delights of fermented bean curd. Apparently Japan is divided into those who love and those who loathe it. I come down rather heavily on the loathing side. After fermented bean curd, the raw egg that follows it is like ambrosia. The hardest part is actually eating the egg, with a pair of chopsticks.

At nine the first period of instruction begins. In a plain and basic plaster-boarded room, in essence nothing more than a big garden shed, the apprentices sit, straight-backed on the floor and begin to hit the drums to a rhythm dictated by the sound of a flute and the striking of a small gong. One of the senior Kodo drummers walks amongst them, loosening wrists and correcting shoulder positions. The apprentices move from drum to drum and vary the pace of the beat they play and the position from which they play it, but essentially they keep going continuously and powerfully for forty-five minutes. When they stop the effect is extraordinary. If there is such a thing as a deafening silence, this is it. Total calm descends. Nothing and no one moves for a minute or more. After a short break they play for another forty-five minutes. At the end of it Sayo is dripping sweat. She looks shattered, but laughs at my concern.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 27
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Sado Island
  • Book page no: 50

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