On March 18, 2012 Akio Okano, Yayoi and I hopped in the mini-mini van and drove to Tsukuba. Firstly an exception, when the speed limit is 50 Okano-san drives 50km/hr unlike my description of people driving 80-90km/hr (someone Okano-san lives with :). Anyway Tsukuba is the science capital of Japan. It was built from scratch to be a science/technology city. It has wide streets, buildings which look as though they could be from any international city and of course a university.
First we went to a large exhibition hall, where Okano-san's art, along with many others was being displayed. Being modest he suggested that his picture be placed in the last position and there it was "In the Sky". It represents what he saw lying down underneath a very large tree located on one edge of the farm feeling the effects of heat stroke. He will be displaying another painting in a large art gallery in Tokyo in the near future.
After this we went to Akio's friend's place nearby. Kenji is another fascinating character. His educational background is Japanese literature. But until he retired he taught horticulture. Recently he obtained a certificate and is teaching English part time. He explained that the furniture in his mansion (condominium) comes from the recycle shop. He refinished the wooden parts himself and had the upholstery done professionally. He has a very nice looking and neat place. Yet he has never been married, something to do with his father being lonely and Kenji essentially filling that gap. Anyway when the suggestion was made by Okano-san that we go out for lunch, Kenji very quickly prepared spaghetti for us and together with a batch of slow cooked ribs from the day before we had a very delicious lunch. Kenji gave us two jars of jam, a jar of orange marmalade he made himself and a jar of strawberry jam students had given him. Okano-san had to leave to clean up his art and we kept talking with Kenji (English is very good) and ended up being late for the concert nearby. The music was quite good and deserved a larger audience.
After the concert Okano-san was back and the four of us were joined by another four and we went to the cafe nearby where we had tea and most of us had zenzai (red beans in a sweet liquid) which is one of my favourite treats.
Akio Okano's singing teacher was one of the people at the cafe. They sing Gregorian Chants in Latin.