I need to take you back to the year 1997, when the Web was in its infancy, before digital cameras, and blogs had still to be invented! I'm in Karuizawa, Japan. It was the World Junior Curling Championships, held in this beautiful arena, as a test event for the Nagano Olympics which were to follow a year later.
I wasn't actively working in the sport at that time, but I had taken my annual leave to support Julia Ewart, Michelle Silvera, Mhairi Ferguson, Lynn Cameron, who had won the Scottish Junior Championship, and were our representatives in Japan with Suzie Law as alternate and Pete Loudon as their coach.
It was my first trip to Japan, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The curling was great. The girls had a great week. They reached the semis with a 7-2 win-loss record.
The boys struggled a little. Ricky Tasker, Gary Wood, Jamie Kirk, Sandy Reid with Ewan MacDonald as their alternate, played ten games, winning five and finishing in seventh place.
Off the ice there was opportunity to appreciate a little of Japanese culture. Never mind the tea ceremony, I was knocked out when I saw taiko, traditional Japanese drumming, for the first time.
And so began a love affair with these Japanese drums that continues.
So I blame Team Ewart. Did I mention that they won the Championship? They beat Canada in the semi and Sweden in the final to become World Junior Champions 1997. I was thrilled to have been there to see it.
But if I hadn't followed the team to Japan, I wouldn't have experienced taiko for the first time. I wouldn't have seen Tao in Edinburgh in 2004... and 2005. Or this year. Twice.
As you know I've raved about Tao on this blog twice already, see here, and here. Standing in the queue last night I met two blogallies who had taken my recommendation and booked tickets for the show, and brought two friends. I do hope they all enjoyed it!
I certainly did. Seeing the new programme for the second time gave me the opportunity to appreciate a little more of what goes on on the stage throughout the performance.
Here's an eloquent review by someone who enjoyed the experience as much as I did.
(The photo above is from a selection on Tao's MySpace here)
So, as you see, it's all Julia and her team's fault, that, at 62, I've finally become a groupie! This is Tao's star performer Arisa Nishi, making an old man very happy on his birthday! Arigato gozaimas, Arisa.
Now, just to get the tee shirt!
I wonder if Arisa has a fan club? What a talent she is on the bamboo flute, and on the koto, and even on the biggest of the drums, the Odaiko, on which she opens the new programme. But of course I don't have favourites! All the group are great.
Anyway, I've had a good Edinburgh festivals this year. Eight shows/performances so far in a variety of areas, and I've yet to experience a duff one. Three more days are planned, so I'm hoping the luck holds.
I overheard a keen fringe-goer say to Ai Fujimura, Tao's tour manager, "Tao are the best thing we've ever seen at the Fringe." I agree. I wonder if I can obtain a ticket to see them for a third time? Oh dear, am I addicted?
(Photos from Karuizawa are scans of pics in my scrapbook archive from 1997)