I first discovered the thunderous power of Japan’s Kodo 20 years ago, when the Taiko drumming masters provided the scintillating soundtrack to the Christopher Lambert film, The Hunted. It was like nothing I’d ever heard– epic and exotic, emotionally dynamic, intricate and primal at the same time. I’ve been a devout fan ever since.
Making their debut at the Berlin Festival in 1981, Kodo is based on Japan’s Sado Island. They’ve since given over 5500 performances in 46 countries worldwide under the theme of “One Earth,” using music as a universal language through which they connect their traditional Japanese culture with others. Spending about a third of the year touring overseas, Kodo’s world-renowned performances truly transcend borders, genres and time.
Kodo returns to North America this year with their latest production, Kodo One Earth Tour: Mystery, which was created by its Artistic Director (and Japanese Living National Treasure), Tamasaburo Bando. A leading Kabuki actor and the most popular and celebrated onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) currently on stage, he has proven a catalyst for Kodo to break new ground in their critically acclaimed Taiko expression.
We recently had the chance to interview two members of the Kodo family, Taro Nishita and Eri Uchida, about the history of Taiko drumming, its mythological origins in Japanese folklore, being ambassadors for Japanese culture, and what life is like on remote Sado Island.
“We just got a call from the captain of a local shrimp boat,” said Jeff George, the Executive Director of Sea Turtle Inc. “They’ve got a sea turtle that was trapped in their nets this morning, and he’s in pretty bad shape. Do you have time to help out with a rescue?” Our answer to this sort of question is always an emphatic YES!
We were about 15 minutes into our tour of the Sea Turtle Inc facility in South Padre Island when George interrupted our conversation with Administrative Assistant Jean Pettit. We immediately dropped everything, piled into Pettit’s car, and made our way across the causeway to the town of Port Isabel.
Along the way, Pettit explained that this was the fourth call they’d gotten this year from the shrimp boat, The John Henry. The Texas Shrimp Association actively supports the use of Turtle Excluder Devices– a grid of bars with an opening, either at the top or bottom of the trawl net, through which larger animals such as sea turtles and sharks are ejected.
But occasionally large barnacles on a turtle’s back cause them to get entangled in nets and fishing lines, leaving them submerged and unable to catch a breath. This can lead to shock or even death if the turtle does not receive treatment. So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that we hustled down the dock towards the boat.
Caves are mysterious and mesmerizing places to explore. From marble caves, caves filled with glowworms and those formed from glacial lagoons, to the largest crystals in the world, prehistoric rock art and ancient Mayan burial sites, they come in an incredible range of attractions. Each one we’ve visited during our travels has been more unique and fascinating than the last. Here are 10 amazing caves for your world travel bucket list:
The most popular cave in Belize, this is an experience best reserved for the fit and adventurous. Once a Mayan burial site, the ATM Cave is full of skeletons, pottery and other ceremonial objects left by the Maya. The cave’s most famous skeleton, “The Crystal Maiden,” features bones cemented into the floor by natural processes, leaving them with a sparkling appearance.
Through tropical rainforest, multiple streams and several different chambers, the 45-minute hike from the cave entrance will have you swimming, climbing and exploring along the way. The ATM cave is 5 km deep: The deeper into it you trek, the more recent the Mayan activities were, and the more ceramics and pottery of all sizes to be found. Note that the inner chambers will require you to take off your shoes so as to not damage the priceless artifacts, and no cameras are allowed.
Some time ago I came across Ava Chin’s book about urban foraging, Eating Wildly: Foraging for Life, Love & the Perfect Meal.
Foraging is the practice of gathering wild foods. While it sounds romantic, it’s actually a skill that one has to learn and practice. Once learned and practiced responsibly, foraging is a sustainable practice of connecting your plate to the environment you live in.
Ava Chin, who lives in New York City, was the “Urban Forager” columnist for the New York Times from 2009 to 2013. I sat down to talk with her about her book, the basics of urban foraging and how newcomers can learn some simple tips on how to eat wildly.
There is a private ritual I have, sacred and (until now) unspoken, that helps me connect with ancient archaeological sites such as Xunantunich, Belize.
First, I consider the nature of time and human evolution. Last week a story was published in Science about the discovery of a fossilized mandible of an early human that lived around 2.8 million years ago in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Think about that: 2.8 MILLION YEARS! In that context, the 1300 years that have passed since the Mayans constructed the city of Xunantunich is merely the blink of an eye.
Secondly, if we’re with a guide or tour group, I use photography as an excuse to distance myself, tuning out everything around me. I envision the city as it was 1200 years ago, bustling with activity as the Belize Valley region’s top Maya civic ceremonial center.
Lastly, I imagine the reverence residents must have felt as they gazed up at “El Castillo” (the second tallest structure in Belize, at 130 feet). I ignore the world of computers, cars and cell phones, and explore Xunantunich through the eyes of someone from the Late and Terminal Classic eras. I try to see the city, not just as ancient archaeological relics from some distant past, but as a tangible tie to our current concept of “civilization.”