Monday, May 31, 2010
...Shiori stayed on the train from which Miki and I disembarked. An unseasoned walker, she'd proven to be a good sport, in the footsteps of our folly as we did our longest day yet, 30 km in the what felt like the worst heat. (She told us later that she'd been footsore for the next 5 days.) We too were slightly battered, and therefore happy to be heading toward the sento, recommended by nearly every Gobō local whom we told about our walk. As I was stripping off my clothes, a worker at the sento walked up and told me that I couldn't enter with my tattoo. I very softly and politely told him that I'd had a long hot day, and wondered if I could enter the tubs for only 10 minutes. To my surprise, he reluctantly agreed, but moments later I noticed his form hovering over me, following from the washing area over to one of the tubs. As his attention was drawn away from me for a moment, I tried to lose him by heading to the outdoor baths. But a minute later, he was there again. I again told him I just wanted a few minutes, but he simply stayed lurking over me. This was no way to relax, so I glared at him and muttering "asshole" in English as I moved toward the dressing room again. While changing, a manager then came in and began to apologize. I stayed polite, saying I would respect the rules though I didn't feel that they still applied. Tattoos in my country don't have the same cultural stigma as here, and besides, don't many young Japanese people also wear them? He explained his position, and I again said I understood. While I'd had a tiring sweaty walk, and was sleeping in a tent, I'd go quietly. Provided he refund me the 1000 yen I'd paid. Here he said he couldn't do that. I explained that I'd been in this situation a couple times before, and had been graciously refunded my money both times, even after spending a significant amount of time in the water. He again held firm. I shifted then, my voice beginning to rise in frustration. (The irony was that in those other times I'd been booted from an onsen, I'd had an equally tough and tiring day.) I told him that the purpose of my walking the Kōdō was to write the first book in English about it (which at that point I was still considering), and that, considering his point of view, there was no way in which I could recommend this place. His face changed dramatically then, and I don't believe that I seen such a blatantly public facial expression in all my years here. (I could go into a rant about his young age, and the changing cultural mores, blah blah blah.) That expression betrayed his discomfort, (and the fact that he wasn't the top dog here, but was in the unfortunate position of being in charge at this moment, poor guy) yet he still refused. And my voice still rose in anger, and while I never lost my temper, it was temporarily misplaced. The manager's discomfort increased, as other bathers began to listen in on our exchange. And my final trump was that not only would I not recommend this place, I would defame it in print, thereby damaging a business at the crucial age of less than a year old.
So off I went, to cool down with a beer as I waited for Miki to finish her bath. I hid myself in a far corner of the dining area, but the manager still was able to find me to apologize, and stealthily return my money under the table. I too apologized, saying that I'm not a bad person, or an angry person, but that my weariness and disappointment had taken me over. But I felt like I was saying it to myself, as if in justification. Did I win? Nope. While I never yelled or exploded, I still publicly displayed behavior that I despise and avoid at all times here, that of the violently angry gaijin barbarian, prey to his own emotions. I had bullied a poor young guy in order to maintain my principles, as if they are higher than his. I still believe in those principles, that the situation holds more precedence than any inflexible rule. But I've been in Japan long enough to know that this isn't how order is maintained here, and that rules are necessary since, you know, 'you gotta have wa.' As a guest in someone's home, I'd never rearrange the furniture if I thought that the recliner looked better under the window. Better to sit on those feelings, and refuse a return invite, should it ever come again. Despite my shame and regret about this incident, I will never go to a so-called 'Super-sento' again, not because of this encounter, but because I find them the strip mall equivalent of bathing. Gimme a crusty old neighborhood sento anyday...
On the turntable: Jane's Addiction, "Strays"
Saturday, May 29, 2010
We rose at six-thirty, the heat at eight. We climbed up the hill to the shrine above our 'camp' in order to meditate and do some yoga. (We had intended to do this every morning, and little did we know that this would be one of only three days that we actually followed through.) Over breakfast we watched the village below us awaken.
We dropped our bags at Gobō Station, as Miki's friend Shiori go off a train just pulling in. With the addition of our guest walker, we'd decided to go light and train it back in order to enjoy the local super-sento and another night at our private and peaceful hilltop campsite.
This was the beginnings of what became yet another long trudge of a day. The heat continued to increase, but the scenery didn't, offering more of the same view of small factories and bland shops lining the prefectural highway. The river that we followed out of town lay in its concrete bed, the hills that made up the southern border of town sprouted with prefab homes. Not far from here is a place called Amerika-mura, a place that I visited about 14 years ago. At that time, I was struck by how well they'd done the California beach town look. Little did I know that this was the tipping point for much of the architecture that has come since. Having seen a lot more of Japan by now, I think they ought to change the town's name, as it no longer lives up to its original distinction. Like the Osaka neighborhood with which its shares the moniker, these interpretations of elements of American culture and design have themselves become, without any sense of irony, something distinctly 21st Century Japanese.
Cresting a small pass, we finally came to the sea. After four days of smelling her perfumes and receiving flirtatious winks from atop the higher passes, we were finally at her side. How better to celebrate than with lunch, in the shade of a temple just below a hiking trail marked with 88 stone Jizo, a forethought on a Shikoku walk still to come. The water before me looked inviting, but for the massive power plant less than a km away. A fisherman assured me the water was fine, and with his three eyes, he was certain to spot any bad stuff.
We followed the sea through a series of small villages. Where'd I'd been expecting lovely scenes of a fishing culture, I found instead more light industry. The villagers themselves were out of sight, but the cats were active. Crabs crawled about in the sewers, their claws out in that international symbol for massage. We stopped for a cold drink in a shop run by a guy who thought that Miki and Shiori were foreigners, and more bizarrely, spoke Japanese only to me.
We next entered Inmi, who at this point in the narrative, holds the lead for the worst trail markers yet. As in none. There were a couple of markers for Ōji, simply for the benefit of the car pilgrims who'd bring in more money. We left this stingy town by climbing a high pass up to Naha Ōji, a shrine which bore a legend about foot relief for walkers. From here it was a long descent through plum groves and rice fields bordered with curtains of drying rice. This was the only green spot in a long day spent on concrete. (Looking back, I think that this was perhaps my least favorite day on the entire Kōdō.) With so little scenery to entertain us, Miki and Shiori fell back on their friendship. Many times in this blog I've mentioned that I hate to talk about things other than what we were encountering immediately before us. I'm generally not interested in being anywhere but here. So while the two of them were engaged in conversations spanning great distances in time and place, I chose to stay a few meters ahead, with my own company. Here and there I would be drawn into conversation, and it was during one of these times that we unknowingly passed an Ōji. It was the only one on the Kōdō to which we didn't offer a prayer.
We finished at Iwashio Station, beside a small oceanside shrine that would have been perfect for camping. With small regret, I boarded the train back to our bags at Gobō. Little did I know that my day wasn't finished...
On the turntable: "Blind Melon"
On the nighttable: Michael Herr, "Dispatches"
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
...today was like yesterday, a day spent getting somewhere, rather than being somewhere. We had full packs again, Miki's new and riding well on her shoulders. Our comfort was important, as we needed to cross a 400 meter pass, supposedly the most difficult on the Kōdō. We didn't talk much for the first hour, except to curse Yuasa for having the most useless trail markers so far. Through the town center, there had been plenty of markers, but once away from businesses and shops, they disappeared. I'm beginning to see a certain pattern at work here. Signs erected by the municipalities are usually found in areas where money is likely to flow. Signs deeper in the hills or in the countryside are put up by citizen's preservation groups. The latter have eveb rebuilt some Ōji, which mark the length of the Kōdō itself.
We had met a fellow walker in front of the train station. He'd attempted and failed this same stretch a week ago, and had set out yet again from his home four hours away in Hyogo. We'd had a much shorter journey, having finally checked out of our Wakayama hotel base camp. Being Sunday, everyone at breakfast had dressed casually for a change.
We walked along a river with our new companion, hopping on and off Rte 42, which would be shadowing us all the way to Ise. No one spoke much, as if thinking about the mountain looming ahead of us. The guy from Hyogo stopped at an Ōji to eat lunch, but Miki and I continued on, stopping a short time later, right where the true climb began. As we set off again, a loud bang sounded just above us, its echo roaring down the valley below. A hunt had shot over our heads. We yelled that we were coming through, then passed beyond a gate written with the triple threat warning about boars and bees and vipers. (Oh my!)
There were quite a few dead snakes on the road, plus a couple of lizards, prompting me to dub it the 'Reptile Trail of Tears.' Lots of cold blooded bodies with the life gone out. Miki and I have a different approach to steep trails: she slow and steady as a turtle; me powering up to a long rest at the top. This road was covered by the debris of frequent slides, so much so that it was easy to forget you were walking a sealed road. Near the top, I scared something away, something that crashed largely and noisily through the tress. Probably a deer, as this was Shishigase Pass. There was a clearing where inns had once stood, and when Miki eventually arrived, we had a nice long lunch. The trail down was quite steep, over cobblestones that mark older sections of the Kōdō. The descent brought new trouble for Miki in the form of an open sore on her lower back, where the lumbar support pads of her new pack made contact. She'd be slow and quiet the rest of the day.
It was incredibly hot. We passed through more orchards, then entered a long valley which we'd walk throughout the afternoon. The trail was mainly on a wide, mercifully untrafficked road, though it would often lead us down small lanes between houses. In front of one house, a man was stringing together lengths of beautiful black bamboo, unfazed be the dozens of bees swarming at his house's opposite end. Once in a while there'd be a farmer harvesting his rice with a tractor, but much of this area's harvest looked to have already been completed, the fields dry and stubbly. Up north, they hadn't yet begun. Due to the heat, we stopped quite a few times, once in front of an old wooden post office whose vending machine dispensed disappointingly warm drinks. Another time, we simply plopped down in the middle of the road in the shade of tall trees. As a couple of kids played in front of their house, we quietly took water from a hose at the side. Later, while leaning against a tall wall, enjoying the shade, a farm woman came up to chat. The further down the valley we went, the further forward in time we traveled, until we finally hit a train line and some vending machines. We sat nursing our drinks beside an old shrine with earthen walls, which seemed to protest the tick of the clock.
I don't remember many details of the day due to fatigue and heat. There was a gateball court and a large fishing hole. A narrow path led through a dense dark bamboo grove to a small Ōji sitting with dignity in the silence. An ancient woman leaned against a wall where we'd left our packs, matching our weary smiles.
At five, we finally reached the park where we'd camp. It was on a hillside, out of sight of the road and houses below. I love Japan for these places, with toilets and tables and shaded patches of grass. We dropped our stuff and walked ten minutes over to Dōjōji Temple. The origination of the Anju story (later made into a famous Nō play), it was well visited, and had the obligatory row of shops and restaurants, most now closed. One place was still open, the owner happy to share tales of local history. I was thrilled with my beer and curry, despite the latter consisting of a mere three potatoes and a forlorn piece of beef. (My beer glass had a picture of a samurai supping lustily on a high class woman's nipple. I raised an eyebrow and gave Miki a particular look, but she pretended not to notice, head pointed down toward her domburi. Sigh...)
We paid a quick visit to the temple itself, the rice plants below taking on a gorgeous gold in the setting sun. On the grounds were a mixture of old and new structures, including a massive gate leading through the Edo-period white walls to the house of the main priest.
Near dark now, we set up camp back on our own hill, the row of windmills flickering on the adjacent range we'd climbed hours earlier, as if beckoning the late summer moon to rise red and full...
On the turntable: Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Where'd you Go?"
On the nighttable: Jiryu Mark Rutchsman-Byler, "Two Shores of Zen"
Saturday, May 22, 2010
We picked up the Kōdō again in Kainan. Here it was a small trail through the hills, shaded with bamboo and lined with stone Jizo statues of extreme age. Each had different features. This enchanted path led us to the temple I'd visited toward the end of yesterday. Nearby, a modest home stood surrounded by a large overgrown garden. This is the origin of the Suzuki family, and at 403,506 members, is the most common name in Japan. Just beyond was Fujishiro Shrine, hung with a humorous banner written with, "Welcome Suzuki-san!" Nearby, a Kuzunoki tree rose to the heavens, each of its three interwoven trunks nearly the size of a van. Behind the shrine was a full-sized wooden horse, and beside it was a small hall that lit up on approach, revealing the impressive line-up of Buddhas within. One of these was the only physical representation of the Kannon deity that is specific to the Kōdō.
We moved into forest here, the distances marked off in chō rather than in meters. The view was of nothing but the factory below. I marveled that the citizens of Kainan had allowed such a immense structure to be plonked down on the outskirts of town, effectively cutting them off from the sea that gave the town its name. The hill rose and took us away. Midway up was a flat indented stone like a calligraphy inkwell. The legend that accompanied it goes back to the 7th Century. Atop the pass was a simple temple of dull wood, set against the brilliant blue sky. We had lunch here, followed later by a dessert of mikan plucked from trees passed on the descent. This completely made our day, eating fresh fruit as we walked along, tainted slightly by the sight of white chemical residue dried to their thick skins. This valley into which we were now dropping was surrounded by a Tuscan landscape of dry hills bearing colorful orchards. It was hot going, the sun straight above and offering nearly no shade. Midway across the valley, we found what is touted as the first mikan tree in all of Japan, ancestor to all that wonderful sweet fruit to come since.
We faced a long ascent up concrete poured along the steep pitch. Shacks marked the orchards through which we climbed, with winch cables criss-crossing the sky above, forming the expressways that the fruit commuted along on their way to the cities. Near the crest of this high steep mountain, we found a group of very old men singing karaoke in a tiny kōminkan. They graciously gave us water, but warned us that the taste might be off, as they'd earlier sprayed for termites. With the heat, thirst beat prudence. Further up still, large turbines were lined across the top of the ridge, whoop-whooping the air as they churned.
Down the other side now, then immediately faced our second 400 meter climb of the day, into a forest landscape offering plentiful shade. We plucked a kiwi from one tree, but it was too sour to eat. The following descent was of the knee-killing variety all too common in this country, as if trails of this type were designed deliberately by orthopedic surgeons. On the floor of the next valley, we stopped for drinks at a local grocery store, directly across from a group of kids unsuccessfully fishing in a grubby canal.
We made it across the valley quickly, over the Arida River and up into the next group of orchards. This was a lower hill than the last two, and a long gentle descent brought us finally to the town of Yuasa, whose main street had a look centuries old. We passed through a cloud of incense as we made our way to the station, ending a six hour perpendicular crossing of some of the hardest passes on the Kōdō, passes which seem to be competing for the most fatalities...
On the turntable: Soup Dragons, "Lovegod"
On the nighttable: William Warren, "Jim Thompson, The Unsolved Mystery"
Saturday, May 15, 2010
We used Wakayama as base camp for a few days. The Kōdō bisected a series of train lines within short reach of the city, and it made good sense to commute out and walk light. The bath and bed in our hotel room weren't very big, but breakfast and the internet were free. Before setting out each morning, I'd potter down to the lobby in my hotel slippers, the kind that mental patients wear.
We took the train to Hoshiya, where we'd left off. The water in the rice paddies was alive with small snails and tiny fish, a unique and special biosystem. A temple near here looked somewhat Okinawan, all tiled roofs and palm trees. After a fire here, the temple's statue of Kannon had been moved to a new location nearby. Soon afterward, horses in the region began to die suddenly, unexpectedly, until the statue was returned to the rebuilt temple.
Today's scenery was much like yesterday's -- of villages and rice fields and the canals that bisected them with so much rushing water. Many homes were surrounded by stone shale walls, architectural testament to a tropical clime. Along the way, we passed a house of impressive size, which had once been the family estate of the local tax collector. Climbing Yada pass, we found a small cave cut into the hillside, it's own shale walls sheltering a statue of En-no-Gyoja. Over this pass, we soon came to another. Further down, a wasp was backing across the path, dragging the carcass of a spider three times its size. At the bottom of the hill were a cluster of homes, standing amidst grave stones of incredible age, hinting at how long people have inhabited this valley. The trees that shaded them also offered mikan nearly ripe, a nice thirst-quenching treat.
Beyond a street with some very old posters, we stopped for lunch on the broken stone steps of a nearby temple, beneath a beautifully aged gate. A few bites in, we noticed that we were sitting amidst a nest of caterpillars, each the size of my thumb. It took some time to brush them from our bags and clothes.
It was a hot day, the trail mostly unshaded as it passed between houses old and new. We found some respite beside a large Jizo and had some tea. Close by was Spider Lake, whose grubby water was simultaneously disgusting and inviting. The turtles seemed to have found peace with this, their forms breaking the surface again and again. One mother was teaching one of her babies to swim. She'd twist and arc her body in order to push it under the surface. When it attempted to climb upon her shell, she'd dive deeply, surfacing nearby a minute later. The baby would immediately sense where she was, and swim at great speed to her, and the whole process would begin again.
Toward the end of the day, we came to a large temple complex atop a flight of steep stone stairs. The main hall was flanked by hundreds of stone Jizo statues. Inside were dozens of paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. I wandered further up the hill in order to see the sea, but was frustrated by the large Sumitomo factory that rose up at the water's edge. Walking down now, past a few smaller buildings well on their way to ruin.
The final stretch to the station was along a street lined with old houses, each bearing a red plate written with "K.K." A loudspeaker came on to tell us that the local schoolkids were on their way home, and that we should all cooperate in keeping them safe. Japan these days has a hyper-inflated sense of danger. Just yesterday, those 8-years olds we'd met had shown us their cellphones, to be used in the event of a predatory attack. How depressing that children are being taught to be afraid of a big bad hostile world. Childhood ends early here. (I'm tempted to say that perhaps it never ends at all, based on much of the immature behavior I see around me.)
Again in Wakayama, we walked 20 unhappy minutes on aching feet to get Miki's bag situation sorted out. Then, a long expensive bus ride back to city center, followed by a lousy meal in a local eatery, with annoying radio BGM that consisted of nearly 30 minutes of voices nearly shrieking in incredibly high registers. "AHHH SOOO DESU KAAAAA?!!!!!" I de-clenched my teeth at one point to hear an announcement about an upcoming 6-hour Kumano Kōdō walk, limited to 200 people. God help me...
On the turntable: "Beat the Retreat: Songs of Richard Thompson"
Saturday, May 08, 2010
It made for an awkward start, rushing to finish with the house, then dashing to make the train. We handed our keys back to the landlady at five past 10, boarded the train 20 frenzied minutes later. Once aboard, I couldn't believe that we'd made it. A few days ago, even a day ago, I wouldn't have been able to imagine it, what with all that had needed to be done. And after awhile this feeling was replaced by fatigue, by weariness. Sleep pushed in from the corners, but I pushed back. Just not nearly hard enough. We sat on the platform at Tennoji, nearly missing our train resting further down the track, which we had hardly acknowledged until its lights came on like the opening of eyes. A conductor on the adjacent platform had looked over at us, but hadn't been able to extend the courtesy of mentioning that the train we were waiting for was just...over...there. After all that would have meant doing his job.
We detrained at Yamanakadani, fiddled with our packs a bit, then set up the road. We'd finished here on a cold snowy January day, me with aching achilles. Today I felt good despite the recent sleeplessness and stress, despite the greater weight on my back. On recent walks my right hip had complained, but today it felt solid. More surprisingly, my usually griping knee had little to say.
Miki, on the other hand... She began to have trouble within the first half hour. The pack she'd chosen -- the one borrowed from me -- wasn't sitting right. The way in which it peeled back off her shoulders was hurting her back; the way it rode her shoulders dug into some pressure points there. We stopped quite a few times to adjust things in order to ease her pain. This worked for awhile, but ultimately she'd have trouble again. I tried to feel compassion, but there was an element of schadenfreude at work here. During the stress of the move, we'd bickered a lot, me growing weary of her comments and her opinions. She'd really pushed her 'go light' philosophy on me, attempting to make me give up most of my possessions. Yet this current situation was proof that throughout the process, her mind had been so focused on this that she had neglected to properly prepare for the walk. This entire first day was now punctuated by her regrets and complaints. Not that there was much to distract her. The road was a busy one, made noisy by being wedged in between a train line and a highway. This continued for nearly two hours. Conversation was difficult, though Miki had little to say, hunched forward over, eyes on the ground.
Osaka is separated by Wakayama by a narrow stream, the site of the final battle of feudal Japan. Further on, a construction crew was widening the road, on a steep and quick curve. A questionable need. A few days before, the LDP, who supplies the barrels into which such pork is usually tossed, had been defeated most viciously at the polls. Their construction friendly ways may be on the way out. As I passed an army of construction flagmen of advanced age staring off into space, I began to hum, "Your Time is Gonna Come." In this too, I am witness to yet end of another phase of Japanese history. Descending the hill, I thought about how different the DJP victory -- admittedly historic -- had been compared to Obama's win last fall. Here I felt no jubilation, no sense of future promise. All seemed business as usual on the streets of Japan. I fear history will prove me right.
As the road descended, I immediately recognized the vast valley of the Kii-no-Kawa, whose path I had partially followed in the spring. We entered a village at the valley's edge, houses spaced by rice fields, their stalks heavy and bending toward the dry cracked earth which had spawned them. We stopped on the side of the road, to have snacks and tea, to the amusement of the occasional farmer bicycling by. Across the fields was a large temple, where Ono no Komachi had died 1100 years before while on her own Kumano pilgrimage.
Further into the village, a trio of schoolgirls looked shocked at the sight of me. We were a little uncertain about the road that we wanted, and after asking the girls, I overheard one of them ask her friend, "Was he Japanese?' Miki and I moved down the road to their elementary school and borrowed some shade out front for a rest. Turned out the girls had been tailing us, and the bravest one walked up to ask if I were Japanese. We talked with them for a while, let them try to pick up our packs. Miki learned a new Japanese word from them, a term basically meaning "stranger danger," which saddened us that they'd need to know this. This sadness quickly turned to surprise at finding that they'd never heard of Kyoto.
We moved on, through a sea of rice fields straight out of 'Lily Chou Chou.' I liked the way the trail zigzagged from village to village. A beautiful shrine made of earth and stone sat in a small clearing. As we rested nearby, a man came out to offer us watermelon. The locals knew exactly what we were up to, encouraging us with smiles and greetings. It gave us a feeling that we were doing something important.
As the day went on, Miki was having a harder and harder time. Not wanting to add to her trouble, I ignored my usual curiosities -- that beautiful old house with a tea room built over the canal; a shrine with an intriguing tree-lined drive. We finally came to the long bridge across the River Kii. Crossing took about 15 minutes, with multiple rest stops. When we got to the station on the far side, I didn't see any relief on Miki's face, which was by now a mask of suffering.
We'd decided earlier to go into Wakayama city to get her a new pack. Just off the train, we were chatted up by some friendly Mormons, but they didn't know any hotels. Miki wandered off in search of a tourist information stand. I spotted a pony-tailed taxi driver, who I was sure would know a cheap place to sleep. We checked in, then walked over to WaraWara which promised 'new' izakaya fare, like mochi tacos and tofu lasagna. Plus the all important over-sized beers. I slept very well...
On the turntable: Ken Nordine, "Colors"
On the nighttable: Brett Dakin, "Another Quiet American"
Thursday, May 06, 2010
I'm reading 'The Fruitful Darkness," by Joan Halifax and in its pages, I come across this:
"Viewing a mountain from a distance or walking around its body, we can see its shape, know its profile, survey its surrounds. The closer you come to the mountain, the more it disappears. The mountain begins to lose its shape as you near it. Its body begins to spread out over the landscape, losing itself to itself. On climbing the mountain, the mountain continues to vanish. It vanishes in the detail in each step. Its crown is buried in space. Its body is buried in the breath."
I'm immediately taken back to Fuji-san. I walked to her foot though a forest fog, past rotting shrines traditionally only seen by male suitors. I climbed her flank of constantly shifting shale. But I never saw her.
I spent a night in her embrace, breathed in her scent of chemical toilet sanitizers mingling with burning plastic. I stood on her shoulder, arms raised to honor the rising sun. But I never saw her.
Trains and buses took me past her. But she wasn't there. My plane flew over her head. But she wasn't there.
On a clear sunny winter day, she finally showed herself to me. And she's ever within.
On the turntable: Eric Clapton, "Rush"
On the nighttable: Francois Bizot, "The Gate"
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Saturday, May 01, 2010
It's spring, and the blogs are multiplying 'round here like rabbits. (Even Miki's in on the act.) Cue the string music, Dueling Bentos has arrived. It will chronicle life in what's dubbed the 'City Different.' Things Japanese, or with a heavier Asian flavour, will continue to be served up here, hopefully twice a week or so. There will also be the occasional double post, where my two world collide in what I'm calling Culturophenia, being neither here nor there, but in some state of mind between.
So join me there, continue to join me here, but please join me. If you've followed me this far, then let's meet where paths diverge at May 1st...
On the turntable: The Latin Jazz Quintet, "Latin Soul"