I’m happy to announce that my music is now available in the US on iTunes as well as on Amazon, CD Baby, and most digital music retailers.  The cover image for my music release in North America is different from the original CD in Japan.  The US version sports a shot of me at sunrise in the El Mirage dry lake bed of California, which was one of the most popular images from my photo book in Tokyo.

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From the hot desert sands of California, I arrived in Beijing to find a city covered in a beautiful white blanket of snow.  My hotel room featured a breathtaking view of the Forbidden City, and the snowy palace was even more spectacular in person than the many photos I’ve seen of it before.  My party and I enjoyed a private tour of the imperial complex as light snow continued to gently fall around us, and our guide emphasized that in her career this was the first time she had witnessed snow at the Forbidden City.  She said that in ancient Chinese legend, falling snow on the day a guest arrives at the Forbidden City is the greatest of good omens, and blessings galore will enrich the lives of all who share in the occasion.  What a treat for my first visit!   Although, it felt much more like a homecoming to me, perfectly familiar and comfortable.  Below are some photos we took, my favorite is the one with me walking in the snow along the Imperial mote with our guide up ahead and if you look closely you’ll see two soldiers walking in the far distance.  They were the only two other people we encountered!

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The next day we visited the Great Wall of China, and again were treated to a majestic sight of this great wonder of the world covered in white.  It is much more of a hike along the Great Wall’s path than it appears in photos, and it made for quite a workout, especially with slippery ice underfoot.  After a day-long adventure at the Great Wall, we made our way back to the Hyatt hotel and enjoyed one of the best vegan dinners I’ve ever had, this time at the Loving Hut restaurant Beijing.

It was Friday night, and the car from the hotel could not stay with us, but I thought it was no problem – we’ll just take a taxi back. We soon learned, however, there are zero taxis available on Friday night in Beijing. One of the restaurant guys stood out in the cold night for 20 minutes trying to hail a car for us while the chef kept bringing us free desserts. Finally, the restaurant owner herself said “okay, let’s go!” and she drove us to the Hyatt herself.  I love the people of Beijing.

The next night, we discovered Pure Lotus restaurant Beijing, which is by far the most incredible dining experience ever.  Operated by Mongolian monks, it is Shangrila heaven, with guardsmen dressed in elaborate pink, gold, blue and red robes with Siberian hats who usher us with lanterns through the darkness from the bustling street outside, down cobblestone paths lined with candle-holding Buddhist statues to the massive golden Mongolian tent with towering wood door.

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The doorknob is a giant golden Buddha hand, which pivots the door open to an incense-filled restaurant lit with hudreds of candles among pools of lotus flowers and video images illuminated on the floors and walls of modern and ancient spiritual imagery. The music is eclectic mix of 1930s and 40s from around the world. Our private dinner tent is gold and red with a table of wood and silk gauze cloth, seashells for plates and fine handblown glass of vibrant colors blue, white, black, yellow, red… each waiter wears a unique Mongolian robe, and each dish they bring is served in a unique vessel, one in a hollowed-out log, another in a white porcelain swan, another in a silver bucket on misty dry ice. Magic! Some of the best vegan food I’ve had in the world combined with the most dream-like atmosphere, it defies description. The menus at Pure Lotus are three feet long in the rectangular shape of ancient Buddhist scrolls with high-gloss cardboard pages that used artistic photos as backgrounds for each of the 30 or 40 pages of food listings. Incredible.

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That night, I enjoyed the best foot massage (and the most painful foot massage) of my life.  It was Chinese reflexology, and absolutely brilliant. My neck even cracked from pressure my masseur applied to my feet. Now that’s a foot massage! I felt like a new man from just 45 minutes of intense foot manipulation. With snow on the streets of Beijing we were 3 levels below the Hyatt hotel in a tropical oasis, hot and humid like Tahiti! This huge underground facility looks like an ancient Polynesian ocean temple and on the skyscape-painted ceiling are tiny lighted stars. Deeply relaxing.

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From the latest Spring snowfall that Beijing has seen in years, to the warm beaches of my beloved Punta Mita, I enjoyed another great visit with friends in Mexico and then once again headed half way back across the Pacific to Kauai to begin work on my new book.  The incredible staff at the Grand Hyatt Kauai took such good care of me, providing me one of the most beautiful rooms on the property to inspire and help me write the most inspirational work possible.  I can’t wait to go back again!

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While on my way to Tokyo again, I was delighted to learn that one of my songs, Itsuka, is featured in a new Sony PSP game called VIBES.  My song plays during the level in which players fly through Japanese-themed scenes and push their controller to the beat of the music and grab vibes in the air to gain points.  The game developers sent me some screen shots, one of which highlights a flight through Tokyo and then Kyoto and Sumo wrestlers surrounded by Japanese temples, trees and a rainbow.  I can’t wait to play it.

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Back in Tokyo, I enjoyed reuniting with friends both old and new at Golden Week celebrations and a wonderful meeting with my favorite teacher, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Our meeting was held at my beloved alma mater in the lush hills just outside of Tokyo, at Soka University. One of my best friends from San Francisco who also attended Soka University, Akiko, came for the festivities as well and we left refreshed by the perfect weather, good times with friends from all around the globe, and renewed determinations to contribute more to peace, culture and education now and in the future.

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