YOSHINO SHIGIHARA (YAMA WARASHI): RIVER LEA
Tales on favourite spots by our network of fem人le musicians
YOSHINO SHIGIHARA (YAMA WARASHI)
I am living on the water.
The water I mean here is a river. It’s called River Lea, it is one of the biggest rivers that runs through London.
There are a few big marshes by the river. My favourite one is called Hackney Marshes. It is a huge marsh, the south side has a lot of goal posts for football. They look like staples on the grass. The north side has an old filter bed which looks like ancient ruins.
I was there everyday, in lockdown in 2020, walking by myself or meeting friends.
I always walked by the tow path of the river, looking at all these beautiful canal boats moored tightly together.
So many different shapes, colours, designs, old and new, stylish ones… the boat seems to show the personality of the owner. Boat community seems to be a micro cosmos of human society.
I was always curious about their boat life.
How they drive and fix the boat, how they get water and electricity?
One day in the summer I was meditating and a clear message came to my mind, it said I should live on a canal boat.
One month later I was driving a narrow boat ‘Spring’ 45 feet long and the same age as me.
I am ‘a continuous cruiser’ which means moving the boat every 2 weeks. We have to keep going in the same direction for 20km before turning around. So every two weeks my base is in a different town. I have seen many parts of the river now. At the moment I am at Hackney Wick, near the olympic park and lots of bars, shops and graffiti are on the walls. One side of the river is residential but I am in front of the little woodland called Wick Woodland. I forget that I am in the city while I am in the woodland, even though it is so close to the busy part of London.
When I get farther out to the north from the city, there is a place called Cheshunt with so many lakes. It is very quiet and sometimes I had no neighbouring boats, and for a few days I didn’t see anyone. I saw a deer at night. I saw a moon. There are no lights on the towpath so I can see the stars better there.
I wake up and the first thing I see is the body of water. I am mesmerised by watching the reflection.
It can be flowing really fast or sometimes totally still. Sometimes there are lots of algae growing and bright green, sometimes some oil spillage, and it makes iridescent marble on the surface, sometimes it’s very dark and full of rubbish. Sometimes crystal clear. Even though it is the same river, It’s all different in location and time.
When we drive the boat, the maximum speed is 4 miles per hour. It is very slow like a walking speed. While we are slowly cruising on the water, cyclists and joggers are running past us. While travelling on the river, we have to open and close locks sometimes. Filling water or draining water takes a long time. I started slowing down by living on the water. I enjoy looking at a small vortex when the water runs out from the sluice.
There is an amazing rhythm coming from the old engine from the coal boat, they move up and down the river to sell coal and wood, the boat is 100 years old and making polyrhythmic engine noise. I love it so much.
I would like to recreate the rhythm in my music sometime.
I think the river is like a vein of the earth, carrying nutrients, flowing out the toxins. I do feel the difference living on the water, every night I am cleansed while I am sleeping, the energy flows all the time.
Recently a big storm came to London. The river was raging. All the boats were twisting and turning, losing ash buckets from the roof. I lost a small solar panel into the river.
I am watching the fire burning in the wood burner. Hearing the rain drops hitting on the roof. Hearing dawn chorus. Looking at the sun rise and sun set. Moon reflecting on the river.
We live close to nature.
Yoshino Shigihara is a Japanese artist based in London. She calls her music project ‘Yama Warashi’ which means Mountain spirit in Japanese. It’s actually the name of a scary witch from the mountain but Yoshino decided it to be a fluffy friendly monster in her mind. She gets inspiration from Moon and mushrooms.
Her new album just came out via PRAH Recordings. Some songs are about veganism, intuition and illusion, also her thoughts and feelings in London.
She currently floats around on the River Lea and wandering in the woods in the mashes.