Beautiful tourist posters, very classic artwork that epitomizes Japan.
Who caught this online last night?
A small part of me to start off with wanted it to be a real bear, but as I watched I thought the movements were too mechanical, and now I agree with others that there was a person inside. But it’s still a beautiful puppet. I wonder what the stunt was to promote.
It’s not surprising that wonderful and curious events happen on the streets of Shibuya and Japan!
Twitter was set ablaze last night after dozens of people shared photos of “a beautiful foreigner walking a polar bear” between throngs of pedestrians at the world-famous Shibuya Scramble crossing in Tokyo.
Join us after the jump to see a video captured by an onlooker and learn more about the group to which this mysterious bear-keeping stranger apparently belongs.
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I have another book to review from Tuttle Books and, once again, they have kindly agreed to give one free copy of this book to a random visitor to my blog!
The book that I’m reviewing here is titled “Clueless in Tokyo: An Explorer’s Sketchbook of Weird and Wonderful Things in Japan” by Betty Reynolds.
I will put the details of the free drawing for this book at the end of this post.
Ms. Reynolds lived in Tokyo for seven years with her husband. They are both Americans so, of course, everything in Japan was new and strange to them when they first arrived here.
I can relate to that!
This book is perfect for anyone who has ever visited…
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Thankfully AKB48 have resumed their performances at the Akihabara Theater.
It’s great when UK news station report on Japanese artists. But it’s such a shame that it had to be over a vicious attack. If you need a reminder, here’s how the UK newspaper The Independent reported it.
I won’t pretend to understand the details of the Japanese music industry, but it’s very admirable how the idol group hold performances at the theater nearly day. I’m sure this is a big revenue stream for them, and with the number of members in the group it would be important/fair to give each member chances to perform. But how many Anglo-American bands do you know who would perform that much? Performance is a very important foundation for AKB48.
When I started reading Tokyo Girls Update article, I was surprised at the level of increased security to the venue. Not just the increase in security staff (from 8 to 17 on the first day) but also the addition of elements like metal detectors (well that’s understandable), iron railings and restricting access to the first rows. However that was before I saw images of the Theater and where the girls perform. There are no barriers to begin with and it looks like a metre or two between the stage and the first row. That’s extremely close. I can’t remember ever going to a concert or gig where I could be that close. If you did manage to navigate the multiple barriers, blocks and raised staging the security guards would have already seen you coming and drop on you like a ton of bricks.
I will be very careful to try and not make any judgments. Their music is very accessible, energetic, upbeat pop. In UK it should be said that pop acts that sound and look like this would be considered just for children. It probably is appreciated by all generations. But in the audience photos there is a very recognisable social demographic, some of these girls are not even yet 20 and can easily attract unwanted attention. If the girls were nervous about going back on that stage as it was I can completely understand. As young women they deserve to not be harassed, be treated with respect and protected to allow to do fulfill their musical dreams
When I do visit Japan, one of the numerous things I will have to do and if I’m in the area is to see one of their performance. They are a dominating force in the industry and one of the most influential and popular idol groups in history!
You can read Tokyo Girls Update’s article on AKB48 resuming performances here.
Utada Hikaru and Francesco Calliano are officially married as their wedding ceremony in Polignano a Mare, Italy came to an end.
Photography at the event was forbidden in an attempt to keep the ceremony private. 7-8 bodyguards were present and surrounded the singer to keep her protect from the paparazzi and reporters who flocked to the event.
Hikaru wore a full-length, white gown with flowery lace detailing. A hair band with more flower detailing was also worn to accompany the dress.
The cathedral were the wedding ceremony took place was the same one that Calliano’s parents held their wedding. The singer arrive here at 12:20 local time, followed closely behind by Calliano. Japanese-style parasols were used to provide protection from the sun and create a beautiful sight among the crowd.
The wedding started at 12:30 as planned. After the ceremony was over, 3 white doves were released into the air…
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So I mentioned that I’d bought a few songs recently when I wrote about my experiences with Japanese iTunes. Sorry it took me over 2 weeks to follow that post up with the music. But I haven’t been able to listen to the songs much, so for me they are still new, so that counts a little.
1) Gift – ET-King
I hadn’t heard of this song or this group before. But I knew I wanted to buy the song when I knew it was hip-hop. I do like Japanese hip-hop, one of the reasons being that I like the vocal delivery and timings, it seems to work really well with the Japanese syllables. Of course that doesn’t mean that Japanese lyrics won’t have some of the same Anglo-American topics like sex, women, crime and money. But I don’t think I’ve come across any (although I wouldn’t know unless they drop in English words or I translate it!). I haven’t been able to find the English lyrics for this song. But I think it’s a song about appreciation, gratitude and celebrating life.
2) 深夜高速 – フラワーカンパニーズ (Fast Midnight – Flower Company)
This is a group that I haven’t heard of before, so I’m relying on what information I can find online about them. They’re originally from Nagoya, which I really like because my friends spent their university year abroad in Nagoya and although I haven’t been myself they had such great experiences there. They’ve released music under both major and indie labels. I do find it very interesting how big bands can choose to remain on a indie label for such a long time. I’d like to learn about about Japanese labels and how they work differently to UK labels (seems like every label is owned by one of the major companies like Sony BMG or EMI). They released a lot of material in the late 80’s/early 90’s, but it looks like they’ve releasing new material and performing at festivals such as ap bank fes. Of course I didn’t know any of this before buying the song, I went on instinct based on what I heard in the short preview. I like how the verses were more stripped back before the instruments gain intensity in the choruses. I also thought the vocal delivery was interesting, not the melodic type and not the screamo/rock type but somewhere more in the middle. When I watched the video I had images of Oasis and Kasabian with his rock swagger attitude.
3) maruche – KICK THE CAN CREW
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the PV or a suitable video. If you search for the song you will probably find an AMV (Anime Music Video). What first struck me about this song was the Latin sample. I feel like I should recognise it, or it just might be typical of the Latin sound. Again it’s another hip-hop track that I wanted to add to my collection. When I play/record my mixes I’m always on trying to represent as many genres as possible, in order to show just how diverse Japanese music is. Whilst I did start off with some R’n’B/hip hop artists, they were more female singers like Koda Kumi or Namie Amuro. So the more hip hop acts I can get the better I feel about my mixes. What I realised when looking online for the video was that one of the members of KICK THE CAN CREW was KREVA, who is now an established rapper. He’s on the song STRONG – MIYAVI vs KREVA which I absolutely adore! It’s probably one of my top three Japanese songs of all time, so I implore you to have a listen to STRONG.
4) My Sunshine (2012 remaster) – ROCK’A’TRENCH
As soon as I heard this I thought I recognised it as a anime theme. There are some songs that just sound typical of rom-com / shojo programmes. When I looked for the PV online I worked out where the song was from. It was the OP for a drama called Mei-chan no Shitsuji (Mei’s Bulter) which definitely falls under the shojo category and I will admit I watched (everyone needs escapism!). I have watched a lot of anime and dramas but for this one to be memorable shows the song stands on it’s own merits. It has that positive affirming style that will sound good this summer. The rest of their catalogue judging from their other PVs is more in the ska style, so they’re worth checking out.
5) B-Dash (Hanagoe Version) – tongarikids
I nearly debated using a different video, because I thought the PV looked ridiculous. To cut down the amount of ridiculous time, start the video at 1:16 when the music starts. That being said, it quite a ridiculous song, but sometimes that’s what everyone needs. And this was a very very big song at the time. The initial reason I bought was that I recognised the sample being used. I won’t say what it is as a small test! 😉
I thought it would be a great song even with a short edit, because of it’s techno sound and the sample. I would say based on the people that I know, that even if they’re not a fan of Japanese music, they are fans of gaming, so this would definitely make them pay attention.
6) グロテスク – 平井 堅 グロテスク feat. 安室奈美恵 (Grotesque – Ken Hirai feat Namie Amuro)
I saw Namie Amuro on the artwork and was instantly intrigued. Ever since I was introduced to Japanese music Namie Amuro was one of my favourite female singers. Her R’n’B/Hip Hop was similar to the kind of Anglo-American singers I listen to and her songs were great to sing along to (well attempt to, again I say I do not know Japanese!). Also I really liked her voice and style (it’s very rare that she’s not wearing knee high boots). I had a listen to the sample (as I do before every purchase) and really liked the high energy and sound. I also searched for the video and once Ken Hirai appeared I realised who he was. Although I don’t have a lot of the music, I know he’s been in the industry for a number of years and he has a very distinctive style (the white outfit with the hat wasn’t that surprising). The song is channeling the current house/dub step trend, this will definitely be included in future Neo Kei mixes.
7) AKB48 恋するフォーチュンクッキー (Koi Suru Fortune Cookie / Fortune Cookie In Love)
Ah yes, that one.
I didn’t learn about this song through the artist but instead through the fan videos. Not knowing the song, I was rather confused about why the AKB48 official channel was sharing all these videos. And then I realised they were all for the same song. These fans seem to love the song and love the opportunity to recreate the para para (dance routine). Plus in the official PV lots of people are performing AKB48 are teaching the moves (I think the orchestra and the kendo students are the funniest!). So again it’s very easy and tempting to fans to replicate the video. I won’t share all the fan videos, but there is an Australian version, a Venice version, an Enka version, one by Japanese fashion label Samantha Thavasa but I think you must see the Kanagawa Prefecture version
And you HAVE to see the AKB48 staff version (who I actually think are the best dancers!)
Have you mastered the whole routine? Or have you found a better parody video? I’d love for you to post them in the comments section below.
I wouldn’t have gotten into Japanese music without the recommendations from my friends, and I will always welcome new suggestions. So if you think there’s some music you want to share or some recommendations based on these songs then please post them in the comments too.
It had been a while since I bought any music, so I went onto the Japanese iTunes to find some new songs to add to my collection.
On UK iTunes I like to take advantage of the ‘Single of the Week’, where they give away a free song from an up-and-coming artist or artist with new material (previous artists include Alex Clare, Foxes, Naughty Boy and Tom Odell). So I had a little look around to see if I could find something similar. Then I spotted a section that had 00’s songs for 150 yen (87 pence approx), compared with 250 yen (£1.46 approx).
Yes the songs on Japanese iTunes are more expensive than the UK. But the UK has extremely few Japanese songs. For instance AKB48 (one of the biggest idol groups) only had 1 song, and that was only because they were on the ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ soundtrack. There some new tracks I could find, which really helped me when I started DJing. But I couldn’t guarantee I would find the songs I wanted, and whether they were still current (no point buying a MIYAVI track 3 months after it was released in Japan). And even if I discovered an artist that I really liked (like Capsule or Aural Vampire), I wouldn’t be able to find any of their back catalogue. So the Japanese iTunes account is brilliant to have access to any artist I want.
Also I don’t have to worry about have to import music. Before iTunes I was purchasing my music through YesAsia. I do think it’s a brilliant site for the amount and variety of stock they have. But you pay the cost of importing. Literally. The prices are so much higher for albums and singles. For instance just looking on the site now, the most recent single of a artist I could find was SID’s ENAMEL (Normal Edition)(Japan Version) is on sale at $14.25 (£8.44 approx). And that doesn’t include the DVD extras or photobooks they like to include. I couldn’t afford the latest music, so I would look at the reduced items of artists that I thought would be popular, even if the songs had been out of the charts for a while. I’d also buy music in bulk, because firstly it would take about 2-3 weeks at least to arrive, and also the purchases had to be over $39 to qualify for free shipping (which I’ve recently learnt can really bite, but more on that later).
I am still a traditionalist and I like to own the physical CD (but oddly I’ve never been interested in vinyl). So if I want to buy an album of an artist I really like, I will still want to buy it in the future. But as much as I love owning as much music as possible, it’s not practical to buy a physical single at over 5 times the cost of a download song. Plus, whilst I might get 3/4 songs with the physical, half of them might be instrumentals or TV edits (because songs are so often TV OPs) and really what people will want to hear is the actual single, not the extra song that came with it. iTunes allows me to buy the 1 song that I know I will include in my mixes (or at least heavily listen to and build my own musical knowledge), so I’d say that purchase would have a 100% success rate, compared with may 25-30% with a physical single.
I ended up buying 7 songs. I wanted to talk about them all, and what was meant to be a very short introduction into Japanese iTunes turned into another one of my short opinion pieces! So I’ll share this first and write a separate post that just focuses on the music.