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Back in the US

Yes, it is a new post. Another post just to say I will be posting more later, there are a few more things I want to say before I bring this blog to its natural end. I just haven’t made the time to do it yet.

I’m re-integrating back into my LA home, and that is taking some time. Combining two households isn’t easy, but I’m slowly wading through everything. And then I’ll start writing about the last few months. So sit tight, more to come.

Don’t give up on me!

Time is running out here in Japan, and it seems that I’ve been doing a lot and not writing about it. Right now I am looking at “memory books” from a couple of different going away parties, a Facebook page people used to organize one of my parties, packing, sorting, reducing, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, and trying to go to work every day. So I’m a little distracted.

I will get some updates here, including some stories I’ve been sitting on, before I call an end to this blog. And I can’t imagine I will stop blogging. I’ve finally gotten a start to my jonathanfish.com domain, and the My Blogs page will definitely have a link to all my blogs. So please come back for a visit, I’ll tell you when it is closed, and I’ll tell you where to look for future entries. In the meantime, just know that I am collecting stories.

It’s a tie

As part of my exit panic, I decided I wanted to see a baseball game. I’m not usually one who will go to an event by myself. I won’t go to a concert alone, I won’t go to a movie alone I won’t go to a sporting even alone. I always thought I would be too lonely because a big part of those events for me are the social interaction. I invited one friend to go together and never heard back, so I took that as a “no” (I actually did hear from him during the game …). I posted on Twitter to see if any of my Twitter friends wanted to go. Nope. It seems people had plans. I was resolute – I was going to go. So I went.

The game started out will with my hometown Chunichi Dragons jumping to a 1 – 0 lead. The Hiroshima Carp (I’ve GOT to get a jersey) tied it up in the 5th I believe. It became a real pitchers dual. Well, not really, a lot of hits were squandered. The hits were high but the score low. The kept the game long but without scoring.

The Nagoya Dome and Japanese baseball are pretty well document here, so I won’t go into detail. The game was interesting and went into extra innings. I was sitting intently, watching the game, the 10 inning ended scoreless and then … everyone walked off the field and the stands started emptying.

SAY WHAT?!?! A TIE?

Tied game

Actually, I knew this would happen. This year, games are limited to 3.5 hours to conserve electricity post 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. So I was watching the clock along with the scoreboard, the pitching strategy, etc. I personally think Hiroshima was playing for a tie. I’m not sure what is going to happen in the Japan Series, but last year after 15 innings, one of the games was declared a tie. Apparently there is a different rule about regular season games going only 12 innings, where the Series probably has a different rule.

Anyway, that was fine. I needed to get home. I decided to take a different route to the subway to be “clever.” I was not clever and it cost me about 1 hour. Ooops.

In spite of my slightly negative commentary here, I did have a good time and going alone was easy.

Dance the night away

Shortly after Fuji Rock, Kanamori-san suggested to everyone to go to Gujo-odori in Gujo Hachiman, Gifu Prefecture. Gujo odori is a dance festival that runs from mid-July to September, but goes all night during a few nights in August around Obon. According to the Gujo Odori website,

THE GUJO ODORI dance festival is one of the three most important traditional dance festivals in Japan, but it is also one of the most accessible. Designated a Significant Intangible Cultural Folk Asset by the Japanese government, Gujo Odori should not be missed!

Naturally, trying to fit everything I haven’t done into the next few months, I was eager to go. I was afraid that I was too eager to go. Others soon expressed interest and a plan was formulated.


View Larger Map

Luckily for us, one of the Fuji Rock crew’s company has an office in Gujo, so we even had a place to park. A total of 8 people went to Gujo to experience the fun festival.

I thought that traditional Japanese clothing would be appropriate, but I’m usually taken aback when I see white folks trying to wear traditional Japanese clothing. It just never seems to work for me. There are two traditional summer clothes you can wear, 甚平 (jinbei) or 浴衣 (yukata).

甚平 are basically shorts and a 3/4 sleeve shirt with a tie. The sleeves are stitched with a very wide stitch, almost looking like the sleeve is tied on instead of sewn on. The armpits are open as well, all designed to give very good ventilation during hot summer days.

jinbei

 

浴衣 Are the summer version of a kimono. They are long, require an 帯 (obi – belt), but are made of cotton and hemp, with armpit cutouts also.

yukata

 

Tomo thought that jinbei would look a little strange on me. My proportions don’t really match Japanese, as my legs and arms are too long and my torso is too short. But if I put on a long dress, I would look かっこいい (cool).

In addition, most dancers wear 下駄 (geta), wooden sandles. Traditional geta are like a plank with two legs. They can get pretty tall as well. The are useful in the dance though because of the sound they make.

geta

 

I figured, what the heck, I’ll go for the traditional look, a goofy gaijin trying to be Japanese and failing. My next challenge was to find yukata and geta, figure out the size, how to put it on, and how to feel comfortable in it. I knew that all department stores have a section where they sell traditional Japanese articles, like kimonos, yukata, and so on. My first stop was at Mitsukoshi, and there the yukata alone ranged from 16000 yen to over 20000 yen. That’s a price tag over $200. A little pricey. I went to Matsuzakaya, and the price was even more. Forget the geta. A couple of friends recommended that I go to AEON, which is kind of like Target in the US. My snobbery had kicked in and I thought I wanted something “authentic” and not “cheap” and then I realized I was being stupid. So after my initial sticker shock, I was off to AEON, found a really helpful sales person, and got out of there with a yukata, belt, obi, and geta for under 14000 yen. Still a lot of money to pay, but it is an interesting souvenir.

I was concerned about the geta, so I bought some “flats” instead of the tall ones. I practiced walking in them around the neighborhood and quickly determined that I’d never last all night in them. Too bad, actually, but I wasn’t going to tear up my feet and be unable to dance just because my sandles didn’t match my yukata.

Tomo was down the weekend before the Gujo odori, so we did a practice run with my yukata. Especially tying the obi. We had instructions that were impossible to understand, so Tomo said, “Let’s check YouTube.” I was heading for the encyclopedia, some would suggest Wikipedia, but everyone 30 and younger goes to YouTube. Good call.

I LOVE the accent on the Japanese guy in the video. He’s not saying “taa daa” like a magic act, but it sure sounds that way. Very clear though, and after that demonstration, and a few practices, I was an expert. I did some modeling in the apartment and this is the basic look of my yukata.

Modeling yukata

 

Modeling yukata

 

Of the 8 people that went together to Gujo Dori, we had various clothing combinations. Three yukata, one jinbei, two geta, and a variety of other combinations. It turns out it didn’t really matter. I actually enjoyed wearing the yukata, had I had on regular geta I would have been even taller, but a tall guy looks good in a yukata. Tomo was right. I got a few looks, and I noticed a couple looking at my obi knot. I was assured it was correct so I was a little proud. Hopefully they weren’t making fun of me.

Gujo is in the mountains, so while the temperature was warm, it wasn’t so hot. We got there around 8:30 pm, and went for some festival food and drink of course.

Arrival

 

Where's the party?

 

Not much food left

 

I did not eat the fish.

Fish holding a fish on a stick

 

I did wander around a bit and get some pictures of the festival and the town.

Festivalgoers

 

Gujo

 

Gujo

 

Hi-chan and I goofing around in a plastic food shop.

Food on the walls

 

A fuzzy picture of me in my yukata.

Yukata in action

 

Kanamori-san, Sacchan, her husband, and I jumped in to the dance line and away we went. I knew nothing of the dance, just copied the people around me. Luckily, we picked a point in the continuous dance line where there were some experienced dancers. I copied the upper body motions first, and then tried to get the footwork down. Of course, in a dance, they should work together. But I’m not a dancer, so I did my best. It was FUN! The dance basically goes in a pattern around a stage, think of the dance area as a cross, and the stage at the intersection of the two pieces of the cross. The distances are long as well, there were a lot of people there. My guess is they shorten up the ends of the cross as the crowd thins out.

One end of the dance line

 

There are 10 dances, I think I participated in about 5 of them. I’ve linked from YouTube (of course, YouTube) at the end of this entry so you can see them.

I was not as crisp as the people on the video, I clapped at the wrong time, I bumped in to Kanamori-san a few times, someone stepped on my foot. No one cared, no one was offended, everyone just had a good time.

We took a break for more refreshment, went down to the river, and then Hi-chan joined us for another round of dancing. After our second round of dancing, where we were able to complete almost the entire circuit, it was around 2:00 am.

Heading out

 

Hirox (Hirotaka-san) suggested we go visit the castle, which was still completely lit up. We drove up a very circuitous and narrow street to get to the castle, and found the white walls covered in insects. Ick, a little scary. After the castle visit I thought we’d had back for more dancing, but instead starting heading back to Nagoya. Oh? So I didn’t get all the pictures I was planning since I was too busy dancing. I did get some though.

Gujo Castle

 

Hi-chan, Hirox, and Kanamori-san in front of Gujo Castle.

In front of Gujo Castle

 

Kanamori-san suggested that we visit 大丸ラーメン (daimaru ramen) once we got back to Nagoya. It is an all night “underground ramen shop.” There was a line of about 15 people ahead of us, very much a local underground crowd. People were holding their stomachs and looking a little green when they came out. Why? Because the portions were ENORMOUS! Somehow, Kanamori-san was a bottomless pit and ate his mound of bean sprouts, all the meat and noodles, and even had room for more noodles. As the foreigner, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t even make it through the bean sprouts. Luckily Hi-chan and Hirox failed as well.

Daimaru Ramen

 

Daimaru Ramen

 

Daimaru Ramen

 

It was a good time, and I went to bed at 7:00 am. I was a complete waste the next day, but I had scheduled absolutely nothing, so it was fine. Thanks to Hi-chan for some of the pictures used here.
 
 

Here are the dances I did, and the descriptions are quoted from the Gujo odori website.

三百 – San byakku. “San byakku literally means three hundred and refers to three hundred mon, a unit of currency in the Edo period. About 250 years ago, Gujo Hachiman had a farmers revolution and the lord of the town was changed. When the new lord arrived, he gave the poor and starving farmers 300 mon. This made the farmers extremely happy and the dance san byakku, was written to say thank-you. The movements are simple depections of farmers walking in the muddy rice fields and throwing harvested rice bundles up to be dried.”


 

春駒 – Harukoma. “In Edo times, Gujo Hachiman was home to many famous horse farms that supplied horses to the Samurai. The movements of this dance mimic those of a samurai riding a spirited and energetic young horse.”


 

かわさき – Kawasaki. “The most famous and well known of the 10 Gujo Odori songs! The movements of this dance incorporate representations of the scenery of Gujo Hachiman (rivers and mountains) and viewing the moon on a warm summer evening.”


 

やっちく – Yacchiku. “Gujo Hachiman is a castle town and because of that there used to be many drifting performers who passed through the town. One of these drifting performers created yacchiku. Like gen gen bala bala this song is only singing and drums and you may notice a similarity between native north-american people’s dance and music.”


 

げんげんばらばら – Gengen Balaba (which I hate because it went the opposite direction). “Unlike most other dances of Gujo Odori, which are danced in a clockwise circle, Gengen Balabala is danced in a counter-clockwise circle. Only a drum and the singer’s voice are used. The elegant dance movements depict folding the long sleeves of a young girl’s kimono over her arm to play a children’s ball game.”

Okazaki 花火

As my time winds down here, the number of cultural experiences or re-experiences is increasing. I guess I sense the ticking clock acutely, and so I’m trying to enjoy and soak it all in.

The first summer I was here, I caught the fireworks in Gifu. By the end of the show, my neck was hurting. Last summer I watched the Nagoya Port fireworks and didn’t even bother to blog about it. This year, because of a spontaneous Tweet by Hitomi-san (Hi-chan), I decided to go to the Okazaki fireworks.

Nagoya to Okazaki

 

I had kind of given up on fireworks ( 花火- Hanabi) probably because it all starts to look the same after about 10,000 explosions. This fireworks exhbition promised 20,000! I didn’t have anything going on, Hi-chan is fun, so why not go?

Hiromi

 

Wikipedia says that,

Okazaki is also well-known, and perhaps most famous for, its fireworks. The Tokugawa Shogunate restricted production of gunpowder outside of its immediate region (with few exceptions), and even today, more than seventy percent (70%) of Japan’s fireworks are designed and manufactured here. A large fireworks festival, which people from all over Japan come to see, is held annually on the first Saturday in August in the area surrounding Okazaki Castle.

I led us to the wrong train, but we got to Okazaki, found a pretty good spot to sit by the riverside, and enjoyed what a festival brings.

Peaceful river setting

 

The scene was very crowded, as you would expect at a fireworks show.

All along the shore

 

We enjoyed the “good” food a festival has to offer as well. Karaage, frankfurters, yakisoba, beer. What more can you ask for?

Frankfurters were popular

 

Healthy!

 

The fireworks were remarkable as well, although as always I did get a little bored and my neck started to hurt. I tried a new setting on the camera, and this is the result. I’ve never enjoyed photographing fireworks anyway.

Okazaki fireworks

 

Okazaki fireworks

 

Okazaki fireworks

 

Okazaki fireworks

 

Okazaki fireworks

 

Kaoru-san came to join us, but we didn’t get together until after the show was over.

Thanks to Hi-chan and Kaoru-san for a fun night.

As part of my photographic experimentation, I now know how all the Hubble Telescope pictures have been taken? Outer space photographs? Peeshawwww. Just a bad photo at a fireworks show.

Nebula

 

Fuji Rock 2011

Fuji Rock 2011 has come and gone. As was expected, it was a very good time. Last year I wrote an extensive blog entry so I will try to minimize the repeat content. But I will not over-edit what I write.

Last year I only knew two people at Fuji Rock – Tomo and Kanamori-san. Our schedules meant I could spend Friday with Tomo, Sunday with Kanamori-san, and was completely on my own on Saturday. But as a result of meeting people through people from last year’s Fuji Rock I had an entire network of people I knew and that it made it cool. In the end I probably spent as much time alone this year as I did last year. Oh well.

Haru-san was kind enough to arrange rooms for people and also organize the various ride shares to and from Nagoya. On Wednesday night, Tomo called and said, “Haru-san is too devastated to try to explain in English, but we lost our hotel room.” One call by Tomo and we were in the same place as last year, with one additional person sharing a 7 person room. No problem.

I arranged to ride up with Kanamori-san, and we left together with Hi-chan at 11:00 pm from Nagoya. Wow, that was late after a full day of work. I drank a coffee on the road (very rare for me to have caffeine) so I was wired and probably could have driven to Hokkaido.

 
Friday

Since we drove all night, we arrived in to Naeba as the sun was starting to rise. Here’s a nice picture from probably about 4:30 am on Friday morning as the sky brightened briefly on the day.

Sunrise

 

We arrived very early at our final desitnation. There’s no better way to celebrate the arrival than going to the local convenience store and buying some celebratory beers. Since Kanamori-san and I did not sleep these are still associated with the night before.

What time is it?

 

Fortunately the convenince store was open …

Hungry and thirsty

 

Goofy

 

So we could get the party started!

Pop

 

Cheers

 

Drink

 

We took a power nap and woke up with it … raining. Since we had the experience of last year, we knew it would be better to get our wristbands early and our merchandise early. By this time it was really starting to rain.

Really wet

 

Really wet

 

Waiting in line for merchandise before it opens (and before it sells out).

Really wet

 

Tomo met us at the merchandise area and then we all headed back to the hotel for a bit of an unwind before the day began. We confused the Obaa-chan who runs the show there with more people than were checking in, but no harm / no foul.

Planning the day

 

We met up with other friends and headed to the site. In the rain.

Welcome!

 

We stopped to have breakfast though (except Tomo was eager to see the Vaccines so he ate quickly).

Breakfast place

 

Breakfast was a beer and a pickle for one of the crew. True it was closer to lunch time and he already had eaten breakfast.

Beer and a pickle for breakfast.

 

This year I tried to take notes as the the performances happened so I would not forget, knowing that it would take WAY to long to get the blog entry written. True to form, I’m almost 3 weeks late and my memory is fading.

The Vaccines – Good rocky / punky band but nothing about them made me think, “Wow, I want to buy their album.”

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Do they remind me too much of Imperial Teen? I am familiar with them, and have two of their albums. The live show was a little louder and more driving than I expected. Enjoyed their show.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in the Red Marquee

 

Gruff Rhys – The first song drew me in. I had no idea who he was, only got a bit of a recommendation from Tomo as he went off to watch Noah and the Whale. For me, it was one of the finds of this year’s Fuji Rock. I’ve never heard any pop music in Welsh. But there you go. Now I have his album. I also learned he was the lead singer in Super Furry Animals.

Mano Chao – Exactly as I expected. Not as ethnic as Mano Negra – just a tight, small band. But it’s still jump, jump, jump, marijuana.

The Birthday – Japanese meets Nirvana meets Oasis. Very tight group and had the predominately Japanese crowd moving, moving, moving. On recommendation of Kanamori-san, and somehow I found him in the crowd.

Artic Monkeys – For some reason they did not connect much with the audience. I was rather bored. The lead singer sensed the disconnection of the crowd as well and didn’t seem very happy. Playing to a Japanese audience is difficult. They are very respectful. I took a nice nap during their performance.

After driving all night, I was really tired. There were times that I thought I was going to pass out while standing. Luckily, I had a little chair with me and I was able to nap between bands in the Red Marquee as well as during Artic Monkeys.

Coldplay – Coldplay is Coldplay. Always a good show, and often bordering on over the top. The last show I saw in London was over the top. This was just under. I think the new album is going to be huge. Chris Martin has buffed up a little bit. With Gwenyth working with all these hunky singers, he probably felt like he needed to beef up a little.

Coldplay and their damn balloons

 

Big crowds

 

Unfortunately, I missed Big Audio Dynamite. We were pretty tired and decided to head back to the ryokan.

Thank goodness for the rubber boots and rain gear. Better equipped this year.

Muddy

 

Last year, I discovered that the ryokan and many of the portable toilets were squat style and not “Western” style. Not growing up with squat style toilets, it is very hard to adjust to them as an adult. Fortunately this year I discovered a special section of western style portable toilets. And they were AMAZINGLY clean, all things considered. I never thought I’d prefer a portable toilet over a hotel toilet. But I did.
 

Saturday

I didn’t need an alarm clock – I woke up to the sounds of rain pounding down outside. Due to the hotel room problem, Kanamori-san ended up sleeping in his car (he was the only one that didn’t end up in a room so it all worked out in the end – he chose to sleep in his car) and I asked him if the rain woke him up pounding on the car. He said, “Yes, and I almost gave up.” Luckily for us, the rain relented and it wasn’t too bad most of the day. We saw images on the news in the morning that there was a lot of flooding in Niigata-ken. I think over 200,000 people were evacuated. So a little rain on our parade wasn’t that big of a deal.

A break in the rain

 

Clouds and cars clog the valley

 

Medi – Tomo had heard good things and so he wanted to start the day off in the Red Marquee. That was fine, I didn’t really have a Saturday plan. I was surprised – Medi is a French singer (Medhi Parisot) and his songs are mostly if not entirely in English. He was rocking out at 11:30 am. A lot of respect. He could have mailed in a performance but they really gave it their all. Chapeau! It worked, I bought his album. He ended the show with Michael Jackson’s “Working Day and Night.”

Like many of the foreign artists, Medi expressed his joy to be in Japan and acknowledged the hardships Japan has endured since March. This year’s lineup was a lot more Japanese than last year, and I think the promoters were having difficulty getting foreign acts to come to the country. Certainly that’s the case for some promoters that I know.

Tomo wanted to stay in the Red Marquee for multiple artists, but I wanted to check out the site. So I went for a walk. I passed the the Green Stage and saw Fountains of Wayne. Who are they? Why is their name familiar? I stopped by The White Stage and Funeral Party were playing (Prince meets John Leguizano). After looking them up just now, it turns out they are from East LA. That makes sense.

Silhouettes in the Red Marquee tent

 

The river through the site was especially swollen when compared to last year.

Swollen river

 

This year’s disco ball installation, inspired by Paul Smith?

Mirror ball installation

 

On my way back I passed by Patrick Stump. Another who? where? reaction from me. Very 80’s looking. Is that ironic, or are they out of the 80’s. The bow tie, high tops, and half gloves didn’t really work for me. OK, a little research and it seems he was / is the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. I am not a Fall Out Boy fan, so it makes perfect sense I had no idea who he was.

Lonesome Strings and Mari Nakamura – American country and bluegrass. Seriously, and seriously twangy. They’ve done their homework. It made me a bit nostalgic (懐かしい)

Lonesome Strings and Mari Nakamura

 

The Naked and the Famous – At first my notes were a little negative. But Tomo and I kept bumping into them during the festival and they were really nice. They were genuinely have a good time at the festival. I now have their album and it will make the post FRF mix I’m putting together. So shame on me.

加藤登紀子 – Atomic Café. Kato Tokiko is a Japanese Chanson singer (b. 1943). Wikipedia reports that she’s a Tokyo University graduate as well. Kanamori-san had recommended her, so I met him at this small stage to see her perform. It turned out that the main purpose of the activities on the stage that day was to promote a “No Nukes” policy. If any country can advocate a nuclear free society, it’s Japan. It was good to hear her perform a bit though, and gave me inspiration to see her the next day.

Power to the People

 

Todd Rundgren – We went to the Field of Heaven to eat and Todd Rundgren was playing in the background. He couldn’t quite figure out the attitude of the Japanese audience. I’m not sure if he had fun.

This restaurant had good wraps, but they need to buy a vowel. We helped some of The Naked and the Famous with the menu here.

Time to buy a vowel

 

Battles – Most everyone was interested in seeing Battles at the Green Stage. We caught the end of ハナレグミ before Battles. My notes say – crowd loved them and they were good. For Battles, Tomo had seen them at The Troubadour, so the Green Stage just before a major Japanese band was a big deal. Kanamori-san went to the pit, most of us stayed back. They did a really good set.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra – Japanese and Ska. What can I say? The whole audience was moving. Very enjoyable set.

The weather was basically clear, and we were not that interested in seeing the Faces, so we headed back to the room to change clothes, shoes, clean up, and then go out for more. Which we did. We went back to the Crystal Palace, had some food, ran into the Naked and the Famous again, and then danced a little before heading back to the ryokan. All the time the weather held out. We bumped into a lot of our Fuji Rock friends on their way to one place or another. Sadly, I rarely spot folks, I’m more the spotted one. Maybe because I’m foreign.

If you want to be green should you really deface a tree?

Eco terrorism?

 

Hanging out around the green stage on Saturday.

Time to eat

 

Mariko-san

 

Sleep approaches

 

Enjoying the music

 

Tomo in a towel

 

Sleep is always around the corner.

Cigarette in hand

 

A quick nap

 

This is what happens when you finger blocks the flash. Oh well, what was I going to say?

Me and Kanamori-san

 

Sunday

The day started out looking wet, and I wasn’t in the mood for another full day of rain. However, the overcast skies were somewhat refreshing as the temperature stayed relatively manageable. Last year was hot, rainy, hot rainy, and got really pretty tiring.

No trip would be complete without a hand help picture of me and Tomo. First take!

Ready for the day

 

Ringo Deathstarr – Started out with this band at the White Stage. What do I remember most? The guitar / singer had a shirt that said, “DRUGS SUCK” in big Helvetia Bold font ala Wham! circa 1984 (which apparently was a Katharine Hammet [http://www.katharinehamnett.com/] design) and on the back it said “NKOTB DONNIE WAHLBERG.” Vintage? I don’t know, but definitely intended to be ironic.

Glasvegas – This was one band I was looking forward to seeing. And like Vampire Weekend last year, I am probably a bigger fan of their album than their live performance. Sounded great, but Tomo summed it up well saying, “Is he trying to be Liam Gallagher?”

British Sea Power – Working man’s band with a cornet. I’ll support any band with a cornet.

Mirror balls again on the way to Orange Court.

Mirror balls

 

Blue skies make a rare appearance …

Sunshine

 

… and Tomo seems a bit stunned.

What’s this?

 

Food was good at all areas. That’s all seafood.

Seafood

 

なぎら健壱 & Own Risk – Japanese American style country and western. Really. Just caught the end of it, but it was very enjoyable. Orange Court has a very eclectic sound.

加藤登紀子 – Kato Tokiko. The full version of what we previewed at Atomic Café the day before. We heard songs in Japanese, French, and English, including John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was a very enjoyable performance. Just before it ended I headed out to catch the end of ….

Some crazy fans looking for attention,

Interesting outfit

 

and some young fans having fun.

Young fans

 

Cornershop – With an sitar in the mix, it’s going to be good. Of course, everyone knows “Brimful of Asha.” It is a catchy tune, and will remain so always. What surprised me is that it was released in 1997. And also it was a Fatboy Slim remix that broke the song. Hey, I bought the album afterwards so I’d say I liked the show.

Passing by the White Stage it was packed with Saito Kazuyoshi fans.

Packed with fans

 

YMO – Yellow Magic Orchestra – A set of particularly accomplished Japanese musicians in the group core- Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yukihiro Takahashi, Haruomi Hosono. According to Wikipedia,

They are often considered influential innovators in the field of popular electronic music. They helped pioneer synthpop and ambient house, helped usher in electronica, anticipated the beats and sounds of electro music, laid the foundations for contemporary J-pop, and contributed to the development of house, techno, and hip hop. More broadly, their influence is evident across many genres of popular music, including electronic dance, ambient music, chiptune, game music, pop, rock, and melodic music.

Oh, is that all? Check out the Wikipedia link, it is very informative. Pretty cool stuff, and I’m really glad I had the chance to see them. In addition, one of the guest musicians was Cornelius (Wikipedia link here). I didn’t find that out until later.

Chemical Brothers – We watched Chemical Brothers from a distance, because we were going on to see Wilco. It is always strange to me that an act like Chemical Brothers can headline a festival. But clearly they can as the site was packed. They didn’t miss a single note. In a show like that, what is live and what is programmed, and what is spontaneous? I don’t know. Acts like Coldplay always have something unique in their performance, whether it is Chris screwing up and starting over (yes, it happens), goofy banter, lyrics or whatever. It is live and unpredictable. Perhaps I’m not sophisticated enough to understand the spontaneity of bands like Chemical Brothers.

Wilco – First time I have ever seen them live. Tomo has worked with the drummer on several occasions so he has a lot of respect for the drummer so I definitely wanted to see them. A friend commented on Facebook that the first time he saw them he expected this kind of countrified rock but they really kicked it. As they did. Very good.

The Music – As the special guest closer, The Music performed. Who? The previous two years were Basement Jaxx and Scissor Sisters. Anyway, The Music is big in Japan. I was tired and didn’t know their music, so everything just kind of sounded the same. Sorry guys. They are breaking up as well, so they probably don’t care what I think.
 

Monday

It was a late night, and I caught a ride back to Nagoya with Hirokata-san, Shogo-san, Go-san, and Erine-san. It was a fun, uneventful ride back, after we got everything jammed into the van. 5 people in a van was fine. Kanamori-san had 5 people in his little car the day before.

Let’s go!

 

Souvenir shop

 

Roadside fresh corn

 

Once again, another fantastic Fuji Rock experience and I’m planning on next year already, even though I will be living in the US.

I hope so

 

The Fuji Rock Crew!

Thanks everyone!!!!!

Good times!

(Photo by Shogo Taguchi)

Would you learn to drive from this school?

I didn’t mean to start a “Would you …” series of observational photographs. I didn’t expect to be able to develop a series. But, life in a foreign country can often surprise. I while ago I posted a picture of Hair & Make “Hair Oops.” Yikes, not where I want to go.

While in Kyushu, I think I discovered something even more frightening.

Terra Bal Driving School

 

Terra Bal Driving School

 

Yes, Terra Bal Driving School. Or, as I like to pronounce it, terrible driving school. I was with a Japanese friend when I saw this, and even he understands how … terrible … the school name is.

Enjoy! Rule & Manner.

My university as fashion

A bit of a fashion trend in Japan is to wear what appears to be US university apparel. In general, I think the names are licensed – Franklin & Marshall (yes, really) is a popular university fashion brand. No one has a clue about the real Franklin & Marshall (the alma mater of a work colleague of mine in the US) of course. One day I saw somebody in an Indiana T-shirt. I thought that couldn’t be a fashion statement, but indeed the wearer was clueless.

I’ve given some of my Japanese friends legimate Purdue t-shirts, bought on campus. Some have looked at the t-shirt like, “Really? When am I going to wear this?” Others wear them proudly. Today, as I was riding to get my haircut, I saw a women with a full length Purdue University t-shirt dress. No way is that from West Lafayette. The logo of course, was right at her chest, and I stared intently trying to figure out which logo they were using. It had elements of the old logo (not the Griffin) but had an italic block P. Definitely not licensed. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but I was running late and I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain why I wanted a picture.

I’m curious if I’ll find any more Purdue University fashion in Japan. If so, I have to buy a t-shirt.

THE スナフキンズ

As I mentioned earlier, when I went to Kyushu I stayed at THE スナフキンズ (Snufkinz), in Kumamoto, 中十町 (Nakajicho).

THE スナフキンズ

 

Where the heck is that you ask?

Japan,

Japan

 

Kyushu,

Kyushu

 

Kumamoto,

Kumamoto

 

Nakajicho,

Nakajicho

 

I wanted to take a vacation to a really country place, and as I previously described, my friend was going there. I tagged along.

The guesthouse is owned by Dai-san and Mika-san, and they were great hosts. The guest house is very simple, with a couple dorms, a kitchen, and dining area, a living room, a bathroom, shower, and nice wood deck. I swiped the layout from their webpage.

THE スナフキンズ layout

 

What did we do? We basically used it as a base during the day for travel around the area, and hung out together all night until bedtime. The Japanese was flowing pretty fast and furiously, so I probably only caught about 10 percent of the conversation, but I knew when to smile and when to frown.

Hanging out in the evening

 

If you are ever traveling around Kumamoto, make sure you spend a night at THE スナフキンズ, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Some exterior shots of the house and surroundings.

The guest house

 

Looking towards the local village

 

Looking towards the entrance by car

 

Looking towards the barn

 

The kitchen entrance

 

Kitchen entrance to barn

 

The big gate in front

 

Stairs leading to a temple

 

Rice fields

 

Details inside and outside.

Indoor light

 

Outdoor lantern

 

Table and chairs

 

Locally grown vegetables

 

Wood planks

 

Natural spring water

 

Enjoying breakfast together.

Good times ...

 

... and good food

 

Hammock

 

Ongoing barn renovations.

Plastering

 

Thanks again to Dai-san, Mika-san, and momo-chan. I had a terrific time. I even made their blog here, here, and here.

Happy family

 

momo-chan

 

Goodbye

 

THE スナフキンズ

 

Am I that childish?

Am I that childish? Why, yes, I am. I love the three letter name for the Fukuoka airport.

Fukuoka airport luggage label

 

Notice the totally Japanese spelling of my name as well.