Shin Miyata and I have been friends for over ten years. He owns a record company called Music Camp Inc, which distributes such labels as Six Degrees and Nacional Records in Japan. But if you ask him, his true love is his own subsidiary label called Barrio Gold, dedicated to reissues of classic Chicano Rock and Soul artists as well as new Chicano artists coming out of the barrios of East L.A, San Francisco and Texas. Back in 2006, I was fortunate to go on package tour dedicated to promoting Chicano culture in Japan with the band Quetzal and writer Luis Rodriguez, author of the infamous book Always Running. It was an honor and something I’ll never forget. When Shin visits L.A., its always a great time. It’s about seeing lots of great music, going to his favorite Mexican and Japanese restaurants, having a few drinks and digging for vinyl. Truly, a man after my own heart!
Naturally, after the earthquake and tsunami hit, I contacted Shin. Even though he lives on the outskirts of Tokyo and far from the damage of the north, I was still concerned about my friend’s wellbeing, as are many of his friends across the U.S. All those horrible images on the news and the threat of nuclear fallout doesn’t help, either. After e-mailing back and forth over the last couple of days. I asked him if he wanted to do a quick interview just to let some of his friends know how he is doing. I thank Shin for taking time to do this in a very difficult time for him and all of Japan.
So where were you when the earthquake hit?
I was at the train station, just about to get on a train to get to work. The train started to sway, so I rushed to get out because the station is currently under construction. It was really scary. Once I got out of the station, I realized that it was a big quake because there were so many people out of the buildings and out in the street. I did not get hurt and no one got hurt around me. After the quake, all the trains were shut down. I went back home and rode my bike to my office to see if there was any damage.
What were your thoughts when it was happening?
I thought to myself that this must be the big one, the one that [was] expected to hit Tokyo for some time.
When did you become aware of the damage that happened in the northern part of Japan? Do you have any ties to that region?
I didn’t realize how dire the situation was until I returned home and watched the news. There was a live satellite feed from the coast that was near the quake’s epicenter. The news showed an unbelievable big wave that rushed the port. Some of my friends are from that region. It took one friend a few days just to find out that his family was safe.
What was the damage to your business and home?
My home was fine. My CDs and books fell from the shelves, but nothing major.
How often are the rolling blackouts? How has business been affected by the earthquake & tsunami? Are people panicking about the fate of the nuclear power plants?
All business is slow, due to all the trouble from the nuclear plants. The power company started rolling blackouts in the greater Tokyo area, section by section. It affects the transportation system and many offices and stores have closed down since employees cannot get into town. We do not complain because we know it's helping people in the damaged areas. Today we went home earlier because a blackout was scheduled for our area, but it was canceled. Of course, they announced it after the time it was supposed to start! We are forced to cut down electric usage, so now is not the right time for entertainment. The group Los Amigos Invisibles, which my company distributes in Japan, was supposed to perform in Japan this week. They were booked for an event in Tokyo, but it was cancelled. Also, this week we are releasing two titles: Legendary East L.A. soul singer Ruben Guevara and Turkish belly dance/dub group Baba Zula. We are just trying to keep our business going.
We just had another aftershock two hours ago. It was happened in nearby Mt. Fuji [which] is very far from the northern area, but it shook Tokyo hard. I woke up from a nap and ran to the nearest escape just in case. The aftershocks continue and there are so many of them. People are starting to get used to it.
The tremendous damage caused by the earthquake and Tsunami, followed by the fear of the nuclear fallout are getting people real nervous. People are panicking a bit. People are running to get food and gas. There was a big line of housewives around the bakeries and supermarket this morning.
What do you think is next for you and for the country of Japan?
I do not know yet, but I hope this tragedy will change our society both spiritually and financially. Mostly I think that people need to establish a new social and business system independent from nuclear power. It will be a main theme, I think. Even people in Japan not in northern region are exhausted by this situation. I realized how much of our lives are full of joy and peace.
Is there any music you are listening that helps you forget about everything going on around you?
Yes. Last night I got two 7-inch singles from the USA in the mail. One is by Hank Crawford on CTI label and the other is by Ismael Quintana accompanied by Eddie Palmieri on the Coco label! Both are so good, and it helps me to forget this crisis. But again, it is not the right time to use electric power. But I think that God will forgive me for playing just two singles!
Again, people are really frustrated by this chaos. Music is a necessity to get out from this reality. People in Califas, Pray and Play for us!