Remembering March 11, 2011: For What It Is Worth

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, March 8, 2012 12:34pm | Post a Comment
japan great tohoku earthquake tsunami nuclear disater clamity natural cherry blossoms sakura wreckage aftremath damage ruin

Everyday I think about what it would mean to suffer the panic of a disastrous earthquake. Sometimes the thought is latent, residing somewhere in my metal recesses. But at other times, like a few mornings ago when a magnitude 4 earthquake centered a few miles away literally shook me out of bed at 5:33am, it glows at the front and center in my mind like a warning fire. Can anyone ever really be ready for a seismic shift of any size? How does one prepare for the aftermath? Is there a price you wouldn't pay for hindsight?

tohoku earthquake tsunami natural disaster nuclear crisis catastrophe one year later child photographer wreckage ruins northern japan aftermath healing

It has been almost a year since the Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis and during that time there has been a great deal of giving, in terms of fundraising and charity, so that those in Northern Japan affected by the calamity may bolster their hope and know whatever relief may reach them while muster the strength to move forward and rebuild their communities. This Sunday, March 11 marks the one year anniversary of the natural disaster and I urge everyone to seek out and participate in local memorial events that honor those whose lives were claimed while maintaining awareness and providing support for organizations that continue in their effort to provide relief to survivors still striving to carve out an existence in the wake of such a catastrophe. For example, I will be heading to San Francisco's Japan Town for the community remembrance fundraising events featuring live performances and street sale (the Rise Japan booth will have all kinds of artwork on sale, including totes by Kelly Tunstall) then afterwards to Sushi Zone where owner, chef and Amoeba Music regular customer Kimiyaki Aoyama will have the restaurant open from 1-5pm -- mind you, they are never open before 5pm or on Sundays -- selling sake, beer and sushi with all profits to benefit the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation. However, you can make a contribution and score some new vinyl at the same time.

we are the works in progress kazu makino blonde redhead asa wa kuru label japan benefit lp vinyl record four tet terry reilly john maus earthquake tsumani disaster healing kazu makino blonde redhead asa wa kuru label japan disaster relief compilation we are the works on prgress tohoku northern japanese nuclear rebuild healing

If for no other reason than to acquire some beautiful music, Kazu Makino of the band Blonde Redhead has recently released a charity compilation on her newly founded Asa Wa Kuru label (meaning "Morning Will Come" in Japanese) with proceeds to benefit the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund and Architecture For Humanity (a list of these and other groups, individuals and institutions active in the disaster hit areas in Northern Japan can be found here). The vinyl-only compilation, titled We Are The Works In Progress, features some of the most hauntingly 4AD-esque broken-yet-crystalline pop-synth clarion calls to be heard of all the relief offerings put together by musicians with a mind to support Japan's post-tsunami healing process. The collection, spread over two LPs, features Blonde Redhead of course, plus an impressive array of singular artists like Four Tet, Ryuichi Sakamoto teamed up with David Sylvian, Broadcast, Deerhunter, John Maus, Interpol, Terry Riley, Pantha du Prince and many more - it is available for purchase through Amoeba Music here. Simply put, it is a gorgeous effort created to further a worthy cause - one that shouldn't provoke a pause to contemplate the value of music, but rather the value of hope.

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On the 7th Day of *J-Pop* Christmas: Utada Hikaru vs. AKB48 in the battle of the Christmas cola commercials

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 19, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment
utada hikaru japanese pop j-pop pepsi japan commercial holiday winter 2011 christmas snow akb48 japanese pop j-pop girl group cola commercial japan coke coca-cola holiday christmas cake 7-11
ようこそ、welcome to another post celebrating the 12 Days of J-Pop Christmas with another post dedicated to pop idols in holiday advertising. I'm not back on the J-Pop commercial tip, I'm still on it! And why not? After all what mixes better with Christmas than business? I'm talkin' good, old fashioned, nothing-but-net holiday eye-candy endorsements like Utada Hikaru's winter wonderland Pepsi challenge taking on AKB48's Coca-Cola ad, not to mention the absoludicrous Christmas cake ads, plural, AKB48 made for 7-11. Check out how all these season's greeting stack up against one another below.

Utada Hikaru pining for Pepsi:

AKB48 miming for Coca-Cola:

On the 10th Day of *J-Pop* Christmas: Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence"

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, December 15, 2011 12:00am | Post a Comment
merry christmas mr. lawrence ryuichi sakamoto piano j-pop japan music classical soundtrack 坂本龍一 戦場のメリークリスマス
Oh hai! メリークリスマス again everyone! I'm here again with today's installment in the 12 Days of J-Pop Christmas wherein we celebrate the wild wonderful spectrum of J-Pop Christmas hits both classic and funky fresh. If you're keeping up with this list, checking it twice as it were, welcome back! Today's addition pays homage to award winning musician, composer, producer, writer, singer, pianist and actor Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto! If you think you've never heard of him chances are you have at least heard a sampling of his work whether it be while strapped into the dentists chair, waiting for some elevator doors to open or watching the Last Emperor. His other works include a career pioneering electronica with his band Yellow Magic Orchestra, a successful career as a pop music producer and a semi-successful career as a pop musician, his international notoriety stemming from numerous Golden Globe, Academy Award and BAFTA nominations and wins as a film composer.

So without further ado here's Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra playing his beautiful work "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" live in Europe 2009. And remember: I'll be adding to the 12 Days of J-Pop Christmas line-up everyday until the hull on my Christmas vessel breaches in a holiday display both beautiful and terrible to behold.

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Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's Disturbingly Cute Debut!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, November 28, 2011 12:12pm | Post a Comment
kyary pamyu pamyu moshi moshi harajuku debut mini album cover art yasutaka nakata capsule j-pop shibuya kei techno electronica
Harajuku superstar Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's debut mini-album, Moshi Moshi Harajuku, was spotted recently among the new releases in the J-Pop section at Amoeba Music SF and, like a saccharine-laced shroom-hazed acid flashback citing the fallout that was my impression upon viewing her now-long gone viral music video for the single "PONPONPON", many intriguing questions about the psychedelic limits of Japan's popular Kawaisa and Decora cultural aspects immediately bubbled up. Chief among them: how much Pon could a Pon Way Way if a Pon Way could Way Pon?

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - "PONPONPON"

That, and where can I get that giant box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? Has Pee-Wee Herman seen this? Some of the realizations spawned during the review: there really can never be too much pink and, something I had forgotten since, say...1997, Doc Marten's pair well with just about any ensemble. But I guess it took this Tokyo model and blogger fashionista turned J-pop wunder-gyaru to hip me to that fact, or re-hip me I guess, as the case may be. Seriously though, speaking of Kyary's fashion blog, this is the face that greets you when you arrive at her site:

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Japan Tour 2011: Part 2 By Gomez Comes Alive

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, November 7, 2011 12:36am | Post a Comment
Joe Bataan Japan Tour Poster
Joe Bataan Tokyo Show Poster
After our Shenanigans in Shibuya, we rested most of Saturday. The next day was the Joe Bataan show and load-in was at 10 a.m. Joanna and I spent most of the day resting and taking walks around Chofu. There is a small river/reservoir that runs through Chofu. The water level was low but it’s full of lush greens. Giant crows and cranes dive into the water to pick up the smaller fish that were making their way downstream. There were many cats that hung out by the reservoir. I would see the same cats everyday, hanging out in their favorite spots. The cats in Japan are much bigger than the cats in the U.S. A good word to describe the cats is “beefy” They are not necessarily fat, just thicker than the average U.S. cat. In the evening, once Shin and Miho were done with their duties with Joe Bataan, we took Shin’s bikes and rode to one of his favorite “hole in the wall” to eat. The best places to eat anywhere in the world are the neighborhood spots that only locals know about. This place was no exception. Shin & Miho were concerned that some of their favorite dishes wouldn’t go over with us but those were the dishes we liked the most. Fresh sardines to start off followed by fresh cucumbers, Miso soup with small oysters, ginger pork, octopus and many other great homemade Japanese delicacies. The place had a few drunken locals hanging around; include one drunken guy that kept asking us to move from our table so that he could look for his lost cell phone. It reminded me of being in one of those great taco spots in L.A. and being harassed by the local tecato. It made me feel at home.

The next morning we were up early to get ready for the show. By then, my internal clock was all messed up, having to adapt to Japan time followed by staying up until 7 am then having to go to bed early for Sunday’s show. Shin’s company is a record label but from time to time he serves as a promoter. The venue was a big empty room. There was no sound system or stage and all had to be constructed before sound check. Joanna and I used this time to walk around Asakusa, another part of Tokyo, were the venue is located. The club, Super Dry Hall, is inside the Ashai Beer Building that is famous for it’s Philippe Starck sculpture on top of the building. It is supposed to look like golden beer foam coming out on top of the building that is shaped like a pint glass.  Almost everyone that looks at the sculpture thinks of the same thing, “ is that a piece of poop on top of that building?” The Japanese has given it a nickname, kin no unchi, which translate into “The golden poop” The building is now know by locals as unchi biru (the poop building)
Japanese Temple
Sensoji Temple
Nearby kin no unchi is Sensoji, a Buddhist temple dating back to the year 645 and is Tokyo’s oldest. The following day was a national holiday so the temple was extremely packed with tourist. We didn’t go into most of the temples, as there seemed to be services in many of them. We walked around the many vendors, including a street called Nakamise, somewhat outside of the temple. From there we walked around Asakusa and watched a somewhat unusual marathon. They didn’t block the streets for it. The runners had to obey the traffic lights and run on the sidewalk. They ran in groups of a fifty at a time so they wouldn’t talk over the whole street. Every so often runners, many of them in Halloween costumes, would overcome us as we walked.
Joe Bataan & Willie-San
Joe Bataan (center) & Willie-San (left) at soundcheck

We returned to the venue and everything was up and running. I’m always amazed by the efficiency of Japanese workers. In less than a few hours they had constructed a stage, set up lights, a sound system and were already sound checking the band. Having worked for sound companies in the past, I know how long a job like that should take and it was pretty impressive they did it so quickly. We said hello to Joe and his wife Yvonne, as well as Willie-San, getting ready to shred on his timbales. The hired band from Japan wasn’t well prepared. They were sloppy and forgetting parts. You could see the frustration in Joe’s face. Other than Willie-San and a few other musicians, the band lacked the swing that most of Joe’s backing bands have. It looked like a potential disaster waiting to happen. At the end of sound check, Willie-San took all the members of the group backstage and had a half-time style meeting with them.
Gomez & Japanese Lowrider w/ a Slowrider CD
Gomez With A Japanese Lowrider
At this point, I was sound checking the levels on the turntables when the other DJ showed up. It was Masaki Motomiya or DJ Motomix, a Japanese Lowrider from Sapporo, located in the northern part of Japan. I met him randomly on the street the last time I was in Japan. He and his friends were in Tokyo to catch the Quetzal/Luis J. Rodriguez shows and he saw us eating in a restaurant. We had food together and took photos outside the restaurant. Later, some of his crew came to the show. Masaki is the president of the Esmeralda Car Club in Sapporo and it’s main DJ at the car club events. Shin said he was expecting him to bring a few members of his car club with him, but at the end they were about twenty-five deep. Pretty impressive I must say, coming all the way from Sapporo.

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