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Piko Piko - A look at Picopop on the 34th birthday of Yellow Magic Orchestra's debut

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 25, 2012 12:44pm | Post a Comment
Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978)

Back in 1978, on 25 November, pioneering Japanese group, Yellow Magic Orchestra released their influential, eponymous, debut full-length. The album and group are widely credited with being very influential on the development of several music genres, including ambient, chiptune, electrohip hop, house, J-pop, synthpop, and techno, to name a few. 


The band (also known as YMO) were also on influence on another Japanese scene that emerged around the dawn of the 21st Century, picopop (or ピコポップ). Bands and performers such as EeL, Hi-Posi, Motocompo, Plus-tech Squeeze Box, Sonic Coaster Pop, and Strawberry Machine updated the shibuya-kei (渋谷系) style popularized in the 1990s by Cibo MattoCorneliusFlipper's Guitar, Pizzicato Five, and Original Love by adding some good, old fashioned, electro elements with a sensibility that often recalls YMO.

Happy birthday, Hokusai! - 誕生日おめでとう、北斎

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 31, 2012 02:49pm | Post a Comment
Self-Portrait of Hokusai - 1842
Self-portrait of Hokusai from 1842

Today is the date traditionally recognized as the birthday of one of my favorite Japanese artists, 葛飾 北斎 (Katsushika Hokusai). Without a doubt he is one of (if not the) most famous Japanese artists of all time. His best known work is the ukiyo-e woodblock print series 富嶽三十六景 (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji), published around 1831. The collection includes his single most recognized work, The great wave off Kanagawa.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
The great wave off Kanagawa


Hokusai was born in the Musashi province of Edo (now Tokyo) in 1760. The exact date of his birth is somewhat uncertain although it is often said to have been the 23rd day of the 9th month of the 10th year of the Hōreki era, which would be the 31st of October in the Gregorian calendar. His adoptive (and likely biological) father was Nakajima Ise, mirror-maker to the shogun. Since Hokusai wasn’t named as his heir – it is sometimes assumed that his mother was a concubine. Hokusai’s childhood name was
姓は川村氏 (Kawamura Tokitarō). He later went by 鉄蔵 (Tetsuzo), 中島八右衛門 (Nakajima Hachiemon) and about thirty other (usually quite colorful) noms d'artiste.

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Higashi Honganji Obon Festival 2012

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 7, 2012 10:44am | Post a Comment
Higashi Honganji Obon 2012

Obon
(お盆) is a Japanese holiday on which observers honor the spirits of their ancestors. Within Japan as well as the Japanese diaspora, Obon has been observed on different dates since Japan’s adoption of the Gregorian Calender in 1872.

Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Little Tokyo
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Little Tokyo

In LA and Orange County there were also Obon festivities on different dates that took place not only in several Little Tokyo venues but also in Anaheim, Gardena, Little Osaka, Venice, and West Covina. I attended the Obon Festival at Little Tokyo’s Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (ロサンゼルス東本願寺別院).

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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:
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