So I Moved to Japan...

Music, Art and Educational Opinion.
From Osaka, Japan to you.
Empty Eggshell 
A drawing I made yesterday after listening to way too much of this.
A bit of this too.

Empty Eggshell 

A drawing I made yesterday after listening to way too much of this.

A bit of this too.

Exploding Star: Hell is Other Gaijin

Answering the million-dollar question: what kind of person (other than, of course, me) moves half way across the world, leaving their entire existence on hold to teach English in Japan? here is an excellent poem by Baxter Hedges, an acquaintance of mine from Osaka.

Check it out.


Smoke billows from the corners of this karaoke shrine.

At one table, a group of geeks in glasses glance sidewaysly, their markedly malicious mugs shooting hatred and contempt at each other, from behind their manga shields. Each one, better than the others; a mathematical impossibility they’re all…

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is quickly becoming the Japanese Gaga. When I first got here she was just starting to get noticed for her first single Ponponpon (now viral in Japan, Europe, and other parts of Asia). These days however, she seems to be appearing everywhere and it’s not hard to see why.

First rising to prominance as a teenage harajuku model and fashion blogger in 2010, she starting working with Perfume (another awesome electropop act from Japan) producer Capsule on Ponponpon in July and the rest is history.

After a bit of time away, she’s back with the twisted smash ”Tsukema tsukeru.”

Part Wizard of Oz, part Alice in Wonderland, the video is great in a “something that could only come out of Japan” kind of way. With cross dressing lion dancers, breast eyelashes, and weird kaleidoscopic background of planets, lighthouses and fairy-tale books, it’s plenty worth checking out.

If only I could
Speak a bit more Japanese
Girls would like me more

Rumination On My Sudden Unpopularity - haiku by anonymous

Yesterday night I went to a poetry reading organized by a friend of mine. Held in the basement of a cool little bar in Shinsaibashi, about 50 or 60 people came out to listen to and perform mostly original work.

In addition to the prepared performances by more veteran poets (most of which was rather good), there was also a haiku-writing contest for us ‘common people’ in the audience. 

5 syllables. 7 syllables. 5 syllables

Although I originally passed when offered a piece of paper and pen, after seeing everyone else get into the spirit of things, I eventually joined the fun, writing the above masterpiece.

Because,  (even after many years of playing in a band, working as a tour guide for international students, working as a teacher, etc.), I am still, for some reason, afraid of public speaking, I left the poem nameless.

When the time came for me to read it later in the night, the event’s organizer simply read the thing for me, keeping my identity a secret. Amazingly, after all was said and done, (perhaps by some sort of clerical error), I won the contest.

So yes, I’m quite happy. Though, the poem is admittedly kind of mediocre (or worse), I’m not one to argue with a free package of Tim Tams.

Existence justified.

0:39 to 0:41 is absolutely brilliant.

Love hotels

For urbanites in Japan, privacy is hard to come by. Crammed into shoebox apartments with paper thin walls (often in close quarters with family and/or roomates), it can be difficult to get anything resembling ‘alone time’ with one’s partner.

Luckily, the Japanese are a resourceful people.

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Nice little (V-Day appropriate) song from 1982. About that unmistakable feeling of love (the pounding heart, the excitement) when kissing your special someone. 

Extra points for sounding like Blondie.

Props to Yuki H. for the link.

Japalentine’s day

Did you know that in Japan, Valentine’s day is for men? Seriously.

Seen as the best opportunity of the year for women express their feelings (something they usually don’t do very well here), on February 14th, the ladies get aggressive, giving chocolates and other gifts to the one’s they love. 

Although men are the obvious winner here, this is also a great day for chocolate companies. In Japan more than half of their annual sales occur during the week before Valentine’s Day, when prices skyrocket and things get elaborate. 

Sounds good right?

Well, yes and no. Don’t get too excited if you get some chocolates from a Japanese girl. They might just be “Giri-choko (obligation chocolate).” On Valentine’s Day, women give chocolates not only to their loved ones (“true love” chocolate is called “honmei-choko”), but increasingly “giri-choko” as well, a gift given to men such as bosses, colleagues or male friends that women have no romantic interest in, simply for friendship or gratitude.

And of course there’s a catch. Men are supposed to return gifts to women a month later on “White Day” (March 14th), a Japanese creation, that sees men giving back threefold.

Okay, work starts in a few hours. I‘ll let you know if I get anything good.

hopefully this.

People like their popstars young here. Really young. Case in point AKB48. With an average age of about 19 (but with members as young as 11), they are seen by many as Japan’s cutest girl group.

A Japanese idol group based in Akihabara and produced by Akimoto Yasushi, AKB48 have sold over 11,092,462 copies in Japan only. 

Performing regularly in their own theatre in Akihabara, (tickets are 3000yen for men, and 2000yen for women and children) they are popular among Japanese people of all ages (albeit for different reasons). In Addition to their theatre, there are also retail stores dedicated completely to AKB merchandise, and fan groups galore. 

Not surprisingly, there are many who to take issue with (what they perceive as) the hyper-sexualization of adolescence in AKB. Just doing a quick search online I found all sorts of petitions, articles, and blogs criticizing the group’s exploitation and objectification of teenage sexuality. 

Some of these criticisms are hard to argue with. Take this review of the video for “Heavy Rotation” from an American blog isseicreekphilosophy:

This problem with this song is not with the lyrics but rather with its promotional video. The lyrics, though utterly without significance and somewhat incomprehensible, suggests longing for love and adolescent excitement of being in love. The imagery that comes with it, however, does not seem to correspond to the lyrics at all. In fact, no matter how hard you try to make sense out of it, it is impossible to see the artistic significance of depictions of girls kissing each other in underwear, taking a bath with each other, eating sugar and sweets while seemingly helplessly lying on the table (2:20 in). Eating of jello with cherries (2:30, 2:50) is suggestive enough, but what happens at 2:40 in is extremely explicit. One cannot help wondering how she has eaten her jello to get it on all over her face, as if her face is covered with sticky liquid. The number of underaged girls performing in this promotional video is 4: Matsui Jurina (13); Ono Erena (16); Maya Watanabe (16) and Miho Miyazaki (17).

Talking to Japanese women about the issue however, responses have been more measured. Although most do not particularly care for AKB48, they are seen as a tolerable, and not over-offensive part Japanese pop culture.

So what do you think? Playful or pedophelic?