Monday, December 28, 2009

The Plastics: Making Me Wish I'd Come to Japan in the Late 70s!

I vaguely remember seeing this band on SCTV many years ago. Back then most musical acts on SCTV stupefied me with boredom as they interrupted the flow of comedy. But some-- Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics-- frightened/fascinated me. The Plastics must have made some impression because here I am in Japan almost 30 years later.

Actually, this band no longer existed by 1982 when their video for "Top Secret Man" appeared on SCTV during a bizarre segment called "Midnight Video Special" where Rick Moranis' video deejay character Gerry Todd does technological battle with Dave Thomas' borderline offensive Tim Ishimuni. Perhaps Tim Ishimuni is totally offensive nowadays; back then we were idiots but we had great music. Of course, this episode also featured the Johnny LaRue-hosted "All Girl Friday Night Pajama Party." LaRue is another major life influence, perhaps not quite equal to Pink Lady and Shonen Knife but important nevertheless.

No more crane shots, LaRue!

EDIT: RAB linked this in the comments and it MUST be added to this post:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Is What Christmas Looks Like in Tokyo...

Specifically, Shibuya and Ginza. Someone made this neat little video and while I can't fully endorse their choice of music, it does seem to fit the Japanese Christmas spirit somehow. The person who made this video has a fine eye for detail, and zeroes in on some choice imagery to truly express the way Japanese Christmas feels.

Check out the Salvation Army members at 2:52! We had some here in Hamamatsu in 2004, but I haven't seen any since.

It's interesting for me personally to see these familiar sights through someone else's eyes. In this case, we seem to be struck by many of the same things. It's kind of a shame none of my friends or family ever made the trip across the Pacific to walk through these colorful, energetic venues with me. But through the magic of YouTube, we can share a musical glimpse. Enjoy the Christmas magic, Tokyo style!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Season is in Full Swing in Japan...

That's Maeda Aki, future star of Battle Royale and Linda, Linda, Linda, doing a Japanese version of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Maeda Aki is still bouncing around in film and TV work.

Meanwhile, downtown Hamamatsu is decorated with holiday lights and Christmas songs blare from the outdoor speakers on Yuraku-gai and along Kajimachi-dori. The giant tree at Entetsu department store puts on its nightly performance of ever-changing lights and festive songs. KFC is doing brisk business and so are all the baked good shops offering Christmas cakes. Even the bowl-bearing cat in front of the stationery store not far from our school is wearing a Santa costume.

Why is Christmas so popular in Japan, where only about 1% of the population are Christians? I have no idea. Maybe it has something to do with the Japanese love for cute things and shopping. The secular traditions of Christmas-- Santa, Christmas trees, novelty songs and bargain sales-- certainly push those two buttons. While New Year's celebrations in Japan seem closer in spirit to my family's Christmas observations, Christmas here is merely a fun time for lovers to go on romantic dates and exchange gifts bathed in the splendor of holiday illuminations. Everyone looks pretty in new winter clothes under the lights.

Another thing: It's also bounen-kai season here. Bounen-kai are "forget the year" parties, a time to get properly shit-faced and put aside all the lousy, stinking things that happened to you over the past twelve months. You know-- six day work-weeks, spending hours daily on a crowded Yamanote line train, getting up at 5am to make lunch bento for your kids, coming down with the "new flu," H1N1. If you work for a company or are a college student in a club or have lots of friends, you'll probably have more bounen-kai than you can safely attend in December. I know of one older guy-- a real party animal-- who had two on consecutive nights, took Saturday off and then had another on Sunday.

You'll have no trouble forgetting a year when ending it in a series of alcoholic black-outs.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kitano Takeshi's Brilliant Ending to Zatoichi

Why not? The updated Rutger Hauer version, Blind Fury (1989), was on TV here in Japan the other night.