Thursday, December 26, 2013

Any list that contains Melt-Banana and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is all right by me!

MTV Iggy's Best of Japan 2013 manages to do it!  Melt-Banana posted a link to this on their Facebook feed, and I commented, "MxBx meets Kyary Pamyu Pamyu?"  Melt-Banana seemed to give the concept approval because they liked it, and so did a couple of other people.  The next person took it one step further by suggesting Melt-Banana and KPP collaborate, which I think is an idea so right on it could possibly tear the space-time continuum with how much excellence it would deliver if it should happen.  Someone else disagreed, though.  "Hell no!" came the reply from another MxBx fan, who apparently doesn't have much love in his heart for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

Or is he a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu fan who hates Melt-Banana?  Well, everyone has his or her own tastes and preferences.

But if anyone in the industry who happens to have the ability to make things happen also happens to be reading this, how about making MxBx-KPP happen?  Because that would be a happening, man!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Eve has arrived in Japan!

Incredibly, just one year after the last Christmas Eve, we have another.  It's a clear, cold day here in Shizuoka prefecture.  This morning a couple of huge crows shouting at each other greeted me as I left our apartment for work.  Christmas crows, I suppose.  I don't like to stand underneath a crow because I feel they're smart enough and wicked enough to poop on someone's head deliberately.  These two went from wire to wire, aggravating each other.

There are a lot of crows and pigeons here.  Sometimes they interact, such as the time a friend and I watched from our table at an Indian restaurant as across the street a crow murdered a pigeon by repeatedly pecking it in the abdomen.  What does this morbid memory have to do with Christmas Eve morning?  Ask the crows.

Over the weekend we watched quite a bit of Japanese television, and most of the shows we watched featured Christmas decorations.  Christmas trees, hosts and guests in Santa hats.  Even omnipresent Funasshi, that weird pear thing "yuru-kyara" ("wild character") from Funabashi, Chiba, wore a Santa hat yesterday while a sushi chef sliced a large sushi roll of some kind with kana characters inside and then a couple of pictures of Funasshi itself.

Which Funasshi ate after one of the hosts inserted it into the back of its jiggly green head.

It's hard not to be in the Christmas spirit (or some strange variation thereof) when you watch things like that.  For me, anyway.  I find the weirdness very appealing.

Anyway, I'm at the office now even though I have nothing to do.  Working on Christmas Eve is no big deal for me.  One year I worked on Christmas Day, which was odd.  Here in Japan, even though the holiday has grown in popularity, it's not an official one.  It's just fun and romantic for young couples, a time for cute costumes and pretty decorations and even seasonal music in the stores.  Next week is the big event.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Murder in Japan: Kyushu fisheries boss shot dead | The Japan Times

Kyushu fisheries boss shot dead | The Japan Times

This story really jumped out at me because "shot dead" isn't a phrase one associates with Japan or crime in Japan.  In fact, this is only the third gun death I've read about in newspapers since I moved here almost ten years ago.  The first was also gangster-related and the second was a hunting accident (a hunter mistook someone for a boar).  There may have been others that weren't publicized so I'd notice, but there you have it.

Coincidentally, murder has been on my mind since last weekend because we had a slaying right here in our town.  I don't know all the details, just what my wife translated from the television news.  I haven't been able to find any information on it online, so sorry about that.  While looking for information, I did tumble the story of wartime serial killer Seisaku Nakamura.  Local boy.  This is the first I've heard of him, so I'm not sure how many people know this dark bit of local lore.  If you read the linked article, you'll know as much as I do about him.  Considering how the USAAF bombed and burned more than half of Hamamatsu to ashes in 1945, Nakamura's crimes from a few years before probably weren't near the top of things to talk about among the ruins.

Well, I don't have any deep meaning to assign to any of this.  I doubt there is any.  Just one story creating a certain train of thoughts on a sunny and cold morning.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Melt-Banana's "Fetch" is really racking up the accolades!

Fetch, the newest release from Melt-Banana, has made a number of year-end lists for best albums of 2013.  Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #17 out of their top 20 metal albums.  I guess it would have ranked higher had it actually been a metal album (they admit as much).  Ian Martin, writing for the Japan Times, declares it the "absolute best [Japanese] album of the year."  I need to give the others in his article a listen!  At least one person on the Kansas City music scene likes itAnd Spin magazine made it their "Album of the Week" way back in September, just before its official release date.

They made it onto at least one more list, but I can't seem to find the link and I'm out of time.  Got classes to teach and all that good stuff.  Anyway, congratulations to Melt-Banana!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Some different types of pizza available here in Japan!


The first is from Shakey's Pizza in Tokyo. I think I took this photo in the Shinjuku restaurant.  There are Shakey's in Ikebukuro (a pretty large one) and Shibuya (smaller so it feels more frantic).  I believe there are other Shakey's around Tokyo, too.  The all-you-eat pizza buffet at whatever Shakey's you visit is a Tokyo bargain, but get there early. Lunchtime tends to be crowded.  Very crowded, with long lines at the pizza bar.  If your heart is set on pepperoni, be prepared for disappointment.  There have been a few times I've had to settle for similar-looking sausage pizza or even hamburger.

This is a sausage pizza and a classic Coca-Cola from Hedge, a small, American-style restaurant in the basement of Zaza City in Hamamatsu.  The pizza actually came from a pizza bakery called Popeye's Pizza in Food World, the adjacent supermarket.  I haven't been there in a good long while, but I believe both Hedge and Popeye's have closed.  That's tragic, because this was a tasty lunch option for lunch downtown, especially combined with a Coke from one of those little curvy bottles.


These last two are Happy Valley's "Pepperonia" pizza, #37 in their menu.  The soft crust has a dusting of flour, which I like, and the pepper adds a little spice to the taste.  This is the pizza I eat most often because Happy Valley is within easy walking distance of where we live now.  They also have plenty of other pizzas to choose from, plus some delicious pasta dishes.  We enjoy their salad and drink bar, too.  Pepperonia scratches my pizza itch better than just about any of the others, but I have distinctly American taste in pizza and from southwest Georgia as well, home of... well... nothing.

There are other pizza restaurants in Hamamatsu.  One closed down a while back, but it was a small place that could only acommodate maybe two or three small dining parties at a time.  It was run by a very nice guy into mixed martial arts, though, and featured excellent homemade desserts. 

Another is Pizza Garlic, out in the suburbs.  That's another one I haven't been to in some time, but they baked some outstanding pies and they once invited my bosses, my coworker and me to a summer barbecue where we had a ball trying to catch noodles running down a stream of water in some bamboo half-pipes.  You know that game.  Pizza Garlic (or Garlic Pizza) features a home-style atmosphere, too.  It literally feels as if a friendly family has opened their home to you.  I seriously recommend you find this place and try it.  The desserts are first class, too.

There's one more that has actually won awards, but I've sadly only been there once and I've completely forgotten the name.  I won't forget the delicious four-cheese pizza smothered in gorgonzola so easily, though.

Wow, I'm pizza hungry!

Electric Eel Shock joins the bill for Osaka Rock Day!

Maybe they were already on it.  I don't know.  I'm Japanese illiterate, so Electric Eel Shock may have already been on my ticket when I bought it.  What I do know is they're playing the Osaka Rock Day show with Shonen Knife and Melt-Banana, which amounts to my holy trinity of Japanese rock acts all appearing in the same place, on the same day, with the same me watching.  One reason I moved to Japan in the first place was to have greater opportunities to see bands like these.  While I've managed to make it to quite a few Melt-Banana "lives," both Shonen Knife and EES proved as elusive as the shark before now.

I'm a little concerned that in fulfilling this quest I may die soon after.  These things tend to happen.  What I want to let the fates and the universe know is I plan to stick around to see a few other bands I haven't been able to catch.  Still out there cruising beneath the waves remain Voredoms/Boredoms, OOIOO, 5678s, Puffy, Go!Go!7188, Spookey and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

Which brings me to this.  A list of bands and musicians I've seen live, both in Japan and in the US.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Bob Dylan
Statler Brothers
Tom T. Hall
Harvey Milk
The Replacements
Violent Femmes
Smoke/Opal Foxx Quartet
Dreams So Real
Red Krayola
Drivin N Cryin
Jet By Day
Built to Spill
Modest Mouse
Toy Missile

Okay, that pathetic, paltry list was meant to be more impressive but now I realize years of altered states living robbed me of memories of dozens of other acts I've seen live.  Actually, some of these I only learned I attended after the fact.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Osaka Rock Day 1/25/14

I will be attending this show.  They have a spectacular slate of bands scheduled, with the legendary Shonen Knife headlining.  Among the openers?  Another legendary band by the name of...


My entire life has been leading up to this show.  Which worries me a little, because afterwards what else will there be to keep me here?  Oh sure, love, family, friends, work, hobbies, the chance to see other shows equally as cool as this one, scientific discoveries and books to read.  But anyone could pull all that out of a hat.