Archive for the ‘Pop’ Category


July 6, 2010


I suppose it was inevitable, but Julie and I have recently started collecting records.  We were finally convinced after hearing the sound quality of some albums on vinyl that our friend played for us a few weekends ago.  I don’t think we’ll take it too seriously or anything but over the years to come I imagine we’ll gradually accumulate some of our favorite albums and spin them while we relax at home.  

Of course it’s also fun to go digging around for old, forgotten records.  We were able to do just that in the tiny town of Hiranai and the following week in the city of Hachinohe.  

Here’s the recycle shop in Hiranai with the records.  I can’t remember if we’ve blogged about this place before or not, but it’s absolutely amazing.  All sorts of antiques, toys, clothes, and appliances.  You can find anything from cooking utensils to traditional wooden dolls to bed frames to analog synthesizers to a kanji printing press.    And, of course, there is a huge cache of records.  


Stuff we found:  


Takeshi and the Blue Jeans. This is without a doubt our best find. On this record the band plays surf rock versions of traditional Japanese folk songs with the electric guitar carrying the melody. So why does the album cover look so rebellious? Well, when these guys were making music, the electric guitar was pretty controversial. I’ve read reports that an attempt was made to ban the instrument from being played in public places (though obviously those efforts were in vain).  

Takeshi and his band were heavily influenced by the Ventures as were thousands of other young people in Japan in the ’60s.  In fact if you look close enough you can see the Ventures logo on the headstock of the guitar.  The Ventures continue to play hundreds of shows in Japan every year.  They’ve sold more albums in Japan than the Beatles.  Later this month I’ll get a chance to see them live in Misawa.  


Theme from the show "God Mars," an animated robot show that aired from 1981-1982.




Our main find in Hachinohe was a collection of Ishida Ayumi 45s.  Julie and I became fans of Ishida a couple of years ago.  


One last story about the recycle shop in Hiranai.  While were browsing the aisles I came across a set of four records that appeared to be a collection of nationalistic/military songs from the early 1900s through World War II.  The set was in perfect condition and included several photos and some sort of informational essay that accompanied it.  We couldn’t believe we found it.  It was like finding an important historical document and made the other records we found seem like 40 year old candy wrappers.  

So we brought it to the counter and then owner said, in Japanese of course, “Oh this record.  Was it over there?  Oh, I see, well, I’m sorry about it’s not for sale.  It’s my personal record.  Sorry.”  

It was disappointing but at the same time he can appreciate that record in ways we’ll never be able to so it’s just as well.  We’re just glad it won’t be tossed into the trash anytime soon.


Aomori Rock Festival

July 21, 2009


Over the weekend Julie and I drove to Tsugaru City on the Western side of the prefecture for an all day rock festival.

We mostly wanted to go because one of our favorite bands from Japan was scheduled to play in the afternoon:  Eastern Youth.  Eastern Youth strike a nice balance between noise and melody.  Their music is cathartic but very listenable.

They played a great set — a nice mix of old and new material.  The highlight for me was “Into the Sandstorm,” which was the first Eastern Youth song I’d ever heard and is still one of my favorites.

The other bands we saw were also fun to watch and listen to.

Interesting enka/rockabilly/storytelling solo act.

The Beaches. They played a fun set of reggae dance rock.

Neatbeats. 60s style garage rock.

Mari, the lead singer from Tsushimamire. They probably gave our favorite performance of the day.

Not pictured:  the King Brothers.  During the last song of their set, the lead guitarist climbed the scaffolding of the stage, about twenty feet off the ground.  He then jumped off, not into the crowd, but back onto the stage, did a ninja safety roll, and immediately picked up his guitar and began playing music again.

Peculiar Impression

December 15, 2008


The other day I was flicking through the local channels and came across a variety program showcasing various comedians impersonating famous people from Japan and elsewhere.  I managed to get the last few seconds of the Obama impression on camera.

It’s a short clip but the rest of the skit followed the same premise.  Basically the comedian impersonating Obama would say something like “Yes we can!” or “People, people, people, people…” and then get wacked on the head by a secret service agent standing behind him.

Flute music for my students

November 12, 2008


During my introduction lesson, which I give during my first time to a new class, I mention that I like to play the flute.  One teacher asked me to play for her students the next time I came.  She requested that I play some Christmas songs.  I incorporated this November Christmas Special in a lesson with the target phrases “Yes, I can,” and “No, I can’t.”  For the first part of the lesson, my flute was hidden away from the 6 and 7 year-olds and a box full of maracas, tambourines, castanets, jingle bells, and a harmonica were up front.  I would ask a student, “Can you play the tambourine?”  If they responded, “Yes, I can,” they were then able to demonstrate for the class.  As you might imagine, the other target sentence, “No I can’t,” was neglected.

At the end of the lesson, their homeroom teacher asked me, “Can you play the flute?”

After “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” a classical Japanese New Year’s song, and “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter, I played what turned out to be their favorite: the Doraemon theme song.  Everyone, including the teacher, enthusiastically sang along.

I’m pretty sure that someone at every school that I’ve visited (8 in all) has asked me if I like Doraemon.  This television series, starring a time traveling cat robot, is something that I have yet to see other than on YouTube or in various plush forms, often adorning dashboards and phone charms.  I get the impression that his popularity in Japan can be comparable with Sesame Street in America.  The two actually debuted one month apart from each other in the winter of 1969.  At that time, Doraemon was a popular manga (Japanese comic) and was later turned into a TV series which still runs today.  The popularity of Doraemon is widespread.

Everyone sing along!  Pay attention to the tricky flute introduction.  Yikes!  I played up until Doraemon and the boy are flying over the clouds into the sunrise. Watch the whole episode if you like; I found one that provides English subtitles.