Roppongi, May , 2013

Roppongi 2013
Reds during a day of video shooting in Roppongi, Tokyo May 2013.

So…. I mentioned before, that my first encounter with
Japan was spring 2011.
I was actually in grad school in the USA at that time.
The semester had just finished.
The year before I had been to Vanuatu.
The trip to Vanuatu inspired me a lot.
Fascinated me on a very deep level, because it was
so immensely different to anything I had ever
experienced before.
It drove me to do more linguistic research, as well as
interdisciplinary linguistic anthropology.
Did you know that Vanuatu has over 100 languages
but a population of just about 200000?
One of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world
when you factor in the tiny population!

And as you could see in the video below, they look and behave
very differently from any society (I have ever lived in).
However, on a daily basis, they eat, sleep, have sex, argue,
converse, greet each other….much like I do… WE do,
we humans.
However, being there, immersed in their society, I was aware
pretty much from the get go, that their society is different.
They look different.
Their surroundings and living quarters are very different.
Their social rules are different.
I wont go any further into this topic here, but let’s just
face it:
They look different, they have no cell phones, no gadgets,
and there are no stores (outside of Port Vila, and on the majority of islands),
there is not even electricity on most islands…
so we think, we believe, we assume that
they are different
and they certainly therefore must be more difficult
to communicate with.
In the past Vanuatu was colonized by UK and France in a shared colony.
Unique and interesting in itself, and I could probably write a whole
book just about that…
but
My book is about my life and experiences in Japan.

Japan is surrounded by stereotypes.
We all know them.
We know a lot about Japan in the west,
we really do, don’t we?
They are different in Japan.
They bow, they don’t shake hands.
The food is amazing.
They eat sushi in Japan.
They eat rice in Japan.
They eat with chop sticks.
Japan has a loooong history.
They have temples.
The country in itself is gorgeous with mountains and
they have Mount Fuji.
They also have Tokyo,
and subways that are so crowded one cannot breathe.

We know a lot, don’t we?
I also thought, they must be more similar to me,
more similar than the tribal people in Vanuatu.
Right?
I mean Japan is so high tech, isn’t it?
They make robots and stuff.

When I first arrived in Japan, that was pretty much all
of what I knew … the above…
I also knew some about their music.
X-Japan, hide, Luna Sea, Yellow Magic Orchestra,
L’Arc~en~Ciel, Nightmare, Kuroyume, Gazette….
That was it…
When I travelled around in Japan, in the spring of 2011,
I was also confirming it,
I shot photos of temples,
I went to concerts,
I saw exactly what my stereotypes have told me.

Then… suddenly I decided….
to change my life….
and
My life changed
A LOT!!
because after my first trip to Japan,
the trip when “the sky called me”,
I decided to move to Japan.
I wanted to go deeper, discover more, hear more music…

I met Shingo, a Japanese friend, whom I taught English.
We met every day… yes, every day for many months.
I met Yuka from Hachioji (Tokyo suburb).
Then I met Vagu*Project, a Japanese band,
and Vorchaos, and Dazzle! and…
many other bands followed.
We had meetings, talks, discussions
I started the Pink Spider Web.
I was in love with the country and its people.
I still am.
I still love Japan.

A few years later after I came back to Japan,
(I had been in the US to treat a colon cancer)
I met this man in the photo above: Reds.
He is the vocalist in AURA. A Japanese band that started in the
90s and was one of the front bands, and pioneers, for the Japanese
Visual Kei.
We met at one of my favorite spots in Japan:
The Club Sensation in Yokohama.
How we met, and the miracles I felt will be another story.
It was certainly though a very special encounter
and on a very deep level.
Deeper than rational brain can go,
and more amazing than I thought possible.
We truly connected!

He was delighted to see my work on the internet.
How I could reach so many people across the globe.
Because sadly, I had discovered by now,
Japan isn’t all like I perceived it to be during my trips.
Hanging with Japanese bands like Vagu*Project,
I had noticed that they somehow were out of synch.
Out of synch with how technologically ahead Japan must be,
but was not….
Because certainly a country with high tech industries must
have every single citizen on top of the game?
It seemed to me the more I got to know people like
Reds, that Japan is somehow,
Out of synch with the world!

I had, already during my first trip to Japan,
felt that some thing was ‘off’.
Buying tickets for example. –  not possible, at least not the way
I think of
Finding band info online another example –  web pages ill-maintained
and in Japanese only.
Adding Japanese friends on Facebook… was often met with a
stare:  “Facebook???”
This was 2013.. Where were the Japanese online?
They showed me ameoba.
They showed me their web sites…in Japanese.
I was like, but eh…. globally people don’t speak Japanese.
How do you reach your fans abroad?
How do you reach new fans?

Being with them, and later with Reds,
I learned a lot.
Japan was not what my stereotypes had informed me.
To write all that I discovered in Japan,
will take many chapters…. like ….a Book!!
so yes, I wont write it all here, because this is a blog,
and this is why I’m writing a book!
I will just leave some for the book…. lol

Working with the bands, seeing hundreds of bands,
yes hundreds, I got to spend a lot of time together
with them.
And now comes the tricky part, because I was still
somehow in an illusion, that by now…
I knew the Japanese. I understood them.
Their struggles with learning English,
(which by the way is perfectly understandable at
one level because it’s equally difficult for me to learn Japanese)
Their gender inequality,
their difference in gender perception altogether…
I got it!
What I also rather quickly learned was their power structures.
What I am not capable of though, is adapting 100% to their ways.

I naively thought of it as a bridge…
A bridge where we meet half-way while connecting.
I still believe we can do this (but I will return to this later and
more in detail in my book).
I really believed we could truly work together!

The implications though, run much deeper than
understanding that they have power structures,
or knowing that they are reluctant to the concept
of change.
Let alone to actually change anything.
Reds was a fresh wind.
He was curious.
He wanted to reach out.
He wanted to connect.
I thought it was a real wish,
I believed it was possible.

And I believed him…
in a way I still do.

The bridge however… is another story.
There is a thin line between
understanding and misunderstanding

To be continued…….

 

 

 

Sugizo – Tree of Life

SuGiZo – Tree of Life

I bought it on a day when the moon was FULL….
and this was one of the few things that worked out great today…
a lot of stuff did NOT go my way..
so this will be about my life and my day, my tree of life and not much about Sugizo LOL

Then again when I got home, around midnight, I summed it all up …

…and you know it’s really funky how we tend to emotionally really can mess up our
experiences, whether it be over a day, a week or a life time…
I was upset because for a ton of silly mishaps and ‘emergencies’.
I ended up being so delayed that I (and well Phoe-Lo too) had to skip a LIVE tonight

The other ‘bad’ thing that happened was that I bought a Japanese iTunes card and my American account still blocks it out.
So these two things made me think gaaah what a day…
but then when I looked at the whole picture….I saw something different, or maybe
I saw it differently
……
a hide-miracle happened, and I got a last minute appointment for doing the
tattoo
that I felt was so important to me already before leaving for Japan,
and was one of the must do things here in Japan!
I was just sitting at dinner time and talking with Phoe-Lo and I said to her:
“Well the tattoo I guess just wasn’t meant to happen, because the only time I have now
would be Thursday after 6 pm, and the only place I know about said they didn’t have any
times until next week….”
…..
Why does hide always have to do miracles in very the last minute ?? ha ha ha
After midnight I got an email in my inbox… one of the tattoo guys said he could
come in on Thursday and do it for me.. would 7PM/19:00 o’clock be a good time…
WOW… Yes yes yes!
by the way this is the text that will be embodied …or embedded or.. inked…
or ha ha ha ha  it will be tattooed…

ピンクスパイダー 空は呼んでいる

the very same words I heard at Miura Reien in May…when I decided that YES I should
jump, leap, fly… and catch a pink cloud …and be in Japan….for a reason that wasn’t
totally clear to me.….

Also I was upset at Tower Records in Ikebukuro for not having the Ra:IN album I wanted
to buy…but I should choose to be happy that they could put one on hold in the
Shibuya store for it…
See there is always a choice on how to react.…but we all tend forget that..

Same when the Izakaya here downstairs had no table … first I was upset..
or well not toooo bad, but I was a little annoyed, but then, because of it, we
decided to go to the little Spanish place across the street.. and
WOW I got a glass of the best Rioja Crianza wine with just the perfect temperature…
so what am I really whining about and WHY?

To relearn takes time because we need to unlearn old ways of thinking first,
old ways of reacting to our reality….

The best thing today though, was also the reason that I was delayed
( and still I felt negatively about it… weird),
was that I printed out the art work I have been working on.
It came out way better than I could possibly have hoped for, so once again I had proved
to myself that rethinking and abolishing evaluation, as well as not dividing life in terms of
good and bad is the WAY TO GO!!

I am sad, yes I am sad, to leave Japan, but on the other hand I am also
sooooo happy to be able to see some of my beloved people in the US.
Friends that I miss and love..
and now tonight, when I sat online I received a few messages that means the world to me… and I felt how my inner core started to fire up and sparkle by the thought alone
of seeing this friend again!
oh you LIFE … I OWE you MY everything…
oh yes, my life has a life of its own and it is quite
fascinating to UNFOLD it….

oh and regarding my tattoo, I got it at Tokyo Hardcore Tattoo
Highly recommend them!
https://www.facebook.com/TOKYO-HARD-CORE-TATTOO-188100754537592/

 

 

 

 

 

Three venues and some thoughts on culture

Three Venues – Club Sensation, Zher the Zoo and Show Boat

I want however to take a moment and talk about three Venues in Tokyo/ Yokohama,
because a lot of the total experience stems from the layout and environment like
light- and sound engineering.

I think this especially called for after being at “live places” that represent the extreme
ends of the quality scale during this past week end.
Not in size or audience really, oh well to some degree maybe,
but for the general experience.

Friday I was in Yokohama at The Club Sensation

http://sensation-jp.com/
You can read about their history here:
http://sensation-jp.com/about/

This place is by far my favorite small place venue in the greater metropolitan
Tokyo area (Located in Hinodecho, Yokohama within walking distance from Sakuragicho).
I admit it I have not been to more than a teeny tiny faction of places in the greater
Tokyo area….. yet, but regardless it is my favorite spot.
Why?
Because the interior design is awesome,  the staff super nice and Michiaki himself
shows great hospitality.
To make it even better:…. the sound quality is top notch!
I have seen different artists here such as
Ra:IN, Kyoji Yamamoto and CUTT.
All world class performers!!
It has that cozy, intimate feeling, where you want to sit and hang with your friends,
and listen to really good music over a few drinks and bar food.
This is a place I will definitely come back to again and again every time I’m in Japan.

Saturday i was at Zher the Zoo, Yoyogi as you can see below here on the blog.
This is more your typical live house. A dark smokey place where you can’t really see
who is in the room, besides the person next to you.
BUT this is one of my favorites in this particular category. The stage is just the
right size for musicians to move around a little, yet it is that tight feeling that you
want from a venue of this kind.
They have tables spread out, and the bar is close yet not in the middle of where people
need to pass. Lighting on stage has been a tad annoying for me when shooting videos
for example too straight out set, but not really much worse than the majority of the
other live houses in Tokyo.
Tables for artist promotions and merch is in the rear of the floor, meaning people who
are looking and buying or chatting is not blocking any pass ways either.

http://www.ukproject.com/zherthezoo/

Photo above is me with Crazy Cool Joe (Bassist: Dead End)
at Zher the Zoo Saturday Jan 28th, 2012|

Last then, which I haven’t really blogged about yet, is Show Boat

http://showboat.co.jp/

I’m jumping ahead here since I haven’t posted anything about the Sunday Jan 29th
Live with Circuit9 YET….,
but I just wanted to use it as an example here of the other end of Live houses,
a place I did not like.. I mean I like the place, but from an audience point of
view it is horrible.

My negative feelings are probably also due to that such a good band as Circuit9
is doing a “one man show”, should have a place big enough for people to come see them without feeling like you are on a packed Tokyo Subway line during peak hours.
I’m casting no shadow at their performance, which I will write about in the next few days.
They are just worthy a  better place IMO!  Why on earth are they playing here
(edited 2018 Note .. years later I learned a lot about the social structures and dynamics in
Japan and that some places have greater influences and are more prestigious than others.
Tricky part is that you can’t tell from the looks of it or the quality of it. It’s all about who is who
on another dimension than quality)
Now if that is the case it would also be better if such a packed place at least
was designed to handle it.
– The bar is set in the back with very narrow ‘funnels’ to get to it,
– The floor area is smaller than the stage, or so it felt…
– The stage is deep and the sound amplification is on both sides really close and somehow… and yes I am definitely not a sound engineer here and talking from limited experience….
but it felt like I either could listen to them or see them. Somehow it felt like it came out
of synch because of the weird layout of the stage. Like the sound jumped around.

Luckily the drummer, in this case awesome Sakura, was set up a little higher on some
kind of platform, but he was still so far back (together with keyboardist) that they felt
like they were in another room behind the other three (the bassist, vocalist and guitarist).
Then to top it off, since this was a one-man (ワンマン – what they call a gig with only
one band performing, which is rare in Tokyo) , there are no breaks in the set-list (like
you do when there are other bands performing),  so you could only visit the bar before
or after the gig. Which is what everyone did!
With all that many people in the poorly designed space it was like a grid-lock in Manhattan
at peak hour….
Their gig wasn’t that long (if you compare it to a gig when you see 5-6 bands in a row)
and the looooong time waiting in line…and then taking the glass with me to continue to
chat with a nice Japanese fellow… staff came after about 5 minutes and said they
are closing and we had to leave, and no she did not do this nicely, but was rather rude.
Maybe if a favorite band of me came here I would still consider going, but better yet,
I will tell all my favorite bands not to play here ha ha ha
Maybe they even read this blog… who knows? and maybe I have misunderstood
something? ( I had as you could see in the edit above and I will write about that later in
a book I am now writing 2018).

Important addition / edit!

After a few comments I feel it necessary to add a few lines here.
Regarding the last review, I have received a few saddened comments from Japanese readers. This is an interesting culture difference in action here, and I want to make sure
that everyone get this right, and that no one misunderstands what I write.

This review was about the places, more specifically with a bias about physical lay-out
and audio/visual ability and quality of a venue.
I have not yet written any blog about circuit9, but will do so in the next couple of days.
They are skilled performers and as you can see from the little I do mention above,
I liked what they did and Sakura is for example a world class drummer.

Not every venue is really good, and not every venue is the same, saying this out loud,
and especially stating that you do not like something, is something I have noticed
Japanese people rather not read or see or do… it is a cultural difference for sure.

Dear Japanese readers my sincere apologies to you. I’m honest here, when I
tell you that I am sorry . Unfortunately the internet is international, and here all kinds
of behavior and writings occur. If I instead kept quiet, and avoided writing anything negative,
then I would probably hear from American readers that hey why didn’t you tell me you
didn’t like it.
So no matter how I do this people will comment back to me and being unhappy!
For example in the US, my experience is that people rather say:
“I like this, but I don’t like that!”
So if we all try to accept different ways, it is of course the best.

However this is difficult and we often act out of habit!
This means that I have a habit of writing, “I don’t like this!”, instead of keeping quiet.
A Japanese person, on the contrary, has the habit of staying quiet, instead of telling the world, “I don’t like this!”.
This does not mean our feelings really differ, or that some people are better than others,
all it means is that we have different habits and behaviors. Different ways of telling the
world how we feel. Also Westerners tend to have a bias towards verbalizing feelings,
where often Japanese tend to show in actions or body language how they feel.
As long as we understand this and have a forgiving and apologetic attitude,
we will be fine and remain in peace.
Thank you All, and I hope I haven’t hurt anyone with my blog.
It has never been my intention!
If you have comments about this please do not hesitate to send me an email:
thepinkspiderweb@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Touched

TOUCHED!!!
Thank you soo much for messages (like the one quoted below)
here on tumblr, to my email and on Facebook!
I’m seriously touched, and it makes me feel even more convinced that
I AM doing the right thing, and hide indeed knows what he is doing when
he is inspiring me to make a WEB through music.
A web of friendship and LOVE that reaches across borders and cultures;
A PINK SPIDER WEB that works through MUSIC and within people…
and touches our HEARTS!!
>>>
” I just love your posts! I guess I am kind of living vicariously here XD
Took a lot of guts to do what you did, I admire you quite a lot.
It’s also a joy to run into another passionate adult music fan.
WE ARE X 😉