The Bridge

Last blog ended with these words:

“And I believed him…
in a way I still do.
The bridge however… is another story.”

and then “To be continued…”
so now  will pick up where I left off…hopefully…

Right now I am going back in this very blog..
way back to 2011 when I first started blogging on Tumblr.
Once I started The Pink Spider Web I imported all the old
blog posts a total of 350 some pages, each containing 3-4 posts.
The migration didn’t go without technical issues though!
All titles got fucked up,
links broke, video plug-ins didn’t work and
all images got weirdly resized.
When I first started The Pink Spider Web, keeping up the
momentum was number one priority, so the old blog entries
got edited and fixed some 10 pages or so back in time…
the rest went on the back-burner.
That meant blogs about Seremedy in Japan,
Inazuma Rock Fes, concerts with TMR, MUCC, L’Arc~En~Ciel,
and many many more
… just had to wait for the day to come
and the need for it all to resurface.

It was OK, I had to focus on what I was wanting to achieve,
and the old blog wasn’t really aiding that
process.
Well now, when I’m in the process of writing this book,
all these hundreds and hundreds of posts,
the photos and videos are incredibly valuable.

When I now again read about my
dreams, hopes,
ideas, passion, 
motivation … the drive
that I had then 6 years ago,
it was very much the same as it is today:
Same dreams, hopes, aspirations, and motivation.
I want to build bridges.
Close gaps.
Help people reach outside their comfort zone.
Turn on passionate fires.
Increase Peace
Make people see their own values in all of this.
Help musicians understand and learn how to connect
with audiences they aren’t familiar with, or are even
physically far away from.
That HAS BEEN and still IS my ultimate goal!
I want people to learn from each other and
change in a good way. including myself!
Change their ways, become more open-minded to
‘the other’…
I wish to…
build bridges and show people how the can meet
at the middle of the bridge!

Rainbow Bridge

The bridge metaphor works well because it connects
two landmasses, two entities, and it is something tangible.
A bridge something we can step onto,  and walk or travel over,
from one side to the other.

When I first met Reds in April 2013, we instantly connected.
It was at a Live gig with Blade™ at Club Sensation.
The fact that we ended up meeting was quite amazing in
itself, but the blog is not the place to explain all that in detail.
I will go into more detail about that in the book.

I could feel his eagerness to wanting to reach out.
I had learned already prior to meeting him, that connecting
with Japanese people aren’t that easy in general,
and connecting with musicians maybe in particular.
Often the musicians in Japan don’t speak English,
which for our collaboration purpose at this level is
less of a problem.

Reds 04 2013

What is an issue however, is that they live on their end
of a bridge.
They are used to certain ways of doing things.
They have their ways of promoting themselves.
Their ways of reaching their fans.
Their already loyal fans, I might add, whom they wish to keep
and not scare by suddenly leaving them hanging.
Also most, like Reds, aren’t even aware of this.
Culture differences are more seen as peculiar ways.
Like we Westerners, we hug each other in public,
and we hug our friends.
The deeper differences cannot be seen, and are way
trickier to become aware of.
Because no one, is aware of them when we are around
people that are similar to us.
And keep in mind, Japan is a very homogenous society.
A society which also strives to stay homogenous.
We, as in mankind, cannot see how we communicate
within our own group,
how we socialize and hang out with each other,
as anything but .. well it’s the normal way!
that’s the way people are…
Not until we really start to get to know someone different,
from a different place, and meet with them a lot of over a
longer period of time.
So if you have few foreigners coming, and you cannot really
talk to the ones that do because you don’t speak English,
and you maintain an idea that the foreign is a bit scary,
then this bridge is seldom walked.

When I entered the music scene  in Japan, and I started
meeting with bands like:
Vagu*Project, DAZZLE! and Vorchaos to name few.
I almost immediately became aware of this.
Not soon enough maybe…. LOL
I presented for Vagu*Project some brilliant ideas,
only to later learn, that in their minds all this was good and
all, but really also very, very strange.
I had walked over the bridge and presented for them how
it looks on the other side of the bridge.
They liked it, sure they did, but added:
That only works on the other side of the bridge,
not here.
And Anna-san by the way…
What is Facebook?
We have ameblo アメブロ. (This was in 2011-2012)

I explained all this for Reds, I told him what I had learned,
and he said…Nah, I want this, my band (AURA)
and I need this:
I want to reach many people with my music.
This is wonderful and a great start!

Where I think I failed early on was to explain, truly convey,
is that this requires you to change.
This failure however, went on under the surface….
the whole time… and still is there ..unfortunately!
What I failed to make him understand is:
YOU must walk on that bridge and adopt to other ways,
at least 50%… HALF WAY.
You must do a lot of the work, and the change.
I haven’t been able to make this happen!
Also you have to change and you must be brave, 
and go against what people around you want you to do!
Being brave… hmm that is very difficult for anyone to be,
also for Reds.
For any artist, also for Reds, being liked, is so so important.
Being liked by others kind of clashes with the idea of
being brave, and doing things against those around you,
or as in Japan in particular, above you!

Thing is Japan … well..Japan is very demanding society
also for the Japanese themselves.
They are proud of their harmony,
proud of their low crime rates,
proud of having a stable society.
Which is great!
Great …but not yielding change.
You can’t go against the people above you!
You can never stir anything similar to conflict,
never oppose, instead instill group harmony.
So that doesn’t help any kind of change.

Neither negative change,
nor positive…
In a way it kind of muffles and even hinders creativity at times.
Not that Japanese might agree with me here,
but that’s OK. Because if everyone around you
.. on the same side of the bridge as you are…
agrees with you, and knows this to be true,
then it is.

This is of course true on both sides of the bridge!
I just happen to be writing about my experiences in Japan.
I need to adjust and take in to account the social rules
in Japan, and listen to how they do things and what they
desire and wish.
Also one cannot behave in a Western way and assume
people will listen to you or even like your
ideas. Often though they really do listen!
They just won’t act upon it.

This is why I was delighted to meet Reds though,
because he intuitively felt like it fit in with his own
ideas about the future, AND maybe more importantly
he smiled and was very positive.
We did have some problems communicating this evening,
because Reds did not speak any English,
and I still did not speak Japanese.

How did we communicate?
Very creative way actually…
and I will tell you in the next blog!

 

 

 

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…….

 

 

 

Editing

Yesterday I posted a short video with a tunnel.
I’m quite fascinated by tunnels as a metaphor for transformation,
transgression, change, and  …. life

Tunnels can be dark and murky, and we talk about seeing the light
at the end of the tunnel.
Those tunnels can be scary, and we hope, and often believe,
that the coming out of the tunnel we will be free, happy and content.

Sometimes the tunnel is like the one in the blog post below,
It’s not dark at all….
bright and illuminated,
but still a place that takes us from one ‘reality’ to another.
The walking in a tunnel is a walk with an aim,
you don’t want to stay in that place forever.
The goal is really to get out of there.
You just have to get going…
In September 2011 I was in such a  bright kind of tunnel.

I was really happy. I was at Inazuma Rock Fes
On stage were great bands like:
Def Tech, Dragon Ash, Abingdon Boys School, and Gazette
Yet at the end of one of my blog entries from that week end I had written:

… a PURPOSE …
Do I have one?
I believe I do!
I just need to find it.

Eventually later that year I did find my purpose.
My mission met my passion.
The music in Japan and the live scene.
Somehow I was out of the bright tunnel and had found my path.

And once out I met tons of amazing people!
Tetsu great drummer (for ex. mintmints, ex. Ra:IN)  here a night
when we had drinks together at his bar Boogie Stock in Shin-Daita.

Going to live gigs I met some amazing people,
often one contact introduced me to another,
and got to know, and work with, many Japanese musicians up close.
One such band was Vorchaos.
We discussed strategies for bands in general, and for them in particular,
how to make it in this new global world.
I’m so happy they still play together and keep on going!

and time went on .. I wasn’t in a tunnel.
I was on a path! Out and about!
I had direction and purpose.
When you are on a path you don’t contemplate much.
There isn’t the same feeling present, as there is when you are in a tunnel.
You don’t search for the light at the end.
You just enjoy the ride.


With Derinjar at Chelsea Hotel  about 2 years ago.

And I sure enjoyed everything!

Now I am back in a tunnel… but another kind of tunnel.
This one is almost pitch black. Or it has been….
I’m beginning to see the light,
I’m going through change,
and I’m using the contemplative nature of being in a tunnel,
to think about what will be on the other side.
Often we just don’t know what will come…

What has happened … during my time on the path,
is that somewhere along the road,
I started listening to how other people thought I should act.
Where I should put my time.
How I should do things
How I should prioritize my time..

But now ….in the middle of the dark tunnel….
I woke up…
and Im back at a mental place where I am more in charge.
And I’m being creative.
I might not at all know what will come at the other end,
but I know this much..
there is an end also to this tunnel!

“This is my life,
my story,
my book,
and I will no longer let anyone else write it.
nor will I apologize for the edits I make”
Steve Maraboli

 

 

 

X Japan and Memories

X Japan Bangkok 11-08 2011 Toshi

The process of writing my book is a somewhat tedious one.
I’m not writing the book in  a straight chronological order,
but it’s starts with Japan, and a lot in my life the past decade,
has do with Japan and Japanese music,
Naturally then, most of the content is from my years in Japan…
not all, but most of it.
In order to aid my memory I’m going through thousands and thousands of photos and video clips.
I’m creating a time line with a great program called Scapple. I highly recommend Scapple for any kind of mind-mapping, or system charting.
Beside the time-line, I am also using Scapple to create a huge sociogram,
in order to graphically visualize how people I know, and have been in contact with,
are related to one another.
It’s been a big eye-opener for me to be able to see how many people are connected to one another!!

The book, which is a memoir, will tell what I did before setting foot in Japan,
and why at all I decided to go to Japan of all places in the world.
X Japan and hide with Spread Beaver, is central to this.
It was through listening to Japanese music, that I decided I wanted to go.
I have never been any kind of Japanophile, but my whole life I’ve been very fascinated by Asian history and philosophy, particularly Chinese.
While studying at UNM, my friends Yumi and Rio Watanabe (re-)introduced me to the band X Japan.
X Japan and hide, then in turn lead me to a fascination with Japan, its people, its culture and of course, the Japanese music.
In the beginning particularly with Japanese Visual Kei
and Japanese Rock.
X Japan was my gateway to Japan.

So with the thousands of photos from the many live gigs, parties, travels, dinners,
back stage areas, family events, weddings, funerals,  bars, business meetings, hospital visits, lunches…..
I’m able to revisit my own life for the past 6-7 years,
and little by little I’m putting it all together,
The time line helps me to get more of a ‘bird’s view’,
to see the bigger picture, and then from it, be able to create the more detailed content.
X Japan, and the Japanese music,
have connected me with so many people around the globe,
not just in Japan.
For example, in the fall of 2012 I visited a friend in Kiev, Ukraine,
who also admires hide, and the Japanese music and culture.
Facebook and twitter have connected me with people all over the world,
and given me many amazing adventures and experiences.

However, Facebook and twitter are also a great sources of misconceptions
of how the world is, and how people actually feel.
By examining my own recent history, I hope to be able to examine this further,
and investigate how to best deal with emotions arising from having
a presence, and participating, on social media ‘places’.
What amazes me are also all the different social ‘rules’ regarding:
what to write, when to write, and how to express oneself on Facebook.
There are big differences between different cultures, countries and regions in the world.
The effect when we all interpret what other people post,
is one giant mess at times, and there is no explanation,
no manual, no help to interpret it all.
Often we aren’t even aware, that we might have completely different intentions with our posts online.
All this fascinates me!
But
Most in the book will not be about how we differ around the globe,
rather most of it will be about shared appreciation.
For example the love for hide and X Japan that reaches far outside Japan,
and yet not necessarily into mainstream global media.
I will therefor also dedicate a big chunk of the content to telling the readers
about lesser known artists and bands in Japan.
Which in a way has been my mission ever since that day
at Miura Reien in May 2011;
The visit to hide’s grave.
My meetings with the Japanese musicians,
and other Japanese people.
My interactions and experiences of different kinds of relationships in Japan.
How I felt. How I feel. How I’m interpreting all these encounters.

Oh and yes, the X Japan concert in Bangkok November 8 was amazing!!
It was their final performance  of the South East Asia tour
which in turn was a part of a bigger world tour 2011.
The Thai X Japan fans went to great lengths to help me.
Not only did they house me, the also got me an amazing ticket very close to the stage
dead-center of the arena.
#WeAreX!

 

 

 

DIE-san at the Zoo

 

KISS the WORLD 
DIE-san climbing all over the place, trying to reach the stars,
but you know what?
He is a true STAR!  Very bright, energetic and sparkling person!
… and yes, we were at Zhere the ZOO 
I guess he took it literally?!
DIEsan climbs all over when he plays with KTWAs always all this is due to hide...
if it wasn’t for the Pink Spider I wouldn’t be here experiencing all this
wonderful music and amazing time, so far from everything I used to
know in the US.