It Ain’t Easy… that Peace stuff

So my reason for my first trip to Japan was to get away and think,
Think and to be alone.
I was doubting my future in grad school, and I had been doubting
my marriage for a decade, I wasn’t happy and I tried to figure out
a way out of it all. At uni I had met Japanese-American Rio,
and I had after our chats been listening to more and more of the
old Japanese music, that I used to like so much.
Mostly I listened to YMO way, way back when.

Rio introduced me to hide’s solo music and I got drawn to all of it,
and curious about Japan. The country I previously didn’t know
much about, and I HAD never really felt any interest in Japan,
or its culture.


I loved Chinese history, Chinese philosophy, Chinese everything….
but Japan in my prejudice mindset was all about robots,
manga, anime and men who have inflated plastic dolls for sex…
I basically didn’t know much!!
There were of course Japanese stuff I liked.
Japanese food for example ad always been my favorite.
And yes, X Japan and Yellow Magic Orchestra

So anyway as you know by now I took off to Japan,
first for a Japan Rail Pass, and while there experienced the magic
at Miura Reien and hide calling from the sky.
So I came over. I moved to Tokyo.
I went to live gigs, and I met Vagu*Project at the same live gig as
I went to see Swedish Seremedy.

Little did I know then, that Seike, back then Sermedy’s vocalist,
and I,  would cross paths again in Tokyo 4,5 years later when
Kerbera did a tour in Tokyo at a Live House I have been affiliated
with. Nor did I know then, that they would also participate in the
project I managed to bring Japanese artists to Sweden.
Japanese musicians collaborating with,
and getting to know Swedish bands.
Become friends!
I will return to this project… a lot more in detail at a later date.
Of course a zillion things happened in between the live gigs with
Seremedy and Kerbera in Tokyo – October 2011 and May 2016

The month after I had seen Seremedy and Vagu*Project at
Urawa Narciss in Saitama,  I went on an adventure.
Partially I followed X Japan on their
World Tour 2011 South East Asia part of it,
and partially I went on a traveling adventure and backpacked in
South East Asia.
X Japan in Bangkok was the best!!
What a feeling!!

Now when I came back in December 2011 I had this urge and
desire to really go see Vagu*Project again!
I loved them!!
I knew absolutely nothing about them, and I spoke zero Japanese.
They stood out.. they had something very unique about them.
I was totally spell bound by the stage presence and charisma
that radiated from their Vocalist Yui.
Their bassist Crazy Boy Ryo is also extremely happy and fun,
and a delight on stage.
So I set out to google and find these guys again….
There’s gotta be a live gig close to me coming up!!

Well now… if you don’t write kanji, and you don’t speak a lot of
Japanese, this can be an enormous task…bordering impossible..
to find a band in Japan.. and find out where and when they
play next, and then once you do…
find out how to hell to get tickets?
A lot HAS really changed over the past 5 years, but still it’s
usually only the better known bands that have professional, or
at least comprehensible web sites with English text,
or information on Facebook.
Back then very very few Japanese people had Facebook,
so bands didn’t really care about posting there.
I felt a rising need to do something about this!!!

February the follwing year I went to Australia for a few months,
and while there, I decided to start this site “The Pink Spider Web”
and to, at the very least be able to create some valuable help for
all people out around in the world,  who has an interest in
Japanese Rock or Visual Kei.
People who don’t necessarily read Japanese
I created the Venue index that one can find on this site and
I helped Vagu*Project and created a demo web site for them.
I showed them that one can now a days download songs directly
online (this was long before Spotify had made it to Japan).
Working with them back in 2012, I needed a translator.
I wish I also had known more about Japanese culture.
All of what I know today is by doing mistakes.
Some created terrible misunderstandings, and even conflicts.
Conflicts, often due to misunderstandings, can be solved easily,
but conflicts due to diverging ideas about reality, can be tougher
to solve.
It takes a lot of effort and stepping out of comfort zones from
all parties involved!
Vagu*Project per se went very well, and we had a good working
relationship for quite a while, and it didn’t end until they signed
up with a label demanding certain changes and commitment.
Mostly due to a big financial loans this label gave them
( I wold probably prefer the term slave-contract for what they the signed)

What exactly have I learned?
Well it is a lot, and this is one of my reasons for writing the book.
I have learned a lot not only about Japanese people and their
ways. I have also learned a lot about humans in general,
and about artists, bands, and the music industry in particular.
My ideals of bringing musicians together, for having them being
stronger together and learn from one another is plainly put:
Very naïve!
but it is also still a dream and my mission,
that the rest of the world get to see  more from Japan,
and that the Japanese learn more about the rest of the world!

AUTO-MOD Genet 目黒鹿鳴館 5-18 2014

A lot has changed over these 5-6 years that I have been
working, but a lot has also not changed, and might not ever change.
I am heart-broken that many Japanese artists often cannot see
beyond what they know and are comfortable with, but this might
only a matter of patience, on our part.. as audience.

What hurts me more is all the non-care about others that is going on!
It is one thing to be selfish, as an artist that is very obvious,
and many artists do everything they can for any attention.
This is not just Japanese… it’s global!
Personally though I’m getting a bit fed up with insta feeds
filled 
with selfies and nothing much more…

Not only musicians, many people in the industry also do everything
they can to grab a slice of the pie…
even if it’s on behalf of a friendship.
What happened to talk? and especially what happened to
team-work? 1+1= 3 or 4 or 5 or 6… or even more!
I will certainly be more clear and exemplify in the book,
especially I will use examples from last year’s project with
Reds  from Japan and Kerbera from
Sweden, to name a few.

Luckily I have also learned to kick back and enjoy the fun!
Enjoy the amazing music!
Below for example one of my absolute favorite bands:
ザ・ビールス – The Beers

What I think though, is that there are sooooo many people
involved behind the scenes,
and on the floor and the market with the $ ¥ £ . The people who
pay for concerts, for merch, and (sometimes) the music:
The audience!
Audiences, who deserve the truth, more genuin care about them!
For example if you have international fans, you should care to
provide the information for them as much as you can.
Even if it means working outside your comfort zone,
even if it is less glamorous part of the job.
Learn English at a basic level, collaborate with people, the admin
end of it all….
Tell them about your concert schedule, about your music and
and you should in my opinion stick to the truth.
Not telling your audience that you live part-time in Tokyo and
part-time in Sweden, when in fact that is a straight out lie.
Why? Why inflate?
Are we the audience that dumb?

The closing of Reds Facebook page is just the latest example
of this non-genuine-care-syndrom.
Only work for, and with your own people. Only work within the
ways one is comfortable with, reaping harvests of feeling good
about oneself from the many ‘likes’ that comes as a big
ego-boost after each selfie posted.
Is it really sustainable though? To write that you love your fans,
but never really be brave enough to build that bridge?

As I mentioned in the last blog, Reds and I couldn’t talk to
one another when we first met.
We actually communicated with Japanese ascii smileys on
twitter messages even though we sat next to each other.
(*^o^*)   (-_-)zzz     ♪( ´θ`)ノ    (T . T)      (=´∀`)人(´∀`=)
And of course also a lot via google translate… which more often
than not, gives you totally the wrong words ha ha ha
but it worked in the very beginning.

Over the years he has picked up quite a lot of English.  Not so
much as he is anywhere near fluent, but he can socially chat.
And well, I too picked up some Japanese over time.
What he hasn’t changed though is habits from the past.
And he is not alone in this by any means.
It goes all over the board… and you can probably exchange the
word ‘Japanese’ in the sentence below and put it in your own
nationality.
This is the way we do things… we Japanese.

Never really saying it out loud but that is sadly the notion.
It is the message.
Because why else don’t you want to learn new ways,
and learn from others enough to be able to reach a lot more
people?
I still love my Japanese friends.
I love a lot about Japan.

This blog can at times now seem a little negative, but it is part
of the process. We must all see and understand the bigger scope.
It is not only the Japanese who need to change.
We all do!
We all need to listen! We all need to actively support those
around us that are different, that come from somewhere else,
that don’t work or talk or love in ways that we do…

Peace as I wrote on my insta (@The_PSW)  the other day…

Peace is not just a beautiful word,
it is action!
Peace is not only action,
it is to be brave and step out of self-love,
it is to support others,
it is to speak up and  defend others,
even when they are very
different from you!
It is easy to be at home,
it is easy to surround yourself
with friends who love you,
but
it is honorable and brave
to stand up and support
Others!

Peace and Sparkles!

and by the way
the same goes for Love and Friendship…
We have to WORK IT!

To be continued…..

 

 

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…….

 

 

 

I can feel the kiss

I recorded this video clip in Vanuatu 2010.
The true beginning…as every day is a beginning.
I just wasn’t aware of it then, that the trip to Vanuatu
was going to set-off a chain reaction of events,
that lead from this moment in Vanuatu,
to my ‘new life’ in Japan just a year later.

The amount of accumulated special moments since then
until this present moment, is huge!
So what I am doing, is to spread them out on my
enormous time line.
I have divided the time-line spanning from little before this
video in Vanuatu until today, and on it I add photos.
To each photo I add a note with event name,
for example “Live gig at Meguro Live Station with xxx band”.

Under the line I also add notes like departure times for
flights, visits from abroad, and everything else.
Just to keep track of all the places I’ve been…
is a task in itself
During the years I cover (about 6-7 years), besides my life in Japan,
I lived in or visited (not in order and many I visited several times):
USA: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico,  Texas,
Utah, and Washington
UK including London and Wales, Sweden, Germany, Laos, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan
Vanuatu, Mexico, Canada, Singapore
…. and more
and in Japan, I traveled a total of 6 weeks with Japan Rail Pass.
From northern Tohoku to Kyushu and a lot of it in between.

The program I use for this purpose is called ‘Scapple’
and it’s really invaluable to my book writing project.

In the photo below I combined two screen shots.
In the upper half,
one can see one year (of approximately 7 years total)
In the lower half one can see
how it looks closer up.
I still need to add more notes about each event,
for example names of band members at a live,
or who was with me at a certain bar and so on.

scapple

It is however time-consuming!
Often I find my mind wandering off.
A photo generate an intense feeling of
actually being there.
I can smell the flowers.
I can hear the music.
I can feel the kiss on my lips.
I can hear arguments and conflicts.
I can sense the love
It’s all embedded in this time line.
And the questions arise.
Why?  Why did we meet?
Why did I choose this or that?
It is also time consuming by the whole
metod in itself,
but in the end, I’m sure this is the best way!

Memories, but also a future.
My future.
Our future.
I have no doubt that even if I’m writing my book
about the past, it is not finished.
My story is not finished.
Friendship, and relationships,
continue in to the future.
My book is a snippet of this
continuum!
It really has no true beginning,
nor is it by any means
over yet!

Anna