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…….

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Cutt Candy

After the LIVE performance CUTT gave everyone candy:
CUTT Candy!
You can see the beautiful purple cellophane laying next to him in the video below when
he sings Time Machine.
Here is a close up ^^

 

 

 

Time Machine – Cutt

CUTT カット  at CLub Sensation in Yokohama part V

with “Time Machine”

a song and a performance that will sure make you smile!

CUTT radiates such a JOY for what he does and it is contagious!!

by the way here’s a  Ustream version of Time Machine

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/unite1