Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chaos Note review

I've mentioned Hideo Azuma before. He's a manga artist that was popular in the 1970's for his lolicon drawings, primarily of high school girls. In the 80's and 90's, due to the pressures put on him by his editors, he cracked and became a homeless alcoholic on several occasions. His Disappearance Diary recounts his time in a rehab clinic.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Chaos Note, 2014, East Press, Grade: A.
Chaos Note is Hideo's first manga work following Disappearance Diary. While he describes this as sort of a daily diary, it's really a collection of short surreal gags that follow the pattern "XX Day, X Month, I turned into a cat", or something similar. Many of the gags are only 2 panels, with two gags on one page. Others can be grouped as "Today I went mountain climbing", "Today I read a pop-up book" and "Today I went on a pilgrimage". These specifically are recurring themes that resurface occasionally. A few of the gags can be up to 2 or 4 pages long, while "Man eater" and "Trip to Hell" are probably the longest, at 5-6 pages.

If you're familiar with Tori Miki's Anywhere but Here gag series, there are a lot of similarities, in part because Tori is a fan of Hideo's, but possibly also because Hideo worked with Tori on producing at least one of his own books (Tori's interview with Hideo appeared at the back of one book). Regardless, Hideo has his own unique style which shines from cover to cover.

"(XX Day, X Month, I read a pop-up book.")

Some of the artwork isn't appropriate for minors, or anyone who is easily offended. Hideo is a heavy smoker, and cigarettes and sake, are a part of his character. Some of the jokes poke fun at his relapses, while the word "Sober" on his t-shirt is a constant reminder that alcohol is not his friend.

I enjoy Hideo's gag work and the more surreal elements. I highly recommend Chaos Note to fans of Anywhere But Here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Barrier Free

The second event on the 16th was another one-day music fest in front of Amupla. This one was the 6th Kagoshima Chuo Station Festival, and it featured music most of the day. One of the announcers was a local DJ, but he was spending his time walking around trying to get people to sign some kind of a form. The text at the top of the back wall says that the event is in part an effort to make stores and businesses in Kagoshima barrier-free to the handicapped. The second female vocalist on the stage, to the right, is in a wheelchair.

This group is the Zousan Band. The first couple songs were slow ballads, but I did manage to record one piece that rocked pretty well. I think the title is "Can't Sleep". I can't find a good web link to the band or the lyrics, unfortunately.

Direct youtube link for video 1.

The following song was also a slow ballad, so I went inside the mall to get some coffee from Kaldi and kill a little time. Ironically, the stage itself was not barrier free, and 4 guys had to run up and help lower the one vocalist's wheelchair down to the ground.

The next act on stage was going to be the Little Cherries. LC is very well-known in Kagoshima, and I've heard a lot about them from several sources. But, I had yet to see them perform. Little Cherries was first formed around 1980 and is a jazz band made up of elementary and middle school students. They've toured the world multiple times in each incarnation, and have won various music competitions. There may be upwards of 60 members total, but only 20 played this time.

I recorded 2 songs, plus the bit where each member is introduced. They were very good, and are worth watching again.

Direct youtube link for video 2.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tax Fair

Saturday, the 15th, had four major events, but there was a fifth, so to speak, set up in Tenmonkan in the area in front of the 7-11. There were a number of hanging boards along the walkway, with art and advertising on them, but nothing really worth writing about. Sunday, I swung by Central Park to verify that the stage and stalls from the Anglo-Satsuma matsuri had been taken down, then dropped by the 7-11 to see if the stage there was being used yet.

And, actually, it was. The hanging boards were part of a kind of stamp rally, and two tables nearby were handing out cotton candy and some kind of grab bag. Also in attendance was a clown making balloon animals, and three foamheads. Two of the characters represent Kagoshima - Guree-buu and Sakura. The third might have been made for this event - Manabu- (which is a pun. "Manabu" means "to study", while "buu" is the sound pigs make in Japan. As a reminder, Guree-buu uses a similar pun, for "green" and "oink". Sakura just refers to cherry trees. Guree-buu and Sakura were both created about 4 years ago to promote a local program for putting flowers along the streets throughout the city.)

The event, though, was The Tax Festa, an educational program to help people do their taxes (which are due soon).

The event schedule included some music, and the presence of a local female radio host. I didn't recognize any of the names, so I didn't stick around for any of it.

Someone put up a big banner over the hanger boards. I can't read it, but it may have something to do with taxes. From here, I went up to the main Chuo train station again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

City Fest

(Tree's up again.)

On the 15th, I went up to Amupla to see if there was anything going on. There were two events, actually. One was an arts and crafts fair in the plaza next to the bus parking area. The other was something billed as a "City Matsuri". Most of the booths contained displays and objects for sale from various NPO groups. A few of them were handing out cherry tomatoes and small samples of tea.

You could play with clay (nendo) at one booth.

Not a lot of people out today. The sky was clear, but the temps were a bit cool (maybe in the 50's).

I didn't see a performance schedule, so I don't know which groups were playing on stage. One was just leaving as I arrived, and the instruments stayed on the tables as the second group took their places. The instrument is called a "taishogoto", or "Taisho harp". It's named after the Taiso era (1912-1926), when it was created, and it combines a kind of typewriter keyboard with piano strings. The strings are plucked with the right hand, and the left plays the keyboard, which frets the strings, changing pitch. These are an electric version, from Suzuki, called the Tokumatsu. The players seemed to go out of tune, or slow down a bit, occasionally, but they sounded remarkably good for the number of people all playing together like this.

Taisho Harps

Direct youtube link

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hokkaido Fair

The Yamakataya department store used the nearby open space in front of Lotteria to host some booths selling fish and produce from Hokkaido.

One booth advertised Nikka Whiskey. It was founded by Masataka Taketsuru, nicknamed Massan. Massan traveled to Scotland in 1918 to study whiskey distilling. While there, he met and married Jessie Roberta (Rita) Cowan. There's currently an NHK TV drama running called "Massan", based on what happened when Massan returned to Japan with a foreign wife, while at the same time trying to start up his own company.

Hokkaido food and bar.

Foamhead mascot trying to encourage people to come buy stuff. I think the "A" stands for "anchovy".

Monday, November 17, 2014

Anglo-Satsuma Fair

On Nov. 15, the Japan-British Society of Kagoshima held a one-day fair in Central Park, as part of the countdown to the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration.

The fair consisted of various booths advertising local Kagoshima products (shochu) and talking about British products (chips, beer and lemon curd), plus tea and flowers. The stage events were largely put on by high school students. One band played later Beatles covers. They were pretty good, but the songs were slowed down by maybe 10 or 20%.

Lawn bowling.

Not a lot of people despite the good weather, but the audience stayed focused on the performances. It was a bit cool, maybe in the 50's, which might have kept some people at home.

The centerpiece was a flower display, with demonstrations and a talk by a Japanese floral arranger.

Baker Street W1 booth, which mainly had photos of London and some example food products.

The second act up was a group of high school baton twirlers. I couldn't get a good angle so I didn't record them.

Overall, it's a good start. One of the people I talked to there said that they were planning to make some changes to improve the event next year.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Shichi, Go, San

When I was approaching Central Park to see the Anglo-Satsuma Matsuri last Saturday, I noticed there was some activity at the nearby Terakuni Shrine. It just so happened that that day coincided with the Japanese tradition of Shichi-Go-San. Literally, it means "7, 5, 3". In the past, Japan had a high infant mortality rate, and young children would be taken to a shrine to be blessed when they reached specific ages. In part, it was a celebration because if the child reached that age, the odds were good that they'd live to adulthood. For girls, it's ages 3 and 7, and for boys, 3 and 5.

There were a few food booths selling cotton candy, hot dogs, and takoyaki. And lots of masks. Points if you can identify the characters.

Shinto priest cutout, if anyone wanted to pose with it.

As always, visitors buy fortunes. If the fortune turns out to be less than stellar, they can try to avert it by tying the fortune paper to something on the shrine grounds.

Family members partaking in a ceremony to bless the children in the area at the time.

Girls are dressed up in kimono, boys in western suits or hakama.