Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ogionsa 2017, July 22

Ogionsa is the 2-day portable shrine parade matsuri held towards the end of July (this last weekend). It's a fairly short event at the best of times, and last year it had maybe half of the participants as it had the year before. So, I was kind of concerned about what the turn out would be this time. I think the organizers may have had the same concerns, because they changed things up a bit. In the past, the first evening was dedicated to the shinto priests blessing the shrines and the shrine carriers within Tenmonkan shopping district, and there would be very little else going on.

This year, the Saturday portion was moved to Central Park 2 blocks away, with the addition of a viewing opportunity for some of the smaller shrines, and the big wagons used for carrying some of the musicians and the main guests of honor.

One of which wagons was already pre-occupied.

There were a number of activities for families and children, including an old-style pinball board, and this game of luck where you pay to pull a string at random, and you win whatever is attached to the other end.

The shrine carrier teams did set up around Tenmonkan in advance to let passersby watch them warm up.

And for parents to give their smaller children to the lead shrine rider to bless them in front of the crowd.

While the side events started in Central Park at about 3 PM, the main stage show was scheduled between 5 PM and 8:30 PM. I had to work Saturday, but I did have a break from 4 to 6 PM. Unfortunately, I also had to do some shopping, so I could only catch about 20 minutes of the above Taiko group. I have seen them before, but they're still fun to watch. I only felt like recording one of their songs, though. The below video includes 2 songs from the group that played on Sunday. I was going to hang around longer, but the organizers scheduled a Hayato Kenshin, the masked mascot for Kagoshima City, stage play at 5:45. When the announcer began reading off her lines from a script "[pretend surprise] Ah, what is this? Who is this mysterious masked figure, could it be? Is it? Yes, it's Hayato Kenshin! [End pretend surprise]" I figured I had better things to do. The least she could had done was memorize her lines in advance. Sigh. Anyway, that was the end of the excitement for Day 1.

Direct youtube link

Saturday, July 22, 2017

One Piece - Greeen

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

Not exactly sure what this is about. The back side of the poster shows some One Piece-related activities and photo spots, and the front says that this is something happening at Tokyo Tower on the last Saturday of the month between April and December this year. I'm not in Tokyo, so I can't check this out, and there's nothing on Greeeen in English on the net.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The 7 Shakespeares, Non Sanz Droict, vol. 1

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

The 7 Shakespeares, Non Sanz Droict, by Harold Sakuishi, Grade: B
Given how big a splash the original 7 Shakespeares manga made, and the fact that Harold is the creator of Beck and Gorillaman, it's surprising to me that there's absolutely nothing on it in English.  The basic idea for the first series (2009-2011) is that what the world now knows as "William Shakespeare" was originally a 7-person team that worked together to create "Shakespeare's" plays. I haven't read that series. I was given a copy of the sequel, Non Sanz Droict (Big Comic Spirits, 2016-), (Shakespeare's family motto - "not without right") and that's why I know anything about this title at all.

(Lance always puts his back into his tasks, and loves raising face plants.)

We have Lance Carter, Milu and Lee riding in a carriage from Liverpool to London in 1588. The coach gets stuck in a muddy rut, and the diminutive Milu and the gung-ho Lance push it out of the mud simply because Lance can't wait anther hour to meet his destiny. Inside the coach is Lee, a weak young woman bundled up in blankets. They reach London, where Lance's friend, Worth Hughes, has purchased a house at the outskirts. Milu acts as cook and housekeeper, while Lance drags Worth to one of the bigger, newer theaters to watch a stage play. Lance has written his next work, Odette, and he attempts to approach the theater's owner to get him to read the manuscript. The problem is, the owner gets several scripts a day from would-be playwrights and other country bumpkins, and he's not interested. Lance interrupts the guy's romp with a girlfriend to blackmail him into reading Odetto. Unfortunately, he hates it and sets it on fire with a candle. The current star writer in London is Christopher Marlowe, and the theater owners are all focused on his latest hit, The Jew of Malta. Lance's play doesn't even come remotely close to being at the same level.

(Everyone's a critic. No, really, they all are.)

Lance refuses to give up, as he goes to every single theater in the city, even the worst dumps, and gets rejected from all of them. He then focuses on studying The Jew of Malta to figure what he's doing wrong. At the same time, he makes the acquaintance of Thomas Soap, a disfigured door to door book seller who used to attend Cambridge, and has memorized many of the books from its library. He's a walking encyclopedia, and he ends up telling Lance about an older Italian story that no one has turned into a play in English, yet. Lance decides to adapt the Italian story, which also features an underhanded Jewish moneylender. But, between him and Lee, the moneylender becomes more human than Marlowe's rendition (Lee writes his big "do we not bleed" speech), and Lance changes the title naming pattern to The Merchant of Venice.

(The crowd loves Marlowe.)

Along the way, Lance finds a wishing fountain and tosses in a coin to pray for success in London, only to have a young boy, Cain, wade into the pool to scoop out all the change to use for buying alcohol for his father. The guy's a mean drunk, and the boy is hoping to protect his mother, Ann, from one of his rages if he doesn't have something to drink in the evening. Lance gives him a bigger coin as a gift so he doesn't have to resort to stealing from the fountain. Ann finds the boy, and she's got bruises on her face. The air is cold and she's under-dressed. Lance gives her his mantle (actually it's Worth's) to keep her warm, which turns out to be a very bad move. When Ann gets home, her husband goes into a rage, accusing her of cheating on him, selling her body in return for nice clothes. He smashes her up really badly, then threatens to kill her when he gets back from the latrine. Cain grabs his mother's arm and drags her out of the house and to Lance's mansion. Lance gladly accepts both of them, to Worth's horror (they're burning through money and his one attempt to find a job from a friend was a failure because the friend had just lost all his money when the ship that had his cargo on it sunk in a storm).

(We finally get to see Lee's brand.)

The volume ends with Lance fixating on starting his own theater, where he can stage Merchant of Venice himself. His crew consists of: Lance, the playwright. Lee, a mysterious Chinese woman in ill-health and with an "x" branded on her throat, who may end up laying Portia, and is Lance's co-writer. Worth, a London dandy that keeps claiming to not understand anything about theater, but he is good-looking and is a charismatic narrator. Milu, the midget housekeeper that has a dramatic streak a mile wide and is dying to play the part of Shylock. Cain, the street urchin might be the one handling door duties and hanging out fliers. Thomas Soap, the bookseller that Lance is using as source material and is not currently an official part of the troupe. And Ann, the abused housewife; she's inept and clumsy, bad at housework, cooking and bringing food to the table, but she turns out to be a heaven-blessed lute player.

Summary: The artwork is very good, and the character designs are solid and consistent. It's just that the idea of turning a one-man historic figure into a 7-person ensemble cast is a very Japanese concept of a subservient team working for the good of the group, versus the western importance of strong individualism. I'm having a lot of trouble buying into the concept. But, I do like the historical realism feel of the buildings and theater designs. If you like 1500's England, and don't mind people messing with Shakespeare's legend, then I recommend Non Sanz Droict.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tatami Busters

I found this old Ghost Busters artwork on the closed shutters of a tatami shop recently. I've been in this area before, but never when the shop was closed for the day. I have no idea what it has to do with tatami, though...

Who you gonna call?
There's no phone number anywhere.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sea Breeze Promo Event

Sea Breeze, the body fragrances company, had an advertising campaign in the open space in Tenmonkan in front of the Lotteria burger shop, on July 15. To be fair, the event wasn't supposed to start until 2 PM, and I got there at 1:30. But still, it's pretty vacant.

What do you do when you announce you want to sell over-priced body care products and no one shows up?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TSOJ enters year 10

When I first sat down to start writing up this entry, on the occasion of TSOJ wrapping up another year in Japan, I was thinking that there really wasn't much to mention this time. Yes, I did have a great trip to Wisconsin to visit family for a few weeks in August. And yeah, there was that kidney stone in November, plus having to spend a night in the hospital after having a polyp removed. Then we had great, though, sporadic live music events, culminating in the Ohara dance fest, the Kagoshima Music Fest and Rokugatsu-gou. I haven't been as active making things this year, though, and Gakken has been pretty much dead as far as new science kits releases go. I've been reading some good science and math books in English, including one on the Riemann Hypothesis, Martin Gardner's Colossal Book of Mathematics, and Simon Singh's 1999 The Code Book. But, not so much for manga. Mainly just the latest C.M.B. and Q.E.D. iff volumes, and one volume each of Area 51 and Ajin. I missed most of the Ohara matsuri, and Ogionsa was practically deserted last year (this year's Ogionsa won't be until July 27th).

Otherwise, I've been pretty much keeping busy with keeping busy. Oh, and um, I tried running for 6 months, but I never got the reader interest from that that I wanted, so it's on hiatus now. And, we got a 5.0 earthquake in Kagoshima the morning I began writing this entry. That was rather scary, but it didn't cause any serious damage to any of the buildings in the city.

Now, we get to see what year 10 brings.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Rokugatsu-tou, July 16, 2017

Day 2 was pretty much like day 1, except that the event stage didn't have any professional acts (except maybe for YOKO at 6:45 PM, who I missed) this time. I had an early dinner at home, then left to visit Terukuni shrine at 7 PM. I did record a few of the acts, but mainly for my own personal video collection, because they were either a little too amateurish, or used copyrighted material; regardless, most of the videos wouldn't survive on youtube. The exceptions were the below folk dance, and the taiko group. One thing I did differently, though, was to sit through all of the performances to figure out what exactly is going on. What I finally figured out is that in general we have cultural schools, or dance groups, that perform for 3 or 4 songs each, but that usually there are smaller teams within those schools that are on stage for one song each. Above, you can see the announcement board for Tago Ryuu (Tago may be a city name, ryuu = school). the performer is doing a slow traditional dance for "Rikishi Taiko" (Sumo drum).

The Ka Fura Oka Aina hula group.

Yamabuki Kai (kai = association) doing storytelling dances. 1) Muhoumatsu no Isshou (The Life of the Lawless Pine). There's a big write-up of this play in Japanese on wikipedia, but not in English.

Yamabuki-kai 2) Suika (Drunk song). The woman is portraying a dandy who has a night out on the town drinking sake.

Yamabuki-kai 3) Ryuten no Hatoba (The Life on the Wharf).

Rokudou Ryuu 3) Kagoshima Hitomawari (To go around Kagoshima). Traditional style slow dance.

Actor's Factory. This one needs a bit of an explanation. The group consisted of three school kids, the female lead singer and two brothers doing hip hop dancing in the background for all 3 songs. The second song, pictured here, was a solo - Kokoro no Hana wo Sakaseyou (The Flower of My Heart is Blooming). The hip hop dancing was marginal, and the songs were copyrighted covers.

NPO Organization Ranranran doing flamenco dances.

Yamada Jazz Dance School. Again, copyrighted music, one of which was Nickelback's "Burn it to the Ground," which I think the same group also did last year.

And yet one more festival that finished way too quickly. Sigh. Next up, Ogionsa, at the end of July.

Direct youtube link for part 1

Direct youtube link for part 2

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rokugatsu-tou, July 15, 2017

I've been waiting for Rokugatsu-tou (or Rokugatsu-gou depending on which dialect you use), the celebrations of the anniversary of the death of Kagoshima's favorite Edo-era feudal lord, Nariakira Shimadzu. It's a two-evening festival that starts at 6 PM and runs until 9-10 at night. Although, the live stage activities go from 6:30 to 830-9 PM depending on how well they keep to the schedule. Every year is pretty much the same. There are the food, drink and novelties booths lining the street leading up to Terukuni Shrine. In the parking lot they have the lanterns made by school kids and advertising the various companies that support the event, an ikebana (flower arranging) display, and the stage. All that really changes from year to year are the performers on the stage.

It's a little after 6 PM at this point, and I'd estimate that there's easily 1,000 people crowding the street between the food stalls.

Some of the banner lanterns. Most are pretty childish and not worth taking pictures of. A couple are really good, but one or two of the photos were ruined because the clear plastic over the paper reflected the blue of the sky, flooding out the images underneath.

A long-shot of the ikebana tents, just to give an impression of what the layout looks like.

Closer shots of the more interesting arrangements.

If you look at the back of the base of the above arrangement, you'll see one of the participants.

The traditional bamboo hoop. Couples going through the hoop three times in a figure-8 will have a long romantic life together

Cat daruma.

The live stage, with one of the two Taisho Goto groups. AKA the Taisho harp, it's basically a cross between a typewriter keyboard and a guitar. Each player gets associated with one or two notes, and everyone together ends up making the full song. Kind of like with a bell ringer group.

Most of the performances are put on by amateur groups, culture clubs and dance schools. The exceptions were on Saturday with Seven Colors, which does work professionally as a pop idol dance ensemble, and Wicky Toshi (below).

Seven Colors, Kagoshima's version of AKB48. They aren't all that good normally, but they were plagued by an inept sound guy this time. The sound guy kept adjusting the mike levels wrong all evening, and there was howling feedback whenever anyone sang.

Wicky Toshi and Kana. Wicky owns the Wicky House bar and live stage a few blocks away, and loves covering the Japanese group Southern All-Stars. He's fun to watch, but because he covers copyrighted music, there's no point in uploading anything to youtube because the songs get hit by the filter blocks.

Direct youtube link

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Box, vol. 2

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

Box, vol. 2, by Daijirou Morohoshi, Grade: A
The survivors, Megumi, Kouji, Chieko and Shinichirou, continue down one of the cave-like passages, with everyone but the architect helping push the wheeled box containing the fused Tani husband and wife. The passage splits a couple of times, so Shinichirou, and then Kouji, go exploring on their own. The wheeled box is set in an alcove, and Megumi and Chieko go together down a third passage. The ultimate result is that Chieko confronts Megumi for acting too much like a girl, while the boy wants to know why "premonition woman" keeping using "desu/masu" speech forms (entirely too polite for normal conversations). They end up fighting, and Chieko pushes Megumi through a wall (in this area, the passage walls are very soft and crumbly), revealing Kouji standing in the next passage over. The three of them enter a room with the next door at the same time as Shinichirou. This time, though, the door doesn't open. They try solving Shinichirou's block, but to no effect. Eventually, Kouji realizes that all of the doors so far have moved in directions that imitate his puzzle box. And, if that's the case, the next move is to go back to door 3 and close it again before this new one will move.

(The group encounters branching passages and splits up)

Kouji, Megumi and Chieko go back to where the Tani box is waiting, but there's still the issue of how Kouji will get through the monsters waiting for him farther on. Suddenly, the box opens and Tani sticks out his hand with his cane, and the box closes again. They get back to the previous door, and Kouji bolts through it, bashing his way through the monsters. Chieko stays by the door to let the boy back in again, while Megumi returns to get the Tani box to safety, promising to join the girl right away. But, the passage is very rocky, and Megumi can't push the trolley up the bumps on his own. Kyouko happens by, and mentions that there are secret passages behind the walls, if he wants to explore them on his own, which he does. But, the cube's caretaker arrives, and is still very angry at the Kyouko for evading her monsters earlier. They end up fighting, with the caretaker using a special attack to collapse the floor and bring down the ceiling. Kyouko counters with a similar attack, which threatens to drop the Tani box down a deep hole. Shinichirou gets concerned about all the rumbling and goes back to where Chieko is waiting. She attempts to open the door at the agreed upon time, but Shinichirou stops her, yelling that Kouji has probably abandoned them, and there's no reason to risk letting the monsters into this part of the passage.

(Kouji realizes that the doors in the Cube correspond to the sliding panels in his puzzle box.)

Kouji gets to door 3, but it won't budge. Chieko and Shinichirou squabble, until Makoto shows up. The dismembered folk lore researcher has turned into a monster himself, and he starts to menace Chieko. But she plays on his rather obvious affection for Shinichirou, so the monster chases the architect down the hall. Chieko opens her door, allowing Kouji to finally close his. Chieko returns to the Tani box, but there's now a big hole in the way, and the route behind her is filling up with monsters. Meanwhile, Megumi discovers Kouji, and the two of them retreat into the secret passage Megumi has been following.  There's another quake, bringing the Tani box closer to Chieko, sealing off Megumi's tunnel, and bringing a ton of rocks down on Makoto to save Shinichirou. The Tanis open their box to let Chieko in to wait in safety; the cube caretaker decides to help Shinichirou; and Megumi reveals to Kouji that at times he really has felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body. Shinichirou wants out of the game, and the caretaker shows that she knows all about him - he's a scam artist who had designed his buildings with cheap materials, and the places had collapsed in an earthquake. He's currently on the lam, trying to avoid the media hounding him. She says that yes, there is a way for him to leave the game. A little later, Kyouko happens by, and the architect "tricks" her into accepting his puzzle box and entry ticket stub. Unfortunately for him, that's exactly what she'd been hoping for, and she gladly takes them. The Cube allows her replace Shinichirou in the game, but it's angry at the architect, and the guy discovers that he's melded into the wall. He yells for help as he slowly turns into a wall monster.

(Kyouko happily takes the puzzle box while Shinichirou brags about tricking her. It doesn't immediately dawn on him that there's a price to be paid for making the Cube angry.)

There's another quake, and Megumi's tunnel collapses, dumping him and Kouji into the room with the Tani box, but on opposite sides of the hole. Kouji tries to find a passage to get over to the opposite side, as Megumi reaches the box and the Tanis open the door from inside to let Chieko out. She's furious at having been left on her own, and she slaps Megumi in the face. The Tanis beg them to not fight. Then, one of the bigger monsters reaches the pit and heads for the box. Megumi forces the Tanis to get out, and they hobble down another passage. The quakes get stronger, and loose rocks fall on everyone's heads. The fused Tani husband and wife claim they can't go any farther, and they sit down to rest, only to begin melding into the wall as well. They say that they're happy with this, as they've both lived long lives and want all of this to end. They give their puzzle card to Megumi, and disappear under the rubble. Kouji comes up, too late to do anything to help. Kyouko shows up with Shinichirou's puzzle box and ticket stub, saying that she's part of their party now, and that the guy had given them to her willingly. The group heads for where Shinichirou was last seen, but his body is missing, and there's a huge tear along the entire wall heading in the direction of the next door. Shinichirou peers from around a corner, and it's apparent that he is a monster, with bricks for a body. He chases Kyouko around, demanding revenge, and she uses the same tricks the caretaker had to collapse the floors and walls (doing so only when the rest of the party are looking the other way).

(Omake puzzle page, and the caretaker watching as the cave collapses.)

The biggest monster so far crashes into Shinichirou, and he absorbs it for a "power up." The caretaker is waiting for Kyouko, and tells the woman they better hurry up, or everyone is going to die here. The woman asks if all the damage they're doing is going to inconvenience the next group of puzzlers after them, and the caretaker (who has also been called akuma shojo, or "devil girl") simply says that there have been times when no one has gotten out alive, and the damage doesn't matter because the Cube always resets at the beginning of the next game. The only way out is to get to the farthest area at the back of the Cube and claim whatever is it that akuma says is "the prize" (to do that, they need to solve all the puzzles, and collect all of the reward cards into one place). Eventually, Kouji locates the next door, but Chieko and Megumi are still in a different passage, and the precog goth loli claims to be tired and needing a rest. She refuses to go any farther, and Megumi waffles over whether to leave her behind. In the end, he can't do it, and it turns out that the girl is just messing with him anyway. Kouji doubles back, berates both of them for taking too long, and they return to the room with the door. The problem right now is that the door is up 10 feet above the floor, and there's no steps leading to the ledge in front of it. Kyouko runs into the room, chased by the block monster, and she collapses another part of the wall to slow the thing down, inadvertently creating a rubble pile hill up to the ledge. The group reaches the ledge, with Kouji pushing Chieko's butt to get her to move faster (she is still barefoot, having lost her shoes in the cutting people in two box room) and she stops to complain about being sexually harassed. The block monster starts coming up the rubble, and everyone races for the door. Kouji slides it open, and the group rushes through, closing the door behind them. The entire room collapses, destroying Shinichirou, and just leaving the wall and the door behind. On the other side, akuma shojo congratulates them for clearing that stage, and gives a puzzle card to Kouji. She points them to the next door and disappears into the shadows. The volume ends with the remaining heroes - Kouji, Megumi, Chieko and Kyouko, going through the door and finding themselves on a narrow staircase winding around the inside of a very deep pit.

Summary: I'm enjoying this story, and I can't wait to find out what happens next. The artwork is uneven, and characters' faces can change from panel to panel, but the dialog and interactions are fun, and I like all the puzzles, and omake gags on the splash pages. Highly recommended. Book three should come out in the Fall of 2017.