Saturday, February 28, 2009

J-Pop Bubble Gum Delux

One of my first paid gigs in town has been teaching the owner of a small advertising company how to use Final Cut Pro. He is an excellent guy knee deep in hot stuff around town. Just check out his website:

His agency also represents 3 singers. One is up and coming Baby M. With a mixed background of Japanese and South African decent, music execs and producers see in her the potential to bridge a huge cultural gap. She is a cool girl too. We chatted a bit after the set.

There were other J-Pop events scheduled throughout the night. These guys were on. I can't remember their name as of now. I'll dig it up somewhere.

I'm going to be frank. Girls here don't have breasts like this. Plastic surgery? They call it 整形。
Last up was a true bubblegum troupe, Domino. These three high school girls pranced around on stage with funky neon tights and coordinated neon jumpsuits. They had a video display showing individual shots of each gal. I got the impression that each one was supposed to have a distinct personality. The tall one was the tough gal. She would rap occasionally. The short one in the center was the cute one. And the girl on the right was the hip one. She had 'Saved by the Bell' style 80's bangs and a ponytail.
The J-Pop machine in action.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catching Some Big Air: 栂池

Taka and Saki invited me to go snowboarding with them this weekend near Nagano. On Saturday, we took an early morning bullet train and were on the slopes before noon. The weather was beautiful, the snow was deep, and the scenery was magnificent.

Here I am catching some big air earlier this afternoon. 
And here's Taka going for a mid-air Method grab.
Props to Taka and Saki for showing me such a good time this weekend.
And here are the two of them amidst the Japanese Alps.
The sign literally says, "Suurooo Daown"

My pictures aren't doing the scenery the slightest bit of justice. The grey weather doesn't help. Under blue skies, the mountain range was exquisite. The resort we were boarding at, Tsugaike-kogen, was huge with trails wider than I've ever seen. Behind the mountain were even taller snow-capped peaks sleeping in the background, standing taller and more treacherous than the ski slope.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deeper Into the Tokyo Underground... Part II

I met with a music exec tonight from England who owns a record label and brings Japanese Bands to the UK. He had a small event scheduled at Ruby and told me to come down.

Hanging with him were two ladies from a girl band that he represents, Bo-Peep.

Check it out! These ladies are totally legit:

I'd tell you more about the night spent hanging with a well known band, but I'm sick of bullshitting you with all of my stories.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'm a Hustler

First paid gig of the season! That's 1000yen (~$10) in my pocket!

I played with Chris Silva and Jeff again at Gamuso Chroma. This time, a Japanese guy who plays Indian tabla drums joined in. The music was wild.

Thanks to everyone who came out! You know who you are...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creeped Out

My routine ending my Tuesday nights is fairly regular. I grab my guitar and leave Ruby at 12:40, walk down Dogenzaka street to Shibuya Station, and catch the 12:53 Yamanote Line train home. If I'm with friends, no one bothers me, but if walk alone, things are different. There is one spot about 30 meters down Dogenzaka where women always accost me and ask, "Do you want massaji? Massaji?" (Massage if you couldn't figure it out.) Often, they get right up in your face and follow you for more than a few paces, doing everything short of touching to get your attention.

Generally, I plug into my iPod and avoid eye contact. Then they only ask once and leave me alone.

I have the feeling you get more than a massage...

And whatever they do, it's probably expensive and somehow tied to organized crime. It's more than a little uncomfortable being accosted by these ladies. It's even more unnerving thinking that there must be hordes of dirty businessmen and gaijin who are regular clients, or else they wouldn't be soliciting in the same spot every night.

Tonight, after leading a pickup group on guitar in the last slot at Open Mic, I glanced at my watch and realized I had less than 15 minutes till the last train. I packed up my guitar and took off.

On the way down Dogenzaka, sure enough, I was accosted by my favorite group of nightly ladies.

Here is why I'm creeped out. One of them looked me right in the eye and I swear she said my name, "Eeeesan." Completely startled, all I knew was to follow the routine. I just walked away.

What the f@##$%? Was I hallucinating? Did I misunderstand her? Has she noticed me walk by every Tuesday and somehow gathered my name? Or was it one of my acquaintances in town who happened to be standing around the same place as the massage gals?


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Gadget

What do you guys think? Looks like a cool way to present photos but I'm not into all the buttons and advertisements.

Monday, February 16, 2009


In case you forgot what country I'm from...

Saturday, February 14, 2009


It pays to have Yale connections in town. Back in October, my friend who works for Metropolis magazine put me on the guest list for the publication's Halloween Party. It was my first experience seeing a real Tokyo dance club. This week, she invited me to their Valentine's Day ball. I can't complain; beautiful women were everywhere, the music was poppin', and there was abundant free beer.

While on my way to pick up a drink, I bumped into a few young American guys toasting their beers. I joined in with a hearty "Kan-pai!" Two were white guys, jacked with gelled crew cuts, one of whom was very tall. The third looked biracial (black or hispanic) and had a buzz cut. I should have taken the cue. They were all in the US Navy. We shared a bit of small talk.

I asked the short guy if he knew any Japanese. He proudly responded that he was taking a class but was still having trouble. "This is all I can say," he said. "[This is a chair]." It was easily the worst accent and pacing I have ever heard. I told him there were plenty of people in town who speak English.

First faux pas for the night; I recalled my adventures trying to communicate with Koreans in Seoul while not knowing a word of the language. "In Korea, I would go up to people, point to myself, and say 'OOObama!' and they would all respond, 'OOObama!'"

The biracial guy looked me right in the eye. "Don't even get me started." I recognized my momentary lapse of judgement. Don't bring up politics in friendly conversation with people in the US Military, especially if you are a liberal Ivy League educated snob like myself.

We chatted a bit more. At the first slight pause in conversation, I tactfully took the cue to return to my group of friends.

The Valentine's Ball was pretty decked out. They had DJ's, VJ's, dancers, decorations, and the whole shebang. Glow sticks were even given out to all of the guests. I snagged two and started raving to goof off with my friends. While we were dancing, the Navy guys walked by. The shorter one came over and asked if he could snag my glow sticks. I gave him the sticks and sidelined myself. Then he started raving and showing off to my friends. He knew the dance better and my group was cheering him on.

Then one of their friends approached me and asked me directly in my ear.

"Hey, how much for some bean?"

"What?" I shouted back, with a loud voice to match the music.

"Do you have some bean?"

"No." I responded. I had no idea what he wanted but I figured he must have been asking for drugs.

His name was Mike. He wasn't in the Navy, but he had the same gelled crew cut as the other guys.

"Aren't you guys tripping on E?" he asked. I waved my hands and responded in the negative.

I was taken aback. While I may have been raving with glow sticks a minute earlier, it's hard for me to imagine I looked to be the authentic trance type.

So sorry everyone. I know you are upset, but I don't have any "Bean." And dealing drugs to the US Military overseas probably isn't the best idea. I don't want to get sent to Guantanamo before Obama's order goes into effect...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Published Photos

Remember my photos and review of Deaf Night? Two of my pictures were published in the major Japanese skateboarding magazine, Ollie.

This is precisely the way that I'm hustling in Tokyo and being hustled at the same time. I got into the show for free and had a blast, but I'm not going to see a dime for these shots.

Still, having photos in a major publication should give me more street cred. The blog is getting more attention. I'll keep up the work. You keep up the reading.

Excalibur Rocks

I was just hanging out with my new housemate, Masae, and her two little brothers, Yasuhiro and Wataru. 

The brothers are visiting from Shikoku. I heard the commotion and peaked my head in. She said she could hear me playing guitar and liked the music. I went back to my room and returned with Excalibur. We spent 2 hours talking, playing songs, and hanging out. They had fun learning how to play a few chords.

Funny that I was very adverse to moving to guesthouse at first. I was worried I would be living with drug dealers or something. Turned out to be an excellent move. I feel like I'm in college again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Roomies

The New Roommates:

Takashi - Age: 20 - Paris, France - Occupation: Vocational Student - Is a quarter Japanese and speaks fluently, knows most English words but has yet to address me in my native tongue

Masae - Age: 24 - Shikoku, Japan - Occupation: Student

Yasuhiro - Masae's little brother, crashing with her for the time being

Fumi - Age: 26 - Occupation: Radio Host - We have lots of parallel interests in the music world. She said she could help me look for a job in music.

Sou - Age: 26 - Fumi's boyfriend - Occupation: ??

Nobuhiko (goes by I-chyan) - Age: 22 - Occupation: Waseda University Student - Speaks excellent English, studied abroad at BU


Tokyo Werewolf has a new logo!! Courtesy of Ryan Lowe who put me up in Korea. Please check out his website!

By moonlight, the terrifying inner beast comes forth from within...

More Great Japanese Songs

Let's take a trip from the underground to the popular sphere. Here a few incredible songs that do well to illustrate the styles of music one comes across here.

This is one of my favorite J-Pop songs. The tune has an Okinawan flavor and was a huge hit a few years back. You can find cover versions just about everywhere, including an English version. I even heard a vocal trio sing it at Ruby. I think the soaring vocal melody is nothing short of exquisite.

This song is on the soundtrack of a popular sci-fi anime series, FLCL. This song is definitely indicative of rock trends in Japan. The verse opens with a quirky vocal melody and guitar riff. The band at first comes off as quite eccentric. Then they move to the chorus which in contrast is completely monstrous.

Japanese folk rock from the Woodstock era. This song was featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack. It is definitely one of my favorite songs of all time and one of these days I'm going to have to learn it on guitar. When I tell Japanese people I like this band, I get a lot of big smiles and pats on the back. "Saikou!" they say with a thumbs up. Meaning "the best!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Location: Shimoochiai

I moved to a guesthouse in Shimoochiai today. It was an abrupt but necessary transition. The center of action in Takadanobaba is now only a fifteen minute walk. It will only take a stroll down the street to go rock out with Yugo's Cyber Blues at Diglight and start more fights at Harley.

I met the landlord near Waseda University this morning and she took me to her office to sign the contract. We talked business in English and Japanese. I tried to be personable by using just a little Japanese, but when it came to money and legal issues, I didn't want to give her the upper hand and made sure to stick to English.

Here's something that would only happen here. She asked me how old I was and when I replied, "Twenty-three," she looked surprised. Asians think I'm a few years older for some reason. It turns out she was the same age so we got to talking. I told her a bit about my music projects (after all I was carrying my guitar) and she told me she was into motorcycles. I had been eyeing a small tattoo of a wing on her collarbone during the meeting and took it as a cue to ask if she would show it to me. She then grabbed the collar of her shirt and stretched it all the way to her side, revealing quite a bit of skin, her entire bra strap, and a very sexy tattoo of a rose with two wings.

I know what you are thinking I was thinking, but no, I wasn't thinking that. Neighbor, OK. Teacher, only if you are lucky. Landlord... maybe better to stay away.

Anyway, I moved into the house, introduced myself to some of the roommates, and was quick to get good vibes. The place, while a bit dodgy, has a cozy Japanese atmosphere. From my window, the skyscrapers from downtown Shinjuku pop into view off on the horizon. I have a desk, a bed, and a Japanese style closet with sliding doors. My room looks like a place where a reclusive and tormented author would write an incredible novel. This will be a good place to continue my existence as a Tokyo bohemian.

And the best part, all the roommates are Japanese. One kid is from France and is only a quarter Asian, but he goes by Takashi and hasn't yet let on if he'll speak with me in English. So it looks like Japanese will be the lingua franca for the time being. I'll have no choice but to shape up a little.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


It's 7am here. There was just a tiny tiny earthquake. I have yet to experience a real shaker.