Sunday, November 13, 2011


Some amazing Japanglish...

I saw this one over the stairs leading down from the Shinkansen platform in Fukui Station:
(FUT- Fukui University of Technology)

Monday, November 7, 2011


I know it's been a while since my last posting in spring. Apologies for the long hiatus. A lot has happened since then, way too much to update you on now. Most notably, October 14th marked my 3rd year anniversary in Japan. Can you believe it? The Tokyo Werewolf has been roaming the Land of the Rising Sun for over 3 years!

Now back to some of the good stuff, the real reason you guys read these things...

The other day, I was at Ruby Room talking with one of the bartenders. She is a student at Waseda University and mentioned that their university festival was to be held that weekend. AKB48 and ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION were playing, along with other famous acts. Different clubs and departments throughout the university were setting up booths and a plethora of events were scheduled throughout the weekend. I had the day free on Saturday, so I made plans to meet up with her and her friends.

For some reason or other, the festival website wasn't working, so I wasn't able to see the line-up of events. I stumbled into the university campus around 2PM, figuring I could pick up a schedule and find out what time Asian Kung-Fu Generation was playing. While roaming into campus, I could hear loud music emanating from a concert space. Could it be? I followed the music to the school gymnasium and entered the gates. I glanced around to see if there were any ticket booths or security guards, but there were none that I could reckon. I surreptitiously walked through the open doors right into the gargantuan space, suddenly in the presence of thousands of Japanese youngsters shouting in unison at the stage. Surely enough, up there in the distance was Asian Kung-Fu Generation rocking the stage amidst flashing lights, teleprompters, and a wall of loudspeakers. I tapped a kid's shoulder and asked what time the show began. He said only 20 minutes ago. Having just stumbled into a school gymnasium where one of my all-time favorite Japanese rock bands was playing, it was clear that my timing was nearly perfect.

Ever since getting my hands on a copy of Surf Bungagku Kamakura, an album that lionizes the beautiful small towns of Shonan Beach, Ajikan (the band's nickname) has been one of my favorite Japanese rock bands. They blend elements of hard rock, alternative rock, and emo-punk to create their own breed of music that, thanks to singer Masafumi Goto's wonderful voice, maintains an introspective and emotional quality. Ajikan's best songs are power-pop hits that are driven by heavy guitars, emotive lyrics, and passionate vocals.

Check out the theme song to Solanin, a recent rock 'n' roll film that features one of their singles:

Recently, I've been a bit bummed by the pressures of the working world, and as you can imagine, some of the luster of living abroad wanes after 3 years. But seeing so many Japanese young people rocking out to an incredible band reminded me why I came here in the first place. Not to mention the greater school festival itself, it was definitely a great show and a great day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Saki, the drummer from Tance Boy has another group that she plays with, Cardigan. I went to see them for the first time tonight. They are quite a bit softer than most of the Tokyo bands that I follow around, but they have a great sense of melody and I think are worth checking out. Listen for yourself:

The second song on the playlist, 愛してる, (Ai Shiteru - "I Love You") shows the band's wide range of emotion. I like some of the odd harmonies that heighten the tension during the chorus.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Guitar Wolf - Blurb in Metropolis

Metropolis Magazine's recent feature, Pantheon of Japanese Rock Gods, included a blurb about Guitar Wolf that I whipped up. Scroll down to #12:

Pantheon of Japanese Rock Gods

Here is a shot of frontman Guitar Wolf Seiji that I snapped in spring of 2005 at CBGB's in New York City. I know I've posted this photo before, but I think the occasion is appropriate. I was a college sophomore back then and the show basically blew my mind. I was inspired enough to even try on a pair of leather pants.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Travel Agency at the Ruby Room

Thanks to everyone who came out last night!! Travel Agency put on an incredible show. After a few major technical mishaps, the band got started and played a short yet intense set. I'll upload more photos later, but for now, check out their awesome UV style:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This Friday: Travel Agency at the Ruby Room

SUGAR WALLS: Live Music and DJ's
FRI, MAY 20th
The Ruby Room, Shibuya
¥1500 (w/dr)
8-9:30PM            DJ Hoari
9:30-10:30PM     Travel Agency (live French electro-newpop)

This month, Sugar Walls welcomes French electro-newpop trio Travel Agency. They've come all the way from France, so let's show them a big welcome. Their tracks look pretty awesome and I am definitely keen on this show:

Please note the early start time. Beer Pong people, we can set up a table and play, but it has to be before 9:30PM, so please come on the early side.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Fractures

This past evening, I went down to Shibuya to check out The Fractures, a great Tokyo rock band that has shared the stage with Sunset Drive on a number of occasions. I've been running into their bassist Nobu at Ruby Room quite a bit recently, and last night, he told me to come down to one of their shows this week.

The band took the stage at Kinoto in the south-side of Shibuya at 9:15 this past evening for a quick but thoroughly enjoyable set. The Fractures are a three-piece band that goes for a garage rock sound that is hard but not too heavy. Singer Daichi sings in Japanese, but takes on the affect of a British-invasion era vocalist. Nobu's backup harmonies add to the vintage vibe. It's been a while since I've enjoyed a live show from a young indie band and I would definitely recommend checking out this group if you get a chance.

Their webpage has some good videos to check out. I think this video best gets at my description:

If possible, I'm going to try to snag them for one of my upcoming events, so please stay tuned.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Tateyama Alpine Route, Matsumoto, Kamikochi, and Shizuoka

For Golden Week this year, I decided to ditch Tokyo and head to the heartland. I took the train up to Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture to traverse the Tateyama Alpine Route.

One the way up the mountain, the bus passes through Yuki no Otani, the Great Valley of Snow. Huge annual snowdrifts are some of the biggest in the world. This year's wall of snow was 17 meters high!

I stayed in a lodge near the top of Tateyama in Murodo. A quick walk led to amazing views of the snowy mountains. Here you can see a hiker's camp at the base of the peaks.

The next morning, I continued down the other side of the mountain to the Kurobe Dam. At 186 meters in height, it is the largest dam in Japan.

From there, I continued on to Matsumoto, a quiet mountain city in Nagano Prefecture which is famous for having the oldest standing castle in Japan.

The following morning, I awoke early and headed up to Kamikochi, an mountain valley with spectacular views. I was confronted by magnificent alpine scenery, marshlands, and even wild monkeys...

That evening, I called up Toshi from Sunset Drive and joined him and his family at his home in Shizuoka.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blizzard In Tokyo

No, just kidding. I'm currently high up in the mountains in Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture. This place is the sight of some of the world's biggest snow drifts; the highest observable part of the wall of snow today was 17 meters tall... and it's already May 2nd if you haven't noticed. I feel like it's the middle of winter...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vinyl From the Vault: One Way and Chaka Khan

Another great find from Disk Union in Kichijoji:

I Feel For You by Chaka Khan features the eponymous title track originally penned by Prince. Who's Foolin' Who by One Way features the funk classic, "Cutie Pie", which also currently happens to be my favorite phrase to refer to girls I have my eye on.

Maybe I will spin these two tracks at my next party on May 20th.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chirinuru Wowaka - Interview for Metropolis

Towards the end of last February, I interviewed Yuu from Chirinuru Wowaka and GO!GO!7188 for Metropolis Magazine. The article was finally published last Friday. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts!

Chirinuru Wowaka Interview for Metropolis

Unfortunately, it was nearly impossible to compress the key points from an hour-long interview into a mere 800 words. I will say this though, for all of Yuu's shyness, once you get her talking she really lets it all out. Yuu is a very cool person and an incredibly talented musician, and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to sit down with her.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Akira - Reviewed by A.O. Scott Review

The New York Times' A.O. Scott just posted a stunning review of the classic anime, Akira.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beer Pong... Amidst a Nuclear Crisis

Beer Pong stops for no one...

Oddly enough, we had a decent crowd last night. But in all seriousness, I just wanted to send out my love to all those who decided to stick it out in Tokyo this week. It's been an incredibly stressful couple of days for all of us.

The situation in Fukushima is far from over, but things are looking up for the first time in a while. Everyone, please stay alert and informed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Hopeful Sign in Tense Time

I was in Shinjuku-Gyoen today and saw this beautiful tree, a breed of Cherry Blossom that blooms early.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Slight Atmosphere of Panic in Tokyo

While Tokyo is quite removed from the catastrophe up north, a slight feeling of panic pervades the atmosphere here. Over the weekend, centers of town like Shinjuku and Shibuya were half empty and many  businesses and shops were closed. Small tremors call still be felt every few hours.

Rumors and hysteria have been spreading via facebook and cellphones and some of my foreign friends have been making plans to go home. The news about the nuclear reactors in Fukushima is the most unnerving, but fortunately the plant is 150 miles north of Tokyo and the government has only advised people in the immediate vicinity to evacuate.

I would advise everyone to remain calm and stay alert.

No bread at my local supermarket:

Perishable foods are also running out fast:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An appeal to those concerned about the earthquake

To those of us in Tokyo,

Please don't propagate rumors, false information, and hysteria about the earthquake via facebook and cellphones. Don't contribute to unnecessary panic here and abroad.

Thank goodness that most of us are OK and that the earthquake wasn't as strong in this part of the country.

To those of you outside Japan,

Despite a few isolated incidents, Tokyo is more or less OK after the earthquake. Things will be back to normal quite soon. Don't buy into the unnecessary panic brought on by the news. Most of us in this region of the country are completely fine.

Unfortunately, it's a different story up north in Tohoku where the situation is catastrophic. Please focus your thoughts and energies there where they really count.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I was in my house this afternoon working on my taxes when Tokyo was suddenly hit by a moderately large Earthquake, by far the largest one I've ever experienced. My entire house was shaking. At first I ducked under my desk, but then I realized that I should run outside before the quake grew any larger.

I got out to the sidewalk and could see the trees in the neighborhood shaking pretty violently. I was standing on solid ground, but felt pretty disoriented by the shaking earth. Thankfully, the quake died down after a minute or two.

It's been about three hours from the initial quake, but aftershocks are still hitting the city. I can't tell if I'm just dizzy or if the ground is still gently shaking.

It was definitely a bit of a scare, but everyone here is OK.

A gas storage tank caught fire in Chiba near Tokyo. There are also reports of tsunamis hitting the coast up in the northern regions.
Check the news for updates on the situation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Pillows at Studio Coast

This past evening, I went to see The Pillows, one of my all-time favorite Japanese rock bands, rock out at Studio Coast in Shinkiba. It was my first time seeing the band play live. I've been in Tokyo for almost two and a half years now, and during the show I couldn't help but wonder... what the hell was I waiting for?!

I think The Pillows played one of the best live shows I've seen during my entire time in Japan. Their music is upbeat, loud, straight ahead, and above all else, fun. They have the same appeal of American bands like Weezer and the Ramones, who both in their heyday were know for rock 'n' roll music based on straightforward guitar harmonies and catchy hooks. Unpretentious and unaffected, The Pillows are simply a great rock 'n' roll band.

The group has been around since 1989; indeed they celebrated their 20th anniversary already two years ago. All of the members are in their 40's and the Japanese press likes to kid around by calling them a bunch of ojisan, or old guys. But I think the enduring quality of their music shows that there is more to rock 'n' roll than youth and trends. There are plenty of hot young bands in Tokyo, but few of them could repeatedly fill large venues like Studio Coast with thousands, and even fewer could get such a strong reaction from the crowd; the audience begged for 2 encores.

For a good introduction to The Pillows' music, get your hands on the DVD's of FLCL, a 6-part anime series that in and of itself is a great example of Japanese animation. The soundtrack to the series is essentially a 'best of' album for The Pillows, showcasing the many moods that the band is capable of, while all along sounding energetic and fun.

For now though, I will leave you with one of the band's best songs, "Sorachuu Resistor". You can clearly hear how the band has their own updated take on classic 50's rock 'n' roll harmony.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Karuizawa - 軽井沢

I took a day trip to Karuizawa in Nagano today. The snow was pretty dull, but the convenience was hard to beat. The morning Shinkansen whisks you right to the mountain in less than an hour and a half. The view of Asama Mountain and the surrounding Northern Japanese Alps veiling the horizon was also quite beautiful.

Looking down the slop with Asama Mountain in the background:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Vinyl From the Vault: DJing THIS FRIDAY

I'm back up on the wheels of steel this Friday at the Ruby Room.

SUGAR WALLS (DJ's & Beer Pong)
FRI, FEB 18th - 8pm~late
¥1500 (1drink + game)

Yes, you guessed it, Apollonia Kotero (circa 1984), is our spokeswoman. My set will be at 8PM, so come by after work if you have time!

And adding to the tension, yesterday at Disk Union in Kichijoji, I stumbled across hidden treasure.
Prince by Prince, easily my all-time favorite record. I first found this album at a record shop in Harvard Square when I was 19. I vividly remember holding it in my hand in wondering if I wanted to shell out the $7 or not. I bought the album, took it home, set it on my turntable, and my life has never been the same.

This is Your Bloody Valentine, the first album released by My Bloody Valentine. It's nothing compared to the group's followup releases Isn't Anything (my person favorite) and their masterpiece Loveless, but nevertheless this album is an important part of rock history. The singles compilation in the purple jacket is much better musically speaking. Some of the songs have a touch of the washy shoegaze guitars that characterize the group's signature sound that they had yet to develop.

And finally, the self-titled album Skull Snaps, a legendary rare funk record whose drum breaks have been sampled by every rapper since the dawn of Hip-hop.

I'm looking forward to spinning a few of these babies in a couple of days. See you there!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chirinuru Wowaka - チリヌルヲワカ - Round II

I said in my last post that I would go see Wowaka again next week. Well I kept my word and went to see them rock Shibuya's O-West this evening. My only complaint is that they didn't play my favorite song, Kasugai. Here's the video if you are curious. I think this song totally rocks.

I didn't bring my camera this time, so here is another photo that I snapped last week.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chirinuru Wowaka - チリヌルヲワカ

While Akko from GO!GO!7188 is on maternity leave, guitarist Yuu Nakashima has taken the opportunity to focus on her other band, Chirinuru Wowka (known as Wowaka to English speaking audiences). Recently, they've been touring extensively in support of an upcoming mini-album release scheduled for April. Last Friday night, Wowaka played at Koenji High with Kinoco Hotel, the retro rock group that I first saw with GO!GO! last May.

While GO!GO!'s sound is ska-influenced and playful, Wowaka takes on a more straight ahead rock-oriented approach. Simply put, the band's songs have an anthemic quality, supported heavily by second guitarist Natsuki Sakamoto. To non-Japanese speakers and first-time listeners, Yuu's high pitched vocals and use of falsetto can be a bit off-putting, something definitely apparent in GO!GO!'s quirkier songs. But in Wowaka's music, I think Yuu has found a fitting match for her characteristic vocal style. The band's newest single, White Hall, definitely illustrates this synthesis.

As a musician and artist, Yuu is mysterious and fascinating. In person, she is painfully shy and unassuming. It's almost hard to imagine that she fronts two well-known rock bands. Her posture is slightly awkward and her bangs often hide half her face. I've had countless opportunities to talk with her, yet somehow our conversations never go beyond everyday greetings. She is no different on stage, where she only lets out a few sentences during her set, all with an overly reserved tone that suggests a shy girl more than a grown woman.

But all of this changes when she plugs in her signature Telecaster guitar. As I've written time and time again, she can totally wail; she is a brilliant guitarist admired far and wide in Japan. Her fretwork is complex and busy, yet oddly tasteful. During her solos, Yuu often steps up onto a small podium placed center-stage and showcases her energetic playing for a wild-stricken audience. At the end, she always leans deeply into her last slide down the fretboard.

Akko's ability to fire up a hungry crowd is hard to replace, but Wowaka certainly had their fans jumping off their feet. I'm going to have to go see them again next week.

Chirinuru Wowaka

Yuu Nakashima, brilliant and mysterious

Guitarist Natsuki Sakamoto was the bubbliest in the group. After the show, he let me strum is 1969 Les Paul which he claimed cost him 15 grand.

Kitsch-rock outfit Kinoco Hotel took the final slot of the night. They deserve a post in their own right.

One of the most exciting moments of the night was when their lead singer jumped up on her keyboard to do a risque dance.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Please don't touch me there...

I saw this sign on the wall of Katase-Enoshima Station:
The translation is something like, "With all our devotion, we give you our heart." It looks like the guy is getting a little bit more than that...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vinyl From the Vault: DJing THIS WEEKEND

I'm DJing at Ruby Room this Saturday night from 11PM until 12:30AM! Definitely come by and funk around with us!

Here are some new records I picked up at Recofan in Ikebukuro for the occasion. Pandemonium by The Time completes my collection of all the group's albums. Does anybody remember Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell? Perhaps this may help. You don't have to listen very carefully to hear Michael Jackson's voice in the background.

 And of course a little Stevie can't hurt...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Autumn Travels

I wanted to share with you some photos from my travels this autumn, some of my favorite pictures from the year. The one in particular is one of my favorites:

Looking at the fall foliage and mountains from the midst of a swamp, Kamikochi, Nagano

Here is a slideshow detailing my travels through Nagano, Nara, Kyoto, and Hong Kong.

For the high-res version, click here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An American Werewolf in Beijing - Slideshow

Here is a slideshow of the 100 best shots I took in Beijing.

For the full-res version, click here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

An American Werewolf in Beijing

The Forbidden City at Dusk

Sorry for my ridiculous hiatus in posting. Things have been pretty wild since getting back to Japan after the Bo-Peep tour. Too much to update you on here, but I will do my best.

On New Years Day, I boarded an evening flight for China, touching down in Beijing around 10PM. I've been living in Japan over 2 years now and it is a complete shame that I had yet to see one of the most significant cities in Asia. I decided to take advantage of the slow pace in Japan over New Years and get my ass over there.

Thoughts and reflections? On the positive side, Beijing is a bustling city with access to some incredible sites. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City were each double the scope that I had imagined. The Great Wall of China at Badaling was a site to be seen and not described in writing, but unfortunately, the bitter cold winds made the experience more trying than I expected.

The Great Wall at Badaling
The best thing about China was hooking up with some cool travelers along the way. Almost as soon as I got to my hostel, I got friendly with a group of Chinese guys my age who worked in offshore oil-drilling in Tianjin. They were quick to break the ice by offering me a cup of Chinese wine, perhaps some of the strongest liquor I have ever had. We goofed off until midnight, hit the sack, and got up early the next day for a day of sightseeing.
Jackie, Chenhuan, and Nana, the Chinese guys from my hostel

In Japan, Chinese people have a reputation for being loud and rude. But after a week in Beijing, I really came to appreciate Chinese cultural forwardness. People in Tokyo are perhaps too shy. Getting into a deep conversation with a stranger is a challenge. In Beijing however, the people I met were constantly probing me and responding deeply to my questions. Conversations were noticeably more hearty. I'm sure my prejudices play into my experience, but these are my honest impressions.

Then there is the negative side. Don't take me the wrong way, but China is a bit of a scary place. Make no mistake, it is a communist country whose government has totalitarian tendencies. Communist and especially Maoist imagery can be see everywhere throughout the city. The media is tightly controlled and many major internet sites are blocked.
The Gate to the Forbidden City

Economically, China is the country everyone is talking about these days. China, China, China is all you hear about in business news. But what I saw was a primitive capital city with a noticeably low standard of living. Looking at just the numbers, China is certainly outpacing the rest of the world, but if you put your feet on the ground over there, you might second-guess everything you've heard.

My next stop will most likely be Shanghai, the modern hub of China. They say it is certainly a foil to traditional Beijing.

It was an outstanding trip, but nothing compares to the Tokyo hustle!

The Forbidden City

A narrow hutong (traditional alleyway) after dark

D-22, a famous indie rock club. Could it be the Ruby Room of Beijing?...

The gate to Liangshidian Jie, a famous tourist street