a shopper's paradise
Event guide │ Yosakoi │ Okunchi │ Japan's PM turnover
nagazasshi Volume 3 Issue 1 October/November 2010
Editor-in-chief Emily Koh
Deputy Editor Brendan Thornton
Assistant Editor Joe Van Acker
Treasurer Kim Durinick
Layout and Design Hugh McCafferty
Web Design Rosalind Manning
Contributors Audrey Akcasu Raymond Arcega Kathy Cheng Rebecca Pappas Genevieve Seah David Sho Ly
www.nagazasshi.com Cover photo: Kathy Cheng
here seemed to be no end in sight: as soon as the rainy season let up at the end of July, Nagasaki seemed to melt right off the edge of Japan in this year’s recordbreaking summer. Necchuusho, or heat exhaustion, seemed to be the “hot” buzzword of the season, as people dropped like flies from suffocating humidity and staggering temperatures easily exceeding 30ºC! Luckily, we’ve made it out of summer alive and the biting, crisp autumn air is a welcome reprieve. The cool weather is here just in time for the flurry of events coming to Nagasaki this fall. October brings us Okunchi, one of Nagasaki’s most iconic events. Be sure to check out our overview and learn why this threeday celebration is unlike any other in Japan. The 13th annual Yosakoi Sasebo Festival takes place at the end of October and also celebrates a vigorous art embraced all across Japan; as the largest festival in Kyushu, it’s not something to be missed. The NagaZasshi itself has also emerged from our summer hiatus with a brand new team and an updated look. We’re working out our kinks but hope to provide you with the same high-quality level of news and events happening around the prefecture and beyond. We’re also constantly looking for stories happening around the area and welcome contributors and ideas. If you want to contribute, check out our submission guidelines in this issue on page 23. Emily Koh, Editor-in-chief
Theatre for the masses
The revolving door of Japanese prime ministers
My two yen
A unique brand of Japanese dance An Okunchi primer
The appeal of taish큰 engeki
The search for stability in Japanese politics Eat and shop your way through the city Visual kei and techno-pop/rock
Photo: Brendan Thornton
Event of the month
Yosakoi Sasebo Festival Sasebo, October 22 – 24 The biggest Yosakoi festival in Kyushu! About 150 teams from all across the country are expected to appear. There will be various stages throughout northern Nagasaki, including Huis Ten Bosch and Kujuku-shima Pearl Resort.
Huis Ten Bosch Wine Festival Sasebo, October 1 – 31 Huis Ten Bosch’s beer festival in September leads into this month’s St. Vincent Festival, where you can sample 100 kinds of wine. Shimabara Peninsula Two-Day Walk Shimabara, October 23 – 24 Enjoy the lush natural surroundings of Shimabara’s Unzen on this two-day walk. Participants will be provided with maps, and those who finish the course will receive event souvenirs. There's absolutely no better way to enjoy some of the prefecture’s most beautiful countryside views than on this crisp autumn walk. ¥2,000 general admission, ¥500 for high school students.
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Fall! Sechibaru Farmer's Market Kitamatsuura, October 24 Support Sechibaru Town by dropping down to this second annual farmer’s market, with newly harvested rice milled on-site along with mochi-pounding demonstrations. Don’t forget to buy some oysters at the oyster festival in Rakuno Market too! Hirado Okunchi Hirado, October 24 – 27 If you didn't make it to the Okunchi celebration in Nagasaki City, check out Hirado’s celebration at the end of October. The town will be beautifully lit up with paper lanterns everywhere, and performances ranging from lion dances to an impressive procession of samurai warriors will be scattered throughout town. Don’t miss the 24 dances of Hirado Kagura, a traditional Shinto performance, at the Kameoka Shrine on October 26.
Matsuura Water Army Festival Matsuura, October 30 – 31 Experience the history of Matsuura by watching the procession of samurai, enjoy various performances, and indulge in some local goods for sale. Winter at Huis Ten Bosch Sasebo, from November 1 Take a temporary trip out of Japan and bask in the seasonal illuminations in Nagasaki’s “Dutch theme park.” Visit the Christmas market that takes its model from those in Europe, and keep your eyes peeled for Santa Claus… n
Yunomoto Onsen Festival Iki City, October 29 Portable shrines are carried throughout the city during this festival. Don't miss the fishing boat parades or the nighttime performances. Nagasaki Bayside Marathon Nagasaki City, October 30 – 31 Come cheer on runners of all ages as they participate in the Nagasaki Bayside Marathon. Saturday features a 5, 10 and 20-kilometer walk. There are three more walks on Sunday, in addition to the half-, 2 and 10 km marathons in scenic routes around the bay. Hope for good weather! nagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
Photo: Brendan Thornton
Yosakoi: Celebrating Japan's past and present Raymond Arcega on yosakoi – Japanese dance that mixes the best of the modern and traditional
he image of traditional Japanese dancing may initially bring to mind delicacy or an ancient sense of tradition to some people. If you are one of these people, perhaps it’s time you get introduced to yosakoi dance, which has been gaining popularity
as a cultural icon thanks to exposure in dramas like “Kinpachi-sensei” and movies like Kimi ga Odoru, Natsu. Yosakoi is a traditional dance that originated in Kochi Prefecture in the 1950s. However, it’s been modernized in a way to cater to the tastes of today’s youth. Performances involve movements spawning from traditional dances such as the awa odori, which are combined with modern-day energetic music featuring the sounds of traditional Oct/Nov 2010 │ nagazasshi
instruments like the shamisen and Japanese folk singing. The idea behind yosakoi, which means “come at night,” is to get everyone pumped up and dancing, using the combination of music, powerful movements, bright colors, and strong chants from the performers.
most dances resembled bon odori, or traditional summer Japanese dances, but now it encompasses all sorts of genres, like hip-hop and samba. Some go as far as incorporating superhero stories into the dance. Regardless of style, one of the beautiful things of a yosakoi performance is the story being told. My town’s Emukae Ranburyu is performed not just by the town troupe but also from each of the town’s schools. The performance tells the story of a time when a sickness befell the children of the town, and how a dragon came to save them.
Dances are performed in teams, ranging from local town troupes to teams that fiercely train for competition purposes. They are even performed by schools: during Sports Days and town festivals, you may spot many students dressed up in bright colored happi, a kind of long cloak often used as performance gear. Hand-held wooden clappers called Interested in checking out Yosakoi? naruko are also Nagasaki’s own regularly used in Sasebo City is Yosakoi troupes have conjunction with home to the expanded the style so the dances, in biggest (note: THE much that there is nothing BIGGEST) Yosakoi addition to flags that resembles a sporting the name festival in all of traditional performance of the troupe. Kyushu. It’s so big that there is not Each troupe usually has one chanter who just one stage for performances, but also stands at the highest point of the stage, many throughout the center of the city. visible to every onlooker. The chanter Yosakoi Sasebo Matsuri is usually held doesn’t dance, but instead introduces towards the end of October, and this the troupe, acts as the storyteller for the year everyone will be able to witness the performance, leads the chants and cry madness for three days from October 22 war-like screams. The chanter does this to 24. in such a powerful, provocative voice that gets the blood boiling of everybody So why not come down and partake in who hears it! the action-packed festivities? You will get so caught up in the excitement that There have been many yosakoi you may be inspired to join a dance troupes that have expanded the style troupe on your own. There are hundreds so much that there is nothing that of yosakoi troupes throughout the resembles anything like a “traditional” country, and you’ll find them in major performance. When it first started, festivals in every region. n
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Photo: Emily Koh
A primer on Nagasaki’s Okunchi Emily Koh looks forward to Okunchi, the three-day celebration of Nagasaki's rich international history
hinese dragon dances, silly Dutch comedians, and giant ships scurrying about carrying young children: these are not what you’d normally think of envisioning a Japanese festival. That’s precisely what makes Nagasaki Prefecture’s Okunchi one of its most noteworthy celebrations, and one of the most colorful in Japan. Also called “Kunchi,” the three-day festival spans October 7th to the 9th—the original meaning of kunchi comes from kunichi, or “the ninth” of a month—and
is the biggest among the Kunchi celebrations (the other two are in Fukuoka Prefecture and Saga Prefecture). It’s a rich cultural showcase unique to Nagasaki, displaying qualities from the participation of local districts to the unmistakable foreign influences from over 350 years ago. Kunchi began as a way to stamp out the growing threat of Christianity, and was designated as a religious festival of Suwa Shrine. A local deity descends from the mountains and is carried down in a mikoshi, or a palanquin, during the three days. The palanquin is paraded through town before returning to Suwa Shrine on the last day. Each year, seven towns in Nagasaki City Oct/Nov 2010 │ nagazasshi
are chosen to give offerings to the god in forms of dances and peformances, called dashimono. As the featured towns rotate on a seven-year cycle, each town meticulously prepares to put on their best performance. It begins with the kasaboko. One man from each town wields a kasaboko, a parasol-like structure displaying the name and symbol of the town, and it easily weighs over 100 kilograms! The veil draped around the kasaboko obscures his vision, so he must rely on a leader who whips a flag under the cloth by his feet to guide his movements. Following this can be anything from traditional Japanese dances (called hon odori) to the more thrill-inducing ship floats, a nod to Nagasaki’s port background. A team of men haul the floats aggressively around the performance ground while young children play musical instruments aboard. To witness them hurl the floats—sometimes coming dangerously close to the audience at alarming speeds—is all a part of Kunchi’s excitement. But if you’re expecting everything to look “traditionally Japanese,” you may have to rework your definition of what “traditional” means. As Japan’s first and only open port of trade in the 17th century, Nagasaki’s history is a bit more internationally flavored than other areas in Japan—and it shows during Okunchi. A famous Kunchi routine featuring a light-hearted dance between Dutchmen is called the “Oranda manzai.” Last year, Motofuna-machi’s dashimono featured nagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
young girls in traditional red Chinese cheongsam dresses. This October, Douza-machi’s main feature will be a giant ship originating from Portugal in a nod to the long-standing relationship and influence between Portugal and Nagasaki. The unofficial symbol of Kunchi is the jya odori, or Chinese dragon dance. Ten men carrying poles supporting the length of a dragon’s body expertly twist and turn to mimic the soaring of a dragon over spectators’ heads. The dragons chase a golden ball, representing the sun, and gradually speed up as the beat from the trumpets, gongs and drums escalate. See it once and it’s easy to understand why jya odori is synonymous with Nagasaki—it’s so epic and impressive, it’ll make you wonder if dragons maybe really did traipse across these lands once. Blink once and you’ll miss it, so join with everyone else crying for an encore: “Mottekoi, mottekoi!” n This year’s Okunchi towns and their dashimono Uma–machi: Hon odori Higashihananomachi: Ryugusen (dragon boat) Yasaka–machi: Kawafune (river boat) Douza–machi: Nanbansen (Portuguese ship) Tsuki–machi: Gozabune (sacred boat), hon odori Kago–machi: Jya odori (dragon dance)
Theatre for the masses
Genevieve Seah on taishū engeki, the boundarypushing Japanese performance art
eaders may dismiss this as snobbish nonsense but it cannot be denied that performance arts in Japan follow a strict hierarchical system. Unlike kabuki, which is esteemed as a “traditional art” and therefore enjoys prestigious standing amongst Japanese performance art forms, taishū engeki is seen as “popular entertainment,” a plebeian art form. “Hip-hop dancing is not ballet,” I was told, when I accidentally referred to it as Kabuki. In other words, mixing up high art with popular art? Blasphemous. The term taishū engeki (大衆演劇) means “theatre for the masses”. A distinguishing feature is the lack of distance between performers and audience members, normally present in many other performance art forms. This creates a sense of closeness between the audience and performers. Performers often leave the stage and roam the aisles during intermission to sell merchandise such as DVDs and photo calendars. Fan meetings are regularly held outside venues following performances, allowing audience members to exchange greetings, take pictures and get autographs from their favorite performers. Even the golden rule of “no interference during performance” is ignored. Fans are allowed to approach the stage during the dance portion of the
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show to place money into the obi (belt), collar or even bosom of the performer. The money, called o-hana (お花), is folded into the shape of a fan and usually amounts to 10,000 yen (equivalent to about 120 USD) or more. The performers often respond by stopping their dance, kneeling at the end of the stage and exchanging a quick word or a handshake with the fan. Taishū Engeki’s visual flair and content is also massively appealing, as it is less stylized and easier to understand than its more traditional counterpart in Kabuki. Taishū Engeki performances consist of two sections, a short play and a series of dances. The first section, known as shibai (芝居), features most of the troupe members in a short story. The stories often feature historical themes and swordfights, as well as the joys and sorrows of commoners living in the Edo period. This is then followed by a series of dances, known as buyō show ( 舞踊ショー) or kayō show (歌謡ショ ー), which are entirely unrelated to the story and characters of the previous play. The performers dance solo or in pairs to traditional folk music known as enka (演 歌), a form of sentimental ballad music. The dances are often accompanied with flashy light displays and a liberal dose of fog machines, sometimes to the point when audience can no longer see the performers in the sea of mist and blinding lights. Historical plays? Enka? Sounds like something that would strike your grandmother’s fancy. Indeed, most fans nagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
are middle-aged, reminiscent more of your friendly neighborhood obaasan and ojiisan. But recently, some troupes are garnering a younger fan base by incorporating pop and even rock music into its performances. Having pretty faces don’t hurt, either. Perhaps the most striking feature of Taishū Engeki are the beautiful, androgynous-looking young boys who are often the top-billed. None embody that more than Taichi Saotome from the Gekidan Sujaku theatre troupe. He has amassed a huge fan following since the age of 15 and is currently one of the most popular performers. Usually performing the role of the onnagata (女 形), the female impersonator, Saotome is known as “the Prince of Side Glances” due to his ability to deliver seductive side glances on stage. He is also known for using unconventional musical accompaniments to his dances, such as Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Japanese traditional dance and heavy metal? Yes, you read correctly— and though it seems strange, the combination is quite a treat to the senses. Innovative or blasphemous? Refined or pedestrian? The judgment is yours to make, but there’s no doubt that taishū engeki is just as valid a performance art as any, given its fervent fan following. After all, commoner can’t disagree with a form of theatre that is purely dedicated to the masses, can they? n
The revolving door of Japan's prime ministers Given Japan's recent turnover of premiers, current PM Naoto Kan has to make it work writes Audrey Akcasu
ou might think a curse has befallen the position of prime minister of Japan. Since Junichiro Koizumi retired after a successful five-year term in 2006, no prime minister has stayed in office for more than a year. This September, he Diet elected the fifth prime minister in the past four years and the second one in this year alone. Current Prime Minister Naoto Kan defeated his Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) rival, Ichiro Ozawa, by a surprising margin of 721491 for his reelection after a whopping three-month term. Hopefully for the sake of the country, the fifth time’s the charm. Prime Minister Kan came into power in June, after Yukio Hatoyama abruptly resigned after receiving a no-confidence censure from the lower house the month before. The lower house, which can be likened to a House of Representatives, is currently controlled by the Minshuto, Hatoyama’s own party. Kan was able to stay in the people’s favor over his threemonth summer term as he was widely popular among the local assembly and general population by a 4 to 1 margin in the September election. This is good news for the country, and with any luck, the curse appears to be broken for now. This curse has manifested itself in many forms over the last four years. The militaristic Shinzo Abe (Sept. 2006—2007) resigned on the basis of his unpopularity and poor health. Yasuo Fukuda (Sept. 2007—2008) lacked
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nine months into his term, the lower charisma and leadership ability, and house issued a no-confidence censure essentially gave up after a deadlock in on Hatoyama, prompting his premature the Diet made the legislative process resignation. Kicking out their first impossible. Taro Aso (Sept. 2008— elected prime minister didn’t seem to 2009) was known for his inability to bode well for the future of Minshuto. read common kanji, and was dubbed Japan’s George W. Bush. His resignation However, the people seem hopeful for followed a self-announced general Kan, despite his not having achieved election, in which Jiminto (Liberal much this Democratic Party) summer. None of lost the majority Kan's reelection may in the lower house have put to rest questions the former four prime ministers for the first time in concerning the integrity were able to keep over a decade. of the political system, which seems based more their approval ratings above 50 With the ousting of on loyalty than choosing percent, but Kan the Jiminto, people the best candidate seems to have were hopeful for remained in the people’s favor for three the future, as the new prime minister, months, with a 64 percent approval Yukio Hatoyama (Sept. 2009—Jun. rating in mid-September. 2010) was named the sixth most influential person of 2010 by TIME Kan’s reelection may have also put to magazine for leading his party into rest some questions concerning the dominance in the Diet. Hope waned integrity of the political system, which quickly, however, as he was unable to seems to have become nothing but a keep his promise of relocating the U.S. power struggle based more on loyalty military base in Okinawa. In May, only
(above) Japan's current PM Naoto Kan (clockwise from centre top) Kan's predecessors Yukio Hatoyama, Taro Aso, Yasuo Fukuda, Shinzo Abe
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than on choosing the best candidate. With Ozawa being a 40-year veteran in politics and having scratched many backs over the years, Kan supporters were worried they would lose votes to “old hand” loyalty in the bureaucracy. The final vote more or less came down to the 411 parliamentary members of the Minshuto. While thousands of local assembly and party members get to vote, it is only their combined points thatcount for a third of the total number of votes tallied. What about the average Japanese citizen? Having no direct control in the prime ministerial election, were their views fairly represented? Has the revolving door of prime ministers whittled down the interest of the populace so that no one cares any more? Many Japanese blame the financial state of the country on the frequent turnover of prime ministers, as no has remained in office long enough to really make a difference.
The Japanese Political System Japan has a bicameral legislature consisting of a House of Representatives (lower house) with 480 members and a House of Councillors (upper house) of 242 members. The prime minister is elected by the combined votes of the two parties. Due to Article 6 of the Constitution, if the houses don’t agree upon the premier candidate and a stalemate is reached, the decision of the lower house becomes that of the Diet. Therefore, more often than not, the prime minister is also the president of the party ruling the House of Representatives. The election in September was a Minshuto presidential election.
Others have grown indifferent and find the political situation laughable. Some fear that the power struggle at the top has hurt the country; they’re concerned that politicians have forgotten the responsibility and perseverance that the position entails. Only weeks into the new term, who knows what will happen. Hopefully, the “revolving door” will stop spinning and Prime Minister Kan will be able to do his job, signifying that Japanese politics is heading in the right direction. n nagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
Kathy Cheng guides you through the shopping and foodie hotspots of the bustling city of Hong Kong
veryone thinks of Hong Kong as a city, but in fact it is a sprawling archipelago of 260 islands. The hustling and bustling city of Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Though often overlooked as a destination hot spot in Asia by foreigners, it is a Mecca for those who have insatiable desires to shop and those who love to indulge in rich, cultural culinary experiences. No matter whether you are staying in Hong Kong for three days or a full week, here are my “musts” to get the best that Hong Kong has to offer in both eats and buys.
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and shopping your way through
Hong Kong Photo: Kathy Cheng
Authentic food TIM HO WAN, which means “Add Good Luck,” is the world’s cheapest Michelinstarred restaurant. Proletarian clientele vie for shabby seats at shared tables, but if you’re going to have dim sum only once during your stay in Hong Kong, this is the place! (You could queue up to an hour for a wait, but it is well worth it.) Must try: Chiu Chow style steamed dumplings, barbecue pork bun Address: Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street Mong Kok nagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
TEMPLE STREET is home to an endless variety of dai pai dong, or outdoor food stalls. After dinner, you can check out the open-air night market where hawkers flog everything from bizarre patent medicines to counterfeit watches. Old men and junkies gamble on games of Chinese chess in the concrete square outside the eponymous temple, and fortune-tellers cluster by the multi-story car park. Ghetto heaven. Must try: Eel clay pot is a rice dish piled with decently sized portions of marinated eel that is cooked over a stove in a clay pot. Don’t forget to scrap and eat the crispy golden rice farn jiew
formed at the bottom of your pot! Address: MTR Jordan Station, Exit A, or MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Exit C. HONEYMOON DESSERT is a popular dessert chain that has been tried and tested by many celebrities, all of whom have given their tick of approval. It sells unique and authentic Hong Kong-style desserts containing combinations of your usual suspects, such as tapioca, red bean, and grass jelly. Hong Kong is well known for their dessert and sweet soups, so make sure you try one before you leave! Must try: A mango pancake might sound ordinary, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this small, neatly wrapped pancake package of fresh cream mixed with mango pieces. Papaya and snow fungus soup: Pieces of papaya and snow fungus in a sweet soup. Sweet balls (tong yun): A kind of Chinese mochi! Address: Locations throughout the city, see www.honeymoon-dessert.com HAWKER-STYLE food consists of traditional, on-the-go snacks. These dingy, shabby looking street stands are all across Hong Kong. Just look for the huge array of fried skewer combinations and varieties bubbling away in their large pots of oil. Also, don’t forget to sink your teeth into a piping hot stinky tofu (chou dao fu) topped with copious amounts of oyster (hoisin) sauce! Must try: Fish ball skewers are ping-
pong ball–sized minced fish meatballs skewered on a bamboo stick. Gai daan zai Eggette – Think big bubble wrap! Golden-brown on the outside and soft on the inside, this waffle-like snack is great on-the-go. Churng fun – Steamed rice rolls with sesame seeds and oyster sauce.
Shop 'til you drop TIMES SQUARE is the most iconic and busiest mall in Hong Kong. The shops inside are mostly a mainstream mix of European, American and Japanese stores. Address: 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay (Get off at MTR’s Causeway Bay Station.) THE LANDMARK features Hong Kong’s most exclusive shops and finest boutiques. From Hermès to Hong Kong’s only Harvey Nichols, this shopping mall contains the highest price tags. Address: Des Voeux Road, Central HARBOUR CITY mall is located on the edge of the water and is over three kilometers long. It has a fairly standard selection with a few international and national brands. Address: Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui MONG KOK DISTRICT is characterized by a mixture of old and new multi-story buildings with shops and restaurants at street level and commercial or residential Oct/Nov 2010 │ nagazasshi
Stinky tofu is just one of the many delicacies offered by street vendors
units above. This area has the highest population density in the world, making you feel not unlike sardines in a can. Address: In Yau Tsim Mong District on Kowloon Peninsula FA YUEN STREET is for the sneakerphiles as it’s commonly known as Sneaker Street. It has a wide diversity of sports shoes, including many shoes of rare or special editions from different places. Address: Between Boundary Street and Dundas Street in Mong Kok, Kowloon. LADIES STREET (Tung Choi Gaai) is renowned for its wide range of bricnagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
a-brac, where you can get cosmetics, toys, paintings, clothes, lingerie and shoes. All are sold at unbeatable prices if you are willing to haggle! Address: Between Boundary Street and Dundas Street in Mong Kok, Kowloon. (Get off at MTR Mong Kok Station, Mong Kok East Station or Yau Ma Tei Station.) APLIU STREET is the place where you can do all your geek shopping! It’s a huge flea market packed with electronics, electrical components and related items. Address: Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. (MTR Sha Shui Po Station, Exit A2 or C2). n
Japan rocks Two of Japan’s most active genres at the moment are visual kei and techno-pop/ techno-rock. Rebecca Pappas features some of their biggest names.
Visual Kei Acid Black Cherry (A.B.C.) is the solo project of Janne Da Arc’s vocalist, Yasu, and was formed in mid–2007. Although A.B.C. has begun to achieve mainstream success, they’re actually a visual kei (“visual style” or VK) band. An underground genre, VK members tend to wear makeup and outlandish costumes. While the sound of VK bands vary greatly from band to band, most have strong ties with 80’s glam rock. A.B.C. has made appearances in the top ten of the Oricon music chart many times, starting with their debut, “SPELL MAGIC,” which debuted at #4 on the Oricon singles chart. Their latest single, ”Re:birth” (released August 16, 2010) is the opening theme for the PS3 game Another Century’s Episode: R. The music starts slowly, with a guitar and violin in a lonely duet, but quickly jumps into a catchy beat. With Yasu’s distinctive voice weaving a melody around the heavy rhythm, you’ll be tapping your foot within seconds. You might also find yourself trying to wiggledance to the beat, and realize that you
(from top) Acid Black Cherry, the GazettE, Perfume and2010 T.M. │ Revolution Oct/Nov nagazasshi
look like a beached fish, but you won’t care (I promise!). Wriggle away, oh sea creature! If you don’t hit ‘play’ again the second the song ends, you have far better control than I do. the GazettE, formed in 2002, leans to the heavier side of rock, but their style varies widely, from ballads to rock and metal, with a sprinkling of rap and R&B for some extra flavor. Their 2007 album, Stacked Rubbish, debuted at #2 on the Oricon charts, and a few of their other singles have hit #1. Their latest single, “Red” (released September 22, 2010) can safely be called “rock”! This is a good driving song… you know where you blast at max volume in the car as you fly down the highway with your windows down? Yeah, that kind. The beat is steady and hard, the guitars heavy but generously flavored with glam rock. Vocalist Ruki’s smooth, deep, and melodious voice provides a wonderful contrast to the hard riffs and thrashing drums. I could hit “rewind” and listen to that chorus a million times!
Techno-pop/Techno-rock Perfume, a three-member group consisting of Ayano Omoto, Yuka Kashino, and Ayaka Nishiwaki, came out of Hiroshima in 2001. While “technopop” isn’t a category I had ever encountered in the States, it created an instantaneous addiction the moment I heard Perfume. They’ve been making waves since 2005 with ”Polyrhythm,” which shot to the top ten. Their next single, ”Baby Cruising nagazasshi │ Oct/Nov 2010
Love Machine/Macaroni” hit #3, and their third album, Game, debuted at #1. Their latest single, “Voice” (released August 11, 2010) starts out with their trademark clear, high voices. The soft techno beat slides in behind and the electronics start. The song’s main appeal is its mellow vibe—I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, but it’s very enjoyable, especially when the chorus kicks in! You’ll be singing it to yourself for days. Try to find a live performance of it, because Perfume is known for their well-choreographed dances. T.M. Revolution (Takanori Makes Revolution) or just T.M.R. is the solo project of Takanori Nishikawa, who debuted in 1996 with “Dokusai –monopolize-.” His popularity took off with his third single, “HEART OF SWORD ~Yoake Mae~,” due to its use as an ending song for the anime Ruroni Kenshin. T.M.R. has also made six songs for anime like Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Soul Eater. His latest single, ”Naked Arms” (released August 11, 2010), is the opening for the video game Sengoku Basara. An English version of the song is also available. It’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting techno song with a heavy dose of rock thrown in for good measure. After the opening sequence and a few lyrics, the guitars kick in and you start to feel the urge to get up and do something! I love the energy that this song exudes, as well as the epic, timeless nature of the lyrics. If you’re looking for a good workout song to pump you up, this is it! n
My two yen: Reviews
Kokuhaku (告白) (Tetsuya Nakashima, 2010) Stars Takako Matsu, Masaki Okada, Yoshino Kimura 106 minutes
WHEN MOST PEOPLE think of horror films, what comes to mind is a group of victims getting killed off one by one. As the killer viciously murders his victims, the surviving characters and the audience try to figure out who the villain is. Japanese horror films take the concept of horror to a whole new level. Instead of slasher films like Halloween and Scream, which rely on visceral thrills, most Japanese horror movies are a combination of mystery, suspense, and mind games. This summer’s Kokuhaku (告白) is a perfect example of Japanese horror cinema. Originally a 2008 bestselling novel by Kanae Minato, Kokuhaku (“confessions” in Japanese) tells a story of a woman determined to find her daughter’s killer. The killer, though, is no serial murderer: the woman is a teacher at a junior high school, and the suspect is among her students. The movie opens with Yoko Moriguchi
(played by Takako Matsu) giving her farewell speech in her homeroom after deciding to quit teaching. At first, her students couldn't care less, but then she reveals the reason is that her four-yearold daughter was recently killed—and that the murderer is actually in her class. From here on, the movie goes through a series of “confessions” from those embroiled in the story, revealing various perspectives of the other characters. Although the movie starts off like a documentary, disturbing elements come into play as it progresses. The story develops well as the plot gradually unfolds and the audience gets more pieces of the puzzle to put together. Matsu delivers a superb performance as a mother desperate to get revenge for her daughter’s murder. The ending is perfect, and anyone who strongly believes “what goes around comes around” will enjoy what the last few minutes have to offer. David Sho Ly n Oct/Nov 2010 │ nagazasshi
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Oct/Nov 2010 â”‚ nagazasshi