Exploring Japan #1: Yokohama

I'm a little more settled in Japan, now - and that means I can start to explore more! I mean to travel around the country quite a lot, but I'm starting with something that's easy and relatively close: Yokohama! Going back there tomorrow for a fun event that's going on, but that's a subject for another vlog!

Tokyo Theme Cafés #1: Vampire Café

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Group photo from @leo_punkprince on Instagram.

One of the fun things to do in Japan is go to the themed cafés. I’ve been to the Gundam Café and the cutesy cafeteria in Sanrio Puroland, and I’ve had drinks in an awesome hospital-themed bar in Singapore, but this was actually my first-ever non-anime theme café experience. So here’s a highly goofy one-minute vlog about it!

Tokyo Michelin-starred restaurants #2: Fureika (plus a disastrous haircut)

Luckily, my hair has recovered. Picture by Acqua Models

Luckily, my hair has recovered. But in the video...ew...! [Picture by Acqua Models]

My second visit to a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo. This time it was the more expensive but decidedly yummy dim sum menu at Chinese restaurant Fureika in Azabu-Juban. I was in the neighbourhood to get a haircut which…yeah, I can’t say went very well. Bleh!  

Gig Review: SiM at the Dead Pop Festival

Today we went to see SiM perform at the Dead Pop festival that they’ve been running for the past few years. It’s a cute mini-festival, this year held out past Haneda airport, and the bands were mostly hard rock with a ska or reggae influence, which reflects SiM’s unusual but entertaining hardcore-with-reggae-breakdowns mashup style. As a friend was in one of SiM’s music videos, she managed to score four free tickets, which was pretty awesome. It also made us feel it was perfectly fine to only check out the last two bands of the day, and before SiM came ska-punk band 10-FEET. Aligned more towards 2002-ish NOFX or Less than Jake than the likes of Reel Big Fish, they preferred heavier punky riffs and were brass-free, but liked riffs the crowd could skank to. Or attempt to skank to. They were fun, and I liked their silly growly vocals, but they’re not a band I’d buy a CD from. There was nothing very new to them and after all it’s been a very long time since the heyday of ska-punk, but they were an entertaining party band. It was also enjoyable watching the crowd, who alternated between half-hearted skanking, the synchronised fist-pumping and strange seed-scattering hand movements so popular here, and the world’s safest circle pits that had far more in common with the hokey-cokey at a child’s birthday party than anything you’d see at Bloodstock. This was a small festival with music on the lighter end of hard rock, but it was interesting to observe that the Japanese seem to have taken all the exhilarating, fundamentally dangerous elements of festival crowd behaviour and – other than crowdsurfing – made them completely safe and cute. No shoving in circle pits here. Just high-fiving people gently as you jog past. Bless! So anyway, this made us confident we could go right down to the front for SiM, and since even in this sort of festival, the Japanese crowds keep up the practice of almost completely evacuating between sets, so it was easy to go right up almost to the barrier for an excellent view of the band. And I’m glad that’s what we did. Because I very much enjoyed SiM’s performance, and was impressed by their musicianship. They perhaps suffered from being a little stop-start and their sections not flowing into one another very well, but when they got it right they were fantastic. Each musician was technically very good, and it was fun seeing a hot hand used on a live bass for the first time for their one wub-wub-wub breakdown. Musically, they would have fit in with the Nu-Metal scene of the early 2000s, but honestly I thoroughly enjoyed that period when it wasn’t too horribly cheesy. They could quite easily tour with Avenged Sevenfold and go down well, too. I’d be interested in how Skindred fans would receive them, too – though I suspect many of them may find it kind of inauthentic. The highlight for me was the double-whammy mid-set of ‘Gunshots’ and my personal favourite, ‘Who’s Next’. The band doesn’t take huge risks but the ones it does take keep them interesting, and looking beyond their gimmicky reggae, dubstep or disco breakdowns, their general song construction often swings between punk, metal and hardcore. And of course, once again going to this festival made me desperately want to start playing live. It’s looking like my first Japanese gig will be at the end of next month. Looking forward to it quite a lot!

Vlog – Sanrio Puroland

20150614 02 Sorry for the gap between vlogs! I’ve had a busy week. My deadline for getting a new draft to my editor was yesterday, and I’ve also started an excellent new job. Luckily, I made the deadline, and next comes beginning the real work on the sequel! Exciting stuff! Anyway, I’ve finally been able to put together a vlog about going to Sanrio’s Puroland indoor theme park, where everything is pink, pink, pink. Not altogether my sort of thing, but it was fun to go with friends!