Found it! Sorta.

September 13, 2007

When I was sitting in a train station in Japan, I watched a variety show that featured a young guy with a banjo lookin’ thing who was dressed in traditional garb … but produced some SERIOUS TECHNO ACTION with some lady with a flute and a guy with a drum. It was awesome.

Not being able to communicate in Japanese has put a serious crimp in my plans to find out who this guy was and buy all of the music he’s ever made. So, this evening I was hunting around on the Intertron, and found a few things that get me close … but not quite there.

First, the thing he was playing is called a shamisen, which translated into American means “three stringed, cat skin banjo, played with a spatula.” No joke, it’s made with cat skin.

That let me dig up some pretty sweet stuff, like this dueling shamisen video, some hot solo action, a little shamisen vs. a DJ, and a shimsen vs. taiko video that gets pretty darned close to what I heard in that train station. The common thread in most of the good stuff I found is Kinoshita Shinichi, who, apparently, has awesome fingers. This is a promising lead.

Any chance anyone else out there can help me in my quest?

Update:  Worth posting again — the Hifana Wamono video that planted the Japanese hip hop / techno seed in my brain earlier this year.

Street Art in Japan

September 8, 2007

A few of my graffiti photos from Tokyo have been explained and pulled into a Flickr group for Japanese street art … it’s a big collection.  Worth checking out, if you’re into such things.

Japan – Ku

August 29, 2007

When:  August 26th
Where:  Nara

Oh, the deer.  Lots of deer.  Cute, big eyed, white speckled little deer, hell bent on taking food from tourists.  If you have a packet of special deer biscuits (or even if you don’t), be prepared to be mobbed by a small herd of nipping, butting, ravenous deer.   Rumor has it that the first emperor of Japan descended from heaven on the back of a deer, in the sacred city of Nara.  Since then, the deer in Nara have grown accustomed to a particularly relaxed lifestyle of lounging about and/or rolling tourists.

Other than the deer, Nara has a particularly high density of World Heritage sites.  For example, the largest wooden structure in the world is located here, a Buddhist temple housing the largest sitting buddha in the world.  It’s big.  Amazingly big.  I could lay down comfortably in the palm of his upheld hand.  An average sized Japanese woman could lodge herself in one of his serene nostrils — we know this for a fact, as one of the pillars has a hole of the appropriate size for (dainty) tourists squeeze through.

Our host in Nara was a gentleman named Kenji, and his wife, Yoshie.  They were energetic and gracious, patiently explaining to us how Japanese showers worked, introducing us to new foods, and guiding us through the history and highlights of Nara.

Japan – Roku

August 27, 2007

When: August 28, 11:40 AM (Japan Time)
Where: Hiroshima Memorial Visitor’s Center 

Sorry for the break in communication — we’ve been wandering around Nara and Hiroshima without a reasonable Internet connection … but you can expect a series of posts when I find the opportunity to upload photos and copy some of my scribbling from my laptop.  Other than connectivity issues, things have been going very well!   

Japan – Go

August 23, 2007

When: August 24, 8:30 AM (Japan Time)
Where: Righa Royal Hotel, Kyoto

We arrived at our hotel in Kyoto and immediately acquired an entourage. It took no less than six people to pick up our luggage, usher us through the lobby, guide us to our room, and thoroughly explain everything including a thirty second guide on how to (efficiently, politely) use a card key to unlock the door. What they didn’t explain was the toilet.

Toilets are peculiar here. There are the standard accessories you expect on a toilet, and then there’s the mysterious computer console. It has three knobs, four buttons, and two status indication lights, all perfectly labeled with squiggly lines that I can’t read. What I did understand is that there was a blue button, a pink button, a grey button, and it all had to do with water.

At this point, I should note that the entire reason I got into computers in the first place is that I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to push buttons.

The grey button is pretty straight forward. There’s a single character there, looking rather abrupt and grounded in it’s design, which seemed to communicate “push me, and I’ll stop whatever is happening, thank you, thank you.” The pink button has obvious feminine overtones, but only has two simple characters — reassuringly uncomplex. The blue button, with two complex characters and a frightening number of supporting squiggles, appears to do something quite masculine to one’s undercarriage.

So, having rationalized my fears and screwed up my courage, I accidentally pressed the pink button.

My view was obscured at this point, so I can only imagine what happened next. But, I clearly understood two things: it involves robots, and they were vaguely confused. I’ll spare the details, but I am happy to say that the grey button lived up to it’s promise.

Japan – Shi

August 23, 2007

Hey kids — I’m also uploading images of my Japanese adventures to Flickr.  Check ‘em out if you’re keen.

Japan – San

August 22, 2007

When: August 23rd, 4:15 PM (Japan Time)
Where: Bullet Train, to Kyoto

HOT DAMN, THIS THING IS FAST.

And quiet.

And clean.

And comfortable.

I want one.

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