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Tenjin Trip

There was just no getting a good picture of this set

There was just no getting a good picture of this set

I went to see Acid Mothers Temple in Tenjin last weekend, with a full bill that actually included Kinski from Seattle, who are on Sub Pop, and apparently love Japan as well as Acid Mothers Temple. Anyway, the show was great, and like the Haino Keiji show, totally not like a show in America. Well, it felt kind of like a college show that you have either organized or your friends have set up, and you go and when it actually gets started, it’s like this huge relief and awesome achievement that it actually happened. That’s kind of how this felt. The venue was really cool, and the guy that owned it actually played a set, you can see that in the terrible photo I took, above. The guy was playing an instrument that was a cross between a guitar, an accordion, a distortion pedal and a trumpet. It looked like Jules Vern invented it. He played it with Kawabata from Acid Mother Temple, who was doing really beautiful layered feedback shit, and this guy playing the drums/a light-sensitive television. So that was one of the opening sets, which was great, but right after, the club owner/steampunk guitar player started handing out champagne to everyone. We were trying to figure out if the champagne was actually for us, and people just kept pointing to it and then our mouthes. Like I said, everyone there seemed to have some hand in putting the show on, and were so stoked about bringing AMT to Fukuoka that they felt it would be appropriate to buy the fucking crowd champagne! I also thought it was appropriate. I have to point out that the underground community here is soo underground, it’s actually almost impossible to find out about these types of shows if you don’t know someone who knows. Internet promotion sucks, clubs are really hard to find; like this one was in a random alley on the 4th floor of a building. This is kind of frustrating for me, but when I do manage to crash one of these things, it’s like a family reunion for the people in this area, and they’re so thrilled about it that they want to, nay, they MUST give me alcohol. Anyway, it was also rad to see Kawabata from AMT do a neat ambient collabadoo. Also funny to mention, Acid Mothers Temple were all asleep during the third opening act, which was a grinding noise duo. I looked over and they were all snoring at the merch desk. This was especially hilarious because the keyboardist/guitarist Higashi Hiroshi looks exactly like a Japanese Tommy Chong, and he was sleeping with a cigarette that I thought was going to light his beard on fire. Anyway, they managed to wake up and play an amazing set. They are a magical band to see live, and if they come to Cleveland or Columbus this year and you own a car, you’re taking me.

Tommy Chong and the Psychadelicks

Tommy Chong and the Psychadelicks

Extended hair solo

Extended hair solo

For some reason, there was an ongoing drama throughout the set between Kawabata and his guitar strap. However, as the set reached its final climax, this turned out to be perfect for his guitar swinging solo. Oh, and this was the Melting Paraiso UFO version of Acid Mothers, in case nobody cared, haha

Acid Mothers Temple

That's Kawabata's guitar up there in the rafters

That's Kawabata's guitar up there in the rafters

There’s a cool article on the early Tokyo music underground by Alan Cummings in the Wire, which can’t stop being my favorite magazine for some reason, I don’t know what it’s problem is, but anyway it’s a nice piece, and it’s particularly interesting to me to discover that the underground music here is still incredibly home-spun and tight-knit, like the best kind of Christmas sweater. Everyone is really nice to each other and really laid back, maybe because the Japanese media STILL doesn’t give half a shit about them, and neither does 90% of people in Japan. In America, counterculture is co-opted faster than bands can release albums, but in Japan the music is way too weird, and the people playing it are way too cool for that to happen. I don’t know. That might be a reason, but it’s a lesson to the rest of the world. Being an avant-garde musician doesn’t mean you can’t plug in your own effects pedals, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you can’t show your appreciate for the audience, like, by buying champagne AND providing the cups. Come on.

After the show, Nakasu Yatai in Hakata

After the show, Nakasu Yatai in Hakata

A couple salarymen in Nakasu, DEFINITELY tryin to get crunk

A couple salarymen in Nakasu, DEFINITELY tryin to get crunk. Look he took the tie off! Daang

After the show, we went to meet some people who had the best idea ever; partying at a Love Hotel. I had been wanting to do this the whole time; just rent a room in a pretty swank love hotel in Nakasu or Tenjin and screw around. The cherry on top of this particular night was, ironically, Michael Jackon’s death. This meant that the radio stations were playing Michael Jackson songs all night. DANSU PA-TI!

After a 19-hour work day, there's nothing better for the department chief than a rum coke and a Belgian hostess

After a 19-hour work day, there's nothing better for the department chief than a rum coke and a Belgian hostess

Probably not dancing to Heal The World

Probably not dancing to Heal The World

Jowler goes to Japan

Jowler goes to Japan

After I threw Benoit's underwear behind the sauna... wait a second

After I threw Benoit's underwear behind the sauna... wait a second

I forgot that there was a sauna!

I forgot that there was a sauna!

And a lovely view of Hakata in the morn'

And a lovely view of Hakata in the morn'

UV light in the elevator, they thought of everything

UV light in the elevator, they thought of everything

I have to remind you that this was a love hotel, and it literally has everything you need for a romantic evening, and then some shit that you and your girlfriend or boyfriend would probably just laugh at. I won’t go into gory detail; it’s the sort of thing you have to see for yourself, in sort of a tour-mode, like, this is the two person sauna, the million switches for mood lighting, the, ahem, DVD collection, the 200-jet hot tub bath thing, all sorts of ridiculousness. Totally worth it, however. Anyway, tonight is Yamakasa, or rather tomorow at 4:59 am is Yamakasa, so I’m prepping myself for an intense night. Yamakasa is repped to be one of the most intense summer matsuris (festivals) in Japan, and if you just google image search it, you’ll see why. But better yet, wait for me to tell you about it! I just put some batteries in my camera, so it’s game on-desu

saga prefecture

A certain Kendall made a good point recently about the lack of people in a lot of my pictures. Don’t be fooled, there are lots of people over here, but maybe my subconscious reasoning behind all my landscape-only pictures is that my camera/camera skills aren’t good enough to take decent pictures with people in them. They always wind up looking like someone just wandered into the frame. The other thing is, if people see me taking a picture, they throw the peace sign about 100% of the time, and it’s kinda lame to scroll through 50 photos of everyone doing the peae sign. I mean, it’s fine, but I like the candids. Rather, I like good candids. For every 50 non-posed pictures I take of people, 1 or 2 might not be blurry. I think it takes a better photographer to capture people in an interesting way. I totally suck at taking photos, so I usually rely on really pretty places to do the work for me. But in any case, it wasn’t ever my intention to post National Geographic level shit on this blog, so I’ve decided to be less afraid of random people in photos. That being said, don’t worry about the above photo or the below photo. This is in Saga, in the mountain rice terraces that are totally cool.

there's nobody in this one either, but to clarify, there weren't a lot of people around here

there's nobody in this one either, but to clarify, there weren't a lot of people around here

This actually turned out to be an amazing afternoon. We went down to Saga to get a vibe off of some rice farming, and after maybe 20 minutes of honest work in a paddy, we spent the next 2 hours grilling beef and getting boozed with the rice farmers. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any genki-er, I heard some music that sounded like the Beatles coming from down below on one of the terraces, so I went over to investigate. Turns out, these two Japanese guys in their mid-40s had a pretty great Beatles cover band going, and it was all the Beatles songs I actually like, which means the old ones, and they were turning it out, just guitar and bass and mic. I mean, what kind of band practices on the side of a hillside rice paddy? And did you see the picture at the top? It was all misty and mysterious looking, like we were waaay above all the houses and stuff, so if I expected to hear any music, it would have been like a koto or something. But no way, it was She loves you yeah yeah yeah, and they actually played that one twice for us. And they were good too! They also played Anna, which is one of my favorite songs, Beatles or Arthur Alexander or these guys. What happened was, we all rolled down there and embarrassed the shit out of them and turned their practice into a private concert. If you read the Kagoshima post, I was saying how Japan is rife with the most hilarious anachronisms on the planet, and this took the ship, listening to Beatles covers being played by rice farmers in the distant hills of Saga, and to boot, they had shelled out for a classic McCartney violin bass and a vintage George Harrison-style Rickenbacker. Everyone was holy cow-ing for the rest of the day. But guess what? I didn’t get a single damn picture of these guys. Other people did, so if they wind up on facebook, check them out. Also, if these guys tour the US, check them out. But yeah, if I had stones and wood, I would have built a torii at the base of this hill, demarcating a religious experience and making it a truly holy mountain. I might rank this particular performance in the top 10 of any concert I’ve been to, maybe top 3 in terms of the weirdest ones. Who knows. I’m not so down with top-anything lists any more. I still like reading them, but only if they’re by incoming Kenyon freshmen on facebook.

not the beatles

not the beatles

The pad

The pad

The Yakiniku Man Van!

The Yakiniku Man Van!

Yeah old guy! later got mad when he discovered the Shochu bottle was empty

Yeah old guy! later got mad when he discovered the Shochu bottle was empty

Mariko and Johnny Cash, featuring the heavenly light

Mariko and Johnny Cash, featuring the heavenly light

Anyhoo, later that day, me and Yusuke and Mitch found a holy mountain to the north of Nagasaki that we summitted and took pictures on. This was technically the first, but actually the second holy mountain we would go to.

Yusuke is mad cause I'm so fast

Yusuke is mad cause I'm so fast

"kami ni sundeiru" -- Yusuke, telling me gods live here. cooool

"kami ni sundeiru" -- Yusuke, telling me gods live here. cooool

Later on, our chinese buddy retorted that 'the yellow mountain is better.' well, no shit. but the entrance to THIS mountain was next to a Family Mart. I'm pretty sure you have to take a helicopter and then float on the back of a mischievous turtle to get to the Yellow mountain in China. I'd still be down to go, but i mean

Later on, our chinese buddy retorted that 'the yellow mountain is better.' well, no shit. but the entrance to THIS mountain was next to a Family Mart. I'm pretty sure you have to take a helicopter and then float on the back of a mischievous turtle to get to the Yellow mountain in China. I'd still be down to go, but i mean

This mountain possessed an unearthly quality, and on 2 sides it overlooked a massive sprawl of humanity. The views here may not be as trapped in time as some more remote parts of China, but in a way that's an enhancement. it was like an ancient skyscraper

This mountain possessed an unearthly quality, and on 2 sides it overlooked a massive sprawl of humanity. The views here may not be as trapped in time as some more remote parts of China, but in a way that's an enhancement. it was like an ancient skyscraper

resting point on the way down. By the way, i know 'ancient skyscraper' is a dumb way to describe a mountain. My english has seriously lapsed since I've been here though. Don't worry about it

resting point on the way down. By the way, i know 'ancient skyscraper' is a dumb way to describe a mountain. My english has seriously lapsed since I've been here though. Don't worry about it

It was raining in Nagasaki, plus my camera had like a flu or something, so I couldn’t take a lot of pictures.

brief stopover in Nagasaki's chinatown. Not a legit chinatown.

brief stopover in Nagasaki's chinatown. Not a legit chinatown.

Let me explain something here. This chinatown was NOT loud, steamy, crowded, impossibly large and full of twisty streets, uncomfortable and cheap. It was clean, relatively slow-moving, kinda smal and grid-like, there was soothing music being piped in from outdoor speakers, and it was really expensive. In other words, the most Japanese chinatown in the world. I didn’t even see any Chinese people, nor did the Chinese kids I was with. Some guy did bark at me not to take pictures of his wacky merchandise though. THAT was pretty legit Chinatown. Other than that though, the place didn’t really hold my interest. The food was pretty good, but after lunch I was more interested in checking out Dejima.

A meal of truly Olympic proportions!

A meal of truly Olympic proportions!

Right Hemi? Right??

Right Hemi? Right??

stoked to not be trapped inside Dejima for 19 years

stoked to not be trapped inside Dejima for 19 years

The expression I’m making is mainly due to the fact that earlier that morning when we were leaving the ryokan, I stepped into a part of my pants that was not a leg and instantly created shorts. I thought that the picture would reveal the really terrible pants-surgery I had to undertake on the highway, but luckity it doesn’t dip below the knee. Thank god! Anyway, that was last weekend, and I’ll get up to date on the fun that was had this past weekend shortly. Don’t give up on me yet folks. I got another month left!

Cruisin’

Sometimes you just gotta get on your grandma-style bike and ROLL

past the remnants of fukuoka castle, water lilies

past the remnants of fukuoka castle, water lilies

past the persuasive hair salon

past the persuasive hair salon

past the sign that says i'm not allowed to practice golf here

past the sign that says i'm not allowed to practice golf here

right on past the corner with the ramen place that reminds me of the cover of paul's boutique

right on past the corner with the ramen place that reminds me of the cover of paul's boutique

past the under-the-bridge tags way over in wajiro

past the under-the-bridge tags way over in wajiro

right on by this place

right on by this place

right on into this shrine

right on into this shrine

through the shrine

through the shrine

out the back end and into the forest

out the back end and into the forest

into the sun

into the sun

down along the beach trail

down along the beach trail

way up to the top of a hill

way up to the top of a hill

right back down again and along the bay, looking for mudskippers

right back down again and along the bay, looking for mudskippers

into the reeds

into the reeds

out onto a little stretch of sand

out onto a little stretch of sand

that someone apparently lives on

that someone apparently lives on

back home by way of island city

back home by way of island city

and back to the kashii kaikan

and back to the kashii kaikan

SOLID CRUISE

Just some stuff

I thought I’d take this opportunity, between killer adventure stories, to get some neat stuff up here that doesn’t involve first person narrative. The first thing I’ve been meaning to do for a while is update those of you who click the links on my blogroll on my friend jon’s new web address. His blog is the daily steeze, and the address is now http://thedailysteeze.tumblr.com/. Check it out, he’s got a cool video of Huf on there, some other cool stuff, and he updates a lot more often than I do. The Huf video also inspired me to poke around on youtube for some skate footage from Fukuoka, as there are in fact skaters here, and they’re quite good. I found this video almost right away, and it has some guys in it that I recognize. I met a few of these guys a while ago in an alley in Tenjin at around 4 am, and they’re kind of loony, but really good skaters. They hipped me to this skate spot that’s actually like 2 minutes from the kaikan where I live, and now I really wish I had a skateboard.

The spot at 0:57 is right around the corner from my place. The guy skating there I THINK is named Katsuhiko. A lot of those areas are right nearby in Kashii, which is pretty neat. Anyway, Fukuoka’s on the map with some of the skating going on here, so I thought you all should know that. Gotta rep your location, and this is where I’m at right now.

Also, a follow-on to the last post on here, the guy who took the funny group photo is named Maru, a member of Zero Reality, and you should look at his t-shirts and artwork at his flickr page, which is here. Here’s one of his pieces.

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If I had some more money I’d be buying these things. Well, if I had more money I’d be doing a lot of things. Sorry for the quality of writing here, there are some people yelling at each other in Korean in the kitchen down the hall and loudly clanking pots and pans. I’m pretty sure they’re just talking and making dinner, but it sounds like someone’s about to get killed. The korean dudes here get really amped up when they get together, and let loose some of the most booming, bellowing guffaws you’ve ever heard in your life, and the jokes are in korean, so from down the hall it sounds like a bunch of great apes tickling each other. They’re rad dudes, but I can’t have them in my room or the kaikan police will show up. Korean’s a cool language, I feel like it might be the Italian or Greek of East Asia, in that it lends itself really well to shit getting out of hand. It seems like it’s really fun to yell at your friend in Korean and tell raunchy jokes, because the more intense the conversation gets, the more the language starts to sound like Batman sound effects. Lots of PAHs and OWAAHs at the end of words, and I mean that in a good way. It might just be this group of kids, but it always turns into a rowdy time the minute someone starts going off in Korean. Anyhoo, I’ll leave you with this hilarious thing by Takashi Taniguchi.

If you understand Japanese, here are some of his other shorts-

http://mc.adkda.net/

Taker easy

Kitakyushu 5/31

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I went up with this dude Mitch to see a show called HardReality: Noise of Daydream at Gallery Soap in Kokura, Kitakyushu this past Sunday and got a whole lot more than I bargained for. I knew that Zero Reality was playing, I was introduced to them through Mitch, and on top of being a nice bunch of guys, they are also out of their minds, particularly during their set. So, I knew about that, and I assumed there would be a few other bands. Indeed there were; the opening band was called a two-piece called HALAS pauses in the dark of hope.. I really couldn’t tell you what that name is about and, having talked to them a bit after the show, I don’t think they really could either. Ha, but that doesn’t matter, cause they were great. I’d definitely see them again. The cool part is these guys are both 3rd year college students, and were really shy and goofy. They would go into ‘irasshaimase’-style bowing fits whenever I mentioned a band that they liked–

“um, Hella to iu bando suki?”

“OHHH haihaihaihai, Hella, yes yes yes”

“Gorilla Biscuits?”

*30 head-bows in 10 seconds*

and so on

Seriously though, they kicked ass. Anyway, their myspace is here and it’s a shame the chances of them coming to America any time soon are about as good as Sombrero Fallout touring Europe, but you never know.

So I won’t do a play-by-play of the whole show. Zero Reality’s set was good, but ended with some really punishing high frequency stuff, kind of like Government Alpha, which gives you a really nauseated feeling if it goes on for too long. Kind of cool, but also kind of, yeah, nauseating. But right, so I’ll get right to the main event that took me totally by surprise. I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen after Zero Reality finished their set, then I see a guy who looks exactly like Keiji Haino coming out of the bathroom. I follow him across the (very small) gallery space with my eyes, and then look over at Mitch, and asked to look at the flyer. Well, Keiji Haino (rather, Haino Keiji)’s name in kanji is this: 灰野敬二,

so maybe you can forgive me for not realizing who that was at the outset. But anyway, what a rad surprise that was, I mean, of all the Japan-fantasies to come true, this is up there with doing karaoke with Merzbow, or playing pachinko with Yamatsuka Eye, so on and so on. First, Haino-san (as everyone reverently called him) played a somewhat short solo set that I mistook for the headline set. It was cool, he had those 3 theremin things that you always see, he played some classically fucked up blues songs that followed the Haino-standard weird chord-brutal screech-same weird chord format, in the best way, and did some horrible things to a harmonica. If this was it I would have been solid.

It wasn’t! Ha, the headline set was actually a collaborative live multimedia piece between Haino and Ichiraku Yoshimitsu, who goes by dora video (ドラびでお). Yoshimitsu plays a drum set with sensors that run through a laptop onto a projection screen, and his drumming triggers various flashing images to appear. This is a great performance in itself, but with Haino right in there with his guitar and all his other cool gear, it’s a serious experience. All the guys in Zero Reality were losing their shit, describing it as ‘beyond music’ or ‘WOOOO,’ and everyone else was polite like it was Kabuki or something. And that’s fine! Anyway, the set began with video footage of Haino’s famous percussion performances, which were chopped up according to Yoshimitsu’s drumming, which seemed like a free improv sparring-session with Haino on guitar. This may have been my favorite part of the set, although it was pretty raw when the noise really kicked in. The whole time, the video footage had audio, and a lot of it was footage of Haino performances, so it was like there was a ghost Haino playing rhythm guitar for the ‘real’ Haino. Sugoi. The last part of the set was Haino alternating between his ‘blues songs’ and molesting his guitar neck, and then an encore featuring a surprisingly soulful noise-blues attack that had some kind of decipherable lyrics (ORE WAAAAAA KJHJDHFKDJLSHJKFD INUUUU)… maybe? Someone got some footage of the set up on the internet-

After the show, me and Mitch successfully inserted ourselves into the entourage by virtue of knowing the guys in Zero Reality, and before we knew it we were drinking beer at a really fancy Izakaya (Japanese style bar/restaurant) in a private room, with Haino Keiji. This immediately gets added to my list of real-life scenes from Wayne’s World, and I really wished at that moment that I was with someone that had seen Wayne’s World. I should have asked Haino-san. Mitch was much bolder than me, not being as into the guy’s music, so he was just trying to chit-chat with him (in Japanese by the way) about just stuff, mainly being vegetarian. Haino’s a vegetarian, and apparently doesn’t eat tubers or potatoes or anything that grows underground. That might have been a mistranslation, cause I’m PRETTY sure I saw him eating a potato wedge, but on the other hand I’m not sure if any of what I’m describing actually happened. Anyway, eventually Haino left, and me and Mitch were left with the passed-out members of Zero Reality. I won’t get into all that, but we did have to carry to a dude back to the venue through the back-alleys of Kokura, which is famous for its huge yakuza presence, and that was pretty scary. However, once we got back to Gallery Soap, we were fortunate enough to hang out with the bartender and some other guys for the rest of the night. These guys are the salt of the earth and had great taste in music too; I hipped one dude to Harnetty’s collabadabbadoo with Will Oldham, so maybe Harnetty-san has a venue in Japan if he ever wants one! Anyhoo, here’s a picture of the crew from that night, with me and Mitch awkwardly tossed in there.

the guy in the green shirt is totaly rad. the guy that is me is a gaijin

the guy in the green shirt is totally rad. the guy that is me is a gaijin

One more thing before I go; I just have to mention that this show started at 7 pm, full-attendance, on the dot. The between-set wait time was never longer than 6 or 7 minutes, despite the fact that the bands, including Haino, set all their stuff up themselves. I haven’t been to many shows in Japan, so I don’t know if that’s just something unique about this venue, but I can only say that that type of punctuality doesn’t even happen at Christian rock concerts in America. So eat it, Jars of Clay.

Kagoshima 5/23-24

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Our weekend mission to Kagoshima came together with a surprisingly few puzzle pieces, among them a rental van, 2 guys both named Yusuke, some barbeque-able food, fireworks, and an Ipod full of some really terrible Japanese rock music. We went all loopy on the way down, weaving through the mountains and flat areas of Miyazaki-ken such that our route would have looked like one of those animated maps from Looney Tunes showing all the places that Wil E. Coyote had been chasing the Road Runner. At some points we even followed roads until they just stopped, memorably almost crashing into a river due to one of the Yusukes’ faith in the GPS over the view through the windshield. At another point one of the roads running through the wet rice fields got continually narrower until it was barely wide enough for a moped, at which point we had to drive in reverse for about 15 minutes, teetering on the brink of sliding into a rice paddie. But, aside from the scary parts and the other half of the drive that I slept through, it was a transformingly pretty drive. From the hardcore inaka (countryside/backcountry/back-ass-waters) of Miyazaki where the vending machines sold hard-boiled eggs and soy sauce (see below) into the thick, sticky green mountains of Kagoshima-ken, the versatility of the landscape was totally nuts. The Japanese really seem to love trips to the inaka and the mountains, and it’s easy to see why, given that the cities amount to isolated hamlets surrounded by looming giants, and upon venturing out, you’re immediately confronted with thousands of years of natural growth bearing down on you like a stormy, rolling ocean of green mountains and forests. Much of it looked like the mythic Japan that I had floating around in my head, but further south the emergence of green pastoral hillsides put me in some weird Swiss-Alps cheese commercial. The Japanese clearly get this Euro-vibe too, and played it up hilariously at this bizarre dairy farm/petting store in the foothills in Miyazaki. Between that place and our first night’s lodging, we also stopped at a pretty rad waterfall and an onsen that everyone except me was REALLY stoked about. Ok, we got to this onsen at around 4 in the afternoon, and I was sweating through my shirt just standing in the parking lot, trying to figure out why anyone would want to get into a boiling pool of water  when it’s already 80 degrees outside. People here are weird sometimes.

these deer were totally giving it up for the camera. they knew just what we wanted them to do, but it felt kind of weird, like i was shooting them for a deer fashion magazine

these deer were totally giving it up for the camera. they knew just what we wanted them to do, but it felt kind of weird, like i was shooting them for a deer fashion magazine

Let's today enjoy eggs from a vending machine in the middle of nowhere!

Let's today enjoy eggs from a vending machine in the middle of nowhere!

And i mean the middle of nowhere

And i mean the middle of nowhere

PS, moments after taking the above photo, I learned the Japanese expression for ‘totally fucking lost’ from the Yusukes. Turns out they were just being dramatic. Or maybe messing with me..

Takachiho farm, Miyazaki. The weird thing here is I had only finished reading A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami the night before, I dunno, if you've read that book you might understand me having a minor freak-out when I ran into this fuzzy guy

Takachiho farm, Miyazaki. The weird thing here is I had only finished reading A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami the night before, I dunno, if you've read that book you might understand me having a minor freak-out when I ran into this fuzzy guy

Yatta! or something

Yatta! or something

IMG_2983

The above photo, near Maruo falls, was the last one I took for a while, when everything started to look like this. As evening crept in, the drive got more and more surreal, awesome, whatever. We were officially in the mysterious land of the Satsuma samurai, the land of Princess Mononoke, mountain kami worship and all that, and the thing is, it all felt that way, really it did, rather hard to describe, but! Given the stupendous potential for anachronisms in Japan, we of course found ourselves driving through these ancient forests and crossing ancient bridges listening to Hotel California on Yusuke’s ipod. When I took over the music selection for a bit, we were skirting the mist-shrouded coast listening to The Trooper at full volume, cause everyone was too polite to turn it down. I think someone, maybe me, put on Wonderwall when we were finally getting into town. There are no words to describe the feeling you get in situations like these.

Anyway, we spent the night in a cool bungalow in the woods, which I gathered is a really popular thing to do for college kids in Japan. You see it in J dramas and stuff, manga, usually it involves some romantic mishaps and shit, seems kinda corny, but man we were surrounded by that playing out in real-life when we got there. There were maybe 5 cabins right near ours, and every one of them had handfuls of rambunctious kids outside barbequeing and having halcyon, orenji daizu-type experiences. That comes off kind of cynical, but I don’t mean it like that at all. I mean, I was doing the same thing, besides it really was a pretty heartwarming thing to see. Not to mention the location was spectacular; I woke up early in the morning and found out we had a killer view of Kagoshima-shi and the bay. I felt like a kid in a candy store made out of killer views.

Huge stash of hana-bi that one of the girls just happened to bring along

Huge stash of hana-bi that one of the girls just happened to bring along

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peace signs like little gremlins follow me everywhere

peace signs like little gremlins follow me everywhere

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Later this morning, things got real weird. I know that’s kind of a familiar thing to read on this blog, and in most cases I’m just too lazy to edit out obvious stuff like ‘weird this and that,’ but I really mean it this time, cause I was with 4 Japanese kids, and none of them knew quite what to make of this. After spending about a day not turning anything up on the internet, I suppose I just have to leave you with the pictures and what I managed to piece together. It still seems so odd to me though, since this place we went to stuck out like a theme park on the side of what seemed to be a pretty well-travelled coastal road.

the view from the road, not the best shot, but kinda looked like a religious theme park or something

the view from the road, not the best shot, but kinda looked like a religious theme park or something

you got a shinto torri, some mainland china buddhist looking stuff, some hindu-looking gold figures, basically a really goofy looking cult site that felt like it should be selling sno-cones somewhere, until...

you got a shinto torii, some mainland china buddhist looking stuff, some hindu-looking gold figures, basically a really goofy looking cult site that felt like it should be selling sno-cones somewhere, until...

you see the dead crow hanging from a pole!

you see the dead crow hanging from a pole!

People in Japan generally despise crows, or karasu, as much as pretty much anybody, but I did get a shiver when I saw the dead crow swinging from a pole. Right after seeing that, my friend Alvin walked past a dragon figurine that had a motion-triggered loudspeaker in its mouth, and the craziest music suddenly came blasting out at us. One of the Yusukes was saying that it was very traditional Shinto music, which I kind of recall knowing, but man, it is some terrifying stuff if you’re not completely at ease to begin with; it’s like a high-pitched atonal drone made up of who knows what, really really weird. All of a sudden the place seemed a whole lot like something our of a Jodorowski movie, with the garish, yard sale-assortment of baffling religious iconography, seeming almost perverse, definitely cult-ish, and then you got this dead bird and this ridiculous noise coming out of a dragon’s mouth, shit. Anyway, we walked around for a little longer and decided to get out in a hurry when it occurred to all of us at the same time that maybe someone left the gate open by accident and we were actually about to be in big trouble.

whoever this guy is, he probably doesn't like westerners

whoever this guy is, he probably doesn't like westerners

I'm still not so good with kanji, but this pillar is something to the effect of the one heart of all the world's people or something.. definitely the sort of worldly, pan-Asian name that cults in Japan use a lot

I'm still not so good with kanji, but this pillar is something to the effect of the one heart of all the world's people or something.. you see the sekai in there, kokoro, definitely the sort of worldly, pan-Asian name that cults in Japan use a lot

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Kind of a weird thing to come across after breakfast, but it did reaffirm the fact that we were in a pretty strange part of the country. Kagoshima is the very end of Japan, the area with historically the most contact with the Ryukyu kingdom and other parts of Asia for that matter, and on top of that so far from Kyoto or Tokyo that you get the real crazies of Japanese history from around here. It’s the home of Saigo Takamori obviously, but also Togo Heihachiro and a lot of old-school mentality in terms of culture, religion, an infamously stubborn dialect, what have you. At the same time, its culture is a result of tons of foreign contact with the east as well as the west. Anyway, my point is that, between the big volcano, all the islands and old forests, it felt like the type of place where dinosaurs still exist.

all this writing suggested that the religion has something to do with the famous local samurai, which is pretty cool. Anybody know more about this?

all this writing suggested that the religion has something to do with the famous local samurai, which is pretty cool. Anybody know more about this?

Sakurajima, the big volcano, rad dudes

Sakurajima, the big volcano, rad dudes

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This area was like, you know the part in Logan's Run when they've escaped into Washington DC in the future and they meet that guy with the cats?

This area was like, you know the part in Logan's Run when they've escaped into Washington DC in the future and they meet that guy with the cats?

muppet babies-style Saigo dolls

muppet babies-style Saigo dolls

princess mononoke area

princess mononoke area

aboard the sakurajima ferry boat, named the cherry queen, with a picture of a cartoon princess with a radish for a head on the side of the boat

aboard the sakurajima ferry boat, named the cherry queen, with a picture of a cartoon princess with a radish for a head on the side of the boat

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So after that we drove back to Fukuoka and I slept almost the whole way. When I woke up, it was like my camera dreamt the whole thing.

I’m going to do part 2 real soon, I promise, like hopefully tomorrow. It’s late right now though and I have to get up for a linguistics class. But for real though, Part 2 is going to be awesome.

LET’S ENJOY

Dontaku!

Dontaku!

Dontaku was a good time, and it definitely lived up to the hype of it being really crowded. The Hakata Dontaku festival is a particularly famous one in Japan, so the streets were full of out of towners, floating cartoon characters and marching bands. The problem was I had this festival confused with the Hakata Gion Yamakasa thing, where the guys in traditional diaper-gear race through the city at full speed, carrying these enormous, i dunno, things.. you should google it, but anyway that’s not until July. I was kind of let down, but still, the parade was fun. I was also really tired on this particular day, stemming from a particularly rough all-nighter in Tenjin that culminated in inadvertently spending my last 300 yen on a crappy breakfast in Yoshinoya and taking a nap outside the convenience store at 8 in the morning, waiting for the ATM to open. If you want to hear the rest of that story, send me an e-mail; it’s pretty rad.

You gotta hand it to the SOBs marhing band, they did a killer version of Peter Gunn

You gotta hand it to the SOBs marhing band, they did a killer version of Peter Gunn

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I wish that all American companies had the presence of mind to have a really cute spokes-creature. I can think of the Geico gecko, and he’s pretty cool, but companies here have taken it to the next level. Anyway, the internet has been kind of slow lately, so it’s kind of a hassle to upload photos. I apologize for this, but I’m thinking it’s only temporary; I have a suspicion that the other guys who share my IP thing are downloading thousands of anime shows every day, but their hard drives are bound to fill up soon. Don’t worry folks. Even still, I’ve been kind of lazy about documentation recently, mostly because I’ve been really taken with all the music that’s playing everywhere more so than the visual stimuli. There really is music playing everywhere, all the time, anywhere you go. There’s two little ditties that play whenever the Walk sign lights up on the street corners. One is cheerful, and inevitably finds its way into my dreams from time to time, and the other one is really menacing for some reason. I haven’t been able to figure out what determines the change in mood, but the latter one sounds a lot like a gameboy song, like Castlevania, or the dungeon-level in Mario. I’m working on a DJ edit of it. Not really.

The best music, however, is the indoor stuff. Basically anywhere you go regularly, subways, malls, supermarkets and so on. It’s so innocuous I can only envision some demographic-research section of the bureaucracy devoted to testing the most agreeable yet instantly forgettable melodies in the modern world. Then, I imagine a big recording studio in Tokyo where they bring in professional musicians and, providing them a midi loop, instruct them to solo on a 2-octave casio keyboard for five or six hours. It doesn’t have to be a keyboard though. Sometimes in the subway there’s saxophone music that sounds kind of like Grover Washington being backed by an army of Totoros on midi synths, or really bad-period Wayne Shorter. But yeah, basically you hear what sounds like some underpaid freelancer playing a really long, diddling solo over some loop sampled from Mario Kart. I can’t think of too many more ways to describe it. On rare occasions, it sounds like an entire orchestra is soloing aimlessly but in unison, because there’s never any hook or chorus you can hang your hat on. It’s just an indefinite phrase that stretches on for as long as you’re wandering around the grocery store looking for cheese.

There’s a great quote by Merzbow that I like to paraphrase which basically sums up the Japanoise ethos. He says something like there’s so much insidious background noise in Japan, be it street-crossing jingles or offensively banal promenade music, you ultimately just want pure silence. But not the kind of silence where you just flip the off-switch, because that’s too merciful. Merzbow says he wants to create silence through his noise, which makes a whole lot of sense to me now. It’s not like Fukuoka is a deafeningly loud place in the same way that New York is a loud place. In New York, it’s like you’re surrounded by a marching band of car horns and industry and confusion; here it’s like you’re constantly being followed by little kids who keep pulling the string on their musical stuffed animals. It gets inside you somehow, and one way of flushing the system is by a whitewash of static. It really works! But shit, this post is getting kind of dark, and that’s not my intention. For sure, there have been a few times where I’ve walked into a big mall and the cutesy music is actually kind of nice. Kind of like a dream. Anyhoo, another way of flushing it all out is by, of course, zen meditation, and I got to try a little bit of that on for size this week, zazen-style, at Bairinji temple in Kurume. I was very diligent in my posture and everything, so I didn’t get hit with the discipline stick. Bummer. I guess I sort of chickened out. I did, however, get kind of sore in the legs during the tea ceremony.

Bairinji is a pretty high-up training temple in the Rinzai sect in Japan, which is cool, cause most of the famous Rinzai spots are in Kyoto

Bairinji is a pretty high-up training temple in the Rinzai sect in Japan, which is cool, cause most of the famous Rinzai spots are in Kyoto

My bad, here's part of the actual temple. That other building was like a toolshed or something. HAR

My bad, here's part of the actual temple. That other building was like a toolshed or something. HAR

OK We've warped out of the temple, now we're getting snacks near Fukuoka Tower

OK We've warped out of the temple, now we're getting snacks near Fukuoka Tower

Sorry by the way, not that I should be sorry, but this post is kind of the random photo-roundup.

Nakasu ramen yatai, the place to go if you want to eat ramen and get stared at by shady dudes making the ramen. million dollar views though

Nakasu ramen yatai, the place to go if you want to eat ramen and get stared at by shady dudes making the ramen. million dollar views though

Park took all the style from Korea and brought it to Japan. UPS

Park took all the style from Korea and brought it to Japan. UPS

Somewhere in the past couple weeks, I went on a bike ride and got lost in a bamboo forest. Go figure!

Somewhere in the past couple weeks, I went on a bike ride and got lost in a bamboo forest. Go figure!

At some point, all the people near Mimochi beach went home.

At some point, all the people near Mimochi beach went home.

It actually got a little easier to upload photos at the end there. So, I’m off to Kagoshima this weekend and I’ll report back about that. Also, something nice to end with: music that sounds good in Japan. Tonight it’s Michael Hurley. Light Green Fellow is a good nighttime song in any country, but who would’ve guessed it would hit the spot in Japan? I should e-mail him to tell him that. Also, Moondog and Karl Blau are putting in good work these days. OK! I finished my homework while that last photo was uploading. The end