Search Box

Links to Culture Cafe Episodes!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Record Store Day 2013

In the spectrum of annual events that bring joy once a full earthly revolution this past Saturday stands amongst the heaviest of hitters for this writer. Record Store Day falls on the third Saturday of April since it first launched in 2008. Organized by a relatively small group of people, RSD was conceived around the idea of supporting independent record store owners whose business is conducted within a brick and mortar store with at least 50% of the retail pertaining to music, they must also NOT be a publicly traded company. All of which is to say, this event is meant for the music lovers and the remaining stores that still believe in the tradition of experiencing music on a personal level. Of course, there's money to be made out of it.

But what is Record Store Day really? Well in short, record labels from big and small make limited edition runs of albums, singles, EPs, etc, and ship them out to the indie stores who request things they'd like from their distributors. Not every store gets everything. Some stores will get many things, some will get only a select few items. And when I say limited editions, I'm not talk about 20,000 worldwide or even 10,000. Most of the pressings are around 5000 and fewer. One of the records I was most excited to pick up was Orange Juice's debut LP, "You Can't Hide Your Love Forever," which first came out in 1982, but hasn't seen a vinyl pressing since. There were 750 of those distributed across all the indie record stores in America.
This 6th year had an impressive list of releases, although I think I was personally more excited about last year's list overall. Still, apart from the Orange Juice album, I managed to pick up some very cool things including:

-Dazed and Confused Soundtrack (first time on vinyl and one of my favorites movies of all time)

-Distinctive Rhythm Instrumentals by The Dave Brubeck Trio

-Cal Tjader Trio by The Cal Tjader Trio

-Entertainment single by Phoenix (the B side has the same song but sung in Korean!)

-Tomorrow Is Alright by Sonny & The Sunsets

-Fear Of My Identity single by Best Coast . . . and lots more

Speaking of Best Coast, oftentimes there will be in-store performances to help celebrate the day, and at one of the record stores I frequent, Best Coast stopped by to do a small set for the fans who bought their latest single.

More pictures later when I organize everything, but in the meantime here's a video I shot with some highlights of the performance:

(Youtube's shaky cam fix ruined the titles in the opening seconds, I'm trying to undo it now)


Monday, April 8, 2013

Retrospective Post: Miyama (Revisited)

So in early November we had arranged to go with Mitsuko's landlord to his house in Hiroshima. Truth be told the arrangements were made long before then. Ever since he met the two of us, he had wanted to make said plans. Things came up here and there, and eventually everything lined up just right. We had our bags packed, and he stopped by early one weekend morning to pick us up.

Hiroshima is about a 3 hour car ride from Kofu, and tried though we did, there was only so much conversation we could come up with before silence dominated the trip. The view changed only in the last 40 minutes or so, when more city life appeared. Perhaps they did exist outside the boundaries of the highways that we drove on, but this was all we could see for most of the ride.

I must say that I admired how Japan's highways were accompanied by the EXACT same looking rest stops no matter what highway you were on or what prefecture you were in. There's kind of a nice uniformity and comfort about it. When I take a few seconds to think about that sentiment, it sounds as though it would be incredibly dull. Perhaps it reinforced a kind of orderly nature that Japan seems keen on.

After a while we made it into Hiroshima Prefecture, and we came to a lookout point (Hatsukaichi-shi, it could have been) where I snapped a pretty cool panoramic photo:

A nice overview of Hiroshima
After this we rode further up and had a nice dinner at Adachi-san's house. His wife made a great meal, and was worried that we wouldn't be able to eat Japanese food. We assured her that it wasn't a problem. Bad move. She then walked into the kitchen and cooked up even more food! She's such a sweet lady, but I felt bad for making her cook more. We rested soon after dinner, Miyajima was the next day.

The Miyajima Ferry
I was excited as ever to be going back to Miyajima. I went in 2007 and it was one of the best memories I had from all of Japan.

They really are friendly
Most of the ferry ride was filmed so I'll have to put that stuff up on youtube later, maybe one nice big video that puts everything I recorded together for this trip. After landing, a wave of memories went rushing to my head. I could have closed my eyes and led everyone around; it was that clear in my head still. I even pointed out the bench where 5 years earlier a deer had eaten a map from my bag - the very same one I had slung over my shoulder that day.

The world famous torii gate for Itsukushima Shrine

Exploring the island was much more enjoyable this time around, because I was not concerned with getting back to Fukuoka later on that day (That's far by the way). Our landlord's house was very close, and we had all day to explore various areas of interest, Miyajima being the principle one for that day.

There's no doubt it's a very touristy area, so that must be taken into consideration before going. I think November is about the perfect time to go exploring Japan, and amount of people there seems to agree with that notion. It's not too hold or too cold, very even tempered weather. There seemed to be as many Japanese people as well as foreigners (from all places) walking the island. The notable, Itsukushima Shrine, had an unavoidable line, but it moved at a swift pace. I hadn't actually gone through the shrine the first time I came. I wish I could have stopped and took my time to admire all the little details (and take a bunch of pictures, I will admit) but there seemed to be a natural flow of the crowd that was.. dictated, somehow... pushing us along. Regardless there was still much to enjoy, and it only served to fan the flames of my love for the island. I still haven't explored it all.


Just in time

This was a pretty popular spot to take pictures to get an excellent shot in front of the torii

This was a stage for plays and various performances once upon a time ago

A neat picture towards the end of the "tour" that wrapped around the shrine
We continued our walk around the various shops and even had our caricatures drawn on a paddle-shaped plank of wood. The man who drew us was an old friend of Adachi-san. I don't have a picture of it -it's currently hanging on a wall in Japan- but I will ask for it. He drew my eyes very sparkly, more sparkly than Mitsuko's. Heh, still got it.

Also in Hiroshima are a very famous type of hand-made makeup brushes that people come from all over to buy. They're known as Kumano brushes, and are apparently quite wonderful to use if you are one who is inclined to apply makeup. Not being the kind of boy who does, I could only appreciate them for their hand-made qualities. For those of you who don't speak Japanese (myself included [rimshot]) 'kuma/くま' means bear, and the particle 'no/の' can be used to attribute ownership or an associative property between two nouns. So when I heard 'kumano' brushes. I thought, kuma-NO-brushes. Which, sounds like bear brushes rather than simply a name. So I spent a a good chunk of time thinking that somewhere, in a clandestine locale, women hunted bears for the fine makeup brushes they could make from their fur. This was sadly shattered by Adachi-san's wife who explained it to me.   

There they are
Among the many other things we saw were an amazing pagoda that was built entirely via pin and dowel. Absolutely no screws or nails.

It almost looks like a theme park from this angle
At the request of a dear friend, there will now be a photo that I'm actually in:

That deer never stopped staring at me so I figured he was the picture taking breed

This has been a photo of me. I will now return to the regularly scheduled blogging.

I don't have too many photos that I'm in, so they'll be a rare treat for better or worse. I usually don't like having my picture taken, honestly. But that's another story, another blog, another day!

Miyajima is very famous for the manjuu that they make, and we definitely stopped by one of the MANY places that make them. When you walk down any given street where there are shops, every other one will have boxes stacked multiple feet high, all stocked with delicious manjuu.

You can also watch them be made box by box
They're shaped like maple leaves!
While we were eating and taking a break, I noticed there was a small Japanese garden behind a locked sliding glass door. Of the many interesting and beautiful adornments were several bonsai trees. Bonsai being a hobby of mine, I could not resist taking a picture of the stunningly manicured pine tree that rested just beyond my reach.

A wonderful pine bonsai
Later on that day I also tried Oysters for the first time. They were grilled so I was worried too much about trying them, not that I'm ever hesitant to try new foods. It's one of the best things about being somewhere else, I've found. 

Fry my little oysters, fry

On the half shell
I really loved those oysters, Mitsuko was a little bit on the fence about it, and quickly passed hers to me after taking a bite. I put it in my mouth and ate it before anyone noticed, but I wish I would've taken my time. I'll be back for those, no doubt.

But as you can see from the long shadows in the picture above, it was getting a bit later on in the day. We still had more to do so we shoved off the island and pressed on. I'll keep this post to just Miyajima things, but the day definitely wasn't over. I mentioned earlier to Adachi-san that I wanted to try Okonomiyaki, and that's precisely where we went to have an afternoon meal.


Songs I Listened To While I Wrote This:

"Lightworks" by Atlas Sound
"Troublemaker" by Beach House
"The Only Place" by Best Coast
"Linda Linda" by The Blue Hearts
"Sure 'Nuff 'N Yes I Do" by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band
"Where I'm Going" by Cut Copy
"Satellites" by Ancients
"All I Want" by LCD Soundsystem

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Short listed

There will be a post later on about going to Hiroshima and Miyajima (for the second time) but it's probably the right time to mention that I've officially been short listed by the JET program for this year.

Their terminology sometimes is a bit confusing, but basically that's the one you want to hear. Short listed is as good as "accepted". I've jumped through the all hoops, passed through all the screening and it looks like I'll officially be going to Japan as an ALT.

It's definitely a welcome feeling, especially after not even receiving an interview the first year I applied.

As much as I'd like to be boisterous and shout out the windows to those who might not care at all, I am reminded of the feeling that grew inside of me upon learning I was granted an interview slot about two months ago. I made a note of it in my journal and I'd like to share it here:

I'm definitely excited and happy, there's no doubt about that. I just think there's an element of humility that goes hand in hand with our successes as well as failures. That being said, I shall remember to always work hard regardless of which comes.