Dance your clothes off

Yes, if you ask I am doing laundry. Why is laundry always part of my journal? I think because when you do laundry you are somewhat captured, so it is a good time to write.

Thursday night / Friday morning we had a lot of rain. No typhoon or anything, just some big cracklin’ thunderstorms and lots of rain. I guess a lot more than I expected because my train line was shut down Friday morning. Luckily the work network got the news out and I went to the hotel where most the folks are staying and hitched a ride in a taxi. I wonder what will happen in a typhoon? The only time I’ve been in a typhoon it was over a weekend so I didn’t miss work or anything. I think it is inevitable that we’ll have one or two. This year in Japan it seems quiet.

It kept raining through Saturday. It was a good day to stay inside so I went for a walk. Of course. I finally made it to the framing shop that I had seen a couple of weekends ago. Good but not great. To frame to my standards is really expensive too, maybe over $100 per piece. That’s just too much to spend for something a little temporary. As of Saturday I was feeling stuck and started surfing the web to ship stuff here to do my own framing.

I woke this morning at 8:00 am without an alarm (Saturday I woke up at 5:40 without an alarm as well since someone from work called me. Grrrrrrr.). The sun was shining brightly, so I figured it was an excellent opportunity to get on the mamachari and check out the city. I rode south and east into some of the suburban areas. I rode down car dealer row, apparently and saw Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche, Maserati, and Subaru! I also stumbled upon an antique store. I guess I spent too much time in antique stores in my youth to pass it up. So in I went. It was an eclectic mix as most stores are. Of course I was tempted to buy something because you always are. Nothing specific – I just had to buy something. I resisted.

While I was out riding I did decide I didn’t want to frame my photos so expensively. It just didn’t seem worth it. I decided that I’d try to find the frameless clips that just put the art between the class and some backing board. That way I could change out photos if I wanted (which I know I’ll never do but at least I have the option). Now all I had to do was find the frames, so I started heading to Loft. I forgot this weekend was The Nippon Domannaka Festival so I was in for a surprise. Here’s the official link and another link.

The Nippon Domannaka Festival appears to be a flashly, loud, dance contest. And I guess if you read the links, that’s what it is! I was on the edge of it with my bike, so I parked my bike and walked around a little. I was camera-less because Tomo has my his my little camera with him right now. I was also really hungry. I went to Loft and found some simple frameless frames! Maybe my mission would be accomplished. The simple frames were still expensive but I didn’t need mat board or glass. Happy, I was able to go home and dump the bike, eat, pick up my camera, and head for the domatsuri (Domannaka Festival).

Apparently there are 19 different venues to watch the performances but I saw them on a parade route down the main street of Nagoya. Apparently there were over 200 groups this year. I only saw a handful. Trust me, they were all quite different.

Here’s a typical group. From the street it was hard to get a good angle for photos. Most of the teams are made up of both young men and young women. There are some really good dancers and some other dancers too.

A typical domannaka group

And another typical group getting ready to start. Lots of hair and face paint.

You have to get the hair and makeup right

 

The dance teams are supposed to communicate with the audience as well, so there is a lot of interaction.

Interacting with the audience

But then this group formed a little group and started to change their costume.

Uh, what are they doing?

As they emerged, it was clear that traditional festival clothing was what they were going for.

My goodness, they aren't wearing much

Until the guys were dancing like this!

I don't think you could do this in a parade in the US without violating decency laws

Check out their feet. Ouch!

 

Of course, following this extremely energetic and youthful show, was this next act. I kid you not. I’m hoping for no clothing changes.

I don't think they are shedding clothes

 

Finally, there was the cult that decided to participate as well. Very strange costumes.

Is domannaka reaching cult status?

 

It was a good day. In the end, I got a sunburn and after vowing to save money on framing I bought a roller cutter for another $220 dollars, so my DIY savings is quicky diminishing. What the heck, I can always use the roller cutter!

I hope you enjoyed Domannaka!

Meat, meat, meat

I’m watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Summer is really coming to an end. The International School starts tomorrow, the temperature has cooled (barely). This weekend there was another festival – perhaps the last of “festival season.” I wandered around but couldn’t get real motivated for pictures. It was a mostly a dancing festival it seems. Also lots of food that I didn’t want to eat.

So why meat, meat, meat? Because it seems that is all I’ve been eating lately. Thursday night we took a colleague out to dinner for his 30th anniversary at work. We went to a Brazilian place that basically carves meet from a grilled stick. Friday I took my Japanese colleagues out to dinner and enjoyed yakiniku (grilled meat at your table). Then Saturday we had a going away party and we went to … yakiniku again! Ugh. No meat for me for a while.

Gosh, I really don’t have much to say. I worked this week. A lot. That’s about it.

It is easy to be lazy (but I wasn’t)

Finding Art

The weather is still hot and humid here. The air conditioning works, and the Olympics are on TV. It is really easy to get lazy – especially after a long week. This morning I woke up just in time for my normal alarm time – except it is Sunday and my alarm isn’t set. Sigh. Luckily it isn’t so hard to go back to sleep!

After lunch I decided to re-introduce myself to my mamachari. My bike needed me, and I needed it. I wanted to find an art and framing shop that someone had told me about. I was told it was one block from the international center. No directions associated with that block – just one block. I figured I’d have better coverage on bike. I got to the international center and turned north. Nothing was apparent. However, I did stumble across a really old neighborhood. I wished I had my camera with me to take some pictures. I’ll have to go back later. After scoping the area out for a while I was unable to find it on that side of the street. I crossed over and continued down a shopping gallery. It wasn’t in the shopping gallery so I started to head back to the international center again. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw “Art and Frame” on the side of the building and rode a little closer. Bingo! It was the shop I was trying to find. And it was closed on a Sunday. The hours are from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm. Which means I have a small window on Saturdays to actually check it out. I guess I know what I am doing next Saturday.

 

Festivaling

It is festival season here in Japan. I guess the perfect time to be outside is when there are lots of insects, it is hot, and really humid. Communities have festivals, cities have festivals, and neighborhoods have festivals. Today was the last day of the Nagoya Castle Festival (I guess castles have festivals too) and I thought it was the Hirokojidori festival too (that is a street, so streets and castles can have festivals). I walked down to the Hirokojidori festival today after my art run. It seemed very normal for a festival and I was afraid it was going to be as unspectacular as the Osu Kannon festival (remember the samba). However, I saw the signs describing it as August 23 and 24. Oh … well … I guess my book was a week ahead of itself. I walked to Citibank and got money instead. You can never have too much cash in Japan.

I came back home but fortunately gathered up my energy, hopped on the mamachari, and headed to Nagoya Castle. Ah, indeed there was a real festival. It is much like a county fair, with games for kids, greasy food, a stage, and some other items. Lots of people out in Yukata and lots of kids around. I enjoyed it – and the surroundings of the castle made it a little more authentic?

The festival had traditional odori dancing around a big stage. The average age of the dancers was about 73. A dying tradition? Let’s hope not.

Festival dancing

 

Unfortunately, what might be a developing tradition is the big bouncy thing, in this case a koara, better known as a koala.

A big, bouncy koala

 

Many associations were out showing their presence in the country, including the Japan Rubber Band Gun Shooting Association

Japanese are 100% into things

 

The crowd was still small before sunset.

Early stages of the night

 

Taiko drumming is still popular, as demonstrated by the prepubescent taiko drummers performing on the stage. After I took the picture I saw the no photo sign on the edge of the stage. Oops.

Young taiko drummers

 

We had the shogun recreationists – kind of like the folks at the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon in Indiana dressing as Indians and French traders.

A different kind of cosplay

 

Like a moth, I was drawn to the lights. “Take my picture,” they screamed at me. So I did. I took lots of pictures.

Japanese festival latern

 

Japanese festival latern

 

Japanese festival latern

 

A fun night.

Rock and Roll

This weekend was spent at the Summer Sonic 2008 music festival in Tokyo. Me and 200,000 of my closest friends. OK, 200,000 sounds like hyperbole (I’ve been using that word a lot, maybe because I use hyperbole at lot). But I read one account that said 200,000 attended. I thought it was only 120,000. What’s another 80,000 when it is already that many? You can imagine what the train was like.

Does it make sense to do a music festival during the hottest and most humid season in Japan? Not really. But Summer Sonic is always this time of year. Every time I go to a festival I vow that I won’t go to another. And then I do. I’m getting too old for this kind of thing. But it keeps me young? Tomo promised me that he was going to be mellow and not get in “concert mode.” Ha! He can’t not get in concert mode. That meant that Sunday we got to go to the stadium stage at 3:00 ish for an 8:00 pm Coldplay show. Anyway … that’s what we did.

Although it is hard to believe, this was Tomo’s first Summer Sonic festival in Japan. In the past he’s not been that interested in the bands, or was living in the States. After having an all access pass to the Fuji Rock Festival this year as a translator for White Lies, he was back with the proletariat for Summer Sonic. We decided to get a hotel in Tokyo on the Keiyo train line which is the only line out to the festival site in Chiba (Makuhari Messe and Chiba Marine Stadium). Interestingly, the only Japanese baseball game I’ve ever gone to was at the Chiba Marine Stadium. So I had one leg up on Tomo in Tokyo. Again.

We got out of the hotel by 9:30 am and headed to the site. We weren’t the only ones on the train, but it wasn’t too bad. What complicates things a little bit is that Tokyo Disney Resort is on the same train line. That could spell disaster for the return home. We got to the station and then followed the stream of people to get our wristbands. Along the way we passed some scalpers. The same scummy people in Japan as they are in the States. There must be an international brotherhood of scummy scalpers or something. I think there is also a maximum tooth limit to be a scalper. Something in the mid to lower twenties. Along the way we passed the “Offcial” merchandise area. Yes, even in this big international event, english typos can happen. And jerks like me will be quick to point it out.

I prefer

The Japanese is spelled correctly. About the only thing that was in english was the merchandise signage. There was a large foreign population at the festival. Let me make a little statement here. It seemed that whenever people were out of control, breaking the rules, and generally being jerks they were white. Sigh. I saw my people (although I’ll say most were English and Australian) arguing about bringing beer into the stadium venue (which you can’t), smoking in the venues (which you can’t), squirting people with squirt guns, pushing their way through the crowd, talking during entire shows, and generally being obnoxious.

Here’s another picture of the entrance before we even got to our wristbands. That long queue in the background is for the official merchandise. Most of the good stuff sold out in the morning.

Better to buy early!

One particular T-shirt them has SS art on the front to represent Summer Sonic but it looked more like Nazi SS style. Apparently the Japanese did not lose sight of the ridiculous appropriation of an historic symbol that represents such evil. That was the only t-shirt that was left by the end of the day. Someone really made a bad decision.

Now on to the shows (with a one or two sentence review):

Day 1

CAUTION: Clicking on the link could surprise you with music.

Los Campensinos – Did I see them?

Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong – Who?

Micky Green – This is actually the first group that I recall. We only caught a song or two, but she was good. The setting was cool, right on the beach. I’ll probably get this CD.

Shoes get sandy if you dance too much

Cajun Dance Party – Tight set. Very British. Not sure if I want to buy their music. One of their lyrics had to do with spitting out your thumb with Wrigley’s gun because they are both a waste of time (thank you MySpace).

South Central – Where did they get the name? A bunch of white boys from somewhere (Brighton). Wore black hoodies and were generally impressed with their coolness. Although I must say one of the emo ones came out and shook hands with the audience.

Friendly Fires – More dance from the UK. Catchy tunes, no hoodies required.

The Fratellis – A very tight set. A lot like listening to the CD. Fun, but not multi-dimensional enough. Still, I actually own their CD.

Paul Weller – Excellent show. A great performer, with “A Town Called Malice” as an encore. We scored a set list from the FOH crew (Front of House). This is the 3rd time I’ve seen Paul Weller.

Day 2

Wombats – We don’t predict great things. They were like little boys with inside jokes and overwhelmed by the stadium stage. The singer was too chubby to take him seriously as a front man for a band. Watch them become bigger than U2. After all, I used to make fun of Guns N’ Roses before they made it big.

MGMT – Tomo is a fan. I thought they were good but I got a little bored. You know, it is a lot of music to see over two days. My feet were already tired. Good to listen to though.

The Teenagers – Dance from France. We caught the end of the show and I felt like I was watching a Pierre and Gilles photo come to life with the lead singer, at least from as far away as I was.

Crystal Castles – I can’t forget them. I can’t say I enjoyed watching them, but they certain had the crowd in a fenzy. If I needed some alternative, avant garde movie scene with a band, I’d hire them in a second. Not my style, but memorable. Much better to listen to at a club than watch. But look, they got the biggest write up. Hmmmmm.

The Kooks – Very tight, good show. Why am I not that inspired to go buy their CD?

The Radwimps – A J-Pop band I had never heard before. Really rocked the place at 23 years old. I WOULD consider buying their CD.

Alicia Keys – Yo yo yo, can really perform. R&B. Yo. Got a little boring for me yo.

Coldplay – Their imperfections always make for a great show. I really enjoyed it. I spent half the show squashed against all those around me so I can’t remember all of it. It is the 4th time I’ve seen Coldplay – 2 festivals, one front row (Chris was wearing Banana Republic underwear – yes I was that close and he had droopy drawers), one 10th row.

Here we are at the end of the show. I look a little frazzled!

I look a little strange

Wow! You can see why I needed a day to recover. I can’t really even remember some of the bands we saw. One thing that was really cool about a Japanese festival is that you don’t get a buzz from second hand pot smoke around you. I saw some really drunk people, but I didn’t see any pot, people tripping on ecstasy, or tweaking on methamphetamines.

I did enjoy some silly T-shirts. Pardon the expletive.

Japanese will wear anything

Here’s the crowd leaving the venue. One of many bottlenecks.

Lots of people, one set of stairs

Getting there and away

Arriving at the area was OK, because since it is an all day event people don’t arrive at the same time. Departing is different. Even though the stage times are staggered, everyone needs to get out. And there is one train line. It gets to be a madhouse. The first night we were pretty lucky. Of course, you know to buy your ticket when you arrive so you have it ready when you depart. Unfortunately, you still have to catch the train. The train was packed. Remember the Disney note I made earlier? Well, of course the train was still packed when we arrived at Disney and you could see the look on the parents eyes when all these wiped out concert goers were in the train blabbing away! One other interesting note is the festival is over by 9:30 pm (for the most part) because of transportation!

The second night was actually scary getting to the train. The JR station staff decided to stop the people going in to the station. Now, everyone just got stuck at the bottom of the stairs. Then a few foreigners went through (to meet friends or jump the line) and then some other foreigners decided they would jump the line. The Japanese staff was powerless to stop that. So then more people starting jumping. In the meantime, more and more crowd was gathering. They released the rope, the crowd surged, and I thought, “Uh oh. Trample potential.” Tomo and I got separated and I was definitely getting pushed. Someone just behind me did indeed fall. We didn’t see anything on the news so it seems everything worked out. It was a really crazy situation. We took the train in the OPPOSITE direction (as we had noted other people to have done the night before) and were going to jump on the next train BACK to Tokyo. Then we would be seated when the crush came. However, we saw a restaurant at the next station and decided to eat instead. That was a good idea!

It was a very fun weekend and now I’ve spent the last few hours pounding out this blog. Yes, it really does take time to put it together so please enjoy it!

And if you want to see a professional report, check this out from NME.

The past week

It was really great having Wouter here last week. I’m going up to Tokyo next weekend, so I was pretty lazy this weekend. Well, I worked all day Saturday, I got 4 loads of laundry done, and I went out in the heat of the day today but still it seemed like I did a lot of nothing.

I was able to take Thursday off and travel up to Tokyo with Wouter. He quickly realized that Tokyo is a lot busier than Nagoya. We met Tomo in Marunouchi, had lunch, and then went to Bic Camera (bi-ca, bi-ca, bi-ca, bic ca-me-ra) to check out some new cameras for Tomo.

Tomo at the International Forum

Wouter and I then went on an open roof bus tour that I definitely do not recommend. I took him to Shinjuku and overwhelmed him with Kabukicho. As a result, we passed up Shibuya and headed to Roppongi Hills to check out the City View.

Wouter on top of Roppongi Hills

I didn’t realize we could go outside on the 54th floor. But you can! Cool! So I was on the roof of Roppongi Hills, hanging out around the helipad.

We met Tomo for dinner. It was good because Wouter and I were so hungry that we were getting grumpy and couldn’t really make a decision. Tomo had a suggestion for us.

After dinner we went to Shibuya so Wouter could see the crazy intersection and then headed to Shinagawa and back to Nagoya.

I had the opportunity to work with my new camera while Wouter was visiting. I’m starting to dig it. All the pictures in the entry are from my nice, new camera. A few others in black and white are below.

Nagoya at Night

The International Forum in Black and White