Okazaki 花火

As my time winds down here, the number of cultural experiences or re-experiences is increasing. I guess I sense the ticking clock acutely, and so I’m trying to enjoy and soak it all in.

The first summer I was here, I caught the fireworks in Gifu. By the end of the show, my neck was hurting. Last summer I watched the Nagoya Port fireworks and didn’t even bother to blog about it. This year, because of a spontaneous Tweet by Hitomi-san (Hi-chan), I decided to go to the Okazaki fireworks.

Nagoya to Okazaki


I had kind of given up on fireworks ( 花火- Hanabi) probably because it all starts to look the same after about 10,000 explosions. This fireworks exhbition promised 20,000! I didn’t have anything going on, Hi-chan is fun, so why not go?



Wikipedia says that,

Okazaki is also well-known, and perhaps most famous for, its fireworks. The Tokugawa Shogunate restricted production of gunpowder outside of its immediate region (with few exceptions), and even today, more than seventy percent (70%) of Japan’s fireworks are designed and manufactured here. A large fireworks festival, which people from all over Japan come to see, is held annually on the first Saturday in August in the area surrounding Okazaki Castle.

I led us to the wrong train, but we got to Okazaki, found a pretty good spot to sit by the riverside, and enjoyed what a festival brings.

Peaceful river setting


The scene was very crowded, as you would expect at a fireworks show.

All along the shore


We enjoyed the “good” food a festival has to offer as well. Karaage, frankfurters, yakisoba, beer. What more can you ask for?

Frankfurters were popular




The fireworks were remarkable as well, although as always I did get a little bored and my neck started to hurt. I tried a new setting on the camera, and this is the result. I’ve never enjoyed photographing fireworks anyway.

Okazaki fireworks


Okazaki fireworks


Okazaki fireworks


Okazaki fireworks


Okazaki fireworks


Kaoru-san came to join us, but we didn’t get together until after the show was over.

Thanks to Hi-chan and Kaoru-san for a fun night.

As part of my photographic experimentation, I now know how all the Hubble Telescope pictures have been taken? Outer space photographs? Peeshawwww. Just a bad photo at a fireworks show.



Fuji Rock 2011

Fuji Rock 2011 has come and gone. As was expected, it was a very good time. Last year I wrote an extensive blog entry so I will try to minimize the repeat content. But I will not over-edit what I write.

Last year I only knew two people at Fuji Rock – Tomo and Kanamori-san. Our schedules meant I could spend Friday with Tomo, Sunday with Kanamori-san, and was completely on my own on Saturday. But as a result of meeting people through people from last year’s Fuji Rock I had an entire network of people I knew and that it made it cool. In the end I probably spent as much time alone this year as I did last year. Oh well.

Haru-san was kind enough to arrange rooms for people and also organize the various ride shares to and from Nagoya. On Wednesday night, Tomo called and said, “Haru-san is too devastated to try to explain in English, but we lost our hotel room.” One call by Tomo and we were in the same place as last year, with one additional person sharing a 7 person room. No problem.

I arranged to ride up with Kanamori-san, and we left together with Hi-chan at 11:00 pm from Nagoya. Wow, that was late after a full day of work. I drank a coffee on the road (very rare for me to have caffeine) so I was wired and probably could have driven to Hokkaido.


Since we drove all night, we arrived in to Naeba as the sun was starting to rise. Here’s a nice picture from probably about 4:30 am on Friday morning as the sky brightened briefly on the day.



We arrived very early at our final desitnation. There’s no better way to celebrate the arrival than going to the local convenience store and buying some celebratory beers. Since Kanamori-san and I did not sleep these are still associated with the night before.

What time is it?


Fortunately the convenince store was open …

Hungry and thirsty




So we could get the party started!







We took a power nap and woke up with it … raining. Since we had the experience of last year, we knew it would be better to get our wristbands early and our merchandise early. By this time it was really starting to rain.

Really wet


Really wet


Waiting in line for merchandise before it opens (and before it sells out).

Really wet


Tomo met us at the merchandise area and then we all headed back to the hotel for a bit of an unwind before the day began. We confused the Obaa-chan who runs the show there with more people than were checking in, but no harm / no foul.

Planning the day


We met up with other friends and headed to the site. In the rain.



We stopped to have breakfast though (except Tomo was eager to see the Vaccines so he ate quickly).

Breakfast place


Breakfast was a beer and a pickle for one of the crew. True it was closer to lunch time and he already had eaten breakfast.

Beer and a pickle for breakfast.


This year I tried to take notes as the the performances happened so I would not forget, knowing that it would take WAY to long to get the blog entry written. True to form, I’m almost 3 weeks late and my memory is fading.

The Vaccines – Good rocky / punky band but nothing about them made me think, “Wow, I want to buy their album.”

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Do they remind me too much of Imperial Teen? I am familiar with them, and have two of their albums. The live show was a little louder and more driving than I expected. Enjoyed their show.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in the Red Marquee


Gruff Rhys – The first song drew me in. I had no idea who he was, only got a bit of a recommendation from Tomo as he went off to watch Noah and the Whale. For me, it was one of the finds of this year’s Fuji Rock. I’ve never heard any pop music in Welsh. But there you go. Now I have his album. I also learned he was the lead singer in Super Furry Animals.

Mano Chao – Exactly as I expected. Not as ethnic as Mano Negra – just a tight, small band. But it’s still jump, jump, jump, marijuana.

The Birthday – Japanese meets Nirvana meets Oasis. Very tight group and had the predominately Japanese crowd moving, moving, moving. On recommendation of Kanamori-san, and somehow I found him in the crowd.

Artic Monkeys – For some reason they did not connect much with the audience. I was rather bored. The lead singer sensed the disconnection of the crowd as well and didn’t seem very happy. Playing to a Japanese audience is difficult. They are very respectful. I took a nice nap during their performance.

After driving all night, I was really tired. There were times that I thought I was going to pass out while standing. Luckily, I had a little chair with me and I was able to nap between bands in the Red Marquee as well as during Artic Monkeys.

Coldplay – Coldplay is Coldplay. Always a good show, and often bordering on over the top. The last show I saw in London was over the top. This was just under. I think the new album is going to be huge. Chris Martin has buffed up a little bit. With Gwenyth working with all these hunky singers, he probably felt like he needed to beef up a little.

Coldplay and their damn balloons


Big crowds


Unfortunately, I missed Big Audio Dynamite. We were pretty tired and decided to head back to the ryokan.

Thank goodness for the rubber boots and rain gear. Better equipped this year.



Last year, I discovered that the ryokan and many of the portable toilets were squat style and not “Western” style. Not growing up with squat style toilets, it is very hard to adjust to them as an adult. Fortunately this year I discovered a special section of western style portable toilets. And they were AMAZINGLY clean, all things considered. I never thought I’d prefer a portable toilet over a hotel toilet. But I did.


I didn’t need an alarm clock – I woke up to the sounds of rain pounding down outside. Due to the hotel room problem, Kanamori-san ended up sleeping in his car (he was the only one that didn’t end up in a room so it all worked out in the end – he chose to sleep in his car) and I asked him if the rain woke him up pounding on the car. He said, “Yes, and I almost gave up.” Luckily for us, the rain relented and it wasn’t too bad most of the day. We saw images on the news in the morning that there was a lot of flooding in Niigata-ken. I think over 200,000 people were evacuated. So a little rain on our parade wasn’t that big of a deal.

A break in the rain


Clouds and cars clog the valley


Medi – Tomo had heard good things and so he wanted to start the day off in the Red Marquee. That was fine, I didn’t really have a Saturday plan. I was surprised – Medi is a French singer (Medhi Parisot) and his songs are mostly if not entirely in English. He was rocking out at 11:30 am. A lot of respect. He could have mailed in a performance but they really gave it their all. Chapeau! It worked, I bought his album. He ended the show with Michael Jackson’s “Working Day and Night.”

Like many of the foreign artists, Medi expressed his joy to be in Japan and acknowledged the hardships Japan has endured since March. This year’s lineup was a lot more Japanese than last year, and I think the promoters were having difficulty getting foreign acts to come to the country. Certainly that’s the case for some promoters that I know.

Tomo wanted to stay in the Red Marquee for multiple artists, but I wanted to check out the site. So I went for a walk. I passed the the Green Stage and saw Fountains of Wayne. Who are they? Why is their name familiar? I stopped by The White Stage and Funeral Party were playing (Prince meets John Leguizano). After looking them up just now, it turns out they are from East LA. That makes sense.

Silhouettes in the Red Marquee tent


The river through the site was especially swollen when compared to last year.

Swollen river


This year’s disco ball installation, inspired by Paul Smith?

Mirror ball installation


On my way back I passed by Patrick Stump. Another who? where? reaction from me. Very 80’s looking. Is that ironic, or are they out of the 80’s. The bow tie, high tops, and half gloves didn’t really work for me. OK, a little research and it seems he was / is the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. I am not a Fall Out Boy fan, so it makes perfect sense I had no idea who he was.

Lonesome Strings and Mari Nakamura – American country and bluegrass. Seriously, and seriously twangy. They’ve done their homework. It made me a bit nostalgic (懐かしい)

Lonesome Strings and Mari Nakamura


The Naked and the Famous – At first my notes were a little negative. But Tomo and I kept bumping into them during the festival and they were really nice. They were genuinely have a good time at the festival. I now have their album and it will make the post FRF mix I’m putting together. So shame on me.

加藤登紀子 – Atomic Café. Kato Tokiko is a Japanese Chanson singer (b. 1943). Wikipedia reports that she’s a Tokyo University graduate as well. Kanamori-san had recommended her, so I met him at this small stage to see her perform. It turned out that the main purpose of the activities on the stage that day was to promote a “No Nukes” policy. If any country can advocate a nuclear free society, it’s Japan. It was good to hear her perform a bit though, and gave me inspiration to see her the next day.

Power to the People


Todd Rundgren – We went to the Field of Heaven to eat and Todd Rundgren was playing in the background. He couldn’t quite figure out the attitude of the Japanese audience. I’m not sure if he had fun.

This restaurant had good wraps, but they need to buy a vowel. We helped some of The Naked and the Famous with the menu here.

Time to buy a vowel


Battles – Most everyone was interested in seeing Battles at the Green Stage. We caught the end of ハナレグミ before Battles. My notes say – crowd loved them and they were good. For Battles, Tomo had seen them at The Troubadour, so the Green Stage just before a major Japanese band was a big deal. Kanamori-san went to the pit, most of us stayed back. They did a really good set.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra – Japanese and Ska. What can I say? The whole audience was moving. Very enjoyable set.

The weather was basically clear, and we were not that interested in seeing the Faces, so we headed back to the room to change clothes, shoes, clean up, and then go out for more. Which we did. We went back to the Crystal Palace, had some food, ran into the Naked and the Famous again, and then danced a little before heading back to the ryokan. All the time the weather held out. We bumped into a lot of our Fuji Rock friends on their way to one place or another. Sadly, I rarely spot folks, I’m more the spotted one. Maybe because I’m foreign.

If you want to be green should you really deface a tree?

Eco terrorism?


Hanging out around the green stage on Saturday.

Time to eat




Sleep approaches


Enjoying the music


Tomo in a towel


Sleep is always around the corner.

Cigarette in hand


A quick nap


This is what happens when you finger blocks the flash. Oh well, what was I going to say?

Me and Kanamori-san



The day started out looking wet, and I wasn’t in the mood for another full day of rain. However, the overcast skies were somewhat refreshing as the temperature stayed relatively manageable. Last year was hot, rainy, hot rainy, and got really pretty tiring.

No trip would be complete without a hand help picture of me and Tomo. First take!

Ready for the day


Ringo Deathstarr – Started out with this band at the White Stage. What do I remember most? The guitar / singer had a shirt that said, “DRUGS SUCK” in big Helvetia Bold font ala Wham! circa 1984 (which apparently was a Katharine Hammet [http://www.katharinehamnett.com/] design) and on the back it said “NKOTB DONNIE WAHLBERG.” Vintage? I don’t know, but definitely intended to be ironic.

Glasvegas – This was one band I was looking forward to seeing. And like Vampire Weekend last year, I am probably a bigger fan of their album than their live performance. Sounded great, but Tomo summed it up well saying, “Is he trying to be Liam Gallagher?”

British Sea Power – Working man’s band with a cornet. I’ll support any band with a cornet.

Mirror balls again on the way to Orange Court.

Mirror balls


Blue skies make a rare appearance …



… and Tomo seems a bit stunned.

What’s this?


Food was good at all areas. That’s all seafood.



なぎら健壱 & Own Risk – Japanese American style country and western. Really. Just caught the end of it, but it was very enjoyable. Orange Court has a very eclectic sound.

加藤登紀子 – Kato Tokiko. The full version of what we previewed at Atomic Café the day before. We heard songs in Japanese, French, and English, including John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was a very enjoyable performance. Just before it ended I headed out to catch the end of ….

Some crazy fans looking for attention,

Interesting outfit


and some young fans having fun.

Young fans


Cornershop – With an sitar in the mix, it’s going to be good. Of course, everyone knows “Brimful of Asha.” It is a catchy tune, and will remain so always. What surprised me is that it was released in 1997. And also it was a Fatboy Slim remix that broke the song. Hey, I bought the album afterwards so I’d say I liked the show.

Passing by the White Stage it was packed with Saito Kazuyoshi fans.

Packed with fans


YMO – Yellow Magic Orchestra – A set of particularly accomplished Japanese musicians in the group core- Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yukihiro Takahashi, Haruomi Hosono. According to Wikipedia,

They are often considered influential innovators in the field of popular electronic music. They helped pioneer synthpop and ambient house, helped usher in electronica, anticipated the beats and sounds of electro music, laid the foundations for contemporary J-pop, and contributed to the development of house, techno, and hip hop. More broadly, their influence is evident across many genres of popular music, including electronic dance, ambient music, chiptune, game music, pop, rock, and melodic music.

Oh, is that all? Check out the Wikipedia link, it is very informative. Pretty cool stuff, and I’m really glad I had the chance to see them. In addition, one of the guest musicians was Cornelius (Wikipedia link here). I didn’t find that out until later.

Chemical Brothers – We watched Chemical Brothers from a distance, because we were going on to see Wilco. It is always strange to me that an act like Chemical Brothers can headline a festival. But clearly they can as the site was packed. They didn’t miss a single note. In a show like that, what is live and what is programmed, and what is spontaneous? I don’t know. Acts like Coldplay always have something unique in their performance, whether it is Chris screwing up and starting over (yes, it happens), goofy banter, lyrics or whatever. It is live and unpredictable. Perhaps I’m not sophisticated enough to understand the spontaneity of bands like Chemical Brothers.

Wilco – First time I have ever seen them live. Tomo has worked with the drummer on several occasions so he has a lot of respect for the drummer so I definitely wanted to see them. A friend commented on Facebook that the first time he saw them he expected this kind of countrified rock but they really kicked it. As they did. Very good.

The Music – As the special guest closer, The Music performed. Who? The previous two years were Basement Jaxx and Scissor Sisters. Anyway, The Music is big in Japan. I was tired and didn’t know their music, so everything just kind of sounded the same. Sorry guys. They are breaking up as well, so they probably don’t care what I think.


It was a late night, and I caught a ride back to Nagoya with Hirokata-san, Shogo-san, Go-san, and Erine-san. It was a fun, uneventful ride back, after we got everything jammed into the van. 5 people in a van was fine. Kanamori-san had 5 people in his little car the day before.

Let’s go!


Souvenir shop


Roadside fresh corn


Once again, another fantastic Fuji Rock experience and I’m planning on next year already, even though I will be living in the US.

I hope so


The Fuji Rock Crew!

Thanks everyone!!!!!

Good times!

(Photo by Shogo Taguchi)

Would you learn to drive from this school?

I didn’t mean to start a “Would you …” series of observational photographs. I didn’t expect to be able to develop a series. But, life in a foreign country can often surprise. I while ago I posted a picture of Hair & Make “Hair Oops.” Yikes, not where I want to go.

While in Kyushu, I think I discovered something even more frightening.

Terra Bal Driving School


Terra Bal Driving School


Yes, Terra Bal Driving School. Or, as I like to pronounce it, terrible driving school. I was with a Japanese friend when I saw this, and even he understands how … terrible … the school name is.

Enjoy! Rule & Manner.

My university as fashion

A bit of a fashion trend in Japan is to wear what appears to be US university apparel. In general, I think the names are licensed – Franklin & Marshall (yes, really) is a popular university fashion brand. No one has a clue about the real Franklin & Marshall (the alma mater of a work colleague of mine in the US) of course. One day I saw somebody in an Indiana T-shirt. I thought that couldn’t be a fashion statement, but indeed the wearer was clueless.

I’ve given some of my Japanese friends legimate Purdue t-shirts, bought on campus. Some have looked at the t-shirt like, “Really? When am I going to wear this?” Others wear them proudly. Today, as I was riding to get my haircut, I saw a women with a full length Purdue University t-shirt dress. No way is that from West Lafayette. The logo of course, was right at her chest, and I stared intently trying to figure out which logo they were using. It had elements of the old logo (not the Griffin) but had an italic block P. Definitely not licensed. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but I was running late and I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain why I wanted a picture.

I’m curious if I’ll find any more Purdue University fashion in Japan. If so, I have to buy a t-shirt.

THE スナフキンズ

As I mentioned earlier, when I went to Kyushu I stayed at THE スナフキンズ (Snufkinz), in Kumamoto, 中十町 (Nakajicho).

THE スナフキンズ


Where the heck is that you ask?













I wanted to take a vacation to a really country place, and as I previously described, my friend was going there. I tagged along.

The guesthouse is owned by Dai-san and Mika-san, and they were great hosts. The guest house is very simple, with a couple dorms, a kitchen, and dining area, a living room, a bathroom, shower, and nice wood deck. I swiped the layout from their webpage.

THE スナフキンズ layout


What did we do? We basically used it as a base during the day for travel around the area, and hung out together all night until bedtime. The Japanese was flowing pretty fast and furiously, so I probably only caught about 10 percent of the conversation, but I knew when to smile and when to frown.

Hanging out in the evening


If you are ever traveling around Kumamoto, make sure you spend a night at THE スナフキンズ, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Some exterior shots of the house and surroundings.

The guest house


Looking towards the local village


Looking towards the entrance by car


Looking towards the barn


The kitchen entrance


Kitchen entrance to barn


The big gate in front


Stairs leading to a temple


Rice fields


Details inside and outside.

Indoor light


Outdoor lantern


Table and chairs


Locally grown vegetables


Wood planks


Natural spring water


Enjoying breakfast together.

Good times ...


... and good food




Ongoing barn renovations.



Thanks again to Dai-san, Mika-san, and momo-chan. I had a terrific time. I even made their blog here, here, and here.

Happy family






THE スナフキンズ