By now, you've all probably heard the hype surrounding James Cameron's blockbuster film Avatar. Running at almost 3 hours, the film has been wowing audiences with its cutting edge 3D effects and its elaborate CG landscapes. Across the globe, the film has already raked in over $1 billion, so what's it all about? Let's start at the beginning...
In 1994, James Cameron had already established himself as one of the most popular directors in the world with such films as “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” “The Abyss,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and the summer ’94 hit “True Lies.” Shortly after the release of “True Lies,” Cameron sat down and penned an 80-page scriptment (a document that combines screenplay and treatment/synopsis elements) in just two weeks. While he was pleased with the story, there was one major obstacle in the way -- special effects technology hadn't advanced to a point where Cameron felt he could accurately depict the story he wanted to tell. So, the Avatar scriptment sat on the shelf while Cameron moved onto his next projects, a theme park attraction/sequel to “Terminator 2” called,“T2 3-D: Battle Across Time,” and what would become the highest grossing film of all time -- 1997's “Titanic.”
After 1997, however, Cameron laid low, only lending his talents to the occasional television program or documentary. Sometime in the mid-2000's, however, Cameron decided to finally revisit the “Avatar” scriptment, and finally put the film into production. First, he needed to essentially create the technology required to bring his vision to life. His production team developed a new method of motion-capture animation that allows for the director to see how the actors will interact with the digital environment of the film. Picture a typical film where the entire landscape is computer generated ? while filming the actors, the director would simply see the actors in front of a green screen. With “Avatar,” however, Cameron was able to see how the actors looked in the CG world in real time.
The film's big attraction is its groundbreaking 3D imagery. Developed by Cameron and his Director of Photography Vince Pace, their 3D Fusion Camera System took 3D to the next level. The film's 3D is very subtle at times, giving crisp depth to simple things such as office furniture and landscape, and at other times is very noticeable and impressive, such as during one particular battle scene when ash and soot floats down from the sky.
All that technology and innovation talk is enticing to some, but for others, a good story is required to lure them to the theaters. So what's “Avatar” all about? As with many sci-fi epics, the film opens in outer space. The year is 2154, and a personnel transport is arriving after a six-year journey from Earth to a distant planet/moon named Pandora. The planet, rich in a mineral named “unobtainium” (yes, that is a real -- albeit comical -- term, and not just an uninspired name), is actively being mined by the RDA Corporation, whose branch on Pandora is headed by a man named Parker Selfridge (played by Giovanni Ribisi). There is one problem, however -- standing in their way are the Na'vi, the indigenous humanoid creatures of Pandora. Because of this, the corporation has been attempted to win the trust of the Na'vi through various tactics, all to no avail. Pandora's environment also poses a problem -- the atmosphere is toxic to humans, so they must utilize avatars in order to venture out onto the planet.
What is an avatar, exactly? In the real world, an avatar commonly refers to an icon that represents an actual person, usually on a Web site or through some other forum. In the movie, it's much more than that -- through the use of a device that looks like a cross between a futuristic coffin and a CAT scan machine, human beings have their consciousness transferred into the body of a Na'vi/ human hybrid that can handle Pandora's hostile environment.
Aboard the transport ship is Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-Marine who has been recruited to take the place of his deceased brother in RDA's avatar program. Jake’s mission is simple -- try to convince the Na'vi to relocate their tribe so that RDA can mine the unobtainium that lies beneath their village.
That's all you'll get about the movie's plot here. Truth be told, the film's strength doesn't lie in its plot (which is pretty standard and without many surprises), but in its amazing visual effects that have elevated the quality of CG and 3D imagery in films forever. It is definitely an experience unlike any you've likely had in a theater. The film is currently playing at Shimoda Mall’s Toho Cinema Theater, in English and both in standard and 3D.
The trend of transforming children's book classics into feature-length films has continued with the recent releases of such films as “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” and the Spike Jonze adaptation of Maurice Sendark's classic “Where The Wild Things Are.” The latter, debuting soon in Japan, surprised audiences with unique style and its use of puppetry and CGI to bring the Wild Things to life.
In 1963, Sendak’s book was an immediate success, and received high praise from critics. In the 46 years since its initial publication, it has sold close to 20 million copies and has been a mainstay in children's literature, so it comes as no surprise that the book's film adaptation would be highly anticipated.
While the notion of children's books serving as inspiration for a children's film is not new, the idea to use a director like Spike Jonze is somewhat unusual. Jonze (born Adam Spiegel) made a name for himself directing music videos, commercials, television, and eventually with such critically acclaimed films as, “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” If you've seen these films, you'd know that, while they employ certain fantasy elements, these are probably the only similarities between his previous work and “Where The Wild Things Are.”
The teaming of an eccentric director and a classic children's tale seems to have been a great match, however. Debuting October 16 in the U.S., the film immediately received high marks from critics such as Roger Ebert, who said that “the voice actors and the f/x artists give their fantastical characters personality,” but that the film “will play better for older audiences remembering a much-loved book from childhood, and not as well with kids who have been trained on slam-bam animation.” On both the Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, the film holds an impressive 71%, certifying it fresh on the former and receiving a “generally favorable reviews” annotation on the latter.
“Where The Wild Things Are” stars Max Records, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, Lauren Ambrose, Chris Cooper, and many others. It is rated PG for mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language, and runs at 101 minutes.
It would seem that with every new Christmas season, there is a new adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol,” and this year is no different<./P>
Robert Zemeckis, the famed director behind such classics as “Romancing The Stone,” the entire “Back To The Future” trilogy, and “Forrest Gump,” has partnered with Disney to deliver a new adaptation of the perennial Christmas tale.
“Disney's A Christmas Carol” follows the supernatural redemption of the avaricious Mr. Scrooge over Christmas Eve night in the mid-19th Century, only this time, it is brought to life using the latest motion capture technology. Motion capture is a way of creating a digital model of a real object. This gives the computer-generated animations of the film a much more realistic appearance, since their movements are based on the actual movements of the actors.
Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, Zemeckis' adaptation adheres to the original tale much more closely than most adaptations of the tale, which tend to omit some of the darker material from the original novella. Unfortunately, the tale itself is not long enough to fill up the typical length of a film, so Zemeckis had to resort to some filler segments, such as a yawn-inducing chase through town with lots of crashing through windows and such. This and other scenes like it detract from Zemeckis' otherwise mature adaptation of the film, which looks truly amazing and is a delight nonetheless.
Jim Carrey, the comedic genius behind such films as, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and “Dumb & Dumber,” does a fine job as the voice of Scrooge (young and old) and all three of his Christmas ghosts. In fact, I found it rather difficult to even recognize his voice at times.
Zemeckis, who has reportedly forgone the idea of live-action films in favor of advancing the motion capture style of filmmaking, has previously ventured into the Christmas film genre before with 2004’s “The Polar Express,” and there are rumors that he's interested in making a motion capture version of “The Nutcracker” down the road.
This new big screen adaptation is not without its flaws, but is definitely worth checking out, if only for the amazing animation and the wonderful voice acting by Carrey and the rest of the cast.
“Disney's A Christmas Carol” stars Jim Carrey, Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, and Robin Wright Penn. It is rated PG for scary sequences and images.
Mamoru Hosoda's 2006 sci-fi anime “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is the fun, beautifully illustrated tale of a high school girl’s adventures as she learns that she has the ability to “time-leap,” or, travel backwards through time.
“Time waits for no one” is the recurring message of the film, reinforced by a clever plot with many twists and turns. The story follows Makoto, a peppy young high school student in Tokyo. During a typical day at school, Makoto slips and falls upon what looks like a glowing walnut. An inconspicuous event, for sure, but its significance would reveal itself later that same day. While descending down a hilly road on her bike, Makoto realizes too late that her brakes are not functioning, and that she is headed straight for the train tracks, where not one but two trains are barreling down the tracks. She slams into the guard rail, flies up and over, through the air, and ... She wakes up meters away, safely upon the same hill she just recklessly descended.
So, what happened to Makoto? Without giving too much away, Makoto had experienced her first time-leap. Since time travel can have many different rules to it, let me clarify what kind of time travel this is: think of time-leaps as someone rewinding a movie. When Makoto leaps, she doesn't see herself in the past, she simply returns to the past, so there is no chance of a “Back To The Future”-esque encounter with oneself under these time travel rules.
Like most high school students, Makoto's worries are tied to the usual adolescent ongoings -- boys, hanging out with friends, schoolwork, having fun, etc. So it's no surprise when Makoto uses her ability to prolong her fun time with her two best male friends, Kosuke and Chiaki. Things become complicated, however, when she explores whether or not she has feelings for either of them. The film touches delicately on youth, love, and individual responsibility, all of which is presented on stunningly detailed backgrounds that accurately depict the atmosphere of a typical Japanese city.
“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is considered a sequel of sorts to Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1976 novel “Toki O Kakeru Shoujo” (“The Girl Who Dashes Through Time”). Tsutsui was even quoted as saying that the film is “a true second-generation” version of his original work. It received critical acclaim and several awards, even though it was not considered a hit during its theatrical run.
“The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is available online through Amazon.com, or Netflix.com if you have an account.
As the cool brisk air blows against your face, the beautiful foliage will be swept away. People start being apprehensive that the first snow day may come soon. Before heavy wet snow covers the ground, the colors of the various seasonal flowers change. Then, natural flowers intently strive through the cold winter and revive when spring comes. Living in Japan and amusing yourselves with seasonal flowers in four seasons is priceless. Some people are keen to birthstones, power stones, and horoscopes by star signs. Also, each seasonal flower and its kind signify special meanings. Those are very good to know especially when you make a flower bouquet gift for your friends and families.
Senryou (chloranthus glaber):“Benefit”
Nanakamado (Japanese rowan/ mountai nash):“Prudence”
According to the web site of flower calendar, the person who was born on November 13th is as follows:
You are very emotional. You would explode when you are angry and cry like a baby when you feel sad. Then, you bubble over like a kid when you are happy. Therefore, you are very honest and always earnest; meanwhile, it could be richly impressionable and creative. To sum up the matter, you may have extraordinary talents in art.
Two-thousand nine has seen quite a few high-profile deaths, with Michael Jackson's untimely passing June 25 perhaps being the highest profile one of them all. At the age of 50, the self-proclaimed “King Of Pop” was finalizing the production of a massive, 50-concert residency at London’s O2 arena, a farewell to his fans to be titled “This Is It.” To honor the legendary performer, choreographer Kenny Ortega stepped in as director and took hours of rehearsal footage, originally shot only for Jackson(s personal collection, and edited it together to create “Michael Jackson's This Is It,” a concert film/documentary of Jackson's final performances.
“This Is It” opens with a strolling-text explanation of the concert, and a few poignant moments behind the scenes with some of Jackson's backup dancers. They briefly share their story and touch on what Jackson’s music has meant to them.
Ortega doesn't linger there too long, however, instead choosing to jump right into the show. Jackson, in a shiny silver coat and bright orange pants, stands tall in the next shot, patiently waiting to jump into a lively version of “Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'.” From there, we see Jackson and his army of backup dancers create an elaborate spectacle, touching on close to 30 of Jackson’s biggest hits, such as, “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough,” “Jam,” “They Don’t Care About Us,” “Human Nature,” “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Beat It,” “Black Or White,” and “Billie Jean.” Video vignettes or massive stage props accompany many of these songs, unlike anything you're likely to have ever seen at a concert before. At one point, a giant bulldozer, shown in the vignette for “Earth Song,” emerges onstage behind Jackson as he performs. We also get to see snippets pre-production work, which provides an interesting look at how such a show was being assembled.
One of the things that stands out in this concert film is the sound quality. Often, sound is an overlooked aspect of film, with the only concern moviegoers have is whether or not the film is loud and audible. With this film, however, Sony's digital sound sounds so crisp and full, that it feels like you are actually at a live show. If ever there were a film to experience on the big screen as opposed to at home, this is it (pun intended!).
The film's more touching moments are between songs, however, when Jackson is interacting with the staff and performers. You get a real feel for the love and affection he has for the staff, and vice versa, in the way they cheer Jackson on as he riffs a little on stage, or in the way Jackson talks to them, usually in a very timid, polite way.
Originally, the film was planned to only be in theaters for two weeks, with hopes of releasing it to DVD for the 2009 holiday season, but due to concerns over the timing of the film’s theatrical run and the proposed home video release, the DVD release has reportedly been rescheduled for release sometime in late January 2010. As a result of this and the intense demand worldwide for the film, Sony has decided to extend the film's theatrical run past the initial two-week window.
The Toho Cinema Theater at Shimoda Mall began showing “This Is It” Oct. 28, and the film is scheduled to continue showing in theaters through the Thanksgiving holiday. For more information, please visit Toho Cinema homepage.
The Tohoku region's humble living and the harsh weather patterns came to represent what was typically distant and rural, or poor and shabby to all. Often, the worst of the winters has often resulted in rice crop failures in this region, which needless to say is a disaster for the region. Factors such as these had a direct effect on fashion for the region. A peasant robe I saw at the antique souvenir joint in Hirosaki was much smaller than average clothing size of an adult. The fabric used for the robe was much thinner than the cotton sweaters we wear today. A male peasant who lived in Tsugaru once owned the robe when original Kogin was still worn everyday while constant snow blizzards hit the area during the winter. The faded Indigo-dyed material with a uniquely Japanese needlework technique called Kogin given to the robe depicted a humble living of Tsugaru peasants lived their lives under the power of Edo dynasty during the 1700’s.
Kogin is a form of running stitch embroidery which uniquely Japanese needlework technique that was born of a practical desire for warmth and essential attempt to strengthen the material that is used to make the outfit. The name Kogin comes from the word Koginu, which means a short field Jacket that has been dyed and decorated with the white thread. The typical blue and white designs of Kogin and Nanbu Hishi Zashi were named after things common to everyday life, such as plants, animals, and the scenery of Tohoku.
These forms of needlework during its history took three distinct steps. The first step was called Sachiko. It is simply translated as stitching. Those designs stitched over an even number of threads and embroidered the shape like diamonds are called Nambu Hishi Zashi (Nanbu diamond shaped embroidery), which originated in Hachinohe, Stanmore, gonohe, Shichinohe, Kamikita, Date, Shimoda, and Ichikawa regions. In contrast to this Nanbu Hishi Zashi, the design stitched over an odd number of threads were called as Kogin, which is originated in Tsugaru Peninsula in Northern south of Aomori prefecture. In Kogin, cotton thread is used, and the wool and the color dyed cotton threads were used in Nanbu Hishi Zashi. These forms of needle techniques are introduced on the webpage.
There are four major patterns of Kogin designs. An all over pattern: East Kogin, is the design laid upon the cloth from the edge to edge. A straight band: West Kogin is the vertical or horizontal design laid upon the cloth. A Freestanding design: Three-Striped Kogin is the design that is framed by larger portions of unstitched fabric.
The origins of these techniques can be traced back into the peasants’Sashiko needlework technique in Tsugaru peninsula, where sits at the northernmost point of Honshu. Due to the enacted frugality Acts for Farmers in 1792, the cotton products were so rare commodity reserved only for nobles that peasants were prohibited from buying silk or using cotton for their clothing, thus forced to limit their ward lobe to fibre garments made with the native plants grew around the area, such as wisteria and hemp. The clothing made by rough fiber was dyed with indigo to strengthen the materials.
Unfortunately, such kimono made of thin homespun fiber fabrics only gave a little protection against the cold, especially during the severely cold winter of Tsugaru. At some point, peasants began to stitch the several layers of the fabrics together and patched upon the worn clothing. The dense tight stitching reinforces the hemp or the ramie based fabrics thus it added the thickness to the clothes by layering the fabrics and enhanced the protection against the cold environment.
In the 1800's, when cotton thread came to be manufactured and became available to anyone in Japan, the traditional ways of Kogin began to disappear behind the rapid growth of modern mass production. Today, traditional Kogin cannot be easily found, but its basic technique was revived and preserved by a few artists living in Tohoku and has been passed onto the hands of young talented artists to this day. Such techniques can be seen and purchased on tote bags, pillow covers, and on the ties for Kimonos today.
Movies about dogs are a dime in a dozen. Many of those stories are so poignant that they make us wonder if the movies are originated from some documentaries of dogs' living. Not as methodical as “Marley and Me” or as crafty as “Shiloh”, Hachi is the movie, which is based on the true story of a cherished loyal dog that lived in Tokyo during the 1920's.
The story about Hachiko: a legendary dog, was first filmed in Japan back in 1987 called “Hachiko monogatari: The story about Hachiko”, by a Japanese director, Seijiro Koyama. The movie “Hachi” released in this year is an American adaptation of such a heartwarming story of Hachiko. This movie is inspired by a tale of Hachiko an Akita dog, which demonstrated an unconditional love to his master. The movie “Hachi”, staring Richard Gere, Joan Allen, Sarah Roemer, Jason Alexander, and Eric Avari, is revised by Stephan.P. Lindsay, filmed by director Lasse Hallstrom, and released last month in the theaters in Japan.
In both the original and this American version of story, Hachi was adopted into a professor's house when he was a puppy. After several months, Hachi grew bigger and became much more obedient to his owner. Hachi accompanied his master to the train station every morning and returned to the train station escorting his master home every evening was witnessed and cherished by commuters and the vendors around the station. One day, his beloved master pass away from a fatal stroke during a session at the university and never returned home. Despite the fact of his master's death, Hachi could not process the fact that his master doesn't return. Therefore, he kept returning to the station and waited for his master to come through the ticketing gate as he always had. 10 years after his master's death, Hachi was physically broken, yet still faithfully stood and waited at the station.
One of the changes made in the American version of "Hachi” was its setting. While the original story sets in a restless busy town of Shibuya in Tokyo, an American version of this movie was in the small town of New England. However, the college professor Gere plays in the movie reflects the actual figure of the owner of Hachiko, who found the dog at local train station near his home. Mr. Ueno (Hachiko's actual owner) worked as a professor at University of Tokyo. Although some differences are recognized in these two movies, the main theme of the story remains the same.
The movie Hachi is based on the true story, which enlightens about a mutual affection between an Akita dog named Hachi-ko and his owner Hidesaburo Ueno. The story has been widely told among people in Japan and continuously brought people to tears. It’s main theme of incapability of forgetting the one you loved even through passing time would most likely reach out to the audience of all ages. Most impressively described in these movies is Hachi's silent distress and dignity and such deep affections of a man’s best friend will move even the hardest hearts.
Today the statue of Hachiko, a well-known meeting point in Tokyo, is always surrounded by people of all ages. The first statue of Hachiko was built while he was still alive. In 1948, a Bronze statue of Hachiko was rebuilt in front of the entrance of Shibuya station, the entrance was named Hachiko Mae (meaning “In front of Hachiko”), and it still keeps its name to this day.
After Hachiko was found deceased near the station, his body was preserved and moved to the museum at Ueno for the purpose of remembering his faithful devotion and the loyalty as a man's best friend. The heart-warming story of Hachiko was and still is respected and continuously passed on from one generation to the next in Japan.
The Japanese version of the movie filmed in 1987, but was never translated into English. The American adaptation of this movie “Hachi” closely depicts the original version of the story. While the fast pace action movies rank on top of the box office these days, some may feel “Hachi” may be slow paced and plain, but this humane and compassionate story reminds us of the values of life and love.
American cinema's occasional interest in Japanese culture has cropped up again, this time in the form of the 2008 movie “The Ramen Girl,” starring Brittany Murphy, directed by Robert Allan Ackerman, and written by Becca Topol.
“The Ramen Girl” takes place in modern Tokyo, where a young American girl named Abby (Murphy) has recently arrived in pursuit of her American boyfriend, who is a constant traveler and has taken a job overseas. Immediately, she encounters a couple of strange, very unrealistic characters in a bar, whom she befriends just in time for her boyfriend to dump her because he “wasn't feeling” their relationship anymore. Normally, this would be where I turn a movie off, but I stuck with it because ... well, because I had to. Anyway, Abby, in a state of utter despair and loneliness, runs out into the rainy streets, only to find a local raamen shop. She barges in, unsure of what do to with herself, and is begrudgingly served a bowl of raamen by the restaurant’s pugnacious owner, Maezumi (played by Toshiyuki Nishida). After eating a bowl of his raamen, Abby has an epiphany -- she wants to learn how to make it herself, in an effort to give her life some kind of guidance and meaning. So, she hounds Maezumi until he agrees to train her in the art of making raamen.
Murphy offers up a rather standard performance as Abby, the lost soul in search of purpose in the wake of heartbreak and alienation in a new land. The film itself also never takes any risks, instead deciding to play it safe with the standard “find yourself” formula seen many times in film. At first glance, it almost comes off as a low rent version of “Lost In Translation,” and while some comparisons to the Oscar-winning film are warranted, I would say that this film portrays more of an authentic glimpse of Japanese life and culture than “Lost In Translation” offered, as that film was more about the main characters and their relationship than the actual setting.
One peculiar aspect of “The Ramen Girl” is the emphasis it places on raamen itself. As one to occasionally partake in raamen here, I would agree that it is truly outstanding and that it can often create an almost insatiable appetite in those who consume it. The film, however, elevates raamen to an almost mystical concoction that can make people spontaneously burst out in tears or laughter, and is governed over by raamen grand masters and such. If this were “The Karate Kid,” Abby would be Daniel, raamen would be karate, and Maezumi is Mr. Miyagi, for want of a better comparison. It comes off a little silly, but the film doesn’t focus too much on this (thankfully), and instead focuses on more amusing things, such as the language barrier between Abby an... well, everyone else. The movie’s scenery was expertly shot by Ackerman, whose credits up until now have included mostly made-for-TV films. This appears to be Topol’s first outing as a screenwriter, which may account for some of the story’s flaws, but her talent is clearly evident in the film's more touching moments.
“The Ramen Girl” is more interesting than it is tedious, and is definitely worth checking out if you are in need of some light entertainment that you can relate to as a stranger in a strange land. You can find “The Ramen Girl” available to watch online through Netflix if you have an account, or you can rent a copy of it from the Bookmark on base.
Akira Kurosawa built a name for himself with groundbreaking films that dealt with sensitive topics such as death, madness, betrayal, depression, perception, and many others. His willingness to venture into dark, personal areas of humanity helped him secure his name among the greatest directors in the history of cinema, and his 1950 film Rashomon is a great example of his talent and influence on cinema. Rashomon, in fact, is credited with introducing Kurosawa to the Western film audience.
Rashomon (羅生門) was directed and written by Kurosawa, who took two short stories (“Rashomon” and “In A Grove,” both by Ryunosuke Akutagawa) and adapted them for the screen alongside co-writer Shinobu Hashimoto.
Rashomon takes place in ancient Japan and centers around the rape of a woman, and the death of her samurai husband. The film presents the event from four different perspectives, which is where the conflict of the film arises. Each perspective -- from the woodcutter, to the priest, to the bandit, to the samurai's wife -- is told through flashbacks to the tragic event. These are flashbacks within a flashback, however, as the tragic events and their aftermath are related by the woodcutter to a commoner while they stand outside a Kyoto gatehouse labeled “Rashomon.” Each point of view contradicts the other, with even some people changing their stories as time went on. The story relates a number of themes and messages to the audience, such as the message of selfishness in humanity, and that we should always question what we think we know.
In the years after its release in Japan, Rashomon received quite a few awards, such as the Blue Ribbon Award for Best Screenplay; Mainichi Film Concours Best Actress award for Kyo Machiko; National Board of Review Award for Best Director; Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Award; 24th Academy Awards Honorary Award; and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. Over the years, it has been revered by critics and filmmakers alike, and has inspired numerous tales of disjointed perspectives of the same event. Roger Ebert calls the film “genius,” and the film holds the rare rating of 100% on the movie review Web site Rotten Tomatoes. The film is part of the Criterion Collection of films, a line of DVD releases for films that were groundbreaking or are artistically unmatched by films of their time.
Rashomon is unrated and available at the Overstreet Library on base, on Netflix, or virtually anywhere online for purchase.
When you move every two or three years for an assignment, you hardly think about buying a house or building a new home, as long as you are happy with what you have through military housing or Misawa's Real Estate Offices. However, it does not mean that you have never dreamed of your future home. Rather, there is always something on your mind; for example, settling down in a place of your own after you finish your service and owning your own house would be a major goal in your life. When I was in the U.S., I used to watch the house makeover shows all the time and enjoyed learning about their techniques and materials. I believe that is a great way of preparing for your future home as well as making use of new ideas to rearrange your decor or the purchasing of new furniture.
Now you can learn from the Japanese makeover show called “Before/After” by ABC. Check out their website. It is only about 50 minutes, and each week introduces the process and the results that an architect achieves as a house is dramatically renovated. There, you can watch a sneak preview and see the “before” pictures. The show is very interesting because you can not only view the amazing results, but you can also learn about the differences in Japanese houses in contrast to American architecture and their makeover shows. If you visit or live in off base housing in Misawa, in a so-called “Gaijin House,” or a renovated old-fashion Japanese house, you should recognize unique differences here and there. For instance, the area called Genkan, at the main entrance of a Japanese house, has a space for you to take your shoes off. There is usually a decent size “shoebox” attached nearby. Another distinctive difference is the bathroom. Japanese houses have a comfortable deep bath unit, with an area that can be used as a shower in a separate section. Nevertheless, these houses are mainly made for American people and are quite different from the traditional and modern Japanese homes. Therefore, you would also be able to learn from this show about how the Japanese people really live.
The intriguing point of this show is overcoming a decrepit building and small plots of land. During the first series starting in 2002, the show lasted four years and renovated 130 properties. The Second Series started this spring. One architect each week works on the project with stupendous craftsmanship and astonishing techniques.
You can check the previous photos under “これまでの放送リスト(the previous episodes)” at their web site. Then, you can view the architect's profile under “匠の紹介 (the introduction of architects)” with lots of photos. It will easily draw your attention to the show and expand your interest. You may not understand what they are saying in Japanese, but just simply flip through the channels till you find the show, if you have time to just relax on a Sunday night. Check it out!
The Japanese prominent fiction writer, Osamu Dazai (pseudonym of Shuji Tsushima), who brought the literary voice to his generation during the post-war period of Japan, was born in Kanagi city, at the remote corner of a tip of Honshu in Aomori prefecture. His great recollections and his magnificent masterpieces will be exhibited at the Aomori Museum of Art from July 11 through September 6 in order to celebrate the event of his 100th year since birth.
Dazai was born on June 16, 1909. A servant mainly raised him while his mother became chronically ill after having had her 11th child. Dazai excelled at school that he began to show his literary talent at his young age. He later moved to Tokyo to study French literature at the Tokyo Imperial University (currently the University of Tokyo). His seemingly ideal course of life only started to change after the death of Dazai’s profoundly respecting author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, in 1927. Neglecting his school works, infidelity in relationships, and his self-loathing attitude became so evident that his obsession with suicide became explicit. As the ninth son of a wealthy landowner and a politician, he frequently uttered his inadequacy of him living in an aristocratic social class as in the role of his father’s. Such self-loathing attitude later resulted in him becoming an alcoholic, a substance abuser, and he gradually drowned deeper down into self-disruptive behavior. His lament and regret he contemplated through his life is frequently expressed in his fictions.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Dazai wrote numerous fictions including short stories that were often autobiographical in nature. An earlier fictional piece, “A Clown Among Clowns,” depicted his first suicide attempt in 1929, and his first novel “Gyofukuki,” a dismal fiction also involving suicide, were published in 1933. Other stories written by Dazai during this period described his sense of social isolation and his debauchery.
In one of his masterpieces, “Shayou: The Setting Sun,” he addressed the decline of an aristocratic family. Shayouzoku contains the meaning of impoverished aristocracy in Japanese. The fall of an aristocratic social class, the fall of the traditions and the destructions of the set of rules, such as proper etiquettes, are what Dazai described as tragic outcomes of war in his fiction. The story is rather related to the unpleasant event which occurred to Dazai’s own family in his hometown of Aomori. When aristocracy was discredited due to the war, the government seized their properties and the Tsushima family was forced to impoverish their thriving wealth. Dazai addressed social, human and philosophical issues during the post war period of Japan, as well as addressing Dazai himself in the stories as a victim who dealt with his own psychological dilemma.
Among Dazai’s finest novels, “Ningenshikkaku; Disqualified as a Human,” is one of the classics of Japanese literature and has been translated into several foreign languages. The novel describes the author’s personal decline and his many relationships with women. The story is based on Dazai’s true thoughts and beliefs, feelings of personal isolation and alienation. In the tale, he captured the post-war crisis of Japanese traditional culture and expressed his true compassion. He struck on the society that was lost their cultural identity after the war in an honest manner.
While he was successfully completing the novels and steadily increased his amount of supporters, his obsession to suicide did not fade. After his forth-unsuccessful suicide, he finally succeeded in taking his life by throwing himself in the rain-swollen Tamagawa River in Tokyo on June 13, 1947. In his last series of works (unfinished), “Good Bye,” was scheduled to be published on Asahi Shinbun newspaper. Since his writing style was from the first person viewpoint, his works takes the modes of expression that could be taken as a form of a diary or a letter that his novels are easily accessible yet dramatically moving. His novels have been read and appreciated by many in Japan to this day. At the exhibition at Aomori Museum of Art, not only the novels he wrote, but also the self portrait and the other paintings Dazai drew will be presented as well.
Along with Dazai’s life time works, one of the prominent popular artists, Noboru Baba’s recollections will be exhibited at the museum as well. Baba was born at Sannohe village in Aomori in 1950. Among all of the artists of children’s books in Japan, Baba’s most well-known cartoons is the series “The Eleven Cats,” which has been admired by many parents and their children to this day. His works are also translated into many foreign languages as well. For those who have younger children may find his works unique and amusing.
The tickets to the exhibition can be purchased at the door. The prices are 700 yen for adults, 500 yen for middle school age children, and 200yen for elementary school age children. The museum opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m..
The falling bombs, the burning houses, the screaming people, and the crying babies are the scenes seen at places at war. In August 1945, WW2 ended after long periods of unnerving conflict that involved many citizens as its casualties and injured victims. The animated film "Grave of the Fire Flies" reminds us of war as not in terms of them and us, enemies and allies, but simply of victims who lived their lives in and under the appalling pressure during wartime.
This movie left a strong impact on my life, after I watched it for the first time and the several times after. As it is told entirely in flash back with Seita's (main character) narratives, the opening line being "September 9th 1945, it is the day I died," indicates the woeful outcomes of these two children's lives, (Seita and Setsuko) as well as the dismal flow the story unfolds. Even though knowing what comes at the end, the emotional charge of this movie is set so high that it is impossible to watch it without sobbing. The unalterable events leading to the demise of two children will definitely move your heart and bring you to uncontrollable tears. This story will definitely pull your emotion out of you that you never knew you ever had.
The animated film, "Grave of The Fire Flies" was produced in 1988, based on the biographical novel written by an award winning author Akiyuki Nosaka, who won the first level prizes at the Chicago International Children's Film festival in 1994 in two of those distinctive categories: One for the Best Animated Film and another for the Rights of Child.
Mr. Nosaka described Seita in the film as a reflection of Mr. Nosaka himself. The entire story is told by Seita's spirit recalling the excruciatingly painful events pertaining to those of inhumanity, of isolation, of betrayal, and of grief, through which he and his 4year old sister experienced at the end of the waning wartime of WW2. Mr. Nosaka's grief over his young sister's death from malnutrition during WW2 is easily felt from this animated film.
Here is the narration of this film. After Seita and Setsuko lost their mother, two orphaned children who thought they found a roof over their head at their aunt's house: their distant relative of their father's side of the family. Because of the scarcity of food supplies in the Japan, allocated rations were so insufficient that their aunt trade the articles left by their deceased mother to exchange for spare food in order to feed her own children, while she leaves nothing for Seita and Setsuko. After having had a few agonizing quarrels over their aunt's deceitful demeanors, Seita and Setsuko decided to move into an old abandoned bomb shelter. There, the peace they allegedly found was in fact the beginning for them facing the reality of living in spitefulness of adults.
"Why must fireflies die?" the 4 year old girl named Setsuko asks her 14 years old brother Seita, who now became a significant caregiver to Setsuko after they lost both of their parents as injured victims of war. Setsuko is too small to understand their parents' death. Seita is older than Setsuko; yet, he is too young to take responsibility over their dismal living conditions.
In spite of Seita's sincere care, Setsuko falls to frailty in the cave and passes away. After he cremates Setsuko's dead body, Seita keeps the ashes in a small tin case, which was the empty case of Setsuko's favorite candy. After which Seita disheartens and loses his willpower of life after his sister's death, He, too, collapses on the floor at the train station. When the janitor reluctantly kicks Seita, Setsuko's ashes spill out onto the ground and he has a delusion of fireflies wheeling out into the air.
At the end of the movie, as Seita takes his last breath, Seita's spirit parted from his body and reunites with that of his daring sister's. They are both on the train to the other side of the world free from pain. The lives of two children in the story are depicted as though they were the fireflies. Taking their last flight into the darkness of the night sky, as what the precious fire flies would do before they pass. The spirits of two children, who were physically and mentally torn by the inexorable life events, failed from upholding their robust spirit of living, and wither away in the darkness forever.
Certain events experienced in our lives may put us into a swirl of agonizing emotional pain. The losses of signifi cant others, for instance, is one of the heart breaking moments we face. What's more is that nobody seems to know how to recover from such a bottomless sea of sorrow. In other narratives depicting death, they often encompass a character's despair as a consequential reaction over the deceased. Uttering character's emotional devastation in the tale is frequently exercised in order to grasp the hearts of its readers; however, Ms. Yoshimoto's tale, “Kitchen,” does not fall under such a category of depressing types, which keeps you closer to a box of Kleenex while you are reading it. The author, Banana Yoshimoto, focused on the human emotions that are derived through grief, and she accurately depicted sensible sentiments as well as overly expressed optimism that emerge within the mind of those who live in the reminiscences of the deceased.
When the fiction “Kitchen” was first published in 1988; the novel became one of the most popular fictions among teenage girls. This fictitious tale, which is written by a young female novelist, Banana Yoshimoto, reflects the minds of ambiguity to which most of young teens are apt to be stranded. Every event depicted in the book entails a hint of hopefulness in the shape of optimism, and these events point out to its readers that of despondency as a path to discover happiness in life. Optimistic views displayed in the tale may have reverberated to the minds of those who are in emotional pain, and that has resulted in the selling of millions of copies. Banana Yoshimoto has depicted death, grief, loneliness, and love in her narrative in a distinctive fashion.
From its title, “Kitchen,” no one could ever imagine how the author unfolds the tale. The further you read, the clearer the answer to such bewilderment becomes. Events displayed in the tale are mostly initiated in the kitchen, and the tale explores how the emotion of the main character modifies through interactions with people she meets in her kitchen. The story begins when the main character, a Japanese high-school girl, Mikage, faces the death of her grandmother, who was her last living relative left after the death of her parents in a car accident. After her grandmother passes, Mikage can only find peace in her kitchen, where she and her grandmother spent most of their time together. Since the kitchen commemorates the every delightfulness of family gatherings, it became the most pleasant venue for her in the house. One day, she meets a boy name Yuuichi who later invites Mikage to his house, where he lives with his mother, who actually is his transsexual father. Mikage eventually moves into their house, and then she begins to fall in love with Yuuichi after she spends time with him in the kitchen ...
Many Japanese language programs for foreigners are making use of the fictions written by Banana Yoshimoto for their studying materials. Especially for those who wish to begin exploring the world of Japanese literature, Ms. Yoshimoto's tales are highly recommended because her tales are lucid and easily accessible. Additionally, not only for those who are here from countries outside of Japan, Yoshimoto's tales are also listed as reading materials for Japanese literature. For those who wish to learn more about Banana Yoshimoto's signifi cant tales, you may visit local bookstores for the original Japanese version. If you are not interested in reading the novel in Japanese, many of her narratives, including “Kitchen,” are also translated into English, and can be purchased online at bookstores as well.
Lately, popular young fashion brands such as H & M and Forever 21 fi nally opened their new stores in Tokyo's Harajuku district. There is also a hot fashion building called Shibuya 109, where it is the heart of teen girls and those in their 20's. Japan's fashion industries inevitably lead to being a pioneer for no less than world. The unique point is Japanese people, especially young women, always have an eye for the current trends. At the same time, they try to search for more innovative looks by adding an original accent in order to present who you are. I bet you probably would be impressed by fashion in Japan, or at least have noticed a difference. If you ever visit Tokyo, check out each fashion store and compare between Harajyuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Omotesando etc. You would notice the distinctive characteristics and differences in their fashions by the areas as well.
In the U.S., you may check the fashion trends by watching makeover shows, women's talk shows, or some celebrity fashions in magazines. On the other hand, there are many monthly fashion magazines in Japan, which introduce all sorts of the items from top import brands to domestic handy items. These magazines are very informative and helpful for your coordination or new look. As a matter of fact, young models in the famous magazines such as “CanCam” or “JJ” are icons for young women in Japan. Editorial desks provide the latest trends for styles, new items or key colors for new seasons; what is more, they sometimes advise how to arrange and adjust your clothes for various situations, and show sample looks within your budget. By comparing different fashion items, they show you explicit options to suit your fi gure and how-to for hair styles, cosmetics items and so on. Regardless, they are interesting to check out, and these magazines are easy to find at supermarkets, conveniences stores or book stores. Therefore, becoming models for these types of magazines are many women's dream job.
Fashion industries commonly prefer mixed or foreign models who can grab readers' attention. For example, a top entertainment production, Oscar Promotion based in Tokyo, is holding a casting call for new models by trying out with their fashion studio in Sendai, Tohoku branch, in order to catch up with globalization and internationally expand their business. Oscar Promotion carries about 5,000 talented people, and about 110 successful entertainers who are often seen on screen, TV, or in other media. See the sponsor's ad. Aya Ueto is well known in acting and singing, and used for many TV commercials like Softbank, real estate, or food items. Being in TV commercials is a remarkable job to have in Japan. For instance, many Hollywood celebrities appear on the Japanese commercials. The latest commercial features Robert De Niro for the Subaru Legacy. Since Sendai and Tokyo are a little far from Misawa, those companies offi cially asked the Insider to assist them if our audience would like to contact them. The next Japanese idol could be you! If you are interested, please contact us at editor.insider(at-mark)gmail.com.
Snow Falling On Cedars is a 1999 film starring Ethan Hawke, Yki Kud, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins, Max von Sydow, James Rebhorn, and Sam Shepard. The story revolves around a 1951 murder trial, and the defendant's wife, Hatsue (Kud), who was once romantically involved with local reporter Ishmael Chambers (Hawke) who is covering the trial. The film was based on the eponymous 1994 best-selling novel by David Guterson, and was directed by Scott Hicks.
Set in the fictional village of San Piedro Island, part of the northern region of the Washington coast, the film jumps around from just before World War II, to years later, when Hatsue's husband (Kazuo Miyamoto, played by Rick Yune) is on trial for murdering a local fisherman. In the flashbacks, Ishmael and Hatsue are revealed to have had a relationship, one that was cut short due to the internment of Japanese Americans in "War Relocation Camps." Ishmael struggles throughout the film to reconcile his love for Hatsue and his feelings about the trial and Hatsue's husband.
Scott Hicks, director of the biopic Shine before this, enlisted in the help of veteran cinematographer Robert Richardson to help him craft a visually stunning environment for the film. All throughout the movie, viewers are treated to beautiful shots of snowfall that grab your attention. Richardson, who went on to win an Academy Award in 2004 for Best Cinematography, forces the viewer to take note of the vivid scenery. Composer James Newton Howard, who himself won an Academy Award in 1991 for The Prince Of Tides, crafted a beautiful score that fits the context of the film. With a remarkable film team behind him, Hicks created an emotionally enveloping film, where scenes such as when the Japanese Americans are all forced from their homes and into internment camps are particularly heart-rending.
Ethan Hawke gives a typical performance in this film, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He certainly doesn't get in the way, and the rest of the cast is made up of renowned, seasoned actors who help drive the film forward, along with Kud and Yune. Snow Falling On Cedars can be found for rent at the Overstreet Memorial Library on base, or for purchase on Amazon.com.
Fast like an airplane; strong like superman; charming like a human boy, the foremost character of TV animation during the 60's, Astro Boy has been one of the most popular and well-known super heroes of all ages and of all times. The classics of Tezuka Osamu's creations are many. One of our long term favorite movies of the Disney classic: "The Lion King," was said to be a remake of one of Tezuka's creations "Jungle Emperor Leo". Osamu Tezuka is truly a founder of Japanese Anime world and his creations have been admired and highly recognized by many in Japan to this day.
Osamu Tezuka was born in Osaka in 1942, in a town called Takarazuka. He spent his childhood watching TV shows; reading Manga comics; and playing with his favorite insects. His name, Osamu, was said to be named after his favorite insect Asamushi; the beetle. Tezuka was relatively small in size when he was young so he was bullied at school often. When he graduated from high school, he pursued his education at a medical school and earned a license as a medical doctor. He, however, continued to write Manga while he was attending medical school and never took a break from doing so. His love of drawing was so strong, that his ambitions as a medical doctor subsided gradually, and drawing Manga eventually had become the main career path of his life.
One of his earliest works, Tetsuwan Atom, which is better known as Astro Boy in countries outside of Japan, was originally created in 1951 as Captain Atom. The story sets in a futuristic world (at the time). A little boy Atom, fought against evil forces and destruction threatening the world. Tetsuwan Atom was the first animation to appear on a TV series in1963, as a short 30 minute program from Fuji TV. Immortality and the mighty strength of Tetsuwan Atom had captured the hearts of many, and kept increasing its number of fans of all ages in Japan. The show became hugely popular imminently at the time. Tetsuwan Atom is considered as a show that seemingly influenced Japanese people to become comfortable and accept domestic robotics today. The show came back on TV in 1980 after color television was introduced in Japan. Following this ever-popular masterpiece, his other works such as Ribbon Knight, Black Jack, Phoenix, and Passing Three Eyes, shown on TV kept entertaining people during the 1980's.
Tezuka also actively contributed to encouraging and nurturing many young Manga writers. Tezuka published COM magazine, for the purpose of establishing a discussion ground for young writers. In the magazine, he also published his own work "Phoenix", which later appeared on TV as one of a series of Anime. As in all, of his works, Tezuka mainly focused on expressing the significance of human lives and made his best effort in conveying his theory to his readers through his works. His creativity in his works was more important to him than gaining profit from selling his works as a business, so that he often told the importance of creativity to young writers, and that it should be the main purpose of drawing Manga to them as well.
While making an increase in the amount of fans, his works had become the only reminiscences of Tezuka today. He suffered from an illness and passed away shortly after he was diagnosed with liver failure in 1989 at the age of 60. At his 80th memorial event, a collection of Tezuka's original works, as well as his original license as a medical doctor, are exhibited at Edo-Tokyo Museum at Ryogoku in Tokyo. If you ever have a chance to plan a trip to Tokyo in the near future, this may be a great chance to take a peek at some of his works. For those who have known his works, and even to those who are interested in Japanese Anime and the Manga world, the Exhibition of Osamu Tezuka Collection in Tokyo may be worthwhile visiting.
Departures has become the first Japanese movie to have received an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. When it was announced in February, the whole country was in a celebrating mood: movie theaters extended its showing for months and were packed full with amused audience, rental DVDs are all gone during the weekends and a travel agency sells a tour to take you to locations where the movie was shot. The actor who played the main role has become a national hero. Here is the brief plot of the movie: Daigo loses his job as a cellist in an orchestra, and returns to his home town in Northern Japan. There he goes to a job interview, without knowing that the position is for an undertaker. Despite his bewilderment, he was instantly hired by Sasaki. Through touching experiences under his apprenticeship, however, he gradually develops pride in the profession. Living in the house and the town he was raised in, he recalls his sad childhood memories with his father.
This movie highlights a profession called nokan-shi, which makes up the face of the deceased, cleanses the body, dresses it up in a kimono, and places it into a coffin. In the U.S., these steps are done without the presence of the bereaved. In Japan, they are preferred as part of the ceremony which is conducted in front of them. In the movie, Daigo conducts each step in refined manners, paying the upmost reverence to the dead. His beautiful, flowing movement and respectful attitude touches the bereaved and the audience. Generally, an undertaker’s job, however, isn't as widely respected as it deserves. Daigo has to deal with his wife and friend's prejudice and disapproval of such a "shameless" profession. He isn’t an eloquent person who is good at persuading people. Watch how he changes their minds.
The actor who played the main role, Masahiro Motoki, is known as a perfectionist. He reportedly filmed ceremony scenes over and over till he was completely satisfied, paying the utmost attention to details that other staff members overlooked. That approach successfully makes him look like a professional mortician. Moreover, it is hard to believe that he had only a month to master playing a cello. Although the music was dubbed by a real cellist, it's amazing to see how smoothly his fingers and the bow move.
The elaborate story makes you laugh and cry. It first may seem a series of random trivial episodes that take you nowhere, but later you will notice they evolve into a highly-structured plot that powerfully convey messages on life, death, and redemption. Some symbolic scenes in the film, such as dumping an octopus into a river, devouring blowfish testis, and exchanging stones as messages help the film to be profound.
Another appealing factor of this film is the sceneries of beautiful countryside and the scenes shot in old, almost collapsing buildings. Those nostalgic settings, which may seem exotic to you, are in Sakata City in Yamagata Prefecture, south of Akita Prefecture. Many people visit these locations daily, and Kinki Nippon Tourist is selling package tours to visit there.
"When faced with a death sentence, how will you choose to live out the rest of your days?" This question is posed in the theatrical trailer for Akira Kurosawa's acclaimed film Ikiru ("To Live"), which was released in 1952. It continues, "And what if you do not possess even a single beautiful memory of love?"
Ikiru follows the final days of Kanji Watanabe, a middle-aged bureaucrat who has been stuck in a menial job for years. He’s effectively shut himself off from friends and family, and become a drone for his department. His own son seems less concerned about a relationship with Kanji, and more about what he gains to inherit from his estranged father one day.
Kanji's life takes a dramatic turn when he learns that he is suffering from stomach cancer, and will die within a year's time. This greatly unsettles Kanji, and so, he embarks on a journey to fi nd true pleasure before he passes away. Initially, he fi nds little pleasure in the activities that many people partake in, and in fact, they even seem to place him in a greater depression than before. Nothing seems to bring Kanji the joy of life he pursues, until one day, an encounter with a former co-worker leads to Kanji realizing what he must do in order to achieve what he desperately needs. In the end, his shift in attitude has a profound effect upon his co-workers.
Throughout cinema, there are key scenes that come to represent the overall themes of the work, or are simply so powerful that they resonate with audiences years after the debut of the film. For example, some people might not be familiar the 1950 hit film Sunset Blvd., but many can probably recognize the phrase, "All right, Mr. DeMille. I'm ready for my close-up," which was famously uttered in the final scene by the crazed silent film star Norma Desmond. Or, many casual movie fans may not have seen any of the Star Wars fi lms, but they most likely could tell you who Luke Skywalker's father is. These are all iconic moments in film, and one such scene exists in Ikiru, in which Kanji, during the final days of his life, swings solemnly on a snowy playground swing he helped create. This encapsulates everything Kanji was trying to achieve in the fi lm in one perfect, beautiful sequence that is highly regarded by cinema fans worldwide.
Kurosawa has been remembered for many films, such as Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Ran, but Ikiru stands as one of his most personal films in his vast body of work.
Oscar nominated director, Ridley Scott's sixth film Black Rain, written by Craig Bolotin and Warren Lewis, was released in 1989. The story sets in Osaka, Japan, during the 80s', and stars Michael Douglas, Andy Garcia, with co-stars Ken Takakura, Kate Capshaw, and Yusaku Matsuda.
Following his classic films as Alien and Blade Runner, Scott has accomplished undeniably entertaining features through effectively providing fast pace actions and intense thriller in this film. The film also remarkably expressed a widespread tale of honor and respect, to which Japanese Mob stars are known to be strictly bound. Stereotypical views that are held among people (both in Japan and western country during the 80's) are weaved into each character. For instance, Ken Takakura who plays the Japanese detective in the film exhibits a typical case of group culture, emotionally talented and by-the-book quality; Nick's (Michael Douglas) confrontational and distinctive character, on the other hand, contradicts that of Masahiro's (Ken Takakura). The movie “Black Rain” is one of the films that display complex work of not only action-thriller but also the diversity of Japanese and Western culture.
The story begins when Nick Couklen (Michael Douglas) and Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) witness a double homicide by Koji Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), the Japanese mobster leader, in the crowded cafe in New York City.
After arresting a prominent leader of Yakuza -- Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), Nick finds Sato's criminal act cannot be judged in the U.S due to foreign policy. Having trouble managing his own life, and being investigated by department of internal affair for allegation of pocketing confiscated drug money, Nick unwittingly involves himself into much more complicated troubles than he ever imagined when he is ordered to extradite the killer to Japan. Nick is assigned to escort Sato back to Japan with his partner, Charlie (Andy Garcia). Once arrived in Japan, the two detectives are tricked to release Sato into the hands of disguised mob gangs on the plane. In addition to searching for Sato, they have to deal with Japanese Law Enforcements that conspire against foreign agent. As he and his partner, Charlie; follow the trail of the ruthless Japanese Mob leader, two New York detectives are drawn deeper into Sato’s more brutal game at the center of Yakuza syndicate which rules the underground world of Japan.
As Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia are world famous actors, many reviews on this film made commentary on their acting, although, I have yet to find a review that talked about Japanese actor Matsuda Yusaku. Mr. Matsuda, (a ruthless killer Sato in this film) was one of the most popular actors in Japan. In his early films, back when he first became a star in Japan, I was not so impressed by his performance. However, after his remarkable performance in Black Rain, I have changed my opinion regarding his talents.
Yusaku was born in Shimonoseki; on the westernmost point of Japan's main island Honshu. He spent his youth living with his aunt in San Francisco. Upon his return to Japan in 1972, for the purpose of learning drama, he joined Bungaku-Za theatrical group in Tokyo. Black Rain's release in 1989 created a storm of publicity due to his admirable debut to the world scale film industry, Hollywood. His performance in the movie displayed "a rather psychotic" ruthless leader of Yakuza. The sense of dishonesty and disturbing smile he displays before slaughtering people in the film, (that gave me a chill on my back), shows Yusaku's true flair in acting. However, despite his excellent performance, this film became his last work in his acting career. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer shortly before the filming started and passed away after the movie was released. He was only 49 years old when he departed. His work in this movie is highly admired and recognized by many in Japan, and his fame as an actor remains unsurpassable to this day.
Many Japanese like to talk about strange incidents that are seemingly related to ghosts. Horror movies, usually involving ghosts, have been blockbuster hits in Japan. Lately, many Japanese horror movies have been remade for U.S. markets. The Ring, The Grudge and Dark Water are some of them. You might have seen them, but have you seen the originals? It's interesting to compare the American version with the original. They are sometimes entirely different in direction, effects, and even in plots -- all to reflect what scares the audience of each culture. You might feel that visual effects in Japanese horror movies are more subtle, and violent scenes are less. Instead, more background explanations or recollection scenes are inserted. It seems that J-Horror puts emphasis on psychological and tension-building type of eeriness, whereas its Hollywood counterpart puts emphasis on visually startling scenes and obvious scariness. Find out which one makes you feel more terrified! The films listed below are all available through Amazon.com.
Starring: Matsuhisma Nanako
Director: Hideo Nakata
U.S. Version: The Ring (DVD2003), starring Naomi Watts, directed by Gore Verbinski
Plot: A male journalist was investigating a case in which a group of high school students died in a mysterious manner. At a cabin where they stayed before their death, he found a bizarre video with a message, “Now that you have watched this video, you will die in seven days.” He had to fight against time to save his family and himself who had watched this video.
The first blockbuster J-Horror introduced to the U.S. It’s based on a bestseller novel written by Koji Suzuki. Many details in the plots of The Ring are different from Ringu. Some say it’s almost an improvisation and not an adaption of Ringu.
Ju-on (DVD 2004)
Starring: Megumi Okina
Director: Takashi Shimizu
U.S. Version: The Grudge (DVD 2005), starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, directed by Takashi Shimizu
Plot: A volunteer worker for the elderly visits a house for a sick and mentally disoriented woman. She sees a strange boy who is not supposed to be there. People who go into the house start to die one after another, because of the curse put on it by a family who lived and murdered there before. Ghosts appear more frequently than other J-Horror films. Since both versions were directed by the same director and both were shot in Japan, the adopted version keeps the taste of the original. The only major difference is importing an American cast.
One Missed Call/ Chakushin Ari (DVD 2005)
Starring: Kou Shibazaki
Director: Takashi Miike
U.S. Version: One Missed Call (DVD 2008), starring Jason Beghe
Plot: A college student's friends die one after another after she receives a phone call and a video that predicts their death. She eventually gets a prediction of her own death. In pursuit of finishing the nasty game, she finds a woman with a psychological disorder in which she abuses her child in order to draw attention to herself.
Dark Water (DVD 2005)
Starring: Hitomi Kuroki
Director: Hideo Nakata
U.S. Version: Dark Water (DVD 2005), starring: Jennifer Connelly, directed by Walter Salles
Plot: A mother and her daughter moved to an apartment to separate from her husband. At the new place they suffer from a persistent leak of dark water, a strange noise, and other odd incidents. One day the daughter finds a red bag on the rooftop, a belonging of a girl who has been missing for two years.
The story is based on a novel by Koji Suzuki, author of Ringu’s. Both the original and remade versions depict the mother’s suffering delicately. There are only some minor differences between the plots.
Shutter (DVD 2008)
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Megumi Okina
Director: Mayasuki Ochiai
Plot: Ben and Jane, a newlywed couple, moved to Japan. One day, Ben ran over a woman on a dark street but he couldn’t find a trace of her body. Since then, he started to feel aches in his shoulders and has also noticed strange white blurs in many of his photos.
Not exactly a J-Horror. This is a remake of a Thai movie. This version was brought by a Japanese director and American cast. It was filmed in Tokyo.
World famous Yasujiro Ozu’s 1959 classic “Ohayo (Good Morning)” (a remake of his 1932 silent film “I Was Born, But…”) is an amusing tale about two young Japanese boys in a 1950’s Japanese suburb who undertake a silence protest in order to persuade their parents into purchasing a television. The boys’ talking embargo unsettles the neighborhood, where neighbors mistake their silence as indications of problems at home, and thus, gossip spreads like wildfire. In addition, Ozu unfolds the budding romance of the boys’English tutor and their young aunt.
Ozu is famous for showcasing the subtle and the every day things of life, and this is no exception. Most of his shots are from the same angle, and many scenes within the film take place at mundane locations -- along the dirt road that leads to the school, the big, empty train station platform, the typical Japanese living room, etc. His humor is also very subtle, which is demonstrated in flatulence jokes with the children, or the misunderstood actions of the neighbors, or the unspoken rules of conduct that adults feel compelled to live by.
Ozu also likes to shake up the Western model of film by specifically not showing his audience a key point in the plot. For example, when dues money for the neighborhood goes missing, the viewer never actually sees it happen, yet much of the ensuing gossip is concerned with where the money went. This aversion to showing certain scenes illustrates Ozu’s knack for creating drama without following the standard practices.
Ohayo is an excellent example of innovative Japanese cinema. Its humorous premise, coupled with its social and economic undertones, make for a unique viewing experience. The movie is available for a reasonable price on Amazon.com, or if you have access to the Overstreet Library on base, there is a copy there for rent.
Many people are curious what movies will receive Academy awards this year. Watching movies must be a popular and easy activity in this cold area. I grew up with watching many Hollywood movies, and it helped me learning not only a language, but also the American culture and customs. It was because everything was so new and dramatic to me. Even though the Japanese film industry also has been remarkably appealing with great stories and pictures, I hardly paid attention to them until I recently watched a movie called “Hula Girls" -- an award-winning film based on true stories. The movie was released in September 2006 and won best picture, best director, best original screenplay, and best actress in a supporting role at the 2007 Japan Academy Awards.
The story is about a hula instructor, who is an outsider and a member of the bush girls in Fukushima prefecture, who decided to become a Hula girl and help transition an old coal mining town to a new Spa resort. In 1965, the town faced unemployment due to the decreased coal use after oil started becoming the predominant energy resource. There was human drama and friction between the leaders and the local miners regarding the town development. People would say coal is the black diamond, and that the hot well was just their obstacle. However, things had to change. The obstacle was becoming a key factor for the town to survive.
As a tagline back in days -“Let’s go to Hawaii with 1000 yen in a hand," Tohoku's Hawaii was opened. In 1966, Joban Hawaiian center as known as current Spa Resort Hawaiians started the business with a large hot spring water park in Iwaki city. The main roles in the movie starring Yasuko Matsuyuki and Yu Aoi were derived from the actual key persons Kazuko Hayakawa and Emiko Ono, who had an important stake in the resort opening. Furthermore, they would be the origin for the current hula booms in Japan. Within several months, Kazuko Hayakawa trained the town girls that were head by Emiko who all had no experiences in dance. The distrusted newcomer generated opposition from the miners and the girls at the beginning, but with her dignified passion for dance gradually grew the friendship and respect as a true leader.
This movie is available at amazon.com with English subtitles and a 4.5 star rating. The information about the resort can be available in English here. For the overnight spa guests, there seem free shuttle services from Tokyo. It is a little far from Misawa to drive down in contrast to driving to Kenji World. Nevertheless, the destination would be a unique getaway. In the previous edition of the Insider, our staff writer Arisa Brown had an interview with Misawa’s Hawaii, Lomi Lomi. Please see the sponsor ad in the last page for more information or go to our website for the archives under the top page articles.
Akira Toriyama (鳥山 明) is one of the most famous artists originating from Japan in the past couple of decades. The name might not be recognizable to some, but his creations are surely familiar - namely, Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball. But we'll get there momentarily. First, let's look at Mr. Toriyama's beginnings, so as to better understand the environment that birthed such a great talent.
Mr. Toriyama was born April 5, 1955 in Kiyosu, Aichi, Japan. Not much is known about his childhood, so it's probably same to say it was unremarkable. It is worth noting, however, that he has pointed out his love of Osamu Tezuka's creation Astro Boy and the Walt Disney film 101 Dalmatians as being inspirations to him.
1979 was the year that Mr. Toriyama first broke out into the public eye, with his first story titled Wonder Island, which was published in Weekly Shonen Jump, a popular manga magazine. He followed this with his first big manga sensation - Dr. Slump. Dr. Slump, which follows the adventures of an inventor and his defective female robot, ran weekly in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1980 until 1984. Dr. Slump won Mr. Toriyama the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1982 for Best Shonen or Shojo Manga Series Of The Year. Things were looking great for Mr. Toriyama, but his greatest work was still to come.
Dragon Ball debuted in 1984 after Dr. Slump wrapped up, and was an instant sensation that broke records everywhere by selling over 120,000,000 copies. It only took four years for Dragon Ball to take the leap from Japan to Europe, where it saw similar success. Dragon Ball would go onto debut in America and Latin America in 1996, a year after he wrapped the series in Japan. Even though the series had ended in Japan, its popularity grew faster and stronger as kids in America flocked to the show and the comics.
Mr. Toriyama helped with the production of numerous movies based on Dragon Ball, as well as an anime series that followed the plot of the manga series and countless video games based on the series. Dragon Ball was now a huge franchise, with merchandise selling like crazy all over.
After he finished Dragon Ball, Mr. Toriyama never too k up the task of an elongated manga again. He had resigned himself from steady work in order to “take some new steps in life.” He recently helped with the development of character designs for the series “Blue Dragon,” although he is not involved in the plotting.
It would seem that Mr. Toriyama has had enough time off, however, and is returning to his biggest success. In 2008, he announced plans do develop an online role-playing game called Dragon Ball Online, which would serve as a direct sequel to the series (Dragon Ball GT, an anime series that Mr. Toriyama was not involved with, is not considered completely in canon with the Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z series). At the age of 53, Mr. Toriyama continues to excite fans all over the world with his incredible talent.
Do you miss having a cable or satellite? Compared to flipping through hundreds of channels including PPV in the US, AFN offers only a few choices, and it just reruns the same shows day and night. Have you wondered about any of Japanese shows or tried to watch them? I bet you have no clue what to watch. Generally speaking, Japanese broadcasting companies enthusiastically show comedies, quiz shows, music shows, cartoons, several reality shows (just interviewing local people), travel and foods channels etc. during the prime time. Popular dramas come on after 9pm. Over all, famous comedians, actors, or musicians are involved with the creation. As a result, they are greatly appealing to the Japanese audiences. What I like about the Japanese TV shows is they sometimes show informative and fulfilling contents for audience to learn something new or something unexpected. They are not the “same-old same-old” programs.
Certainly, most of you would have a huge language barrier to fully appreciate any of the shows. Nevertheless, this would be the only chance you get to watch them and open a new door to your life. Sometimes, it may also be interesting to you without knowing what exactly they are saying. Alternatively, you may start learning more about the language and the culture.
A unique show, “RUN! POSTMAN RUN!” has been continuously broadcasted by TBS on Sunday at 10pm. “Delivering a package” and “Receiving a package” do provide heartwarming stories. This show is a documentary about a messenger delivering a package with a special message to wherever in the world upon request. It keeps track of the journey and presents it to the world. The show accepts requests from around the world; in short, it could even be you in the an audience as well as a celebrity. These senders cannot deliver their packages and special messages because there are undeliverable reasons by using the general postal services.
Its unique point is that the postman travels to a destination with only a few clues about the receiver. In other words, the postman only has a package, an ambiguous address and a small notebook with some information about the destination country. The postman has to do his or her best for the mission whether it takes quite a time. The postman could encounter some troubles or may not be able to reach the destination. Then, what would be the conclusion after the adventure? Full of drama from the show would definitely entertain you as if you were on a roller coaster.
You may submit your request at this site. The previous story can be viewed at the site as well.
Just as many American girls like groups such as *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Jonas Brothers, Japanese girls like boys’ music groups which are good-looking and can sing, and dance. Johnny’s Entertainment is an agency which has been producing a number of such groups in Japan since 1962. The president of Johnny’s Entertainment is Hiromu "Johnny" Kitagawa. He was born to his Japanese parents in Los Angeles in 1931. During World War II he spent his boyhood in an interment camp with his family. Afte the war he worked for the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Occupation Forces in South Korea and later for the American Embassy in Japan. During his spare time he coached a baseball team and named it “Johnny's Boys Baseball Team”. One day he took four boys from the team to see West Side Story, which fascinated them so strongly that he decided to set up an entertainment agency to produce the four boys as a start.
Current popular boys' groups are SMAP, TOKIO, Kinki Kids, V6, Arashi, Takkii & Tsubasa, NEWS, Kanjani 8, KAT-TUN, and Hey! Say! JUMP, which are all from Johnny's Entertainment. Not only do they sing and dance, but they also act on dramas, appear in TV commercials, and some have their own TV programs; not a day goes by where you don't see them on TV. And their concert tickets sell out quickly!
To site an example of these groups popularity, Arashi consists of five males, ranging in age from 25 to 28, debuted nine years ago as teenagers. Their first single sold 560,000 copies within a week. Kazuya Ninomiya played an important role in Letters from Iwo Jima. Right now, they're regularly seen on seven different TV programs and four radio shows from Sunday through Saturday, and appear in eight TV commercials as a group or individuals. Their latest single CD “Beautiful Days” was ranked Number 1 on Oricon Hit Chart during November 2008.
Johnny’s Entertainment will continue to charm large audiences including “girls” of all ages, and boys who dream to become a star.
How was your Christmas? Are you ready for a New Year?
All over Japan is now getting busy. You would see more people at the stores than usual since they are preparing for the New Year’s Eve. “Kouhaku Uta Gassen (Kouhaku)” is a commonly known annual music show brought by the Japanese public broadcasting company, NHK. The program is broadcasted on television, radio and internationally on some cables thanks to NHK’s networks. Its history has started since 1959, and this year will be the 59th annual event. The show will start at 7:20pm and end at 11:45pm
"Kouhaku”literally means “Red and White Music Battle.” In short, female artists and male artists are divided into the red and white teams to perform their songs and pursue the winning team at the end. So far, the red team has won 28 times; on the other hand, the white team has won 30 times. The judges are the selected general audiences who visited Tokyo Takarazuka Theater and several Japanese celebrities who made a successful year. It is likely four and a half hour Super bowl’s half time show.
The program is consisted by an annual theme, which has been “the Power of Songs” for the last three years. Then, NHK is advertising this year’s theme as “People’ s Bonding/Connection by the Power of Songs.” In the meanwhile, families, friends and couples get together to spare the last prime time of a year. The songs and performers are well chosen by the NHK’s committee depending on their record sales and adaptability to the annual theme or to the world. In addition to the performances, there are some games or other activities; what is more, the performers’ costumes, hair styles, makeup are fun to watch. Performing at Kouhaku is a big highlight in a performer’s music career.
This year the program will have the total 53 units of performers. The red team will have 6 units of new comers; in contrast to, the white team will have 8 units. A variety of genre music will be performed and meet different generation’s views. However, a lightning star from the US who sings ENKA(Japanese old-fashion ballad) in hip hop fashion, JERO would defi nitely deserve standing ovation. The top artist in ENKA, Saburou Kitajima will mark the 45 times of records to be on this stage in his long career. This year’s Kohaku will also welcome the globally known artist, Enya singing "Save the Future." Looking back at the year, many Japanese stay home on the New Year’s Eve to watch this show. How authentic!Kohaku Utagassen homepage (Japanese)
Do you remember back in the United States you might occasionally purchase scratch cards? For example, in the US, you can easily purchase a variety of lottery tickets at supermarkets, gas stations or drugstores etc. Some may think gambling is just a waste of money, but others may wish to grab the American dream. However, I assume that most of you may not even know Japan has something like that.
In fact, the 550th annual largest lottery event by Mizuho Bank Ltd. is coming up on the New Year’s Eve called "Nenmatsu Jumbo Takarakuji.” As shown on the sample, there is a unit number with six digits on a ticket. The tickets have been on sale since Nov 25th this year, and you can purchase them till December 19th. One ticket costs 300 yen. The grand jackpot is 70 prizes of two billion yen. The runner up is 140 prizes of one billion yen. Also, one number before or after from the grand jackpot will win 50,000,000 yen (approximately $500,000) - another 140 prizes. The prizes are given down to the seventh. Furthermore, the bonus prize for the 30th anniversary offered this year: 1,000,000 yen ($10,000) for 7000 prizes. The drawing will be taken place in Tokyo, and the result is usually revealed on the New Year's newspaper. Nowadays, you can also check it online.
I would recommend you visiting one of the selling booths in Misawa due to the language barrier. There are some other popular lotteries available in Japan such as LOTO6, MINI LOTO, Numbers 3 & 4 besides quick scratch cards. These are similar lotteries offered nationwide in the US. You mark your numbers on a piece of paper. My favoriteis LOTO 6 that draws every Thursday because the grand prize offers two billion yen. There a “carry-over” feature if there are no winners for the grand jackpot. For example, the carry-over jackpot prize for November 27th is 557,769,048 yen (approximately almost six million dollars) as of November 20th.
Once you purchase the tickets, just bring it back to where you purchased them within a year. The ticket sellers would assist you to check the results. If you won some yens, you would have to visit one of Mizuho Bank branches for the money exchange. So, interested to fi ne out the direction to the tickets booth? Just go straight on the street in front of Misawa Post Office toward the airport. You will see a Circle K on your right before Avail. It is located in the parking lot next to the Circle K.
A good luck charm -- Manekineko
Please check the link for Feng Shui at this site. It is commonly believed a good luck cat holding its right foot up brings monetary luck. On the other hand, a left foot up means bringing good people and happiness. Set the good luck charm toward the south side of your house with a red item, and lay your lottery tickets wrapped with a white paper. This may bring you fortune.
Blogs. They're everywhere on the internet. From the newsworthy to mundane personal details, there’s a blog for just about everyone and everything. It’s more than an update on the concept of a newspaper editorial? it’ s a very diverse way to get information, stay in touch, and be entertained. Blogs are a global phenomenon, too. There are world leaders with blogs, even. In Japan, blogs are as popular as they are in the United States, and lately, it’s all about A Strange-Faced Cat Named Mako. Mako, the strange-faced cat in question, has become a sensation in Japan. Rescued from an out-of-business animal rental company, Mako, alongside fellow felines Shion and Shirotaro, attract over 100,000 views every single day. Their owners, Tokyo residents Yutaro Oka and Keiko Maeda, attach brief messages along with photos of the cats on the blog. When the blog was started in May 2006, Oka and Maeda only intended for it to be “a sort-of diary of observations about Mako,” according to Maeda. The blog soon caught on, however, and led to Mako and her owners appearing in a wide variety of media forums, from television to magazines and newspapers.
Mako’s blog is so popular, that two picture books featuring her images have sold very well in Japan. Many of Mako’s followers claim to find the blog soothing, and have credited it with inspiring within them an interest in animals. “When people told me (about Mako’s effect on them), I felt that Mako might be … small, but has had a huge impact on many people," Maeda said.
The blog does more than provide amusement or comfort to its followers, however. Through income earned from affiliates with the blog, Maeda has donated over 150,000 yen to help provide for stray animals. Mako now gets to help out the less fortunate kitties and doggies around Japan.
Mako isn’t the only popular blog making waves in Japan. Yusuka Kamiji's blog has found a widespread audience as well, which earned it a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records for being the most-accessed blog. Yusuka and Mako’s blogs are prime examples of how blogs have revolutionized how we receive information, stay in touch, or simply pass the time. To check out Mako yourself, visit her blog directly. The blog is in Japanese, so you'll need to translate the page to read the messages that accompany the images. (Information from Astuko Mastumoto’s article "Diary-keeping pet project for bloggers" was used for this article).
In today's Japanese music scene there is an abundance of genres that overlap and intertwine resulting in creative and entertaining beats. In Japan one of the most popular types of this music is a mix of hip hop, rock and punk. “Mixture kei” or mixed music was founded in the mid 1990s and one band that helped to start this wave of music was the one and only Dragon Ash. The group started out with high school friends Makoto Sakurai and Kenji Furuya, the son of the famous actor Ikko Furuya. The two started their music careers in punk music, a very popular genre at the time. Yet Kenji Furuya really wanted to perform hip hop, which was just starting to make its way into Japan. He was then able to mix the two by splicing the beats and sounds from original and popular rock/punk music, with original rapping on the mic. Their music became an instant hit, and appealed to a wide fan base who appreciated the multiplicity and expansion of the two genres of music.
Unlike much of the rap that is heard from the United States, Japanese lyrics focus on the positive aspects of life, such as encouragement in ones goals or dreams, enjoying life, and being grateful for friends and family; Dragon Ash hit this on the head with colorful and uplifting lyrics. This combination of music styles and lyrics then went on to inspire many young artists to this day. Still going strong, the band will be holding the Freedom Tour 2009 starting next march touring throughout Japan. For information you can visit their website at http://www.dragonash.co.jp Japanese), tickets can also be bought at Lawsons.
The very popular celebrity, diva, and model Leah D izon shocked fans t his month with some unexpected news: On the last day of her nationwide c oncert tour, held in Shibuya, Leah Dizon stood tall on the stage in a very stylish baby doll dress, announcing to her fans that she was four months pregnant. Not only was she pregnant, but that she had also had a wedding at the Hilton Hotel the week prior! Leah Dizon, 22 had just started her career in Japan with a huge bang only 2 years ago and has expanded her fan base nationwide. Now many wonder how -- and if -- she is planning to continue her career as a Japanese Idol. To find this out, a conference/interview was held the next day where reports were allowed to ask specific questions. Leah Dizon seemed distant and annoyed, not answering any questions directly. All that was revealed from the meeting was that the man she had married was a 29-year-old stylist who apparently may look like Johnny Depp. She also plans to take some time off during her pregnancy and hopes to return when she is ready.
Rock music is popular all around the world, and here in Japan it is no different. Japanese rock has its very own generation ? Asian Kung-Fu Generation, or AKG for short, to be exact! This quartet of young rockers has been rocking their fans in Japan for almost 13 years now, and is only growing in popularity.
Asian Kung-Fu Generation was formed in 1996, when vocalist Masafumi Got?, guitarist Kensuke Kita, and bassist Takahiro Yamada met each other in a musical club at Kanto Gakuin University. These three started a band together, which was joined a little later on by drummer Kiyoshi Ijichi, who had just left another band and was looking for a new one to play with. The four musicians began to play regularly at Kanto Gakuin University, as well as at various venues throughout the Yokohama area.
During this early time in their career, they met with the musician Caramelman, whom they collaborated with on their fi rst EP in 2000, titled Caramelman And Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Most of the six tracks on their fi rst EP were sung in English. Also in 2000 came the EP titled The Time Past And I Could Not See You Again. For the rest of that year, the band promoted their EPs and continued to play a wide variety of venues.
In 2001, the band released their third EP, titled I’m Standing Here. Off of this EP came their fi rst single ever, titled Konayuki. They really pushed to promote the single, which was eventually picked up and put in to heavy rotation due to popular request. Tokyo began to really take notice of the band around this point.
The next year came, and AKG kept on going by releasing what has been called their fi rst mini-album (which was technically an EP), titled H?kai Amplifi er. The album was a hit, and topped the Highline Records’ weekly charts for two consecutive weeks, as well as reaching 35 on the Oricon indies sales chart. Ki/oon Records re-released the album in Spring 2003, which led right into their fi rst headline show at the Shimokitazawa Shelter. AKG’s popularity just kept climbing.
AKG was the recipient of the Best New Artist award in 2004, as well as the Best Music Video award for the video to their song Kimi To Iu Hana. This was also the year AKG fi rst headlined its own tour, which was called Five Nano Seconds.
Recently, Asian Kung-Fu Generation toured with American rock band Weezer, as they made their way from location to location on their world tour. With six studio albums and fi ve EPs, AKG continue to rock their fans and show no signs of slowing down.
Visit the fun site.
Exile, formally known as J soul Brothers, is a dance performing/singing group that has grown immensely in popularity. Last month, it ended a very successful tour in Aomori. The group which originally had 7 members but now 6 members, went through a number of auditions and competitions over the last 6 years, trying to fi nd the perfect match of vocalists and performance. Now they appear as a cross between “boys to men” and “backstreet boys and” their music can be said to be a mixture of R&B and pop. Exile is always performing in ensembles of the latest trendy fashion with the two vocalists Atsushi and Taka swooning audiences away. Meanwhile, their four background dancers perform nicely choreographed moves, making both concerts and music videos a treat for the audio and visual senses. Exile can also be seen on various Japanese television shows and they participate in weekly radio shows where they talk on various topics of music and life. They are currently working on a new album that fans are dying to hear and concert schedules to tour Japan next year.
A group that has decided to make a long awaited and highly anticipated comes back this year - Speed. This group consist of four girls from Okinawa - Hiroko Shimabukuro, Eriko Imai,Takako Uehara and Hitoe Arakaki, was fi rst formed when Rise Productions held an audition at their school Okinawan Actors school (OAS).
After being selected they were asked to go to Tokyo to be regular backup vocalists and dancers on a television show. Yet their talents surpassed these roles and it became quite clear that they could soar further in their career by forming their own group. One month later in December of 1995, they form their own band, Speed, which proved as a very fitting name for the group that seemed to come out top songs on various charts. After receiving numerous awards in mere three years they even came out with a movie “Andromedia”, a romantic science fi ction flick.
Their music which could be described as energetic and catchy, fully utilizes their vocalist talents, making songs with soaring notes and strong background singing. And it seems that their talents in both singing and dancing were at their peak before their announcement of disbandment to devastated fans in 2000. After their breakup to “pursue solo careers”, they did regroup twice in order to raise money for charity. However this time they say it is permanent, and as of last month they have already released a new single and plan to do so from then on. For anyone interested in checking out some of their music, a song considered that best represent them is “White Love” can still be found in any music store.
Yoshiya Asamizu, who goes by the artist name Note (as in music note), is a bright, young, up and coming song writer and music producer originally from Misawa. Now living in Tokyo, he works along side predominantly some of the most prevalent producers and song writers, who in turn make music for Japan’s top singers and bands, such as Amuro Namie, Exile, Jibura, and Leah Dizon. All of which are the divas and stars of the Japanese music scene.
His love for music fi rst started in Junior High School. Yoshiya said that the words “let’s play some music” said to him by a friend was the fi rst milestone towards his life goal of pursuing music. He fi rst started as a drummer and was infl uenced by such bands as Metallica, Slayer and other bands similar to Slipknot. While attending high school, he focused on learning to play percussion and piano which then broadened his horizons into other genres of music such as Jazz, Classical R&B and Hip Hop. Having the experience of playing music and a natural ear for music, he graduated high school and moved to Tokyo. Yoshiya then became a studio musician, drumming in the background for recording artists. At that time he realized that he missed playing in a band as he had in junior high and high school, leading him to pursue the formation of a new band. As he worked and played with other musicians in the area he felt that something was missing. He did not feel that spark or connection that he had felt when he was in his former bands.
At that point in time, he found himself drawn to hip hop and R&B, along with a desire to produce music as a profession. As a start towards that direction, he chose to move to New York to learn more about R&B and hip hop and the culture behind it. His stay in New York lasted for a little over a year. And during that time Yoshiya says that he encountered many life altering experiences, such as being treated as a member of a minority group for the fi rst time in his life, and having to learn street smarts and skills necessary in order to survive the streets of New York City. While there he was also able to visit various clubs, learning and improving upon his knowledge of music production. Overall, his views on life and the mentality of the Japanese and American cultures were broadened and changed. He then returned to Japan and had the chance to meet Backlogic, the big producer who he is currently apprenticing with now.
When asked who were the heroes in his life he jokingly replied“Batman,” but then went on to explain that there was a line from Alfred (Batman’s Butler) in one of the movies where he says “Why do people make mistakes and tend to go the wrong way? So that they may learn and rise above to a higher level.” He says that these words stuck with him and he has tried to live by them to a degree. But his real heroes are his father and his coworkers who work along side him in music. Yoshiya’s future goals are to continue doing what he loves and build connections to work with artists from other countries.
Currently, Yoshiya has released two CDs that are featured In Jammin, a clothing store located right out the main gate. So for those of you who like R&B and Hip hop, and would like to show some support for a local artist, check out Jammin and pick up a CD by Yoshiya Asamisu, aka Note.
Last month, waves of shock shot through the Japanese music scene as news of 徒aisan, or the disbanding, of the band Southern All Stars was rumored among thousands of their loyal fans. This year marked the 30th anniversary for the beloved group. The band first started in 1978, when singer-guitarist Kuwata Keisuke (who was already in a band at the time) met bass guitarist Sekiguchi Kazuyuki and keyboardist-vocalist Hara Yuko while attending college. From this point, the band acquired three more members: drummer Hiroshi Matsuda, percussionist Hideyuki "Kegani" Nozawa, and guitarist Takashi Omori, who was in the band until 2001. After the offical naming of the band Southern All Stars (now called "Southern" for short), they released their first song Katteni Sindbad, which at first did not get much notice. Yet with numerous promotional efforts, such as the band performing in various quirky and crazy costumes on television shows, Katteni Sindbad began to climb the charts and made its way to number three. Their second song received similar results, but it was their third song that could actually be called their debut, entitled 的toshi no Ellie(1979). This single exploded on the music scene and is considered today as one of their best works, and has been covered by many artists to this day.
Southern All Stars continued to make a variety of songs without any specific genre, lyrics, or beats. Their songs could be anything, from a hilarious pop-rock song performed in costumes on colorful stages, to jazzy, heartfelt love songs depicting deep emotions and thoughts. This allowed for a wide fanbase regardless of sex and/or age, which in turn has helped the band remain at the top of their game for the last 30 years.
Fortun ately, the rumor of their retirement was cleared up at their four-day 30th anniversary concert, held at the Nissan Stadium last month. There, they praised their many fans, thanking them for their dedication and support for the last thirty years. Kuwata Keisuke also made an official announcement saying that they were not breaking up, but rather taking an indefinate vacation, which relieved their worried fans. Southern stated that by doing this, they felt that they would be able to produce better music for their fans and for themselves in the future.
Mr. Mino Monta is a household name and familiar face to just about everyone in Japan. Born and raised in Setagaya, Tokyo, this 61-year-old man could be compared to the American television show host Regis Philbin. With his exceptionally well-groomed appearance, highly opinionated comments, and open shows of emotion, Mino Monta appeals to all age groups as the ideal host. The man is said to be so skilled at his job that there is actually something called the “Monta Method,” which is the name that has been given to his technique of capturing the attention and curiosity of his viewers.
After graduating from Rikkyo University, Mino Monta started his career with a newspaper company. Then, in 1967, he transferred to Nippon Cultural Broadcasting (NCB Radio), and became a radio newsreader. In 1979, he went to work for Aichi Broadcasting, and began appearing on television as a Fuji TV baseball reporter. Mino Monta then furthered his career by hosting “Omoikiri Telebi,” a daily afternoon show catering specifically to housewives. From discussions ranging from serious news to beauty tips, he became not only popular, but also well trusted by his audiences, to the point where he was raising sales on any product that he verbally approved of on his shows.
As his fame grew, so did his live hours on television. This led to him receiving a Guinness Book of World Records award for“most hours of live television” in 2006 for broadcasting a total of 21 hours and 42 seconds! Counting the commercials, narrations, and television shows all together, he easily surpasses this number by 5 hours in one week! The man truly loves being on television and has made remarks that he would be happy if he could die talking.
Unfortunately, he did suffer from over-work and possible lack of sleep (reportedly just 3 hours a night), which led to a brief hospitalization over New Years, and an operation on his back. But a few weeks later, and he was back. He announced to his viewers that while he was hospitalized and watching TV, he realized that he had no late night shows! A very “Monta” reaction from the dedicated television host. Today, he continues to appear all over television at almost any time of the day. He has said nothing about retirement, and is still talking strong.
From the quirky comedian duos, to the academy award winning actors on the big screen, Japan has a wide variety of entertainers. Yet another type of entertainers that must not be forgotten are the amazing magicians with their inspiring live performances. One such performer is Cyril Takayama. A man born and raised in Hollywood, and of Japanese and French-Moroccan decent, has brought his unique touch to the world of magic. Currently, he can be viewed all over television speaking in distinct mixture of Japanese and English.
Yet this young magician with bleached hair, pierced eyebrow and rolled up sleeves, first gained recognition as a street performer. His numerous displays of tricks in front of curious crowds made their way onto Youtube. Such as the hamburger trick, where Cyril stands in front of a menu in a frame on a concrete wall, then he proceeds to state his hunger while extracting a hamburger of his choice from the menu and takes a big bite. After he has tasted one, he pushes it back into the menu and extracts another which he then walks away while saying “um this is great”. Viewers are left baffled and giggling as they point to the menu where the image of the hamburger is gone. Very clever!
Cyril will be holding a 2008 Aomori tour starting November 4th (Tuesday). The auditorium will be opened at 6:30PM and the show will start at 7:00PM. There are two types of tickets available, S- for 8500 yen and A- for 5500 yen. The show will be held at the Aomori Shimin Bunka Kaikan. For more information please call 022-222-2033 between the hours of 11am to 6pm.Cyril's website: http://www.cyrilmagic.com/index.html (Japanese)
There once was a little girl who dreamed of growing up to become a famous singer. Well her dream came true, and she is now known throughout Japan as Leah Dizon, a successful singer and knock-out model. Yet, how she came to become famous is actually quite interesting. Leah Dizon, whose real name is Leah Donna Dizon, was born in Las Vegas, Nevada with a mixed ethnicity of Chinese, Filipino, and French. There she went to school while hoping to one day become a singer. She also acquired an interest in Japan, animation and Japanese online games which later influenced her choice of becoming famous in Japan. When she graduated from high school, she decided to move to LA and sought a major in film while posing as a model on the side. These modeling jobs were mostly for Import Car magazines for which she would pose on the front covers. As the magazines circulated throughout Asia (mostly Japan) she became a familiar face on the Asian modeling scene, which then lead her to start self-advertising online. In 1996 she decided to make a demo tape of herself singing J-pop songs strictly in Japanese and sent these to various talent companies in Japan, along with a selection of her modeling photos. In April of that year, she received a reply to interview in Tokyo for Victor Entertainment and was in Japan five months later. The company was surprised to find that she did not speak Japanese at all, and that she could sing in Japanese better than many competing young Japanese artists. Regardless of this, she was hired on the spot and began production on her first single. From here, her career has continued to blossom with her doll-like-face appearing on CD Jackets, photo albums, television shows and fashion magazines. And her music has shown a consistent progression in quality and originality. So, if you are interested in seeing a very beautiful, multicultural talent, then check out Leah Dizon, a wonderful addition to Japanese entertainment.Leah's website: http://leah-dizon.net/ (Japanese)
From the sunny island of Okinawa, there are many artists with dazzling talent and brilliant personalities. One such artist, whose music has not only rock Japan, but Asia as well, is Amuro Namie. Born on September 20th 1977, in the city of Naha to Okinawan father and half Italian mother, Amuro first started her career towards fame at the Okinawa acting school. There she met the first group of girls she performed with at the age 12 at a supermarket near her home. Their performance was a success leading to the formation of a quintet singing group “Super Monkeys.” They then became recognized for their upbeat music and oh-so-cute appearance on stage. Yet Amuro stood out from the rest of the members and later became the leader of the group at age 14. However, the group’s progression was somewhat slow and at times unsuccessful. With a low sales record of CDs with the Toshiba label, it became apparent that it might be better for Amuro’s career if she moves on as a solo artist. She then started her solo work a year later, sticking with her Super Monkeys group but changing the group’s name to Amuro Namie and the Super Monkeys.
Amuro’s rise to stardom began with her switching to the Avex label and completely separating from her former group who went on to become MAX. This followed with appearances on the famous children’s television show Ponkikids, where she wore cute bunny suits and sang to children audiences. Yet a big part of Amuro Namie appeal was her exotic features of long bleached hair and dark skin that became extremely popular throughout Japan. Along with a trend of knee high boots and mini skirts, it became an Amuro trade mark. It was said, that she was the fashion icon who influenced the “Ganguro” or (blackface) trend that was seen all over Tokyo in the 1990’s. But her success as a fashion icon was not the only thing going for her. When she signed on with Avex tracks and moved to Tokyo, she was also put to work with Tetsuya Komuro, a famous composer, music producer, and instrumentalist. Together they created some of the hottest music of the late 1990's.
Amuro became the youngest artist to receive the Grand Prix award with the song “Don’t wanna cry”, an award equivalent to Grammy’s best song award in the U.S. This lead to a generation of “Amurer” or young female girls fully immersed in the songs and fashion trends of Amuro Namie. The following year she again received the same award for the song “Can You Celebrate”, sealing her reputation as a number one female artist. For Amuro Namie, this time in her life is considered the golden moment of her career with record breaking sales and exceptional influence in the music world. Hence, fans were shocked with her sudden announcement that she was 3 months pregnant, married, and planning to take a one year break from her music career.
Her disappearance from the music scene was met with mixed emotions from fans, but as promised she returned the following year as though she had not missed a beat. With renewed determination, Amuro continued to record music and work on multiple projects with different artists, diversifying her genre and multiple talents. She became recognized by fans as the image of a loving mother and a hard working career woman. Through the next ten years Amuro overcame a divorce from her husband and the brutal murder of her mother back home in Okinawa. Stating that the confidence and positive encouragement from her fans were the true support and reason for her recoveries and return to producing music.
The last few years Amuro Namie again rise to her position as supreme Diva with new songs, albums and spokeswoman for Vidal sasoon hair products. Currently she is on a major tour for the second time in her career and working on releasing a new album. With the blend of genres of hip hop, R&B J-pop, and some original sounds, the album is highly anticipated by fans with much for the respected diva and fashion icon Amuro namie.Namie's website: http://www.avexnet.or.jp/amuro/index.html (Japanese)
How does the human body work? This simple question can be now be answered with a thorough and graphic exhibition going on now at the Aomori Museum of art. Here the long awaited traveling exhibition known as “Body world 3” is on display for the public to view and touch in astonishing awe. It displays the wonders of the human body through a method known as Plastination a perfect form of preservation of the human body, first discovered by Gunther Von Hagens in 1977 at the University of Heildelberg’s Institute of Anatomy.
As a young student, Von Hagens came up with the idea when questioning the method of preservation used at that time. Organs would be preserved in blocks of plastic for the study of anatomy by students. It will then be cut in an inconvenient and time consuming manner. Questioning the validity to only then existing method, Von Hagens sought to create a method similar to the one used but instead plastinating the organ itself by replacing the fat and water in the organ with curable polymer (plastic). This would be accomplished by using techniques of extreme low temperature (-25 degree), a vacuum, and cured plastic that would be hardened with heat, gas or ultraviolet light. Although the trial was unsuccessful and discouraging, Von Hagens altered certain elements of the procedure and successfully created a sample with the qualities of plastic, while maintaining the texture, color and other vital characteristics of the organ.
With this achievement, Von Hagens decided on the spot to further pursue this method and open the Gunther Von Hagens Institution for plastination. His work circulates around the goals of revealing every process, their functions, diseases and other mysteries of the body through stopping decay. At the same time allowing people from around the world to better understand and study every aspect of the human body from the inside out. He then continued his research with plastination and reached a highlight of his career in 1995 when he opened his first exhibit “Body worlds” in Tokyo Japan. This debut was an extraordinary step in allowing the public to become knowledgeable of the process of plastination and the inner workings of the human body. Since the exhibitions debuted, the show has traveled to over 50 cities in Asia, United States, and Europe.
Interestingly enough, exhibitions of plastination has drawn much attention and created both fans and critics with conflicting views as to whether it is an appropriate tool for the study of anatomy or a desecration to the sanction of the human body. Either way, the Body Worlds grows in popularity with each showing; intriguing audiences and furthering the knowledge of the human body both to students and the public.
For anyone interested in going, please keep in mind that this exhibit is very graphic and 100% real. Every body on exhibit was donated by that person with full consent while still alive, and that nothing is held back but rather fully exposed. Visitors can see full corpses dissected, peeled and positioned beyond imagination. There is also a portion of the exhibition where one can touch a full plastinated body and brain. So go and enjoy this exhibit, a truly amazing and mind-blowing show, with the attributes of an art. The exhibition will be open until the 21st of July and tickets can be bought at the door or ahead of time at convenience stores or other local ticket distributors. The museum can be reached by car or by a combination of train and bus. Taxis can also take you there from the train station.
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