Tag Archives: Japanese culture

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2014 Japanese Calendar Sale at YesAsia

It’s that time of year… 2014 calendars are now available to order from YesAsia, with the likes of AKB48, Gackt and various Anime titles including: My Neighbor Totoro, One Piece, Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan.

YesAsia is offering a 10% off sale with an extra 5% on orders over US$100.

Click on the banner to head on over to check out their stock.

Fugu sashimi

Fugu Restrictions To Be Relaxed

Fugu sashimi
Blowfish (fugu) sashimi

TOKYO – I’ve never had fugu but it’s been on my bucket list since I first learned of its existence. I’ve always felt that there are things out there that need to be tried and experienced and the thought that there are specialist Chef’s that prepare the deadly blowfish for consumption adds the the thrill. However, when I learned that the laws surrounding the preparation of fugu are to be relaxed, well, fugu moved down the list, just a bit…

It used to take at least two years of training followed by a rigorous examination – of which 33% of all applicants fail to pass. But now the city government is planning to relax the restrictions allowing any restaurant to serve fugu after spending a day at a seminar and providing they purchase it with the deadly innards removed.

Sakuran

Aspects of Japanese Cinema (Barbican – 14 November 2010)

One of my favourite Japanese films of all time is Sakuran. This striking film, that punishes the eyes with the most amazing array of reds you’ve ever seen in one place, is a true masterpiece and an expert example of how to shoot a film.
Sakuran was Mika Ninagawa’s directorial début, coming from the world of still camera work and instead of falling into the trap of shooting something that would be pigeon holed as a ‘Costume Drama’ she crashed onto the scene with this dazzling piece of artistry that not only is a feast for your eyes but your ears too, as she daringly enrolled Jazz/Rock superstar – Shiina Ringo to do the score. Put this together with an array of stars including Anna Tsuchiya and you have a cult film even before it reaches theatres.

I was thrilled to learn that this film was part of Barbican’s Aspects of Japanese Cinema Festival, and even though there were films that I haven’t seen in the line-up, I couldn’t miss the chance of seeing this wonderful film on a big screen for myself.
The print itself had scene better days, and the soundtrack was suspiciously mono but after my initial scepticism, I got lost in the world of Geisha’s and ancient Japan for the duration and was overjoyed that I found it it be just as amazing as I hoped it would be.

I attended the two other films that were part of the festival today too, both written and directed by ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano. The often overlooked ‘Hana-bi’ and a rare venture out of Japan in the Los Angeles based ‘Brother’.
Both films were superb choices for the festival, and together with ‘Dolls’ and the absolutely awesome ‘Zatoichi’ that play tomorrow as part of this ‘Directorspective’ of his work, it’ll be hard for me to find a reason not to travel back into the City tomorrow…

Aspects of Japanese Cinema

Aspects of Japanese Cinema – Barbican (until 19 December)

Aspects of Japanese CinemaWintertime seems pretty good for any fan of Asian Culture in London. Barbican is hosting a feast of Japanese themed activities including a Japanese Film Festival – Aspects of Japanese Cinema – which runs until the 19th of December. Highlights include some awesome ‘BEAT’ Takeshi Kitano films (Hana bi, Brother and Dolls) and also showing is one of my favourite Japanese films, the super special Sakuran from photographer turned director Mika Ninagawa and starring the amazing Anna Tsuchiya.

Full details are available from Barbican’s website, but here’s a snippet:

To complement Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion in Barbican Art Gallery, Barbican Film celebrates Japanese cinema with a showcase of modern, classic and provocative films by Japanese filmmakers.
Aspects of Japanese Cinema includes:
The Directorspective: Kenji Mizoguchi 24 Oct – 3 Nov 2010
GirlsWorld: Women in Contemporary Japanese Cinema 21 Oct – 14 Nov 2010
Japanese Halloween Shlockfest Double Bill 29 Oct 2010
The Directorspective: Takeshi Kitano 14 – 15 Nov 2010
The Directorspective: Akira Kurosawa 3 – 19 Dec 2010

UPDATE 3/11/10: I’ll be there on Sunday the 14th to catch Sakuran and two of the Kitano movies… see you there!

There’s also the London Korean Film Festival going on at the ICA, more news on that to follow…

Eva Unit 00

Rebuild of Evangelion Entry Plug Chopsticks

Eva Unit 00 + Rei Ayanami
Eva Unit 00 + Rei Ayanami
CDJapan has these great little items on offer. Much in the vein of the Star Wars Lightsaber Chopsticks I mentioned a while back, these ones are based on the massive anime franchise Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Coming in their suited EVA colours, the chopsticks have the pilots entombed in the uppermost part of the chopstick and whilst they look pretty cool, I’m not sure how ‘usable’ they are… Either way, they are a must have for any serious collector of Evangelion memorabilia…

Preorder Deadline : 2010/09/08
Release Date : 2010/12/31
Series : Neon Genesis Evangelion
Maker : KOTOBUKIYA
Item weight : 100 (g)
Price : 1200yen (1260yen Tax incl.)
1080yen (1134yen Tax incl.) (10%off)
[GBP 8.81]
[US$ 13.88]

Unit 00 + Rei Ayanami

Unit 01 + Shinji Ikari

Unit 02 + Asuka Langrey Shikinami

Unit 05 + Mari Illustrious Makinami

Gundam Cafe opens in Akiba

Gundam Cafe

I’m surprised that this hasn’t happened before now, but on Saturday a Mobile Suit Gundam themed restaurant opened in Akihabara, Tokyo.

Customers are entertained with 31 years worth of nostalgia, whilst they are eating and drinking in the sixty seater cafe.
As with Maid Cafe’s, patrons are served by a female staff member, the difference here being that she will be in the uniform of a Gundam character. Photo ops are not just welcomed but highly encouraged!

Ebizo returning to London to perform kabuki

Ichikawa Ebizo XI
Ichikawa Ebizo XI
Kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo XI will be returning to London in June to perform ‘‘Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura’’ (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees) at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. It’s the second time the production has been seen in the UK, the first being in 2006. This run will be from June 4th to the 15th.

Ebizo:

‘‘I want the audience to enjoy watching the ‘aragoto’ (exaggerated acting) and the ‘keren’ (eye-catching feats) and feel the pure love of children for their parents,’’

He will be taking on the dual role of a samurai in the 12th century and a fox turning into the warrior. Originally written in 1747 for the jōruri puppet theatre by Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shōraku and Namiki Senryū I, it was adapted to kabuki the following year.
The play is derived from the sekai of the Heike Monogatari, a classical epic which details the rise and fall of the Taira clan of samurai. The latter portions describe the eventual defeat of the Taira in the Genpei War (1180-85), at the hands of the Minamoto clan, led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune, the title character of this play.

The play returns to Japan in August and will run at Tokyo’s Shinbashi Enbujyo theater and will then move on to Kyoto’s Minami-za theater in September.

Sources: JapanToday.com | Wikipedia | Ichikawa Ebizo XI Official Website

Action!

Akiba Po-Po Help You Relax…

Action!
Action!
A new reflexology store opens in Akihabara today, and being Akihabara you can image it would be a little different from a normal reflexology store.

At ‘Action!’ customers can have their stress relieved by staff who are dressed as Police Women – in miniskirts. The ‘menu‘ items are named after police procedures. For example you can order the ‘Basic Punishment‘ or a ‘Jail Sentence‘ course. There is one option that I don’t think is readily available at the local Police Station though, customers can have a relaxing massage whilst they lie on the mini-skirted ladies laps … Or you can always choose to be ‘rearrested’ … it’s a tough choice – I know…

Cherry Blossom Forecast

Sakura
Sakura
The Japan Weather Association has released information about this years Cherry Blossom Season. Every spring, Japan turns into a glorious spectacle of pink and white and the Japanese people (who don’t need an excuse to party), will be out in their droves to party (Hanami) beneath the Sakura.

Below are the ‘estimated’ best times for cherry blossom viewing in their respective areas. Of course, none of these dates are guaranteed – they are just for guidelines…
[from Japan-Guide.com]

Hanami goes back a long way, it’s said to have begun at around the Nara Period [奈良時代, Nara jidai] (AD 710 to 794) when the Chinese had a lot to do with what was ‘cool’. People enjoyed viewing flowers, but mostly the blossoms of ume were most popular. By the Heian Period [平安時代, Heian jidai] (AD 794 to 1185) it was sakura that had become the in-thing.

Hanami, or flower viewing, is still massively popular in Japan. Each Spring, people swarm to the trees to grab a place beneath the blossom, to drink sake and beer and eat bento in an age old tradition of watching the cherry blossoms and to enjoy the company of friends.

Best Viewing Times for Sakura, Spring 2010:
Tokyo March 30 to April 8
Kyoto April 2 to 11
Kagoshima March 31 to April 8
Kumamoto March 27 to April 4
Fukuoka March 26 to April 4
Hiroshima March 31 to April 8
Nara April 3 to 12
Osaka April 2 to 11
Nagoya March 31 to 9
Yokohama March 30 to April 8
Kanazawa April 8 to 16
Nagano April 17 to 25
Sendai April 15 to 23
Hakodate May 6 to 13
Sapporo May 8 to 15

Video: Turning Japanese – Kirsten Dunst ‘Akihabara Majokko Princess’

Remember that post back in August last year where I was going on about Kirsten Dunst displaying her CosPlay talents in Akihabara? Well the video finally has been finally upped on YouTube and here it is… have to say, I’m not the biggest Kirstin Dunst fan – but this has done a greatmany things to change my mind… Follow Kirsten as she wanders around Akihabara singing the Vapors classic – ‘Turning Japanese‘.

The video, produced by McG and Takashi Murakami (who also directed the piece) was put together for the Pop Life exhibit at the Tate Modern in London that finished it’s run this past week. The Production company has also got the video available and it can be found over at Company 3′s website. However, the site is image heavy and even if you’ve got a super-duper broadband connection it’s a real hog… Better off clicking on the vid above if you ask me!!

Rei with Entry Plug Interior

Looks like it’s a special ‘Figure Day’ today!

Also available from cdJapan to pre-order is the ‘Rebuild of Evangelion Rei Ayanami with Entry Plug Interior’ figure. I’m into anything EVA related and I think this is one I’m going to snap up myself. Due for release: 2009/10/05, pre-order deadline: 2009/09/03.

Specs:
Material:
Rei Ayanami: PVC figure (painted, pre-assembled)
Entry Plug Interior: ABS figure (painted, pre-assembled)

Size:
Rei Ayanami: 13.5cm
Entry Plug Interior: 33cm

Click here to go to the pre-order page.

Nendoroid Haruhi

Currently running in a ‘sort of’ season 2 incarnation, where in fact the 1st season is being re-run with new episodes placed in between the old ones, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya always pulls in the fans.

The story is about a young 17 year old girl, who upon enrolment at school announces to the class, “I have no interest in ordinary humans. If there are any aliens, beings from the future, or super-humans, come see me. That is all!”
Her classmate, Kyon, seems to be the only person able to make friends with her and together they form the SOS Brigade. Their mission: To uncover the mysteries of the world any way they can – which includes dressing their timid rookie recruit – Mikuru – up in a bunny girl costume to give out leaflets at the school gate!

When this anime first appeared back in 2006 I’ll admit I really enjoyed it. Strangely, not due to the storyline or ‘Fan Service’ but because the characters were so unreal and insane. This time around I’ve no compunction to watch the rerun episodes whilst waiting for the new ones to arrive.

One of the fun things about Anime Collectibles is that they come in all shapes and sizes. A favourite of mine is the Nendoroid figures.
Nendoroids are figurines made at a hugely disproportionate size. Ranging from about half the size of regular sized figures, they can be up 14cm in height. The standard characteristics of these figures is that they have an engorged but cute (kawaii) head, which can sometimes be interchangeable too.

Specs:
Material:
PVC & ABS action figure (painted, pre-assembled)
Size:
Non scale. 10cm approx.

The above Nendoroid figures can be pre-ordered now from cdJapan. Cut off date for preorder: 2009/08/28. Estimated release date: 2010/01/05

Click here to go to the pre-order page.

Aruitemo aruitemo

REVIEW: Still Walking (2008)

Aruitemo aruitemo
Aruitemo aruitemo
Originally written May 1, 2009
‘Aruitemo Aruitemo’

When it comes to film, it seems as though only a select few are able to capture what’s really trying to be said in a script. This is especially the case in mainstream Hollywood or Europe except for those rare art-house type flicks that come along once-in-a-while, like Garden State or Little Miss Sunshine. Japan, it seems, monopolises the market when it comes to dramas that hit the sweet spot – the unabashed sensibility of stripping down humanity to its core and laying it out for all to see. Something that’s a stark contrast from the Japan that is available to us in real life.
Writer/Director Hirokazu Koreeda has a string of dramas to his name and this time around he opens the suburban door of a slightly dysfunctional family with all the usual issues in place – the generation gap causing an inability to communicate, the shame of being out of work and not being able to say so and the lack of understanding between siblings.
The Yokoyama family gather to commemorate and mourn the death of one of their own. This has it’s own problems as they don’t get together too often. The Grandfather now retired from his medical life wished his son to continue in his path – this wasn’t to be and so on meeting his new Grandson he bestows his wisdom on what a worthy life it is to be there for the people.
The son unable to talk about his problems relies on his new wife to do most of the talking, this causes other problems as having married again is not seen to be correct.
From it’s quiet beginning to it’s even subtler and quieter finish, the film strolls along in the summer heat slowly picking out it’s way drawing you in to the hearts of the family as they desperately try to get along.

A wonderful piece of film making that’s well worth picking up.

Also Known As:
Aruitemo Aruitemo (Japan) | Still Walking | Even If You Walk and Walk
Japan:114 min
Production Company: TV Man Union

Yes Asia has the Japanese Edition of the DVD available with free shipping worldwide.

Anime Top 10

Wherever you go on the interwub, there will be flame throwers aimed at you from every corner for your taste in everything – this is especially the case when it comes to anime. Anime fans can be extremely touchy when it comes to their own favourite features, whether your preference is Cyberpunk, Shounen, Shoujo, Josei or the weird and surreal world of Fan Service – it doesn’t matter, you’re gonna get flack from somewhere. But don’t let that sort of thing stop you from enjoying this amazing little piece of animation wizardry. Anime is (and should always be) a Japanese phenomenon that we in our Western World can only hope to be a part of – if and when the fansubbers or licensees get to task of subtitling.
Being a fan of all things anime, I find myself watching a lot of stuff that falls into every category and as time has passed my own preference has veered from Cyberpunk to the more drama or comedy oriented anime. Saying that, my own top 10 still features two major Cyberpunk features in the top positions.
Feel free to flame – I don’t really worry about that stuff, but why not reply with your own top 10 and then I’ll compile a larger list depending on how many votes each anime gets…

The LoLyfe Top 10 Anime:

  1. Akira
  2. Ghost In The Shell (Movie)
  3. FLCL
  4. Neon Genesis: Evangelion
  5. Welcome to the NHK
  6. Lucky Star
  7. Cowboy Bebop
  8. Trigun
  9. My Neighbour Totoro
  10. NANA

Didn’t quite make it but worth a mention:

Tastes vary and I find my own Top 10 changing with the kind of mood I’m in. Just now I’m in the process of re-watching Evangelion and loving every minute of it – but I’m also watching Skip Beat! over at CrunchyRoll – and that kicks ass! Two very different anime’s with different appeals but still great fun to watch.

Links in this post will take you directly to the product at Yes Asia, who over free shipping worldwide.

Review: Tokyo Trash Baby (2000)

Tokyo Trash Baby
Tokyo Trash Baby
Originally written May 2, 2009

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!

Ryuichi HIROKI‘s (I Am and S & M Writer) film from 2000 is one of those films that has you curiously captivated throughout – probably for the wrong reasons but it’s so grotesquely fascinating and at the same time gentle and touching, that your eyes become glued to the screen.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m sure the Japanese have major issues with stalking. It seems to be such a prominent feature in many of the films, books and manga coming out of Japan over the last decade or so that it makes you wonder whether it’s a given pass time for many of the countries inhabitants. In fact, I’m so used to the stalker plot-line that I’m almost convinced that it’s quite normal myself.
Some films use this storyline to an extent that it somewhat dulls the reality of it all and we get a watered down attitude towards it. But Hiroki’s film doesn’t do this, instead it highlights a young womans complexity as she struggles with her feelings towards her victim.

Miyuki (Mami Nakamura – Tomie) lives in an apartment block on a level below Yoshinori (Kazuma Suzuki), the man with whom she is utterly infatuated. Every day she waits for him to put out his trash, she retrieves it and sorts through it in her apartment – which is adorned with all sorts of plunder taken from the treasure trove of finds. Her most prized possessions being his old denim jacket and a crumpled up handwritten music score. She wears the tattered jacket and learns to hum the tune whilst eating the same cereal he does, eating the same instant ramen, smoking the same brand cigarettes he does and cutting pictures out of the magazines he has discarded. However, one day whilst she is happily going through his refuse, picking out the cigarette butts and putting them in a jar, she discovers a used condom. This discovery makes her realise that her stalking approach isn’t really working and that maybe a more direct approach should be taken.
Knowing everything about him, she goes to the club where he plays guitar. When the club is empty, she walks in, sits beside him as he plays his guitar and starts to hum the tune that he threw away. One thing leads to another and they end up going back to his place, which was of course, her plan.
In a somewhat ironic turn, the morning after he mentions to her that he knows about her daily theft of his rubbish he finds it cool and interesting to have a stalker. It’s then that she realises that she is disgusted with him and we watch her purge him from her system by taking all of the items from her apartment, hitching a ride on a refuse tug boat and bury it all in a Tokyo landfill.

The film also features the beautiful Shibasaki Kou of Shaolin Girl and Dororo fame, as Miyuki’s friend from the cafe in which they both work.

Also Known As: Tokyo gomi onna | Tokyo Trash Baby | Tokyo Garbage Girl
88 min
Country: Japan
Production Company: Arcimboldo Y.K. | Bonobo Co. | CineRocket

Yesasia has the US Edition of the DVD available with free shipping worldwide.

Review: Breathe in, Breathe out (2005)

Breathe In, Breathe Out
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Originally written May 10, 2009

Take a deep breath.

Breathe In, Breathe Out (aka The Necessity of Deep Breathing).

The Okinawa region of Japan is well known for its farmland. Every harvest season, students, farm workers, people escaping their own mundane lives, head to this region to pick fruit, cut sugar cane and experience life in a different way from which they are used to.

This story centres around five people who arrive on a farm to do their seasonal work. Their task is to harvest a field of 70,000 sugar cane stalks in a month. Struggling with each other and the task at hand, the small group spend more time fighting with each other rather than completing their job. Then they become a team when an accident, a previous employee and some past histories come to light, making them dig deep and try to accomplish what seems to be the impossible.

Director Shinohara Tetsuo (Heaven’s Bookstore), gives us this coming of age drama, spattered with magical overtones as a young woman tries to find out what life is really about.
With beautiful scenery, fantastic cinematography and a delightful script. Tetsuo’s vision of a simple, hard working life bringing rewards to those who want it is a tremendous couple of hours of enjoyment. The ups and downs of everyday life, the secrecy of loss, the overwhelming desire to be noticed – they’re all here, and portrayed excellently by a master film maker.

Breathe In, Breathe Out
2005 – 123 min
Country: Japan
Production Company: Shinkokyu Associates
Available at Yesasia – free shipping.