Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Culture in Songs

I like to listen to music and I listen to one kind of music or another all the time when I'm out of office. This habit started a couple of years ago right after I got back to Tokyo from a late summer trip around the northern European countries. The trigger was when one of the travelers whom my friend and I shared a compartment with on the sleeper lent me his MD player while we were waiting for a train in Duisburg. When I wore the headphones the normal station scene in early morning suddenly turned dramatic. It felt like I was thrown into a music video, and this is how I became unable to cut myself apart from carrying music.

Well, so much for that. What I wanted to write today was how I subconsicously identify my home culture to be Japanese through Japanese music.
Half of the music I listen to is from outside of Japan, mostly sung in English language, and I do catch and understand the lyrics but I feel like it's still on the surface level. I feel like I have to do some "read-b/w-the-lines" when I try to truly understand the lyrics.

Whereas for Japanese music especially songs, I sympathize with them really comfortably. It is largely for the lyrics aside from memories that I like J-pop music. The lyrics are pretty straightforward in terms of words, yet a lot of the songs (I like) sing about little things/emotions that anyone can experience. For me it's easy to either tie them with personal experience or to imagine a "rich" scene with emotion, not just the picture.

Masterpiece music have masterpiece lyrics in any language, so I think the difference comes from not the depth of language knowledge but how much time I've spent with the languages in question. I am quite comfortable reading, writing and speaking in English and being an enthusiastic traveler as well as a daughter of an ex-expat I am also comfortable in becoming acquainted with other cultures, but at the same time, though, I was raised in a Japanese family in this language.

The music-lyric thought is just one of the moments when I reassure the feeling that my identity is more closely tied to Japan than any other one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Japan outside of Japan

I was watching a TV show the other night. It's a weekly show in which an actor/actress or somebody in the show/entertinment business in Japan goes abroad for a week and experiences homestay as well as helping the job of the family member. The desitination could be anywhere outside of Japan from major cities to tribal villages and for almost every time the experience ends up as a moving Drama.

Anyway, the destination for the last show was Barcelona, Spain, and a young Japanese actress was experiencing candy-making for the first time in her life. What I found interesting about it was that it wasn't traditional Spanish candy-making that she was challenging but traditional Japanese candy-making! We call it "kintarou-ame" (Kintaro is a character in a Japanese folk tale and "ame" means hard candy) and I don't know what it's called in English, but it's a candy-craft that has designs inside so when you cut the candy you always see the same design on the sections.

At first I thought, "oh, I thought it's something Japanese but maybe I was wrong and it's originally from Spain" but then the show said that when the owner of the store came to study in Japan he fell in love with this candy and studied and brought the skills back home. He and his staffs make really pretty and artistic candies and it was amusing even just looking at how they make them and the finished candies on the TV screen... I could easily see why the shop is so popular there because I wish I could try some of those... and guess what! I just found out that there's a branch in Tokyo!

Going back to the point (not that there's really a point, but): Japan in Spain and Spain in Japan - I know that in a world so globalized like today it's not so rare to see Japan-related restaurants & shops outside of Japan and vice versa, but seeing a culture originating in Japan developing in its own way abroad blending into the culture makes me kind of happy.

Link: the shop's name is papabubble and those who live in Barcelona, Amsterdam or Tokyo have higher chances to appreciate their sweet delicacy ;-)

Monday, November 27, 2006


Hello to everybody, to those who came from Japan Mode, through blogspot and those who just coincidentally stumbled upon my page. Like the brief description says, this is a blog on my random thoughts and observations on the city and country I live in - that's Tokyo, Japan - and I also hope to cast a spotlight on little daily-life trends in Japan as well as feature some "Made in Japan"s in other cultures.

I think I'll start with a self-introduction for today.
My name is monamie and I am one of the writers for Japan Mode, a website on Japanese culture and entertainment. I am a Japanese in my early twenties, a travelholic and a photography-lover. I have been working with Japan Mode for almost a year.
Ummm, what else...? I have been living in the heart of Tokyo for most of my life but have some experiences abroad.

What I like about Tokyo... it's a mess as many times describes by non-Tokyoites, but it's reeeally convenient, from my point of view. The city's overwhelmed with people and material, but I guess that's what I like about the city - the mess.
As for what I see and feel and observe about this city and country, I'm going to post them randomly in the following entries which I hope to update everyday so be sure to check back if your eyes and ears can't miss the name TOKYO or JAPAN ;-)