Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Kabuki at Opera National de Paris

I didn't know this till last night, but Japan's traditional national specialty kabuki is going to be performed at France's traditional historical art theatre Opera National de Paris next month.
After I heard about it on the TV news I looked up for articles on the internet and found out that they had already made official announcements last spring. Oops, missed that.

Anyway, the kabuki programs with strong, distinctive colors and costumes are going to be shown under the ceiling softly yet marvelously decorated by the paitings of Chagall, for five times starting March 23rd, 2007. The actors starred are genuine successors of the traditional Edo Kabuki family line Ichikawa Danjuro and his son Ebizo, and the programs they're performing are their specialties Kanjincho and Momijigari.

This all started a little more than two years ago when Ebizo made a statement with other actors in French of his succession to the name at Theatre National de Chaillot. Brigette Lefevre, the art director of Paris Opera House was there at Ebizo's name-succession ceremony, and was so deeply moved by the performance that she decided to invite the troup to perform at Paris Opera House. The news article noted that Lefevre commented for the name-succession ceremony, (something like),"the moments of modernity beautifully blended with tradition, and felt some similarities between kabuki and ballet." The troup is going to give the opening statement in French. For the other parts of the program... I'm pretty sure there's going to be translation headsets provided.

The news has been popping up in several Japanese blogs, and a lot of them like myself are trying to imagine kabuki being played at the dazzling gorgeous Paris Opera House. The colors are different, the movements are different, everything is different except for the fact that it does have centuries-long authenticity just the way classic ballet does. Very interesting indeed.

It seems like the tickets are already on sale. See here: (Francais) for details.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Sakura (yeah I know I've been doing lots of "guides") varieties. As I was building the pages for cherry blossom viewing spot guides, I realized that a whole lot of them require more basic background knowledge about cherry blossoms especially their kinds. Just found out there there are roughly 300 kinds of cherry blossoms in Japan... increasing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Thousand Winds

On New Year's Eve every year there is this show aired on NHK (a broadcasting station that stands in the middle of public and private sectors) called the "Kohaku Uta-Gassen". It's a music (song) show that goes on for nearly 5 hours featuring the prominent singers of the Japanese music scene and the attention-getting or top-CD-selling singers of the year regardless the genre i.e., covering J-pop, enka (traditional ballad) and classic for the show is geared toward all generations. The singers are separated into two groups, red and white (=ko(u)haku), and they compete which group gets higher scores. The judgment nowadays are given by the selected judges (the leading figures of the year from actors/actresses, atheletes, etc.), the audience present at the auditorium, and the viewers via internet.

Well, it's the end of February and I am certainly not intending to give an introductory to the Kohaku part of Japanese culture. Today I want to write about this particular song sung two months ago on Kohaku which literally grasped the hearts of many Japanese who have watched the show.

The song's title (literal translation) is "A Thousand Winds" and as some of you may know it is not an originally Japanese song. It is probably known quite widely as an English song of the same (or similar) name, or more importantly a poem which the original title is "Do not stand at my grave and weep". The poem has been read at many sad occassions from fairly small to large ones, but here in Japan it wasn't as known until two months ago.

Last year's Kohaku by all means was hardly a success. It was, on the other hand, one of the worst - as far as I recall and judge - with lots of mess. But in the midst of this mess (well the messy controversy arose after the show) there was a moment that the viewers' eyes and ears were glued to the TV, when the tenor singer Akikawa Masafumi sang the song "A Thousand Winds" (Sen no kaze ni natte).

The lyrics of the song is very sad, deep and moving, singing - as you can probably tell from the title - about the death of a dear one. The topics of the song started to appear in the media and in people's talks and blogs shortly after it was sung at the Kohaku, and the song spread widely across Japan very fast especially among the older generations. And finally, though only two months from the air, the song ranked first place on the Japanese music chart, creating a record of the best-selling classic CD in Japan with a sales of more than half million copies which beats the previous record-holder Princess Mononoke (Mera Yoshikazu). Classic music doing this well in Japanese society is quite something.

There are probably many reasons for this big hit, but the biggest are maybe one) because its theme "death" can be very close to anyone and the lyrics can be resembled easily, and two) the social backgroud of today full of sad news. So the rapid spread and increasing attention of this song are somewhat different from the hits of other songs. Even though the number in sales can be smaller as compared to some of the top-selling J-pop songs this single, individual song and the impression it leaves on people would probably remain longer in the hearts with great meanings and significance than the momentarily gone pop songs.

Several versions of the song is available, but my mother said that the song in English sung by some boys soprano in UK was the best, equally beautiful and moving as Akikawa's single tenor if not more. Hope the message of the song won't decay in today's world of constant and rapid change of creation and disruption.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Tokyo Maniac Event - Several events on anime coming up, not to forget the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2007.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Handkerchief Generation and MBL Samurais

The baseball season soon begins - had the opening of a new baseball season been this attention-getting before?
I've never shown much interest in the professional baseball league here nor in the States. Well, I mean, not regularly. And I'm pretty sure that there are quite a number of people like me here in Japan especially women. But, the situation for this year's baseball - at least the beginning - seems to be a bit different from the past years.

It's all because of the handkerchief generation. Saito Yuuki, whether he likes it or not, is the leading figure of this so-called "handkerchief generation" (of course, his handkerchief is where this "handkerchief this" and "handkerchief that" all started from) along with Tanaka Masahiro, but like the name "generation" suggests the players from his same year are generally quite talented in baseball and a number of them have been given media attention even though they may be hidden by that of Saito's and Tanaka's.

Yesterday was the day for the pro teams to have what we call the "open games" which are pre-season games, and I bet it was a super busy day for sports reporters cuz they must have had to struggle the media swarm at several fields to get the best spot for photos/movies/interviews of the baseball freshmen and the team/coach that welcomed them. Last night the sports news reported on many of them who have got themselves into pro teams, of what it was like to actually play with their dream sempai players and how they are feeling towards the real opening of the league.
It was also the day for Saito to make his first official appearance as a Waseda Univ player which was by no means a brilliant one for him. I noticed that in the interviews, many of these players who haven't even exactly graduated high school yet, have grown surprisingly mature (or maybe just got used to the media, more like) over the months.

Speaking of baseball, media and unusual excitement, I also heard on the same news that the new Red Sox monster (already before the league!) Matsuzaka threw forty-something balls yesterday against the minor and showed the media a pretty good performance. I hear that the US media call his pitches "mysterious gyroball". Hmm, as far as I can remember, he's getting more media focus and compliments right now than the past few years all together.

The news said that at the moment there are 13 Japanese players playing in the MBL, some for several years now and some for the first time leaving and expecting to leave good records. Then, it also mentioned that Japanese language is becoming a petit boom among some of the players??? I think that's pretty something, you know. They're giving enough influence to make the other players want to learn the language even if it's for mere fun.

So goes the new baseball season. I can tell that the viewership - not to mention how much the media is going to focus on the games and interviews - is going to go higher more or less this year.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Tokyo Event March 1st Week - there are five events all together all differing in their genres. The Tokyo Girls Collection 2007 S/S is my top feature. I also changed the seasonal descriptions from winter to spring though the colors not yet.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Blue Wolf

It seems like Japanese films are making their way around the world more than ever these days. Just yesterday I wrote about Dororo which is doing pretty well right now in Japan and is going to be shown sometime soon in more than 20 countries. It is going to become a grand-scale triology spending roughly 8 billion yen all together. It's going to take some years but I'll be looking forward to the upcoming series.

Then I also mentioned Mushishi (Bug Master?) based on a recent manga which is going to be shown in Japan soon. Sounded like it caught the hearts of several distributors overseas and though I haven't heard further news I'm pretty sure it's going to be shown sooner or later in at least a few places outside of Japan.
Another manga-based film lately made and shown is Bokkou, a collaboration piece of four (more or less) Asian countries and regions. Haven't seen the film yet but I really want to.

Then there's Sakuran that I've been mentioning as many times as I am for Dororo (NOT promoting though). It made its way to Berlin a couple of weeks ago to the International Film Festival. This one is going to hit the theaters tomorrow February 24th.

Speaking of the Berlin int'l film festival, another Japanese film seemed to have really grasped the hearts of distributors from almost 60 countries and regions. The original Japanese title is <
Aoki Ookami - Chi Hate Umi Tsukiru Made> which can be translated literally . Well, I at least had no clue this film is about just judging from the title, but it's actually a Japan-Mongolia collaboration film celebrating the 800th anniversary of the foundation of Mongolia. The film features Mongolia's historical hero Genghis Khan who achieved the so-thought impossible unification of Mongolia.

The news says that as soon as the Japanese production board and distrobutor put it on sale and the film market at the Berlin International Film Market dozens of distributors flooded to get a contract. All together 60 countries - 49 European and Middle/Near East countries and 11 Asian countries including Japan and Mongolia (both releasing the film on March 3rd 2007) - are going to release the film.

I don't have further information about the film, but one thing that disappoints me a little is the fact that most of the casts (at least the main figures) are Japanese. Because it "boasts" being an international collabarative project I thought there'd be a whole lot of Mongolian actors and actresses in it. Well... at least the entire film was shot in Mongolia...

Today's update on Japan Mode: CHARMY ROP Chapter 11 preview. If you've just noticed... the title of the webmanga changed today. The whole group agreed that it sounds better and links better with the story.

Oh, and the above is the newest wallpaper available at JChannel (in about two hours from now).

Hinamatsuri, the girl's festival, is coming up not tomorrow but the following Saturday (March 3rd) so this time Mimi's dressed in kimono.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Dororo

It's been almost a month since the Japan release of Dororo, a Tezuka Osamu's manga based film, and it looks like the film is doing pretty well at least here in Japan. I don't know when it's going to be released in the other 23 countries but anyway I did have a chance to see the film a little while ago.

As for my personal review goes... not extremely excellent but entertaining enough. I actually haven't read the original story but I could tell that there'd been a lot of cutting (and probably changing) in the storyline. I guess it can't be helped as the original must be a very long piece with a very profound philosophy or theme, but I must say I expected a little more. I liked it overall though. Afterall I think I liked it. Yep.

The story ended like it was going to have a series - and so it is going to with the same Tsubabuki and Shibasaki playing the main two characters. The production committee announced not only that they're going to have a number 2 but also number 3, disclosing that 2 would focus a little more on Dororo's (Shibasaki) story with more entertainment elements and 3 being about Hyakkimaru (Tsumabuki's) determination of his life.

Sure it did end like it's going to have more, but I didn't actually think that there would be since the production cost for this film far exceeds the common sense of Japanese film making, and it was also shot mostly overseas which is not so common for Japanese films. In order to not disappoing the audience of the first one (in theaters now) they're going to spend 6 billion yen all together for 2 and 3, and are of course going to shoot the film somewhere outside of Japan although where and when is not yet decided. They did say that 2 has a lot to do with the ocean and said they'll probably choose a location somewhere in the South Pacific. Series 2 is scheduled to appear in the theaters in 2009 at the earliest. As we say in Japanese, "let's keep our neck stretched long" ;-)

I won't give away the details of the film here, but I will mention there were quite a bit of surprises that probably very very few if not none of the audiences expected. I also heard that to make the film better, the production board had a mid-process preview gathering common people and asked the audience to evaluate, criticize, comment on the still editing film. After they collected the comments they made a few changes and so came out the final piece.

A little note: the film is rated PG12 here in Japan but I don't know how it would be rated in other countries. Like you can probably tell from the preview it is quite violent with lots of battle and use of weapons. There were many parts that I thought little kids can cry from scariness. In any case, do go have a look when it becomes available in your neighborhood.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Sakura Guide 2007 - the cherry blossom season is coming close and the sakura season here in Japan is traditionally the party season by all means. Aside from the hanami groups and parties spreading their picnic sheet under the night cherry trees with beer and food, there are lots and lots of sakura related events taking place starting from the southern warmer regions. Today's the first edition of sakura event guide 2007!

Dororo Official Website: (Japanese)
Dororo English Info on Japan Mode:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The "Abusement" Lunch

Today I think I'll introduce you to a blog kept by a Japanese housewife. Well, rather than calling it her web journal it's more like her web record of the lunchboxes she makes for her husband and son(s) pretty much everyday. Before going any further, just do have a look (it's in Japanese but what matters are the pix anyway):

These pieces of art are food, and not like any artistic food made by the best chefs around the world but LUNCH made every morning for the blog keepers mere and pure amusement to "abuse" her husband and son. It's not too common anymore for wives to make lunches for husbands to take to work, but a good portion of the mothers still make lunch for their kids to take to school in Japan if the school doesn't provide "kyuushoku" (school lunch).

In her title she writes (lit. translation) "Abusement Lunch for the Rebellious 2nd Son, Weary Lunch for Husband - Mommy's Gyakugire Lunch Series". "Gyakugire" means something like a counter-anger... say person A was angry with person B but as B listens to A's point's B becomes even more angry against A. That's "gyakugire". It also implies a meaning of anger suddenly bursting out.

Well she says in her blog description that she was getting frustrated with making lunch for her husband and four kids cuz it was all about "early hours, plain work, troublesome" not even being appreciated by any of them for the work she does. So one day her frustration bursted out and since then she started making these "abusement lunches" to tease and in a way, abuse her family through the lunch she makes. Imagine, one day you open you lunch box in school or office sitting together with your friends/colleagues, and what you see is a marvelous, artistically beautiful lunch designed into a manga character's face... that would surely be a kind of abuse for the one who eats it, and an amusement for the mom.

Over the years her skills improved a lot and now she's got a good comical gallery on her blog. Some of them are just plain artistic non-abusing lunches and some of them you just can't help laughing at when you see them. Her blog has been placing high ranks for a while on Yahoo! Japan't blog chart and is now pretty popular, needless to say, especially among housewives who get up early in the morning to prepare her family food.

The selection of designs vary from traditional art pieces, manga, anime, game, TV personalities, animals to embarrassing messages, and like I said she makes them really well. Then the text on her blog is another thing. She doesn't write like a typical Japanese middle-aged housewife who barely knows how to use computers and cell phones, but writes her blog very youngly. She uses a lot of the youth language, lots of jokes, emoticons and shapes like stars.

So that's for today.
All right, today's update on Japan Mode:
Onsen Guide - hot springs in Tochigi and Shizuoka prefectures added.
Tochigi is the pref. that has world heritage Nikko and at onsen in Shizuoka You can have a grand view while relaxing in the soothing bath.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

PANIC! At The Fields

There is this baseball field called Koushien in western Japan, and there is this inter-high school baseball tournament (koukou yakyuu) taking place at Koushien twice a year during spring break and summer break. Baseball is probably still the most popular sport in Japan perhaps being caught up by soccer, but anyway, the Koushien tournament of the summer holding is socially a huge deal for the Japanese people in general not to mention almost all the teenage baseball players who dream to become a professional baseball players in the near future.

Well, the reason for me to talk about this topic even though it's not exactly summer is that the players who have become suddenly famous at last summer's holding are starting to begin new baseball careers in new environments.

A lot of the most eye-catching, talented players entered the world of professional baseball league in Japan aka Pro Yakyu, including Tanaka Masahiro the ace pitcher of Komadai Tomakomai High School who lost against Saito Yuuki the ace pitcher of Waseda Jitsugyo High School at the Finals. Finals, in this case, because they played twice as a result for the game didn't end at the first final match. Tanaka chose to play for a new, actually weak but extremely popular team called the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (good for him ;-). Although the league hasn't opened for the new season yet but the camps and trainings have and so far he has thrown two intrasquad games for a few innings each. So far it seems like the difference between high school baseball and professional is pretty big for him as he has given out several homeruns. But I hope he'll become a really good player because I think he has the talent and potential for becoming a real monster.

The point I wanted to get to is not about Tanaka's results but more about the panicky fever that's been surrounding the other ace. The winning ace for last summer's holding, Saito, has got not only the victory he desired but thousands of fans across the country and a social phenomenon he probably didn't intend to arouse. He unlike Tanaka and other players decided to go on to Waseda University (parent school of thehigh school he went to) and play as a varsity player before pro. Even as I see it now after half year since the victory, the attention of the media and the society is beyond the boundaries of sane. It is so big and crazy that Saito's surroundings like the Tokyo six universities baseball association (don't know the proper English name... a baseball inter-varisity. kind of like a baseball limited Ivy League) which usually don't like to favor one player over others have to get together for a conferences to discuss full measures against Saito fans flooding over to his first game.

According to their announcement yesterday, it looks as though a lot of the most normal things are going to be different with Saito being on the team. There will be longer practices, longer practice hour intervals, shorter press conferences after games, wider space for the press, buses taking the team right to the entrance with the short passage entirely covered with sheets, and ten times as much guards as the other "regular" games to shut the players from the panic wave. His debut is going to be such a mess - meaning outiside of the field.

Going back to Tanaka, his first game after the pro league opens is also probably going to be a panic. After all, even though he did lose against Saito he is a good player who has a better high school strikeout record than the so-called "monster" Matsuzaka making his debut soon as a Red Sox player, and also winning the Summer Koushien twice before (2004 & 2005).

And speaking of fan panic, the debut game for Matsuzaka I just mentioned will probably become a panic more or less close to that of Saito's at least here in Japan. Like I wrote some time ago, an extraordinary number of media and fans flew across the ocean just for his press conference. Imagine how many are going to fight over the seats for his first game.

So baseball. Seems like it's getting revitalized with good fresh and young (and I stress "young" for good reasons. Guess why) players these days.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Kanji Names - got five names published today. Come see if the same name as your's are listed on our kanji name section.

(FYI I borrowed the title name from the American band PANIC! AT THE DISCO just because their album's been playing in my head for hours now.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Imperial and The Lay

As I was reading through the news on the Internet I found an article titled like "Princess Aiko Becomes Ill with Tonsillitis". I clicked the title and the news was as plain as the title with only three lines. Moreover, the content of those three lines were to me, not so significant but rather personal. It said that Princess Aiko came down with a fever of 38dg and was diagnosed acute tonsillitis, but the fever became better with prescribed medication and even though her fever cooled down she was absent from kindergarten today just to be on the safe side.

I'm not really trying to criticize the writer or the paper about publishing news as little as this, but am just wondering if they need to or not. Well, sure, a tonsillitis can be more serious than a cold but isn't always life threatening but is it really necessary for the entire nation to know the details of the health status of the Imperial family?

Judging only from my childish knowledge gained from TV shows and news the royal and imperial families overseas especially in the West seem to be more open than that of Japan. Um, I don't know if the term "open" can best describe the situation, but at least the barriers between the royal and the lay seem to be lower and closer in a friendly way.

As compared to such barriers in some of the countries, Japan's is extremely high, thick, hard and unclear completely secluding the former away from the others. We don't know what their daily routined are like. We don't know what they're like behinf those walls and the treed and gardens. But we need to know their health conditions because they are the symbol of our country and of its people i.e., us.

Having written this far I don't want to go any further with this topic because it's way to controversial and is a huge huge topic for me to discuss here. There was about a week ago a news about the publication of this book called "Princess Masako" which perhaps the controversy regarding a few passages from this book has reached overseas. I would say that yes, some of those expressions seemed to be inappropriate, but at the same time agree with the author of having to want to used those words to describe the structure of this country. The Imperial Household Agency is pretty angry with the book and we can't get them inside Japan at least not the Japanese editions.

So that's about it. Sorry it ended up messy and sort of unfinished.

Today's update on
Japan Mode: Tokyo Event February 4th Week - since there weren't as many events to pick up I decided to give you a couple of ideas of where you can try FRESH strawberries picked from the fields with your own hands in and around Tokyo.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Socks Fashion

There was a talk today about socks fashion in Japan. It's hard to notice trends while you're right inside it, but having been pointed out today, there are fashion trends in socks here especially among girls.

So the trendy socks right now are black knee socks which we call high socks, that aren't thick like school socks but are kind of sheer just like a cut version of pantyhose. A lot of them are in black but also in beige with many patterns and prints. The representative designs include diagonal stripes, fishnet (completely "net" and fishnet patterns printed on black stockings) and check, some with silver or gold lame.

I am one of those who wear these socks daily and I like to collect different patterns. The ones I'm wearing today are fishnet with silver lame.
The good thing about these high socks stockings is that they're knee length and don't come all the way to your hip. I wear pants mostly so there is no need for pantyhose to be in full length and I simply hate it when I accidently scratch and make holes in them with my fingers... which I do quite often.
The best part about these is that they have patterns and prints that make them fashionable. Even though I wear pants and so naturally most of the socks would be covered and unseen, the little visible part being fashionable is pretty important. Um, I don't claim myself to be so fashionable, but the really stylish fashionistas in this city pay attention to the littlest parts from head to toe.

I first started wearing these when I started wearing boots. My legs aren't so skinny to leave room for the normal thick school knee socks and like I just said I don't like wearing full-length pantyhose so these half ones came in really really handy because they're half and thin. I don't really wear them with sneakers because they're too thin for sneakers.
Anyway, my colleague who wears one pattern or another of these socks everyday also agreed with my reasonings.

By the way trendy socks in the past were first of all, the so-called "loose socks" which came out about a decade ago when I was still a middle school student. These are believed to have derived from boot socks for hiking boots and became extremely loose over the years together with the super-short skirt boom.

Then among the high school students came the navy blue knee socks which continues today. Loose socks have gone very close to extinct, though some say that they're reviving in a way among the "gals" today.

In my memory of the past ten years, ever since the loose socks spread the normal short, half-shin length socks died out almost completely save schools that are very strict about clothing and middle-aged women. The socks that continue to dominate the sneakers fashion are the super short sneaker socks that are shorter than your ankles. I know these socks are pretty common in other places of the world today.

Then there are the five-finger-socks which didn't exactly become big enough as a fad but still widely known and popular during the winter because they're surprisingly warm.
Other socks being seen around are only-toes-socks for summer pumps (you want to wear as if wearing them barefeet), leg warmers and perhaps another couple of types.

So much for sock talk. I might put up some pictures in the future... but I don't know if I want to show my feet :p

Today's update on Japan Mode:
webmanga CharmyNurseM Chapter 10

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Boots for Summer

I do belive that Japanese people are quite keen about catching up with the trend of the moment, and are pretty good at presenting themselves as fashionable. Boots have always been part of the fashion trend and as far as I can remember for about the past decade, the trend varied from super-thick soles and high heels, round toes, squared toes, pointy toes, baggy boots, tight boots, boots with accessories, flat/low heels and so on. But all of that was only for winter.

Beginning last year or perhaps a nother year ago, boots became a fashion item for spring and even summer. Until it became a social stream to wear boots in those seasons, boots were kind of tacitly understood to put away by the end of March. I think that there are chiefly two reasons for this: one is simply because of the climatical reasons because April is warm enough to walk outside without wearing layers of sweaters and coats, and the other is the change of school/fiscal year because March is the end and April is the beginning. Even if you're not directly involved in the change of the year it is highly likely that your surroundings are, and dragging a fashion item from the "past" is not exactly a cool thing to do if you want to make yourself a social person.

Anyway, going back to the boots talk: last winter boots that resemble Western (cowboy/cowgirl) boots became extremely popular especially among women, often coordinated with tiered skirts, short skirts or pants, and blue jeans tucking them inside the boots. Unlike the skinny leg-hugging elegant boots that come up to your knees with pointy toes and pin heels, these Western boots are more casual and easier to wear together with a wider varietion of clothes. They also come in a variety of designs and materials, don't look as season-picky as the other shapes, and go along well with girly clothing so the trend extended into spring (also with the fashion industry's intentions and promotion, needless to say)... and even summer... though I don't exactly remember that many people actually wearing summer boots. For your background knowledge, summer in Japan can be pretty hot and humid and boots can make it worse.

It seems like, however, the fashion industry is trying to establish a firm summer boots fashion this summer be it temporarily or continuous to the following summers. By the way they claim the mainstream for this year are strong colors, and huge (futuristic) prints. Seeing that an increasing number of young people are wearing boots in the season of high temperature and humidity, the brands are coming up with designs that show your toes and heels bare, as well as transparent (plastic) heels. And of course, the parts that wrap your legs are kept short and fresh.

Let's see how much of a real trend this'll become...

Today's update on Japan Mode:
budo - "naginata"... the "budo" (Japanese martial arts) section hasn't had an update for a looong time now, and because I introduced a naginata event for this weekend's event I thought I'd give an explanation for what it actually is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

V'Day and Harajuku and Zenryaku Prof

Happy Valentine's Day! I don't know how it's celebrated in other places, but in Japan Valentine's day is a day 80% for couples either dating or married. The mainstream tradition here ever since Valentine's day have become recognized as a special day, is for girls to give guys chocolate. Why chocolate, the reason is simply commercial - it's only because some chocolate company one day promoted to give chocolate as Valentine gifts and that manner became the mainstream.
Though today the gift-giving is becoming more two-way especially when it comes to more expensive gifts like jewelry and accessories, the custom of giving chocolate - and giving "returns" on "White Day" a month later - remains strictly one-way.

I said 80% for couples... well, 17% of the remaining 20 is for singles, singles who are committed to "confess" their affection i.e., ask someone to date her(/him) - (I wonder how many new couples are emerging today) - maybe 2% for non-serious, "social" chocolates called "giri-choco" and the last 1% families. Um, the numbers are completely random so don't take it seriously. Anyway, Valentine's Day is a HUGE deal for many girls and boys. Girls being so nervous worrying whether her favorite boy accepts or refuse a new relationship, and boys nervous and excited about how many chocolates they'll get and whether any of them are serious "hommei-choco" (which means that the girl is asking for a date).

Completely unrelated to the above topic, I read yesterday in the paper that the worldy famous fashion and punk and goth town of Harajuku is starting a guide tour for foreign tourists. The guide tour is available as far as I know in English, Chinese and Korean and will go around a dozen or so fashion shops and tourist spots in the so-called "Urahara" (backside Harajuku) district. The group is going to be consisted of 10 tourists more or less depending on the day's requests.

Harajuku is mostly known for the street Takeshita-Dori which is a cool, interesting and exciting spot to be walking around even alone, but the inner and backside areas are as intersting and perhaps more fashionable. I don't see too many tourists exploring the Urahara so I think this is a good chance to let the name spread and a good opportunity for the Urahara designers to dispatch their talents worldside.

The third term in the title for today is a HUGE fad among high school girls right now. I didn't know about it at all but my younger sister who is an 11th grader told me about it one day and later on I searched for articles for research.

Basically it's about having your own profile site on the mobile internet, but the astonishingly unbelievable fact about it is that all the information about you is published on the mobile web (within the Zenryaku Profile) and and basically none of the information you update on your page is protected. There are about 40-100 questions about you, from your real name, address, phone number, blood type, birthday, to favorite talento (showbiz ppl) and so on, and most of the users who are high school students answer pretty much all of these items. It's practically a well-built dating site and in reality, high school couples are being produced through this service. But so far there hasn't been any social issues arising such as fraud, prostitution, blackmailing and so on.

Analysts say that although the service is like revealing on purpose your personal information, the service is actually closed and are used only among teenage students. I can't really understand what this's supposed to mean. It's a service on the internet and no one checks if you're really a teenager or actually a weirdy. I only think it's a matter of time for crimes to happen. The problem for the moment lies in another place, but I will save that for some other time.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Sakidori Events March VOL.2
There're also webmanga wallpapers and one-day-limited Valentine Cards :-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Tokyo Weekend

This past weekend was a three-day-weekend and since it's February which is supposedly the midst of winter sports season I thought that the population in this overcroweded city would fan out more or less. Well, perhaps not.

Yesterday I went out first to Shinjuku which is a huge commercial/business district (mostly, added by a pretty big RLD) spreading around Shinjuku station with the largest number of lines coming in and out in the country (...I think) to do some shopping. With Valentine's Day coming up in just a couple of days the town was overwhelmed with girls searching for chocolate and ingredients for sweets (for those who have no idea why Valentine's Day and cholocates are related here, I will write about it tomorrow), couples peering into glass cases at jewelry and name brand shops, and others running for the final winter bargain. The temperature even walking outside was hot rather than warm with so many people.

Then I moved to Harajuku and Omotesando area. Harajuku is a trend spot for fashion, one side for teenagers and the other side for those who are older and are able to afford a little more. Omotesando is an avenue that has luxury brand shops all along the way and is sort of a casually luxurious area (... in my words). The two areas are located back to back and the people walking around is thus a mixture of young to older, casual to rich. Setting my foot in these areas on a weekend required a bit more feeling of preparation than going to Shinjuku because I know these places are never uncrowded on any weekend and as I thought the sidewalks were jammed with people as always.

Omotesando is a straight avenue but forms a very mild slope up and down, so as you walk among the crowd you can see ahead of you how the sidewalks are literally filled with people from side to side. Really. I was amazed even though it's not my first or second time to see such sight. I generally don't like crowd like that, but at the same time, growing up most of my life in Tokyo I do feel like this very crowd is what makes me feel like I'm part of Tokyo and even secure. Friends who come from the countrysides often tell me that they get "peoplesick" or "crowdsick" being in Tokyo. So far I don't know how that feels like.

Oh, speaking about Omotesando, there is this street stall selling Japanesy stuff at very reasonable prices at the crossing along Omotesando. There were kimono-looking clothes, traditional Japanese apron (
maekake) and other clothings that were made of a mixture of traditional and modern textiles/designs. Since they're so cheap though, I kind of doubt the quality but the line-ups were quite interesting.

Later on I went to Roppongi - that's at the moment the richest (if not one of the richest) district in Tokyo with lots of billionaire companies and foreign investment - to see a movie. The movie theater located within Roppogi Hills was packed with people and the smell of caramel popcorn. I come here every now and then, but I think I hadn't seen the theater lobby that full of people for a while.

The information displays on the wall told that tickets for the documentary film "
An Inconvenient Truth" were sold out for the next two showings already even though it was well into a Monday evening. "Even though a Monday", I say, because for this particular film the theater offered tickets for 500 yen (where normally 1,800 yen) on Sundays to invite more people to see. If the tickets were sold out for few showings on Sundays, I would still be surprised since documentary films especially on very serious issues like this have a tendency of not being able to gather as much audience as fiction stories. I felt like the number of people wanting to watch it reflects how much people are interested in this issue and feel at least danger if not also responsibility to the problem of global warming. If it hadn't been for this film not as many people would've really seriously thought to face the "inconvenient truth".

So so that was my weekend (though I only wrote about the last day) which is not particularly different from the other weekends.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Tokyo Event - this week's events in Tokyo... no huge cultural events take place in the middle of February, but the Tokyo Marathon is coming up this Sunday and some related events.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Female Creators

I've mentioned a few days ago that the new Japanese film Sakuran (a movie on high-class courtesans during Edo Period based on Anno Moyoco's manga Sakuran) is going to be shown at the opening(?) of Berlin International Film Festival starting this weekend in Berlin, Germany... well... perhaps not. I can't remember. Anyway, I have another related news which is the special holding of Sakuran's director Ninagawa Mika's photo gallery at [ Arndt & Partner Berlin ] during the film festival. Oh, and a fragment of the film where the courtesans parade is said to be re-enacted on the red carpet the first day.

Since the film is going to Berlin and even if it wasn't, it's going to be released in Tokyo&periphery in just a couple of weeks, I have been seeing quite a bit of commercials and ads on TV and in mags this past week. And I tell you - the world created in this film is so dominated by vivid, brilliant and astonishingly beautiful colors and patterns, which look like a mixture of traditional Japanese beauty and modern graphic art. The colors in the world of Sakuran that director Ninagawa Mika creates are truly dazzling. In an interview for the film the actresses and actors said that the colors are so powerful that they have to fight with the colors when acting.
To their cries, Ninagawa answered that for a professional photographer who lives in the world of colors, the use of colors in this film was natural and nothing particularly special that she kept in her mind all the time.

Considering the fact that the film is about the world of women, and not just any women but the high-rank courtesans in the Yoshiwara district of Edo where the clever beautiful and the rich ruled, the use of so many vivid colors may not be that surprising. Yet, I do agree that her sense of colors and beauty is something beyond ordinary, and also think that if this film was directed by a male director - no matter how good a director he is - it could've been so much different with different sorts and combinations of colors being used.

Colors in films also remind me of the costume designer Wada Emi. I've seen several films with costumes designed by her, and I love how she uses the colors. They are simple, but very powerful, and they play significant roles in the story as well as establishing respective characters.

Going back to Sakuran, the music director is also a woman, Shiina Ringo, who is a pretty big and distinct figure in Japanese pop music industry. Her music is strong and powerful... or thick, more like, which can be described to belong to the rather odd type. Haven't seen the film, but I have a feeling that her music matches the Sakuran world.

A TV personality was commenting to this topic of female creators, that women have a special kind of artistic sense that is different from that of men's. His example was film director Sofia Coppola and her latest film released Marie-Antoinette, of how she chose pop/modern music mixing it with classic for an 18th century themed film.

I do agree with the observation that men and women have different artistic senses, and I think that that's what make art fun and inspiring, isn't it? In any case, I am pretty excited to see more of this film Sakuran a lot of it because of the color artistic quality.

Today's update on Japan Mode: webmanga CharmyNurseM chapter 10 preview
I've also got some wallpapers just for fun :-)

Sakuran Official Website:

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Data Fabrication and the Power of Media

For the past three weeks, the news of this popular health-related TV show faking the numbers for several data has been everywhere from TV to papers pretty much everyday.

The central focus is on this topic about "natto" (fermented soybeans) having great effects for losing weight, and while other sources prove that natto does have some diet benefits, this show was over-exaggerating the numbers for data on experiments and also had false Japanese subtitles for the words of an American professor spoken in English so that his explanations would sound more convincing for the show.
Later on it has been found out that the same show have aired false information several times on different topics.

Airing false information nationwide itself is a big problem, but what made the issue bigger is the fact that this TV show is very popular among the country's people because it talks about health issues. Ever since the show was first aired in 2005 it has maintained high viewership and its influence is big enough to make dramatic changes in certain markets (especially food). For instance, say the show scientifically explained that grapefruit helps losing weight (note: this is just an example, not necessarily the truth) than the following week grapefruit will sell flying off the wagons and supermarkets and fruitshops. This was actually the case for natto, too.

I suppose that this show could have so much influence to the public because it focuses on daily problems that a good lot of people are concerned more or less, and because it provides solutions using cheap and available stuff for the general public. It also recruits examinees for the tests from common people that can be your nextdoor neighbor or even yourself - of which now, I am unsure how much is true.

The Power of Media ---
Well the other media and people accuse the data fabrication as if it was a vicious mistake only this program had made, but I'd say that most if not all of the shows of the same sort are doing the same. They're just probably not busted yet. I hear people say "don't believe everything on the Internet" but I think that the same thing can be said for every kind of media. People believe too much of what's said in the media and are influenced too much, I think. I have a feeling that we're losing ability to observe matters objectively.

Um... that's about it. There wasn't really a central point to discuss nor to make. I just wanted to let out my thoughts regarding this news.

Today's update on Japan Mode: Country Names in Kanji - since we had non-Japanese names in kanji and Japanese popular names published, I thought I'd add some country names written in kanji. Unlike the kanji name conversion requests these kanji combination aren't something I nor my staffs came up with, and are put together 99% pheonetically so they look kind of messy. In any case, come have a look!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Children's Fashion

I didn't really intend to write about fashion two days straight, but since I found a news article on the web that caught my attention I think I'll write about it.

I've seen Japanese fashion coming up as topics in blogs and websites quite often, but come to think of it, I've never encountered a place that discusses Japanese children's fashion. This article I found today was about Japanese boy's fashion, about the disappearance of short pants.

Here, by "short" I mean super short. I remember when I was a grade school kid the majority of the boys in school were wearing these super short pants that only covered their bottoms and made hardly any difference from boxer pants, and these pants which I bet those who read my explanation would think... unbelievable (I think I'll keep my words modest since this blog isn't exactly personal)... were the mainstream back in those days which in today's common fashion sense seems impossible.

I can't remember though, of how much boys of my age cared about their fashion when we were single-digit-year-olds. I guess they were more interested in running and playing around. My generation is already described by older people as weak because half the kids were playing video games or had to go to cram school, but still I would like to claim that when I was a kid more boys and girls were playing outside until sunset than today. There are good social reasons responsible for the decrease of kids playing outside... but let's not talk about that right now.

I am not sure how much the children (I'm talking about 6-12 year olds) today care about their daily clothing especially the younger ones. Girls may be a bit more conscious about what they wear, their hairstyle and hair accessoried and the color of their school bags and how many colored pens they have so on so forth, but I don't know about boys. It is clear, however, that their mothers are super conscious about their kids' fashion.

The mothers of the grade school kids right now belong to the generation that are accustomed to reading fashion magazines since they were young. Though their generation itself experienced the mainstream of super short pants, it seems like they don't want their kids to wear them at all because they're sort of tacky and embarrassing. They want their boys to dress cool, and pants with longer lengths tend to be easier to show fashionability than short ones.
A person in the kids apparel business also explain that the spread of hip hop music, and sport manga among young boys play a part in spreading longer length pants. Another person says that the shift of boys underwear has a lot to do with the disappearance of super short pants. I think all of these reasons are true.

Today, almost all of the boys I see around in my neighborhood wear knee-length pants if not blue jeans down to their feet. It is sad in a way (not to say I'm a perv!) because short pants were like a symbol of tomboy kind of energy and seeing less of them around feels like the society is weakening. At the same time though, I also have a feeling that if there was a kid wearing those super short pants he's be bullied in school for not being the same with others or for being unfashionable - of course I don't mean it for every kid, but these days you can be bullied for the smallest reason (see my ex-bosses blog Oct.20 entry for "bullies and suicide").
When super-short pants were the mainstream, those with long pants looked like a weak and sick kid...

Today's update on Japan Mode: Japanese Green Tea Vol.4 - the last article on Japanese green tea introducing how it's drank outside of Japan. I discovered that the general tendency of drinking it is adding a lot of sugar and fruit flavor. Where is the taste and fragrance of "green tea" left??? There were a few that I want to try especially this green tea martini called Zentini, it was pretty interesting.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

2007 Spring Fashion

From my netsurfing yesterday to gather some information about Japanese fashion trend for spring 2007, I found out that the ladies fashion trend for this season is going to be pretty seriously girly.
Oh, but before I go on, let me ask you one simple question that's been bothering me for a while.
When you describe fashion in English, which one of the following is correct or rather, most commonly used?

A) Men's / Ladies'
B) Men's / Lady's
C) Mens / Ladies
D) Men's / Women's

This has been confusing me: the gramatically correct ones would probably be (B) and (D) but I have a feeling that (C) is used most commonly in Japan. Like many of the imported words and English coined in Japan, people don't really care too much about grammar. But I need to know just to get rid of this blurry smoky thing out of my mind.

So, the women's fashion trend. I'm going to put up the details some time during February on Japan Mode so I won't go in too much (not to mention I don't have enough information to come up with a complete article).

The general trend is somewhat a continuation of
winter 2006, which is the revival of 60s-sort-of style. I don't know about fashion trends outside of Japan so I'm not sure if the fashion trend here is something unique to Japan or is kind of a part of the larger int'l/global trend but anyway, the winter 2006 trend in a word can be described "classic, feminine and gorgeous" (at least, that's what people were aiming) as represented in the use of frill, laces, large ribbons, (faux) fur, skinny and rather high-positioned waist line, A-line silhouette so on so forth.

Those elements remain, or rather, they become even more conspicuous especially frills, lace and bowtie ribbons. New designs coming out already have those accessories attached (most time detachable) but the trend seems to be so mainstream and popular that people add ribbons and bowties to the jackets they already have.

Over the winter (right now too) I've seen quite a number of people wearing mini skirts and short pants together with all kinds of leggings, but the trend for spring looks like more fluffy (fluffy?) and relaxed shapes. Balloon skirts and single-piece dresses (onepiece) continue to receive high popularity, and on top of the boom of springlike pretty colors, girly prints like flower and fruit seem to gain attention even for grown adults. If not skirts, baggy pants.

Shoes: there are spring boots coming out, but the mainstream seems to be flat and flexible shoes. Ballet-type shoes were pretty big last spring, so I guess those kinds, or similar types would be the trend this year (b/c the Japanese fashion industry doesn't like to have same trends in a decade, they have to change it somehow).

I also heard a small rumor that long hairstyle rather than short will be popular but am not sure.

I have a feeling that I am giving away too much here that I won't have anything left to write on the website, so I will stop here.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Sakidori Events there will be a few snow-related festivals left, a lot of plum viewing as well as girl's festival (hinamatsuri), and the March Tournament of Grand Sumo is also coming up. If you have travel plans, check it out. Even if you don't, come have a look :-)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Things that interest me now...

Since I have no particular topic that I want to write about but have many things on my mind, I thought I'd list them. This is mostly going to be movies and manga and things of which my interests basically derive from either of them.

I saw the trailer for this American movie "Stomp the Yard" last night on TV and thought it's pretty cool. I always like to see dancing especially when it comes to dances with fast beat and rhythm, and I also admire all the time the flexibility of muscles and joints of those dancers plus their sense of rhythm. I myself have never learned hip hop or stepping or any of the stuff on that side - all I've ever had is a few years experience of classic ballet and a bit of clubbing - but I wish I could dance like that. Cool.

Dororo and Bokkou >
Speaking of films, there are a few that I want to go see in theaters. One is Dororo, a film that I have been mentioning several times now in the past entries and also on my website. I hear it's good, and also feel that I should experience the scale in a theater with large screen and good sound system.
Bokkou was released this past weekend in Japan, and this too, I'm very much interested in seeing because I like that unique worldview Chinese fims or films on China have.

<IRYU - Team Medical Dragon>
... is a name of a manga that I am hooked right now. I borrowed it from a friend from high school who is currently a nursing student. The manga is mostly a criticism to Japanese medical treatment, of the feudalistic systems and structure, corrupted doctors, downlooked nurses and disrespected patients. It's an indignant and sad reality we carry. In terms of being a criticism I guess it's not too different from other medical manga like Say Hello to Black Jack (Jpn: Black Jack ni yoroshiku).

Anyway, it reminded me of this conversation several days ago between my boss, my colleague and me, that the more difficult and technical the theme is, the more they should make it into a manga. You see, manga is easier to understand difficult stuff than sentences because it's visual and more importantly because it takes a conversational style. A whole bunch of questions arise within and are answered within. And to my littlest surprise, this one has been made into a TV drama last year.

Reading about difficult themes in manga is good, but sometimes I feel like the criticisms go too far. It's so much easier to make the readers believe what's written. For instance, this manga gives me a feeling that it's trying to grow distrust among the general public against Japanese hospitals and doctors. The work is directed by an experienced doctor and is not a collection of random and irresponsible things somewhere between fiction and non-fiction, so of course a lot of it has to be true, but still I think I shouldn't believe in everything written...... or should I???

I know that a good selection of Japanese manga and anime are being exported, but how about TV dramas? The foreign TV dramas we have are mostly American and Korean. 24 has been popular for quite a while now as well as Desperate Housewives and LOST. The Korean drama Winter Sonata starring Bae Yong Joon made a huge success in Japan and established the Hanryu-boom (Korean boom) which still hasn't quite died out today. Myself... I was quite into Dae Jang Geum...

I mentioned some time ago this manga called Kami no Shizuku (Les Goutte de Dieu: the drops of god) which is about wine. I liked wine, especially red, from before I read this but reading this comic really makes you thirsty... it makes you want to drink different kinds of the same drink that's not necessarily wine. It makes you want to do some tasting (wannabe) of all kinds of alcohol from wine, Japanese rice wine ("sake"), beer, etc. etc. and even tea. Going back to wine, my recent favorite is a Californian red. Can't remember the name though. And the other favorite is an Italian red. Can't remember the name of this either, except that it had a drawing of a cat on the label. That one was good. My favorite liquor is "umeshu" which is plum wine. Sooo good.

All right. I kind of have more to write about, but I'm stopping here since it's getting long.
Today's update on Japan Mode: This Week's Events in Tokyo ... mostly about plum blossom viewing. It's a sign of spring in Japan, but no parties like cherry blossom viewing.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Nihongo Becomes More Difficult

Japanese language is said to belong to the rather difficult category.

If you speak about the sound I think it's not too hard because I feel a lot of similarities in sounds with other languages especially Spanish and Italian, and to me the sounds of languages like Chinese and the European countries with strong Russian influence seem impossible to pronounce correctly.

But if you start thinking about the correct conjugation and the hierarchy that hides within Nihongo... it gives you a nasty headache. Just for a little background information, so far there are at least three hierarchical levels in Nihongo: 1) respective, 2) humble, and 3) polite. When you are speaking to a person higher in status or older than you or you have to speak in a very formal situation, your proper speech is to mix the first two which means you address the being you're talking to in respective form at the same time as positioning yourself low by using the humble form. Um... very hard to explain, indeed.

The language is so difficult and strict even for a native Japanese if you try to speak it properly that many times the language is simplified and turned more casual. And this casualization of proper language has been a bit of a problem in Japanese society nowadays, for lesser people can use the language correctly. Our language is falling apart.

For some reason, a kind of an educational committee decided to divide the three levels into five, and turned in a proposal to the Minister of Education and Culture today. Well, actually their aim is to make the levels more easier to understand, to make the levels of language more comprehensible to those who don't really understand it.

For example, the humble form is separated into two: the first group "kenjogo" include words that positions the other being (that you're talking to) higher, and the second group is a collection of words that make polite the action you are making. This is "kenjogo II".
Then, there is this this new category "bikago" that divides from polite term. I couldn't find any examples of this in the article I was reading.

When a complex language that only a minority can use properly becomes even more confusing, I wonder what's the point of preserving the language in the older style. We might as well create a new-generation language out from the casual version of language most of us use in daily conversation.... actually... I remembered that this is going on sometimes. Some of the casual speech, because they're being used so much that no one can stop it, are being officially acknowledged by the specialists in Japanese and education, I think.

But then, I soon come to think that preserving the correctness is significant in maintaining national identity. Afterall, language is something that mirrors national character, the history, the customs, the tradition, the culture, the way our mind works, the way our society operates - all of these are condensed into our daily tongue. Allowing it to fall apart means that bits of these qualities are fading away.

In a way, I'm glad that I was born a native to this language simply because I won't have to go through studying such complex stuff for years...!

Today's update on Japan Mode: webmanga CharmyNurseM Chapter 9 release! (in about three hours from now)

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Would You Like Some Bilk?

Milk seems to be losing popularity in Japanese society recently.

This year it was the winter vegetables that were overproduced and went to waste cuz the amount harvested was just impossible to consume by ourselves, but this was because of the irregular weather. As for the situation for milk, it's not because the irregular weather grew the cows better and so the cows gave more milk. A huge amount of milk is going to waste simply because we don't drink them so much anymore.

This was the situation last year. And the situation continues if not grows worse this year.
A dairy farmer in the northern island of Hokkaido grieving the situation of the milk demand dropping extremely low, tried to come up with an idea so that the area's only industry (and therefore the chief source of income) won't completely die. Making more dairy products wouldn't improve the situation, so he had to come up with a different brillant idea.

Well, Hokkaido, besides being the top producing prefecture for a variety of vegetables, fruits and milk, happened to be Japan's prominent beer producer. This dairy farmer consulted a beer maker whether it would be possible to make beer from cow milk - and they did.

It was way off common sense and was thought to be close to impossible to make beer from milk due to the unique characteristics of milk (basically it's hard to ferment it for liquor) but wow, they did it in a year (perhaps it took longer, I'm not sure). They say the taste is rather fruity and the drink looks like filtered beer. One third of the drink is milk, so if this "bilk" catches on it would contribute largely to local economy and milk consumption. At the moment, though, it is only available at only six stores in Nakashibetsu Town in Hokkaido. I wonder what it really tastes like - I can't imagine.

That's about it for today :-)

Anybody who's a big fan of any of the following, who is living in Tokyo periphery or are planning to visit Tokyo during February check out today's update on Japan Mode <
Tokyo Maniac Event February Ed>

>> Sgt.Keroro (Keroro Gunso) / CLAMP / Japanese swords (katana) / Sakuran (...more like Edo courtesans and dazzling kimono)