Thursday, December 17, 2009


Well, my sister finally got in and we went to the Ghibli Museum, but I wanted to blog real quick about at thing I went to the other day with a friend called Borochi. Borochi is a super huge, super huge flea market held at the Kamimachi stop in Setagaya-ku and it's held only twice a year: Dec. 15-16 and Jan. 15-16 and people come from miles and miles around to go to it, from sun up to sun down and later. There are high school bands that play and march down the street, and lots and lots of food stalls ranging from yakisoba to takoyaki to regional stuff from as far off as, I believe, Okinawa. You can find anything from kimonos, to pottery to mounted tiger's heads, turtles and household shrines. I would encourage people to go if they have a chance, but warn you to go early (like 9 or 10 am), as the street soon becomes so packed that you're floating along in a sea of people, unable to get out. It's like a busy Shinjuku train, but you can find some really cool stuff!

Live going in Japan

So, instead of blogging about different stuff that I haven't blogged about before, like me going to a soiree (if that's how you spell it), last weekend, I'm going to bore you yet again with my concert-going experience. I won't bore you with the details in full, but last night was Alice Nine's last live of 2009, White Period II at Shinkiba. In following the band's request that everyone where white (as it was the theme), I don't think I saw a single person there who didn't have white on, so that was so awesome. The band opened with a cover of The Beatles' song "All You Need is Love," then did a lot of their lesser known/rarely played live songs. They did another few covers, one of some Japanese song, and then that song that goes, "You're just too good to be true...Can't take my eyes off of you..." Anyways. And Shou sang Silent Night (in Japanese), Saga played an acoustic version of either Armor Ring or Mugen no Hana (can't remember) on the guitar, they all came down to the edge of the extended stage (where I was) and played a song after having a little talk session and everyone hugging everyone. It was all a lot of fun, though they did play a lot of their heavier songs (or maybe it just seemed that way since I had a moshing lunatic beside me). But anyways, it was nice and long and wonderful, and got me to thinking up a list of things to know when you go to a Visual Kei (or perhaps any) concert in Japan.
Things to Know:
1. Even when tickets are for standing room only, it's no use showing up early, because they let people in one at a time according to the number on their ticket (learned this out the hard way by showing up crazy early for a concert). Thus, you might want to know what your ticket's number sounds like in Japanese when you go.
2. The concert will always, without fail, start late. How late, however, changes, ranging from 10-30 min. or so.
3. When you buy merchandise, they won't give you a bag to put it in, so either bring your own, or buy one there (which is probably why they don't give you one: to make more money)
4. At the door, you are expected to pay a mandatory $5.00, that is 500 Yen fee for a drink ticket, which you then can exchange at the bar for whatever is on their list (though the most popular drink is probably water bottles)
5. Almost all songs have accompanying hand movements that coordinate with the rhythm, and which can be quite disconcerting the first few times you go to a live, but which you gradually pick up on as you gain more experience.
6. Rather than clapping (though sometimes you do), or trying to grab the singers on stage, fans show their love by stretching their arms out in a hand gesture which is supposed to simulate a sakura bud blossoming.

To be sure, there are other things that I've forgotten, as I'm in a flurry right now, but I suppose I can always add them later. Suffice it to say, it has been a learning experience, as has everything else here. You probably won't hear from me for a few days, since my family is coming to visit, but I'll post again when I can!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Tis the Season!

Hello there everyone! Well, now that we're a fair way into December, I'm into the Xmas spirit. I've got two playlists on my Ipod, one entirely of Asian (Japanese, Korean and Chinese) Xmas songs, and then the other all those old English classics. I did find a bargain of an artificial tree at a place called Nitori, and for $10, just had to buy it. As you'll see in the pic, everything I needed to trim the tree came with it, and it comes up past my knee, so it's sizable. Quite a bargain. People have started selling their New Years wreaths, and these mochi (both fake and real rice cakes) on pedastals which, I'm told, you offer to the Shinto god for New Years, and then get to eat seven days after. Also, they have special bentoes they eat, where every type of food has a meaning (luck having children, luck getting money, luck in studies, etc.). I've also been doing some shopping for the ingredients I need to make a Christmas Cake, and you would not believe how difficult it is to find cake/icing ingredients. Most supermarkets have a small section where they do have baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, crepe mix, sponge cake mix, sprinkles and sliced almonds and nuts. What is interesting, however, is that these sections, while having mixes, do not actually have flour. Oh no, they don't. And I'm dubious that this country even has powdered sugar. I've looked at four or five different places and can't find it anywhere, which makes my icing plan quite difficult. We'll see how this all plays out, shall we?

In other news, me and my host family took a quick drive around town tonight to see some of the lights. We went through Aoyama, to the OmoteSando street, which was very lovely, and back through Shibuya home, which was jam-packed with people. I'm also told that Roppongi, Midtown, Futako-Tamagawa and of course Ebisu, are other great spots for light-viewing, so I'll be going there soon, and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures. Well, I've uploaded a few pictures of the lights that were in Akasaka, which was where me and my friend Katy went to see a VK concert last week. Gorgeous, aren't they? Well, talk to you guys later, and Happy Early Holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Itaewon Murders

Hey there everyone! Not much new to report, I don't think, but I wanted to suggest a movie for anyone interested, and I'll blub about movie tickets/movie theaters here in Japan. But first of all, my movie recommendation of the month. I just watched a Korean film (something I do in moderation), called The Case of Itaewon Homicide, which is a movie about a true story from the late 90s where two Korean-Americans, in the Itaewon area of Seoul, Korea, were accused of brutally murdering an innocent Korean guy. Both of the guys maintained that the other did it, and the movie follows the examination and trial of the murder case. Now that, in and of itself, doesn't sound so thrilling, but the movie was quite well done (though the English wasn't 100%), and it's easily the best Asian movie I've seen in months. I'll attach the trailer, though it isn't subbed, so, watch it if you get a chance.

Secondly, I wanted to talk about the experience of going to the movies here in Japan. First of all, one should come knowing that going to the movie theater is an expensive luxury, as one adult ticket costs $20 (more if it's 3D). But, that being said, the theaters give you lots of chances to save a buck, which is nice. Every month, on the first of the month, tickets are $10. Also, if you're a woman, every Wednesday, tickets are $10. Many theaters also have 'couples days', 'senior days,' 'senior couple days,' and other special days for card holders. Movie theaters here have concession stands, like back home, which sell fountain drinks and popcorn, but often have other selections like Haagen-Daaz ice cream stands, croissant sets, etc. depending on the theater. Also, all theaters I've seen sell merchandise specific to the movies out at the time. This merchandise almost always consists of a pamphlet/photobook, a cell phone strap, stickers, folders and a variety of other things depending on the movie. Also, the merchandise here is not the same as stuff you find in the states. For instance, New Moon just came out here and there is a wider selection of merchandise (and a better selection, if you ask me), which you can conveniently buy whenever you come out of the movie. The movie theater itself, at least the one I go to, has things called double seats, which are very like loveseats, and you buy tickets for the special, and they cost a bit more. There are also special reclining chairs that cost more, but which are much nicer. Outside, there are cushions of two sizes for you to choose from in case your seat isn't comfortable enough. And, the theater I go to has assigned seating, so when you purchase the ticket the attendant will ask if you want middle or back, then show you seats on a diagram which you can approve or not until you get ones you're satisfied with. Even so, not every cinema operates like this. The movie theater I speak of is a plush one, part of a chain called 109 Cinemas, owned by the 109 corporation. The other theater I went to didn't have assigned seating and didn't have cushions, but was otherwise more or less the same. Of course, as in America, they have previous, warnings not to smoke or talk and turn off your cell phone, and then a rather ridiculous anti-piracy video, which I'm sure is rather threatening if you can understand it. But anyways, I've found the movies to be a welcome escape when I get overwhelmed by the Japan-ness of Japan, and go more than I thought I would (even if most movies are in Japanese). Another interesting thing to note, before I sign off, is that kids' movies (like Disney and Pixar) are always dubbed in Japanese (since, like me, the little kids can't read kanji), and of course the Japanese films are in Japanese, but American live action films are often in English with subtitles, though on TV they are often dubbed. Anways, I guess that's all for now. Talk to you all later!