James Eldred

A Collection of Strange Japanese Band Names

I go to Tower Records almost every week. I never know what I’ll find there, whether it be a deluxe edition of a classic album, a Japanese edition of a new release that includes exclusive bonus tracks, or an amazing album by a Japanese artist I had never heard of. It’s a smorgasbord of audio delights that keep my ears happy and my wallet empty.

An auxiliary reason for my frequent travels to the store is to check out the latest in the never-ending army of wacky Japanese band names. You’d think after four years that this shit would get old, but it doesn’t.

Here are some of the odder ones I’ve seen in my time here. All photos were taken from displays at either the Shibuya or Shinjuku Tower Records. Continue reading

YMO 101: The Protégés, Associates and Etc.

This is part six of my guide to Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Part 1: The Studio Albums
Part 2: The Live Albums
Part 3: The Compilations and Remix Records
Part 4: The Solo Records
Part 5: Pre-cursors and Side Projects

Yellow Magic Orchestra were a lot like Prince, (except less purple and horny – and I assume taller): they used their success as a means to launch a near-endless cavalcade of proteges, pop starlets, and associates into the the mainstream (or at least try). They even launched their own vanity label, Yen Records, the logo of which is featured above.

I couldn’t possibly write about every single artist that YMO was associated with, that would take far too long (and this ran long as it is). Instead, this focuses on acts who I found noteworthy in one way or another. Either they had impressively long discographies, a strong connection with someone in YMO, were a substantial success in Japan, or were just damn good.

Of course, this list is entirely subjective, so if you think I left out an act worth mentioning, please tell me about them in the comments!    Continue reading

Happiness Is a Warm Arcade

Japan is still well known for its video game and arcade culture, but neither are really what they used to be. I think its public knowledge that Japan’s importance in console gaming has long since diminished. Sure, its made a bit of a comeback as of late, but the majority of the classic Japanese game developers, Capcom, Konami, Sega, and so on, are all just fractions of what they used to be. And they’re the lucky ones, a hell of a lot more are defunct completely, or exist only as a holding house to license out old IP.

Sadly, arcade culture in Japan has diminished recently as well. It feels that not a year goes by where you hear of some classic or legendary game center in the greater Tokyo area shutting down. And the ones that remain have been forced to shift their focus away from classic arcade style games and more to redemption machines (crane games) or insanely complex rhythm games. And while I find both to be fun in their own ways, they’re very much not for everyone.

Sure, Akihabara has lots of arcade still, with some great ones that even focus on retro machines. And that’s awesome. If you’re a tourist then I totally recommend you check them out. But, the longer one spends in Akihabara, the sadder it feels. The pervy underbelly becomes more apparent. You start to notice the games less, and the disgusting old men lusting after women in schoolgirls more. Not to mention storefront after storefront catering to the most base-level otaku with anime porn featuring obviously underage girls. It’s an icky place.

Seeking an alternative to the perv-domain of Akiba, the boyfriend and I headed out to Odaiba last week, in search of a different variety of massive arcade. We escaped lustful sadness of Akihabara’s otaku culture and had some fun along the way, but also found ourselves face-to-face with a sadness of another kind. Continue reading

Sick in Tokyo Redux – A Story about Poop

I don’t write about “life in Tokyo” very much because, well, it’s just “life” for me now. Maybe I should’ve written more about it when I first moved here, but now the strange has become commonplace, the unique has transformed into the banal. Ask away about what I find weird or different in Tokyo now and I’ll be hard-pressed to come up with an answer.

That is, except when it comes to getting sick or needing medical attention. These are experiences that I find wholly different than getting sick in the states, and ones that I’m far too familiar with. Continue reading

Getting Old and Escapism via Nostalgia

I turned 38 this week and I think I’m finally starting to feel old(er) [kinda] {I think}. Continue reading

America: Great for Golden Girls and White Nationalism

One of the interesting things about living away from your home country is that when you come back to visit, you notice how things have changed. Not just little things like new buildings or stores in your local hood, but larger trends and societal changes.

For example, this time around I really noticed a change in TV. The cable channels have really adapted to the Netflix viewing model, and allow their viewers to binge watch their favorite TV shows. That was kind of great. I got to watch Fresh Prince, Golden Girls, and Forensic Files pretty much non-stop whenever I was in my hotel room. I was totally okay with that.

I picked up on some fashion changes too. Nothing major, but I did see a slight rise in floral patterns and colored cuffs on men’s shirts. Considering both those things are very Japanese, that surprised me a little bit. Not a big fan of that style, but whatever.

Oh yeah, I also noticed the rise of ethno-nationalism, white supremacy, and fascist ideals being put forth in mainstream discussion.

I was a lot less okay with that. Continue reading

A Thanks to Doug TenNapel, the Bigot

Earlier this week I noticed a big uptick on visitors to my site. I immediately knew this could only mean one thing: Doug TenNapel must’ve done something stupid. Continue reading

A Dream for a Left-Wing Death Wish

A remake of Death Wish is coming out later this year. Let’s take a look at the trailer.

Oh dear. That looks kind of racist, definitely sexist, and entirely tone deaf to the current US political climate. So of course it’s directed by Eli Roth, who does nothing but make ugly films with rampant racist, sexist and/or homophobic undertones. How anyone could’ve seen Hostel and thought, “yes, let’s allow this person to make more movies” is beyond me. Continue reading

VHS Zombie Anxiety – How George A. Romero Nearly Ruined My Life (But It’s Not His Fault)

George A. Romero died last week. He was 77 years old.

Obits and tributes around the web have said more about him than I ever could. He’s being lauded as a true innovator, a man who changed cinema and pop culture forever, a renegade film icon that played by his own rules to make the movies he wanted to make, making some of the most beloved and acclaimed horror movies by doing so.

But to me he’ll always be remembered as the man who gave me a near-debilitating anxiety disorder that lasted a better part of my life. This is through no direct fault of his own – I don’t hold him personally responsible.

It was really my dad’s fault, if I’m honest. Continue reading

Are Tapes Really “Big In Japan”?

Yesterday I was in one of my favorite record shops here in Japan, a wonderful little store in Nakano called Shop Mecano. It’s a store dedicated to new wave, synthpop and electronic music – all things that are right up my ally. His stock is pretty evenly split between CDs and LPs, although I suspect that the majority of his business is CD sales, as that inventory seems to cycle a hell of a lot more frequently than his LP supply.

One thing I never saw in his store was cassette tapes, that was, until yesterday, when I saw a sole copy of Kraftwerk’s The Mix up against the wall, ready to go to someone’s home for the low price of 2,000 yen (about $20). I told the owner that he should mark this up, as cassette tapes are big in Japan now – riding a huge comeback at the moment. With a look that I can only describe as “incredulous incredulousness” he scoffed at that suggestion outright, saying, almost with disdain that the cassette tape revival is “fake.”

I asked if he meant “fad.” But now, he was insistent on his usage of “fake.”

“No one is buying those,” he said with assurance. Continue reading

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