Life In Tokyo

Sushi Arcade Games, Pretty Flowers, and Zima

Over the years I read a lot about “strange” Japanese arcade games. There was the one where you poke people in the butt, that’s a classic. And of course there was the table flipping one that I think a lot of people know about. But I’ve never been lucky enough to find either of them in the wild since I moved to Tokyo three years ago. I think the weirdest arcade game I had ever come across was a Typing Of The Dead style game starring Lupin The 3rd, which to be honest, was pretty damn weird now that I think about it.

But it’s not as weird as this! Continue reading

I Went To A Game Music DJ Show

West of Tokyo, about 10 minutes away from Shinjuku via the Chuo Line, is Koenji, a neighborhood called the coolest in Tokyo by many a magazine both foreign and domestic. This is thanks largely to the hood’s amazing bar and club scene. Take a stroll down any of Koenji’s dozens of sketchy-looking, but entirely safe, sidestreets and you’ll come upon any number of hip clubs and pubs, each with their own unique flavor and style. Want to eat hot dogs and down American IPAs? Koenji has bar for that. Want to watch YouTube videos of 80s hip-hop and play darts? Koenji’s got you covered. Want to dance the night away with otaku while rocking out to killer game music jams from the 80s to today? Apparently Koenji’s the place the for that now too. Continue reading

The Glory of Hard-Off

I’ll get the obvious joke out of the way now.

In Japan, software is just called “soft” and hardware” is just called “hard.” The suffix “off” is often used to signify sales. There’s an entire chain of stores that make use of that grammatical choice. They have bookstores called “Book Off” that are quite common in and around Tokyo. Their stores that sell figures and models is called “Hobby Off.” They even have a used housewares store that is named “Off House,” I’m not sure for the reasoning behind the flipped words there.

But yes, they do have a hardware store, and it is called “Hard Off.” I understand that’s funny and I will not besmirch you for laughing. Shit, I’ve lived here three and a half years and I still giggle sometimes when I say to myself, “wow, that Hard-Off is huge.”

By the way, they have a liquor outlet store called “Liquor Off” and I think that shit is even funnier, but I digress. Continue reading

Logic Exhibition – Vintage Synths Galore

Hideki Matsutake isn’t a household name in Japan, let alone the United States, but his influence on electronic music on both sides of the Pacific cannot be understated. He worked as the sequencer programmer on the first two Yellow Magic Orchestra albums, as well as many of the solo albums by Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto. His skill with the notoriously difficult early synthesizers and sequencers of the 1970s no doubt helped YMO craft their sound. In turn, YMO served as a major influence to artists not just in Japan, but the world over. It’s hard to imagine a world with Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby” without Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1978 debut album to help lead the way.

In addition to his work with YMO, Matsutake is an accomplished solo performer under the name Logic System, and has also worked alongside countless musicians in Japan from the 1970s to present day. In celebration of his decades of accomplishment, he recently released the five disc retrospective Logic Chronicle, which demonstrates his amazing versatility across genres and sub-genres of electronic and rock music, from synthpop and dance music to avant-garde and prog. It’s an incredible collection and I highly recommend it.

To help promote its release, Matsutake held a major exhibition over the weekend, which included interviews and a concert performance. Sadly, I couldn’t make it to either of those, but I was able to swing by the pop-up store for it. I came there hoping to snag some obscure Japanese electronic music. I didn’t expect to see the actual instruments used to help invent synthpop. Continue reading

David Bowie Is Rare Vinyl

 

David Bowie Is was originally an exhibition at the V&A in England. It was massively successful, and since then it has gone on the road around the world. Now, it has made its way to Tokyo. I went there just the other day. It was amazing, breathtaking and at times nearly reduced me to tears. It’s the end all be all experience for any David Bowie fan, an audio/visual smorgasbord of memorabilia, rare video, behind-the-scenes footage and various Bowie ephemera from his birth to now.

You should go. That’s all I really have to say about that. Besides, photos weren’t allowed inside so writing anymore about it would be rather pointless. So instead, let’s talk about the records you can buy there, because vinyl. Continue reading

The Biggest Guide to Tokyo Record Stores on the Internet

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This all started because my boyfriend gave me his old MiniDisc player.

We were watching Techmoan on YouTube, some video about an obsolete tape format, and I mentioned how I wished he would do an episode on MiniDiscs, because they always interested me. Then, my boyfriend told me that he actually had a MiniDisc player (that he never used) and would give to me. It was a wonderful gift from my wonderful little man, but unfortunately he didn’t have any discs for it.

I went to my regular record store haunts scoping the back shelves for used MiniDiscs, but to no avail. After that, I decided to branch out and search some lesser known shops. Still turning up empty-handed, I reached out even further, doing research online to dig up as many record stores as possible, figuring that at least one would have used MiniDiscs somewhere.

It was at this point I realized that I had probably been to at least half of the record stores in and around Tokyo so I figured what would be the harm in hunting down the other half.

So if you find this useful and want to thank someone, thank my boyfriend. It’s all his fault.

And in case you’re wondering, no, I never did find a damn MiniDisc. Continue reading

About Guns.

Last month, an up-and-coming Japanese pop idol, Mayu Tomita, was attacked by a stalker, who managed to stab her more than 20 times. She was rushed to the hospital with severe injuries, but apparently she will live.

Two weeks ago, singer Christina Grimmie was attacked by a stalker. He shot her in the head. She died.

Even before the horrifying mass shooting in Orlando just a few days after this terrible attack, I felt as if these two events perfectly illustrated the effectiveness of strict gun control laws.  Continue reading

The Wonders of Japanese Movie Programs

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There are a lot of differences between going to the movies in Japan and going in the United States. For starters, tickets cost a heck of a lot more, usually upwards of $20, and the seats are assigned. Many theaters also have deluxe seats that offer anything from increased leg room to full-on private suites. The theater near me even has a private waiting area for premium members where champagne and chocolate are served. It all combines to create a feeling that turns going to the movies into more of an event, much like going to a live stage show or a concert.

And just like a live event, in Japan, movies often get their own specially made programs.

And they’re dope. Continue reading

The Robot Restaurant Experience

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I’ve lived in Tokyo for over two years now. While I’m far from a native of this wonderful city, I’m long removed from wanting to visit the popular tourist sites. The zoo, Tokyo Tower, Sensoji Temple, they’re all beautiful places that are well worth checking out when you first come to the city, but they’ve lost their luster for me. Now I’d much rather go exploring off the beaten path and discover some hidden weird and wonderful cafe, art gallery or record store.

But whenever family or friends come to visit me, I feel obliged to jump back into tourist mode and show them all the big name sites and tourist traps.

At some point, this usually means going to Robot Restaurant. Continue reading

Japanese Record Store Tributes To David Bowie

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David Bowie passed away a month ago, but I still haven’t fully processed the news. It’s still hard to believe that he’s no longer with us. He was such a presence in the pop world. And his music meant more to me than anyone else’s.

And his death wasn’t just a shock and tragedy in the Western world. David Bowie was huge internationally, especially in Japan. Even before his death, it was hard to miss Bowie’s section in most record stores here, and even less well-regarded albums like Never Let Me Down or his output with Tin Machine seemed to be held in at least some esteem here. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a rare Bowie LP go for an insane amount of money at any of the multitude of record stores here in Tokyo.

In Japan, record stores have a bit more personality than their Western counterparts. Even in major chains, it’s not uncommon to see handwritten recommendation notes by the staff, and custom tailor-made displays dedicated to more obscure artists and genres. With Bowie’s passing, many of these same stores have taken to commemorating his legacy with similarly DIY, custom-made displays. In the days and weeks in the wake of Bowie’s death, I visited several Tower Records and other stores to see how they were handling the Starman’s passing. I was pretty impressed.

And now I know how to spell David Bowie in katakana – デヴィッド・ボウイ。

Continue reading

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