Life In Tokyo

The Robot Restaurant Experience


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


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

Tokyo Travelogue: Sagamiko Illumination


Last week my boyfriend and I made an excursion to the outer limits of Tokyo, Sagamiko to be exact, for a trip to the Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest. Disregard the slighty lewd name, the area is actually a massive entertainment complex, none of which (to my knowledge at least) is the least bit X-rated.

There’s an a nice onsen (hot spring resort) on site, as well as a Paddington Bear branded camping ground, but the park is most well-known for it’s largely children’s themed amusement park. In the winter though, the park’s showcase is its nighttime illumination event, where the entirety of the grounds are decked out in what must be a few million lights. The theme for this year’s festival was the UK, and as my boyfriend is a total UK oktau (U-taku?) it was decided that we absolutely had to take the trip.

It was well worth it, even if it was more UK inspired than themed. Continue reading

Super Mario Bros. 30th Anniversary Festival


Here in Japan there have been various promotions all year celebrating this, the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. We’ve had special promotions at Tower Records, exclusive merchandise for sale at various Otaku stores, and of course the release of Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo Wii U. But things hit a crescendo this past Sunday, the actual anniversary date, with Nintendo’s official Super Mario Brothers Anniversary Celebration Festival, held at Duo Exchange in Shibuya, Tokyo. Continue reading

Adventures In Mario UFO Catchers


Japan is one of the few places in the world where arcades still thrive, and this is largely due to UFO catchers, or what we in the States call crane games.

Most arcades dedicate at least one floor entirely to the machines, which can range from simple and relatively easy candy prize dispensers, to incredibly difficult/nigh impossible yen sinks that withhold a variety of amazing surprises.

I pretty much avoided these things the first six months I was here. I thought they were too damn hard, and I rarely saw prizes that I wanted. That was, until I discovered that many feature Mario and other Nintendo-related goodies. Then I was hooked.

Just check out some of the sweet shit I’ve scored. Continue reading

Tower Records’ Mario Celebration!


It’s Mario’s 30th anniversary, and to celebrate Tower Records in Japan is pulling out all the stops with a massive summer sale campaign featuring a bevy of exclusive Mario goodies. Myself, being both a Mario and Tower Records fanatic, had to check it out.

It’s pretty rad. Continue reading

An Outsider’s Take On Japanese Pro Wrestling


Recently a friend from the states came to visit me in Japan, and as she is a huge wrestling fanatic, she begged me to take her to some Japanese wrestling events.

Luckily for her, we were able to make it to not one, but two. One by New Japan Pro Wrestling, the major wrestling promotion here in Japan (and the second-biggest wrestling organization in the world behind the WWE), and a local, indie event by Fukumen Mania, a luchadore (Mexican wrestling) style organization.

It was probably the most fun I could have with men in skintight spandex that I’d be willing to talk about on a blog that my mom reads. Continue reading

Being Gay (and Fabulous) in Tokyo


I recently came out, and it was far less painful and emotional a process than I thought it would be – largely because I have awesome family and friends and I am in love with an absolutely wonderful man. I’m very lucky and grateful for all the luck I continue to have.

Most of my friends and family didn’t even have any questions for me, save for one: What’s it like to be gay in Japan?

And I guess that’s a good question! We don’t really hear a lot about gay rights in Japan in western news, so I assume it would be pretty much a mystery for anyone who doesn’t live here and experience it everyday.

So, what is it like to be openly gay in Japan?

It’s weird. But damn near everything in Japan is weird so I guess that shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Continue reading

Concert Review: Red Bull Music Academy Presents 1UP: Cart Diggers Live


If I had to choose a favorite music genre, “game music” would probably be in my top three. Something about the classic aesthetic combined with its frequent manic tempo triggers both the nostalgic and musical areas of my brain in just the perfect way that sends me to aural bliss.

So when I found out that Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) would be hosting a night of chiptune/game-inspired music here in Tokyo, I was rather excited. I was doubly excited when I discovered that Scottish DJ Rustie would be headlining the event, which was entitled 1UP: Cart Diggers Live (named after a documentary series about game music), playing a custom-made mix of music by legendary game composer Yuzo Koshiro. Not only that, but there would be a “performance” by the hologram vocaloid superstar Hatsune Miku, and Chip Tanaka, composer of Metroid, Ice Climbers and Dr. Mario, would be there! How could it possibly go wrong?

By the end of the night I was left asking myself; did anything go right? Continue reading

Record Store Review: HMV Record Shop In Shibuya


Tokyo’s original HMV, which opened in 1990 and closed in 2010, was more than just a record store. It was a scene spot where many up-and-coming Japanese bands were able to foster local popularity and grow into somewhat international stars. In fact, an entire genre of music, Shibuya-Kei, the jazz/pop hybrid made famous by acts like Cibo Matto and Pizzacato Five, became popular largely because of HMV’s heavy promotion.

But HMV’s Tokyo location was built during the tail-end of a bubble economy. And while its first few years were a hotbed of activity, everything I have read about it suggests that it spent the second half of its existence in a slow decline before finally shutting its doors four years ago.

But that was then! While international record sales are still on fire thanks to the digital revolution, if the insane abundance of record stores in Tokyo are any indication, Japanese people still love buying music on a physical format. And now that the vinyl and cassette tape resurgences are finally hitting Japan in full force, it seems that record stores are just doing better and better here.

So HMV is back! With an all new location, and new name (HMV Record Shop) and I went to check it out.

Continue reading