All posts by Henkka

No.009 “Eek, You Pervert~! Now, As For That Vacation…”

“Hikigatari Battari #2” in 8 different cities! Without catching a cold, without injuring my throat, without losing or gaining any weight, I was able to safely finish all of the performances. Thank you. A special paid site called “Kita-Aoyama Image Redevelopment” is planned to go online on August 20th and will include pictures and detailed reports of the tour. (Just doing some advertising, fufufu…)

Now then. Those of you who go to school should be starting your summer holidays soon, right? As for those of you who work, what are your plans for the summer? When it gets to this time of the year in Paris, France, the “bonjour” will quite often be followed by the person asking you “so where are you going for the holidays?” Then, for example: “I’m going to Naples.” “Ah, how nice! It’s beautiful over there.” If you can have a pleasant, commonplace conversation like that, that’s great. However, if you say “I don’t have any holidays,” you might be causing them to silently worry over your health. That’s how commonly practiced it is there that August is a month of rest. All the quality restaurants with good sense, too, will close down for three to four weeks in August. In fact, the restaurants that keep doing business normally throughout that period are thought to be using temporary chefs in their kitchens so they aren’t trusted. In France, it seems that the mindset of “a person who doesn’t take vacations is an idiot” is definitely firmly in place.

Even the Japanese who have this image worldwide of being non-stop, diligent workers have been growing more relaxed in this regard for the last couple of decades. However, we are still ways away from a mindset of “holiday = common sense.” It stops at “holiday = ‘ah, I’m so jealous.’” And even before that, if you don’t choose your timing carefully, the mindset of “holiday = an inconvenience for your bosses” takes priority.

That doesn’t really apply to me. As long as I create what I need to create, do what I need to do and do it properly, I don’t have to worry about anyone else if I want to take a holiday. So I asked myself, “have I created what I need to create and done what I need to do?” And although my answer was this sort of “uhhh…“, if I’m going to be taking some time off this summer, doing it right now after I’ve finished my live tour feels like very natural timing in many ways.

However, I have a deadline for preparing all the new content planned for my special site “Kita-Aoyama Image Redevelopment” (opening on August 20th). If I think about that quickly approaching deadline, I do begin to feel like it might not be the best time for a vacation after all… However, in my case, I really need one, you see. I must see and experience more things, expand my outlook, get more and more EXP points. After justifying it to myself with such a sad excuse, I forced an opening in my schedule — albeit a tight one. The five days immediately following the tour — that’s all I’ve got. If I let this one slip away from me, I’ll only have a week of vacation days within the year at most. If worst comes to worst, even my New Year’s holiday might be compromised. I know that much. So, short as it may be, I’m going on a vacation.

Thus, when this column gets published on July 15th (Fri), I’ll already be on my solitary trip to a city in some other country. It’s been a while since I last got to experience that strange, fun feeling of tension when you’re sluggishly walking around and eating something in a carefree manner.[1]

Right. Question time.

Immediately following my live tour, I’ll be going abroad for a period of 5 days and 4 nights (including flights). Which city in which country will I be visiting?


– I’m using a special advantage ticket from JAL’s Mileage Bank
– This will be my first time visiting there in 10 and a half years
– It’ll be my third voyage there

I believe you’ll find the answer in Column No.010.


TL notes:
[1] Eating and walking in public is generally considered poor manners in Japan.

No.008 “My Sort-Of Admiration for Teppei-chan”

Thank you to everyone who came to see the two shows in Tokyo and the one in Nagoya.

Last week I wrote about “abbreviations” and this week I’d like to talk about “nicknames.” I’ve never had one myself. My real name is 木村 和, and the fact that the “和” is read as “Kan” was back in those days just this astonishing thing. Even now, 43 years later, it still remains at the forefront of naming. All through kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school, I was called “Kan-chan” by my seniors, “Kan-kun” by girls and “Kan” by friends. I’ve never received a nickname even once.

On the contrary, there have been times when this real name of mine has been thought to have been a nickname. For example, during the summer holidays when I was an elementary school 4th grader, I was attending this swimming school. This guy, I think he was student of the Fukuoka University swimming club, he was working there part-time as a swimming instructor. Each time there was a roll call, he’d call out “Kazushi Kimura!” and instead of a “yes,” I’d go “it’s Kan.” That’s always how the exchange went. Neither of us was willing to back down for the entire summer, so that went on for the whole 20 days of swimming school. Just one of those “Kyushu boys” episodes.

Then, near the end of my 3rd year in high school, a guy who had been in the same class with me since year 1 asked me, “by the way, man, what’s your real name anyways?” Since he’d heard everyone else calling me “Kan,” he naturally just followed their example. But as we got to our 3rd year with graduation looming right around the corner, I guess he felt he ought to at least make sure of his friend’s name.

Even after moving to Tokyo, all my university friends and band mates kept calling me “Kan” or “Kan-chan.” Thinking back, the last time I was even called “Kimura” must’ve been around ’84-’86 when I was working part-time at a Ginza restaurant. At any rate, I’ve never had a nickname. I made my debut as “KAN” in ’87, changing the reading of my real name to the alphabet version. But that’s a “stage name,” right? Yet, I still continue to be called “Kan,” “Kan-chan,” “Kan-kun,” “Kan-san” or “Kan-sama.” There’s no sign of me getting a nickname anytime soon.

Well, be that as it may, it’s not like I really want a nickname or that I even have a particular one in mind. No strong feelings of that sort. But, how should I put it…? It’s like, I have this kind of admiration for getting called by a nickname. The story behind the nickname, the circumstances under which it was born in, and whether the person in question actually likes it or not, those are of course all things important to take into consideration, but it’s like, if you have another name, I think it must feel like you have this whole other realm to explore. That’s why I kind of admire it. “I have no experience with it nor am I going to going to do anything in order to make it happen, but it just feels like another realm, so I admire it…” Theoretically, I could say the same about something like skydiving or scuba diving.

In the early days of Kome Kome CLUB, Tatsuya Ishii was calling himself “Donald Heigen,” then later changed the stage name to “Carl Smokey Ishii” (which the masses all accepted), and on top of that, he was always called “Teppei-chan” for some reason. Now, if you think about that in the terms I just talked about… man, that’d be the same as me jumping from an altitude of 3,000 meters above the sea next to some Southern island, diving directly underwater to take pictures of fish. I kind of admire him for a variety of reasons. Not that I will by any means try to make the same happen for myself, nor that I want it to. Not at all.


No.006 “A Bit of Green Onion in Hiroshima”

Firstly, thank you to everyone who attended the performances in Fukuoka and Hiroshima. Man, it still feels like a show that makes me push myself to the absolute limit, so I’m very happy if everyone enjoyed themselves. By the time this column gets published on Friday, I’ll have already finished my two performances in Osaka. However, I’m actually writing this on the morning of the 22nd (Wed) at home in Tokyo. There’s not enough time to finish this until my departure to Osaka though, so I’m going to be using a borrowed laptop. That’s pretty uncharacteristic of me. I’m all IT and stuff. (Don’t ask me what that means.)

When I was in Fukuoka, I had some ramen, played the show, got together with old classmates for some drinks, ended the night with ramen, had more ramen in the morning, and then commuted to Hiroshima. As such, it was a constant barrage of ramen down in Fukuoka… But then, what about Hiroshima? That’s right: with Hiroshima, it’s gotta be okonomiyaki.

You can find delicious Hakata ramen in Tokyo with no trouble — thanks to the current ramen boom — but there’s no such place for authentic Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki here. Well, there might be, but I just haven’t come across it yet. It’s not like I’ve walked around Tokyo searching for one. But after trying out three Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki places in Tokyo… mmm. They were close but not quite there. Since it was my first time in 3 years and 8 months that I’d get to eat authentic Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, I was full of anticipation and excitement as we got to Okonomiyaki Village.

Shape the batter into a pancake shape on the iron plate, shake on some katsuobushi, pile on the cabbage and bean sprouts, green onion, tenkasu, the optional squid tempura, and on top of that, 4 or 5 thin slices of pork meat, then put in some more batter. On the side, add a little oil to your yakisoba noodles, fry them while loosening them with spatulas, take the okonomiyaki, flip it around on top of the yakisoba, pressing down firmly with your spatulas to draw out the water. Then, skillfully use one hand to break an egg, pour it on the iron plate, break the egg yolk and spread it around thinly with your spatula, then take the okonomiyaki that’s now become one with the yakisoba and flip it around on top of the egg. Then it’s finally time to spread on the long-awaited Otafuku sauce on with a large brush, sprinkle on some pepper, aonori, katsuobushi and white sesame seeds, and it’s done. I dare say that among ramen, udon, gyuudon and other varieties of Japanese fast foods, this one has easily the longest wait time from the moment you order until it’s in front of you ready to be eaten. It even looks so delicious way before you can finally dig in.

However, as far as I can see, the way you make Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is always the same, no matter what the restaurant. Unlike udon or ramen places with their special soups, sauces or handmade noodles, I don’t think you have that with okonomiyaki places. There aren’t really any ingredients with limited availability either, no “our store uses cabbage/bean sprouts from (insert prefecture here)” or anything like that. The thick sauce that I call the star of the show in okonomiyaki — the one thing that absolutely must be present — is the Otafuku sauce, available anywhere.

Thus, Okonomiyaki Village, a building with tens of such okonomiyaki restaurants, feels like a really strange spot for me. In my case, I had Murakami from Candy Promotion take me along, so all I had to do was follow him into a store, sit down and go “ahh, this is delicious!” But for those visiting from outside of Hiroshima, how are they going to choose which shop to enter? How are they going to judge which place is good and which is lacking?

Well, if I had to name one difference, I guess it’d have to be the manner in which it’s prepared. I suppose when it’s made from the same ingredients piled up in the same order of sequence, topped off with the same sauce, the only variable you can judge by is the preparation. To make a forced musical comparison, it’d be sort of like having several bands using the exact same instruments to perform the exact same pieces of music, and the only thing you could judge by is the level of the live mixing at the venue. When you think about it like that, it makes it all seem really nitpicky.

So, the okonomiyaki (which indeed did look well-cooked) was delivered to me. The man asked us, “would you like some green onion with that?” and without a moment’s delay, Candy Murakami replied “yes, please.” He threw a mountain of shredded green onion on Murakami’s okonomiyaki, covering it entirely. Uhh… I love green onion, but I wasn’t sure about the amount and the way in which it was distributed. If you wanted a forced musical comparison, it’d be the same as mixing a piece of music by drowning every single track in reverb. There’s no need to be that avant-garde: simply putting a tiny bit of reverb on just the vocals alone feels natural and pleasant. That’s what I was thinking as I told the man, “can you just put a little bit in mine?” “You got it“, he said. Below is a picture I took of my okonomiyaki right afterwards. What do you think? Is that perfect or what?! Ahh, I just wolfed it down. It was great!

With that, I’m finally finishing this up now on the day of the 23rd (Thu) at my hotel in Osaka. Thank you to everyone who came to Banana Hall on the 22nd. We’re now heading out to have some Indian curry with the band as we get ready for round two at Banana Hall.

Just a bit of green onion


No.004 “The Reverse Escher-Style of Jogging”

Yes, I do run, the approximately 2km area surrounding my house. I’ve been at it since around the end of February with a little shape-up as my objective. Although the two and a half years I spent living in Paris were extremely “cultural” and a very meaningful time for me as a musician, I led a very relaxed lifestyle due to my status as this “big Tokyo celebrity.” This inevitably resulted in, how should I put it… me sort of “loosening up”? Not to say I got fat, but seeing as I’d “loosened up” and I was going to be appearing in front of an audience again after three years, I thought I had to at least do something. Thus, I run.

For now I’m just going at it with a relaxed attitude, trying to at least burn off the fat I gained from the ramen I had the day before. But even though I only do that much, I still think it’s a good thing. I’m always driving my car to get around in Tokyo so I don’t normally get to walk much, and when I keep at it, my body feels lighter and I feel exhausted less often. The “keeping at it” part here is essential. It’s not like I originally liked running: I started the hobby out of necessity. I was thinking I’d be in trouble if I didn’t. So, when I wake up in the morning and I notice it’s raining, I just get so happy, you know? On those days I can justify not running with the perfectly reasonable explanation of “it’d be bad if I caught a cold.” And, of course, even if it stops raining afterwards, at that point there’s no going back on my decision anymore.

And that’s how I’m basically running the surrounding 2km area of my house every day. Thing is, the place where I currently live is kind of like China’s Qingdao — famous for its beer — or Kyushu’s Nagasaki — famous for its chanpon — only that my area is famous for its hill roads. Thus, planning my routes can be quite difficult. Lately I’m doing my utmost to try and run this flat route with no highs or lows. At some point, I just turn around and run back the way I came, and that comes up to 2km. It does get boring, though. Especially now that I’ve memorized all the nameplates along my route, there’s no fun in it anymore. However, there’s no other route that would let me avoid having to run uphill or downhill. Be that as it may, were I to change my route, I’d still want it to be as easy as possible. My philosophy is that “life needs to be as effortless as possible.” No matter what I’m doing, I’m always thinking to myself “how can I make this easier?” It’s a big theme in my life.

Naturally then, the me who’s always looking for the easy way out would rather keep walking downhill, but if I’m to ever get back home, I’m going to have to walk the same distance back uphill again. That’s a physical, geographical and geological fact. There’s no way around it. However, you do not necessarily have to actually feel like you’re walking upwards as much as you’re walking downwards. Planning a jogging route that feels much more like I’m going downhill rather than uphill is an important challenge to someone like me who lives in a hilly district, and yet, is always looking for ways to make everything as easy as possible.

That’s when I suddenly remembered Escher’s staircase. “Ascending and Descending,” his mysterious work depicting a staircase which you keep walking up, up, up, up… only to end up where you started. But if I use Escher’s way of thinking, just backwards… in other words, a hill that you just walk down, down, down, down… until you realize “huh?! I’m back home!” I realized I only need to find a reverse Escher-style jogging route like that.

And so, recently I’m running through different streets in different neighborhoods nearby while thinking about my route, but man… it sure is proving to be difficult. I have this idea that “running downhill equals easiness,” but on the contrary, I’ve found that really steep downhill slopes take their toll on the knees and the back, so they’re hard to run. Conversely, I found that running up a reeeeally lax uphill isn’t quite as bad. Presently, I’m using a route that combines a really steep but short uphill at first, followed by a really slow descend. Reaaally slow ascends followed by reaaally slow descends, and places with staircases up that are then followed by reaaally slow descends — those are the main two things I’m searching for as I make endless minor changes to my route. Right now, the uphill-downhill ratio of my route stands at maybe 3:7. One day, I want it to be like “okay, now I’m running down, down, down… huh!? I’m home!“, and the ratio will feel like 0:10. Until the day I succeed in discovering that perfect “reverse Escher-style route,” I will keep on running! Escher, hoisha, Escher, hoisha…!¹

(For those of you who don’t know of M.C. Escher’s “Ascending and Descending,” please look it up on the internet.)


TL notes:
¹essa, hoisa” (or “essha, hoisha“) is a chant similar to the English “heave-ho!” The Japanese pronunciation of Escher is similar to “essa.”

No.003 “Oh Man, I Got a Pettako…”

Kenzuke Ishizu, father of the ivy look and founder of VAN JACKET, has passed away. It’s very sad news to me, having worn VAN blazers with affection for over 30 years ever since my elementary school days. I’ve written more on Kenzuke Ishizu and VAN in the “Back from Paris” column, featured in issue 11 of Lucky Raccoon that goes on sale June 25th, so look forward to that. Today, however, I’ll be talking about plastic bottles.

Plastic bottles. Whether they’re filled with green tea, black tea, juice, cola or mineral water, they’ve become an indispensable part of our everyday lives. However, the other day when I was in Sapporo, I saw Kaki no Tane being sold in plastic bottles. It felt really out of place at first glance, but when you think about it, that way you can eat as much as you like when you like, they’re protected against moisture when you close the cap, and you can carry it in your bag without having them spill out or crumble, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

But what really pleased me was seeing this brand of barley tea or something sold in plastic bottles with the label saying “made from lightly pickled Ebara vegetables.” Because that’s exactly right, isn’t it? If you wanted barley tea back in the days, your mom had to boil the ingredients at night and put it in the fridge to cool in a plastic or glass container. That was how you got it back in those days. The senior high students would recite stories of how they’d returned home from their club activities: “when I got back, I was so freakin’ thirsty, I just grabbed the barley tea and drank it all in one go. Man, ugh… it was actually noodle sauce…“. That was the slightly silly story you’d constantly hear back then.

Looking back, it’s one of those things that to me was representative of the summers in Japan. I wonder, though… these days, everything’s sold in plastic bottles. Moms that are boiling ingredients at night just to make barley tea because it’s summer… I have a feeling they’re getting scarce. It’s exactly because it’s a time like this that things “made from lightly pickled Ebara vegetables” are a beacon of hope. “When I got back, I was so freakin’ thirsty, I just I grabbed the green tea and drank it in one go. Man, uggh… it was actually “made from lightly pickled Ebara vegetables”…“. I’m hoping that’s going to be a nationwide, slightly silly recurring incident this summer.

Likewise, another plastic bottle product I have high hopes for is the “Ebara kimchi” one. The day they start selling it with a label that looks just like the one for vegetable juice, it won’t be limited to just the average senior high school student, but his dieting big sister, too. I don’t know why, but just the entirely possible scenario of her taking a big swig of kimchi early in the morning is enough to make me feel excited in anticipation.

I think many of you may have lost interest already, so I’ll get back on topic. In this everyday life of plastic bottles, I think all of you readers, too, are on a daily, endless cycle of opening and closing those bottle caps. I’m sure of it. Day after day, even I’m constantly sipping on bottled tea or whatever, whether it’s during rehearsal, when driving, when writing these columns, even when I’m not doing anything at all. In the era of cans, even if some of your drink remained, you were forced to throw it away. With plastic bottles you now have the cap, so you can just close it, take it home with you, put it in the refrigerator and you’ll be able to drink it the next day, so it’s economical, too. I never counted, but I’ll be opening and closing those caps tens, no, maybe even in excess of a hundred times each and every like it’s nothing.

Therein lies a potential dreadful modern era illness — and me warning you about it is actually the main purpose of my column this week.

I will be telling you the honest truth as to how I personally fell a victim to this illness. There should be a picture below starting to come into your view right about now, yes? Everyone, please try holding the plastic bottle nearest to you right now. If you’re right-handed, when you open and close the cap, the inner parts of your first and second joints of your right index finger, and the base and first joint of your thumb will come in contact with the cap. If you continue opening and closing caps in this manner for extended periods of time, the skin on the parts coming in contact with the cap will lose keratin (a phenomenon I call “pettako“) and that can eventually result in a crack forming on your skin (what I call a “pegire“.) And a “pegire” hurts. It hurts when you wash your hands, when you get in the bath, when you forget about it and open your car door with it, and the absolute worst is when you’re cooking and you squeeze some lemon on it.

But there’s no use in worrying about it. Just for the readers of this column, I’ve come up with some precautionary measures to avoid “pettako” and “pegire” for those of you worried about them. It’s quite simple, really. The main issue here is the constant repetition of opening and closing the cap. Doing so each time with different parts of your fingers — thus creating a countless number of different methods of opening and closing the cap — wouldn’t just be artistic, but satisfying as well.

But there is an even better, extremely simple method: it’s keeping the number of times you close and open the cap as low as possible. In other words, it’s making it so that after you open it once, there’s no need to close it again. In short: just chug down your entire drink. See? Isn’t that simple? Oi Ocha, Iyemon Ocha, Gogo no Koucha Royal whatever, Pocari, Evian, Diet Pepsi, CC Lemon, whatever you’re drinking, just drink all of it in one go. That’s what it is to be a real man. At next year’s welcoming party for new students, you’ll be able to outshine everyone there. No doubt about it. So go ahead. Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink! …

Oh dear. What a weird column this was.

Pettako & pegirePettako & pegire