All posts by nikala

No.012 “Nostalgist’s Prediction”

Man, I’m so busy. I’ve been very absorbed these days in preparing the contents for the paid side “Kita-Aoyama Image Redevelopment” (which opens on August 20th), writing articles and selecting photos for those contents. I’m currently writing this column in the middle of all that workload. That’s why I’m really glad that I took time off to visit Vietnam three weeks ago. Still, speaking for myself, I was never the type to make orderly arrangements weeks ahead of time. And although I usually don’t consider writing for this column disruptive to my break time after the tour, at the moment, for some reason, I’ve become more sensitive to my situation, probably because I don’t have much time to rest at all, so my head has become filled with all kinds of strange ideas. “Please tell me what’s the point of this work? It’s not like anyone will read it, or rather, just who do you think I am?!” Ahh, I’m so glad I took that break, since life, from beginning to end, doesn’t seem to have any special meaning anyway. You’re probably thinking, “by the way, KAN-san, how’re those songs that you’re quietly working on coming along?” And I agree with you. “You are right. Yes, I do.” But you see, in regards to this site project, I don’t think work like this is really fitting to the glamorous and prideful activities of a true artist. Like I said already, it’s pointless.

So while I’m at it, wasting text on pointless excuses, I’ll try to merge the last week’s topic about “noodles” with this week’s entry.

Now, I can’t emphasize enough how exciting this historic “Ramen Boom” is. It has already reached Tokyo, and you can smell it in the air. So last week I happened to drop by some “mass produce” ramen shops, called so because the actual creators of the food aren’t present there. Common flavor with common style. Each shop displayed a menu on a wall scribbled in a calligraphic font, focusing on the items like noodles and soups, and all of these shops had the same atmosphere. The way the servers looked after customers felt as if it was done by the manual. “Hello, please come in~. Do you have any special request for your meal~? Your seat is over here, please~. We have two types of noodles, thick and thin, which one shall we prepare for you~? How firm would you like your noodles~? Right now, we are offering a free small portion of rice with every meal, or would you like soup instead~? Please wait a moment~. Here you go, the thin noodles as requested~! Thank you very much~!” You can tell they rush these phrases out forcefully, like for example: “Uhh, yes, the noodles…They’re made like usual. No, it’s fine.” It’s as if they’re threatened to be speedy.

It’s difficult to tell apart the ambience during this kind of reception at “mass produce” ramen shops from that of convenience stores or McDonalds. If I were to make a really radical comparison, they look after customers like bus guides, JAL stewardesses, and Tokyo taxi drivers, with everyone expressing themselves in the same manner and smiling in the same manner, and the way they greet you upon your arrival is exactly the same. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. And for the second half of the time I spent eating ramen at these shops, the overall mood grew gradually lifeless. But you know, they say that this is merely a trend of the times, and that people support these changes. As a nostalgist, however, I want to see this evolution stopped for the good of others.

Well, as for me being a “ramen detective”, it seems nowadays that before I even enter a restaurant to sniff out its “mass-produce-ness”, I’ve noticed that none of them give off that lifeless vibe anymore. Or perhaps I should say, I made a huge mistake the other day. So I decided to go into this new restaurant in Shibuyaku while passing it on the street. “Alrighty, here I go“, I came in and sat by the counter thinking: “Crikes, could this be a ‘mass produce’ shop?“, and before I know it, the water and the napkin were placed before me and the ramen ordered. There was no turning back now. The eating counter stood surrounding the cooking table by which several young male and female employees stood cheerfully whispering to each other while preparing the ramen. As I had feared, the first sip came with a sharp impactful flavor, while the rest of the dish was plain salty. I clearly made a mistake here. I guess it couldn’t have been helped, since it was certainly a unique eating experience. The real problem occurred after that. There was a female employee making ramen for the next customer and she was boiling the noodles in the middle of a telephone conversation. As she inclined her head, the handless phone extension hung over her left shoulder to her left ear, while she was having fun talking with someone on the phone. She fried the noodles in that state, sizzling them boastfully, and then dished up some pork fillet and green onion.

Right there, I witnessed the end of that historic “Ramen Boom”. Yes, the Ramen Boom has already ended. Obviously by the process of natural selection, through which the bad shops were weeded out, and the only ones that I’ll be visiting from now on will be the good ones, just as I had wished. This is not some nostalgist’s prediction either. It’s the law of big cities. Yeah, I’m really glad that the burden that’s been torturing me all this time has been lifted off my shoulders. That mysterious sense of freedom.

So, although this topic has finally grown into its fruitfulness and I’ve made myself clear, I have to postpone the next part until another week due to present time constraints. In the meantime, how about trying out a bowl of this “mass produced ramen” that I talked about in this entry? When you have time, that is.

※ “Mass produce” is a neologism I used according to my intuitions. Other people may interpret it differently.


No.007 “To Be Abbreviated”

Thank you to everyone who came to see my shows in Osaka on the 23rd and Kobe on the 25th. With that, I have now finished five performances from “Hikigatari Battari #2 at 8 cities!”

Now, I know this seems random, but this week I’m going to write about “abbreviations”. It appears that lately the newspapers and TV programs have been taken by the so-called “abbreviation storm”. “Dospe”, “Kaspe”, “Kurobara”, and “Utasuta” are among some of the shows that have been using abbreviated titles right from the first episode. Speaking of the time I became familiar with abbreviations, it was in the end of the 70’s when Tanokin Trio debuted. Toshihiko Tahara’s “Ta” + Yoshio Nomura’s “no” + Masahiko Kondo’s “kon”, presumably read as “kin”, were lumped together to make “Tanokin”. Two years before this Tanokin Trio became very popular, which was also during my first year of senior high school, someone (I wonder who), leaked out information about me and two other classmates smoking on school grounds, and as a result the three of us received suspension for a whole week. Later on, it would become common amusement for others to refer to us as “Happy Suspension Trio”, and then after that, “The Original Tanokin Trio”. Sometime later during the 80’s there was also a popular TBS drama about adultery called “Kinyoubi no Tsumatachi e” (For Wives on Fridays), which of course came to be abbreviated as “Kintsuma”. Although I never watched it properly, since I was approaching mid-twenties after all, I have a feeling that the mere sound of “Kintsuma” made a great impression on people.

In regards to music, the exemplary “abbreviations”, who also happen to be my mentors that I greatly respect, include: Chage & Aska → “Chageasu”, Stardust Revue → “Sutarebi”, and then, Mr.Children → “Misuchiru”. However, these abbreviations sound somewhat light to me, and neither do they correspond with the groups’ musicianship. Then again, I’ve never considered using abbreviations in whatever I say or write anyway. It’s only my opinion, but I think that for some of these other groups who recklessly adopt such informal names, like Skapara, Judymary, Hisuburu, Buriguri, and the latest, Ajikan (?), their other names do not sound as fun as the full ones. Well, if I were to look at it from another point of view, my intuition would tell me that when something is abbreviated, then “it’s a sign of it being recognized and supported by the masses.” With that in mind, no matter how hard you try, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to abbreviate my name KAN.

As long as various ideas keep popping up in my head, I’ll keep updating this “Friday Column” (Kinyoubi Koramu) every week. And as I keep putting a lot of effort into this hobby of mine, the number of you for whose weekly enjoyment it gets published will gradually increase. Then eventually it will become a popular topic of conversation at your workplaces and drinking parties, and after that when it reaches the point that you’ll refer to it by its abbreviation, I strongly hope that it’s more likely that it won’t be “Kinkora”, but rather whichever title that sounds good to you. Better yet, while I’m at it, I’d like to explain further why it had to be Friday in the first place. I didn’t actually take into account the fact that Fridays generally play a special role in the lives of Japanese people, nor does it have anything to do with it being my favorite day of the week. The real reason is simple: the day when this site was opened, May 20th, 2005, just happened to be Friday, and so I thought to myself, “hey, why don’t I update it every week on Fridays?” As such, if I were to properly abbreviate “Tamatama Kinyoubi no Column” (Accidental Friday Column), I’d go with “Tamakin Column”. What do you think? Doesn’t “Tamakin Column” sound perfect? Don’t you feel some kind of connection between it and “Tanokin Trio”?

…I know, this whole idea about this being abbreviated one day is a little farfetched. If it turns out that I was wrong, it’s not like I will admit it.

And now that I’ve exhausted this topic enough, I’ll just say that tomorrow and the day after that I’ll be performing in Tokyo. Please keep in mind the Shimabara Rebellion (1637).

※The correct answer to the quiz in No.005 is 3. Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!


No.005 “It Won’t Be Too Hot”

Let’s see… Today is June the 17th, the opening day of my live tour. As I’ve said before, I still am and will continue to update this column every Friday. Naturally, it will cover whatever happened during the few preceding days. However, the day before I finished writing this one was absolutely terrible, and now that I’m about to start performing again, my emotions are all mixed, so as a result I’ve decided to retell everything backwards. Currently, I am writing this on the morning of Sunday, June the 12th.

I guess I’m pretty nervous now that the live tour is about to start, especially since I’ll be performing all by myself. Moreover, the first show is in Fukuoka, my home area. I’m already feeling like “there’s no running away now.” But I’m also relieved that it won’t be too hot outside. Actually, while I was rehearsing for the show, I felt so frustrated. “Gah, there’s not enough time…” If I could, I’d like to take as long as possible to prepare. During that time, because I was under a lot of strain, I eventually became exhausted, and soon started suffering from dizziness, probably also due to having caught cold recently. My condition soon intensified even more from the lack of sleep I got for refusing to turn on the air conditioner. If I had left it on while sleeping, my throat would of course become sore, but if I didn’t, the heat wouldn’t let me sleep no matter how hard I tried. To make matters worse, I was tortured by the fear that if I left it on, I would get chilled in my sleep and my cold would worsen, and this fear wouldn’t let me sleep either. This is probably as bad as sleeplessness can get. That’s why I wasn’t worried about how I should get proper rest, not like Masato Shimon with his “Every~day, every~day, burning on a teppan plate from the p-pain of sickness“[1], or else my mind would become muddled from too much soliloquizing. At the end of it I went “meh, the hell do I care!” In other words, adopted the “live naturally, live in the moment” kind of mindset. Though I gotta admit, deciding whether or not to turn on that air conditioner was a major issue for me. I even made a rap song about it once[2].

That’s why I’m really glad that although it’s mid-June, the weather is relatively mild, and I can welcome the start of my tour amidst favorable circumstances. I can’t stress enough how great this seemingly trifling feeling is.

However, it seems that during the times of extreme heat everyone around can’t stop complaining: “Man, it’s so hot~dammit, so hot.” “That’s right, stupid heat, huh, isn’t it stupid? Stupid, stupid, stupid!” And yet, during midwinter when it’s cold, the conversation turns into: “Why won’t this silly cold go away?” “That’s right, it’s too cold, too cold to bear, too much, cold rice, cold eggs.” But when the weather is nice for the rest of the year, they won’t even mention how nice it is. Well, I guess the news on TV is pretty bad. Everyone only chooses bad things to talk about and others to blame, but once they get drunk, they turn cheery all of the sudden. Strange tendencies people have… When I was young myself, I also used to be a brat like that. But that’s enough, why don’t we just stop. I say, let’s launch into this tour with the following mindset: “Aah~I’m glad, aah~so glad. It’s not too hot, I’m soooo glad!

…That being said, it’s only nice for now as I am writing this on Sunday the 12th. Let’s say you just started all of the sudden panicking after checking the forecast for the coming week on the internet. “Uhh, this is bad, now it’s going to be hot outside…” Alright, in case that happens, let’s have a quiz. “Well then, here’s a question for you. I wonder what it’ll be?” I feel it’s my responsibility to find a creative way to distract you the readers by setting some questions for you.

That being said, here it is:

For people like me who basically don’t watch TV what is the one Sunday program that I really like and watch almost every week? Pick one of the following three options.

1. Shouten                2. Sekai Ururun Taizaiki                3. Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!

The correct answer will be revealed two weeks from now. Please look forward to it.


TL notes:
[1] The original lyrics from Masato Shimon’s famous song “Oyoge! Taiyaki-kun”: “Everyday, everyday, we keep burning on a teppan plate” (=Mainichi, mainichi, bokura wa teppan no ue de yakarete”). Here KAN is playing on the sound of Shimon’s lyrics, particularly “bokura” (we), which he slurs into “byoku” [i.e.”byouku”] (pain of sickness).

[2] “Tokyo Nettai Squeeze”

No.002 “Basically, About Collages”

Note: This column is a continuation of No.001. Please read these in succession.

So, on February 28, 2002, I finally arrived at Paris. As planned, my computer was sent to me via priority mail immediately following my arrival. For help with issues like getting an internet service provider and setting up connection, I got in touch with a person named “tsuruya”, whom I came across in a Japanese newspaper. First, he called France Telecom, France’s equivalent of Japan’s leading internet provider NTT, and then helped me with setting up a .fr email account and ADSL line. With the dial-up and email set up and ready to go, all I had to do now was wait for the modem to come. I was initially told that the delivery would take around one week, but after ten days had passed with no sign of it coming, I started to think that “tsuruya”-san had disappeared off to somewhere. “Uh… this is weird. Not even a notice of absence. Looks like I still have to wait”. Several days later, the notice finally came, so I went to the local post office to find out more, but they told me: “This parcel hasn’t turned back to the sender yet. We expect it to be delivered tomorrow”. My mental impression of the way these kinds of conversations play out has always been in English, but with my addressee being French, I had no clue what to say. Perhaps if I came back to the office the next day or the day after that, they would probably have the package. Two weeks or so later, I finally got a call from them telling that they got it. At last I managed to have high-speed internet set up through France Telecom’s “Wanadoo” ADSL cable. From there on, the rest was smooth sailing.

To tell the truth, even though my drunken appearance makes me look like a humanities type and therefore technologically inept, deep down I am actually a former train geek. If only I still understood the basics of technology, I wouldn’t have problems with it later on. For ages, I’ve programmed rhythms with the drum machine and handled musical performance data with the sequencer, while everyone else was still playing with Taketonbo toys and rubber guns. Even though from 1984 on more and more people would start using mobile service and mail, by 1991 I was the first one in my group to own a cell phone while the rest of them would argue about whether they should buy a Betamax or a VHS. And yet, I still don’t have an iMode cell and keep using the P205 model.

Okay, now I forgot what I was talking about in the first place. Let’s get back to computers. But first, I’ll talk about my latest favorite hobby, that is, the cutting and pasting of picture clippings, or collages, as they call it here. You can probably tell from the sound of the word “collage” that it’s French, and it basically means “gluing”. Ohta-san, who works as a graphic designer, was the one who taught me the basics of this essentially French activity, and as my craft would improve, I would have lots of fun sending him pictures of my numerous projects.

That reminds me, in 1981 just before the exams at university, I remember seeing an impressive collage in the apartment of a friend of mine while I was visiting him. He made it, of course, by cutting various pictures with scissors and gluing the scattered pieces together. It had all the essential aspects of a collage. As for the subject matter, it was pretty obvious. Typical for a university student, his room was filled with piles of university-related materials and erotic books. He would basically clip the head section of either the university president or its founder and paste it onto the seductive naked body of a woman from the erotic book. Once he was done with it, he eventually came to my room and recreated a similar pattern on my wall. Ah, those were the days…

Anyway, let’s get back to 2002 in Paris again. You know, I really like the idea of clipping someone’s face and personality, frozen in time on the photograph, and then placing it into some brand new scene, sometimes plausible and at other times unrealistic, while observing how this scene perfectly matches the facial expression. Still find it exciting to this day. That being said, in the case where you email someone and then decide to use that person’s photo for your collage, wouldn’t you think of it as graphic harassment? Kind of? I’m certainly experienced with this kind of fun. However, it seems unrefined to just tell them “Please take a look at what I’ve made”, so instead pick some casual topic and write about it in a very light manner. Finally, include a note in your message along the lines of “Ah, that reminds me. The other day…”, and “unintentionally” slip in the picture. Just play dumb. Then, send it off at once and wait for the response while those delightful hours tick away. But you know, while you wait there thinking “Slowly, the time will come”, remember how much fun you had making that picture. This I tell you from the bottom of my heart.

Sooner or later, the other party will come to seek revenge. I personally would accept the challenge and fight back with another picture, just as my collage master Ohta-san does with Jimmy-chan, the American photographer who resides in Paris. To this very day, those two throw back and forth at each other some really intense collages. As for deciding who gains dominance over another in this battle, that depends on the amount of photos you have up your sleeve. Gotta love that feeling when you find a good one: “This is the one!”, and the force that makes you pick it up right away. It’s a momentous event. It’s for getting the best out of these games that I bought a digital camera even though I used to stubbornly cling to analog ones in the past.

I’d actually like to display some examples from my wonderful collage collection on this site, but since most of them deal with delicate subject matter, they could be taken personally. Still, there are some nice pictures there as well, so maybe one day I’ll be able to show them to you.

On a related note, it’s been a little over three and a half years since I’ve bought a computer. These days, I mainly use it for editing pictures and writing manuscripts as well as for making music demos with the sequencer program. I hope that as I get more comfortable with computers and website management, this site will eventually be improved. For now, I’ll go play a little with some video editing software.


No.001 “The Computer and I”

As you can see, the official site is now up. We’ve worked very hard to make it, so please enjoy. Now that it has launched, we will continue to update it regularly with any news that come up, and I will continue writing for this column week after week. To start off, how about I make the topic for this week’s entry “The computer and I”?

If I remember correctly, I first became aware of things like internet and homepages in 1998. I think it was around the time when I was recording “KREMLINMAN”. In the studio there was a huge iMac belonging to some unknown person, and I didn’t see any internet pages open on its screen, so I fiddled with it without knowing what I was doing. How should I handle this or that, I had no clue, or perhaps I should say, I couldn’t even understand what I was looking for in the first place. For now I ended up just throwing a bunch of things in the garbage bin. Then, for some reason everything on the screen stopped moving, or “froze”, so to speak. After reporting to a person in the studio honestly as if I was George Washington, they went: “Ah, looks like there’s something wrong with the machine.” And just like that, “whoosh!”, the computer started to reboot. “Oh, so that’s where that button was”, I thought to myself, starting to feel more confident. Now that I figured out which part of my fiddling caused it to restart, I performed some aggressive operations over and over until at last I succeeded at downloading a game called “snood”. The download was successful, so then I wanted to figure out how to access the game again, so once again I aimlessly went through some more operations, and while I was doing that, various “snood” icons would appear on the screen to fight with each other. However, after we finished recording the album, I never came back to that studio.

Then later, while I was hosting a radio program on Sapporo’s STV station, I would try to work on the computer in that studio, but this time no aggressive operations I tried out would make it restart, so for the time being I would only wish I could browse the internet. That was around 1999, I think. For a long time, I didn’t feel the need to have my own computer at home. If I wanted to do some research for one of my programs, there was already plenty of information available as it is. Eventually, everyone around me started getting PCs and would often come up to me telling very casually things like: “KAN-chan, give me your address”. In response, I would spell it out to them, like “In lower case letters… t-o-k-y-o…” and end it with “just kidding”, but after three months I got tired of this silly joke.

Around that time, I was also finalizing my plans to go to Paris and would often think to myself: “Hey, maybe a computer would be handy after all, so why don’t I get one, baby?” So I decided to finally buy one. Now, about which one I should buy, and how do the Mac and the Windows systems differ, I’ve heard all kinds of things from people, and decided that I would not let their opinions guide mine since they were all over the place. One day, I decided to buy a Mac thanks to the simple advice from my drummer Shimizu Atsushi, you know, the “Hmm… am I in the mood for a Benz or a domestic car?” Shimizu Atsushi, when he said “In that case, I’d get a…” Of course, the main reason why I bought a computer in the first place was because I was going to Paris, but I also considered the transportation charges from Japan to France, knowing that if I purchased it in Paris, the whole deal would naturally turn out cheaper. However, because I wouldn’t understand a thing about computer talk in another language, I wasn’t brave enough to go down that route. In the end of October 2001, I quickly went to Akihabara and bought a computer at the supermarket there. With the help of all the tour members over the phone, I somehow managed to set up an internet connection through dial-up, and also learned how to attach and send photos through e-mail. Once I bought a scanner and a printer, I sure felt like an accomplished adult. In February 2002, I made some “Going to France” pamphlets with Word and Photoshop all by myself and handed them out to my fellow support musicians during my farewell party. And after that, I set off to France.

To be continued next week