Category Archives: Friday Column

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.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


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