Bape Mask Bargains

Get some Bape on Your Face

ベープ

No one likes having to wear a face mask. But if you’ve got to wear one, you may as well do it in style right? If you’re a fan of the Bape brand then why not get some Bape on your face with a Bape mask?

But Bape can be pricey right? We’ve found some cheap options below.

Check out our background article on the history of Bape here and a translation of an interview with Nigo and Jamese Lavelle here.

Japanoscope uses affiliate links. Which means we may receive commisions when you click on some product links. We only link to products we believe in, use ourselves or think are genuinely good. This helps us keep all of the content on the site free of charge. As Monty Python once said, “We’re selling records in the foyer. Some of us have gotta eat too you know”.

Contributor

Hi, I’m Peter.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

New Japanese Indie Music Platform Minna Kikeru

Japanese Reading Difficulty

10/12 Could be read by 10th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Japanese Indie Music
Japanese alternative Music

Text Type

Band Bios

Japan’s New Indie Label Music Platform “Minna Kikeru” みんなきける

https://youtu.be/mA0tPc2dIpw


It’s not all bad news in Covid 19, 2020. 

Take the new indie, alternative Japanese music platform that has come on line, called “Minna Kikeru”. It’s got around 100 releases there to stream and download by artists that, up until about a month ago, you would have been hard vinyl-pressed to find anywhere else. 

.


The platform was initiated by one of my all time favourite artists in Japan, Tenniscoats (which we’ve written about here), and the Majikick label they run. In the interests of full disclosure, this is also the label that puts out the music I make in Japan, so I have a connection.

It’s not a one man band though. There are releases from labels including kuchikuchi, Tomoaki Saito Records, Alien Transistor, haptic perception (via nagoya), Sweet Dream Press, Pong-Kong Records, kurumi kadoya (via nagoya), Mrs.triangle, Basic Function, Is College Collective.


The innocent directness of the name, Minna Kikeru meaning “Everyone can listen”, breezily sums up the platform. It’s for people to get access to all this music they never would have found before, but sorely deserves to be.


I’ve been doing some translations for them so I’ll read you a couple of things I’ve done in Japanese and English.


Here’s the blurb they wrote about the site in Japanese and English.


Minna Kikeru Overview


Minna Kikeru は、majikick recordsと篠原敏蔵、モトの協力により、2020年にスタートします。

以前より計画は進めていましたが、奇遇にもこういった時期に巡り合わせました。

現状、手に入りにくい日本のインディミュージシャンの音楽にそれぞれアクセスし、楽しむことが出来、また、マージンをできるだけ少なくし、様々なアーティストやインディレーベルの自立を助けることを指針としています。


楽しんで、良いインスピレーションを得られますよう願っております。


Minna Kikeru was started by majikick and Toshizo Shinohara in collaboration with Moto in 2020.

Planning for the site had been happening for some time and it seemed almost fatalistic that the Covid-19 crisis would come and speed up the need for its completion.

The aim of the site is to provide access to Japanese independent music, which has been relatively hard to find, and to help a range of artists and independent labels create a sustainable future.

It is our hope that people enjoy the site and find some positive inspiration from what they find!


Tenniscoats


プカプカブライアンズから派生し、1996,7年辺りから録音を始め、さやが歌うように植野とつくったバンド。サイドギターに小野悟、ドラマーは久順。大学の部室に、8トラックオープンリールとミキサーを持ち込み録音、テープが伸びる寸前まで作業を重ねた。フレーズの立体感、初期の弾けるような新鮮さと熟考が混ざった不思議さのあるポップ。出した方がいいよ、と背中を押す久順の言葉でリリースと相成った。


After starting PukaPuka Brians, somewhere around 1996-97, Saya started singing with Ueno and together they created the band Tenniscoats. In a room of their University, they set up an 8 track real-to-real machine and a mixer where they would record, overdubbing to the point of making the tape stretch. 


They created a pop that combined equal parts freshness and careful consideration. Satoru Ono (E.Gtr), Hisatoshi (Drums) and a selection of friends joined in to realise the album.The album sat unreleased for some time, with Saya not feeling confident enough to go ahead, until So Hisatoshi gave them a gentle nudge with a “stop your worrying, you’ve just got to put this out”.


Yuko Ikema

SSW, 池間由布子のセルフリリースによる、2015年リリースの2ndアルバムです。majikickハウスの4トラックカセットMTRで録音されました。素朴て温かい由布子の人柄のように、その歌声も初めて会うのにどこか懐かしく、不思議さがあります。糸を紡ぐように導かれる「拝啓、朝」に始まる曲たちは瑞々しく、身近でいて美しい。植野隆司とさやが参加。

Singer song writer, Yuko Ikema released her 2nd album in 2015. This album was recorded with using a 4-track cassette MTR at majikick house. Just like Yuko’s personality, which is simple and warm, her singing voice is nostalgic and mysterious for the first time. The songs that begin with “Dear Morning”, guided by spinning threads, are fresh, familiar, and beautiful. Takashi Ueno and Saya joined in.


My Pal Foot Foot

竹下慶(ギター、コーラス)と河野ゆうこ(ボーカル、ギター)によるバンド。


彼らの初めてのレコーディングは、春の畑の中に位置するグロプチンのスタジオにmajikickの機材を持ち込み行われた。


飾らず真っ直ぐなゆうこのボーカルと竹下の楽曲は素のままで十分に魅力的。明るくてポップで、いつまでも瑞々しい。


ゲスト:植野(ギター)、さや(ドラム)、グロプチン、つびーが参加。


Kei Takeshita (Gtr, Chorus) and Yuko Konno (Vocal, Grr) are the main members.


The band’s first recording took place amongst the fields in springtime at the Gloptin Studio, on Majikick equipment. Yuko’s straight ahead singing style and Kei’s unadorned songs & guitar have all the charm you would need, just as they are. This record features eternal vivacious, sunny pop.

 

Language Learning Program Reviews

Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Nigo & James Lavelle 1997 Japan Interview Translated

Japanese Reading Difficulty

7/12 Could be read by 7th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Japanese Street Culture, Japanese Hip Hope

Text Type

Magazine Article

You may know the Japanese clothing designer and DJ Nigo from his work with his clothing brand BAPE or his associations with artists such as Kanye West or Pharrell Williams. You may also know James Lavelle from his work as a musician and label owner working with the likes of DJ shadow, Mike D and Thom Yorke.

We’ve written about the general history of Bape, Major Force label, Tiny Punks/Panx here. Today we’ve translated an interview that Nigo and James did in a Japanese magazine in 1997.

SCENE 1:ウェンディーズ前。
NIGOとジェームス・ラヴェル。 かたや東京でいちばん刺激的なウェア・ブランド、 ベイジング・エイプの。かたやロンドンでいちばん 完激的なレーベル、モ・ワックスの。2人は若きジ ニネラルである。そんな2人が同じテーブルについ て話し始める―いったい何を? 経営をめぐる社対談? そうではない。これから始まるのは、2 人のルーツをめぐる対話。この8月から本格的に日 本国内でのディストリビューションを開始したモ・ ワックスからユニークな企画盤がリリースされるの知っているだろうか。『APE V.S. MO’WAX』。 NGOとジェームス・ラヴェルが各自モ・ワックスの 音源からチョイスした計20曲が、“NIGO’S DISC” “JAMES’S DISC” という形にまとめられた2枚のコンピレーションCDだ。まったく違うジャンル のプロフェッショナル同士の、思わぬ形での共演。
こうした作業を可能にしたのは、やはり2人の間に 共通する何かがあるからに違いない。それはいった い何なのか?
エイプの立ち上げとモ・ワックスの立ち上げっ ていうのは、ほぼ同時期ですか? . NIGO「いや、多分ね、ジェームスのほうが1年以上 早い。僕は原宿にノーウェアを開いたのが93年の4 月。で、ベイジング・エイプっていうブランドを始 めたのが93年の9月」
ジェームス「いや、僕は92年のクリスマスにモ・ワ ックスを作った。今年の12月で丸5年」
その頃から、お互い知ってました?
NIGO「うん、知ってましたよ。初めて会ったのは4 年くらい前? なんかちょっと意見が食い違うんで すけど(笑)」
ジェームス「最初に会ったのはロンドンなんだよ」
NIGO「覚えてない(笑)」 ジェームス「それはね、ほんとにパッと一瞬だけし か顔を合わせなかったせいだよ」
NIGO「僕が覚えてるのは東京で。いきなり彼が僕 の携帯を鳴らして、で、会おうと。すぐ近くのウェ ンディーズの前で待ち合わせして(笑)」
ジェームス「うん、そう(笑)。日本に行ったら絶対 にNIGOの服が買いたかったから」
NIGO「あげましたけど(笑)」。

ジェームスさんは、どうしてNIGOさんのこと を知ってたんですか?
ジェームス「ロンドンで服のディストリビューショ ンをやってる友達がエイプのTシャツを見せてくれ たんだよ。そしたらそこに“LAST ORGY”って書 いてある。『おい!! “LAST ORGY” って言ったらタイニーパンクスのレコードの名前じゃないか! 何だこれは!?』って。もう絶対に欲しいと思った。 とにかく僕はメジャーフォースのレコード全部持っ ていたから」
僕らは興味の対象が似ている。だから とにかくNIGOと何か作りたかったんだ。

SCENE 2: メジャーフォース!
キーワードはメジャーフォース。88年、東京で高 木完と藤原ヒロシのタイニーパンクス、中西俊夫、 工藤昌之、屋敷豪太の5人によって設立され、12イ ンチを中心としたリリース、さらに海外のヒップホ ッパーとの交流など独自の活動を展開したレーベル。 ちなみに「LAST ORGY」とはレーベル第1弾作品 としてリリースされたタイニーパンクスのシングル。 雑誌『宝島』で同じく「LAST ORGY」という連載 を持っていたタイニーパンクスであるが、前述のジ ェームスの発言は、このシングルのことを指してい ると、以上が概略。メジャーフォース”。その存 在が2人をつなげる直接のきっかけになったのだ。
ーNIGOさんはもちろんメジャーフォースのレコ ードは当たり前に買ってたんですよね。
NIGO「もちろん。高2、高3とかそのくらいかな。 隔週ペースで東京に来たりして買ってましたね」
でも、ロンドンにいるジェームスさんはどうや ってメジャーフォースのことを知ったんですか?
ジェームス「僕は学校をやめて15歳ぐらいからレコ ード・ショップで働いてたんだけど、当時ロンドン で人気のあったローニン・レーベルに友達がいたん だよ。で、ある時ローニンのスタッフがDJツアー で日本に行って、たくさんレコードを買って帰って きたんだ。それが友達経由で僕のところに回ってき た中に、何枚か入ってたんだよね、メジャーフォー スのレコードが。それがファースト・コンタクト。 もう、すぐに魅了されたよ!! どれも驚くほど素晴 らしかった。もともと僕はカラテとかカンフーをや ってたせいもあって……」
―え!?(笑)
ジェームス「小さい頃からやってたんだけど(笑)、 とてもアジアの文化に興味があったからね。そうい ったこともあって、なんとかしてメジャーフォース のレコードを手に入れようとしたんだ」
ジェームス「僕は16歳から“オネスト・ジョンズ” っていうレコード・ショップで働いてたんだけど、 そこは当時ロンドンでいちばんいい店で、よく日本 人のバイヤーがレアなファンクとかソウルを買い付 けにきてたんだ。そういう連中をつかまえては“メ ジャーフォースのレコードとトレードしよう!”っ て言ってた。とにかく片っ端から言ってた」
それが意外な出会いへとつながっていくのだから 面白い。
ジェームス「ある日、店に入ってきた2人の日本人 にタイクーントッシュ(中西俊夫)の12インチ を探してるんだ”って言ったんだ。そしたら片方の 男がさ、“オレがタイクーン・トッシュだ”って言っ たんだよ(笑)。トッシュとクドー(工藤昌之)だっ たんだ。もう信じられなかったね! 慌ててレコー ドをくれって頼んだら“あいにく持ってないんだ” って言われちゃったんだけど。でもそれが縁で、 日本に行った時にファイル・レコードの人を紹介し てもらったりした。いつもレコードくれ!”って 言ってたから嫌がられてたみたいだけど(笑)」
現在はメジャーフォース・ウェストとしてロンド ンを拠点に活動する中西俊夫と工藤昌之とのいささかできすぎた出会いが、ジェームスと東京とを結び 付け、やがてはNIGOとの出会いにまでつながって いく。まさにルーツとしてのメジャーフォース”。 直接的な出会いのきっかけとしても、感覚的な部分 でも、2人にとってその存在は大きい。では2人が 選ぶメジャーフォースのベスト・トラックは?
NIGO「うーん、なんだろ。『LAST ORGY』かな」 ジェームス「RETURN OF THE ORIGINAL ART FORM』。すべてのレコードの中でベストの1 枚だよ。それに当時イギリスのアンダーグラウン ド・シーンでこの曲は爆発的にヒットしたんだ」
ジェームス「僕らは興味の対象が似ているし、 NIGOにはこのCDを作ることで“キミもモ・ワック スの一員だ”って言いたかった。NIGOが僕をエイプ の一員とみなしてくれるように」 NIGO「僕ら、けっこう似てるかなって気はしますね」
どちらも今では再発CDで容易に聴くことができ る。ぜひトライしてみてほしい。

どちらも今では再発CDで容易に聴くことができ る。ぜひトライしてみてほしい。
SCENE 3: アンド・ナウ。

そして現在。東京とロンドン、ウェアと音楽。立 っている場所は違えども同じルーツを持つNIGOと ジェームス・ラヴェルの初めての共同プロジェクト が、冒頭で触れた『APE V.S. MO’WAXだ。ここ から見える2人の関係性とは……。
――そもそもこのCDを作ろうっていう話は、どっ ちが言いだしたんですか? NIGO「ジェームスのほうからですね。基本的に、僕 はこれはやらなくてもいいことなんですよ(笑)」 ジェームス「僕はとにかくNIGOと何かがやりたか った。今までにないやつを。このCDはお互いが得 意分野をいかして、その要素をすべて盛り込んだ、 ある意味マッドなプロジェクトだね」
マッドな(笑)。
ジェームス「今回NIGOと1曲共作してるんだけど、 そういうことも含めて今までにないコンピレーショ ンになっていると思う」
NIGOさん、ドラム叩いてるんですよね。
NIGO「まぁ一応(笑)。ロンドンに行って2日間で 録って。本当はもうちょっといたかったんだけど」
やっぱり服作りとは違うところが面白い?
NIGO「いや、なんかね、服を作るのと似てますよ。 昔、チャックDが“サンプリング・スポーツ”って 言葉使ってたじゃないですか。完ちゃんもよく言っ てたし。うん、そういうノリで。服も似てる」
小難しい“引用”ではなく、フィジカルなサン プリング・スポーツ”。ジャンルを越えてNIGOとジ ェームスが共鳴しあうクリエイティビティのスタイ ルを、これほど端的に言い当てる言葉もない。
ジェームス「僕らは興味の対象が似ているし、 NIGOにはこのCDを作ることで“キミもモ・ワック スの一員だ”って言いたかった。NIGOが僕をエイプ の一員とみなしてくれるように」 NIGO「僕ら、けっこう似てるかなって気はしますね」
ルーツをめぐる2人の関係は続く。

Scene 1 At the front of Wendy’s
Nigo and James Lavelle.
One is the most cutting edge clothing brand in Tokyo, Bathing Ape. The other is the most impactful label in London, Mo wax. Each is a Young General. Two people of such stature sit at one table and start to talk. What on earth do they talk about? Do they talk matters of company management? No. What ensues is a discussion of their mutual roots. Let me start by asking, are you aware of the unique record, organised by Mo wax, that is scheduled for major distribution domestically in Japan from August, “Ape V.S. Mo’Wax”? It is a two disc compilation CD, in the form of “Nigo’s Disk” and “James’ Disk”, of their own selections from the Mo’Wax catalogue. It represents an unexpected collaboration between two professionals from completely different fields.
Surely, it can only be a collaboration made possible by some kind of shared common ground between the two. So what is it that they have in common?
Were Ape and Mo Mo’Wax launched around the same time?
Nigo: Well, I think so. James was about a year earlier. I had Nowhere in Shinjuku in April of 1993. Then I launched the Bathing Ape brand in September ‘93.
James: I made Mo’Wax Christmas 92. In December this year it will have been just on five years.
Have you known each other from around that time?
Nigo: Yes, we have. I think we met around four years ago? I think we might have a difference of opinion on that though (LOL).
James: We first met in London.
Nigo: I don’t remember.
James: That’s because we only really crossed paths for a moment.
Nigo: I remember Tokyo. Out of the blue, I get a call from him saying “let’s meet up”. We met up at a Wendys nearby.
James: True. I’d been thinking when I went to Japan I definitely wanted to buy some of Nigo’s clothes.
Nigo: Well, actually I gave you the clothes.
How did you hear about Nigo James?
James: A friend who does clothing distribution in London showed me an Ape T-Shirt. It had “Last Orgy” written on it and I was like “Hey, that’s a Tiny Punks record! What is this?”
I thought, “I have to have this”. After all, I owned all the Major Force records.
The keyword here is Major Force. Major Force is a label begun by five people; Kan Takagi and Hiroshi Fujiwara from Tiny Punks, Toshio Nakaishi, Masayuki Kudo, Gouta Yashiki. Focusing on 12 inch releases, the label was in contact with hip hoppers from overseas whilst carrying on their own original practice. We should add that “Last Orgy” was the name of the first release from the label by the group Tiny Punks. Tiny Punks also had a column of the same name in the Magazine Takarajima but James is referring to the single release in the above. Major Force. That is the force that binds the two together.

Of course you were buying Major Force records also Nigo?

Of course. It would have been around 2nd and 3rd year of high school I think. I was coming to Tokyo every couple of weeks to buy them.

But how did you hear about Major Force in London James?

James: I quit High School around 15 and started working in a record shop. I had a friend who was part of Ronin Label, which was popular at the time. Then one of the Ronin people went to Japan on a DJ tour and came back with a whole lot of records they had bought. They came around to me via a friend. That was my first contact. It had an instant impact. All of them were shockingly good. I also had a background in Karate and Kung Fu.
-What.
James: I had been doing that since I was a kid, because I was really interested in Asian culture. So I really wanted to get my hands on the Major Force records.

James: From the age of 16 I worked in a record shop called Honest Jon’s, which was the best shop in London at the time. Japanese people often came to buy rare funk and soul records. I would pounce on those people and say “do me a trade for some Major Force records”.

That was fun because it would lead to getting to know some unexpected people.

James: One day, a couple of Japanese people came to the shop saying they were looking for a 12 inch of Tycoon Tosh. Then one of them says, “I’m Tycoon Tosh”. That was Tosh and Kudo. I couldn’t believe it. I hurriedly asked if he had any records and he said “Unfortunately, i don’t have any with me”. But through that connection, When I went to japan I was able to get an introduction to File Records. Because I was always asking them for records, I think I got on their nerves though.

Having almost too easily hooked up with Nakanishi Toshio and Kudo who were now based in London, James connected with Tokyo, eventually leading to his meeting Nigo. He had found himself at the very origins of Major Force. Major Force presented the direct opportunity for the two to meet, and an important middle ground of a shared sensibility. So what Major Force track does each choose as their favourite?

Nigo: Hmmm, I wonder. Maybe Last Orgy.
James: Return of the Original Art Form. That is my favorite record of them all. That track was already a smash hit in the London Underground Scene at the time.
Both are easy to find on CD reissue now. We urge you to give them a try.

Scene 3: And Now
And Now. Tokyo and London, clothing and music. Standing in different locations, but having shared roots, Nigo and James Lavelle embark on their first project together – the “Ape V.S. Mo’Wax. What can we see about the two people’s relationship from here?” that we touched on at the start of this article

So who was the one to say “let’s make a CD” in the first place?
Nigo: That was James. Fundamentally, for me this is something we don’t need to do (LOL).
James: I just wanted to do something with Nigo. Something that hadn’t been done before. This CD is a combination of our strengths, a blend of all of those elements. In a way, it’s quite a mad project.

“Mad” (LOL)
James: I’m working on a track with Nigo at the moment, so including things like that, this is a compilation like that nothing that has gone before.
Nigo, you’re playing the drums right?
Nigo: Well, I guess so. I went to London and we recorded in two days. Really, I wanted to go for longer.
I’m guessing making is interesting in that it is different from making clothes?
Nigo: Actually I would say that it’s quite similar to making clothes. In the past Chuck D has talked about “Sampling Sport” right? Kan often said the same thing. So, I guess it’s like that. Clothes are similar.
Not a difficult quotation, but a physical “Sampling sport”. Transcending genre, there is no better phrase to unequivocally use about Nigo and James’ symbiotic creative style.
James: Our interests are similar and with this CD I wanted to say to Nigo “you’re one of the Mo’ Wax family too. And I want Nigo to see me as one of the Ape family too.
Nigo: I feel like we are really pretty similar.
From shared roots, the pair’s relationship continues.

Language Learning Program Reviews

Graded Japanese Reading Practice

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

In 1995 there were still new Last Orgy 2 t-shirts produced, as well as a new Last Orgy song.

 

Record on Amazon

In the 1990’s James Lavelle had started the Mo’ Wax record label in England and collaborated with the Japanese label Major Force, eventually re-releasing most of their catalogue to a wider audience. Through his friendship with Major Force, Lavelle soon met Nigo and the pair became friends, with Lavelle soon inviting Nigo to record in the Mo’ Wax studios in London. This collaboration would eventuate in Nigo’s debut album Ape Sounds, a mix of hip hop and rock similar to Lavelle’s own UNKLE project. Nigo also collaborated with Lavelle on the Planet of The Apes inspired song Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, which featured members of Major Force, UNKLE, Nigo, and UK turntablists The Scratch Perverts all on one song.

During this period Lavelle also released a song called Last Orgy 3, which featured Takagi Kan rapping much like on the original Tiny Panx song which had released almost ten years previously in 1988. Last Orgy 3 first appeared in 1997 on a mix CD by Nigo and James Lavelle titled A Bathing Ape Vs Mo’Wax, and was later released on CD and Vinyl with several remixes in 1998.

Last Orgy 4…and beyond.

The final Last Orgy so far, Last Orgy Four was a t-shirt collection released around 2000, and is the only Last Orgy to have been released without an associated magazine column, tv series, or song sharing its title. Around this time Nigo and Jonio were contributing a column titled 4lom to Smart magazine, which was similar to Last Orgy and had begun in 1996 and continued in to the 2000’s, while Nigo also contributed his General’s Seminar columns to Relax magazine for several years in the early 2000’s.

Image: Last Orgy shoe

Alongside the 2009 re-release of the Last Orgy jacket was a Last Orgy shoe which released in 2010. The shoes were a collaboration with Nigo’s BAPE company and featured their Bapesta shoe design. Since then there has been little news of further Last Orgy lines, but the brands close ties to BAPE may be one of the reasons for the draught, as in 2013 Nigo left BAPE and is now working with the Japanese brand Uniqlo. 

But what of the original Last Orgy creators, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan? Both of the original Tiny Panx have continued to work in their respective fields, with Fujiwara regarded as an important part of the Japanese fashion world, with his career recounted in two large English language books from publisher Rizzoli.

Meanwhile Kan continues to release music with Major Force, and in 2020 he has been putting on live performances via his Instagram page while the world has been locked down during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Further Reading:

Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by Marx, W. David 
Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment by Sarah Lerfel and Ino Hidefum

Behind Bape

Examing the early roots of Nigo, A Bathing Ape, Last Orgy and beyond

A Bathing Ape, or BAPE, is one of the world’s most popular brands, specializing in streetwear and lifestyle clothing. BAPE’s founder Nigo is almost as famous as his brand, having collaborated with everyone from musicians  such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, to brands like Pepsi, Stüssy, and Adidas. Japanoscope has translated a 1997 interview with Nigo here

BAPE has inspired collectors around the world to purchase anything associated with the brand, with some of the collectors becoming popular on Instagram, and even getting interviewed about the extent of their collections.

What Does Bape stand for?

Bape is short for “A Bathing Ape In Lukewarm Water”. The initial concept came from Japanese illustrator and designer Skate Thing who got the idea after seeing an illustration of a monkey in a hot spring (itself an image famously associated with Japan). 

The other inspiration behind the name comes from the Planet of the Apes film, which features a society that has fallen down due to excess and hedonism. Nigo was a big fan of pop culture, including Planet of the Apes. In BAPE immagery, the ape can be seen as a symbol of human kind in its most “primitive form”. So the image of the monkey-man, sitting in Luke warm water, as if he had been lazing around in a luxurious bath so long that the water was starting to go cold, was an ironic dig at the consumer culture of the Bubble-era Japanese youth generation that Nigo was born into. 

 

Before starting the BAPE clothing line in 1993, Nigo was known as Tomoaki Nagao and he looked up to the Japanese musician and fashion icon Hiroshi Fujiwara, especially Fujiwara’s Last Orgy series. So what was Last Orgy?

 

Last Orgy 1

In 1986 Japanese musicians Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan released their first music as Tiny Panx on the album 建設的(Construction), which was released as a joint album with Seiko Ito. The Tiny Panx name, which changed from Tiny Panx Organization, T.P.O., Tinnie Punx, Tiny Panx, Tiny Punx, and TPO depending on the release, was inspired by Fujiwara’s nickname given to him while he had spent time in London during the 1980’s. 

Inspired by his time in London and New York during the 80’s, Fujiwara had returned to Japan influenced by the exploding hip hop scene, and Tiny Panx became one of the earliest Japanese hip hop groups, who would support the Beastie Boys on their Japan tour in 1987.

In 1988 Tiny Panx released the song Last Orgy on the influential Japanese record label Major Force. This was Major Force’s debut release, and the label would go on to release music by Toshio Nakanishi aka Tycoon Tosh from Plastics and Melon, DJ Red Alert of The Wild Bunch, and the Japanese hip hop group Scha Dara Parr.

Last Orgy contains a mixture of English and Japanese lyrics, with the Japanese delivered in an English accent at times, making the lyrics almost hard to decipher.

 

 

Peter and Fumiko from Japanoscope listened through to the track and did their best to transcribe the words, and the below is their best approximation. XXXs represent bits they couldn’t take a good guess at. If anyone has a better idea of what this says, please let us know!

How to make / Loving is student
Now I’m telling you / Geisha Boys
You moving / まずはそこから
Feel the beat yo / ラップに決ら
Little punx / Listen while I say
All the bullshit / Try to walk this way
Got to keep xxxx / You don’t stop
その気になるまでやらなきゃど
Rhymingしなけりゃ始まらない
575resumeはget no fight / DJの作り出すリズムをget XXX / すかさずマイクでXXX
Deepになりたきゃ今Rock hard
Major Corporation Boyそうしたら
Xxx / 俺はMCカン
酔い出しゃ止まらぬBoogie Wonderland
Last Orgy / Just tonight
マイクのチエック123 / Check it on the needle
それどうり / Ready now
ひろしはいつでもTry to get busy
Tiny Punks / The place to be
黙っていれずに

Gonna Rock Baby Ready for rock yeah
用意は出来てる

Motherfucking Sucker / Kick it Strip it rest / ビートで dig it Xxx in the house / In the Tokyo posse Xxx / Xxx / Kicking the line? Tycoon Toshi gonna make you fine / まつだせいこ and Double Master X They’re in the Xxx one more sex

Last orgy / Last orgy just tonight

Last orgy / Last orgy just tonight

Kan’s rhymeは やくざ Machine gun おまけに中身はAin’t no冗談 目の前そのまま現実Hard core Watch out / いつでも体をCheck you? Xxx よりの近未来 チェルノブイリに Green Mile Straight to hell / ごめんだ wake up Punkもserious / Never see the future? Xxx / Keep the party / Never negative xxx on the mic / Like this Beep  Jump up / Movin’ and groovin’ and chillin’ and illin’ and xxx Xxx / Kan China Say yeah

In 1987 Fujiwara and Kan were invited to start a column in the Japanese magazine Takarajima, and they called the column Last Orgy, with the column making its debut in Takarajima’s July 1987 issue. Through the column they wrote about, promoted and recommended music, clothing, and film, focusing on what would become known as Street Culture. The monthly column became influential and spun off into a TV series airing on FM-TV in Japan, which featured the same content but this time in video. 

The July 1987 issue looked like this: 

Here’s Kan and Hiroshi scratching it up on the Last Orgy TV show.

One of their fans was a young Tomoaki Nagao who would record each episode of Last Orgy and re-watch them with his friends on repeat. Last Orgy influenced Nagao’s decision to move to Tokyo and enroll at the fashion institute 文化服装学院 (Bunka Fashion College) where he met the aspiring designer Jun “Jonio” Takahashi.

Tomoaki Nagao soon earned himself the nickname Fujiwara Hiroshi Nigo, Fujiwara Hiroshi Number Two, due to Nagao’s likeness to Fujiwara. Nagao embraced the nickname and he soon after met Fujiwara who hired Nigo as his personal assistant, with the two becoming friends. In 1993 when Nigo and Jonio decided to open their own store it was with the support of Fujiwara, and their Nowhere store became an important part of Japanese street culture history.

Last Orgy 2

While working as an assistant to Fujiwara, Nigo also began a part-time job at the Japanese culture magazine Popeye where he contributed a new column titled Last Orgy 2. This new column was written by Nigo and Jonio and served as a continuation of the Last Orgy by Fujiwara and Kan which had ended around 1990.

 

In 1991 Nigo and Jonio collaborated on the Last Orgy 2 t-shirts, which continued to be released into 1994. These featured assorted designs, from photography, to text, and were released through their Nowhere store, with the back of one t-shirt detailing the Last Orgy history and announcing that as of June 1994 the Last Orgy 2 column was finished but would be relaunching soon as Last Orgy 3.

 

For Christmas 1994 a Last Orgy 2 Stadium Jacket was released, and this design was later re-released in 2009 alongside several t-shirts, as part of a promotion for a new Nowhere store opening in Hong Kong. 

 

Last Orgy 3

In September 1994, Nigo and Jonio collaborated with Fujiwara on a new column titled Last Orgy III, which was now in the culture magazine Asayan. By now Nigo had his BAPE line, Jonio was running his Undercover brand, Fujiwara had his Good Enough clothing line, and the Last Orgy III column tended to focus on these brands, serving as a promotional advertisement for Nigo, Jonio, and Fujiwara’s brands, as well as promoting their Nowhere store.

You can see some Last Orgy articles in English translation here.

 

In 1995 there were still new Last Orgy 2 t-shirts produced, as well as a new Last Orgy song.

 

Record on Amazon

In the 1990’s James Lavelle had started the Mo’ Wax record label in England and collaborated with the Japanese label Major Force, eventually re-releasing most of their catalogue to a wider audience. Through his friendship with Major Force, Lavelle soon met Nigo and the pair became friends, with Lavelle soon inviting Nigo to record in the Mo’ Wax studios in London. This collaboration would eventuate in Nigo’s debut album Ape Sounds, a mix of hip hop and rock similar to Lavelle’s own UNKLE project. Nigo also collaborated with Lavelle on the Planet of The Apes inspired song Ape Shall Never Kill Ape, which featured members of Major Force, UNKLE, Nigo, and UK turntablists The Scratch Perverts all on one song.

During this period Lavelle also released a song called Last Orgy 3, which featured Takagi Kan rapping much like on the original Tiny Panx song which had released almost ten years previously in 1988. Last Orgy 3 first appeared in 1997 on a mix CD by Nigo and James Lavelle titled A Bathing Ape Vs Mo’Wax, and was later released on CD and Vinyl with several remixes in 1998.

Last Orgy 4…and beyond.

The final Last Orgy so far, Last Orgy Four was a t-shirt collection released around 2000, and is the only Last Orgy to have been released without an associated magazine column, tv series, or song sharing its title. Around this time Nigo and Jonio were contributing a column titled 4lom to Smart magazine, which was similar to Last Orgy and had begun in 1996 and continued in to the 2000’s, while Nigo also contributed his General’s Seminar columns to Relax magazine for several years in the early 2000’s.

 

IAlongside the 2009 re-release of the Last Orgy jacket was a Last Orgy shoe which released in 2010. The shoes were a collaboration with Nigo’s BAPE company and featured their Bapesta shoe design. Since then there has been little news of further Last Orgy lines, but the brands close ties to BAPE may be one of the reasons for the draught, as in 2013 Nigo left BAPE and is now working with the Japanese brand Uniqlo.

There are even Bape masks made for those that want to maintain style during pandemics. 

But what of the original Last Orgy creators, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Takagi Kan? Both of the original Tiny Panx have continued to work in their respective fields, with Fujiwara regarded as an important part of the Japanese fashion world, with his career recounted in two large English language books from publisher Rizzoli.

Meanwhile Kan continues to release music with Major Force, and in 2020 he has been putting on live performances via his Instagram page while the world has been locked down during the Corona Virus pandemic.

Further Reading:

Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style by Marx, W. David 
Hiroshi Fujiwara: Fragment by Sarah Lerfel and Ino Hidefum

Why is Bape so expensive?

Even though Bape makes street ware, the idea of “luxury” is part of its core. From the start, its branding was based around an ironic take on “A Bathing Ape in a Luke Warm Hot Spring”, meaning a primitive person soaking up the luxury. So its no suprise that Bape pricing reflects this focus on the hedonistic urge. 

This fits in with the larger trend within hip hop and street cultures to fetichize wealth in the form of gold chains, diamonds and brands. 

In a way, it is odd that this question is asked about Bape more than any other brand at the high end of the market such as, say, Apple. The cost of anything is rarely based on just the cost of what an item cost to produce.

Matchstick Blinds Buying Guide

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Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Contributor

James Gaunt is an artist, writer and musician based in Tokyo.

What does it mean to be “Ugly” In Japan

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 9th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Beauty, depression, cosmetic surgery.

Text Type

Social Media Posts (Twitter & Youtube)

What does it mean to be “busu” 「ブス」or “minikui” in Japan?

In a world that worships at the altar of kawaii 「可愛い」, at saucer sized eyes and at double skinned eyelids. What is it like to feel like you don’t live up? And how can you live a life so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.

Twitter writer and Youtuber “Todoron” painfully, graphically and courageously lays bear her experiences of this situation for all to see on Twitter, and later Youtube. Her first tweet was a single Hiragana character. Her third tweet got 150,000 likes and 30,000 retweets. 

She seems to having something that resonates with contemporary online Japanese society. She mixes simple-truth observations of the state of the world, and her own inner state. Topics she tackles include her history of cosmetic surgery, concepts of beauty and mental health.

Today I want to have a look at the language she uses around the issues.

 

A translation of Todoron's first tweets

Through repeated rounds of cosmetic surgery, you can turn yourself into something that you believe to be beautiful. But turning yourself into something the world believes is beautiful remains impossible to do forever. Beauty is talent. It all depends on whether you are able to bring this beauty out, or you choose to deny it. Even people who show the world that they have achieved beauty through effort are only keeping an appointment with their own natural born talent.

Feelings that only ugly people can understand

・ The fear of the group photo

・ The fear of catching your own image reflecting back at you from panes of glass throughout the city

・ The fear that Snow will not be enough to make you beautiful

・ The feeling of guilt at being attracted to a hot guy

・ The philosophical regret of “Why did I have to be born as myself when I could have just as easily been born as someone like Nozomi Sasaki”

 

I love girly things like frills and lace. It makes me sad that I am so scared of people denying the femininity of the “me covered in those things” that I act like I don’t even like them in the first place.

People always seem to think that people who go public with their cosmetic surgery say to themselves “Cosmetic surgery is making an effort! Please acknowledge how much work I’ve put in! Tell me I’m beautiful” out of some kind of need for acknowledgment of self or urgent need for recognition. But really, I think that the vast majority of people are actually saying to themselves “If I try and hide the fact I’ve had some work done, people will still talk, so I may as well just be open about it. People can choose not to accept what I’ve done if they like, no one is forcing them to stick around if they don’t want to”.

A translation of Todoron's first Youtube clip

こんな醜い感情で生きていてもいいですか

Is it good enough to live life with these kind of ugly feelings?

はじめましてとどろんと申します。初投稿です。

Pleased to meet you, I’m dodoron this is my first video.

本日は東京新潟間を背景に整形経験者である私の話をして行こうと思います。

Today, with the scenery between Tokyo and Niigata as my background, I’m going to talk about myself and my experiences as someone who has had cosmetic surgery.

整形経験者

Person who has had cosmetic surgery  

東京駅から発射します。楽しみです。

Launching out from Tokyo. This is going to be fun.

自分語りになりますがこうして外に出られるようになったのは整形してからです。

I fear I will be talking all about myself, but going out like this is only something I have been able to do since having surgery.

ブスは外に出るのも許されない。

Ugly people aren’t allowed in public.

日々顔を非難される経験を積めばそういう思考になります。

If you have experience of having your face criticized on a daily basis over a long period of time, that’s how you come to think.

恐怖。

Fear.

評価。

Criticism.

新潟に出発です。電車や新幹線の音っていいですね。

Leaving Niigata. Don’t you love the sound of the train and the shinkansen?

ガラスがなければ自分の顔を見なくていいし最高なのになあ。

If only there was no glass here to reflect my face everything would be perfect.

朝食を食べ損ねた弁当を買いました。

I missed breakfast, so I’ve bought a bento.

余談ですが美人て財布を出すふりが上手いですよね。

To digress a moment, beautiful people are great at making like they are pulling out their wallet aren’t they?

やっぱりおごられなれているのでしょうか。

I suppose it’s because they are so used to having others pay the bill.

ていうか今気がついたけど服のシワやばいですね。

Never mind that, I’ve just realised the wrinkles in my shirt are next level.

こういうところがブスなんですよね。ごめんなさい。

I guess this is one of the hallmarks of being ugly. I apologize.

美人は服がシワシワでもだらしない美人なのにブスは「そんなんだからブスなんだよ」と言われるの理不尽だよね。

If a beautiful person wears wrinkled clothes they are just a beautiful person in wrinkled clothes. But if an ugly person wears wrinkled clothing, people say “that’s the reason you’re so unattractive”. It makes no sense.

いただきます。おいしそう。

Bon appetite. Looks good.

さて再出発です。雪だー!綺麗!

And, we’re off again. Look at the snow. It’s beautiful!

整形前はきれいなものを見ても素直に口に出せませんでした。

Before having cosmetic surgery, I was unable to speak freely about beautiful things.

ブスがはしゃいでると思われるのが恥ずかしかったからです。

I felt that people would just think that I was an ugly person shooting her mouth off.

ブスって捻くれてる人が多いと思うんですがそういった複雑な感情も影響していると思います。

Ugly people are often a little twisted I think that it must be the result of experiencing such complex emotions.

よし帰りましょ。

Well, time to head for home.

新潟でも撮ろうと思ったのですが無理だったのでお土産を紹介します。

I wasn’t able to shoot in Niigata, as I’d hoped, so I’ll just show you my souvenirs.

のどぐろ茶漬け

Nodo Guro cyatuke

 

嫉妬

Jealousy

 

これは自分用。夜食に食べたら死ぬほど美味しい絶対

This is for me. This would be the bomb to have as a late night snack.

 

可愛い女の子がおっさん臭いもの好きをアピールするのがウザいと思うのは私だけでしょうか。ギャップがいいとか言うけどだいたいだれでも好きだわ。

Am I the only one that gets annoyed at beautiful people trying to make a big thing out of how they love eating the sort of snacks a middle aged man might like. People say “it’s such a lovely contrast”, but let’s face it, who doesn’t like that stuff?

そしてこちらは家族へのお土産

I got these for my family

笹団子です

Bamboo shoot balls

 

ブスだけど見た目可愛いものは好き

I may be ugly, but I like cute stuff.

 

そしてジャスミンティー

And, jazmine tea

 

なんか凹んでるんだけど

Looks a bit dinted but

パンを食べる、うめぇ

Time for a pastry. Man, that’s good.

おいしいという感覚は美醜に関わらず平等に与えられた最高の快楽ですね。

Deliciousness is the greatest sense that people of beauty or ugliness have received equally.

ごちそうさまでした。

That was good.

帰りは雨で景色がよく見えませんでした。

I couldn’t see the scenery on the way back because of the rain.

今日の動画はここで終わりです。初投稿いかがでしたか。

I’ll finish up my video here. How did you like my first post?

ぜひご意見ありましたらコメント欄までお願いいたします。

If you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments.

では、ありがとうございました。

Thank you very much.

さようなら

Goodbye.

 
Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

What are the words that killed Hana Kimura?

What happened to Hana Kimura?

Words are knives. On the 23rd of May 2020 we saw that in the tragic death of Hana Kimura, Wrestler and star of reality TV show Terrace House.

So what were the linguistic weapons that killed her? And what are the words that tried to come to her rescue? And how can we dodge the knives when they are thrown at us? Today I would like to tackle these questions by translating and analysing some of the comments made on Japanese social networks before and after her death.

I’ve divided these comments into the supporters of Hana, and the haters of Hana. And her own voice.

I want to start with the famous soccer player Keisuke Honda. He released a long audio commentary on the incident where he shared his own approach to dealing with online bullying. I will come back to the details of exactly what he does at the end, and hopefully that will help anyone that is listening if they ever have to deal with online abuse. First of all let’s look at one of his twitter comments.

 

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 9th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Hana Kimura, Suicide, Online bulllying

Text Type

Social Media Posts

Supporter

Honda Keisuke

Famouse Japanese soccer player.

弱い人を狙うな。
Don’t target the weak people.
誹謗中傷はやるなって言ってもなくならないし、なのでやってもいいからちゃんと強い人を狙うこと。
Even if I say “quit hating online”, online bullying won’t go away. So I’ll just say, go ahead and bully, but target the strong.

「結論」
俺んところに来い。そして末長く誹謗中傷のプラットフォームとして使用してください。

Conclusion
Bring your bullying my way, and you can use your platform to troll me to your heart’s content.

Hater

テラスハウス史上、いやテレビ史上1番気色悪いです。
You are the most disgusting thing that has ever appeared on Terrace House, no, on Television.
ほんとにお願いだから目立たないでください。
Please just do us a favour and pull your head in.
プロレスもだれも応援してません。
No one is barracking for you, even as a pro-wrestler.

Supporter

長与 千種 Chigusa Nagayo
Wrestler
心がザワザワして苦しい。
My heart is heaving in pain. 
ありえん ありえん ありえん ありえんぞ、許せない 言葉は時に鋭利過ぎるナイフになって人の心の奥深くを 無残に切り裂き荒らす。
It’s impossible, impossible, impossible. It’s unforgivable. Sometimes words are over-sharp knives that cut cruelly, deep inside a person and sever the heart in two.

観たままの姿は基本キャラクターとしての偽りの姿。

If you only saw the face she (Hana) presented, you were seeing a fictitious character. 
本当の姿を出さずに生きる彼女はプロとして。
She lived without showing her true self, she was a professional.
長与千種の知る本来の持つ顔は清純なのに
The Hana that Chigusa Nagayo knew was a pure soul. 

Hater

テラハ見ていて初めて気持ちが悪くなりました。
For the first time, watching Terrace House made me sick.

テラハ大好きだったのに花さんのせいで嫌いになりました。早く卒業してください。大嫌いです。
I loved Terrace House until Hana came on. Please leave the show soon. I hate you.

お前が早くいなくなればみんな幸せなのにな。まじで早く消えてくれよ。
If you were gone, everyone would be so happy. I’m serious, just disappear.

Supporter

岡田結実さん

「人の言葉って刃物だっていうのが、人が亡くなってからわかるっていうのがすごく悔しいですし、そんなことあっちゃいけない」

「芸能人だから、顔を合わせない人だからっていって叩いてくる人多いじゃないですか

Celebrity and actress Yui Okada

The fact that people don’t realise that words are knives is just tragic. This sort of thing just shouldn’t happen.

Because someone is famous, and you don’t ever have to come face to face with them, a lot of people just think it’s okay to take pot shots.

Supporter

Hater

テラハに出なければ今頃底辺プロレスで地味にしかし平和に過ごせてたものの、
If you hadn’t gone on Terrace House, about now you would be a low-grade wrestler living a regular, yet peaceful, life.
あなたの性格ゆえに完全に人間として終わりましたね。
But because of your personality, you basically have lost all value as a human being. 
これで彼氏欲しいとか、DV絶対するからやめてください。
Because of that, don’t say things like “I want a boyfriend”. I’m sure you would be prone to domestic violence, so just don’t.
それともそういう家庭で育ったのかもですね。育ちは怖いですね。
I guess maybe you were raised in a household like that. How you are raised is a scary thing.

Supporter

メンタリストDaiGo @Mentalist_DaiGo

テラスハウスの木村花さんの訃報fuho見てやはり思うけど、芸能事務所とかは、ネットの誹謗中傷に対して、【情報開示請求】ちゃんとやって訴訟soshoしたらいいと思う。
On hearing of Terrace House Hana Kimura’s death, it made me think, yet again, that entertainment agencies need to step up, lodge information disclosure requests and sue.

アンチに容赦yoshaなど不要。損害賠償だけでなく、勤務先の会社にも内容 証明送りつけて【社会的に抹殺masatsu】すべき。
Haters need no leniency. And it shouldn’t stop at compensation for damages. People need to have their places of work sent evidence of what has transpired, these sort of actions need to be obliterated from society.

Hater

In response to Hana’s cat photo post

猫にも暴力ふるってんのー
Are you even being violent towards cats?

Supporter

Smiley Kikuchi – Commentator

ネットの誹謗中傷の書き込みをされて傷ついている人に「たかがその程度で」と考える人もいます。
There are people that think that being abused online is “no big thing”.
程度のレベルを決めるのは、やった側ではなく、やられた側が決めます。
But what is and is not a big thing isn’t decided by perpetrators, but by those that are perpetrated against.
悪戯とか死ぬとは思わなかったでは済まされない。
Saying that pranking around is not deadly does not cut it. 
書き込んだ者は言葉の凶器で命を奪った指殺人の犯人です。もうやめてください。
The people that have used their words as weapons are criminal “armchair murderers” who have stolen a life. Please just stop

Supporter

Kazuya – Youtuber & Commentator

ネットの誹謗中傷の書き込みをされて傷ついている人に「たかがその程度で」と考える人もいます。
There are people that think that being abused online is “no big thing”.
程度のレベルを決めるのは、やった側ではなく、やられた側が決めます。
But what is and is not a big thing isn’t decided by perpetrators, but by those that are perpetrated against.
悪戯とか死ぬとは思わなかったでは済まされない。
Saying that pranking around is not deadly does not cut it. 
書き込んだ者は言葉の凶器で命を奪った指殺人の犯人です。もうやめてください。
The people that have used their words as weapons are criminal “armchair murderers” who have stolen a life. Please just stop

Supporter

Katsube Genki – Social Commentator

@KTB_genki
木村花さんの死去shikyoを受けて、著名人がSNS上の誹謗中傷をどうにかして欲しいという声を上げているけれど、
Since Hana Kimura’s death famous people have been calling for something to be done about online bullying.
誹謗中傷を続けたい人たちが、早速彼等彼女等に誹謗中傷をしている。
That has led to the bullies in turn quickly abusing the people that are calling out the abuse. 
そうやって他の著名人が続かないようにしている。本当にクズだと思う。
That is how the bullies try to bring down the celebrities. They really are no better than garbage.

Hana's own comments

毎日100件近く率直な意見。 
Everyday, nearly 100 frank opinions.
傷付いたのは否定できなかったから。
The reason they cut me up is that I was unable to deny what they were saying. 
死ね、気持ち悪い、消えろ、今まで ずっと私が1番私に思ってました。
“Drop dead”, “you make sick”, “disappear”. These are all words I have told myself, more than anyone else. 
お母さん産んでくれてありがとう。
Mother, thanks for bringing me into this world.
愛されたかった人生でした。
In my life, all I wanted was to feel loved.
側で支えてくれたみんなありがとう。
Thanks to everyone who has been in my corner.

大好きです。 弱い私でごめんなさい
I love you. Sorry for being weak little me.

 

愛してる、楽しく長生きしてネ。ごめんね。

I love you. Have fun, and live long. I’m sorry.

Honda Keisuke's comments

Renowned soccer player Keisuke Honda released an auditory commentary on his Nowvoice platform, where he talked about approaches to online bullying and his own approach to dealing with haters. He has some interesting ideas that are hopefully useful to many people.

 

言葉の暴力ってというのは実際の暴力よりもはるかに時によっては、ダメージを受けるというのは間違いではないと思います。
The violence of language can cause more damage than real violence.
僕自身も誹謗中傷されて、全く平気かといったらそうではないし、それは気にはします。気にしないといったらウソになる。
I, myself, have been the subject of online abuse. To say that it doesn’t phase me would be a lie.
僕の場合は慣れてきたというか逆にそういった誹謗中傷がエネルギー元になってきたというのもあって。
But in my case, I guess you could say I’m used to it. It’s even gotten to the point where you could say that online abuse has become a source of energy for me.
僕は本当なにかおかしいこと言っているとかもしれないですけど誹謗中傷の人いなくなったらそれはそれですばらしい世界でなくなったらいいとん思っているんですよ。なくなるべきだとおもっているしなくなったらいいとおもっているんですけど
I might be saying something strange here, and I really do think the world would be a better place without the bullies, and I do think that bullying shouldn’t happen,
本当にそういった人たちもいるから反骨精神じゃないけどモチベーションになれているといのもあるんですよ。。。そういった意味では感謝している。
but I feel like those people have actually become a kind of motivation for me. Maybe it’s some kind of “rebellious spirit” kind of thing…but, in that way, I’m thankful to them.

He goes on to talk about how the bullies may have been raised in difficult circumstances themselves, and be projecting their own pain. He tries to identify or humanise them.
He talks about how he has received death threats and all sorts of abuse, but is still alive and well. He goes as far as saying he wants to accept their abuse as a way of helping them heal.
He says he was blessed with a supporting upbringing, but not everyone is like that. As a result
He says people are fundamentally drawn to being mean to each other, and that realistically there is no way to eradicate this human trait.
His answer, then, for himself, is to accept the hatred, and use it like garbage that you turn into rocket fuel. Burn it up, harness its energy. I think that is a really important message for anyone that anyone who is a creator, wants to take part in the arena of ideas, who wants to change the world in any way, or anyone that just has a voice.

Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Death Poems 辞世 Translated and analysed

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 5th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Poetry, Death, Mortality, nature.

Text Type

Poem, Haiku

About Japanese Death Poems

Today we’re having a look at Japanese death poems. Now like the name suggests these are poems that people in Japan have written through the ages just before they die, or on their deathbed, and they’re fascinating little windows into a whole different world across time and space -windows on people reflecting on their lives in their final moments.
These poems have been around since around the 7th century.
I first came across these through this book Japanese death poems by Yoel Hoffman. It’s a fantastic little compendium of these poems and translations. So I thought I’d go through and introduce some of these but also give my own take. I’ll do some of my own translations, because there’s often quite a few different ways that these things can be done.

Death Poem byHiroshi Kuroshiki

A translation of an Instagram post from the artist

智輪

Chi-rin

Died 24 Dec. 1794

The first poem is by a poet called Chirin. All these poets have really fantastic names. 智 Chi means insight or wisdom, which comes from the Sanskrit, I believe, word prajna. So it’s a Buddhist Buddhist concept. 輪 Rin is like a circle, so this is this person’s name is actually a circle of prana insight

天地に

ちりなき雪の

麓かな

 

Ametsuchi ni

Chiri naki yuki no

Fumoto kana

 

Across the sky and land

Not a speck of dust

Behold the snow on the foothills!

 

Explanation of the poem

あめ in modern Japanese usually means rain but here it’s referring to the sky 天, to the heavens and has a different character to 雨

つち usually literally means dirt, but here it’s got a broader meaning of “land” and then ちりなき 

 

Literally means dust. I think both dust or chiri are very interesting words in either Japanese or English. There’s kind of this association between dust and garbage or rubbish. Probably people that have studied Japanese for a while probably would have come across people saying, you know, get some chiri officer off the floor it’s meaning that it’s dirty & dusty. Even in English we have this word “dustbin”. We don’t put generally don’t put dust in a bin. It’s more like rubbish that we’re putting in there. So there’s this association between things that are dirt or dirty and rubbish.

So ちりなき means ちりがない.

For my translation, I’ve gone with:

 

Across the sky land land 

not a speck of dust and the

 

But the other interesting thing about ちりなき is that we said that the poet’s name was chirin, so there’s actually a play on words, and this is something you find in a lot of these death poems. Often the poet will take their name and sort of try and work it into the actual poem either through the sound or through the meaning. So there’s this interesting play that they do, looking at the idea of their self and how that idea exists in the world. So chiri naki has a double meaning of no dust, but also no chirin, as in, he himself has disappeared. Or he’s about to disappear.

And then it comes to 

雪のふもとかな

Now this word かな is interesting as well. 

In modern japanese if you say kana it usually means that you’re not sure about something or you’re wondering about something.  So you might say come on 買い物行こうかな, I think I might go down to the shops. Or somebody might say to you そうかな if you’ve said something and now they’re doubting you. 

But you find in it’s poetic context it has a slightly different meaning. 

Here it’s used as a 切れ字 Kireji.

切る means to cut and 字 is a letter or a word. So these are special words that are put in either to divide up a section or phrase, or at the end to give a sense of finality.  “Kana” is usually expressing some kind of wonder, some sense of the numinous. When you think about it, even the modern idea of wondering about things, we wonder at the world, we wonder what’s happening. There is that connection in the same way that we said that ちり and dust and rubbish and garbage have this strange connection. There’s a connection between wondering in a numinous way and in a more prosaic way. 

So, the reason I put in “behold” the snow on this foothill is that I was trying to get that sense of wonder.  “Behold” I know is a very old sounding English word, but this is a poem from 1794, so I think that’s valid to say, “behold the snow in the foothills”

In Hoffman’s translation he went with:

In the earth and the sky

No grain of dust-

Snow on the foothills

So Hoffman hasn’t worried about putting the “behold” in. The かな gets lost in that translation but really there’s not really any great way of getting around that anyway.

Now, just a way as a way of finding a parallel between this poem and the world of English poetry I was thinking about poets that look at nature, appreciating snow and appreciating the natural world as it is in it in its “suchness”, to use a Buddhist term. 

So I was thinking about Robert Frost, because he does a lot of that sort of poetry and he’s got a famous one Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. 

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

And then it goes on from there. You get this sense of somebody by themselves in nature just appreciating snow. This makes me think of that famous koan that’s come into popular culture
“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one saw it fall, and no one heard it fall, did it really fall?”
Which is about just appreciating the suchness of things, and the fact that you can’t really explain the nature of reality in words.

Robert Frost also has another poem which refers to both dust and snow as well.

It’s called Dust of Snow:

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Japanese poetry books

Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

Hana Kimura, Her Mother’s Petition and The Rigging of Terrace House

we translate an article from the Shukan Bunshun that outlines how Hana Kimura’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, is petitioning Japan’s broadcasting watchdog to examine how the show Terrace House was set up in a way that ultimately led to Hana’s demise.

Along with the text, we read the article in Japanese, then in English, then sentence by sentence in both languages.

Read More »

Japanoscope is a registered affiliate with several online shops and may receive a commission when you click on some of the links within content.

Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

Japanese Architecture in Europe

Hospitalet_de_Llobregat_
Torres De Toyo Ito, Barcelona

Introduction

Japan and the west have a long history trading ideas about architecture, building and construction. Most famously, luminary Frank Lloyd Wright, was a big fan. 

He incorporated Japanese ideas into many of the building he designed. In his autobiography he wrote:

Frank lloyd Wright portrait

“I found that Japanese art and
architecture really did have organic character. Their art was nearer to the earth
and a more indigenous product of native conditions of life and work, therefore
more nearly modern as I saw it, than any European civilization alive or dead.”

We looked for a list of Japanese designed buildings outside of Japan, but couldn’t find one. So we made one. We counted up the top 10 Japanese Architects that appear in a Google search and checked where they have popped up shelter of one kind or another. There’s a lot in the U.S., but there’s more in Europe. If you put them on graph, they look like this:

*Skip through to the bottom of the post you can see the full list of architects, countries, cities and buildings. 

In Europe, as far back as the early to mid 1800s, architects such as Augustus Pugin in Britain, most famous for designing the tower of Big Ben, were starting to feel like the Industrial Revolution may be pumping out the products but not the picture-pretty buildings. They started looking to far away times and places for inspiration. Think Gothic architecture rivalism. But also think far-eastern exoticism. In 1862, less than 10 years after Commodore Perry had sailed his Black Ship into Kanagawa to forciblly open Japan to trade, after a couple hundred years of laying low, British architect Edwin Godin designed his house Japanese style. That’s moving with the times.

In the 1880s, things got more wiggy in Belgium. Art Nouveau came into being, with it’s striking geometric patterning owing no small debt Japanese aesthetics.

Geometric patterning in Gustav Klimpt art
Geometric Patterning in Kamisaka Sekka art

Art Nouveau, in turn, influenced the Deutsche Werkbund, a German arts-and-crafts movement, which in turn influenced architects such as Walter Gropius, a key leader of the Bauhaus movement. Gropius said of Japanese architecture:

“the restrained order of the standardized building parts appealed to me as the hallmark of a deeply rooted culture adaptable to any new development”

Europe, and in particular France’s, deep infatuation with Japanese culture goes back more than 150 years in the long tradition of Japonism.

Japanese bridge in painting of Claude Monet

Across the skyline of Europe, we can see that the spirit of Japonism lives on in the buildings and public institutions. Italy, France, Spain and Germany in particular have significant numbers of structures that have been designed by Japanese architects. Japanese construction is renowned for it’s attention detail, as can be seen in such smaller constructions as their intricate puzzle boxes.

In collaboration with BusinessGetaway, we’ve put together a list of 10 examples of amazing buildings in Europe designed by Japanese architects.

Spain

  • Barcelona

  • Palau Sant Jordi Olympic sporting arena – Arata isozaki, 1990

Looking perhaps like a structure out of a Star Wars city scape, this ancient-yet-space-age building is a 

 sporting arena built for the 1992 olympics. Weighty, and vaguely militaristic in appearance, is vaguely reminiscent of a samurai helmet or armour.
Palau_Sant_Jordi Arata isozaki
  • Torres de Toyo Ito & Torre Realia BCN – Toyo Ito

  • Clearly referencing eachother from a colour perspective, while differing dramatically in form, these two towers appear less as twins than as 2nd cousins hovering awkwardly at a family reunion. There is a grand vision behind the rubbery looking hotel and the stern looking office complex couple. According to interempress.net The towers “are a version of the two Venetian towers that frame the access to the historic grounds of the Fira of Barcelona’s Plaça Espanya”.

France

  • Paris

  • Unesco Meditation Space – Tadao Ando, 1991

  • In many ways this structure, Commissioned by UNESCO in celebration of their 50th anniversary, hovers on knife edge between tranquility and industrial-age terror. The structure includes granite previously contaminated by radiation in the atom bombing of Hiroshima. The kind of meditation you do here isn’t the “close your eyes and think of the ocean” variety.
Meditation Space Tadao Ando
  • La Defense – Kurokawa Kisho, 1992

  • Kurokawa’s La Defense building is a reference to a reference. Amongst other things, it is a nod to the Grande Arche de la Defense West of Paris. The Grande Arche is, in turn, a nod to perhaps the most famous arch of all, the Arc De Triomphe. But then, the Arc De Triomphe was based on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Being meta isn’t a new thing.
La Defence Kurokawa Kisho
Grande Arche de la Defense
Arc De Triomphe
Arch of Titus

And while we’re on arches, did you know that someone once flew a biplane through the Arc De Triomphe? And that it was shot on a newsreal, with people ambling about and cars going about their business in the foreground? This might be a good opportunity to catch up with the news:

  • Grand Ecran – Kenzo Tange, 1995

  • Perhaps most famous for designing the Peace park in Hiroshima, Kenzo Tange can also design cultural institutions with more light hearted purposes. A multi-use building, the main claim to fame for the building is it’s theatre, larger than a tennis court, which for long time was the biggest in Europe, and is the largest within Paris.
Grand Ecran - Kenzo Tange
  • La Seine Musicale- Shigeru Ban, 2017

This large squashed-egg shape music hall features a massive wall of solar panels that moves with the sun. It doesn’t get much more ambitious than that. 

The architects said “The form of the solar panel is inspired by a sail, so we can compare La Seine Musicale to a sailing ship.”

La Seine Shigeru Ban
  • Louvre Lens – SANAA, Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa

  • Creating a new Louvre is a tall ask. In tackling the problem, Kazuyo Sejima nad Ryue Nishizawa chose to keep a low profile. They created a series of low buildings that are almost entirely made of glass and materials that reflect back the local environment. It is a supreme attempt at creating an invisible building.
Lens Louvre

Italy

  • Milan

  • Allianz Towers – Arata Isozaki

The idea behind the Allianz Towers was, in the words of the architects “to develop the idea of ​​a skyscraper without a limit”.  To do this they used “a modular system that can be repeated in an infinite way with any limit”. Basically the idea is to have repeated patterns that make you think the structure could go on forever. 

But probably the most striking feature of the building is how thin it is compared to its height. In fact, the architects designed it so thin that they had to put reinforcing bars at the building’s base. Trying a bit too hard for the visual gimmick? You be the judge.

Allianz Towers Arata isozaki

Germany

  • Neuss

  • Langen Foundation – Tadao Ando, 2004

Marianne Langen liked Japanese art. Her collection was based around Japanese items, many of which her husband, Victor, had collected on his many business trips to the land of the rising sun. It makes sense that they chose Japanese artist Tadao Ando to design the building. 

Stylistically, the building has similarities to the Louvre building above, but with a much more solid core. It is more a construction of “double skins” than a reflection of its surroundings.

Another point of interest is that the gallery is built on the site of what was a NATO rocket base. That’s Make Art not War writ large.

Langen Foundation

List of buildings European buildings designed by Japanese Architects

Arranged by country for the top ten architects appearing in a Google search

CountryBuildingCityYearArchitect
AustraliaBond University Library / Humanities Building / Administration BuildingGold coast1989Arata Isozaki
ChinaShenzhen Cultural CenterShenzhen2007Arata Isozaki
ChinaChuo Art Academy MuseumBeijing2007Arata Isozaki
ChinaChina Wetland MuseumHangzhou2009Arata Isozaki
ChinaShanghai Sedai Himalayan Arts CenterShanghai2010Arata Isozaki
ChinaChina International Architecture and Art ExhibitionNanjing2011Arata Isozaki
ChinaShanghai Symphony Orchestra Concert HallShanghai2013Arata Isozaki
ChinaHarbin Concert HallHarbin2015Arata Isozaki
EgypNational Egyptian Museum Museum Exhibition ProjectCairo1986Arata Isozaki
GermanyBerlin Apartment HouseBerlin1986Arata Isozaki
GreeceMegalon Concert HallThessaloniki2010Arata Isozaki
ItalyTomb of Luigi NonoVenice1994Arata Isozaki
ItalyParasports OlimpicoTurin2005Arata Isozaki
ItalyCity Life Allianz TowerMilan2015Arata Isozaki
PolandKrakow Japanese Art CenterKrakov1994Arata Isozaki
QatarQatar National Convention CenterDoha2011Arata Isozaki
SpainPalau Sant JordiBarcelona1990Arata Isozaki
SpainA Coruña Museum of Human SciencesA Coruña1995Arata Isozaki
SpainParaforth Recreation FacilityParafors1996Arata Isozaki
SpainKaisha FolmeBarcelona2002Arata Isozaki
SpainIsozaki AtheaBilbao2008Arata Isozaki
United StatesHouserman showroomChicago1982Arata Isozaki
United StatesThe PalladiumNew York1985Arata Isozaki
United StatesBjorson House / StudioCalifornia1986Arata Isozaki
United StatesLos Angeles Museum of Contemporary ArtLos Angeles1986Arata Isozaki
United StatesTeam Disney BuildingFlorida1991Arata Isozaki
United StatesOhio 21st Century Science and Industry CenterOhio1999Arata Isozaki
United StatesObscure Horizon (Desert Bed)California2010Arata Isozaki
BrazilEmbassy of Japan in BrazilBrasilia1972Fumihiko Maki
CanadaIzmaili Imamat Memorial HallOntario2008Fumihiko Maki
CanadaAga Khan MuseumOntario2014Fumihiko Maki
ChinaShenzhen Maritime World Cultural Arts CenterShenzhen2017Fumihiko Maki
GermanyIsar Bureau ParkMunich1995Fumihiko Maki
GermanyMaki SolitaireDusseldorf2001Fumihiko Maki
IndiaPatna Vihar MuseumBihar2015Fumihiko Maki
MalaysiaKota Kinabalu Sports Complexmackerel1977Fumihiko Maki
NetherlandsFloating theaterGroningen1996Fumihiko Maki
PeruPeru Low-income low-rise housingLima1972Fumihiko Maki
SingaporeSingapore Science and Technology College CampusWoodland2007Fumihiko Maki
SingaporeSkyline @ Orchard BoulevardOrchard2015Fumihiko Maki
SingaporeSingapore Media CorpOne North2016Fumihiko Maki
SwitzerlandNovartis Campus Square 3Basel2009Fumihiko Maki
United StatesSt. Louis Washington University Steinberg
Hall
St. Louis, Missouri1960Fumihiko Maki
United StatesYerhabuena Park Visual Arts CenterSan Francisco1993Fumihiko Maki
United StatesYBG Arts CenterSan Francisco1994Fumihiko Maki
United StatesSt. Louis Washington University Sam Fock
scan Visual Arts Faculty
St. Louis, Missouri2007Fumihiko Maki
United StatesUniversity of Pennsylvania
Annenberg Public Policy Center
Pennsylvania2009Fumihiko Maki
United StatesMIT Media Lab New BuildingMassachusetts2009Fumihiko Maki
United StatesFour World Trade CenterNew York2013Fumihiko Maki
United States51 Astor PlaceNew York2013Fumihiko Maki
United States345 East Village PromenadeNew York2014Fumihiko Maki
FranceLouvre-LensLens2012Kazuyo Sejima
NetherlandsTheater and ArtscentreAlmere2007Kazuyo Sejima
United StatesGrace FarmsNew Canaan2015Kazuyo Sejima
Canada1550 AlberniVancouver2020Kengo Kuma
DenmarkHouse of Fairytales,Odense2020Kengo Kuma
FranceCité des Arts et de la CultureBesançon2013Kengo Kuma
FranceGrand Teklan ( Paris Italia Square)Paris1992Kenzo Tange
FranceNice National Museum of Oriental ArtNice1998Kenzo Tange
ItalyFiera District CenterBologna1985Kenzo Tange
ItalyBMW Italy headquarters buildingSan Donato Milanese1998Kenzo Tange
ItalyCentro DirezionaleNaples1982Kenzo Tange
KuwaitKuwait International AirportKuwait City1979Kenzo Tange
MexicoEmbassy of Japan in MexicoMexico City1976Kenzo Tange
PakistanSupreme Court of Pakistan BuildingIslamanad1993Kenzo Tange
Saudi ArabiaKing Faisal Foundation HeadquartersJeddah1982Kenzo Tange
Saudi ArabiaEmbassy of Japan in Saudi ArabiaRiad1985Kenzo Tange
Saudi ArabiaState Palace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Royal Palace of the KingdomJeddah1982Kenzo Tange
SingaporeGB BuildingSingapore1986Kenzo Tange
SingaporeCity Telecommunication CenterSingapore1986Kenzo Tange
SingaporeNanyang Technological UniversitySingapore1986Kenzo Tange
SingaporeSingapore Indoor StadiumCurran1989Kenzo Tange
SingaporeUOB PlazaSingapore1995Kenzo Tange
SingaporeUE SquareSingapore1996Kenzo Tange
SingaporeOUB Center BuildingSingapore1986Kenzo Tange
SyriaDamascus National Palace ( English version )Damascus1981Kenzo Tange
United StatesMinneapolis Art ComplexMinneapolis1974Kenzo Tange
United StatesAmerican Medical Association Headquarters BuildingChicago1990Kenzo Tange
ChinaBamboo Furniture HouseShifosi Village2014Shigeru Ban
FranceCentre Pompidou-Metz museumMetz Shigeru Ban
FranceLa Seine MusicaleIle Seguin Boulogne-Billancourt2017Shigeru Ban
GermanyJapanese PavilionHannover2000Shigeru Ban
New ZealandCardboard CathedralChristchurch2013Shigeru Ban
Sri LankaVilla VistaWeligama Shigeru Ban
TaiwanPaper DomeNantou1999Shigeru Ban
United StatesAspen Art MuseumAspen2014Shigeru Ban
AustriaBus StopKrumbach2014Sou Fujimoto
FranceL’Arbre BlancMontpellier2017Sou Fujimoto
HungaryForest of MusicBudapest2020Sou Fujimoto
ChinaAurora MuseumShanghai2013Tadao Ando
ChinaPearl Art MuseumShanghai2017Tadao Ando
FranceMeditation Space, UNESCOParis1995Tadao Ando
GermanyLangen FoundationNeuss2004Tadao Ando
GermanyVitra Seminar HouseWeil am Rhein1993Tadao Ando
HungaryInterior design of Miklós Ybl VillaBudapest2010Tadao Ando
ItalyFabrica (Benetton Communication Research Center)Villorba2000Tadao Ando
ItalyTeatro Armani-Armani World HeadquartersMilan2001Tadao Ando
ItalyInvisible HousePonzano Veneto2004Tadao Ando
MexicoGate of Creation, Universidad de MonterreyMonterrey2009Tadao Ando
MexicoCentro Roberto Garza Sada of Art Architecture and DesignMonterrey2012Tadao Ando
MexicoCasa WabiPuerto Escondido, Oax2014Tadao Ando
South KoreaGenius LociSeopjikoji2008Tadao Ando
South KoreaBonte MuseumSeogwipo2012Tadao Ando
South KoreaHansol Museum [38] (Museum SAN)Wonju2013Tadao Ando
South KoreaJCC (Jaeneung Culture Center)Seoul2015Tadao Ando
South KoreaGlass HouseSeopjikoji2008Tadao Ando
TaiwanAsia Museum of Modern ArtWufeng, Taichung2013Tadao Ando
United KingdomPiccadilly GardensManchester2003Tadao Ando
United StatesEychaner/Lee HouseChicago, Illinois1997Tadao Ando
United StatesPulitzer Arts FoundationSt. Louis, Missouri2001Tadao Ando
United StatesModern Art Museum of Fort WorthFort Worth, Texas2002Tadao Ando
United StatesMorimoto (restaurant)Chelsea Market, Manhattan2005Tadao Ando
United StatesStone Hill Center expansion for the Clark Art InstituteWilliamstown, Massachusetts2008Tadao Ando
United StatesHouse, stable, and mausoleum for fashion designer and film director Tom Ford’s Cerro Pelon Ranchnear Santa Fe, New Mexico2009Tadao Ando
United StatesVisitor, Exhibition and Conference Center, Clark Art InstituteWilliamstown, Massachusetts2014Tadao Ando
United States152 Elizabeth Street CondominiumsNew York, New York2018Tadao Ando
United StatesWrightwood 659Chicago2018Tadao Ando
AustraliaBlack TeahouseMelbourne2009
Terunobu Fujimori
AustriaStorkriding2012Terunobu Fujimori
GermanyWalking cafeMunich2012
Terunobu Fujimori
ItalyVenetian Biennial
10th International Architecture Exhibition Japan Pavilion
Venice2006
Terunobu Fujimori
TaiwanIrikawa Pavilion ・ Forgotten Tea BoatHsinchu County2010
Terunobu Fujimori
TaiwanLao Xuan XuanYilan County2013
Terunobu Fujimori
TaiwanWangbei Tea PavilionTaipei2014
Terunobu Fujimori
United KingdomBeatles houseLondon2010Terunobu Fujimori
BelgiumBruges pavilionBruges2002Toyo Ito
ChileWhite OMarbella2009Toyo Ito
ItalyHuge Wine GlassPescara2008Toyo Ito
MexicoInternational Museum of the BaroquePuebla2016Toyo Ito
SingaporeVivoCity 2006Toyo Ito
SpainTorre Realia BCN and Hotel Porta Fira,Barcelona2009Toyo Ito
SpainSuites Avenue BuildingBarcelona2009Toyo Ito
TaiwanWorld Games StadiumKaohsiung2008Toyo Ito
Taiwan
Koo Chen-Fu Memorial Library, College of Social Sciences, National Taiwan University
 2014Toyo Ito
Taiwan 2014Toyo Ito

About the Writer

I’m Peter Head. I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1). I lived in Japan for four years as a student and on working holiday.  I have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Meat for Taxes! The wonders of the Hometown Furusato Nozei system in Japan

Meat for Taxes In Japan

In Japan, they have a tax that effectively allows you to get meat and booze back from the government. The Furusato Nozei or Hometown Tax is a system that was set up to allow people living in the big cities such as Tokyo or Osaka to denote to their home towns in the country. Japan has a large drain of people moving from rural areas to the cities for work. In a country with a declining population, this has left many economies outside of the major centres in ruins and with problems such as “Yome Hideri” or “Bride Droughts”.

 

 

To try and rectify the problem, Japan has a system where they will let you assign 20% of your income tax to rural areas of your choice. This system is novel in and of itself. But the situation has evolved over the years, since its introduction in 2008. Local governments started providing incentives for you to allocate your tax dollars to their area. Incentives might take the form of a jar of locally produced pickled plums being delivered to your door. Or a ticket to the local hot spring. Or, quite literally, a pound of flesh in the form of a cold-pack of premium Wagyu beef. 

Using Your Taxes for Hot Springs In Japan

Some municipalities even started offering Amazon vouchers

This became a pretty good deal. You could pay $1000 dollars in tax, take $200 and assign it to a local town, who would give you a voucher for Amazon for say $100, which you could sell on a voucher trading platform online for say $90 cash.

Beer for taxes in Japan

Eventually, the Japanese government caught on that this was becoming a bit of a rort, so they introduced a limit to the value of rewards that local governments could give to 30 percent of the donated amount, and stipulated that the rewards must be locally produced products and services. That being said it’s still a pretty good deal. And how many countries are there around the world that will send you slabs of meat in the mail for paying your taxes?

Contributor

I’m Peter Head.  I lived in Japan for four years as a University student completing a Masters Degree in Musicology.  I have succesfully completed the  highest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N1).  have toured the country six times playing music and singing songs in Japanese and English.

Tenniscoats Korin in translation

 And musings on art, party tricks, volleyball, trains, rivers and nothingness in Japan

Korin Lyrics by Takashi Ueno. Translation by Peter Joseph Head

光輪

あぁもう ぜんぶやめたいな

ねぇいっしょに帰ろう

最終電車にのれば

もうもとに戻れない

すごい汚い川も

夜はきらきらしてる

ねぇ このままずっと

ねぇ時間がきても

あぁもう すべてはきっと

なんの価値もないんだよ

Halo

I, I wanna give it all up

Let’s, let’s go home together

If if we get on the last train

Then no-nothing will be the same

The dirty river

Sparkles in the night

Hey, hey let’s stay stay this way

Hey, hey no matter how times change

I’m sure, I’m sure that we can say

There’s no-nothing that matters anyway

The Party Tricks of Takashi Ueno

Takashi Ueno from Tenniscoats
Ueno-san demonstrating advanced Japanese T-Shirt wearing techniques to my son.

My children talk about Takashi Ueno, Halo songwriter, as the guy that breaks chopsticks in half and shoves them up his nose. Levered between his mouth and his nostrils, and combined with a too-much-biiru flushed red face, he makes a convincing demon. 

Here’s a few of the party tricks that I’ve seen Ueno do.

  • Peeling back his eyelids and flaring his nostrils to make a goblin face. 
  • Flicking a ten yen coin with the index finger to set it impossibly spinning.
  • Magically “bumping” said coin from one fist to the other.
  • Twisting a waribashi chopsticks in fists so that it goes from the top of the hands to the bottom without ever being released.

He’s got more than that, but that’s what I noted down in my Japan-travel diaries playing shows with Tenniscoats over the last few years. 

Art & Stunts 

These party tricks are called “Gei” 芸 in Japanese. You already know the word gei. It’s the first half of the word “geisha”. I first looked up gei in the metal-coloured, electronic dictionary brickette I carried proudly with me everywhere as a student, and Japan-newb, at the Kyoto City University of the Arts in the early 2000s. I got something like this:

  • 芸 【ゲイ】 art, craft, accomplishment, artistic skill, technique, performance

But don’t be fooled like I was. 

The Art of Volleyball

The Kyoto City University of the Arts Volleyball Club I had joined was organising it’s bi-yearly camp. I had been informed that I should prepare a gei for performance to the rest of the group. 

I knew how to play and sing a few things on the guitar. I had written some stuff. The logical thing seemed to be to play them one of my original, predominantly introspective, plaintive folk numbers. I tentatively pitched this to a couple of my club mates. They were upbeat, but suggested a couple of small tweaks to my act to make it more impactful and fit for purpose. The song would be better, apparently, if I performed it dressed in a Japanese school-girl uniform. I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but deferred to their native advice. 

My actual performance at the event has mercifully almost entirely been expunged from my memory. I do remember the penny-drop that I had completely misjudged the request that had been made of me for a display of “art”. I should have read on to the second listed dictionary meaning of gei, namely, trick or stunt.

Enkai

BEFORE: The traditional runway of an Enkai gathering
AFTER: Better bring a mop

Image: Josh Berglund from Richardson

My volleyball gei performance was part of the unique situation that is the Enkai. Enkai means party, but once again, beware the dictionary translation. An enkai has its own unique rhythms and mores. Most representatively, you’re in a large, spartanly furnished tatami mat room with several lines of shin-high tables stretching down it’s length, like raised lacquer runways. 

The pristine clean lines of the tatami edge brocade and the tables are punctuated by bubbling hot pots on propane gas burners, a boggling quantity of small plates, soup bowls, bottles of booze – the universal social lubricant. The group is soon busily engaged in a warmly ritualised dance of angled glass holding and “I’ll pour you, no, no let me you, no, no I’ll pour you”.

There is only so long a group of people can be in such close proximity, exhibiting such politeness on their knees, in such minimal environs before entertainment becomes a necessity. 

In the hallowed tea houses of high society Japan, I picture the geisha with her, shamisen, refined dance moves, or wistful season-referencing poetry. But that’s not what I’ve seen cross-legging it with the hoi polloi. The enkai-gei of my experience is more in the realm of the sung burp than the recited haiku. 

In my university volley-ball club camp context, I remember a group of students painted white, in singlets and underpants, with beer cans stuck to their crotches. The cans were hotted-up with tubes so that they could be squirted out like piss. They chose members of the audience to get on their knees and drink the quasi-urine. Delicate gaijin-flower me was shocked. 

Kyoto City Univeristy of Arts Volleyball Team Performing Gei in Japan
Kyoto City University of the Arts Volleyball Club Camp

Other than forced wee drinking, there were people with various oddball abilities, double jointed limbs and the like, cultivated who-knows-when, and offered up as fun-fodder for the group. This was not the realm of the reflective singer songwriter. Art ain’t Art. If you’re going to sing a song, it better be upbeat, zainy, a humorous spoof on a song people already know. Failing that, you are going to have to be a genuinely Edith Piaf-level singer to make the gei-grade. By any honest assessment, I met none of the requisite criteria.

Tenniscoats Takashi Ueno would, however, have been in his element. Not in his capacity as an astute observer of the human condition, keenly expressed in plaintive ballads such as Korin, but as a master of the bawdy, an enkai gei blackbelt. His moves utilise all the relevant props of the wafu beer hall; the toothpick and the chopstick, the napkin and the warm shibori hand wipe, the togarashi spice shaker, the 1000 yen note and the 10 yen piece. 

It’s hard to reconcile this side of Ueno with his artistic side. There’s the grandstanding, disheveled, mop-haired, folk strumming, guitar hero, half of Tenniscoats, alt-art-folk Ueno, and the light-your-fart Ueno. But, aw shucks, it’s a loveable duality.

Halo

Ueno & Saya from Tenniscoats in Hokkaido うえの さや テニスコーツ
Ueno & Saya at festival in Hokkaido. In korin the person delivering the message is not author Ueno, but Saya.

Contrast the above catalogue of skills with Halo. Halo is, I think, a plaintive, melancholy reminiscence on being, blending the achingly mundane & the human with the grandly, terrifyingly existential. It juxtaposes the everyday and the numinous. It contrasts an abject state of mind, and a flare of the heart, in an intensely personal, possibly romantic, moment of reaching out to another human. It’s about looking for mutual solace in a physical world. That’s not something you hear sung so often. I find it totally recognisable, real. 

Notes on the lyrics 

Here’s my line-by-line take on the song.

あぁもう ぜんぶやめたいな

I want to give it all up

けんたま/KENTAMA

That’s a heavy dump of a way to start. Right at the moment you’re trying to get the audience in. It’s unapologetically bleak.

Saya has said in an interview that she still doesn’t really understand the song that she sings. She suggests that maybe it’s easier to sing a song that way. No need to be embarrassed by your own personal revealings. Each phrase is its own artefact. It’s karaoke, where people skim over the heartbreak, the existential howl, and the unbreakable rock of humans sadness, as easily as they might skip a pebble across a lake. 

“I wanna give it all up” starts the listener at rock bottom. 

But it immediately gives a sliver of hope and a little drama in the next line;

いっしょに帰ろう

Let’s go home together

Well, now that’s something a little more saucy to go with the existential angst. Where are we going with this? 

最終電車にのればもう,もとに戻れない

If we get on the last train, then nothing will be the same

Isn’t that beautiful? Aren’t those decisions in life something? The ones where there’s no going back. The finality and fatalism of choice is often symbolised by rail in songs. Think Tom Waits’ “It’s a train took may away from here, but a train can’t bring me home”.

The last train looms large in Japanese culture, especially in the mega-cities of Tokyo and Osaka. Many people’s lives run to the tight schedule of the metropolitan train line. I once went to the opening ceremony for my son’s Japanese saturday-school in Melbourne, a hemisphere away from Japan. A Japanese consular official came to do a speech. Unexpectedly jovial, he related how as a school boy in Japan his teacher had made his class memorise every stop on the Yamanote line, the central circular loop of the inner tokyo area. 50 years later, he was able to stand before a crowd of children and parents on the other side of the earth, hold a picture of the rail network map above his head and recite every station with eyes closed. 

The mighty Yamanote line.

Image: Brancacube [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

The train timetable likewise governs the rhythms of musical events, partying and nightlife. If I had a 100 yen coin for every sprint I have taken through an underground train station complex, running through kilometres of corridors that feel like they are growing longer with each desperate stride in your effort to make it through the staut plastic hands of the entrance gate, down the steps, and through the sliding metal door of the unstoppable Last Train. This train will be around midnight, sometimes later, sometimes earlier, so the majority of Japanese merry-making happens pre the Cinderella hour. 

As a standard gig start time will be about 7pm, and usually a fairly punctual 7 as opposed to the loping, skulking, must-we-really-start-the-show of, say, a Melbourne pub. You may not have long to make that decision about whether you’re going to go home alone or with a companion. Maybe you will have to make the decision in a split second on a train platform, with the sound of the hissing air, the rumbling engine and the beeping door signalling time’s up. Ah, the mechanised, hurtling deadline of the city has no mercy.

“If we get on the last train” hints at the small moments and decisions we make that have huge effects on our lives. I think here also of the  Billy Bragg line, “The most important decisions in life are made by two people in bed”. Sometimes, the most important decisions in life happen between two people on the subway platform. 

すごい汚い川も夜はきらきらしてる

“The dirty river sparkles in the night”

There’s a dirty river flowing through your central business district. It could be the magnificent historic Kamo river in Kyoto, or the Yodo in Osaka, perhaps Sumida in Tokyo. But it’s there somewhere.

Sumida translates as Black Ink Rice Field. It doesn’t get much more murky than that.

Like the train lines of the modern age, the importance of the river in an earlier time can be seen in the pre-modern name of Japan’s capital, “Edo”, which means “River Door”. The modern name “Tokyo” reflects a more pragmatic sensibility meaning “Eastern capital”. But it could be any modern river in any modern city. As Paul Kelly says “Every fucking city feels the same”.The rivers are all dirty these days. And they all still shine in the night. Perhaps you’ve noticed your own city’s polluted tributaries twinkling in the city lights? There’s hope for us mucky sinners yet. It’s a message from above.

ねぇ このままずっと ねぇ時間がきても

“Hey, let’s stay this way. No matter how times change”

The word “Hey” doesn’t quite capture the familiar, softly feminine inflection of “Ne” in the Japanese original, especially as delivered by Tenniscoats’ Saya. “Ne” is more endearing, like a gentle hand touching your arm, beseeching. 

Who hasn’t felt the desire to hold on to a beautiful moment? To cast it in stone so that it can’t get worn away by time, the elements, the shifting ground and the changing of the seasons. This is a heartbreaking and universal. It is also an enduring mainstay, to the point of cliche, of Japanese aesthetics. 

The most famous symbol of the transitory is the fleeting beauty of the cherry blossom. The blossom season is the target of millions of tourists  to Japan from around the world. The irony of this is that the flower of any fruiting tree anywhere in the world is no less or more beautiful than the cherry blossoms of Japan. In a way, the real source of this tourist phenomenon is the Japanese appreciation of the Cherry blossom, rather than the blossom itself. Did you know they announce the percentage of flowers in blossom in different locations across the Japanese archipelago as part of the weather segment on the news? 

 “Hey let’s stay this way” is also made more poignant, I think, by the context of when & where the song was made. Halo first appears in recorded form on disk one of Tenniscoats’ 5 disk magnum opus “Music Exists”, track two. This set of music was recorded in the years after the 20th anniversary of the existence of Tenniscoats as a duo.  Around this time, they were also involved in intensively collaborating with different artists from around the world to make albums such as Yaki-Laki (2013) with Estonian folk artist Pastacas, and far left of centre albums with  Maquiladora 2015 and Jad-Fair & Norman Blake (2017). With “Music Exists” It seems as if they went to the opposite extreme; going inwards instead of playing with people from around the globe, tackling the extremes of genres from Eastern European trad music to Glaswegian power pop, improvising, responding to foreign inputs, giving, looking outwards. The Music Exists albums were recorded mostly just the two of Saya and Ueno in their home in the suburbs of Tokyo. The press release for the album plays up the at-home-ness of the recording style, highlighting the 10 tatami mat size of the room that it was recorded in, how Saya did the mixing herself, how they used analogue equipment, kept it simple. Music Exists is deeply personal, its Tenniscoats as a unit, partners in music, partners in life. 

I visited Tenniscoats house around the time they were making the Music Exists albums to record a song I had written with Saya on one of my annual Japan tours. The house certainly wasn’t glamorous, but it seemed homely, if fairly remote from downtown Tokyo city. I picture the two of them hunkering down and getting creative during this period, out in the burbs, amidst the little market garden plots and dirty concrete primary schools.  It must have been intense. Did they get cabin fever amidst the tatami and the XLR cables?

A year or so later, I was confused when Saya told me at a gig we played together at Kyoto’s Urbanguild, that she had gotten married since I had seen her last. But not to Ueno from Tenniscoats. Instead, to a young artist I hadn’t yet met from Osaka. 

I wonder if the creation of the five album music Exists contributed to the breakdown in Ueno and Saya’s non-musical relationship? This is speculation on my part, but it does add perhaps a certain poignancy to the lyrics of Halo.

But the kicker in the “Halo” comes at the end, and compared to what has come before, it is existential and totally impersonal, and presents no evidence for our perception of a wistful universe:

あぁもう すべてはきっとなんの価値もないんだよ

“I’m sure that we can say, there’s nothing of value anyway”

Not relationships, not love, not running for the last train, not nature’s beauty, not pollution, not the sparkling reflections of city lights.

Last Word

This is a real downer of a song to sing live. I can attest to that. I’ve sung this song, usually as a duet, many times with several different people. It works as a duet, I think, because I see it as essentially a love song with existential intentions. Two of the people I have sung this song with have felt the need to negate the last line of the song by saying something like “well, there could be value too”.

I can understand this need. I also feel the last line doesn’t necessarily have to be taken as nihilistic. If nothing has value, then everything has value. Existence is a glass half full, half empty. There is something of a buddhist/hindu world view of meaningful/meaninglessness. Yin & Yang, Ah and Un, Alpha & Omega, they’re all false dualisms. Outline and silhouette. Inseparable. Just vocab. Bill Callahan sings it best, “God is a word and argument ends there”. Some strains of buddhism also describe six levels of existence: God, Demon, Human, Animal, Hungry Ghost, Hell, as being representative of six states of mind. I definitely feel like I’ve felt a fair selection of them. On the more simple system of the judo-Christian heaven/hell duopoly, I wonder whether this is just another way of describing a half full half empty mindset. People often interpret an atheistic universe as an inescapable abyss of existential terror. Which it is. As well as an unending paradise of substance and wonder. Only a mind can choose between these two worlds at any given moment. Over and over again. For ever and ever. We live on an eternal life’s edge. 

It also tells us that chance plays a role, along with the mind. Indeed, perhaps the mind is only a result of chance. Heaven and Hell can be the difference between one minute before and after the last train departs.

Here’s Tenniscoats and I playing Korin 2018 at Iyoyaka Onsen:

This song was translated as part of the Songs In Translation project. There are some other videos of translated songs here on Youtube here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHryXPh2u0Su9_XjGM-3iNw?view_as=subscriber

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