Japan Foundation Free Talk – Anisong The Musical World of Anime on January 18th

Following on from last month’s Japanese avant-garde music talk with Koichi Makigami, The Japan Foundation in London has lined up another great free talk involving music and Japan only this time it’s the World of Anisong, which is probably something easier to get into but no less interesting. It’s a free event and it takes place at Foyles Bookshop on January 18th at 6:45pm. There will be an actual singer/seiyuu at the event, a certain Aya Ikeda (My Anime List profile) who I’ve never heard of since she’s involved with the girl’s anime Precure!

Here’s a video of Aya Ikeda in action:

This event is free! So if you have the time and you like Japanese culture, this is a must-attend, as far as I am concerned.

Here’s more information from the organisers:

Continue reading “Japan Foundation Free Talk – Anisong The Musical World of Anime on January 18th”

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Genkina hito at the Tokyo Game Show 2016

I arrived in Japan on September 10th and while I had a few things I knew I wanted to do such as visiting specific museums I didn’t plan things out in too much detail and forgot about certain events such as the Tokyo Game Show (TGS). It wasn’t until a friend mentioned going to it on the final day that I realised that I was about to miss a weekend extravaganza of games.

Genkina hito in Japan Tokyo Game Show

TGS is the second biggest video game event in the world after E3 and it’s the chance for the Japanese video game industry to showcase what it can do. The majority of the event is for journalists only but on the final weekend the public get to experience the games on the show floor. The part of this year’s TGS that was open to the public ran from September 17th to the 18th and, as in previous years, took place in the Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture which is less than an hour away from Tokyo. Since I was based in Ikebukuro I had to catch a Yamanote Line train to get to Tokyo Station and then a Keiyo Line train to get to the Kaihin-Makuhari Station from where I could get to the convention hall. This was my first trip to Tokyo Station so I was unprepared for how huge it was but that wasn’t much of a problem due to the signs that were in Japanese and English and the logical layout of the station itself. The train ride was a short trip made slightly longer by the fact I missed my stop and had to double-back. I knew I was on the right train due to the high number of Westerners, otaku, and video gamers but totally didn’t register when they got out at the right station…

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Genkina hito in Akihabara

Akihabara – this is a long and rambling post so feel free to just look at the pictures. If you’re feeling brave you can listen to this music while you read:

Akihabara (Electric Town as it’s also known) is billed as the electronics and nerd-culture centre of Japan. If you like anime, manga, computers, video games, cameras or any other types of electronic and otaku goods then this is the area that you need to visit. I have been aware of it since at least my high school years when I heard of its legendary collection of video game and anime goods. I had pictured a densely packed warren of streets containing arcade dens full of herds of video game nerds clustered around classic beat-em-up game cabinets while anime fans pored through second-hand book stores and cute guys and gals cosplayed colourful anime characters and the scene was complete with the neon glow and anime music cast out by ads on video screens. I imagined myself pushing my way through aisles of goods crowded with other fanboys and fangirls, making my way to holy grails of videogamedom. Even as an adult with less interest in games and anime I still held onto that dream and made it a point to visit it during my first week.

Akihabara wasn’t like I imagined it.

Genkina hito in Japan

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Genkina hito in Japan

Regular readers might know that I set up this blog to review Japanese films and track my journey to Japan. Nearly six years after starting out I have made it to Japan. I am on a working holiday and have been in the country since September 10th but I haven’t had the chance or motivation to write anything. Instead, I have been out and about exploring places, trying things out, eating new food, and making friends. I have travelled from Osaka to Tokyo to Yokohama to other places in Kanagawa and Gunma. I am only just getting started since I have around ten months left in my working holiday. I timed my working holiday to take in as many film festivals as I possibly could. The first film festival I went to was the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF).

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The Tokyo International Film Festival was pretty awesome. I was there for four days and three films. It takes place in the rather upmarket area of Roppongi and the films I watched were in two locations – Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills and Ex Theater Roppongi. Both cinemas are earthquake-proof (as was constantly announced before film screenings) and look really cool – space-age structures of glass and steel and cool lighting.

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Japanese Author Mitsuyo Kakuta (Rebirth, Pale Moon) in London on October 26th

Ah, being in Japan means I get to miss so many cool Japan-related events in the UK such as this talk with the writer Mitsuyo Kakuta that will take place in London. She is a name that film fans may know of thanks to the adaptations of her works Pale Moon and Rebirth. She is a highly respected author who is visiting London on October 26th for a talk hosted by the Japan Foundation which sent an email out to alert anybody interested about the event. I’m in Tokyo right now but I know a few people who will be interested. Here are the posters for the film adaptations and the details of the talk:

Continue reading “Japanese Author Mitsuyo Kakuta (Rebirth, Pale Moon) in London on October 26th”

March 11th – A Year On: Charity Events

It is a year on since the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami which claimed 20,000 lives and caused the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant to go into meltdown. Japan is recovering but slowly. Unfortunately over 300,000 people are without homes and communities are in disarray with ghost towns replacing once lively cities. Many news organisations are reporting the anniversary with the BBC and Guardian providing pictures that show what the disaster hit areas look like now. the BBC is also providing coverage of memorial events in Japan.

As a blogger that focusses on Japanese films a lot I want to play a part in aiding in the reconstruction and making people aware of events around the UK. You can donate money to the UK Japan Foundation’s fundraiser or check out the Japanese embassy website for anything that might be happening near you – most of these are in London.

13 Assassins 十三人の刺客 (2010)

13 Assassins   13 Assassins Film Poster

Japanese: 十三人の刺客

Romaji: Juusan-nin no shikaku / 13nin no Shikaku

Release Date: September 25th, 2010 (Japan)

Running Time: 141 mins.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Daisuke Tengan, Kaneo Ikegami (Screenplay),

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya, Sousuke Takaoka, Hiroki Matsukata, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ikki Sawamura, Arata Furuta, Seiji Rokkaku, Kazuki Namioka, koen Kondo, Yuma Ishigaki, Ken Mitsuishi, Goro Inagaki, Masataka Kubota, Mitsuki Tanimura, Takumi Saito, Kazue Fukiishi

It is only May but I have witnessed the best film of 2011 and it is 13 Assassins. The following review will contain nothing but fulsome praise for Takashi Miike’s film so brace yourselves…

1844, Japan. In the last decades of the Shogun and before the reforms of the Meiji era there is a moment of fragile peace. Unfortunately this peace will be shattered with the promotion of the Shogun’s half-brother, the depraved and psychopathic Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki Goro) who uses his status to commit acts of depravity and evil against the people of Japan. In an effort to preserve order, high ranking official Sir Doi calls upon noble samurai Shinzaemon Shimada (Yakusho Koji) to carry out an assassination. Waiting for Naritsugu to leave Edo with his personal army, Shinzaemon recruits twelve others to carry out a daring ambush in a remote village.

The 13 Assassins Assembled Continue reading “13 Assassins 十三人の刺客 (2010)”

Norwegian Wood ノルウェイの森 (2010)

Norwegian Wood  Norwegian Wood Japanese Film Poster

Japanese: ノルウェイの森

Romaji: Noruwei no Mori

Release Date: December 11th, 2010 (Japan)

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Anh Hung Tran

Writer: Anh Hung Tran (Screenplay), Haruki Murakami (Original Novel)

Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi, Kiko Mizuhara, Tetsuji Tamayama, Kengo Kora, Reika Kirishima, Eriko Hatsune,

This review has taken me a long time to write because my reaction to the film was indifference despite the fact I liked the book. I went back to read it to see what the film lacked. It wasn’t the acting or direction but the fact that the adaptation (heroic and beautiful as it is) doesn’t capture the detail and depth that goes along hipness, grace and magic of Haruki Murakami’s prose.

1960’s Japan, a young student named Toru Watanabe (Matsuyama Ken’Ichi) reminisces about his childhood spent with best friend Kizuki (Kora Kengo) and Kizuki’s girlfriend, Naoko (Kikuchi Rinko). After the suicide of Kizuki, he leaves his hometown to attend a university in Tokyo which is in the grip of radical student politics. A chance encounter with Naoko leads to a brief fling but awakens deep feelings especially after her disappearance to a sanatorium. Whilst waiting for her to contact him, Watanabe finds himself adrift in a Tokyo full of interesting characters and relationships that will haunt and define him. This includes Midori (Mizuhara Kiko), a beautiful and vivacious student, a girl who he is attracted to despite strong feelings for Naoko who contacts him again which sets in the motion soul searching that Watanabe needs to get over the death of Kizuki.

It has been well documented that Murakami considered the novel un-filmable. It is easy to see why because adapting a 380+ page novel told in the first person requires a lot of imagination and skill to capture the voice, events and psychology of the narrator.

When it was announced that the director was Tran Anh Hung I was excited because his Vietnam-set films were beautiful, graceful and mesmerising (I taped Cyclo and The Height of Summer off BBC Four in the early 2000’s and re-watched them for weeks). On the one hand, his skill and vision makes this adaptation faithful to the book and very beautiful to look at but there is so much included yet so much left out that the atmosphere of the film never really grabbed me.

It shows the limitation of the medium of film. The novel’s first person narration builds up a unique sense of details and character that give a rich tapestry of life in 1960’s Tokyo and the people in Watanabe’s life. Even though the film is over two hours long, the film hacks away a lot of detail in favour of brief voice-overs and imagery that didn’t quite grip me. I was watching the film wondering why I should care about Storm Trooper when he appears in three scenes, has a few lines of dialogue and disappears. He is a poignant character in the book despite being minor. In the film he’s just minor.

Perhaps it was inevitable considering the number of characters but that doesn’t stop the actors giving it their all. There are many long takes with weaving conversations and Matsuyama Ken’Ichi proves a great lead but it is Kikuchi Rinko who deserves most praise. She captures the febrile nature of her character, displaying a fragility that masks anger, hatred and uncertainty. She was just as I imagined Naoko and the most powerful thing in the film. The other actors are just as good but Kikuchi Rinko acts up a storm.

The direction is also good as the mise-en-scene is superb. The arrangement of visuals and sound are excellent, bringing many moments from the book to life – there are many beautiful extreme long shots and pans of Japanese landscapes that show the strengths of cinema. One scene that was magical for me was the rooftop conversation between Toru and Midori, different from the book but spectacular to look at. So successful were the actors and the direction, I decided to just luxuriate in the images, certain that I would like to spend more time in the world the film created.

In fact, I felt that if this had been a television series allowing the script to breathe and the characters to grow, this would have been a classic. Despite the problems in the abbreviated adaptation of the novel this film is one of flawless beauty – well shot, well acted scenes – beautiful cinematography. I found much pleasure in just looking at the images but the story deserved similar treatment.

Shōwa no Hi

Today is Shōwa Day (Shōwa no hi) in Japan and it was originally an annual holiday to honour the birthday of the Shōwa Emperor Hirohito during the period of 1926 to 1989.

After his death in 1989, it was renamed Greenery Day but Shōwa Day was re-established to remember the many things that happened during the reign of Hirohito and the efforts of the Japanese people made build Japan into the world power that it is now.

White Day in Japan

Today is White Day in Japan. After the disaster I doubt anybody is thinking much about chocolate but hopefully Japan can recover quickly.

To aid in the rebuilding effort, you can donate to the red cross here.

  

The 14th of February was Valentine’s Day which was a day for women to buy men chocolate (scandalous). Well the 14th of March is White Day and is considered a day that men are supposed to return favours received from women on Valentine’s Day. It is believed to have been introduced by a marshmallow manufacturing company in the 1960’s hence the name but men tend to buy other sorts of gifts, not just marshmallows.

 

Here’s a video which explains it.