Archive | April, 2009

The Oasis – Japan relationship….

23 Apr

British Rock kings Oasis have always been held in high regard with the Japanese fans – it’s a relationship which has never really been analysed – until now. I am a fan of both subjects, so thought I would post my thoughts ! Why do the Japanese love Oasis ? Great songs ? Absolutely. Great musicians ? Definitely. But it goes further than that. The fascination with western pop and rock music dates back to the 50’s. The Beatles, Stones, Bob Dylan etc have all enjoyed immense popularity in Japan. For some artists, the popularity is fleeting, whilst others (particularly artists like John Lennon) remain consistently appealing to new generations of fans. Oasis are the same. When the boys first played the clubs in 1994 it was pure chaos, with wild scenes not witnessed since rabid Beatlemania circa 64. The band was followed constantly and if you’ve seen some of the images of the fans crowding the bullet trains which the band was on, you’ll know what I mean. Since then, Oasis pretty much conquered the planet, with subsequent tours of Japan almost always sold-out. Liam and Noel are constantly gracing magazine covers like In-Rock, or Cross Beat – even when they are not actually touring Japan. Most recently, the video clip for Acquiesce was of a distinctly Japanese flavour – i.e. the young guy who digs karaoke and sings Liam-style. I for one thought this video clip was superb ! I recently followed the band on the 2009 shows and had a blast. Whether it was meeting up with fans outside venues or on trains – it was a memorable experience to treasure. When I arrived in Nagoya I went to the Tourist shop and the attendant asked ‘Are you here for Oasis? ! Then when I get to my hotel and flick on the TV – bam! – it was Oasis live – (Wembley 10/08) ! How cool is that ! Merch stands in Japan are usually an orderly affair where fans queue up politely to purchase tour items. Often, you will find bootleg merch stands outside venues whish sell an assortment of Oasis related items (see image above). I purchased a bootleg shirt which – at 2500 yen – was cheaper than the official shirt and a much cooler design (I am not condoning this activity as the band miss out on profits – but in saying that, I reckon it’s been ages since Oasis have printed a really cool tour shirt !). Often, in the bigger cities like Tokyo and Osaka, they will have an Oasis themed night to co-incide with the tour – so look out for that. The Japanese love and will continue to love Oasis – even when the band decide to call it quits. It is as simple as that. If you are an Oasis fan and you want to experience the band in a totally unique place where they are adored – save your money for the next Japan tour !

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Bicycles in Japan

8 Apr

Sea of cycles at Nagoya eki

 

Japan, like most Asian countries thrives on the bicycle as a means of transport. A large part of the population use the two-wheel method to get to and from the train station, to school or the office, or to buy groceries. Personally, I fell into the first category and would race to the station, park the bike (not always locking it – I paid the price for that eventually when it was swiped) – then sprint for the fast approaching train. If you ever want to witness a unique spectacle, take a look at the parked bicycles at some of the bigger train stations in Japan. There is a sea of bicycles which seems to go on forever and ever – some have been parked for an eternity – a tangled web of spokes, forks, chrome and rubber. Many of the standard replacement parts can be found at your local 100 yen shop as well – those plastic seat covers are damn handy during the typhoon season let me tell ya. For you budding students, the nihongo no tango is ‘jitensha’. The accompanying photo was taken at Nagoya Station.

Sapporo TV Tower

8 Apr

12:22 ! I'm gonna miss that train !

Forget the Eiffel or Tokyo Towers, in my opinion, this tower overshadows (pardon the pun) both of them. Constructed back in 1957, the Sapporo TV Tower is an iconic structure which is a must-see when you visit the Hokkaido capital. Located on the ground of Odori Park – which is a leisurely 15 minute walk from Sapporo Station – the tower is open to tourists who can access the observation deck. The first time I saw the tower it was lit up on a chilly Saturday night with sleet and snow in abundance – and looked awesome. Which is one reason why I prefer it over the other two aforementioned towers. But hey, don’t take my word for it – head to Sapporo and see for yourself. Official Sapporo TV Tower Website



Japan Travel – Hachinohe to Hakodate to Sapporo

7 Apr

Why it’s taken me so many years to travel up to Hokkaido I do not know. Why it took a rock band (Oasis) to get me up there is something else to ponder entirely, however, now that I’ve visited, I will definitely be heading back there ! Getting there via the JR Pass was simple. I left Tokyo Station on a bullet train around 7 in the morning, bound for Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture. From there I changed trains bound for Hakodate in Hokkaido (Funnily enough on the day I travelled (Saturday) there was an issue with the trains and another change over was included at Aomori Station. Hakodate looked very interesting (it was damn freezing when I exited the Station) with a tram system to get around town. Mount Hakodate will also be on my list of places to visit as well. The scenery north of Sendai starts to change as you rocket along – and it is stunning. The train journey from Hakodate to Sapporo is one of the most scenic stretches of railway on the planet and much like other. Go visit.

Japan Travel Tip – Konbini Store Chicken

7 Apr

I gotta confess, I’m a fan of the late night convenience (konbini) store meal – and unlike other countries (where the best on offer is a stale hot dog, frozen meat pie and slurpee), the Japanese have this scenario well and truly sorted. They are as good as a restaurant with a wide variety of tasty meals on offer. For mine, you can’t go past the fried chicken pieces. Try Family Mart or Sankus as they are the tastiest and quite inexpensive. Damn tasty – and once again, something to look out for on your visit to Japan.

Japan – Where Sid Vicious Still Lives !

7 Apr

Which way to CBGB's ?

 

The Japanese love people like Audrey Hepburn, Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters and Sid Vicious. I kid you not – Sid’s image can be seen in any number of shops via posters and magazines. Now I probably only notice these things as I have a background in rock music, but I still think it’s worthy of a post. Sid couldn’t play, that’s well documented. So it’s only the image he portrayed which they like. The fact that he’s been dead for thirty years is what gets me ! Sure, teenage kids in any country nowadays can be seen in a Sid t-shirt, but only in Japan have I seen the posters and magazines constantly being produced which pay homage to him. Just adding to that, I remember seeing clothing at a general department store containing the CBGB’s logo – the commercialisation of punk rock is now complete.

Ramune

7 Apr

Also known as ramenade, Ramune is a popular soft drink (soda) in Japan – which is sometimes known as ‘the marble drink’ – as the drink is sealed with a marble inside. The marble is held in place by the carbon pressure and when a device at the top is banged, the marble is released to a compartment at the top of the bottle. It remains there as the drink is consumed – making a rattling sound. Popular in summer, though available all-year round, the most common flavour is lemon-lime (similar to Sprite), but also comes in pineapple, raspberry, melon, orange and others. A unique and distinctly Japanese item which would make a great souvenir to take back to your family and friends.