Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

…er, as I was saying… 3 June, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 1:50 pm
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There are millions of blogs out there on the Wonderful World Wide Web; every day a few thousand of them presumably just quietly fade away so you couldn’t be blamed for thinking the same thing had happened to this one. Not so much laziness, or lack of things I wanted to mention, but the fact that every time I switched on the computer there seemed to be something else I wanted to do first, and in a flash it was time to switch off and do some work in the so-called Real World. Anyway, what’s happened in the two months since the last posting?

  • Spring arrived! It always seems to take you by surprise, but comes as if someone had turned a switch and suddenly, starting with the justly famous Japanese cherry blossom, there are flowers everywhere. Our country place, on a sunny April afternoon, can be like a corner of paradise.
  • I upgraded my computer’s operating system – Ubuntu Linux if you’re interested. Still an ongoing process – this isn’t a Linux Blog and I won’t bore you with the details – but the Perfect Computer is one of those never-attained goals I suppose. Still, anyone who feels like escaping from Microsoft and would like to try Linux, Ubuntu’s not a bad place to start.
  • The band went to Osaka to play at the Haru Ichi Ban festival again. This is a really nice friendly event and apart from the rain that hit the last two days (not us, luckily) everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were maybe fewer big names than last year ( except Daihachi Ryodan of course ) – actually this seems to be something of a Kansai event; Tokyo people know nothing about it…

Well, a bit of a catchup. The next post will be sooner – promise!


Osaka revisited 8 October, 2008

Filed under: music,places — johnraff @ 2:11 am
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Last week we went back to Osaka for another Daihachi Ryodan gig. The last time was the Haru Ichiban festival in a beautiful Spring park, but this one was at a funky place called Rain Dogs in the Umeda “entertainment district” – a zone of cheap eating and drinking places, interspersed with various disreputable-looking establishments offering some kind of “service”… Very much an Asian city scene packed with neon signs, strolling customers, hustlers,sounds, smells… and much bigger than any equivalent in Nagoya. Osaka is big – with 6 million people, and then Kobe and Kyoto close by, this is an urban conglomeration to rival Tokyo/Yokohama.The Osaka expressway is quite something – this maze of overhead highways snakes to and fro between high-rise buildings just like something out of the comics that were around when I was a kid. The difference between that view of the future and the reality it’s turned out to be is that the people in those pictures looked happy and relaxed as their futuristic vehicles flew here and there – now everyone’s late for a meeting or something and stressed out. Why do we have to spend so much of our time going from one place to another these days?

Topping the bill at Rain Dogs was Noboru Abe and the Magic Animals  (I wish I’d thought of that name!) who were really good, in an odd sort of way. No spectacular solos or anything, but an original groove and interesting vocals. One of those bands that creates their own world. I suppose they’re a sort of cult band – they don’t even have a web page. Abe san is a dai sempai who in 1998 was hanging out with Mickey Hart when I was just starting College, and one of the moving spirits behind the Haruichiban festival.

Kansai (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and district) is kindof cool these days and you can hear kansai ben on NHK where before it was all standard Japanese, a bit like the increase in regional English on the BBC. Osaka is sometimes compared with Birmingham in the UK, but the people remind me more of Londoners – quick talkers, great sense of humour (Osaka’s the centre of manzai ), on the lookout for a quick profit but friendly and kind. They make good audiences too, and Daihachi’s performance went over quite well I think. A nice outing.


Haru Ichi Ban! 7 May, 2008

Filed under: music — johnraff @ 5:16 am
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I got back from the Haru Ichiban Festival in Osaka delirious with enthusiasm – and fired up to finally get this blog off the ground. We in Daihachi Ryodan were already pretty psyched up as it was maybe our most major appearance since the “No Olympics” concert in Nagoya all those years ago.

Anyway from the time I arrived on Sunday afternoon it was magic. All the music was so nice, there were no ego trips on display and everyone seemed to be one big family – I was taken back to a Grateful Dead concert in the Europe 72 tour. Probably responsible for a lot of that was the impeccable organization – things worked perfectly, the sound system was excellent, the schedule went on time and everything seemed arranged so that there would be no pressure on the musicians, who responded with some great performances. I have to respect the huge team of volunteers who have obviously got it down to a fine art over the years they’ve been putting this festival on.

I certainly hope we get to play again next year, and recommend Haru Ichi Ban to anyone within range of Osaka around Golden Week. It’s pretty much a Japanese scene, i only saw a couple of other foreigners, so if you don’t read the language you might ask a Japanese friend to help you figure out the data.
It’s worth it!


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