Trash Picking For A Foreign Language!

Leave a comment

Japanese Rock

When I first decided to get into the Japanese music scene, it was with the intention of improving my language skills.  But I have to admit I was leery of the entire experience.  Actually I was frightened into a fettle-position like cowardice.  My first concern was that I wouldn’t understand a word anyone was saying.  Fair enough, I thought.  Secondly, and more importantly, I dreaded listening to anime song after anime song.  There is nothing wrong with anime.  In fact I love it and believe it is a beautiful art form with some of the most creative stories I have ever encountered.  However, to my Rock-Loving-Ears the majority of anime PV’s leave something to be desired.  This desire is rooted in the need for originality and the fear of boredom.  Too many anime songs sound like they were squeezed from a tube of preprocessed, flavorless, ready to eat, made-for-tv-music.  I’m always left wondering, “Where is the heart and soul?”  Although I love some PV’s, like Asian Kung Fu Generations title track for Fooly Cooly, I could not bet my sustained language engagement on a few outliers.  Luckily the Japanese Music scene has a taste for every sound and a sound for every taste.

Somehow, I don’t remember exactly, I came across this band with the strange name Thee Michelle Gun Elephant.  Thanks to these fellows my fears subsided and the rest is history.  I own two of their albums, Gear Blues (1998) and Rodeo Tandem Beat Specter (2001), which I still listen to on a regular basis.  When I researched the band I realized how lucky I was to have found them.  As prolific musicians each member has participated in a number of other projects.

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant







Yusuke Chiba

  • ROSSO (Vocals, Guitar and Songwriting on all releases)
  • The Birthday (Vocals, Guitars and Songwriting on all releases)
  • The Midwest Vikings (Vocals, Guitars and Songwriting under the alias ‘LACOSTE’)
  • Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (Vocals on one song on the album ‘Stompin’ On Down Beat Alley’)
  • Raven
  • Bugy Craxone
  • Midnight Bankrobbers

Kazuyuki Kuhara

Koji Ueno

Futoshi Abe

  • KOOLOGI (Guitar on first album)
  • Barebones
  • Strawberry Jean (Guitar – This was Futoshi Abe’s pre-TMGE band – their one album is sometimes available via Japanese online auctions)

Of all of these ROSSO is my favorite followed closely by The Birthday, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and The Midwest Vikings.  These prjects span the full spectrum of musical styles and genres.  Listening to these bands you will hear resemblances to the Dropkick Murphys, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, The Ramones, The Clash, James Thorogood, The Rolling Stones, and a host of other bands that are heavily blues influenced.  Despite their influences, these bands have a sound that is 100% their own.








In the way that Bruce Springsteen’s voice signifies an Americana sound, Yusuke Chiba’s vocals are a mysteriously rough, smokey, soulful, and powerfully passionate representation of Japan.  His voice, almost an ancient primordial echo of times past, seems to encapsulate the spirit of Nihon.  Perhaps this is why my favorite groups are the ones in which he is singing.  If you had to make a comparison to an American musician I would say that Yusuke Chiba is the Japanese Dave Grohl.  Everything they touch seems to turn into musical gold.








Rosso – シャロン  My personal favorite.

Rosso シャロン Lyrics

Rosso Playlist

The Birthday

The Birthday







Leave a comment

Disc Golf In Japan and Philly

I have a lot of interests.  I have interest ADD.  I’m cursed by wanting to consume and be involved in almost every single thing that humanity has been able to dream up or learn.  Except ribbon dancing, don’t ask, I had a bad experience once.  But other than that you name it and I’ll take a crack at it, or at least read a few articles and books about it.  I always cover the basses just in case my life ever depends on knowing the Latin origin of the word lucubration, or that the green tea in sushi shops is called 粉茶 (konacha- literally powdered tea), or that salt water crocodiles have a bite force of 3,700 psi.  You just never know, so I play it safe.  My newest interest, and I’m truly smitten, is Disc Golf.  For those who aren’t familiar with Disc Golf, “go Google it, what the hell do I look like.”  Sorry about that.  For those who aren’t familiar with Disc Golf I’ll give a brief explanation.



My brief explanation – “Its golf with a Frisbee instead of a ball and clubs, it is awesome.”


If you need a more proper explanation you can go here. (



Disc Golf in Philadelphia
My Awakening:

I was first introduced to the brilliance of Disc Golf on a sunny afternoon in early September.  My cousin and I have been going to Tyler State park for years and he always raved about this strange game called Disc Golf.  It wasn’t until this year that I got my first taste of the game.  Although at first it looks, sounds, and pretty much is a hippie-tree-hugging-granola-munching-activity, it’s as addicting and fun as “insert abusive substance.”  In actuality Disc Golf is for anyone who loves a challenging game and being in “The Great Out Doors.”  Depending on where you play you’ll experience a mix of woodsy forest and open fields.  Some places are simply normal golf courses re-purposed with Disc Golf holes.  However, in my opinion the best courses are those that utilize the parks natural elements to make a unique and challenging Disc Golf experience.

No matter where you play you’ll surely notice the price, or lack there of, of Disc Golf.  Most courses are free or take $1 donation.  Other than the original investment in a $10-$15 disc there are pretty much zero costs involved with the game.  Unless your like me and bring a schoolbag filled with a WaWa’s worth of snacks.  Yayy trail-mix, Yayy pumpkin seeds.

Currently I’ve only had a chance to play the 27 hole Tyler State Park Disc Golf Course. Luckily for those in the area this course is nationally recognized as one of the best in the country.(Directions below.)  For those closer to the city there is another course located in East Fairmount Park.  “The 27 hole Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course, established in 1977, is the second oldest disc golf course in the Country. It resides in East Fairmount Park at 33rd and Oxford Streets.  Doubles league are held every Thursday year-round. Sedgley Woods is open to the public and there are no fees.” (taken from Fairmount park website)


Disc Golf in Japan


So were does Japan come in?  Well anytime I get one of these new hobbies/interests I immediately see if it has an existence in good old Japan.  Thanks to the internet, it pretty much always does.  One reason I do this is it allows me to read, watch, and learn about this new interest in Japanese.  Always a plus when trying to improve the nonnative tongue.   Another reason is it’s a great way to meet people and build cultural connections through a shared interest.  As I’m fairly new to Disc Golf I haven’t had a chance to spread the love.  However, maybe this post will do the trick.


From my research I’ve found that these are some of the major courses in the Greater Tokyo area.  However, there are courses located through out Japan.(see links at end of post)


Showa Kinen Disc Golf Hole #2












In addition there is an international tournament held at Nasu Highlands, Tochigi called the Japan Open.


Some Videos of the Japan Open:




Innova Katana Disc

























Needless to say I’d like to play in the Japan Open but I think you have to be ranked and good at Disc Golf to be invited.  Having only played a handful of times I don’t think I’m going to make the cut.  But either way I can still enjoy the game and spread its awesomeness.  Plus now I have one more interest I can share with people from around the world.  Yayy ribbon dancing.! Woops did I say that out loud?  I meant Yayy Disc Golf!




Tyler Course

I-95 to Exit 49, take Rte. 332 West (Newtown Bypass). At 3.2 miles it becomes Rte. 413 North, 1.7 miles more to park entrance on left. Turn in, follow road to stop sign, go right, then 1st left into parking lot. Course in woods on left. 100 Swamp Rd.

Sedgley Woods

I-95 to Exit 49, take Rte. 332 West (Newtown Bypass). At 3.2 miles it becomes Rte. 413 North, 1.7 miles more to park entrance on left. Turn in, follow road to stop sign, go right, then 1st left into parking lot. Course in woods on left. 100 Swamp Rd.


Fairmount Info


Tyler State Park Info


Info on Japan Courses
Comprehensive List of Courses in Japan

Leave a comment

エガちゃん2:50 – Complete Idiot or Comic Genius?

Comedy is a strange thing.  It takes on many forms around the world.  It can be something as simple as a kick in the groin or as complex as an analogy that touches on socially taboo issues.  On the spectrum of world comedy I’m not so sure where the Japanese variety sits.  Unlike the chicken and that road, it seems the idea of “two guys walking into a bar” never crossed the Pacific.  Although present in Japan, the concept of stand-up comedy is far from mainstream.  Comedy in Japan is more of a performance based on physical humor and subtle cultural nuances.  Perhaps this is a derivative of the classic 能(Nou) and 歌舞伎(kabuki) styles of theater.  Maybe it’s just a matter of social differences and taste.  I hypothesize that the Japanese want an outrageous and silly escape from the realities of life.  However, many American audiences enjoy irony, cynicism, and a very brutal examination of the world we inhabit.  (These are very overarching umbrella concepts in order to frame the large and complex idea of geographical-comic-differences.)  In order to explore this idea of Japanese humor, lets do a Comic-Case-Study on one of my favorite comedians; エガちゃん。

What do you get when you combine tights, the conservative nature of Japanese society, and a skinny-middle-aged-mentally-ill-weirdo who has no qualms about showing his package to anyone and everyone?  Comic Genius? Idiocracy? Television Gold? Dead Brain Cells? Piss-your-pants-comedy? Insanity? Or plane old shock, awe, and disgust?  Well, maybe you get a little bit of all of that, which is actually exactly what I want.  エガちゃん, or Egashira 2:50 (江頭2:50 Egashira niji gojuppunn), is kind of like a mix between Gilbert Godfrey, Richard Simmons, Chevy Chase, and Steve-O.  Quite the potent cocktail of a human being huh?

How does one explain the success and popularity of エガちゃん?  Although it isn’t hard to see, at least in my opinion, why he’s likable, popularity in Japan is often ultra-fleeting.  “Here today gone tomorrow” is given an entirely different meaning.  However, despite the media saying he is crude and based only on shock value, he remains a popular character on mainstream tv.  So this begs the question – “Is he a complete idiot or a comic genius.”  In regards to this style of comedy I think you can be a complete idiot without being a comic genius, but I’m not so sure you can be a comic genius without being a complete idiot.  By Complete Idiot I mean; Stupid Ass.  And by Stupid Ass I mean; that rare and magical combination of physical presence and human energy which makes a person larger than life.  In that way エガちゃん is both a complete idiot and a comic genius.  Egashira san, like so many other performers, is one of a kind.  His brilliance lies in the fact that no one could do what he does.  The Ega chan formula can not be reproduced.  As a performance based comic he relies heavily on his body and physical image.  It’s that frail, feeble, and somewhat grotesque physical image that encapsulates much of his character and uniqueness.   You can say what you want of is comedy and methods, but there is no denying he’s one of a kind.

Comedians like this give a different window into the world of Japanese culture and human nature in general. These type of loud-mouthed-boisterous-loose-cannon-antics, are not at all what one would expect. Although through the years the peculiarities of Japanese TV and their inconsistency with the rest of the culture, has been noticed.

When first delving into the stylings of エガちゃん, you should be aware of certain themes and inevitable happenings.  As mentioned earlier he is keen on getting naked wherever and whenever possible.  Thankfully these antics are always blurred out so it’s really nothing more than a pg13 movie.  He usually tears his tights off and jokingly attacks the women around him.  It sounds much worse than it is.  (As a side note:  I find it interesting that Pee Wee Herman flashed some people and he goes to Jail.  エガちゃん does it and he’s given buckets of cash and the laughter and admiration of thousands of loyal fans.)   In addition to his nude shenanigans you will almost always see エガちゃん do his trade-mark ドン。This involves him sticking his arm down the front of his tights and thrusting his fist into the air while he screams ドン。 This ドン(don) refers to テポドン -Taepodon; Taep’o-dong; North Korean ballistic missile.  This is obviously an analogy alluding to… well I think you get the idea if I said he’s acting like there is a rocket in his pants.

A short mash-up of some great moments

These two videos are of エガちゃん doing characters which is more like traditional Stand-Up. Maybe???!!

エガちゃん YouTube playlist.

Just another piece of JP gomi. ドーン

Leave a comment

Ice Hockey In Japan: What the Puck?

It’s the end of August, which means it’s time to say “さよなら summer”.  Mother Nature, or in physics-nerd-talk the Earth’s Rotational Axis, says pack away your pool noodles, fold up your beach chairs, and pile in the last of those Ball Park Franks.  Baseball, bikini’s, and boardwalk snacks are coming to an end.  But hey, we had a good run right?  If we’ve learned anything from Monty Python it’s that “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.”  No, no, no, that’s not it.  It’s that we should “always look on the bright side of life.”  That’s more like it.

So whats the bright side of summer being over?  For starters, you can dust of all those hoodies, jeans, and track jackets that have been discarded in your closet like an island of misfit toys.  Another biggy is that bugs will disappear and the chemical-chloroform -dance of leaves and light will begin.  Is there anything better than walking under pastel colored leaves, the embers of a dieing fire, on a crisp autumn morning?  I can think of only one thing.  Ironing out that Couch-Cushion-A#*-Groove in preparation for the mother of all sports seasons.

For me this means Hockey.  That’s right football-junkies, I said slap-shot-stick-save-drop-your-gloves-Broadstreet-Bullies-backyard-knuckle-puck-pond-Hockey.  What’s that you say, the NHL might go on strike?  What the Puck!   Hmm… I should have thought about this before opening my big mouth.

Well now what do we do?

Don’t worry I have a plan-B.

This isn’t that idea about dressing up beavers in hockey equipment again is it?

No, I swear this will work.

It turns out there is an Ice Hockey League in Asia.  He shoots he scores!








The AL, short for Asia League Ice Hockey, is a decade old this year.  The league is composed of 7 teams from Korea, China, and Japan.   Four of the teams, the Ice Bucks, the Nippon Paper Cranes, the Oji Eagles, and the Free Blades, are located in Japan.

Although the AL could never replace the NHL or my love for the Flyers, these teams are an interesting and worthy stand-in.  As the Olympics illustrated, one of the best ways to bring different countries together is athletics.  The competitive spirit and fun derived from sports transcends linguistic and cultural boundaries.  For the most part the rules of a game change very little with location.  When I would ride my bike around the Olympic built, 駒沢公園, I’d see that the Japanese had adopted almost every world sport.  Some of the more surprising discoveries were Lacrosse, Rugby, and American Football.  However, as a life-long hockey player I was hoping to find some Japanese-Hanson-Brother-counter-parts.  Although the sport is still widely unknown, I think the AL represents a bright future for international collaboration and the sport of Hockey.  In reality, other than a few countries, Hockey has always been the underdog of the athletic world.  Perhaps we like it that way.

Map of team locations

To help spread the love I attached some interesting links to sites about hockey in Asia and Japan.

Asia League Ice Hockey main site.

Asia League Facebook Page

Japan Ice Hockey Federation

Japan Ice hockey Federation facebook page

Overview of Japanese Ice Hockey Arena’s.  location/pictures/history/details

5 rinks in Tokyo.  Google Maps the locations.  Many are closer to major stations than I thought.

Leave a comment

Nujabes spelled backwards is “Hip-Hop-Legend”.







The music of Nujabes, more than any other subject matter, exemplifies what this blog is about.  Now that you mention it, what is this blog about?  Anything or any thing?  I’ll be honest, I’m not trying to use this as some philosophical-psychoanalytical-character-study of myself or the world.  There are already plenty of poorly written blogs, books, and Harpo-Winbag-recommended-pieces-of-firewood-kindling that do that.  All I want to do is show people some cool stuff I think they may like, which they may not have found on their own.

And really; what’s cooler than a Nujabes Hip Hop beat?

A.  Nothing   X  A blog post on Nujabes Hip Hop beats.

B.  Nothing   X   Goku doing a kamehameha while wearing a Nujabes T-shirt

C.  Nothing   X   Goku doing a kamehamhea while wearing a Nujabes T-shirt while listening to the Nujabes Pandora station

D.  Nothing   X   Goku doing a kamehameha while wearing a Nujabes T-shirt while listening to the Nujabes Pandora station while doing a 360 flip over a 20 foot gap on a skateboard that has a Nujabes deck design.

E.  All of the above.

That was a trick question.  A Nujabes Hip Hop beat is like a parabolic equation that is always approaching infinity.  “There is none higher. He sets the microphone on fire.”

The reason his music exemplifies this blog is because of it’s incredible ability to bring together elements of different cultures.  Most people will probably recognize his music from, the similarly-ultra-cool, Samurai Champloo.  The anime, like Nujabe’s music, combines elements of art, storytelling, jazz, hip-hop, and both modern and ancient Japanese culture.

Samurai Gang Sign

As some may know Nujabes is simply Jun Seba spelled in reverse.  Jun Seba is the birth name of the incredible Hip-Hop legend that was born and raised in Tokyo Japan.  In addition to his prolific contributions to Samurai Champloo, Jun Seba was actively engaged with the Japanese and international underground Hip-Hop scene. He collaborated with artists such a Uyama Hiroto, Shingo2, Minmi, Cise Starr, Fat Jon, Terry Calier and Funky DL.  Sadly, and unfortunately for lovers of Hip-Hop,  Jun Seba died in a tragic car accident on February 27, 2010 at the age of 36.  His impact and influence on not only hip-hop, but also artistic expression in general, will forever be felt and remembered.

As a piano player I’ve come to love Nujabes for his signature incorporation of Jazz into his samples.  There is something about pianos, martial arts, and Hip-Hop that hits all the right places in my higher primate brain.  Wu-Tang certainly understood this well.  Below is the full album Nujabes- Modal Soul.  At just over 1 hour the album is a mind blowing masterpiece that takes a strange journey through dreamy-anthem-disco-Gil Scott Heron-like samples.  (There is some coarse language at times but over all it’s a very accessible album.  Fans of any type of music could easily be engaged and given a new-found love of Hip-Hop.)

00:00- 02:51 – Feather (feat. Cise Starr & Akin)
02:52 – 07:49 – Ordinary Joe (feat. Terry Callier)
07:50 – 11:54 – Reflection Eternal
11:55 – 17:24 – Luv (Part 3 featuring Shing02)
17:25 – 21:33 – Music is Mine
21:34 – 24:57 – Eclipse (feat. Substantial)
24:58 – 29:41 – The Sign (feat. Pase Rock)
29:42 – 33:46 – Thank You (feat. Apani B)
33:47 – 39:25 – World’s End Rhapsody
39:26 – 44:06 – Modal Soul (feat. Uyama Hiroto)
44:07 – 48:03 – Flowers
48:04 – 51:02 – Sea of Cloud
51:03 – 54:52 – Light on the Land
54:53 – Horizon

Below is a playlist of some of his top tracks.  I especially like the Spanish guitar sample on the 4th Track: Lady Brown (ft. Cise Starr).  I’ve had this on repeat for pretty much a week.  I’ve actually been using this to test a new way to study Japanese.  When I get bored of doing SRS repetitions I put on the instrumental beats and try to Rap the sentences over the mix.  (In the safety and privacy of my room with the lights off and the blinds down and the door locked of course.)   Something else I recommend doing is finding cool surfing or skateboard videos, mute them, and then play the Nujabes’ beats instead.


Hope everyone is inspired.  I love doing anything artistic to this music.  Writing Kanji becomes like meditation.  Just another piece of JPgomi.

Leave a comment

Street Fighter Meets Marketing Mascots(Fight!)

Question:  What happens when you take Ronald McDonald’s body and infuse it with the psychotic mentality of The Joker and the physically destructive capabilities of a Super Saiyan?

Answer:  Awesomeness happens, that’s what.

Did you ever wish you could play an awesome Street Fighter style video game with your favorite, or perhaps hated, marketing mascots?  I know I have.  What could be better than using these oh-so-nostalgic and beloved characters to kick the advertising S*#! out of each other. ( It’s like Christmas morning for a communist.)  Well thanks to METAJAN that wish has become a reality.  The art in this series depicts what would happen if these meek mascots were taken from the glitz and glam of commercials, billboards, and magazines, then thrown into basic combat training, only to be told they now must fight to the death.

Ronald “The Big Mac” McDonald and The “Greasy Bandit” Hamburgler are throwing down a tag-team “I’m-loving-it-smackdown”.  Meanwhile Colonel “The Kentucky Killer” Sanders is taking names and kickin A#%’s with his secret recipe of 11 finishing moves.

The Big Mac

The Big C

Out of all of the individual characters my favorite is still The Boss from Boss Coffee. I love Boss coffee and the mascot is… well he’s a “Boss”.  That piece of art currently resides as the desktop background of my computer.  And yes, every time I open my computer I do feel like a Boss.

The Boss (not Bruce Springsteen)

I’d love to hear from people on who there favorite characters are, what their ideal team would be, who they wish was in the game, or what match-ups would be the most fun to watch fight.

I’ve included a link to the original article and a link to the METAJAN site.  On the METAJAN site there are characters such as the LEGO figure that weren’t included in the article.

『ストリートファイター』にカーネルサンダースやドナルドやキティちゃんが登場!? 作者にお話を伺ってみたよ! | Pouch[ポーチ].


Leave a comment

It’s a Bar, It’s a Cafe, It’s a Art Studio, It’s… かねよ食堂

One aspect of Japan that I continually read and write about, are bars.  Sure I love beer and having a good time but that’s not what peaks my interest.  It’s the spaces themselves that I find so intriguing.  They are microcosms for the world and incubators for the human story.  Two strangers meet and their discussion juts out as another cilia like hair from the thread of time.  This could happen anywhere you say?  The bank, the library, and the super market are all just as likely places of human interaction.  But it’s the individuality and character of bars in Japan that make them soberingly ideal places for the story of life to unfold.

Like on a boat, everything in Japan seems to serve more than one purpose.  What you thought was a desk is now a bed.  The chair you were just sitting on is now a table.   The bars, if we can even call them bars, are no exception.  Often in masterfully imaginative and creative ways the bars somehow manage to make one facility serve several purposes.  At any given time you can order a beer, or lunch, or coffee, all while being culturally enriched by art and live music.  The combination of beverages, art, and music is no new concept.  However, the dedication to quality, and the manner in which they seamlessly integrate all of these elements, makes the Japanese bars unique.  One of these multipurpose-cultural-kaleidoscopes is かねよ食堂。 (Literally “multipurpose dining room”)










This place is my heaven. It’s a Hemingway like haven by the sea. I envision myself under a slow moving fan, while warm breezes saunter through bringing the songs and sounds of the Pacific.  My glass of quinine sunshine perspires, as do I.  Beads of moisture running in zig-zag paths carry away heat and any inkling of worry.  Pen in hand, I labor over the blank pages of my notebook.  It’s the easy self-involved day-dreaming-labor of a child building a sand castle.  I write by dictation, the environment speaks and I transcribe.  My cigar sits in the tray and sputters smoke signals to the dreamers of the world.  “Awake!” it says.  “The sun has risen, there is life to be lived and stories to be told.”  Across the room the band begins their set.  The guitars paint the last strokes of my impressionist piece, “Eden by Afternoon.”  Everything good comes in waves.  Water, sound, light, emotions, and creative cognition flow forward in dynamic shifts of troughs and crests.  The universe, in all its complexity, seems to have things figured out.

かねよ食堂 is rustic yet refined.  The entire structure looks like a collection of driftwood that washed up on shore.  It’s a bungalow, a cabana, an oasis, and a true pearl.  The woodwork and well thought out lighting give it the feel of a childhood fort.  There is an inescapable wonder and timelessness in the weather worn floor boards of this shanty shack surf den.  It brings together everything I, and I think everyone, loves in life.  When there is music, people, food, art, and the ocean, you must ask yourself, “If this isn’t nice what is?”

I use places like this to learn geographical names and words that may not regularly appear in my Japanese vocabulary.

You can see it’s south of Tokyo and Yokohama

This is a link to the Google Image search for the bar.  Lots of great pictures which lead to lots of great Japanese websites to do some reading practice.


This is a link to the bars blog.  Lots of cool events and useful things to read about.


This is a link to a popular Japanese foodzie site called 食べログ, it’s the page on かねよ食堂。


This is another blog that has some nice pictures and Japanese discussions about かねよ。

Another Blog

Just another piece of JP gomi.