Trash Picking For A Foreign Language!

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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







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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.

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Summer Japanese Jam-sesh (DOPENESS×BOSE×QN)







As a musician I’ve been there.  The beers flowing, a warm breeze rolls through like a blanket over a sleeping child, and all is right with the world.  Everything clicks, connects, and the senses mingle releasing one’s thoughts from past and future.  That moment and that night, the next note wrong or right, are all that matter.  People join in as new friends of the song.  Everyone’s banging or tapping something regardless of if they can play.  The rhythms right and the Jam-sesh is on.

For me this Jam-session video is the epitome of that end of summer vibe.  I know the summer isn’t over yet but a Friday in august gives me that feel.  I did some research on the place where this video takes place.  It’s pretty much my heaven.  It is so epic that it requires its own post which I intend to do ASAP.  I actually need time to consider whether or not I should reveal this precious gem’s location.  I don’t want my heavenly paradise crowded up with tourists now do I.  Hmmm… on second thought I’d be a tourist as well.  But then again I could always call the universal law of “Finders Keepers.”  I’m in a good mood though so lets see what happens.

The video features, as the title illustrates, Dopeness, Bose, and QN.  I’ve dabbled with a bunch of their stuff and find most of it to have a killer style.  However, I’m no expert in their bodies of work.  I’m not sure who the musicians are in the video but it really doesn’t matter. They hit that flow that usually comes around when no one has a camera and the only time the jam will ever be heard is the first and last time its played.

Thank 神様 someone had a camera.

In the background of this video you’ll see U-zhaan, a world renowned Tabla player who studied and lived in India.

AP_Drum_U-Zhaan“U-zhaan (Hironori Yuzawa) is considered to be one of Japan’s foremost tabla players. He is a disciple of the legendary tabla maestro Pandit Anindo Chatterjee.  He has also studied seriously with the world renowned maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain. U-zhaan’s many projects and collaborations, span the wide array of genre in Japan. From the traditional music of Japan and Classical music of India, to modern fusion and contemporary music, his tasteful and inspiring musicianship shines through, touching everyone who comes to listen.” (The above is an excerpt from

My favorite part of the entire video, besides everything, is the clearly drunk girl yelling in reply ” 楽しい、楽しい” at 2:03.

Just another piece of JP gomi.

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Masako Yasumoto – Contemporary dance –










I started this blog off with a link to South Park and now I’m on the topic of contemporary dance.  Weird huh?  What can I say?  I’m into everything.  The real idea behind this blog was to illustrate that you never know where you can learn something.  As the Japanese say, “Everyone is your master.”  This means you can learn from everyone and everything.  As I rummage through wifi-ethernet-garbage I come across things of interest that I hope others might enjoy as well.  So here we are.

If your like me the first time you came across a piece of work like Masako Yasumoto’s, was in a video like this –

I’m 90% sure that’s not her.  I think that’s just a dance enthusiast with a similar style.  One of the best examples of this beautiful art is a video I found of Masako Yasumoto dancing to Shiina Ringo’s (椎名 裕美子) song Poltergeist.  The song is from the album “karuki zamen kuri no hana.”  The reason this video is so great is because every form of art used in its construction is masterfully executed.  As you’ll see the video is enthralling because of not only the music and dancing, but also the film work.  Although I’ve always been a lover of the arts; writing, drawing, and playing music.  I was never that big into dance outside of my typical wedding-crasher-behavior.  That’s not to say I had any less respect for the medium, I was simply never significantly engaged.  However, I know what I like and I like this.

Just another piece of JP gomi.

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Bloodthirsty Butchers

I love this band.  But I also hate them because they came up with an awesome band name that I wish I had thought of myself.  The alliteration, the imagery; even the way your mouth moves when you say the words “Bloodthirsty Butchers.” It’s incredible!  With such a great name the music has some big shoes to fill.  Luckily the tunes are up to the challenge.  This style of Japanese rock is hard to even describe.  In my limited writing capacity I could never do the music justice.  But I’ll try to give my 2 cents.  At times you can hear hints of Shonen Knife, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, Cat Power, The Breeders, and a spectrum of other bands that blend into an emotionally powerful sound.  I have no basis for saying this but I feel not many people know of this group.  If that’s true, I hope I can introduce this awesome band to a few people.







This last one is the play list I usually just put on and let it ride.

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The Blue Hearts – ( Linda Linda chords )

The Blue Hearts by Shibuya Eki

There are as many ways to learn Japanese as there are atoms in the black ink of the word 習う。But one of the most enjoyable and unique ways to learn is available only to those who already speak another language; music.  Although listening to your favorite band is fun, nothing compares to playing along and shouting at the top of your Anime-PV-loving-lungs.

I put off this learning method for a long time because I always wound up playing guitar for hours on-end and ignoring other important aspects of my life (i.e. eating).  But with a little self-control from my egg timer I’ve managed to break up learning songs into small chunks without going nuts.  I’ve found a lot of punk songs are simple to learn but so infectiously catchy that you can’t help but get them stuck in your head.  One of my favorites, which is well known from the movie of the same name, is リンダリンダリンダ by the Blue hearts.

Here are the chords and lyrics written in romanji.

The Blue Hearts – ( Linda Linda chords ).

* It should be noted that on the part that says G F# E D it’s really G, F#-minor, E-minor, D.  From my ear I could tell that is the correct way to play it.  There are some other discrepancies Ive found, like the omission of an A chord or two, but really you can play it as you like and listen along to the song and give it your own style.

Both are good and have their strong points.  But it would be fun to see which people think is better.

The Original:



Just another piece of JP gomi.  Keep on learning and do what Lemmy says; Rock Out!

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Papa’s got a brand new かばん-JP Funk

When you think of Funk Music you think of names like James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, or George Clinton.  They are the kings, the giants, and the ones who forged the brass, get-up-offa-that-thing, feel-good music.  But unbeknownst to the rest of the world, in Japan, Papa’s got a brand new かばん。

Far too often anything Japan related will fall into a few broad categories.  Anime, Manga, and anything nauseatingly かわいい, are generally the all-encompassing オタクumbrella categories.  That’s not to say I don’t like anime, manga, or cute shit, especially girls.  But this narrow focus, on what are the country’s main creative exports, is a detriment to both the Japanese and the rest of the world.  Stereo types abound the world over.  But hopefully this sample of move-your-ass-music will show you that Japan is more than spiky headed weirdo’s and Lolita princesses.  These dudes are some Bad-Ass Funky SOB’s.

While in Japan I was lucky enough to always spot full brass bands on the streets of Shibuya ripping it up.  I stopped, I danced, and I lost my mind.

邦楽ファンクトレーラー – YouTube.