This episode of Radio Tokyo showcases some of the more leftfield Japanese artists past and present that I had in my collection. As ever, I don't present or narrate, but at the same time it's not just a straightforward mix. There's a real variety of genres, styles and BPM here, so I wove them together with some samples taken from retro Japanese TV commercials, and that's where the name and the theme of this episode comes from. Here's the playlist, enjoy:
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When I first came to Tokyo I was planning to do this. It was on my list of things to do, along with; ride the Shinkansen, read Japanese manga, etc. However, I’ve only just got round to doing it now, after being here for over 3 years.
People have suggested exporting the concept of the Japanese capsule hotel to other parts of the world, but I can’t see it being popular in places like US and Europe. For me it remains something which can only exist in Japan. I personally think it’s a shame as I very much enjoyed my stay at one in Shibuya, central Tokyo on Monday night, but for precisely that reason – it’s unlike any other accommodation I’ve stayed in before. It’s bizarre for me but at the same time exhilarating. Not having a clue what to do, puzzling over truly baffling flow charts and diagrams in the lobby and in the elevator, not knowing what the elevator door was going to reveal when they slid open on curiously labelled floors. It turns out the Rest Room was not in fact a toilet but was filled with massage chairs and snoring salarymen with the shopping channel playing on a huge flatscreen TV. It was then I had my first massage chair experience.
After you get your ticket to stay the night from the vending machine in the lobby, you receive your first key. This key opens a small locker in a carpeted area off the lobby in which you must remove your shoes (as is usual in any home or place of lodgings in Japan), and place them in the locker. You then trade this key for another, larger key which opens another locker on the second floor, accessible by the nearby elevator. The larger locker upstairs contains your relax wear. Kind of short pyjamas with a distinctly Japanese feel as the two large sides of the loose jacket cross each other and tie off to the side, the sleeves are short but gape open around the wrists like a yukata. You also get a small and a large towel for bathing. This is where I would be heading next I had decided as I was feeling pretty terrible having been out all day in the Tokyo summer heat and pollution. The bathroom is a typical Japanese sento style affair with two large public baths, one hot, one cold. You shower first on a stool then cover yourself as best you can with your smaller towel and slip into one of the main baths. I didn’t stay long as I was curious about my capsule on the 7th floor.
It was as expected: a capsule. I was chuckling to myself at the incredulity of it, and also at the guy beneath me who was snoring loudly with one foot sticking out of his pod. I guessed there was more than a few drunk guys who had to be at work the following day. I used a small ladder to climb into the capsule, which was suprisingly comfortable to lie in, just not built for doing anything else.
I turned on the TV and watched that for a while. There was an adult channel which I heard was rumoured to exist in each capsule hotel, and that proved to be accurate. I can’t imagine how anyone can watch it however, surrounded by strangers. The thought crossed my mind of previous guests that had stayed in pod 712 and that made it all the more difficult to sleep.
I awoke early and the view from my floor allowed me to get a decent shot of people walking to work. There was a Matsuya restaurant across the street so I had breakfast there. Sausage, egg, salad, miso soup, nattou, dried seaweed and pickles. Another must-do crossed off my list, I thought.
This is the movie I made to celebrate the millions of neon lights in Tokyo. In Tokyo you can’t see the stars at night due to light pollution, but that’s OK, the Japanese made their own constellations. Next time you’re in Tokyo at night, remember to look up!
When I bought my UT Four Tet T-shirt the other week, the bag was advertising a new Dougenzaka branch. A little research on the internet confirmed this. There’s now a big Uniqlo on the Dougenzaka thoroughfare of Shibuya. With all the Uniqlo stores dotted around Tokyo, you’d think this was of very little importance unless you live near in or around Shibuya, but I’ve noticed that the big stores do tend to cater for their respective neighbourhoods. It’s the same with other ‘fast fashion’ brands like H&M – Harajuku is stocked differently to Ginza. Also, in the smaller stores, popular items sell out fast, whereas you have more chance of finding the best of the new season at the really big stores in Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya and the speciality UT (Uniqlo T-Shirts) store in Harajuku.
This new store opened just this month, on the 5th of March and is being referred to as the new Uniqlo flagship store. It’s attached to Shibuya Station apparently although I’m not sure yet as I haven’t checked this out for myself. It’s also rumoured to be stocking items only usually sold in the London stores (although I think this may have been a limited offer and may already be over). On top of this, it’s supposed to also specialise in the sale of Uniqlo’s range of jeans, UJ.
I was in the Ginza Uniqlo store, recently expanded with a dedicated building for men, this is now one of the best Uniqlo stores in the city (the others being Shinjuku, and the newly opened Shibuya Dougenzaka store). Whilst browsing I saw the new Uniqlo x Domino Records collab featuring T-shirts of The Kills and Four Tet. I love Uniqlo and I love Four Tet, so this is a win-win situation for me this spring. Plus, they only cost ¥1500 (£11 / $16)! Perfect wear for Hanami season. Visit the Domino Records website.
UPDATE: If you head to the Ginza store and are wondering where the +J range has got to, you can find it on the 5th floor of the women’s building next door.
I’ve been waiting to see one of these for a while: an advertising truck. Its purpose is to drive around a designated route in Tokyo so the consumerist masses of the metropolis can see it – as well as hear it. It plays a happy jingle as it drives and a female announcer talks up the service / product / event in the cutesy voice that anyone living in Tokyo will have become accustomed to hearing. This one was a real beauty – I spotted it driving up Omotesando, probably towards Shibuya.
Here you can see the jewel-encrusted items on sale at Shibuya 109, a large department store consisting of several floors of fashion and accessories aimed at ‘Shibuya boys’ and ‘Shibuya girls’. I can’t remember how much the bike cost, but it was A LOT. Ker-ching.
Cinematic Orchestra with DJ Food. I HAVE to go to this event.
I dropped into Wired Cafe on the 6th Floor of Q-FRONT Shibuya today to take advantage of their free wi-fi connection. I’m currently re-working an ongoing Flash project which I expect to be able to unveil soon, schedule allowing.
The cafe is pretty unremarkable. I personally prefer the Shinagawa Wired Cafe just down the road from my apartment, but it served it’s purpose. I also discovered it’s a great place to pick up information on forthcoming music events in Tokyo. I even picked up a nicely illustrated book on surfing in and around the Tokyo area. That’s going to come in very handy when a day off finally comes round and I can finally get in the water again.
The food was average. I chose the French onion soup, an asparagus and mozzarella wrap and a cup of coffee, but it wasn’t worth the ¥1400 price tag. My MacBook Pro battery being what it is, I didn’t really take full advantage of the free wi-fi either, but I got a chunk of work done, then took off back into Shibuya.
Last Sunday, and the Sunday before that, I went to Yoyogi Park with a couple of friends. We were going to come from Harajuku and check out the Harajuku girls, the Gothic Lolitas, the Punks, the Rockabillys, and other sights at the entrance to the park. After that we skirted the park in the direction of Shibuya, staying on the pavement that circumnavigates the boundry. Along the way we were checking out J-Pop bands, solo singers and street sellers who gather there every week.
It wasn’t until further on that we started to hear loud bass lines from up ahead. We carried on a bit further, rounded a corner, and then came to a wide area on the pavement where there was an entrance leading into the park. In the entrance there was literally, a wall of sound. Cabinet speakers piled up into a stack. The turntables were facing this about 10 metres away. This, apparently, was the free outdoor party at Yoyogi put on by the DJ’s from Champion Bass.
They were playing all English music, from London and Bristol’s dub and reggae influenced Jungle music scene of the mid 90’s. On rotation was Congo Natty recordings from the Rebel MC, and many classic older pieces featuring vocals and samples from Jamaican music, with stuff from Top Cat, Tenor Fly, Barrington Levy and Supercat (all London based with Jamaican heritage).
There were people there who, you could tell, this kind of music wasn’t usually their thing, but the atmosphere was so good, the weather was so nice, and the music was so infectious that everone got into it. We quickly shot over to Shibuya to the Family Mart, picked up some Yebisu and some Asahi and went back to join in, and danced until they turned off the PA.