Tokyo Blog, Tokyo Story

The blog of Stephen David Smith, Tokyo, Japan 2017

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Invader Spotted in Omotesando

I spotted this piece of street art by French artist Invader whilst I was out for a walk down Cat Street in Omotesando (if you’ve never been down there before it’s well worth a look with its custom made bicycle shop and good non-luxury brand fashion stores). Invader basically puts up these mosaics featuring retro video game sprites, particularly those from space shooters but he’s also done Pac-Man ghosts. I like his stuff and it’s not particularly common to see it so I thought I’d post this up for us all to enjoy, although nothing beats the real thing when you come across one or happen to notice it. That’s the great thing about good street art in my opinion: you never know when you’re going to come across one and when you do half of the satisfaction comes from finding it and half from knowing its origin. Invader has stuff in cities all over the world including Paris, London, L.A. and probably many others and you can see him at work in Banksy’s mockumentary Exit Through The Gift Shop.

 

Cesare vs. Disorder & Onirik – Il Viaggio

A Brazilian visual artist based in Berlin called Fernanda contacted me by email the other day and pointed to her recent project for an independent record label. What you see above is a music video she made for an upcoming release on Serialism Records featuring a montage of video shot in Tokyo in January this year. I really liked it and wanted to share it with you. Thanks to Fernanda Mattos for the info.

 

2012 Update

I know I’ve been threatening it for a long time, but the new version of Tokyo Story is coming VERY soon. It’s in the final stages of development right now, with some new features to make it easier to explore the content on the site. Posts have been really slow over the course of last year, that will change too.

The new features will include slightly improved typography and colour schemes, a search box, better pagination, easy access to all podcasts and videos, and new categories for posts with navigation in a new sidebar. On top of all that, a much needed facelift all round which I hope doesn’t compromise the atmosphere of the blog, which I’ve always been happy with. I always wanted to keep things simple and not detract from the main content, but I feel now that the site is too ‘bare bones’ and this gives it a slightly lifeless quality which I want to remedy. It feels static, and I think the new inclusions will add a bit more vibrancy. If anyone has any suggestions, requests or recommendations please feel free to put them in the comments.

Looking further down the line, I will be pushing the freelance web design side still more and seeing where that will go. I’ll also be creating one or more WordPress themes which I might even offer for sale if they turn out OK. As a platform for these things, the website languishing in the root folder of this server will change completely, as it damn well should. This will be built on WordPress and will feature articles detailing side projects, client work, and written pieces about web design and development as I see it, as well as of course offering my services.

I’ll be making more videos too. Now 2011 is behind us, setsuden is over with, the lights are back on, the video screens over Shibuya crossing have flickered back into life and the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has acheived cold shut down, there’s a renewed air of optimism in Tokyo again. With due reverence to those that lost their lives in the disaster and all those affected by the aftermath of the biggest earthquake in recorded history, we can tentatively look forward to and hope for, even expect, great things from 2012. There’s a lot more energy around already – and it’s only 3rd January.

Radio Tokyo Podcasts will continue as planned without any particular interval. I’ll fit them in when I can and when the mood takes me. The key to all of this stuff for me is striking a balance between having it a passion and making it a chore.

I’m in the process of elaborating on an idea for what I like to call a geographical bookmarking tool for us city dwellers that will, providing the model stands up under scrutiny during the early stages, make an appearance in open beta form with the eventual plan of having a partnering iOS app. I have other ideas for web services and apps I’d like to see, purely because I’d like to use them myself, and that’s the best reason to build one. And build them I shall!

 

POLYSICS

Hello. Got some Polysics for you today. Enjoy.

 

Peter, Bjorn & John Feat. Yoyogi Rockabillies

This great music video for the song Nothing to Worry About by Peter, Bjorn & John features the Tokyo Rockabilly Club. People will probably know them as the guys who rock out in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. Check it out – the guy’s got a motorcycle in his apartment!

 

Ganbare Untenshi!!

Ganbare Untenshi

This game is genius if not a little old, and at the detriment of the rest of the modern world, is only available here in Japan. If you can’t tell from the picture above (taken at one of my my local video arcades), this is a game in which you assume the role of a Japanese train driver on the Enoden Line and several other tourist lines located along the Enoshima beach area near Kamakura (outside Tokyo to the South West). These lines are famous for having old-style engines and carriages and tend to travel along the coast or through densely built-up areas of traditional Japanese housing, as well as stopping at some of the famous sightseeing spots in the area.

Your mission is to uphold the perfectionist ethos of the entire Japanese train network in general by driving the train observing signals and speed regulations and of course arriving at the stations at the exact designated times, plus/minus 4 or 5 seconds to avoid picking up penalties and thus maximizing your score. Penalties are also incurred for braking too sharply (causing the passengers annoyance) or for forgetting to trigger the announcements, and so on. You also have to open the doors having perfectly lined them up with the markers on the platform. Again, inaccuracy will get you in trouble and cost you points (possibly even resulting in a Game Over if you really mess up). The controls are supposed to closely mimic those of the actual trains in real life, so if the driver were to have a heart attack on the Enoden line, rather than hurtling through stations and ending up in a high speed collision, you could probably find a train geek somewhere on board capable of rescuing everyone in a smooth, controlled and orderly manner; as this is only one of a whole series of games totalling almost 30 different versions found in arcades, on Windows PC and on PS2, and is extremely popular here in Japan.

As a special bonus, here is a YouTube video of the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) version:

 

Washed Out and Toro y Moi

There’s a few new low-fi synth-pop acts based in America’s South East, specifically the states of South Carolina and Georgia. It seems as though the region is set to spawn a new sub-genre and the main two pioneers of the sound are doing the rounds on YouTube. I can’t remember how I found it, but they’re going to form a double bill of sorts for this musical interlude.

(Toro y Moi – Talamak, Washed Out – Feel it All Around)

As a random tie-in to this musical interlude special, here’s Toro y Moi secretly playing a cameo in Uniqlo’s UT promotion this year:

Toro y Moi for UT

 

Warehouse Game Centre

Warehouse Game Centre

Moving out to my new neighbourhood means I’m just a little bit further from popular west-side areas like Shibuya and Naka-Meguro, but even in anonymous areas like Nishi-Kasai you can still uncover some interesting places. Take for example my local video game arcade which appears to be a huge rusting armour-clad fortress. The cliche is completed using the font that Hollywood murdered: Bank Gothic. Regardless, this is a BIG video arcade!

You just don’t get the planning permission to build stuff like this in other cities. It reminds me of what one travel writer said about Tokyo. They said “Tokyo is a city devoid of beauty”. They were exaggerating of course, but in the classic sense it’s true to some extent. You can visit any city in the world and see far more historic buildings and monuments, and you certainly wouldn’t see anything as outlandish as this. But, for some people this surreal image of the future in a city akin to a giant, sprawling theme park is far more appealing. I got more satisfaction from visiting Nakagin Capsule Tower than I did visiting any temple or shrine in the city. For me the real cultural landmarks are ones such as these. Giant robot statues, opulent shopping centres, and bright neon hoardings.

 

Chinza Dopeness – Mogu Mogu

Tokyo rapper Chinza Dopeness’ unique style is new to my ears, but I’m going to get the album as a result of listening to this. Via Shane Lester’s Vimeo.

 

Azukiiro No Kaori

Musical Interlude. I couldn’t find any videos worthy of showcasing the fine electronic music produced by Susumu Yokota, so I made my own. The track is Azukiiro No Kaori by Susumu Yokota from his Sakura album. All of the footage was shot Autumn/Winter 2008 and Autumn 2009.

 

Train Through Tokyo

Train Through Tokyo II from Stephen Smith on Vimeo.

This is a video I shot during a train ride from the center of Tokyo to the airport (1hr 20mins or so away). It gives a good impression of the Tokyo cityscape, the buildings, logos and colours of the city rushing by. There’s also a few more videos from this series on my Vimeo.

 

Toastgirl

Another musical interlude for you now, through which you can savour a slice of Japanese pop culture at its finest. This is the beautifully named Toastgirl who, if you visit her site, you can see using vacuum cleaners as rollerskates and so on. Most of her music videos, like this one for a song I’m not sure of the name of, feature her riding a piece of toast or sometimes toasting bread in a toaster she has mounted on top of her head (maybe the song is called Skip Edit No.2, I can’t be sure. She’s really underground and hard to dig up info on). Enjoy this.

 

Darling wa Gaikokujin

Darling wa Gaikokujin

Darling wa Gaikokujin (ダーリンは外国人), which roughly translates as My Darling is a Foreigner, is a manga series that deals with the author Saori Oguri’s life as a Japanese woman married to an American man living in Japan. The reason I’m writing about it is that I’ve been watching an animated version on the JR line trains just recently, and the animation style is really nice. The animation has been on the trains since last year. In the most recent installment the couple have a baby. Watch out for it if you’re on the Yamanote line in Tokyo anytime soon.

 

Röyksopp – Happy Up Here


Happy Up Here from Röyksopp on Vimeo.

The norwegian electronic music duo Röyksopp have a new video directed by Rueben Sutherland. It involves pieces of a city coming together and arraying like pixels to form a game of space invaders in the night sky. Sweet.

 

Wylde File x Beck – Gameboy Homeboy


Beck “Gameboy Homeboy” from wyldfile on Vimeo.

Wylde File have created an absolutely insane, bad acid trip promo video for the 8-bit inspired remixes from Beck’s recent(ish) album Guero. This is intense!