A9 mini-album review and an important announcement

I’m going to start with my announcement first.  It’s been a long time coming, but I was waiting to finish up some posts that keep getting delayed for logistical reasons.  After I wrap up two long-term projects, I’m going to stop updating this blog.

My interested in Japanese pop culture has waned, and it’s been so long since I’ve been a JET.  As much as I want to keep promote about diverse representation and social justice, I’m tired of fighting about it on here.  I don’t have the time to maintain this blog along with others I run/contribute to.  I will still write for JRock247, NekoPOP, and Drama-MAX.  There just won’t be updates or original content here.  You can also find me in the other sites linked in the right hand column.  Like I said, I have a couple more original posts that I plan to write (once my brother and I finish our collaboration).  Once those are finished, I will make an official announcement along with where to find me.  That being said, I probably won’t look at comment here anymore.

In the meantime, please enjoy my review of A9’s (formerly Alice Nine) latest mini-album Ginga no Woto on JRock247.

The aptly-named first track, “Phoenix”, is a rock number with Hiroto’s skillfully-layered arpeggio’s and Tora’s hard-hitting riffs. Show’s voice balances the edge with a touch of gentleness and falsetto, and there’s a surprise acoustic section to show off Saga’s bass skills. “Spiegel” also contains fantastic hard rock guitars, accompanied by Nao’s rapid drumming.

Click here to read the rest of the review (and see the “Spiegel” video).

Listening to: “Nijikan no Dake Vacance” by Utada Hikaru feat. Shiina Ringo

Tohoku Earthquake – 5 years later

I had trouble writing this post.  It’s been nearly seven years since I left Miyagi-ken.  I haven’t gone back like I had planned, and now I don’t see my students coming to Southlake because they’ve grown up (also the age range changed).  As evident with the decreased frequency of updates, I’ve become distant with the country that is my second home.

Nevertheless, I can’t forget about how five years ago, I spent all night worrying about my friends when the casual status updates about an earthquake became something much scarier.  It’s hard to not think about the Tohoku earthquake when NPR was all over the 5 year anniversary and all of us Miyagi-ken JETs pay tribute on social media.  I think it’s good to be reminded though, as the people in the region are still struggling.  Thus, I’ve decided to make this post about some examples of aid and recovery.  There’s a lot of individuals out there who continue to dedicate some of their time to Tohoku through raising money or lifting spirits.  Let this be inspiration to all of us.

The one project that led to this post was the 113 Project.  It is a series of short films directed by Wesley Julian, one of my fellow Miyagi JETs who also created Tohoku Tomo.  The 113 Project provides glimpses of rebuilding from youth, local business members, and expats to show the power of collaboration.  To view the films, visit the 113 Project website.
 photo Sake-Urakasumi-TourBrewery-IMG_9130_zpsjbsip6gd.jpg From 113 Project

Visual kei band X Japan has always been active with charity work, having raised money for both the Tohoku earthquake and other disasters.  This year drummer/pianist Yoshiki put up a special drum set for auction.  He donated the proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross.
 photo Ydrum1_zpsgo1iphrf.jpg From Resonance Media

The question of where to send money often crops up with disaster relief.  While I don’t doubt the Red Cross’ valiant efforts, they have received some criticism, at least stateside.   One charity I can recommend 100% is the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund.  Not only does each project provide updates through emails from Global Giving, but the charity is run by the father of Taylor Anderson (who was another Miyagi JET).

Lastly, I wanted to highlight RADWIMPS’ annual tribute as an example of how art heals.  Listening to music that pays tribute to the survivors never fails to bring back emotions I thought I had forgotten.  Seeing images does the same.  With the returning sadness is a message of hope that the artists put into their work.  Tohoku is recovering, and the human spirit will triumph.  Since 2012, RADWIMPS has released a new tribute song on March 11.  Here is a list along with the video of the most recent:
2012 – “Hakujitsu
2013 – “Buriki
2014 – “Kaiko
2015 – “Aitowa
2016 – “Shuntou”

Lustknot. reveals mental illness as reason for indefinite hiatus

Activities pauses are not uncommon in the world of J-rock.  Explanations are a little bit harder find, but there’s usually a vague statement to let fans know what’s going on.  However, the bands remain private.  That’s half of why the news of Lustknot.’s hiatus is so surprising: they gave a specific reason.

The other reasons is the reason itself.  Their vocalist Yuki suffers from dissociative identity disorder and can no longer continue with the band.  You can read a translation of the officiate statement at Shattered Tranquility.

This announcement is a big deal because there’s always been a stigma against mental disorder in Japan (and other parts of Asia too).  In a culture that places so much importance on a public face versus a private one, it’s no surprise that such disorders would be kept secret and that patients would be locked away.  That’s not to say there haven’t been reforms and better treatment, but just take a look at how Crown Princess Masako was treated after she was diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

I commend Lustknot. and their management for both bringing attention to an illness that isn’t visible and showing their support for Yuki.  It would’ve been easy to leave it at health issues and continue without him, but they chose not to.  Thank you Lustknot. for the music you have given us, and I wish Yuki the best.

Listening to: “Sakura Memento” by URBANGUARDE

Continuing the conversation on con harassment

This post can also be known as “What we have learned from Cherry City Comic Con and the Steampunk World’s Fair”.  Many have already written about either situation, but I wanted to reach out to those who may not be aware.  This ties in to what I was trying to achieve through my “Beneath the Layers” interviews, which were halted not because the conversation was finished but because cosplayers and con-goers were now speaking out on their own.  The events that happened emphasize the fact that we still need to raise awareness about harassment at conventions and speak out against the negative attitudes that create an unsafe space.

Here are two sites recapping what happened with Cherry City Comic Con: Sideshow Housewife and The Escapist.  In a nutshell, a con-goer named Chana noticed a disproportionately greater number photos of female cosplayers were posted (without permission) in the event page and made a comment.  Snarky replies followed, and she privately messaged the con to ask for a refund.  The organizer, Mark, quoted her in a friends-only facebook status, calling her crazy.  Black Mariah of Fangirls: Dames of the Round Table screencapped it and initially shared it on a private forum.  However, when Mark deleted her comment on his status and blocked her, she made the screencaps public.  Fellow Fangirl Taffeta Darling also shared it and was subsequently called sexist by Mark.  There is more to the story, but Mark’s unprofessionalism and the others who chimed in on calling Chana “crazy” is the crux of this debacle.

A convention organizer who laughs at someone’s concern about the treatment of women and then silences voices of dissent when he publicly shames her does not actually care about the safety of its attendees.  Even if there’s an anti-harassment policy, nothing will be done when people don’t enforce it.  That’s not to say Mark is all of Cherry City Comic Con, but the fact that there are toxic individuals like him in positions of power brings attention to a problem in fandom.

On the flipside, when an event has very explicit rules which were written in response to voices of concern, we get the situation with Steampunk World’s Fair.  Personally I think Jeff Mach Events Harassment Policy is fantastic.  It has been revised to address issues people had with it, which just shows how much the organizers are listening.  However, the backlash to both the initial draft and the revised version, which can be seen in their facebook group, indicates that there problem is not just with the conventions or at the conventions.  The community still contains attitudes that blame the victim, worry more about false accusations than perpetrators wandering free, and who see an attempt to make a con more safe as an attack on their freedoms.

Much more work needs to be done by con organizers, cosplayers, photographers, and fans.  Call me a pessimist, but I get frustrated when nearly every week, I hear about harassment, bullying, and other issues that we face while trying to do something we love.  I get pissed at the lewd comments people think they can get away with posting on a female cosplayer’s page and the defense of bullies in the community.  I know the problems will not go away until society itself can change.  Thankfully we do have wonderful people like the Fangirls and Jeff Mach Events leading the way to making conventions and fandoms a safer, friendlier place in whatever way possible.  Let’s keep the ball rolling and continue the conversations.

Listening to: “Fushicho -FENNIX-“ by WING WORKS

Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story

Even though I contributed to Kickstarter, I didn’t watch Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story until recently.  I wanted to make sure that I could sit down without any distractions, and I also needed to be in the right mental place.  For those of you who started following this blog after March 2011, I was a 2008 Miyagi JET along with Taylor Anderson who lost her life in the tsunami.  Even though it’s been two and half years and many of my fellow JETs who lived through the disaster have gone back home or moved to another place in Japan, the pain still lingers.

Photo from
JQ Magazine

However, watching Live Your Dream brought some closure.  I didn’t know Taylor that well, but we had a connection as Miyagi JETs and the documentary gave me a chance to learn more about her life, both before JET and while she was in Ishinomaki.  I also got to see different sides of my friends, whom I will always admire for their courage and perseverance, and my heart goes out to them for their loss.  It was heart-wrenching to have to see them and Taylor’s family revisit the sad news.

Sometimes I can be critical of JET and other exchange programs because it’s easy for people to be there for the wrong reasons or, in my case, when they’re not quite ready for the responsibilities.  However, Taylor’s story is one of how two countries can become connected through one individual.  Not only that, she is a role model for anybody who wants to pursue a dream.

a card featuring artwork by Taylor

The film also talks about Monty Dickson, another JET who also died in the tsunami.  He too showed an enthusiasm for teaching, learning, and life that we all should have.  Live Your Dream is inspiring in that way.  It celebrates life, and even though many tears were shed in watching it, I come away with restored faith in humanity and a new optimism.  Thank you to Reggie Life for making this documentary.

To see a trailer and order the film, check out www.taylorandersonstory.com .

Listening to: “Bi-Li-Li Emotion” by Superfly