Furisodeshon (Furisode-tion)

Listen_bannerMaybe it's a bit late to post about Coming of Age Day (成人の日). It was already two and a half months ago and all the 2013 twenty-year-olds have long recovered from their hangovers, packed up their rented furisodes in boxes and returned them to the rental shops. If you went out on January 14th you probably saw a furisode or two, although you may not have known it. IMG_3575 Furisode are those colorful, chic, draping long-sleeved kimonos worn by the the auburn and dishwater-blonde haired twenty-year-old girls with multicolored finger polish and too much eye make-up. If you want to be cool, you should get one too, although it will set you back about as much as a two bedroom condo in Los Angeles, with a pool, jacuzzi and parking for two cars. There's a blooming flower on the J-pop scene named Kyari Pamyu Pamyu. I hear she's big in England. As if that name weren't difficult enough to remember, her full stage name is "Caroline Charonplop Kyari Pamyu Pamyu." She sings about the important things in a young woman's life. Fake eyelashes, candy, birthdays and fashion monsters. She's twenty this year, so naturally she sang about it. I guess I would too, if I were completely short of topics to sing about. The song she released is called Hatachi which is Japanese for "twenty-year-old". It has been a big moneymaker for her these past couple months.  You can find the video here. It's worth checking out: Anyway, in the song she coins the word: Furisodation, or as spelled on the album Furisodashon. I don't know what it means exactly, but judging from the implications of the song and video it's intended to have some kind of a double meaning. I'll leave that to you. IMG_3578What I love about the word furisodashon, is the perfect bastardization of it. here's a Japanese noun with an English (French derived) nominalizing suffix - implying the noun Furisode is a verb. Then in nominalizing it the word sounds like the completed act of furisode-ing--or the act of hanging around in a furisode. OK? stay with me... Then because the suffix "-tion" does not sound like it is spelled, she changes the spelling to "-shon." Which is actually irrelevent because Japanese doesn't use the English alphabet anyway. In other words, the word "furisodashon" cannot possibly exist. It defies the rules of the universe. Yet there it is, like the 11th planet of the solar system, discovered by Caroline Charonplop Kyari Pamyu Pamyu. Another great wonder of the universe.  

2012 on your radio

Listen_bannerQuite a toll was taken on modern society's beliefs this year when we learned that the Mayans hadn't predicted the end of the world. Scientists and philosophers alike are still reeling from the realization - returning to drawing boards the world over to find out exactly where their calculations and ideologies went wrong. Here in Japan, we were no less shocked at the Mayan inaccuracies as the rest of the world. If the Mayans had predicted one of the most uninspired and mediocre years in J-pop history they would have been spot on.

AKBGranted we've had some pretty sparse years since Morning Musume first graced the Kohaku stage a decade ago. This year the scene wallows in particular mediocrity offering up AKB 48 and Exile as the nation's top grossing girl and boy toy groups. If I have to watch the members of AKB fake tears of joy one more time, I'm going to kill my TV. The most frightening part is that AKB mastermind Akimoto Yasushi announced that he had written like 300 songs for the mini-idols.

We were treated to a catchy drop from Perfume somewhere about mid-year but it quickly got lost in the swirl of dust left by Johnny Kitagawa and his crap-load of talentless androgynous boy bands. Ikimono Gakkari, however delivered a dim ray of hope with this year's NHK Olympics anthem in their classic J-pop sound... or is it safer to say ELT's classic J-pop sound.

urlPrincess Princess, the Gogos/Bangles knock-off from the 80's resurfaced this year looking more like soccer moms than pop divas. Still their limited tour to earn money for the victims of the Tohoku Earthquake was admirable and the more they play the tighter they get. They say that they're finished after this tour, but I wouldn't mind a bit if they tried to rehash their boppy eighties sound for one more hit in 2013... just for old times sake.

KPPKyary Pamyu Pamyu has a name that would separate the men from the boys in any spelling bee, but, as an act, she has a little something going on. At least enough to excite anime otakus the world over. She's nothing if not unique, and certainly the kind of "Cool Japan" that is easily marketable abroad. . Her fashion and dancing is as remarkable as her music, and may be the key to her success. Her catchy lyrics run along the lines of "candy, candy, candy, girls love, chewing chewing chewing..." etc., so you can plainly see the universal appeal. All this while strutting onstage like a CG character in hand-me-downs from the Queen of Diamonds.

YuiYui, Japan's original root rocker guitar girl, announced that she's planning to take yet another break. Her double CD release this year was nothing more than a compilation of her greatest hits, well worth purchasing if you don't have any Yui in your collection, but showing a lag in creativity. Who can blame her. You can actually see the disgust in her eyes, as she is forced to perform next to these cheerleader infested, one-sex-fits-all J-pop/k-pop groups with short skirts, dimples, blow waves... and no soul.

Eisa in Toyota

The painful truth is, if I tie a bandana around my head and strap a drum to my body I just don’t look cool. I’ve tried. And that’s what separates me from being one of those guys who can pull off anything. In fact, I don’t really pull off much at all. I look awkward just walking down the street–even with sunglasses. That’s why Eisa is so cool. The premise is to strap a drum to yourself, dance around with about thirty other people in a big field, all the while banging the drum, in unison, in time with the music … all the while looking cool enough to cause fleeting fantasies of divorce to cross the minds of the audience members. Sure, you have help. The drums are a striking red, and big enough to hide even my spare tire. The traditional garb is fashioned of bright yellows, reds, blues and greens of flowing cotton and silk cloth. It’s pretty hard not to look cool under these conditions. Unless, like me, you dance like a pop tart. When I do Eisa it looks more like dominoes. That’s why I just watch. Last week in Toyota City the yearly Aichi Prefecture Eisa Matsuri was held. It’s an all day affair — 8 hours of Eisa Taiko in the August heat. By the end, most of the audience has liquified into a pool of Orion Beer. But, if you can stand the heat and the booming drums, it’s an amazing show. The atmosphere is so alive and so friendly you might feel for a moment like the people fanning themselves next to you are actually close friends. That’s the way it often is at Okinawan events. People just start liking each other more. Even if they’re not actually Okinawan. Even if, by day, they’re the typical angry, pushy and remorseless subway jumpers that define my morning commute. Here at the Eisa Festival everyone is friends again. And that’s the way it ought be.

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