January 28, 2010

Karaoke Training: Scary Version

Note that there are two vids in this post, so check them both out before you throw something sharp at me.

While trying to find a decent vid with lyrics, I sometimes encounter horrors.

Take the lovely song はつ恋 (hatsukoi, first love) by Masaharu Fukuyama. Then take it to a very scary place, like so (vocals by the genius that is Passion):

It probably only took you 5 seconds to shut that one off, eh?

I'm sorry for subjecting you to that, here's the real song with lyrics to cleanse your palette:

More Classic Japanese CMs

I previously posted part one of this series, and finally I've gotten around to part 2 (which covers some of the 60s) in time to make a new year's theme work.

I'm setting the video up to skip the first couple CMs and go straight into the one where they deal with お年玉 (otoshidama, new year's gifts to children).

Highlights include: Old man expelling lots of smoke, tengu eating curry, a fridge (they were big deals back then), and hearthrobs in 平凡 (heibon, mediocre) magazine.

January 27, 2010

Holy Unanswerable J House Hole Query!

I had occasion to meet with Tokyo Cooney the other day in an unofficial-pre-post new year's party. I was eager to know one thing: has anybody mailed in with the name of these Japanese house holes that interest me so? Nope. So please tell if you know! BTW, we'll finally gotten comments at Jib TV, so you'll be able to tell me things more directly when I write there.

January 26, 2010

Misaki Ito is Poor and Dirty

And possibly a Native American?

I was a bit confused the first time I saw this poster. Just what is going on here? The caption reads (and I have to guess, because the verb is omitted as is often the case with poster exhortations): [give] freedom to your wallet. As you may notice from the corner graphic, it turns out this is a lottery ad.

You may remember Misaki Ito from the TV version of the Densha Otoko saga. Since that came out, I've spotted her in a few dramas, but most often I see her in commercials. I saw her selling vacuums in an infomercial one day and asked my gf why she was selling out. But selling out is not really a concept that is understood in Japan. You get famous so you can be in commercials, not graduate from them. A lot of it stems from the fact that stars just aren't payed as much over here. Plus, you have to keep your face out there, or this country will forget about you fast.

So the following CM is also from the Loto 6 campaign. Look at all the poor disenfranchised people being saved by the lottery. They trust that the lottery won't make them yet poorer. Good old lottery.

So she's actually French. The thing in the right of the ad at the end is a loto ticket booth, which appear in abundance in Japan. I've never played though, so I don't know why pencils are so important.

Here's one more image from the campaign that I lucked out in finding:

J Prop Comedian Jinnai Tomonori [subbed]

Recently in my shared items feed, which is filled with lots of Japan content and may interest you, I found a video (the second in the playlist below in fact) and shared it, only to be challenged to find some more by a friend that follows me there. So here we are, a kansai-dialect spouting prop comedian that has many baffling experiences with things acting in a surreal way. This guy does a lot of videogame parodies, so have a good look around the playlist!

I love how Google Reader brings us together to exchange links and thoughts, so if you want to get in on the sharing, try to make google friends with or follow me!

War Fans in Japan

I'm a few hundred years late in finding out about this, but there is a lot of war fan history in Japan and East Asia. I actually stumbled upon this while wikiing the fans the referees use in sumo (gunbai). Here's a wiki list of fan types, where I have inserted kanji breakdowns next to the Japanese writing:

* Gunsen (軍扇 troop+fan) were folding fans used by the average warriors to cool themselves off. They were made of bronze, brass or a similar metal for the inner spokes, and often used iron for the outer spokes, making them lightweight but strong. Warriors would hang their fans from a variety of places, most typically from the belt or the breastplate, though the latter often impeded the use of a sword or a bow.
* Saihai (采配 baton+distribute) were tasseled signalling fans which would be used by a commander to signal troop movements.
* Tessen (鉄扇 iron+fan) were folding fans with outer spokes made of iron which were designed to look like normal, harmless folding fans or solid clubs shaped to look like a closed fan. Samurai could take these to places where swords or other overt weapons were not allowed, and some swordsmanship schools included training in the use of the tessen as a weapon. The tessen was also used for fending off arrows and darts, as a throwing weapon, and as an aid in swimming.
* Uchiwa (団扇 group+fan) were large iron fans, sometimes built on a wooden core, which were carried by high-ranking officers. They were used to ward off arrows, as a sunshade, and to signal to troops.
[From here]
I also found a video of some fan-jitsu in action.

Now you know not to trust anybody with a fan.

January 21, 2010

Coke Head Samurai

This ad is actually a couple years old. But sometimes things float to the top of the backlog and I have to share them.
So what does it say? Breakdown:
日本 nihon: Japan
の no: possesive (of)
男 otoko: man
よ yo: particle of emphasis, informing, and (archaically) a call for attention
ためらう tamerau: to hesitate
な na: don't do (follows the dic. form of verbs)

gloss: Men of Japan! Don't hesitate [to cut down the other dude]!

Actually, I'm not confident on the gloss, but that's the impression I get, especially after all the Japanese video games I've played. What do you think?

The coke bottle is acting as a 丁髷 (chonmage, a topknot that you see on samurai or sumo wrestlers). Did you know sumo wrestlers have to resign if they lose their topknot? If I was a sneaky sumo coach, I wouldn't hesitate hire a rouge barber to cut out the competition.

Let's Yoji: Vim and vigor

旺盛 (ousei, full of vim and vigor) appears in a few idioms. 旺(ou) doesn't seem to get used much without 盛 (sei) in Japanese. Oddly enough, the former seems to be substitutable for the later in the word sakan (prosperous, vigorous, etc.) because they cover the same ground: prosperity, vitality, and flourishing. I would bet this combo is used a lot more in Chinese, which likes to combine similar hanzi to make words. 旺 can also be used as an alternative for 美 (beautiful) in utsukushi (beautiful) in theory, but only very rarely. Anyways, as long as we realize one of these kanji is impractical, let's see how they are used. Breakdown music begin!

旺盛 Breakdowns:

士気旺盛 shikiousei
gloss: morale being very high, heightened fighting spirit

士 shi: warrior
気 ki: spirit
士気 shiki: morale

元気旺盛 genkiousei
gloss: be brimming with vitality, be full of vigor

元 gen: origin
元気 genki: vigor, spirit [don't you know this word by now?]

気力旺盛 kiryokuousei
gloss: being full of energy

力 ryoku: strength
気力 kiryoku: willpower, energy
This last one is the reason why I do these silly word studies. For you see, I am...
好奇心旺盛 koukishinousei
gloss: brimming with curiosity

好 kou: like, fond
奇 ki: strange, curious
心 shin: mind, heart
好奇心: curiosity

January 20, 2010

More Magical Milk CMs

You may recall I posted one of the CMs from the following collection a while back, but there are some others in the series too. Ah the power that milk gives you! It makes you strong, beautiful, and able to concentrate...

January 19, 2010

Karaoke: Croon Like Kuwata Keisuke

I don't keep up too much on new music, or listen to the radio that often, but some songs are so omnipresent you can't help but learn them. Such is the case with Mr. Kuwata's songs. His voice, as well as other recently popular music, will accompany you in supermarkets, drugstores, even the escalators here. Muzak usurpations may apply. Lately, this commercial has gotten a lot of play, as has the song.

So here are the lyrics in karaoke-ready form. Enjoy.

This is another song I realized I knew without knowing.

Now you can be omnipresent too.
Credit for finding the CM goes to the Probe, where James watches even more TV than me.

January 14, 2010

Koizumi Gonna Knock You Out/I Solve the N. Korea Problem

I saw the following video mentioned on Japan Probe, but didn't get around to seeing it until this morning. It. Is. Awesome.
In case you don't know, Koizumi was the Prime Minister back when I first came to Japan. In fact, he came to my house shortly after I moved in. Also appearing in this video is another former PM and Olympic-level sharp shooter, Abe.

But I promised to solve the North Korea problem in the title of this post, as a game of mahjong just doesn't seem feasible. So here's my equally wacky solution: To ensure peace, Japan should become friends with North Korea. That's it. Become buds, lift sanctions, and start trading. Because hungry, desperate people without connections to the outside world will never become better on their own. But if we started getting friendly, it wouldn't take long for internationalism and capitalism to actually leak in and improve things.

I know what you're thinking: But Clay, they kidnapped Japanese people! Yes, they certainly did. But you know, about the only time we got any of those people back was when Koizumi went over there and made friendly with Dear Leader. We can never progress as enemies.

Call me naive, but that's how I feel.

January 13, 2010

Sony's Big Karaoke CM

One of my favorite songs is coming at you!

The giant crowd in this epic commercial are singing 小さな恋のうた (chisana koi no uta, A Short Love Song), which I'm pretty sure the band MONGOL800 came up with. Here's a link to their version.
The catchphrase that gets posted over the CM is 歌え、10代 (utae, jyuudai, or sing it, teens!).
You can bet I sang this song during last night's karaoke session.

January 8, 2010

New Claytonian Vids: Akihabara and Okonomiyaki

I have such a backlog of footage; Japan just won't stop being interesting long enough for me to catch up. These two HD videos are what I've had time to edit together recently.

In the first, I visit my favorite place in Akihabara. It's probably not that hard to guess for propa otakus.

And next up, we have a fast one of a guy making okonomiyaki en mass. The song matches quite well, I feel.

January 7, 2010

The Best Anime Series (for People that Don't Like Anime)

Listen, I have a problem with anime. Most of it sucks, especially in this era of broad series that never end and are often imitated (Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece). But today I give you some series that stand out as worthy of actually watching. Especially if you don't normally watch anime.

ものの怪 Mononoke (not Princess Mononoke)

What it's about: A quiet medicine seller, who always insists that he is just a medicine seller, wanders throughout Japan and its eras exorcising the demonic presences known as mononoke.

Why it's good: Mononoke is a collection of all the things that are interesting about Japanese art and culture and remixes them into a horrific pastiche that is undeniably cool. And the medicine seller is like the Doctor Who of Japan.

Best part: I'm rather partial to the incense episodes, wherein they play a crazy game that actually exists in real life but seems like it never could.


瀬戸の花嫁 Seto no Hanayome (the Inland Sea Bride)

What it's about: A young boy's life is saved by a yakuza mermaid. Rather than have him be killed for knowing her secret, she chivalrously marries him (chivalry is connected to yakuza in Japan, so you can guess what kind of world the mermaids have). Of course, her father, the leader of the gang, is very unhappy and tries to kill his new son in law constantly.

Why it's good: Where to start? We have funny yakuza language, Saru's monkey antics, Shark's lilting polite language versus his blood lust, Runa's terminator father, the song that plays when things get chivalrous... The whole show is a collection of odd jokes.

The best part: Probably, and I say this realizing it will take a second for you to digest it, the way that Nagasumi-kun and his mother are in love with afro-dandy Masa-san.


十兵衛ちゃん Jubei-chan series 1&2

What it's about: The Jubie series are the tale of a young girl that discovers she is heir to the lovely heart-shaped eye-patch of the deadliest swordsman in Japanese history. The first series is more comedic and unrefined, while the second is polished and cool.

Why it's good: Each series is good in it's own way. The first shines in terms of comedy, while the second takes things to a new level. Suddenly the sword fights are superhuman, and the rule of cool takes over.

The best part: For me, the star of both series is the ruffians. I couldn't find any good videos of them, so you will have to settle for this clip of the epic sword fighting.


セクシーコマンドー外伝 すごいよ!!マサルさん Sexy commando

What it's about: Sexy Commando is actually a series by the same director as Jubei Chan, but it came first and is based on a gag manga, so it is much more crude and experimental.

Why it's good: Sexy Commando takes all the rules and conventions and ignores them to the point where it doesn't even have a proper ending. But that's the joke. It unfortunately had a lot of repeated songs as filler for the super short episodes, but otherwise, it is one of the best gag animes out there. The sexy commando of the title is a fighting style that depends on weirding out your opponent to create openings.

The best part: Definitely the principal of the school. He's an old man that speaks with an odd accent and is secretly a sexy commando. Also, he dresses as the student Susan. In this clip, he suspends the students to keep them in the sexy commando club.

さよなら 絶望先生, Zestubou Sensei 1&2

What it's about: Mr. Shiki's name is twisted via kanji word-play into despair, and he has a personality to match. He takes a negative view on all things connected to Japanese life. His students all love him, in harem-anime tradition, and they all embody odd Japanese stereotypes.

Why it's good: Satire is something that is usually lacking in Japan, so all the desperation is surprisingly refreshing.

The best part: I'm rather partial to Kaere Kimura, a student that was abroad too long and now thinks Japan is an odd country, while being myopic about her own foreign foibles and tempestuous nature. I totally identify with that.


ギャグマンガ日和 Gyagu manga biyori (A Good Day for Gag Comics)

What it's about: The story is different each time, but the series is basically an exploration of how much inanity you can pack into five minutes of airtime.

Why it's good: It's unlike any anime you've ever seen, and provides lots of interesting jokes that lend to repeat viewings. Also, it's excellent to share with company in a Golden Eggs sort of way.

The best part: Harris DESU!


フリクリ Fooly cooly/FLFC

What it's about: On the surface it is just a cool show about a boy who's head is a dimensional door for robots and other horrors to pop out of. But it's really about coming of age. Leave no Freudian stone unturned, viewers.

Why it's good: Stylish and random, Fooly Cooly stays cool all the way to the end of it's short run without losing steam.

The best part: I couldn't choose. Which is just as well; all the YouTube clips are fan made music videos, which are all a plague upon mankind save one.

妄想代理人 Paranoia Agent

What it's about: Imagine what would happen if our collective-unconscious gave life to an urban legend that likes to smack people with a baseball bat. Then imagine if that entity started to grown exponentially in power.

Why it's good: This is the brainchild of Satoshi Kon, the guy that brought us the feature-length animes Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika. In Paranoia Agent he transfers his expertise to the small screen and provides a truly unique tale that really evokes Japan well. I first saw some of this series dubbed in English and didn't get it, but after coming to Japan and hearing the original voices, it is much better.

The best part: The opening itself. As is appropriate for this show, it creeps you out and the lyrics are haunting as well.

I could mention a few more (yes, yes, everyone loves Azumanga Daiō), but good grief this is a huge enough post! If you have something really interesting to recommend, shoot me a comment, Dear Reader.

January 6, 2010

Karaoke Duets Part Two: Pink Laaaaaady

(the title is a Jerry Lewis reference; please don't look up Jerryoke if you value your sanity)

Today's duet selection, which should get some good smiles--and a partner to sing it with!--around the bar is Pink Lady. Your parents might know these gals, as they at one point had an American TV show (wuuuut?). So I'll show you their first American TV appearance, complete with a song that you can probably use at said karaoke bar. Avoid imitating all hairstyles herein though.

Just like yesterday I feel the need to double up on duets. Here is a Japanese one by them, called Uonteddo (Wanted). Again, avoid hairstyles--and clothing for that matter-- in these videos.

January 5, 2010

Karaoke Duets Part One: Two Peanuts in a Pod

Just talking about my Yakuza Karaoke new year celebration made me want to do some more karaoke posts. It's about time I introduced duets to you, and appropriately I will have a companion post up tomorrow. So find a friend and enjoy!

Today's group is The Peanuts (ザピーナツ), a pair of identical twins. Fun trivia: in Japanese one always says older sister or younger sister, not sister, even among twins. Of course some people just resort to names, but usually the old hierarchy culture is payed attention to even at home.

Right, the karaoke. Sorry. Here is Koi no Bakansu (Love Holiday):

Twins engenders a doubling of songs today! Sorry, couldn't find a version of this with the lyrics attached, but it's a pretty easy song. The title: Koi no Fuuga (Love Fugue). I like it even better than the one up there.

I just discovered their English version of the same song.

And just for fun, you can see them sing the Mothra song, as they were Mothra's fairies for the first few movies (wut?). The song uses Indonesian, so I'd be surprised if it was in the old karaoke machine. That would be a master-level, katakana-only song if it was there. I hate katakana lyrics. Only thing worse is romaji lyrics.

January 4, 2010

Yakuza New Years

I hope I don't get in trouble with them for posting this one, but I spent the turning over of the year surrounded by local gangsters at a bar they own while singing karaoke. Unlike Western shady types, they can be pretty amiable and fun to hang out with. And the boss sings wicked awesome, I kid you not.

I have just enough しぶい (shubui, old-school) chops to hold my own at the mic.

This guy is not the boss, but he has a sweet demon tattoo. If I ever get one, it'll be this style.

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