TOKYOPOP Fam: Minna-san genki-kai?
I haven’t been writing anything on this blog but I decided to pick up the ball a bit and run with it. My plan is to give a bit of insight into encounters of mine, or thoughts about happenings, events and the world in general. Keep in mind I will most likely jump topic a lot - this blog won’t be about only one thing.
So, today I’ll cover 2 brief topics: World Happiness Festival, and the Jingu Hanabi Taikai.
WORLD HAPPINESS FESTIVAL
A number of years ago I created the manga Princess Ai with 90’s rock diva Courtney Love. It was a great experience, and we were especially honored to have Yazawa Ai (“Nana”, “Paradise Kiss”) design the main characters, and talented manga-ka Kujiradou Misaho illustrate the series. Since that time, I hear from Courtney every now and then - including a sudden email two weeks ago. I had just arrived in Tokyo (I travel a lot) and she was coming into town two days later. I quickly investigated what music-related events were happening and discovered the World Happiness Festival, which is a music festival in Tokyo featuring only Japanese acts, and founded by a former member of classic Japanese electronic artist Y.M.O.
We were able to get passes for the show and backstage (thanks to Harada-san!), and our main quest was to check out Kyary Pamyu-Pamyu’s show. Courtney had just heard about her, and we were all curious to see her live. Personally, there were some other bands I would have liked to see, especially Hosono-san’s band, and Takahashi-san’s band (2 of the 3 YMO members) as well as Puffy. But time was limited so we focused on Pamyu, even though we also got to say hi to Ami-chan from Puffy!
Pamyu had a number of cute children with her as back-up dancers, and the costumes were fun, but frankly we were disappointed to see that her show didn’t feature the wacky props, fun costume changes, or colorful backgrounds from her music videos. It was really just her singing and dancing with the kids, which was cute but honestly Pamyu without all the psychedelic, flashy craziness was underwhelming. But we got to meet her and grab a pic before moving on to the ultra-touristy (and wild) Robot Restaurant.
All in all, it was great to hang out with Courtney, and dip my toe back in the J-Pop scene a bit. Back in the TOKYOPOP magazine days, we covered a lot of J-Pop and I got to check out lots of acts. I’m thinking of doing a video interview show for our YouTube channel so hopefully more chances like this will pop up. (Hopefully everyone will like the YouTube show - I’m hoping to film it in December).
JINGU HANABI TAIKAI
While I’m in Japan I try to enjoy some cultural festivities as well, and summer is great for its huge number of matsuris (festivals) and hanabi-taikai (fireworks shows). This year during my August stay I stopped by the Jingu Hanabi Taikai, which is very close to the old TOKYOPOP Tokyo offices (we used to have viewing parties from our emergency staircase LOL).
Fireworks in Japan are pretty much beyond most of the world (except perhaps the Beijing olympics!). The budgets are large enough for the sponsors to hire the best firework artists and buy the top-notch fireworks - which makes for a real treat that often lasts over an hour. They sell pricey official tickets if you want to sit in the stadium and relax for the show (as well as watch music acts before the fireworks) - or you can just wander around the many neighborhood streets, buying food from vendors, and claiming a place on the sidewalk to watch the show. Most women (of all ages) wear yukata (casual summer kimonos) and everyone gets pretty pumped up for the night. I’m sure most of you have watched a scene like this in an anime or two, but the real thing is quite exciting!
Check out this video of me doing “nagashi-somen” - it’s the first time I ever did this popular matsuri noodle-eating game!
Well, hopefully everyone is enjoying your summer wherever you are! Feel free to find me on social media - I’m especially active on Facebook (under “stulevy”) and a bit on Instagram (under “djmilky”). And there’s always my website: www.StuLevy.com
Mata ne! —Stu