Tuesday, November 25, 2014

T-1 Gran Prix

The plaza on the east side of the main Chuo Train station hosted the T-1 Gran Prix on the 23rd. One half consisted of a competition for who had the best Japanese green tea. Apparently, the teas were all from Kagoshima. The judging kind of looked like a Texan chili cook-off.

(Tools of the trade.)

(Stage show for the kids.)

(Demonstration of hand-rolling fresh tea leaves.)

The other half had tables selling tea.

People here like their tea in a traditional setting.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Eki Machi Festa

On the west side of the main Chuo train station, a small stage was set up for the Eki Machi 1-choume Kagoshima Festa Nov. 23rd (Station City Neighborhood 1 Kagoshima Festa). There were 4 acts that performed a few times each during the day. One was Masayan, an acoustic guitarist, and the second was the Golden Seniors cheer dancers. The third was Shiho Nagai, who, with her teacher, played Okinawan songs on a jamisen (like a samisen) accompanied by a small taiko drum. It's not really my kind of music, but I was amazed by the finger work of both jamisen players.

Direct youtube link

The fourth act was Tomoyuki Onoda, a magician I haven't seen here before. Most of the magic at the beginning of his set were scarf tricks, all of which I'm familiar with. Technically, he did a good job, but his stage approach didn't really connect with the audience. Like many jugglers and magicians here, he had music playing behind him, and just went through the motions of the illusions one right after the other without talking. I'm not sure the audience really had time to register what they'd just seen before he went to the next bit. Regardless, I was too far away, and he was moving too fast, for me to get good photos from where I was standing. But, as I say, I know most of these tricks, so I didn't stick around all that long.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Last year at about this time, I'd been walking past along the Kotsuki river at 9 PM when I heard music coming from the park. Investigating, I found a large tent set up in the park, and bleacher seating for 30 people. I had no idea what was going on, or why. The next afternoon, when I came by to take pictures in the daylight, the tent, bleachers and everything were already gone.

This year, I happened to see pretty much the same tent set up in the same place, but on Thursday afternoon. Inside, someone was loudly reading out their lines, which consisted of repeating the English vowels. A small wire rack next to the tent held fliers for the show. I'd seen these fliers in Tenmonkan over the last couple weeks, and recognized them right away.

I stopped by the park Friday night, and the show was already running. It was raining, and the dim red and blue lights coming from the stage at one end of the tent gave it a very strong Ray Bradbury feel. Actors kept running off the sides of the stage and outside of the tent, then grabbing props or dashing to the other side of the tent, and going back in. For the most part, they ignored me as I stood there with my camera out.

(Sunday afternoon. The main equipment truck and a personnel van. The closest tent acts as a barracks for the cast and crew.)

The group calls themselves Dokungo They're a "gekiga" (drama) troupe that engages in surrealistic comedy. This is their 14th "Naked Dog Tour". The story combines UFOs, Edo period characters, and electric guitars. The name on the flyer, "Ouf", is intentionally misspelled.

Kind of looks like a circus.

The stage area was uninhabited, but a sign in front did welcome people to come in and look around.

(Some of the props and costumes.)

The bleacher seats can't hold that many people, but there is only one performance per evening. According to the schedule, they started in Izumi, in Kagoshima Prefecture, last April, toured around Japan for the last 7 months, and then held their final performances of this season back in Kagoshima from Friday the 21st to Sunday the 23rd. The shows started at 7 PM, and ran maybe 2 hours. I seriously considered attending the one on Sunday, but the tickets were 2,800 yen ($26 USD) at the door, 2,500 yen in advance, and that was more than I wanted to pay at the time. If things go the way I expect, they'll have Naked Dog Tour #15 next April, and I'll try watching that one.

(Goods shop.)

When not in use, the stage doubles as the wardrobe closet.

Dokungo was formed in Nagasaki in 1983. They started their national tent show tours in '89, and then relocated their base of operations to Kagoshima in 2009.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chaos Note review

I've mentioned Hideo Azuma before. He's a manga artist that was popular in the 1970's for his lolicon drawings, primarily of high school girls. In the 80's and 90's, due to the pressures put on him by his editors, he cracked and became a homeless alcoholic on several occasions. His Disappearance Diary recounts his time in a rehab clinic.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Chaos Note, 2014, East Press, Grade: A.
Chaos Note is Hideo's first manga work following Disappearance Diary. While he describes this as sort of a daily diary, it's really a collection of short surreal gags that follow the pattern "XX Day, X Month, I turned into a cat", or something similar. Many of the gags are only 2 panels, with two gags on one page. Others can be grouped as "Today I went mountain climbing", "Today I read a pop-up book" and "Today I went on a pilgrimage". These specifically are recurring themes that resurface occasionally. A few of the gags can be up to 2 or 4 pages long, while "Man eater" and "Trip to Hell" are probably the longest, at 5-6 pages.

If you're familiar with Tori Miki's Anywhere but Here gag series, there are a lot of similarities, in part because Tori is a fan of Hideo's, but possibly also because Hideo worked with Tori on producing at least one of his own books (Tori's interview with Hideo appeared at the back of one book). Regardless, Hideo has his own unique style which shines from cover to cover.

"(XX Day, X Month, I read a pop-up book.")

Some of the artwork isn't appropriate for minors, or anyone who is easily offended. Hideo is a heavy smoker, and cigarettes and sake, are a part of his character. Some of the jokes poke fun at his relapses, while the word "Sober" on his t-shirt is a constant reminder that alcohol is not his friend.

I enjoy Hideo's gag work and the more surreal elements. I highly recommend Chaos Note to fans of Anywhere But Here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Barrier Free

The second event on the 16th was another one-day music fest in front of Amupla. This one was the 6th Kagoshima Chuo Station Festival, and it featured music most of the day. One of the announcers was a local DJ, but he was spending his time walking around trying to get people to sign some kind of a form. The text at the top of the back wall says that the event is in part an effort to make stores and businesses in Kagoshima barrier-free to the handicapped. The second female vocalist on the stage, to the right, is in a wheelchair.

This group is the Zousan Band. The first couple songs were slow ballads, but I did manage to record one piece that rocked pretty well. I think the title is "Can't Sleep". I can't find a good web link to the band or the lyrics, unfortunately.

Direct youtube link for video 1.

The following song was also a slow ballad, so I went inside the mall to get some coffee from Kaldi and kill a little time. Ironically, the stage itself was not barrier free, and 4 guys had to run up and help lower the one vocalist's wheelchair down to the ground.

The next act on stage was going to be the Little Cherries. LC is very well-known in Kagoshima, and I've heard a lot about them from several sources. But, I had yet to see them perform. Little Cherries was first formed around 1980 and is a jazz band made up of elementary and middle school students. They've toured the world multiple times in each incarnation, and have won various music competitions. There may be upwards of 60 members total, but only 20 played this time.

I recorded 2 songs, plus the bit where each member is introduced. They were very good, and are worth watching again.

Direct youtube link for video 2.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tax Fair

Saturday, the 15th, had four major events, but there was a fifth, so to speak, set up in Tenmonkan in the area in front of the 7-11. There were a number of hanging boards along the walkway, with art and advertising on them, but nothing really worth writing about. Sunday, I swung by Central Park to verify that the stage and stalls from the Anglo-Satsuma matsuri had been taken down, then dropped by the 7-11 to see if the stage there was being used yet.

And, actually, it was. The hanging boards were part of a kind of stamp rally, and two tables nearby were handing out cotton candy and some kind of grab bag. Also in attendance was a clown making balloon animals, and three foamheads. Two of the characters represent Kagoshima - Guree-buu and Sakura. The third might have been made for this event - Manabu- (which is a pun. "Manabu" means "to study", while "buu" is the sound pigs make in Japan. As a reminder, Guree-buu uses a similar pun, for "green" and "oink". Sakura just refers to cherry trees. Guree-buu and Sakura were both created about 4 years ago to promote a local program for putting flowers along the streets throughout the city.)

The event, though, was The Tax Festa, an educational program to help people do their taxes (which are due soon).

The event schedule included some music, and the presence of a local female radio host. I didn't recognize any of the names, so I didn't stick around for any of it.

Someone put up a big banner over the hanger boards. I can't read it, but it may have something to do with taxes. From here, I went up to the main Chuo train station again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

City Fest

(Tree's up again.)

On the 15th, I went up to Amupla to see if there was anything going on. There were two events, actually. One was an arts and crafts fair in the plaza next to the bus parking area. The other was something billed as a "City Matsuri". Most of the booths contained displays and objects for sale from various NPO groups. A few of them were handing out cherry tomatoes and small samples of tea.

You could play with clay (nendo) at one booth.

Not a lot of people out today. The sky was clear, but the temps were a bit cool (maybe in the 50's).

I didn't see a performance schedule, so I don't know which groups were playing on stage. One was just leaving as I arrived, and the instruments stayed on the tables as the second group took their places. The instrument is called a "taishogoto", or "Taisho harp". It's named after the Taiso era (1912-1926), when it was created, and it combines a kind of typewriter keyboard with piano strings. The strings are plucked with the right hand, and the left plays the keyboard, which frets the strings, changing pitch. These are an electric version, from Suzuki, called the Tokumatsu. The players seemed to go out of tune, or slow down a bit, occasionally, but they sounded remarkably good for the number of people all playing together like this.

Taisho Harps

Direct youtube link