Latest News from Japan Zone & Japan Store

Marty’s Mega Big in Japan

Former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman

Tokyo-based guitarist and onetime Megadeth member Marty Friedman has released a new version of his 2018 song ‘The Perfect World’ featuring guest vocals by +α/Alfakyun. The singer, who is famed for her extraordinarily versatile vocal technique and wide register, brings a new interpretation to Friedman’s hit song that will appeal to fans of the original and newcomers alike. 

Friedman commented, “There is no limit to +α/Alfakyun.’s voice, and she can do all sorts of things, so we were able to really change the atmosphere of the original.”

‘THE PERFECT WORLD (feat. Alfakyun.)’ music video

‘THE PERFECT WORLD (feat. Alfakyun.)’ is the only track with vocals to be included on Friedman’s otherwise fully instrumental album ‘TOKYO JUKEBOX 3’, which is released on October 21, 2020. The album is the third in Friedman’s series featuring guitar covers of recent Japanese hit songs, and it includes his cover of ‘Gurenge’, the opening theme to globally popular TV anime ‘Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba’. As with the other songs on the album, Friedman’s cover of ‘Gurenge’ showcases his uniquely characteristic guitar skills and his creative talent as not only a master musician but also a composer and producer. Friedman’s cover brings a Western twist while retaining the song’s distinctly Japanese flavor, and its video on YouTube has racked up hundreds of thousands of views around the world.

The striking cover photo for ‘TOKYO JUKEBOX 3’ shows Friedman dressed in a kimono, complete with colorful makeup, showcasing Friedman’s unique reinterpretation of Japanese culture while also giving fans a surprising and exciting new look to enjoy.

Having risen to fame as the lead guitarist of legendary heavy metal band Megadeth when it boasted sales of over 13 million albums worldwide in the 1990s, Friedman is now a household name in Japan, with credentials not only in the world of music but also in television, film, literature and commercials. Before moving to Japan in 2004, Friedman taught himself Japanese and famously placed second at Arizona State University’s Japanese Debating Competition. In 2005, he became a regular member on the legendary rock variety program ‘Hebimeta-san’ broadcasted by TV Tokyo, surprising not only heavy metal fans in Japan but also around the world, as videos of his performances surfaced online. 

This was followed by regular appearances on the TV show ‘ROCK FUJIYAMA’, which became popular worldwide. Since then, Friedman has appeared in many TV programs from national public broadcaster NHK and other stations, while also contributing as a regular columnist for a magazine and a newspaper. He published his first book, whose title loosely translates as ‘It’s All Good! I Came to Japan for J-pop’, which became a bestseller. He has also made appearances in films such as ‘Gu Gu, the Cat’ and ‘Detroit Metal City’.


DUNE – With a Japan Zone Twist

Dune - Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson

If, like me, you’re old enough to remember the original 1984 movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic novel, you’ll likely have an opinion about the upcoming remake of Dune. In my case, it’s a sense of optimism that the new movie –due for a December 2020 release if Covid-19 permits – will be a much more solid and faithful telling of a really compelling story.

The cast looks impressive (no Sting!), with a mixture of veteran and youthful stars. Timothee Chalamet may be Hollywood “flavor of the month” but he’s a very solid and versatile actor, and director Denis Villeneuve has already proven his chops by pulling off what nobody though possible – a really strong Blade Runner sequel that some claim even surpasses Ridley Scott’s original.

So what’s the Japan Zone angle? Glad you asked.

One of the movie’s locations was Budapest, Hungary. And it was to the Origo Film Studios in Budapest that we shipped a large order of jikatabi footwear in the spring of 2019. As was the case after we provided footwear for previous Hollywood blockbusters (47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves, Wolverine with Hugh Jackman, and the most recent Star Wars reboot) we looked and looked to see if the jikatabi were actually used, but given that feet are usually either out of shot or in the distance, it’s remarkably difficult to spot them.

So, it was with a sense of excitement that I checked out the recently released trailer and promo photos for Dune. Boots are in view, but as yet no definitive jikatabi shots. Still, it looks like a movie definitely worth checking out. And they’ve even included a bit of classic Pink Floyd in the soundtrack!


HodoBuzz – Sticking it to Japanese Media

HodoBuzz stars Maho Honda

HodoBuzz is a new “Japanese political mini-series” that started streaming in the U.S. and the U.K. last month following its controversial debut in Japan. It tells the story of a Japanese female journalist and her fight for the truth in reporting. It stars NYC-based actors Maho Honda as reporter Asuka Wada and Yuki Matsuzaki (Pirates of the Caribbean, Letters from Iwo Jima) as her new boss in the U.S.

The official press release describes the story as follows: “tired of sexism in Japan’s TV industry, reporter Asuka Wada quits her job in Tokyo as a game show host to move to New York City to work for a digital news company, HodoBuzz. With a new-found confidence, she speaks openly about the Japanese media industry’s false reporting, unethical business practice, and other industry taboos. Immediately, she becomes a target of intense online harassment.

HodoBuzz, a new Japanese political mini-series set in NYC

The series was produced by Derrrruq!!!, a group of independent filmmakers with two women and one openly gay man, who grew up in Japan and later immigrated into the United States. Honda, whose previous credits include Maniac (2018) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015), is also credited as a producer of the series, while Masu Hiroshi Masuyama (In This Corner of the World, winner of the 40th Japan Academy Prize) is an executive producer.

The series is now available to stream on Amazon in the U.S. and U.K. (free for members of Amazon Prime) as well as several services in Japan.

HodoBuzz Official Trailer (US/UK) from Derrrrruq!!! //デルック on Vimeo.


RHYME SO Creates Virtual Nightclub for HOT Video

RHYME SO: HOT

RHYME SO – formed by Japanese producer Shinichi Osawa, a.k.a MONDO GROSSO, and RHYME, an Australian artist/poet – has released their new single “HOT” visualized as a 360° VR music video.

Set in a virtual nightclub in your mind, “HOT” was directed by Jordan Freda, who has worked on several projects with some of the world’s top artists including Katy Perry. The music video was created in collaboration with Strangeloop Studios, an up-and-coming LA-based creative company that produces cutting-edge “music & tech” such as live visuals for The Weeknd and Flying Lotus.

RHYME SO – “HOT” (Official 360° VR Music Video)

Combining an addictive, fresh dance beat by Shinichi Osawa with lyrics by RHYME that sharply and humorously capture modern society, the “HOT” 360° virtual nightclub can be enjoyed with a VR headset or on a mobile phone.

The visual movies playing on the monitors in the “HOT” 360°club (the RHYME version, the SO version, and RHYME&SO version) are now available with lyrics on the RHYME SO YouTube Channel.

RHYME SO was formed in Tokyo in 2017, and their first track, “Just Used Music Again”, was included in 2019 on the Head in the Clouds II label compilation supervised by 88rising’s JOJI. The song was also cut as a single and made an impressive debut, jumping to the top of numerous Spotify playlists in more than 25 countries around the world, including New Music Friday, with over 2.2 million streams.

88rising & RHYME SO – Just Used Music Again

Released in March 2020, the single “Fashion Blogger” cynically and uniquely mirrors modern society’s addiction to the internet. The music video is set in a figure skating competition and features MILK (RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 / All Star Season 3), a world-renowned drag queen and former figure skater.

The epic and avant-garde music video, which features MILK and RHYME skating on ice, has been featured in many media outlets and has been viewed more than 2.7 million times on YouTube. The video is currently nominated for “Best Music Award “, “Best Actress/ Model Award”, and “Best Major Brand Production Award” at the London Fashion Film Festival and in the “Best Music Video” category of the Berlin Commercial festival.

Fashion Blogger

ABOUT RHYME SO:

RHYME moved to Japan in 2017 soon after she met Osawa – the pair quickly formed a close collaboration and began writing together as RHYME SO; they’ve also performed together for DIOR in Tokyo. Their two cultures collide harmoniously as their distinctively rich musical abilities create exciting, relatable bops. RHYME SO’s music was picked up by Japanese/Australian artist JOJI and the duo’s debut single dance hit “Just Used Music Again” was released on 88 Rising’s 2019 album Head In The Clouds II, which gained accolades from Hypebeast, Highsnobiety, Billboard, Complex, Hypebae, Mixmag, The Line Of Best Fit, and more.

RHYME SO brings a refreshing sound and style that they’ve created on their own terms. Blending their infectious pop hooks, tongue twisters, and witty lyrics while pioneering a new era sound – which they call “Blank Post Genre” – the duo are set to hit the ground running with more new music to come soon.

ABOUT RHYME:

Rising alt-pop artist RHYME encompasses an eclectic but curated genre for herself as a word performer. As a DJ, she’s travelled the world playing rock’n’roll to experimental hip-hop to house to disco in front of large crowds. Born to Australian rock legend Richard Lara (The Screaming Jets) and stylist and make-up artist Michelle Michaleson (Chrissy Amphlett), the Sydney-born singer started playing classical saxophone at age 10 and also took up figure skating. At 18 years old, RHYME decided to stop figure skating full-time due to financial pressures and focused on modelling and music. For a few years she volunteered at Mardi Gras Pride Parade Festival and curated music at Sydney’s well-known club, Frankie’s Pizza. RHYME released solo projects including her latest EP INTERNET GIRL which received support from NYLON Japan. As a model she has appeared in global fashion magazines including CAKE Magazine and Re-Quest/QJ.

ABOUT SHINICHI OSAWA (MONDO GROSSO):

Shinichi Osawa’s career began as MONDO GROSSO in the early 90s. Osawa then became a successful music producer and composer for TV advertisements and film scores. He went on to produce some of the most stylish acid jazz, house, Nu-wave and R&B music in Japan. He also produced many of Japan’s top artists like Namie Amuro and bird. Shinichi Osawa then succeeded in the 2000s as an electro music pioneer. He released his first album, The One, via FatBoy Slim’s Label. His remix of Digitalism’s “POGO” was an epic of the electro era. His unique style has been influential in the music industry in Japan and beyond. In 2017, he released his first album in 14 years as MONDO GROSSO – soon after the release, the album ranked #1 on Japan’s iTunes album chart, and the music video “Labyrinth” from the album has since accumulated over 26 million views, receiving support from Mixmag Asia.

RHYME SO

Official Website

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Japan’s Atomic Legacy

As Japan marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is remarkable and sad that some survivors are still fighting a battle. A recent court decision finally ruled that people who had suffered from the effects of exposure to radioactive “black rain” following the August 6, 1945 bombing of Hiroshima should be entitled to government support in spite of having been outside an officially designated radius of ground zero.

This article shares the stories of some of the survivors: Hiroshima survivors worry that the world will forget


Japan Loses a Fashion Icon

Yamamoto Kansai

Known for his avant-garde collections and the dramatic way he blended traditional Japanese designs with bright and bold fantasy colours, Yamamoto Kansai was perhaps most famous for his collaboration with rock/pop icon David Bowie.

He died on July 21, 2020 at the age of 76 following a diagnosis of leukemia.

David Bowie stage costume designed by Yamamoto KansaiHe was most influential during the 1970s and 1980s, and is particularly remembered for the flamboyant stage costumes he designed for Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane touring years in the early 70s. The photo shows a Yamamoto design from an exhibition of Bowie’s costumes first staged at the V&A in London in 2013.

“Some sort of chemical reaction took place: My clothes became part of David, his songs and his music,” Yamamoto said in a 2016 interview. “They became part of the message he delivered to the world.” He also designed clothing for other musical superstars including Elton John, Stevie Wonder and John Lennon.

Beyond fashion, Yamamoto also designed venues and social events, including for the 2008 G8 summit in Tokyo, and the Skyliner train that runs between Tokyo Narita Airport and the capital.

Japan Zone profiles of Yamamoto Kansai and other Japanese fashion designers.



Story Teller Project

Story Teller Project

I assume this has actually already been done before, but it strikes me as a clever idea: mix manga and pop.

Story Teller Project describe themselves as a “rookie masked band” whose style is “poetry reading and singing, combined with comic pictures!” The debut release, Hatsu Koi – My Aoharu Days, is a pleasant romantic ditty that features the voice of popular young actress Sakurai Hinako (22), so there’s presumably some big company and serious money behind them. But it’s all packaged very well on their official website and social media channels.

The quartet is made up of “Sentimental keyboardist” Kazekaze, “Red hair and blue-eyed vocalist” Soramaru, “Sailor blouse” DJ Umi, and “Ironic bassist” Moriyama-san.

twitter 
https://twitter.com/storytellerpjt

HP 
http://storyteller-pjt.com/


The End of an Era

Emperor Akihito of Japan becomes the first in living memory, indeed in centuries, to abdicate from the throne, bringing the 30-year Heisei Era to a close. His son, Crown prince Naruhito, will formally ascend to the throne at midnight tonight, marking the beginning of the new Reiwa Era.

Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (via Kyodo)

Akihito is widely loved and respected, both at home and abroad. His reign stood in contrast to that of his father, Hirohito, who is posthumously known as Emperor Showa and whose reign straddled World War II and saw an end to the emperor being formally revered as a living god.

Naruhito is expected to seek to be “close to the people”, following in his father’s footsteps and travelling across the country, particularly in the wake of the natural disasters which are such a common occurrence in Japan, and the “abide by the Constitution”, possibly a more tricky proposition considering efforts in recent years by the current ruling party to amend certain elements of the constitution.


Super Golden Week

Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate on April 30 and his son Naruhito will ascend to the throne on May 1, which will become a new national holiday. Combined with weekends and the existing series of national holidays in April and early May, this year’s Golden Week will extend to an unprecedented 10 days, a phenomenally long holiday by Japanese standards.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko plan where they’re going to spend their retirement!

Who doesn’t love a long holiday, right? Well, one worry about this long break is how it will affect businesses and hurt sales. Here at Japan Store, we will be unable to get stock from manufacturers or suppliers, so many orders placed during this time are likely to be delayed. But rest assured that we will do everything in our power to get all orders shipped as soon as we possibly can.

If you have an urgent delivery deadline, make sure to let us know. We will “upgrade” the shipping on urgent orders where possible and ensure that they are prioritized.


Japan Flooding Update

Flooding in Hiroshima (Kyodo)

As you may have seen in the news, torrential rain has caused massive flooding in parts of western Japan, leading to the loss of more than 100 lives, with many thousands more devastated, and evacuation orders for some 2 million people.

We deal with several manufacturers in the region. One of them, Marugo, is based in Okayama, among the hardest-hit areas. They have informed us that their factory is safe, but that we should expect delivery delays.

This will affect some of our customers, and we will keep you updated of any delays to individual orders. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we hope you will join us in keeping the people of western Japan in our thoughts.