A Timely Meetup

Today I had the great pleasure of meeting up with Jim Frederick, the Tokyo bureau chief for TIME magazine, and the man who wrote most of the excellent Cool Japan feature a few issues ago. We met at Montoak in Aoyama for lunch, where the setting was nice on the terrace, but the food was a bit less so (sandwiches with what amounted to spam – there are some places that you go for the food, and some for the atmosphere and design, Montoak definitely falls in the latter). It was great to chat with him and learn a lot about how things work at TIME (and all the different bureaus throughout Asia). Also, it opened my eyes on how the Japanese media seems to do things, and how it’s not necessarily the artists or the audience that should be blamed for the lack of exposure of Japan’s entertainment culture outside of the country.

Next time, ramen in Ikebukuro.

Wet Dreams

As you could see in the moblog, I was at the Cinema Korea 2003 festival yesterday to see the film WET DREAMS. I even got a press pass, which was a nice touch. Arriving at Sogetsu Hall (5 minute walk from Aoyama 1-Chome station on the Ginza line), it was nice to see a big crowd for this kind of festival. The crowd did seem to be older than what I usually see at movie events, so I suspect there were a fair amount of Japanese-Koreans in attendance. Before entering the screening room, you could browse all sorts of Korean related goods, like magazines, CDs and DVDs. They were also giving out some free Korean instant ramen! Entering the theatre, the place quickly filled up to show a sold out house. You can still chance a screening today (see my previous post for times and movies), but get there early as there are probably not many seats left, if any at all.

As for the movie, WET DREAMS, it was a blast. Imagine a comedy like AMERICAN PIE, but without the American hangups on sex, and much funnier. The film follows a group of young boys all looking to discover sex (or rooting, as they call it), and the ways they try to get it are all hilarious. I’d never heard of this film before, and am definitely glad I chose it. I don’t know what the availability of it is in other countries, but you can always get the Korean DVD from the excellent online shop Yeon DVD. You can also find out more about the state of Korean cinema at The Korean Film Page. There’s also a look at 2002 in Korean cinema at the Cinespot site.

Tokyo Godfathers

A while back I mentioned seeing a very cool-looking trailer for an animated movie on TV, but didn’t have any more info to share. Today I picked up a very nice flyer for the film (you’ll see a much bigger version of the above graphic at this link), which is called TOKYO GODFATHERS. I now know that the film is directed by Satoshi Kon, the man responsible for the animated dramas PERFECT BLUE and MILLENNIUM ACTRESS. The film opens in Japan in November, and if you click around the official site you’ll find a trailer for the film.

The Future and MUJI

MUJI-HP2

I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a huge MUJI fan, and now there’s a special exhibit for the retailer at Gallery MA from September 13 to November 8. From REALTOKYO:

The MUJI (Mujirushi Ryohin) shops are always inviting to step in and have a brief look through the shelves, even if you’re not planning to buy anything. About 30 years ago MUJI started as a private brand of Seiyu with just 40 articles, but now the shops stock more than 5,000, and even at New York’s MoMA you can find them. Among up-and-coming designers the brand has been working with in the past are the likes of Fukazawa Naoto and Sam Hecht, and now you might be one of those that wonder who’s going to be the next. In a space designed by Sugimoto Takashi, this exhibition introduces the brand’s original concept by displaying various MUJI items, along with a fully equipped living room that was put together out of MUJI materials. Go and see this exhibition, and you’ll know why here Uniqlo didn’t have a chance to take over.

The Death of TV

I’ve recently gotten some really bad news regarding two shows I watch regularly. The worst is the cancellation of UCHIMURA PRODUCE (Monday nights at 23:15 on TV Asahi). The whole thing started back in the Spring, when it came to light that Uchimura (host of the show, and one half of the comedy duo Un-chan Nan-chan) was dating the female on-air assistant, also a newscaster on the same channel. The thing is, the newscaster was still married to one of TV Asahi’s top producers (although they were separated), and all this caused quite the stir in the still very-much male dominated Japanese world. She was quickly removed from the Uchimura show, as well as her news program, but UCHIMURA PRODUCE was spared. Well, it seems that the producer still has it in for Uchimura, and they’re finally getting the ax in September. It’s really too bad since the show, which features regular appearances by tons of hilarious comedians, like Ryo Fukawa, T.I.M. and Summers, in improv style situations that get me rolling on the floor most of the time. The other bad news is for another wacky comedy show, ONE NIGHT ROCK’N’ROLL (Wednesday nights at 22:00 on Fuji TV), which I’ve mentioned quite a few times already. They first got in trouble a few weeks ago when they had a sketch where they had the face of the Tigers baseball team’s manager in a toilet (which was flushed – the Japanese take their baseball very seriously). Then, last week, they had a sketch where they were force-feeding some milk powder to someone, and now that company that makes the powder (you could see the brand) is none too happy. At first I was afraid (and expecting) that the show would also get cancelled, but it seems that they’ll instead have to retinker the show a bit. Let’s hope they don’t water down things too much. I want my Gorie and Todoroki-san as wild and wacky as I’m used to getting them.

I Am Press!

Regarding the Cinema Korea 2003 festival taking place this weekend at Sogetsu Hall in Akasaka (previously mentioned here), after having been contacted to say I had won tickets for one movie (I picked WET DREAMS, as it seems like a fun comedy, and I’ve liked some of the Korean comedies I’ve seen in the past, like MY WIFE IS GANGSTER), I was then told that I’ll probably be able to see another film also (ADDICTED) with a press pass because of my site. Finally, this site is giving me something back!

Cool in Japan

I finally got a chance to read the article I had linked from TIME ASIA a few weeks ago (I was waiting to get back home and read it in my copy). Yes, these are definitely some of the things that make me stay in Tokyo, and why I couldn’t really see myself being anywhere else right now. Lots of exciting things going on in Japan, and especially Tokyo, and it’s what powers most of this site.

Haneru no Tobira

HTW009-01

The other day I got my HANERU NO TOBIRA t-shirt in the mail, which I ordered online when I got back from Tokyo. HANERU NO TOBIRA is one of my favorite comedy shows (Fuji TV on Mondays at 00:35), and features the comedy groups Robert, King Kong, Hokuyo, Impulse, and Drunk Dragon. They had a great live episode this week in which they performed in front of a huge outdoor audience in Odaiba (location of the Fuji building), and the fictional visual-kei band Pink Hallelujia performed a new single. It was hilarious, especially when the groupies got on stage and started pumping up the air guitar action. They finished off with a rendition of their “Pa-Pa-Panties” song in which they all do a traditional matsuri-style dance with panties on their heads. The audience had also brought extra panties, and promptly put them on their heads to join in the fun. Priceless.