Friday, August 17, 2012

Kamo River


The perfect way to end a weekend stay in Kyoto: biking down the river paths until sunset. As we biked up the Kamo River we passed kids and their parents playing in the water, a musician playing the melodica under an echoey bridge, skateboarders, tourists and a kindly old woman who gave us a couple of fans. The relaxing atmosphere and humid weather made it feel like a trip down a bike path in a Midwest summer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fushimi Inari

We arrived at this famous shrine just around midnight, and to my surprise found it wasn't completely empty. A shinto shrine, Fushimi Inari is lined with hundreds of Toori, Japanese gateways that represent a transition from the profane to the sacred. It was easy to get lost among the labyrinth of orange pillars and a bit eerie in the dark with hardly any one around. The main guest that night were Japanese rhinoceros beetles (カブトムシ), which at 4-5 inches long were flying and constantly crashing into pillars and lights.

We came upon a clearing where this guy was collecting beetles in a garbage bag. He said they were for his kid's friends. Unless his kid had over 100 friends, he was most likely going to be selling them as pets or for gambling (apparently it's a popular sport to have the beetles fight each other).

In attempt to appease the beetles, and honor the beautiful design of the shrine, we recorded this thumb-piano and slide whistle jam and made this pixilation:

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Smoking

In Tokyo, smoking is allowed inside many restaurants and bars but usually not on the streets. Here are some of my favorite no smoking signs.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yoyogi Park

A couple snapshots from a pleasant day in the park with my old pal Carly Fisher.

Carly enjoying some takoyaki, or fried octopus balls, which I think may be my favorite Japanese street food. In the background are the greasers, a tourist favorite on Saturdays at the park.

I was enjoying seeing this tiny dog trying to ride this tiny bike.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

TBS CG Office Party

Here are a few photos from my mini going away party at TBS. I worked in the CG department for a total of 4 weeks. Everyone in the department was extremely friendly and very patient with me as I tried to learn a little Japanese every few days. I worked in an office with about 9-10 other guys who were all working on projects ranging from title design to motion graphics for the Olympics to crazy openings for TBS dramas.

Kenji (on the left) was my mentor and was a huge help in developing the ideas for the media stairs. Kenji is also a very talented CG artist and was modeling and animating a soccer ball when I left.
Hayato (on the right) is another talented CG artist and was also a great help to me over the month. He was working on some sweet title designs for a TBS drama.

Saito-san is a project manager in the CG department. He took me out for some delicious toriwasa (chicken sashimi).

More general office silliness.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ueno Park

Last Sunday we wandered out to Ueno Park. I was hoping to find some older architecture, but later found out we were looking in the wrong spots. However, the park itself was a nice surprise. Ueno Park is one of the oldest public parks in Japan and is Tokyo's most popular city park.

The park and neighborhood seemed a little more rough around the edges than other parts of Tokyo. It was the only place I had seen multiple homeless people, who were at the train station and wandering around parts of the park.

We sat down for a few sketches. I'll post some scans up at Cutting Board soon.  Finally put some scans up on Cutting Board.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jim O'Rourke in Shibuya

Last Sunday we saw the legendary Jim O'Rourke perform a John Cage piece along with an experimental Japanese cello player and pianist. There were no photos or recording allowed, which is a shame because the hall space was quite awesome, a huge open gym-like room with sound proof panels hanging everywhere. The performance was broadcast on NHK.

Afterwards we grabbed some food at an Izakaya, which had one of those little screens at the table that you can order food from.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sumida River Fireworks


Witness here the awesome visual impact of the Natsu Hanabi over the Sumida Kawa.
The shaking is present because the Tokyo Sky Tree was about to blast off into space.

Witness the awesome auditory impact of the event at Elisa's blog.

The river beds were absolutely crammed with spectators laying on blankets and tarps. I didn't see very many tourists. The weather was at it's hottest and clammiest, but we had a nice supply of semi-cold non-alcoholic flavored beers and something that was supposed to be okonomiyaki, but more closely resembled a pizza with teriyaki sauce.


Thursday, July 26, 2012


Just a couple of my new favorite Japanese bands...

Pictures captured at Ikebukuru Minami Live House on July 22.

Live shows are expensive, usually around 2000-3000 yen (which usually includes a drink ticket for 500 yen that must be purchased). Someone told me it was because of the high price of real estate. The shows were usually worth the price though, but on my fixed budget I unfortunately could make it to too many.

This show was of particular note, as a large lanky, white as hell Australian guy got into a shouting and then shoving match in full Japanese with another Japanese guy. They were both kicked out but then showed up an hour or so later acting all buddy-buddy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Akasaka Sacas Media Stairs

Last weekend my first media stairs animation was installed! I created this in two weeks in the CG department at TBS. The theme was Natsu (Summer). The camera is a little shaky because I had to film while kneeling after a security guard came out of nowhere and told me to stop sitting on the ground.

Japanese summers are usually very rainy in early June, but by late June the rain gradually stops and the days heat up and get super humid. Just like in CA, a lot of people cool off by heading to the beaches, and just like in the U.S. a big highlight of the summer is the fireworks in July. Thus the theme of this animation!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


On Thursday we were taken to Midoriyama studios to watch the making of the show Beginners!
"Class S is full of dropouts, weak students, and timid students who have come to this Police Academy to become future policemen/women. They must obey everyone and every rule without question. They are under surveillance 24 hours a cell phones, no going out, and no dating."

The day before the crew had been at work for 24 hours strait. We watched them shoot a classroom scene, in which the instructor had to get his hand repeatedly slammed underneath a textbook until the director found the correct shot.

We sat up stairs in the control room, watching the scene unfold through multiple monitors. It was amazing the amount of editing, color correction and sound that was done on the spot. The studio itself was pretty large with life scenes replicas of a bathroom, bedroom, teachers office and classroom.

No pictures... I didn't really want to impose since they were already doing us a huge favor by bringing us there. But here is the intro for the show. You can see parts of the classroom:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cat Chat Sound Recording / Mixing - July 8

We had a day long recording session for the Cat Chat animations this Sunday. I got to record a voice for Richie, the dopey cat who has too much hair in his mouth to talk clearly. Most of the day was spent adding sound effects and background voices.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Morita-san and Oshida-san took Jovanna and I to Mount Takao, a popular hiking spot located right outside of Tokyo. We were with young kids so the hiking was light but we still got to see some amazing views and ride a ski-lift. I also saw Mt. Fuji for the first and only time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kamakura, The Beach

This was my first exposure to Japanese beach culture. The beach was crowded with bonfires, jetskis and a DJ spinning records. We got this amazing view from a Buddhist temple and then wandered down, crossing the bridge to the neighboring island of Enoshima.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kamakura, Daibutsu

On Sunday, Kenji, my mentor in the CG department took us to Kamakura, his home town and also a super hot tourist destination for those from all around Japan and beyond. At over 700 years old, this is definitely the oldest thing I've seen so far in Japan. The statue is an engineering marvel, and to my surprise, for just 20 yen, we were able to peak inside.

You can clearly see where plastic has been added to support the neck, and the steel reinforcements added near the base, but besides that it's mostly original materials. I wondered if a band had ever played inside.

 It's also a little known fact that these glasses date back over 700 years.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Enban Festival of the Disk

On Friday I made it out to Shibuya O-Nest for an long and eclectic day of experimental and independent music from Tokyo and beyond. The show was hosted by Enban, an independent record store based in Koenji. The middle of the club was full of merchandise that normally lines the shelves of the store, and featuring many of the artists performing. There was an amazing selection of zines, records, tapes and independent artwork.

Hopping back and forth between the 6th and 5th floor, with one guy performing in between, I was able to soak in a dense amount of new music that I had sorely been missing.

As I walked in I caught the first act, Ju Sei, setting up their equipment. Instruments included wind-up toys, Bunsen burners, bottles, cans, propellers, guitar and vocals. The microphone was held up by an elastic stretchy band which snapped to the wall every time the singer didn't need it. The performance was full of surprises, sometimes grating, sometimes melodic, always enjoyable. A smoke machine closed out the last song but by the time the next band set up it had all magically disappeared.

This guitar and Therimin duo was good but a little heavy. Plus I had to get outside to see...

This guy. He was literally playing the entire day. From 4pm to Midnight. I saw him walking down the street later looking completely dead but with a suitcase full of Yen.

Te_ri is a guitar and drum duo with spazzy rhythms and chords that are like chords I love to play. I loved their set. After I asked what the guitar player's favorite bands were and he said Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

Horaizun was my favorite act of the night. I managed to catch the singer later and asked him in my wonky Japanese about his curious onstage acts. He said the two shoes were like the man and the woman. When the laces were out of the shoe, the woman was nude. The music started with the singer conducting a wall of horns and gradually progressed to a rock quartet (the band's usual line-up). The music was so joyous and alive, especially with the amount of people on stage.

One of the bands that I had kind of heard of before was Tennis Coats. Early in the night I ran into a friendly red-bearded gentleman from Kansas. He mentioned he'd be signing a song later with one of the bands. At the end of the night he appeared on stage with a chorus of Japanese women, singing fluently in Japanese and sounding like Bon Iver. It was pretty amazing to see a guy come from so far and be so accepted into another culture.

On my way out I caught the middle of this ska-funk band's set. The lead singer was wearing a cat in the hat hat and guzzling whisky. The music was the most fun of the night with every song ending in a crazy drawn out mess. Many of the horn members of Horaizun were on stage. I really wanted to see the whole thing but had to catch my last train!

Monday, July 9, 2012


On Saturday I tried Chankonabe, a Japanese stew served to sumo wrestlers to help gain weight. The meal started off with a huge bowl of raw meat and another full of veggies. The protein included chicken, fish meat balls, and tofu. My Japanese friends handled adding the meats and veggies to the pot of boiling water. After feeling completely stuffed, they ordered a huge portion of white rice and raw eggs and added that to the remaining broth and then we ate that.

Also included were these amazing place mats, listing the sumo rankings. I asked if there were many foreign born wrestlers, and there were, their names are written in Katakana of course.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Edo Tokyo Museum

My two new friends from the CG department at TBS took me to the Tokyo Edo History museum today. The museum was amazing. I had really been wanting to see Ukiyo prints in person, but had no idea where to go. But this museum delivered with a fine exhibit of prints of the Nihonbashi bridge. There were several prints from Utagawa Hiroshige, one of the most famous Ukiyo artists and my personal favorite.

On the second floor was yet another amazing exhibit of the history of Edo period Japan. Walking through the exhibition I couldn't help think of a few similarities to a lot of U.S. cities aspiring to be urban utopias that I've lived in (Urbana, Berkeley, Oakland, parts of Los Angeles). They had greywater recycling (toilet water reused for crops), weird art shows (kabuki theater), printing (though Ukiyo, not screen), and even independent bookstores (which sold ukiyo prints and novels). Besides the rigid social order and lack of individual rites the exhibit made the time period seem like not such a bad one to live in.

The best part were these amazingly detailed dioramas. Most of them are so large that one has to use binoculars to see to the other side. The figurines are very detailed, The guide mentioned that some of them cost up to 30,000 yen to create!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cool Biz

Just look at this awesome polar bear. He is the face of energy savings. At TBS employees are encouraged to dress more casually during the summer months in order to save power on A.C. Hawaiian shirts not required, but recommended.