Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jack in the Box 2010

On the 27th, I went to one of the greatest J-Rock lives in the world (at least that's my opinion). JACK IN THE BOX is an annual concert held by the Maverick DC Group, and features bands that are members of the group. Some of the bands in the group include L'Arc~en~Ciel, girugamesh, SID, and MUCC.

2010 is the second time that I've attended; my first was in 2008 while I was studying abroad. (If you'd like to read my report on that live, go here.)

I got ready in my tiny little room at Aizuya Inn (where I was staying from the 23rd until checking out this morning on the 29th). I had a punk outfit planned, but after some shopping in Harajuku I put together an all black, gothic lolita-like outfit (pictures will be up later).

I got to the Nippon Budokan by train in about 30 minutes, arriving at around 11:30 am. The doors didn't open until 1:00 and the live didn't start until 2:00, but the goods line started at 11:00, and I remember when I got there around noon or so in 2008, I had to wait a really long time. This time the line went pretty smoothly, so it only took about 30 minutes to get in and out. I bought a JITB 2010 T-shirt, some JITB stickers, and muffler towels from the SID and girugamesh booths. I was a little disappointed that it seemed tetsuya (the bassist and leader of L'Arc~en~Ciel, formerly known as tetsu), wasn't going to be performing this year.

Getting into the venue as soon as the doors opened, I looked for my seat in the NW section of the venue. Having been there before, I knew my seat probably wasn't a very good one, as I was sitting in a section behind the stage. I was complaining to myself about it before, but once I found the row I was supposed to be in (Row D, seat 21), I found out that it was actually a LOT closer to where I had been in 2008, which was all the way at the top in the stands. I figured that, no matter where I was sitting, as long as I was there, and could see and hear something, I would be happy.

What usually happened at JITB is an alternation between bands and 'sessions,' which are mixed groups of band members from different bands. At the end would be the Maverick DC ALL STARS, where just about everyone would be on stage and perform.

I was surprised to see that this year, they had four sessions in a row, and then went on to the bands, with two more sessions in between.

The sessions, as always, were awesome. My favorite ones were Session B and Session D. During the MC for Session B, girugamesh drummer Яyo said that the theme for attire was for everyone to shine (minna wa kirakira). Satochi from MUCC certainly did shine. Even though he's the drummer of MUCC, he came out singing with Ken of L'Arc~en~Ciel, and was rather...well, let's just say that Session B was like a drunken night of karaoke, which made it absolutely hilarious. One of the funny parts was when Yukke (bassist of MUCC) sang the opening part of L'Arc's "Lies and Truth," but since he couldn't hit the high notes at the end he switched to the lower octave, prompting an applause from the audience. Satochi really owned the stage though, dancing around in his short shorts and thrusting his hips like a fool. At the end of "winter fall" he got on one knee next to Shinji (SID guitarist) and started caressing him, while Shinji just continued playing like nothing was going on.

Session D was truly great. The report speaks for itself: Ken sang a remixed version of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" and "Telephone," which was completely unexpected for me. I loved hearing Miya (MUCC guitarist) and Aki (SID bassist) sing the backup parts. By the end of that session I was probably the happiest music fan in the world. Hearing hyde (vocalist of L'Arc~en~Ciel) sing "Electric Eye" by Judas Priest during Session F was also very awesome.

I have to say that, if I had any complaints, it's that I didn't agree with the order of performances. They put the really great sessions at the beginning, and by the time MUCC came out it was pretty great, but then the last band to play was 44 Magnum, a veteran band of J-Rock. Seeing that they're the oldest band, it kind of makes sense to make them the last band, but judging from the crowd, most of the people were younger and therefore fans of the newer bands. When it was announced that the All Stars session was the last act after 44 Magnum, EVERYONE went "Ehhhhhh?!" in surprise, because we all thought it was too early. We tried to demand and encore, but to no avail. I was disappointed that, despite all members of SID being there, they didn't even perform together as a group (much like L'Arc~en~Ciel in 2008). Hopefully they'll go back to the regular order next year.

That being said, I'm still very happy I was there. I'll put up some pictures later; right now I'm in between checking in and out of hostels, and sitting in an internet cafe where my time is almost up. I also have pictures of some things I bought on my shopping spree, so those will be up as well!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Birthday, Year-end parties, and Tokyo

I've been so busy that I haven't had time to update my blog in quite awhile. It's been hectic day after day since last week.

In case you haven't been watching my videos on YouTube, my birthday was on December 16th. It's during one of the busiest times of the year, with classes ending and the holidays approaching. I actually found out the week before that the school that I would visit on my birthday and the next day weren't going to have English classes that entire week, so I spent that day at work doing pretty much nothing.

One thing brightened my day though:

This delicious-looking cake was waiting for me after I came back from eating lunch with the 5th graders. Apparently the 6th graders made the cake in cooking class and shared it with the teachers, but the fact that it was on my birthday made me feel really happy.

The next day I had a bounenkai (year-end party) at Kishi. This was my second enkai with them, and the first one was really fun so I was looking forward to this one, and it exceeded my expectations. The seats were chosen by lottery, and I ended up sitting next to the music teacher, who had given me a ride to the restaurant. Despite being separated into two groups, a lot of the teachers moved around, so I was able to talk to the teachers from the other side as well. One of the 4th grade teachers, who is a first-year, is really outgoing and always tries to speak what little English he can to me, mainly because he knows I'm entertained by it. At one point he was looking at me from the other side of the room and started making faces at me, and when the other teachers saw me laughing they turned around and he pretended like he wasn't doing anything, lol.

After we finished eating the main course, one of the teachers explained that since the students all had to take tests at the end of the semester, she was going to give us one to test our knowledge. Needless to say, I hardly knew any of the answers other than the English-related questions, but it was fun watching the other teachers scratch their heads at some of the questions.

A few of us (the younger teachers, except for the 5th grade teacher who's twice my age but really cool) went to karaoke after dinner, which was the highlight of my night. The teachers at Kishi are a lot of fun to hang out with, even though I can't say or understand all of what they say.

The 18th was the big marathon at Ichiba. I was asked to run with the first graders and so I did, but when it came time for the fifth graders to run, some of the girls begged me to run with them. At first I said no, but changed my mind because I was happy that they actually wanted me to. It was really tiring, but near the end the students cheered for me and a lot of the teachers praised and thanked me for running more than I had to.

On Monday I was supposed to have a day off, but I was invited by the principal at Kishi to sing two Christmas songs for the school during their morning assembly. I was a bit nervous because I didn't have much time to prepare, but I think I did a pretty good job. I'll link to the videos once I upload them.

The enkai with Ichiba wasn't quite as enjoyable; I ended up sitting with a lot of teachers I usually don't talk to and no one really moved around because we were sitting at tables instead of on the floor like at a traditional Japanese restaurant. And since the enkai was on a Tuesday night, that meant no afterparty, which was a letdown. Fortunately my next-door neighbors were having a game night, so afterwards I headed to their place to hang out.

After my last day of work before the break, I was busy running around trying to clean and pack. Things were a little more stuffed in my small suitcase than I expected they would be, but my large suitcase that I brought from the states would have been too big for me to want to deal with. Of course I'll probably be bringing back a lot of stuff, so I'm thinking of buying a slightly bigger suitcase and sending some stuff to Ono by takkyuubin near the end of my trip.

Since I'm in my hostel right now, I don't feel the excitement of Tokyo just quite yet, but I will tomorrow when I go to visit some familiar places that I've missed so much.

Lastly, Here's the Christmas tree I decorated before I left:

In the U.S., I've only seen two kinds of fake Christmas trees: green ones and white ones. In Japan, trees are not limited to those two colors, and as one would expect, they are a lot smaller than the ones in America. The Daiso in Sannomiya carries mini trees from about 60cm to 120cm tall,  in not only green but sky blue, white, pink, and even black. Anyone that knows me knows that 1) I like to be non-traditional whenever I can, and 2) I like to punk everything up with chains when possible. So I decided to buy a black tree and decorate it with red, white and silver, and make a garland out of chains. Unfortunately, the chains I bought were two heavy for the trees, so I tediously separated the chain into pieces to hang on the branches. I had done the same with this gorgeous purple crystal garland that I found at Tokyu Hands, thus adding purple to my color scheme. I bought a few random ornaments from Loft and Tokyu Hands, and since I couldn't find a star that I liked I just used two of the ornaments and set them on top. I was expecting to find some really nice (and expensive) stars to choose from, but neither store had any that I could find, and instead had cheap and simple plastic stars. Even though I won't be back until January, I think I'll shop around for a star while I'm in Tokyo. In fact, I like my tree so much that I think I'll leave it up for a while and keep adding decorations to it.

Note: the Xmas tree is actually only 90cm, though it might look bigger in the photos.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shopping Update

My new backpack which I now use to carry my stuff to take to work. Now I don't have to shove stuff into my bicycle basket when I'm trying to leave for work! The pin on the top flap actually came from an accessory shop. (Algonquins, 7,900 yen)

I fell in love with this piece when I first saw it at the Kera Shop Maria in Sannomiya, and decided to buy it even though I couldn't afford the dress that it was paired with on the dressform. I won't tell you exactly how much it cost; I'll only say that it's the now the single most expensive piece of clothing that I own. (Cutie Flash)

A polyester motorcycle jacket from the same shop in Sannomiya where I bought my long vest and jacket. At 2,100 yen, it was a pretty good deal.

Rings from Marche in Sannomiya, 315 yen each.