Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Japanese TV debut

I was on the local news in Aomori last night. I went to visit a waterfall on Saturday called くろくまの滝 (black bear waterfall) and as we were arriving a TV crew was leaving. As soon as they saw me they asked for an interview and I obliged, the interview taking about a minute in total. They said it would be on the evening news sometime this week, and apparently it was, last night. I didn't see it myself, but a couple of mates did.

Incidentally I'm gonna be on TV again next month, taking part in a program called 江奈滋家の食卓. I've never seen the show before, but apparently it's a drama which deals with environmental issues and airs once a month. They also have a different foreign guest every month, and the guest for November is me. Filming will take place next month on the 18th, and tomorrow we have the preliminary meeting. Luckily, the TV show is made by 青森放送 (RAB Aomori Broadcating Corporation), the same people who filmed me for the news, so while I'm at their offices tomorrow I'll try and get hold of a copy of my appearance on the news.

The weather was great at the weekend, but we had our first snow this week. Everyone's making a big deal about it, and half the conversations at work now revolve around the cold weather.

Today my supervisor took me out for a short run in the car. He'd been wanting to show me a few places in Aomori I hadn't seen yet, but we didn't have all that much time so we only went to 青森公立大学, Moya Hills and a batting cage, but the batting cage was fun. Gonna go back there and hit some more balls. It was also interesting to see the university, which was up in the hills, like Kobe University was.

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Thursday, 21 October 2010


These last couple of days at work have been fun and have made a change from sitting at my desk working on translations. There's a new museum set to open in Aomori next January called Warasse, and this week the Canadian architect who designed it has been in town. This guy works for a design company called molo and you can see some imagined images of the museum on their website. The guy doesn't speak Japanese so I was asked to interpret for him for the last couple of days.

First we had a formal meeting to explain how the building had developed and what state everything is in at the moment, then we went down to see the actual place and looked around inside. If you look at the pictures on the molo website you can see the building has a striking design and it's kind of obvious it wasn't designed by a Japanese person. In those images the outside looks like it's covered in strips of some kind of brown, reed-like fabric, but this effect is achieved with a series of twisted metal ribbons. Everything looks great, and I'm sure it will be a hit when it opens next year. It was also pleasing to see a map in the entrance that I'd helped translate.

Today I went with the people I'd met yesterday, and after visiting the museum one more time to take some more photos, we went on a big road trip. The guys talked every now and then about the museum, and I interpreted, but basically it was an excuse for a day out. We ended up driving to Towada, passing by Mt. Hakkoda and some nice forests and nature on the way. Japanese people often pride themselves on the fact that they have stunning areas of natural beauty and you'll often hear that you see can clearly see the differences in the four seasons in Japan better than anywhere else in the world. It's easy to ignore these kind of statements as it sounds like hot air, but the more time you spend here, the more you realise it's true. Today we passed through autumn forests and mountain ranges that looked almost otherworldy. We ended up at quite an altitude as well and the low clouds made everything seem even more eerie.

We visited a hotel in the mountains and over a cup of coffee decided that we wanted to take a dip in the 温泉 (hot spring) there. It was quite a simple setup, and I don't know whose idea it was to have a load of Aomori apples floating around in the main pool - we just ended up chucking them at each other - but it was the first time I've been in a hot spring/public baths since being in Kobe, so I enjoyed it. It'd be great if more of this kind of work comes my way.

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Friday, 15 October 2010

Vinyl off eBay

I recently received a load of parcels in the post, and 3 of them were vinyl which I'd bought on eBay. The first was a picture disc of a favourite album of mine - Hysteria by Def Leppard.

I heard Hysteria for the first time around a year ago. I found a copy in great condition for really cheap on a little market stall in Sheffield town centre. I'd heard a couple of Def Leppard's songs and knowing the band were from Sheffield I picked it up. I ended up listening to that vinyl probably more than any other in my collection. When I moved here it was one of the records I didn't bring with me, so when I picked it up this time I thought I'd go for the picture disc as I don't have any in my collection. With picture discs the visual factor comes at a cost of reduced sound quality, but it's a nice collector's piece and a good addition to my burgeoning shelf of records.

Next is a Spandau Ballet greatest hits LP, another record I owned before but didn't bring with me to Japan. Much like The Police, Spandau Ballet were a band I grew up listening to because of my dad. These guys are a little on the light side compared to a lot of what I listen to, but it's great music if you're in the right mood, and Tony Hadley is an amazing vocalist.

Next is another album I previously owned - The Goonies: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - but this version is, again, a little different as it's a promo version. On the back there's a gold stamp which reads "FOR PROMOTION ONLY, Ownership reserved by CBS, Sale Is Unlawful". Well, it's mine now.

This album was curated, I believe, by Cyndi Lauper, and it features her track "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough". Every track sounds totally 80s (check out "Eight Arms to Hold You" by Goon Squad) and it's a great accompaniment to one of the greatest films of all time.

The last version of this LP that I owned just had a simple paper sleeve, but this one has a great photo montage on both sides of the sleeve. Maybe because it's a promo version, or maybe because it's the US version.

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Thursday, 7 October 2010

MxPx's Left Coast Punk EP

The other day I bought MxPx's most recent release from Amazon Japan. It came in a needlessly large cardboard box that could have held 50 CDs rather than just one.

Despite me being a big MxPx fan, this EP is basically garbage. With MxPx I usually get into their albums really quickly and listen to them on repeat for the first few weeks, then my interest drops off and I end up listening to the album every now and then. Well with this EP I've realised it's crap straight away. In fact, when it was first released I listened to a couple of tracks on the band's MySpace and they were terrible so I decided I didn't want it in my collection. The poor music is made even worse by terrible production. Second track, "Desperate To Understand" with its blazing-fast drums could have sounded awesome, but the production reduces it to a loud mess.

The only reason I bought this EP is because of two bonus tracks - "The Coffee Song" and "Keep A Beat" - that aren't available anywhere else, apart from a vinyl picture disc that was originally released in 2008. You can't even get them on the US or European versions of this CD, only the Japanese version, but these two tracks are some of the best music MxPx have written and blow the rest of the EP out of the water. It's strange that a difference of two years has seen such a drop in quality from the band. And now that drummer, Yuri Ruley has left I can't see MxPx continuing for much longer.

One of the redeeming features of this release is the packaging, which goes for a vinyl feel. The CD is printed to look like vinyl, and rather than a jewel case you get a sleeve with lots of paper inserts. There's also a Japanese translation of the lyrics which is a cool addition. Here are the two bonus tracks, definitely some of the best music MxPx has written:

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