Notice!

Hey guys!

At the time of writing this, I only have 1 week left until I leave for Japan. As a result, I’m totally swamped by the chaos of everything last minute, from trying to fit 3 months into 1 carry-on sized suitcase, to seeing family and friends before takeoff. From this point on (March 5th), I will no longer be checking this blog, moderating or responding to comments, email, or twitter associated with this blog. If you leave a comment, there’s a possibility of my seeing it before I leave, but chances of me responding at this point are low. 

Any posts that may go up between now and March 13th are queued posts. From hereon out, comments, tweets, and emails will be responded to sometime around early July.

Thanks for reading Secret Garden, have an awesome spring, and I’ll see you on the other side!

gacktpause

 

黙祷 – In Remembrance

Has it already been one year? 

Mokutou

 One year later, we haven’t forgotten.
A single day does not go by that all those affected by
the Tohoku Quake in 2011 aren’t in my heart.

For all of you who might have lost sight,
for whom “life has returned to normal”,
Today remember that for tens of thousands of people,
life hasn’t, and can’t, return to “normal”.

The aftereffects of the Tohoku Quake continue,
and countless people are living them, now.
And I think it naive to assume that this is some
distant condition that doesn’t, and won’t, affect you.

What I’m saying is, and as contrived as it may sound,
the tragedy of March 11th 2011 so very much so made it
clear to me exactly how imperative it is that we understand
that our lives are not separated by oceans, continents, cultures,
colors, customs, language, mileage, or anything;

Rather, that you are alive at this time, on this earth,
at the same moment as these people and such events,
itself shows us the simple fact that there is no “them” and “us”.

A year ago today, along the eastern coast of Japan,
all the rush and rage of elements was so deafening.
A year later, today, everywhere throughout the entire world
let us offer a mokutou, a silent prayer,

so that the sound of silence as we, fellow human-beings unite in
our prayer for strength and courage and hope
is also deafening.

Recommended Reading

Actor Yamamoto Tarou speaks out against nuclear activity (JT) 

Lone holdout in black-out area (JT)

Books on the quake (JT)

Full listing of quake-related articles at Japan Times (JT)

Stats and data here

[Film Review] Sayonara Itsuka

I don’t know why, but about a month ago I went from almost never watching movies, to watching them pretty much every day. I discovered a, possibly boredom-driven, sense of curiosity that fueled my long, aimless treks through Netflix’s Instantwatch collection, genre-by-genre. At first I followed through on some specific recommendations, and then once I hit upon my niche (that sounds a bit trashy, but you know what I mean), I let my discernment take a back seat and well, my post-midnight lack of anything better to do take the wheel.

So last night while cruising my queue, I came upon a Japanese film from 2010 titled Sayonara Itsuka (Goodbye Someday), the cover of which rung wearily the much-overused-by-Japanese-directors bells of either a) love ruined by the early onset of some horrible disease or b) arufou chick-flick, that strange, house-wife-culture driven genre for bored women “around forty”. Neither of these being reasonable means of driving me away from the probability of wasting two precious hours of my life, I gave it a whirl.

Based on the novel of the same name by Hitonari Tsuji, Sayonara Itsuka follows the story of rising-star airline employee Higashigaito Yutaka who, 3 months before his marriage to totally objective opinion boring a-typical Mitsuko, is transferred temporarily to Thailand for work. While in Thailand, Yutaka meets fiery, fun Manaka Touko, with whom and you really can’t blame him he can’t resist starting a passionate, forgive-ably physical affair.

This may not make a difference to any of you, but I am currently developing a great appreciation of Korean films, for various reasons which solicit a lengthy analysis and comparison of their own which shall not be touched upon in this post. As much as I love them, though, I’m always torn because I have such a strong admiration for the Japanese, and the Japanese language. It was therefore, as you can imagine, exciting to discover that Sayonara Itsuka was actually directed by John Lee, a Korean director, produced by a Korean company, and released simultaneously in So. Korea and Japan.

 The film, not remotely soap-y as it would turn out, is reasonably predictable. The guy ships off to Thailand, meets a firecracker, they fall for each other and get it on and clearly he has prior obligations to marry the boring chick back home. What’s to guess?

However, I shall dock no points for something so nit-picky.

The film itself was, to stereotype, as intriguingly directed and as exquisitely filmed as 4/5 of the Korean movies I’ve seen. I mean, you were there, in the oppressive Thai heat, the sultry sun, the dusty streets of Bangkok in some other era (It seemed like it was meant to be in the ’50s or something, but I could be severely off-track.). You could practically reach into the screen and touch and taste and smell the world Lee was portraying.

Although it’s all well and good to want to sink into Bangkok (especially on a day like today when you wake up to find snow everywhere. Somebody put me out of my misery.), Sayonara Itsuka isn’t a documentary on post-war Thailand. The musky, sticky world is made accessible and intoxicating to us because it has accessed and intoxicated its characters.

Wife of the original story’s author, Nakayama Miho portrays the alluring and irresistible Manaka Touko, who entices ambitious Adonis Yutaka (played by Nishijima Hidetoshi, whose “stone-face” and exquisite smile previously charmed certain people might be talking about myself, might not be in the, also Korea x Japan, drama Boku to Sutaa no 99 Nichi) out of the steamy sun and into the sumptuous yet fleeting world of illicit love.

The pair both have a stubborn, alluring attitude that worked well, building a clearly (yet elegantly) fragile chemistry, the likes of which you just wish you could take by the shoulders and give a good hearty shake until they acknowledge that they’re meant to be together and stay that fricken way. My one qualm about the story and the fact that it was based around this chemistry, is simply that the director didn’t just let the relationship carry the film. No, he had to go and click into epilogue overdrive.

Seriously, at 2.13 hours of viewtime I felt the whole thing sort of ran on and on and on, and honestly after about the 1.30 hour mark it felt like they started a whole new film about unfulfilled, depressed people who realize everything sucks (not exactly riveting material), I still think Sayonara Itsuka was a great movie. It depicted a very real dynamic of love, one that puts the head against the heart in an inevitable lose-lose situation, one that was brought to life by great, if a-typical, characters and exquisite cinematography.

The film bore all the majestic characteristics of the awesome Korean drama/romance films I have had the pleasure of watching, while containing the emotional and thematic content of the more reserved, do-it-for-honor Japanese films from the genre. These qualities together made, I feel, a terrific cinematic context which satisfied all the chaotic yearnings of my cross-cultural conflictions.

Just, seriously, after the 1.30 mark, fast-forward about 30 minutes. You won’t miss anything (Sorry, Lee).

new journey.

Setting out on a new journey.

 23 minutes ago I turned 21. At 12:00AM I bought myself everything my heart desires: a plane ticket to Osaka, departing March 13th.

 I guess this means exist trace and I will pass like ships in the night. I need to sell my exist trace ticket. My ticket is for the Boston live on March 15th, at Middle East Club. VIP only, meet & greet. Ticket: $46 (39.50+7.03, I’ll let you keep the change ;]). Includes S/H. If you know anyone who might be interested, it would be doing me a great favor if you could pass it on. 

2012, Year of the Dragon

Happy New Year!

明けましておめでとうございます!

Happy New Year! It is now 2012, the Year of the Dragon! Remember, for everyone born in the year of the dragon, this will be a particularly auspicious year for you….Heck, I hope it’s a particularly auspicious year for all of us!

Actually before we get into all the overly sentimental thanks for everything last year and this year no regrets promise kk, I would like to acknowledge the fact that last night in Tokyo, an earthquake shook buildings and temporarily shut down train lines (due to safety checks), but no greater damage has yet been reported and no tsunami warnings were released. The earthquake affected Tokyo as well as parts of Fukushima which were devastated by the Tohoku Quake last March.

The reason I find this particularly noteworthy is due to the fact that Dragon years are characterized by intense natural disasters, particularly earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Throughout history, apparently, some of the craziest natural disasters have occurred during Dragon years. It seems strangely fitting, and slightly unnerving, then, that Honshu would greet 2012’s Water Dragon Year with nothing other than an earthquake.

As the days of 2012 unfold, as we have such things as resolutions and goals and hopes for the year on our minds, I know that I, at least, will be sending as many positive hopes toward Japan for this year. Hopes for the continued reconstruction of the Tohoku/Fukushima areas and the lives of everyone who was affected by the disaster. May they find strength, courage, and peace in 2012.

Also, let’s send positive hopes out to the world at large that 2012’s Dragon is kind to us all, merciful (should the predictions hold true), and full of great, forward-moving energy.

 

YFCz Might Not Get All My Love, But They Get Some

So after convincing myself not to avoid it purely on principle, which is an utterly wrong thing to do, by the way, I looked up the full PV for YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz’s All MY Love, which dropped yesterday. There’s been some good discussions on here lately concerning the internationalization of GACKT, and what’s up with this whole YFCz thing. Well, all those confusing musings and ponderous wonderings aside, may I just state this simple, basic fact of life: regardless of who sings it, how many band-members there are, be it Cascade or Morning Musume nevermind, actually, neither of those acts will ever be cool, when a song is good, it’s good. Get over yourself and enjoy it.

Life is too short and your tastes are too rad to waste time being ashamed of your playlist.

In any case, all noodling and whining aside, I am actually ok with how All My Love turned out. Aside from the fact that the PV was totally not entertaining or thought-provoking in any way, shape, or form, I basically have no complaints. GACKT loves him some gently falling snow and some military-inspired outfits, wish they had shown more Chacha since I miss that flaming goddess, and I highly recommend Jon invest some time into learning his own stage moves instead of just copying GACKT’s moves like some creepy puppet, but well, you can’t exactly use pet-peeves as the basis for criticism can you? I just did. 

I’ll even go so far as to (wait for it) state that I was actually impressed by (yeah you can’t believe I’m saying it either) Jon’s performance. While I still consider him completely and entirely superfluous, I actually really enjoyed the harmonies, give him two thumbs up for his Japanese, and thought his voice was nice.

The song itself is really decent. The English straddled a thin line between overly repetitive and catchy, but since it’s already stuck in my head we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. GACKT sounded great, and I thought the orchestral heaves (for lack of a better word) gave the thing a sort of sad-movie-anthem-feel. Nicely done, YFCz, and I am somewhat more hopeful about the whole studio-album thing.

On a final note….Maybe it’s just the season, but was I the only one who mentally auto-filled “holy night” into that first line?

Seasonal Mix tracklist

As requested, here’s the tracklist for the Jrock winter playlist I posted.

this is just wrong on every level

Itsuka no Merry Christmas – B’z (intro clip)
Merry Xmas 2 U – Vidoll
twinkle, twinkle – L’arc~En~Ciel
Konayuki – remioromen
Winter, again – GLAY
I Wish – L’arc~En~Ciel vers.

Silent Night – Hamasaki Ayumi ft. GACKT
12 Gatsu no Love Song – GACKT
Christmas – Kawamura Ryuuichi
Hanashitaku wa Nai – T-BOLAN

Arigatou – Amuro Namie
Mirrorball (VANDALIZE vers.) – alice nine
Yami ni Furu Kiseki (Classical White vers.) – D’espairsRay
SNOW – B’z

My personal winter playlist also includes these songs, which were not featured on the podcast:

Snow White – D
Setsugekka ~ The End of Silence~ -GACKT
Saikai ~STORY~ – GACKT
I LOVE YOU – Ozaki Yutaka
Kanashimi ga Itai Yo – T-BOLAN
Meguriai – GACKT
OH MY LITTLE GIRL – Ozaki Yutaka
Sayounara ~ RRII Vers. instrumental~ -GACKT
SWEET DREAMS ~ acoustic vers.~ – VAMPS
Lunartail – Luzmelt

What do you guys have on your seasonal mix? (And don’t even say Hurry Xmas by L’arc, because I don’t even want to hear it. /shudders)