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

The Gakupost

 Owning up to the fact that I totally spaced on including the PV for Episode.0 in my review the other day, honestly I meant to, and then when I proof-read the review, I completely forgot the PV existed. In any case, it makes a good excuse for a follow-up post… Hoorah for the early onset of Alzheimer’s.

Since Episode.0 has been the latest topic of discussions around here, I’d like to continue the discussion a little more formally, meanwhile taking out two birds with one stone. The two most logical follow-up comments regarding GACKT’s latest single and cover of the Gakupo vocaloid song of the same name, are currently: Was the PV any good? and Has anyone heard the vocaloid version?

We’ll take them one at a time, in reverse. First of all, and I mentioned this briefly in response to Kaxxina‘s comment this morning, to be perfectly honest, and I know this may be a great pitfall in my history of Japanophilia, I really have zero, nada, amari attraction to, and interest in, the vocaloid scene. If that whole scene makes you tick, then tick away to your heart’s content. But let’s just get this out in the open: vocaloids weird me out.

Has anyone else read the novel Idoru by William Gibson, by any chance? I took a copy out of the library when I was dying of mono this summer, and it actually turned out to be a stimulating read– exactly along the lines of my interests, being concerned with Japan, fandom, and advanced theoretical concepts relating to the Japanese music industry and its future. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure, do take my recommendation. Also for your benefit: the story is basically based on the idea that Japan has developed a new idol, the perfect idol, and….she’s not a real human being. She’s a holographic projection, and everyone is going nuts over her. Anyway, fascinating stuff.

Well, I kind of feel like the whole vocaloid thing isn’t too far off from the Idoru thing. Like, all these people are going apeshit over these singers….that aren’t even real. It’s just odd, isn’t it? On one hand it’s quite a cool concept, and the ingenuity of it is something I can appreciate, yes. But on the other hand, people are already dating pillows and marrying video-game consoles; novels from the ’90s have sci-fi situations in which real people become engaged to holographic images….Friends used to tease me that I would end up married to a robot, and honestly, I doubt that– only because soon the world might be populated with ideas rather than sentient, or even mechanical, lifeforms.

What were we talking about, again? Oh yeah, Gakupo.

I also find the quality of the vocaloid vocals to be eerie and a little unnerving. For me, one of the main reasons why I am so attracted to the sound of the human voice is…because it comes out of a human. Unlike playing a musical instrument, it’s actually something that’s physically a part of you. This is amazing to me. And now that they’re piping it out of machines….Honestly it loses its appeal. That being said, nothing wrong with it. Here it is, form your own opinions:

Next up, we have the PV for the living, breathing, real-people GACKT version. I know this was revealed a million and a half years ago, but I make a point of not watching PVs for certain artists before the singles are released. A method for building tension and reverence, I suppose. Now that I have seen it, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t use it as a reference point for the single itself.

Although I like the stylizing and the imagery presented in the PV, it really didn’t feel like a PV to me. And seriously, what is that random chick doing there, and why is she lip-syncing the lyrics? Someone (perhaps me….) should write a letter to all the PV directors, like, ever, and let them know that you can still make a good PV without a chick being in it. Honestly, come on, she had two scenes that weren’t even that cool.

All in all I felt like the PV was quite boring. Pretty to watch–once. But nothing striking that would inspire me to watch it again.

 

girugamesh Prays for Japan

“If you find yourself feel lonely, and you’re crying in your heart, remember you are not alone …”

On March 11th when the 9.0 magnitude quake hit the Tohoku region of Japan, girugamesh was in Germany where they had a scheduled live in Berlin. In a situation where they were really helpless to assist their people and nation, according to a message released to fans early on Wednesday the 13th,  girugamesh did the only thing they could do, and the only thing most of us can still do: pray for Japan. On the 13th, they made their sentiments heard by Visualists worldwide with the release of charity single, pray.

~To the fans ~
On the day the Northeast Japan Earthquake happened, girugamesh was on tour in Europe. We continued the tour despite being very distraught, but we were encouraged by the support and loving words of all our fans. In a situation where all we could do was pray, we put our thoughts into lyrics and returned to Japan.

‎ There we saw with our own eyes the situation, and started thinking about what we could do to help. As musicians, what could we do? So we wrote the song “pray.” The lyrics are about the “praying” we did in Europe and the “hopes” we had after returning to Japan. We want to give hope to as many people as possible and to let the world know about the reality of the situation.

‎That’s what this song is about. So let’s all hold hands, become one and help out! Pray for Japan!

girugamesh

Available for download only via iTunes Store Japan and U.S., and all profits from sales will be donated to areas affected by the earthquake through the “JACK IN THE BOX Donation Project”. 

Pray was released in both a Japanese version and an English version, which, as I see it, seems like a not-so-symbolic expression of the sense of unity mankind needs, both within their own nations, and in relation to all the countries around the globe. It’s certainly not just the Japanese sending home, or sending out, prayers– and the bi-lingual set struck me as an acknowledgment and appreciation of that.

Although I already make a point of purchasing all of my music, I also make a point of not trying to force my own beliefs on those who stand by acquiring their tracks by other means. However, right now I will say this: however it is that you usually go about getting your track-fix, I will put out the sincere request that Visualists step up and purchase Pray as a way of both supporting girugamesh‘s beliefs and sentiments, and as a donation to disaster-relief in Japan.

[iTunes Store U.S.]
pray http://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/id431235821
pray (English ver.) http://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/id431236302

Also, today, April 15th girugamesh will make an appearance on USTREAM, for a special program they will be holding called “pray for Japan”. The program will start at 10:30 PM (Japanese Standard Time), and can be accessed via the links below:

http://www.myspace.com/syncmusicjapan
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nexus-aid

[“pray for Japan” by girugamesh]
Airing time: 2011/04/15 from 22:30 (JST)
URL: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nexus-aid
For Twitter Users: Official Program Hashtag: #girugamesh_pray

Tomorrow girugamesh will make another appearance online via their program hosted by MusicJapanPlus+, “girugamesh TV”.

[girugamesh TV]
Airing time: 2011/04/16 from 21:00 (JST)
Airing Place: MJP (musicJAPANplus) top page (http://www.musicjapanplus.jp/)
Secondary: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/girugamesh-tv
※The airing at 21:00 will be live

If you have a Twitter account, you can participate in the program by using the hash tag “#girugameshTV”. You can follow MusicJapan+’s official English twitter here: http://twitter.com/musicJAPANplus. If everything goes according to plan, I will be tuned in and commenting, and you can connect with me by following @gacktpause, or via the sidebar icon.

Pray

If you find yourself feel lonely And you’re crying in your heart
Hold my hand I’ll be on your side And carry on

When you look upon the sky I wonder if you cry
All I do is pray and kneel Just tell me what you feel
So a wish goes over the seas and the stars though you can’t see
It is true that only love can make the world go around

You know a little piece of light might seem so weak but never lose your hope
Now I got the flood of lights here in my hands

If you find yourself feel lonely And you’re crying in your heart
Remember you are not alone You and me There’s something in between
And I bring your smile back for you Don’t forget I’m here with you
Hold my hand I’ll be on your side And carry on

I wonder how long will it take Till the freezing rain to stop
I’ve got nothing I can give But at least the starry sky

I can only pray and wish for you And then my days are passing by
All the thoughts can’t go nowhere float in the air

If you are lost in the silence On the night when you can’t sleep
You don’t know what you should believe Then I want you to listen to this song
Never let your hand off on mine So that I can keep you warm
Hold my hand I’ll be on your side And carry on

Now, the world becomes one

All the voice and sounds are fading away Can you still hear what I say
But I know everything is gonna be alright ’Cause we know love

If you find yourself feel lonely And you’re crying in your heart
Remember you are not alone ’Cause you and me There’s something in between
And I bring your smile back for you Don’t forget I’m here with you
Hold my hand I’ll be on your side And carry on

Pray was written to be something of a musical beacon of hope and encouragement, and the sentiment runs strong not only in the lyrics, but in the overall feel of the piece as well. And as the lyrics go,

If you are lost in the silence On the night when you can’t sleep
You don’t know what you should believe Then I want you to listen to this song

I think I can say that I will.

pray (English ver.) lyrics: Satoshi translation: Kota music: girugamesh /
information and  lyrics – girugamesh official Facebook

Ustream event information- MusicJapan+

Show Your Heart

It’s been just over a month since the magnitude 9.0 “Tohoku-Chiho Taiheiyo-Oki” earthquake and tsunami disaster hit the Tohoku area of Japan. Although the original reports were hopeful, with the death-toll simply ranging in the 100’s, to have believed it would be that merciful would have been naive. The death-toll now rests somewhere around 13,000, with another 15,000+ people still missing.*

To get a better grasp on the damages and statistics, information has been compiled into a well-cited Wikipedia page on the quake. You can read the page here.

Removed from the damage as myself and others are, we can only begin to imagine the sorrow and suffering that the affected people are going through at this time. However, it has been inspiring to see not only Japanese residents and citizens, but also Japanese and non-Japanese communities alike coming together overseas to send support, in the form of money, books of messages and condolences, or simply their hopeful prayers, to everyone who is struggling at this time.

My attention has, naturally, been particularly drawn to what Visual Kei and Jrock artists have been doing to assist in the relief efforts. To name a few, legendary Luna Sea recently released the single Promise, the proceeds of which will benefit quake relief. Today, April 13th, girugamesh released a song in 2 versions which was instantly made available on iTunes, entitled Pray, as a charity benefit for Japan. Megastar T.M.Revolution rallied his posse and founded a charity group, Stand Up Japan!.

But of course, predictable gacktpause, the movement that really touched my heart, and the message of which nearly had my manly facade in pieces as I sobbed hopelessly into my sake, was that of the charity project founded by GACKT, called Show Your Heart.

GACKT accepting donations for SYH on the street

Image: aramatheydidnt.livejournal.com

Founded quickly after the earthquake hit off the Pacific coast of Tohoku to raise disaster relief funds, the SHOW YOUR HEART foundation is also supported by artists such as Shinya (Luna Sea), DAIGO  (BREAKERZ), Ni~ya (Nightmare), Tamaki Nami, Haruna Ai, Jinnai Tomonari, and many more.

The SHOW YOUR HEART official webpage includes a heart-warming message (in English*) describing the project’s efforts. The project set out onto the streets of Japan, lead by GACKT and including a team of 150 talentos and athletes, as well as 5,000 volunteers. The campaign set out to raise money in 130 different cities across Japan.

A very involved GACKT went out, bowed, and met with people on the street to raise money, and asked that people give their courage and strength to those in need. Many female fans of the singer stood in a long line with ¥1,000 bills and placed them in the donation box. GACKT shook each other their hands and gave his thanks as each one donated.¹

Image via fyeahgackt.tumblr.com/

“It’s a small determination at the beginning, but I believe that it will become greater and greater with everyone’s support. Now the circle is steadily increasing. Anyways, I’d like to borrow everyone’s strength. Although individuals may not be able to do much, if everyone works together, it becomes a lot of power. Especially in this sort of time, we need the courage to lend a helping hand.”²

As to Ni~ya from Nightmare, whose hometown was one of the stricken areas, commented: “Miyagi prefecture, my home, has been hit seriously. I’m worried that I can’t contact with my parents and friends right now. I want to go to the there as soon as possible right now. I want to help the victims and contribute my strength. Please cooperate with this charity project.”³

More than ¥170,000,000 was donated by enterprises and celebrities such as Noriko Fujiwara and Takahashi Hisanori, and this number continues to be added to via the SHOW YOUR HEART website, where donations can be made through direct-deposit. The foundation will forward the funds to the Japanese Red Cross and local community associations, which will then distribute them.

From April 3rd to the 4th, 10 countries also participated in the SHOW YOUR HEART cause, including volunteers from South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, America, Germany, Australia, and Singapore.

If you can, of course it’s great to go and donate money. That’s awesome, man. Even better, buy a plane ticket to Japan and go get your hands dirty assisting in the thick of it. That’s what I would like to be doing right now– more than anything. But if you can’t fly over there and help, and if you’re unable to donate money–or can, but want to do more–, SHOW YOUR HEART is accepting another kind of donation.

The SHOW YOUR HEART page on GACKT’s website has a posted message stating that one way we can contribute is by making a video of yourself delivering a message to those affected by the disaster, concluding your message with the words “SHOW YOUR HEART!!!”. All you have to do is upload the video to Youtube. If you are unable to upload the video to Youtube, it’s possible for the foundation to post it for you if you send them the file. If you can’t make a video, then just take a picture complying with the guidelines.
Complete instructions and information is available here. Submissions are open until April 31st.

So go, Visualists, and do what you can do to show those who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami, show them that people all over the world are lending them their courage, strength, and fighting spirit. Show them that, although thousands of miles, language, and nationality separate us, that we’re right there with them, giving them everything we’ve got in whatever way we can. So go, go and show your heart.

Cited sources: Dears Official
* — National Police Agency of Japan (Updated daily)
¹, ² —TokyoHive
³ —MusicJapan+

At the Heart of Brock’s Jelly Donut

I was just on Purple Sky reading their interview with D’espairsRay, anticipating the release of their latest album MONSTERS, and preceding the onset of their world-tour which kicks off this month with dates across the US. Reading through the questions, I admit, although the band members were quite entertaining (e.g. when asked which Monster he would be, HIZUMI answers “Pokemon”. Vuvuzelamon? Or is that Reggae? Visual kei has too many random cross-references in it now, I don’t even know who I am anymore.), the more I read, the more I found myself getting riled up. Had I not known  that this interview was only sitting in my feed for a week, the questions posed to the Monsters would have led me to believe this was posted sometime in 2004.

I realize this sounds harsh, but taking that risk, I’ll say it. Are all Japanofiles neanderthals?

I’ve been following the Japanfandom thing for 5 years now, and seeing as Alzheimers hasn’t totally set in yet, I recall quite clearly the discussions and FAQs of the era. Unless of course journalists are simply given a sheet of preset questions that are never updated, I want to know why exactly they still insist on asking the droll, pointless, unenlightening questions of our generation’s troubled, AMV-watching youth? I was under the impression that we were advancing in the world. That the Japanese music scene in the West was beginning to liberate itself from the clinging, snotty tentacles of the emerging, adolescent internet and bloom into a better blogsphere. That we have actually been evolving over the past five to ten years. Apparently, as it was made clear to me this evening, this is far from the truth. At least in some respect, all Japanofiles are inherently neolithic, and while a few of us may have advanced to the Bronze Age, more or less we’re still wallowing in a dark, cave-like existence devoid of fire or arrowheads.

In response to this mind-blowing interview, I would like to pull those questions that particularly offended the intelligent Japanofile in me, and address them, hopefully, for the benefit of Ogg and Zug, my brethren:

1. Illegal downloads: The illegal download phenomenon exploded on the Internet many, many years ago. I remember Limewire from way back when Yoshiki was still a Japanese man (okay, well, that’s kind of a hard line to draw, but hey), and billions of websites and programs have since enabled such notorious activities. People download illegally off the internet– all it takes is one Google search and you have new albums for free. Entire websites and blogs have emerged devoted specifically to “promoting” their favorite bands by having one person acquire the album, and then upload it for the masses to leech off of.  This is not breaking news. We are no longer excited about this topic.

Musicians create music because it is their calling, passion, talent, or simply what they want to do as their job. Be that as it may, they do actually do this for their job– a job being, that is, a means of acquiring the papery stuffs we use in daily business in order to survive: in layman’s terms, money. When a band releases an album, DVD, or otherwise product, they do put it on the market for sale. That is to say, to be purchased using money. Obviously if they wanted people to download it for free, they would upload it onto the internet as free downloads. Asking bands what “they think about illegal downloads” is absolutely pointless. Unless one is fishing for that one band to say “Oh yeah, we just love it when everyone refuses to support our livelihood and just downloads for free everything we release.”, there is no longer any answer that can result from this question that can possibly shine a light. You have limited time to ask the band questions: for all our sakes, use it well.

2. People download illegally because Japanese CDs are “expensive”:

The Japanese music industry works slightly differently than the Western one. For example, in the West it’s not that common to release singles every other day. Most artists release albums frequently instead. In Japan, however, bands release full-length albums much less often, but tend to release singles several times throughout the year. A Japanese single typically costs around $10.00 – $12.00, and you get anywhere from 1 to 4 songs. Full-length albums typically cost around $30 – $35, with some as low as $25 and others as high as $40. Assuming it’s being shipped, that adds anywhere from $5 onwards in shipping fees, depending on who you buy from, method of shipment, and how much you order.

The misconception is that because it’s going to cost $45 to order an album from Japan, it’s okay to steal it by downloading online. Because a pair of denim from a chain store costs roughly $60, does that mean everybody shoplifts? No, I don’t think so. And yet does everyone wear denim?

“Expensive” is basically not an excuse. CDs, like everything, cost money, even if they come from Japan. If you have no money, get a job.

3. Japanese CDs are unavailable for Westerners to buy:

If you live in a rural part of the United States, let’s say like Wisconsin, where there are no strip-malls, no FYEs, no chain stores, no Hot Topic, and you have no access to the internet or a computer of any kind, then yes, Japanese CDs are totally unavailable for you to buy. Also, if you live in one of these places, you probably are out digging potatoes and not listening to Japanese rock music and Visual Kei on your 16G iPod with Skullcandy headphones.

Many popular Jrock bands are available on the most simplistic platforms such as iTunes and other online MP3 stores. Anything you can’t find there is readily available through a multitude of respectable English or multilingual websites dedicated to making Japanese music accessible and available to non-Japanese.

Get out from under your rock.

4.Westerners have no means of sampling/hearing the music:

MySpace, Facebook, iTunes, Amazon MP3, official websites, this amazing invention we all should have heard of by now: YouTube.

Get out from under your rock.

5.”Its either people don’t hear your music, or they download it illegally.”

I suggest moving from Wisconsin. That is all you can do.

In the beginning of time, these were once relevant, interesting topics, the answers to which many young Padawans were eagerly seeking. They were, yes, interesting topics back in a time when we all thought onigiri were donuts because Brock and Misty thought we couldn’t handle the truth. Now, however, we know what lies at the heart of the rice-ball, just as we now know that there are a lot of people out there who download music illegally. However, unlike being asked and consulted about the existence of illegal downloads, we are no longer constantly told “those are not jelly donuts. They are sweet rice packed around a shriveled plum with a little seaweed slapped on them.” And over and over again we do not go “oooh…is that what that is.”

The reason for this, is that a cultural awareness has developed in the West for things Japanese. We have learned about the existence of rice on earth, and even that it is shaped into triangular luncheon friends. As a media-driven, entertainment-industry society, we have evolved since the days when we were watching Pokemon on VHS. Although I never had problems inputting search queries into Google and clicking through results, I do recall that time when it seemed as though everything was truly on the other side of the world.

As of the year 2010, though, I really believed that our cultural consciousness around Japanese rock and Visual Kei had, like our awareness of onigiri, evolved and developed. CDs, merchandise, product, and even live shows are at least moderately available.

In response to the above mentioned questions, all I can say is, are all Japanofiles still completely paleolithic? Am I the only fan of Japanese rock music who has whole CD racks full of Japanese CDs that were neither unavailable, extortionately priced, or downloaded illegally? No. I am not. So why are we still asking these questions.

No disrespect to the folks at Purple Sky.