2016-11-22

Album Review: Metafive - EP METAHALF (2016)


Takahashi Yukihiro & Metafive - Source: Natalie.mu
After releasing Meta (2016), which can arguably be deemed the best Japanese alternative/techno album of this year, Metafive have made their rounds this year performing a several Japanese music festivals including Summer Sonic and World Happiness. Behind the scenes, the band was also recording new music, and nearly two weeks ago, they dropped an EP or mini-album—Metahalf.

Metahalf (2016)
Source: hmv.co.jp

If you've heard Metafive—or any of the six member's solo works—it goes without saying that they're a group of highly skilled musicians. Nonetheless, Metahalf just does not deliver in the same way that Meta (2016) did. That's not to say that Metahalf isn't a quality EP, it just lacks some of the magic that it's predecessor had. That being said, Meta (2016) is a rare album in that all tracks contain something special, a feat that's quite difficult and somewhat rare for an artist to produce back-to-back. 

It's usually better to get the bad news out of the way first, so let's start with the last two tracks of Metahalf, the weak links: "Peach Pie" and "Submarine". 

2016-08-14

Reading in Chinese: Choosing Materials and Tackling Unknown Vocabulary

Pages from the popular Japanese comic Card Captor Sakura translated into Chinese.
Source
Last month, I finished teaching a summer Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) course. At the end of the course, I asked students if they had any general questions for me regarding English learning. Some asked pretty much the question many other English language learners I meet in my daily life ask:

"How should I study vocabulary? Should I memorize? I heard memorization is the best method."

Indeed, in China and other Asian countries, rote memorization is used not only to cram for tests, but to tackle any content thrown at students in the variety of classes they take. I believe there is a time and place for rote memorization (i.e., math formulas), but if you want language to be memorable, memorization is the wrong road to take. 

As an English teacher who loves to use the principals of cognitive linguistics or logic to tackle language, I believe vocabulary, grammar, or any other facet of language is only retained when it's contextualized, and/or when we know the etymology or background. Whether you're learning English, or Chinese and Japanese in my case, this rings true. I remember words and phrases from memorable conversations or interesting books. Naturally, when words and phrases are heard or read in context, they make more sense. 

I'll make a post about listening to Chinese in the future; this one concerns Chinese reading. (I don't know enough Japanese yet to read books, only short comics and signs!) Again, no matter the language you're learning, I think these tips will help you. 

Record five unknown vocabulary words per page

Recently, an employee at my local Walmart (yes, they're here in China!) struck up a conversation with me. He asked the typical memorization question, and I told him a better way to brush up on English is to read and write down about five words per page that you don't understand to check the definition later. 

"But what if there's more than five words I don't understand on a page?" he asked.

I replied, "Ignore them!"

2016-08-01

A Rainy Day in Shibuya and Harajuku (Part 1)

Barrels of sake at Meiji Shrine in Harajuku.
On my fourth day in Tokyo, I visited Shibuya and Harajuku. It was rainy and cold—as it was for most of my trip—but with rain boots, an umbrella, and a heavy jacket it certainly wasn't difficult to bare.

Although the neighboring areas of Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku are easily accessible by metro and other forms of public transportation, I elected to walk. On foot, it only takes about 20 minutes to reach Harajuku from Shibuya.

Hachiko in all his wonder.
It's raining, it's pouring!
















Hachikō

The first place, or landmark, on my Shibuya-Harajuku agenda was the famous Hachikō statue just outside Shibuya station. Hachikō was a dog who waited around Shibuya Station for his owner Professor Hidesaburō Ueno who would meet him there after work. Unfortunately, the professor died from a brain hemorrhage and never meet his dog at the station again. Nonetheless, the loyal Hachiko waited for his owner outside the station for over nine years until he died in 1935 at age 11. 

After Hachikō's death, a statue of him was erected at the station in his memory. Over the years, the Hachikō statue has become a prominent meeting area for Tokyoites. Shibuya is an area teeming with crowds, so the noticeable statue serves it's secondary purpose well. 


2016-07-26

8th Annual Shenzhen Cartoon and Animation Festival

Cosplayers from a variety of series.
Two gorgeous maidens




















Awesome weaponry!

Last week, a friend and I attended the last day of Shenzhen's 8th annual Cartoon and Animation Festival(第八深圳動漫節). The event spanned five days (July 21-25, 2016) and offered anime fans from Guangdong Province and beyond a chance to share their love of their favorite series and characters.

Edward Elric from
Fullmetal Alchemist
Kakashi from Naruto
From my childhood to my young adult years, I attended several anime conventions and have even donned costumes to attend these events as well. These day, I no longer make an effort to go to such events, but I though it be great fun to attend my first non-American anime convention!

The Shenzhen Cartoon and Animation Festival did not disappoint! Tickets were a fair 50RMB (about $7USD) and there were several impressive costumes, fun games, and cute things on sale to buy.

Costume Play

Costume + play = cosplay! Anime fans love to bring their beloved characters to life by dressing as them at conventions. Some buy their costumes, while other majorly talented fans create their own from scratch. Either way, it's entertaining to see them get into character, especially when they look eerily similar to their fictional counterparts!

2016-07-20

Music Musings: Metafive (2014-Present)

Yukihiro Takahashi (third from left) & Metafive - Source: Natalie.mu
Originally posted on the now-defunct Japanistas.com.

With his penchant for classy hats and Thom Browne suits, friendly grin, and slightly raspy timbre, 64-year-old Yukihiro Takahashi hardly appears to be a techno composer or a drumming powerhouse — but appearances can be deceiving!

Beyond Takahashi’s stylish exterior lies a lifelong musical innovator with an impressive number of successful projects under his belt. An industry pioneer, Takahashi has helped mold electronica, j-pop, synthpop, new wave and even hip hop music as we know it today, and he continues to do so through his super group Metafive: recording artist and producer Keigo Oyamada aka Cornelius; Japanese-Swedish singer/songwriter Leo Imai; electric instrumentalist, Tomohiko Gondo; former Denki Grove member and DJ, Yoshinori Sunahara; and DJ and record producer, Towa Tei.

Takahashi’s formal introduction to the music industry came from his time as the drummer in the Japanese British glam rock-inspired group Sadistic Mika Band, known best for their acclaimed 1974 album Kurofune(黒船), “Black Ships”.



As the first Japanese band to tour the United Kingdom, the Sadistic Mika Band’s unique sound drew attention, especially regarding their ability to create Western-style music in an undoubtedly Japanese manner. They went on to appear on both BBC Radio and BBC TV.

Nevertheless, The Sadistic Mika Band in its original form disbanded in the mid-70’s, yet there have been a number of revivals of the band under several names over the years, including a 2006 revival with Kaela Kimura in Mika Kato’s place.

After Sadistic Mika Band’s disbandment, Takahashi went on to begin a successful solo career. Simultaneously, he was a member of world-renowned group the Yellow Magic Orchestra along with bassist, producer, and songwriter Haruomi "Harry" Hosono, and composer, pianist, and two-time Golden Globe, Academy, and Grammy award-winner Ryuichi Sakamoto.

The Yellow Magic Orchestra in the early 80’s. – Source: Factmag.com
Created by Hosono, YMO was meant to be a temporary project, but after gaining international recognition, the band played spectacular lives and recorded esteemed albums together for several years.