Friday, November 30, 2007

Kuwata Keisuke takes on Giant Baba! 桑田佳祐 vs. ジャイアント馬場 plus ダーリン

Keeping with his theme of making commercials with dead people celebrities who have passed on for Wonda Coffee here is Kuwata Keisuke's latest CM, this time starring puroresu legend Shohei "Giant" Baba:

This follows Kuwata's previous Wonda commercials with actor Hitoshi Ueki and director Akira Kurosawa.

As a bonus, here is Kuwata's latest (solo) single, ダーリン (thanks to youtube user hijiricom):

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Look at the 19th SASUKE Competition 新SASUKE秋 2007!

Well, since G4 has finally (I think) aired the 19th competition stateside and people keep ending up here on google searches here are some photos of the first stage of the latest SASUKE competition:

Stage One obstacles:
1. Sextuple step 六段跳び

2.Log Grip ロッググリップ

3. Pole Maze ポールメイズ

4. Jumping Spider ジャンピングスパイダー

5. Half-Pipe Attack ハーフパイプアタック

6. Warped Wall そり立つ壁

7. Flying Chute フライングシュート

8. Tarzan Rope/Rope Ladder ターザンロープ/ロープラダー

Now then, to address some other searches:

Colin Bell and Brett Sims were the two representatives from G4 from America

Unfortunately, while they did well (especially relative to the rest of the field), they couldn't get past the first stage.

Shunsuke Nagasaki! Shunsuke Nagasaki! Shunsuke Nagasaki!

More about the Ube City Festa 2007 宇部まつり

Some random things I didn't put in the other post because it was getting too long...

One of my favorite things to get at anytime the street food booths are set up is the heart-attack inducing cup o' chicken (note: this is only the medium size cup):

Pikachu's got no eyes!

This was in front of the police table. They are members of Aum Shinrikyo who were responsible for the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995. If you're in Japan, you've probably seen these faces in post offices, supermarkets, pretty much everywhere. However, many people, especially students, were stopping to look at these mainly because they were so weird looking:

It was gone by the afternoon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ube City Festa 2007 宇部まつり

This is a bit late but better late than never I suppose...

Every beginning of November Ube City holds the Ube Matsuri. This isn't really a traditional Japanese festival. It's just a festival to celebrate..Ube. As you can see on the poster, this year is the 56th year of the festival. It's a fairly big event as it pretty much closes down the middle of the city on a Sunday. For comparison, here are some photos of how the area where the festival is held looks before the festival:

And here are some shots from during the festival:

This is the World Kitchen -- there are various food booths run by restaurants from around Yamaguchi prefecture and a stage for various types of performers. This year we had comedy duo クワバタオハラ (Kuwabataohara), a yo-yo champion and lots of local singers and dancers.

Notice the blue "Ube" in the background? That's the Ube Industries logo. That will be important later.

More pics from the festival. In order we'll see the flea market, two different dance groups, a crowd shot and..a clown:

There was also a parade. Actually, there were two parades. One in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Some pictures from the morning parade:

And here are some from the afternoon parade (yes, they used the same float). Why are there two parades? Well, the second parade features only people from Ube Industries whereas the first is from different groups and schools. Ube Industries..well, I'll put it this way: If Ube Industries were to disappear, it's very likely that the city of Ube would disappear too. The company is huge, with different offices and factories around the city (they even have their own hospital). For many local factories and companies Ube Industries is their biggest customer. The founder of the company donated the land for Tokiwa Park. So yeah, they get their own parade.

This is pretty much the only yearly event that closes down the middle of the city like this. There are lots of things that I didn't get a chance to take photos of like the live street performances and some other stuff. Not your traditional festival but it's not like there's much else to do around here.

Urawa Reds win AFC Champions League

The Urawa Red Diamonds of Saitama, Japan defeated Sepahan F.C. of Esfahan, Iran 2-0 in Saitama (3-1 on aggregate).

Story from the official site here.

Although the story says that the Reds are the first Japanese side to win the Champions League, the league itself has only been around since 2002. Before that, there was the Asian Club Cup where the last Japanese champion was Jubilo Iwata back in 1999.

Yuichiro Nagai and Yuki Abe scored the goals for the Reds.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rolling Stone Japan's 100 Greatest Rock Albums

The much smarter than me people at neojaponisme recently put up the list of the 100 Greatest Japanese Rock Albums of All Time that was in the September 07 issue of Rolling Stone. I'm not really all that familiar with a lot of these acts but since I love lists and rock I thought that I would try to dig up what I could from some of these albums. After listening to a couple of the tracks I could find on youtube I think I'd have to more or less agree with one of the reader comments: "Wow, somebody has a very different definition of rock than me." Still, if it gets people listening, it gets people listening.

Here are some songs from the top five albums:

1. はっぴいえんど (Happy End) - 風をあつめて (from the album 風街ろまん).
This song was used in Lost in Translation although I don't remember where.

(Thanks to youtube user hepuuuu)

2. RCサクセション (RC Succession) - 雨上がりの夜空に (from the album ラプソディ).
Their lead singer is the guy we saw kissing Ryuichi Sakamoto here.

(Thanks to youtube user inventor009)

3. ザ・ブルーハーツ (The Blue Hearts) - リンダリンダ (from the album ザ・ブルーハーツ).

(Thanks to youtube user bluehighlow)

4. YMO - Technopolis (from the album Solid State Survivor). I've talked about YMO before. Rydeen is from the same album.

(Thanks to youtube user VickySakamoto)

5. 矢沢永吉 (Yazawa Eikichi) - 時間よ止まれ (from the album ゴールドラッシュ).

(Thanks to youtube user brkc2d22)

Like most Top Whatever lists, the top tends to go more for historical (read: older) records and takes commercial success into consideration. The highest ranking release from the last five years is Dir en grey's Withering to Death at 34 although two release from the late 90's Fishmans' 空中キャンプ and Cornelius' ファンタズマ come in at 8 and 10, respectively. And of course people will probably look at the addition of Utada Hikaru (in at 99 for First Love) and raise their eyebrows just a bit.
Anyway, this was an enjoyable little task and hopefully I'll be back with more later!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Selecting a sports team to cheer for...

When the Red Sox completed their sweep of the Rockies I realized that the Japan Series was still going on and I wondered if I should post about them to balance things out (especially after the combined perfect game to win it) but I got kind of burned out on baseball at that point. Five of my seven posts in October were about the MLB and seven of eight of my posts were about sports (the eighth being about murder, not something I really want to constantly blog about).

It was about that time that I realized that the reason I didn't really care about the Japan Series was that I didn't have anyone to cheer for or root against. In the World Series I was cheering for Daisuke but against Boston.

As I said before, I am a Mets fan and generally cheer for New York teams. I was a big fan of the Patrick Ewing-era Knicks and I was glad that Mark Messier was around to help the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup.

Due to the influence of some friends from England I follow West Ham whenever I remember to look at the scores. Hey, middle of the table is better than fighting to simply stay in the Premier League.

I also have certain players that I cheer for. Alex! is one. Brent Barry is another. After watching the Knicks/Nuggets game on NHK BS I think I *heart* Renaldo Balkman. Hey, I never said the players I cheered for were superstars.

Anyway, I've decided that I'm going to follow some Japanese sports teams to see if it will get me a bit more interested in what's going on locally.

Now unfortunately, I live in Yamaguchi prefecture which doesn't have any big league teams. There are two local football (soccer for us Americans) clubs in the area though:
FCバレイン下関 (FC Baleine Shimonoseki) is a football club that is something like three leagues below the J League. Baleine is French for くじら.
A bit higher on the scale (I think!) is レノファ山口FC (Renofa Yamaguchi). The word Renofa is a combination of Reno from renovation and Fa from either fight or fine. Yup.

That's a start. Not quite the same as following the big leagues though although the fight to get promoted to a bigger league is something I wish the U.S. would do more often. (By the way, if you ever need to make your mind boggle, try to follow the chart at the bottom of the wikipedia entry for the English football league system. And those are just the leagues, not teams.)

So...taking into consideration that geography is always important when choosing who you cheer for (I have an excuse for cheering for New York teams since I'm from Hawaii which has no pro teams in any sports and you have to figure it out for yourself) I'll be following サンフレッチェ広島 (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) as my designated J League team. They even have a similar history to West Ham: They did a lot early on and not all that much since.

Also, since I was planning to blog about it eventually, I will try to follow ライジング福岡 (Rizing Fukuoka - the z is because they are hard core!) of the unfortunately named bj league. Japan has a bit of an odd situation that the US hasn't seen in a while -- two competing leagues of roughly the same level. While the Japan Basketball League (which has two divisions) is probably better known club teams can choose between the JBL and the bj league. Kobe Bryant's father, Joe Bryant, is the head coach of the bj league's Tokyo Apache.

Since the baseball season is over, I will take the time to mull over whether or not I will cheer for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks or the Hiroshima Carp. I'll probably choose the Hawks since I often inadvertently read the name Hiroshima Carp as the Hiroshima Crap. Sorry guys..