🌸The Tekkojima Iron Island Festival🌸

Made of cement, steel beams, and industry, the small island of Keihinjima doesn’t look like much. A mere twenty minutes away from Haneda airport, it is an artificial island created for iron manufacturing and recycling. Grey streets, warehouses, and shipping containers dominate the landscape. And the only pulse that can be heard is that of metal and the heavy machinery that works it in the warehouses spread across the island.

Despite this, in this unlikely place, the youth of Kaihinjima have decided to reclaim this space as one for art and expression. In 2016, the Buckle Kobo creative hub decided to transform their metal home into a melting pot for contemporary music, film, art, and expression.

With just a few sound systems and projectors, the empty warehouses transform into clubs, filled with sound, light, and people. And the empty streets suddenly have a new pulse.

Tekkojima Warehouse Club
With just a little light and sound, a cold and empty warehouse suddenly becomes the place to be.

The streets are lined with artisanal food and drink vendors, offering everything from cheese and avocado koroke to nutella latés. Performance artists roam the streets singing, dancing, and toying with various forms of expression. Paintings and art installations are aplenty. Some seek to please the eye, while others strive to express the sense of identity the people of Keihinjima have with metal work.


The Tekkojima Island Festival was a fantastic experience. Every year they have more and more artists showing up. Some of Tokyo’s most innovative and creative musicians, film makers, artists, and performers make an appearance. It is truly a wonderful thing to see, how a community can so drastically transform itself into something so colourful and lively.

I’ll let their promo video have the last word. If you’re ever in the area this time of the year, do yourself a favour and make an experience. It’s definitely one of the more authentic festivals out there.

 

The Hakone Open-air Museum/Little Prince Museum

Having recently reached the second year of my life in Japan I had developed a more refined taste for attractions and adventures. Well, perhaps not more refined, but rather more demanding. If you threw the word “island” at me paired it with just about any animal in front of it, I would probably be there faster than a salaryman slurps raamen, or an NKH man knocking at your door.

For some time now I have had my eye on The Hakone Open-air Museum. It’s an attraction located in the southern mountains of Kanagawa. It is roughly a 3-4 hour trip by train from central Tokyo. It is an open-air park in the midst of beautiful, lush mountains. There’s a great variety of sculptures and art installations all across the park.  If you appreciate sculpture or just artistic expression in general, this would definitely be a good go for you. As an added bonus, there’s a little Picasso art gallery in the middle of it, so if you’re a fan, you got two reasons to go. “But I want three!” I hear you ask. Well, just a short bus ride away, there’s a Little Prince museum which has sculptures and installations from the book, as well as photographs and excerpts of the author’s work.

The sculptures are the main focus of the Hakone Open-air museum. There’s a great variety of the themes, styles, and materials used. Sadly, no photographs are allowed in the Picasso museum, so you’ll have to find out for yourselves 😛

 

The Little Prince museum is a short bus ride away. Unlike most such museums which are just a giant box with cool stuff inside, this one is made to look like a little French villa. It’s adorned with roses and gardens along the way. There’s even a section of it that’s made out to look like a French street. There are statues of the characters strewn around the gardens. And once you go inside you can enjoy a vast variety of content. There are photographs of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. There’s detailed maps showing the flights he used to take across Africa, and the nature of his adventures. There are manuscripts, doodles, and illustrations. There are descriptions of both his early and later life. And all this along dark and intimate rooms and hallways painted in backdrops from his most famous book.

Again, sorry for the lack of photographs from the inside of the museum. Many of the rooms forbid it. It’s probably for the best, though. This is something better experienced than seen. If you’re ever in Hakone, don’t think twice. These two attractions are well worth the price of admission, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything quite like them anywhere else.

Bon Voyage!

Never Undo – Friday Song of The Week

Dear Chris and Listener,

This week I got something special for you lot. Morcheeba, one of my absolute favourite bands has released “Never Undo” for their upcoming album Blaze Away, which should be in stores June first.

They’ve been around since 1995, and have 8 solid albums under their belt. They’re a trip-hop electronic group which knows just how to blend the new with the enjoyable. Skye Edwards’s sensual, warm voice leaves you asking for little, while Ross Godfrey builds a groovy backdrop of rock, blues, and jazz for her to play with. All of this is doused with a masterful electronic touch.

I strongly recommend all their albums, each sounding very different from the next. I can not hype this band enough, they are truly one of my all-time favourites.

April tracks

Introduction by In Love With a Ghost

Lazy Bones by Jeremy Messersmith

Never Undo by Morcheeba

🌸All Hail The Iron Penis, or Kanamara Matsuri Festival🌸

Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis?
Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong?
It’s swell to have a stiffy.
It’s divine to own a dick,
From the tiniest little tadger,
To the world’s biggest prick.

Well, Japan definitely seems to think so. Vagina demons, penis black smiths, and lollypops. Ladies, gents, and other such creatures, today we look at the penis festival that is Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of The Steel Phallus).

 

This tradition started in 1969. It is an annual festival held near Kawasaki, Japan. Though it is on April first, make no mistake, this is no joke. Some serious penis tomfoolery goes down every year on this auspicious day.

The legend goes that a demon fell in love with a woman and lodged himself inside her vagina (as one does). She was a strong woman, a confident woman, and not the type to let a little pesky vagina demon get in the way of her happiness. So she found a man, married him, and come the nuptial night, the demon bit off the man’s penis (as one does). However, she was not deterred. She found herself another man, and went on to marry him as well. Come the nuptial night, however, the demon bit off the man’s bits again (as one does). Having had enough, the woman sought the help of the two blacksmith gods enshrined in Kanayama shrine, Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime.

“Bites off me man’s bits, he does, filthy little demon dude,” she said.

“Most uncool, and heinous,” said Kanayamahiko.

“Most heinous, and uncool,” added Kanayamahime.

Together they fashioned an iron dildo of supreme godliness and craftsmanship. They gifted her the dildo, which she used to smash the demon’s teeth (as one does). The demon fled her vagina, and she was free to marry again without the worry of a demon biting off her man’s fun bits. And all lived happily ever after, except of course the demon (for he had no teeth), and the first two husbands (for they had no penises).

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Vulgar nonsense!” Well, honestly, with the exception of a few comedic liberties, that is actually more or less the story. “LIAR!” you say; well, feel free to Google it yourself.

In the absence of vagina demons, these days the festival celebrates fertility, safe childbirth, and a protection from STI’s. It is a very light-hearted festival, nowhere near as serious as some of the other more popular Shinto celebrations. People wear penis hats, suck on penis lollies, and take turns petting giant stone and iron penises for good luck. It is always heavily attended, and a lot of fun. You can get all kinds of fun merchandise, such as penis towels, penis t-shirts, penis key chains, penis candles, or penis stickers, to round off your day.

 

For those of you with children, don’t be discouraged. This is not at all considered a lewd or adult celebration. There are children present, and it is considered very normal.

I absolutely recommend this experience as it is very fun and silly, but also a rare look at the bawdy aspects of Japanese culture and mythology that we don’t often get to see.

Let Me Out – Friday Song of The Week

Dear Chris and Listener,

Thanks for sending Gone Molly’s track my way. I do love me a good Irish sound, and I hold a special place in my heart for old folk songs. A good story, emotive voices, and just all the right vibes – the song had it. Cheers!

This week’s band needs no introduction. They aren’t below the radar by any stretch of the imagination. But the track I stumbled upon was simply too good and fresh not to share. I am talking about Gorillaz’ Let Me Out.

To anyone already familiar with Gorillaz you won’t be surprised when I say there’s a flawless blend of five or so genres in this track. There’s three sets of vocals taking turns on the wheel of the song, the percussion is constantly in motion between the verses and choruses. I love the Soul and R&B movements in the track, they contrast the heavier hip hop elements beautifully.

Their new album, Humanz, echoes the creativity and quality of some of their best stuff, like Demon Days. It’s great to see such creative and talented artists back on top of their game. I can’t wait until I see them this summer!

March List

“Let Me Out” by Gorillaz

Friday Song of The Week – Nostalgia

Dear Chris and listener,

I enjoyed The Gallant Gentleman’s track. It wandered pleasantly for a while and then it built up its spectacular climax.

It reminded me of my first time I listened to Post Rock. The first song I ever stumbled upon from the genre, and as luck would have it by its better practitioners, was Nostalgia by Mono. Mono is a Post Rock band from Tokyo, Japan formed in 1999. They’ve released nine studio albums in the seventeen years they’ve been active, of which I would definitely recommend Hymn to the Immortal Wind (2009) and For My Parents (2012). 

As most Post Rock songs, Nostalgia seems lost for a while. The musicians are searching in the dark for something that speaks back to them. They grasp a thin thread, and slowly they start weaving. The song builds up energy and tension as it takes you through the musicians’ psychedelic imaginations.

The link I’ve shared is a little on the quiet side, so I would suggest maxing out your volume controls. I would provide a better source, but this is truly them at their best, and well worth the risk of an accidental Skype message puncturing an ear drum.

I would recommend this song be listened to in a dark room with a slow heart rate, and an open mind.

Find Me” by Marcus D (Ft. Jun)

Hide” by FKA Twigs

I Am Here” by Funky DL

El Pescador” by Banda Magda

Empires” by Electric Swing Circus

Jungle” by Tash Sultana

Never Knew a Thing (Live)” by Kileza

Time of Extinction” (소멸의 시간) by Jambinai (잠비나이)

Hi-Lights” by Savlonic.

Common Ground” by Kognitif ft. The Mic Jordon

Believe” by Kenichiro Nishihara ft. Cise Starr

Gerudo Valley (Metal Version)” by Machinae Supremacy

Bloody Tears” by Naoto Shibata Project

Satting Sail Home (End Theme)” by Darren Krob

Ori and The Blind Forest (Main Theme)” by Gareth Coker

A Gallant Gentleman” by We Lost The Sea

Nostalgia” by Mono

American Gods: First Look

Ladies, gents, and other such creatures, draw your pentagrams, sacrifice your goats, and gather ’round your sabbath bonfires because we got ourselves a show to worship.

Creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have brought us Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Blessed be they.

Creators
Our noble writer, Neil Gaiman, and two randoms.

For those uninitiated in the cult of Gaiman, American Gods is a new TV series based off of Neil Gaiman’s book by the same title.

Gods still roam the earth. Some are big, some are small, some are old, some are new. We start our show with our chief character, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle). At first glance he’s a typical convict. He’s got the shaved head, the permanent scowl, the chiseled body. However, there’s more than meets the eye with this guy. He also appears to be very thoughtful and reserved. He listens more than he talks. His characteristics seem out-of-place with his introduced persona. The show has barely started and it’s already got me asking questions and wondering about the who and how.

Shadow Walk.jpg
Our main man, Shadow Moon. Yes, his mom was a hippie. How clever of you.

He’s set to be released from prison in 5 days. He’s looking forward to seeing his wife who he seems to love dearly. He’s anxious to prove to her that he’s a better man coming out than when he went in. He is terribly anxious something bad’s going to happen, a feeling that might just be enforced by the strange and surreal dreams he’s having. Say what you will about a man, but when you start dreaming of bison with flaming eyes, I draw the line – shit be cray.

 

Flaming Bison
When the acid kicks in.

Enter the rock star. On his way back from prison he has the terrible misfortune of having to sit next to Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). If anyone ever gave Ian McShane the role of the devil it would look something a lot like this. He’s absolute charm, mischief, and entertainment. To say he’s perfect for the role makes “perfect” a poor adjective. He IS the role. He somehow happens to know a lot about Shadow’s personal life, but he keeps the “how” in the dark. He tries to persuade Shadow to work for him, though he’s not really specific about the type of work he has in mind. Shadow doesn’t seem to be too keen, but Mr. Wednesday’s nothing if not persistent, and nothing if he’s not sly. Our TV show takes off from there in a whirl of dynamic dialogue and the unraveling of what seems to be a fantastic world.

Americna-Gods-Odin
Our rock star of the show – Mr. Wednesday, played by the devil himself, Ian McShane.

Now, without giving more of the plot away, I will say this: the show’s got a lot to work with. Not only do we have a talented cast, but we have none other than Neil f’in Gaiman as a writer. We know what happens when TV is written by actual writers. Game of Thrones, anyone?

The idea of ancient deities roaming the modern world and how they come to terms with it is fascinating enough on its own. But more than that, the show looks at the idea of belief itself. What makes a thing real? What is the power of belief? In this day and age, with our rapidly changing world, what things do we believe in?

The visual style of this show caught me a bit by surprise. There’s a few scenes that introduce some visually curious elements and it seems to be an appetizer for what we’re going to get throughout the season. Bright colours, strong contrasts, over exaggerated violence. They set the tone for something vibrant. This strikes me as a show that’s not afraid to take a few risks, and that’s always encouraging. I’ll take something that tries to be bold and new over safe and worn to death any day.

The show snares your interest from episode 1 and has you asking more than a few big questions by the time the episode’s over. Well worth the watch. The stars might have just aligned for Gaiman’s adaptation.