Stronger, intimate, and superb: Ken Hirai

Singer Ken Hirai (平井堅) will hold the 15th Anniversary of Ken’s Bar, a special live concert, celebrating his most memorable and influential songs on both May 29th and 30th in the Nippon Budokan (日本武道館). Since his discovery in a SONY singing competition in 1993, Ken Hiria has released songs showcasing himself as a devout romantic singer unafraid of exposing his sentiments to his fans.

Hirai’s most notable song 瞳 を 閉じて (close eyes) describes an enduring devotion to a past love. The song’s focus is on overcoming a once blossoming affair that provided comfort and an impalpable certitude that the person lying opposite him every morning would remain present in his life forever.  His dream is shattered but he lingers between hopefulness and disparity that his loved one will someday return. In other words,  the memory of his lost love is sufficient to carry him forward: ひとみ を 閉じて を 描くよ それ  だけ で いい. Hirai illustrates what everyone confronts once a relationship ends: the yearning to salvage a wonderful time of being in love forever. He brings this emotion forward through his raw vocals that he refuses to disguise in synthetic electronic sounds.

With effortless vocals and accompanying instruments meshing well together, Hirai and the members of his band easily portray strong and even subtle emotions in every song–gloomy or cheerful. 

Ken Hirai will not be appearing on any gossip website for his party ways, love affairs, promiscuity, or raunchy behavior any time soon. He is foremost devoted to improving his artistry, while composing albums that are simultaneously different and fresh. Hirai is definitely an artist who deserves recognition for his current trajectory as he doesn’t rely on dance electronic hits or synth voices to cement his “talent” in the music industry. Instead, Hirai has earned fame for his heart felt singing and signature serene vocals that make you believe his songs are for you alone, a secret for you and him to share.

Click the link below
A Heart Warmed Ken Singing

AKB48 announces new “Nemousu TV” season

16 members of the AKB48 family took the stage at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday for one of the group’s mini-concert and handshake events. They set a new personal record for themselves, gathering approximately 22,500 fans for the event, surpassing the crowd of 20,000 that attended their handshake event at Kyocera Dome last December.

Saturday’s event was part of a series of eight handshake events across the country that started on February 20, celebrating the release of AKB48′s latest single “Sakura no Ki ni Narou.” The group has another one at the same venue on Sunday, making the fact that they brought in a record crowd even more impressive.

“Sakura no Ki ni Narou” was released on February 16 and sold more than 942,000 copies during its first week in stores. During the concert portion of the handshake event, Oshima Yuko announced that the single recently passed 1 million in sales.

The members also talked about the renewal of their television show “AKB48 Nemousu TV,” which is now confirmed to start its 6th season on April 24. The week before that, the show will have a 2-hour special aired on April 17, featuring six of the AKB48 research students in Guam.

On the same day as the event, new information was released regarding AKB48′s first original album, scheduled for release on April 6. The album is officially titled “Koko ni Ita Koto” and contains 16 tracks, 11 of which are new songs that have never been released on CD before. This includes the title track, sung by the members of AKB48, SKE48, SDN48, and NMB48.

The limited editions and the regular edition of the album will come with a DVD containing choreography versions of the music videos for “Ponytail to Chouchou,” “Heavy Rotation,” “Beginner,” and “Chance no Junban.”

Pandas to arrive to Ueno Zoo in February

A pair of giant pandas to be leased from China will arrive at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo in February, sources said Saturday.

The giant pandas will be the zoo’s first since Ling-Ling, a male panda, died in April 2008, and follows a deal between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and China to borrow the popular animals for 10 years.

One of the pandas is a male named Bili, and the other is a female called Xiannu.

Read the rest of the story: Ueno Zoo to get pandas in February.

No Sex Generation – Japan’s male teens and even married couples aren’t interested

One-third of Japanese men aged 16 to 19 were uninterested in or even averse to sex as of last year, doubling from 2008, a government survey showed Wednesday.The survey, conducted in September, also showed more married couples were also found sexless than before, with more than 40 percent saying they had no sex in the past month.The last survey was conducted by a research group of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to study peoples views on lifestyle. It is based on replies provided by 671 men and 869 women aged 16 to 49 in interviews."The survey result confirmed that young men have become herbivorous," said Kunio Kitamura, head of the Clinic of the Japan Family Planning Association who took part in the survey, using the term used increasingly in Japan to describe young males who are shy and passive in relationships with women.According to the ministry, 35.1 percent of men aged 16 to 19 said they are uninterested in or averse to sex, surging from 17.5 percent in the previous poll in 2008.

Read the rest of the story: Survey shows rising indifference to sex among male teens, couples.

‘Kyarabens’ Tutorial

Hexagon Bento

If you are looking for a Japanese art form to explore but haven’t found a traditional art to your taste, you might want to try the art of Kyaraben, also known as Charaben, short for “Character Bentos”.

These are bentos where the assortment of foods to go in the lunch box are made in the shapes of your favorite animation characters.  If you develop a flair, you may even want to branch into landscape-bens, portrait-bens, or even abstra-bens.  The latter three being as yet unexplored bento art territory.

Sketch for Hexagon Character Bento by Y.

To make this 100% edible art, start with a sketch of your favorite character.  From Hello Kitty to Hexa-kun (the character from the well-known television quiz show, Hexagon),  the world’s your oyster and any vegetable, fish cake, meat morsel or seaweed  sheets can form the materials.

You will find a scissor helpful for cutting seaweed; and straws are good to punch small circles in slices of ham or cheese that can be used as buttons, on faces, as polkadots, etc.

Think about your palette, and how to make colors from plain white rice adding such condiments as tomato ketchup, mentaiko or pink fish powders, or an autumn orange using pumpkin.

Color variations for egg omelette
cutting holes in cheese with the end of a straw

Bento artist at work
Koala March Ben

Sharpen your knives, get out your bento supplies, and discover that you too can sculpt rice into onigiri of various shapes and sizes that can be wrapped with colorful tastes to resemble your favorite characters.

The bentos pictured are made by my daughter,  11-year old Y., who is getting an early start in the art.  She made these bentos  for her fall school excursions (ensokus).   BTW, the Chara-bens are also ECO and can be adapted for all ages.  If you enjoy this art, you might be inclined to use your own bento more and purchase the disposable variety less.


Aikawarazu Life in Japan

Where’s Erika Sawajiri?

The Sports Nippon newspaper is reporting that people have recently been unable to contact actress Erika Sawajiri (24). According to Sawajiri’s mother Lila, who was interviewed by the newspaper, the actress has not been heard from in the past three weeks.

Lila, who currently lives with Sawajiri in a Tokyo apartment, mentioned that her last contact with Sawajiri may have been as much as 20 days ago. However, when the newspaper asked for more details, Lila declined to comment and completely stopped speaking on the subject.

Sawajiri was scheduled to appear at a press conference for a new commercial on September 21, but she canceled the day before, apparently due to a high fever. Her last appearance in front of the press was on September 5.

Sports Nippon speculates that Sawajiri’s disappearance may be related to an article published on a CNN website on September 1. In the article, Sawajiri stated that she reluctantly gave in to her former management agency, which forced her to give a tearful apology on TV in 2007 after she was criticized for unprofessional behavior at a press conference for the movie "Closed Note." The article has apparently caused trouble for her former agency and other parties, so Sawajiri may simply be avoiding the spotlight for the time being.

Looking Guu!!! Harumi Edo ties the knot!

Harumi Edo, the comedian best known for her signature line "Guu!" ("Good!"), got married on Sunday. She announced the news through her official blog and through her agency, Yoshimoto Kogyo.

Edo revealed that she met the man about 12 or 13 years ago. They dated for several years, but they broke up in 2005 when Edo entered Yoshimoto Kogyo’s New Star Creation school. The two met again this past spring and rekindled their romance.

Edo once mentioned on television that she is divorced, so this is her second marriage.

In her announcement, Edo declared that she hopes to continue working even more as a comedian from now on. In addition to her comedy work, Edo has also been appearing in television dramas.

Jin Akanishi going solo from KAT-TUN

Jin Akanishi (26) has written a comment on the official Johnny’s mobile site, his first since the news of his expected removal from KAT-TUN. In his message, Akanishi formally announced that he is going solo.

Akanishi explained that he and KAT-TUN have different directions, but he also assured fans that he does not dislike the other members nor have personal problems with them. He apologized to the members of KAT-TUN for causing them trouble in both big and small matters, while also thanking them for his time with them.

Akanishi stated that he hopes to be active as a solo artist not just in America, but also in other parts of the world such as Asia and Europe. He also said that he naturally wants to be active in Japan as well.

Trash or treasure? Finding Gray in the Pink

When I found pages and pages torn from ‘pink’ magazines littered and spread out and open wide for all to see on the side of the main road this morning, I was led to ask the above question. I didn’t know whether to pick them all up to keep the streets ‘clean’ for the packs of Jr. High School students that I eyed further up ahead. But then, if they saw me getting off my bike to collect up these revealing pages, would I be exposing myself as an object of the typical gai-jin, giving them some laughs to add to their image of an unusual foreigner?

I picked up a few, in time to stuff them in my pocket un-noticed. I remembered when the big “Man’s Omocha-ya”(man’s toystore) opened across the street from where I live, and how I thought I’d have to move. Then somehow, the bright yellow billboard-sized sign advertising toys for men just blended in with the rest of the convenient stores and chains that have been on the rise in our residential neighborhood.

A few years ago, Don Quixote opened. The first time I walked in I couldn’t help noticing how the cosplay costumes and colorful tiny lingerie at discount prices were lined up next to the children’s pajamas. I swore I’d never take my daughter, who was then in kindergarten, there. Meanwhile, now she is ten years old and “Don-key” is her favorite place to buy stationary and shampoo items.

In Japan, adult items and magzines can be readily found in places where children and young adults can easily see them. I am beginning to get used to this, and find myself judging it less. Is it that when we are exposed to something long enough, we get used to it? Or, am I beginning to see that having things out in the open and incorporated into mass culture is a freedom that doesn’t necessarily need to be un-healthy.

I un-crumple those torn pages, pretty sure that what may be trash to one person is most probably considered to be another man or woman’s treasure.

What do you think about the open display of adult graphic materials in Japan?


Rilakkuma – Dreams of The Working Man

Rilakkuma — The name is a combination of the word “Relax” and “Kuma”, (Bear).

The reason why Japanese people feel comforted by this lazy bear is maybe his life seems perfectly ideal to hard Japanese workers…

Let’s explore why…

What he likes: Dango, Pancakes, Puddings, Rice omelets, Listening to music, watching TV, Taking Onsen baths, and Laying down

What he doesn’t like: Standing up, Moving

And in-case you are a lazy loving kid…there is “Ko-Rilakkuma” (Baby Rilakkuma), too.