BIGPAPA aka BIGMAMA’s Tour Finale

BIGMAMA, a five piece rock-pop band based in Tokyo Japan, just recently finished their tour throughout Japan to celebrate the release of their latest album 君想う、故に我在り. They are made up of a unique composition for Japan, with a violinist being a major component of the band. They are considered to be an emo-rock band here in Japan, though in my personal opinion they play very pop-like tunes, with beautiful melodies and a voice that accompanies it wonderfully. BIGMAMA consists of; Kanai Masato (vo/gt), Kakinuma Hiroya (gt/vo), Yasui Hideto (ba), Higashide Mao (vi/cho), and Ibe Riado (dr).

Although their tour finale was dated to be June 15th, there was a separate secret tour finale on the 16th to celebrate father’s day. On this particular day, the band appeared not as BIGMAMA but as BIGPAPA, for…well, father’s day. On this special day in which we honor our father’s, I was invited to go see this band play for the first time.


To be honest, I have had no previous experience with this band. Aside from a couple of drinks and a long intoxicated conversation with one of the members on a cold December night and a copy of their latest album, my knowledge of this band was far from lavish. Yet, I found myself sitting on the 3rd floor balcony overlooking the arena and stage surrounded by friends and business partners of the band.

My first show. I was quite excited about this show, to be honest. After getting lost on my way to the Tokyo Dome Hall, when I finally arrived at my destination, I was welcomed by the sight of a myriad of youths sporting black tshirts with the bands name printed across the chest. I had listened to their songs before hand, and I quite like the album, but I was not expecting to see so many people wearing the typical attire one would don in Japan for punk band shows (ie Dickies shorts with the band tshirt and sneakers…clothes that show support for the band while still being comfortable enough to participate in moshpits and crowd surfing).

As I sat on the third floor balcony in my comfortable plush seat, I had a clear view down in the arena where people moved about, resembling the image of a beehive split open for viewing with the worker bees clustered in the small space provided. To be honest, it is quite disgusting looking. Humans are odd creatures.

As the arena lights began to dim, the crowd cheered and I sat up straight in my seat with anticipation rolling through my nerves. Each member walked onto stage, bowing towards the crowd before picking up their instruments in their designated spots. The lights went black and in the next instant, there was a blast of music and bright colorful lights painting the insides of the Tokyo Dome Hall.

The band introduced themselves at BIGPAPA, a different band from BIGMAMA, who came together today to play this show. The audience laughed and went along with their little charade of being BIGPAPA. I did not recognize most of their songs, though they played an exceptional show with an amazing light performance. What intrigued me more though, was seeing the crowd’s reactions to these songs. How people would sit on top of shoulders, singing on the top of their lungs until the climax of the song when they would thrust their bodies back as a sea of hands would reach up to support them, carrying them towards the stage before they rolled down into a black hole. While this seems to be a common act at punk show concerts, it was an alien spectacle for me to see so many crowd surfers during these catchy pop tunes. I quite enjoyed this gap of music and action.

In the middle of the show, the vocalist asked the crowd if it was anyone’s birthday. Hands shot up in the crowd and a path opened up like the red sea to lead the individuals up front.

“Staff, please detain these individuals!” Kanai said. Once everyone had been taken backstage, poppers were passed around. Soon, the birthday boys and girls were led up on stage where they lined up next to the band as the band began playing their birthday song. Higashide, closest to the group, made sure to smile and interact with them as she played the violin, sending girls into fits of tears and spreading grins across everyone’s face. At the peak of the song, an explosion went off as gold confetti streamers rained down into the arena. I quite liked this “tradition” that the band had, allowing their listeners to feel special on the day they were born. It was very different from many of the other bands I have seen.

The show ended before satisfaction broke surface, and the crowd attempted to start a slow clap in the dark. The slow clap would speed up quickly before dispersing into a million jumbled claps. Sitting above the crowd, it sounded like I was at the ocean, the waves crashing down onto shore. Soon the stage lit up as Kanai walked out onto stage. He spoke about his thanks for the fans and asked if he could play in the crowd. A cheer mixed with hysteric screams erupted and with that, he disappeared off the stage, reappearing in the midst of the crowd. He serenaded an acoustic ballad to all the fathers; thanking them for the support and unconditional love they provide their children. After the song, he returned to the stage through an arch the crowd created for him with their arms. A couple more songs were played before they waved their goodbyes, once again, disappearing off the stage.

Photo Jun 16, 8 18 59 PM[the view from the 3rd floor]

The crowd was still not satisfied as the ocean clapping began once again. Soon enough, they were rewarded for their long bouts of clapping as the band returned onto stage to make a couple of announcements. The re-release of their first three albums and a new single.

“And with the release of our new single,” Kanai teased the crowd. “We will also be playing at Akasaka BLITZ for three days in November to commemorate this release!” there was an outburst of cheers from the crowd. A few more words were exchanged before the band sprinted through the last 100 meters of their tour.


It was my first BIGMAMA show, and what can I say? I was not disappointed. They played songs I knew, some I recognized, and many songs I didn’t know, yet I was still able to enjoy the whole performance. The atmosphere within this large space, it was just so electrifying.

After the show, I had the chance to go to the after party in which I was able to talk to the rest of the members who were very welcoming and humble. Happy announcements were made and many smiles and laughers were exchanged.

Photo Jun 17, 3 01 33 AM[My guest pass with Takinuma’s pick and Kanai’s essay book. Thank you for the gifts!]

Thank you, BIGMAMA, for providing me the opportunity to attend your show. It was spectacular and I would definitely recommend people listen to their music, and if you like it, go to their show. You will not be disappointed.







Until next time,

Find me here, you beautifuls…


And if the world still goes round… (それでも世界が続くなら)

The epitome of emo bands in Japan, それでも世界が続くなら (Soredemo Sekai ga Tuddukunara, aka SoreSeka: roughly translates to “if the world still continues on”) stood on a dark colorless stage singing out every teenagers darkest fears. The majority of their songs never go past a steady medium and the vocalists raspy voice sounds strained, as if holding back tears. Yet, every word rings through the air and echoes into the audience.

“We aren’t adults and we aren’t children” vocalist Shinoduka Masayuki shouts into the darkness where the crowd stood captivated by the bands sound. There isn’t laughter nor cheers of joy during the performance but an understanding silence about the harsh world of adolescences. It would be a difficult ordeal not to be drawn into this dark world the four artist paint so well with their instruments.

Lined up at the front of the stage stand young teenage girls who cry as they sway to the music these boys have created for them. Towards the back, an older generation stood solidly, as if nodding in agreement to the broken hearted love songs and hardships of being stuck in the middle of growing up.

This is my second time to hear this band play, but this is the first time to actually listen to their songs. And while a larger portion of their songs contain lyrics about death, there is still a sense of hope layered between the words.

During the emcee, Shinoduka asks the crowd what “death” is before continuing onto a story that he had heard earlier that day. His difficult to decipher mumbles fit the atmosphere the band had created perfectly. A dark muddled, very emotional, feel. Shinoduka apologizes and thanks the crowd before carrying onto their last song which, unlike their other songs, is upbeat.

Mesmerized, no one took their eyes off of the stage during their show. Who could possibly tear away from the band when the lyrics are begging for suicide? Or when they are about someone close to you wanting to die while you keep stopping them out of love, but having conflicting feelings about your decision to stop them. If this does not scream out emo, then what could possibly be emo?

There are many bands in Japan who consider themselves “emo” but in my book, they are too happy and upbeat to be “emo.” When they sing of happy endings and love stories, it is not…emo.

…or is it?

SoreSeka, however, is just…


From their black shaggy hair and their black clothes to their songs, this band is the picture perfect example of a Japanese emo band. Their lyrics are very powerful and full of depressing and dark features, it only enhances their style.


Make sure you are prepared to be touched by depression when listening to this band. For depressions cold hands will caress your cheek continuously and give you chills with their songs.

But of course, all in a good way.

If that is possible.

For a band to be able to cause silent tears to flow in a crowded venue, that is definitely something. Not very many bands in this country are able to do this.

Soredemo Sekai ga Tudukunara, I raise my white flag, you have wooed me into a dark world during your performance.

For true emo music, definitely keep an eye out for this band.

Until next time,

Find me here, you beautifuls…


Japan’s Western utilities to add equipment to channel power to Tokyo

The government is in talks with utilities to add equipment to channel more electricity from western Japan to ease shortages in the east, including Tokyo, after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami shut nuclear plants.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has started talks with companies including Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, to add transformers to help overcome differences in operating frequencies between the two regions, said Noriyuki Mita, a director for policy planning in METI’s electricity and gas division.

Read the rest of the story: Western utilities to channel power east.

Traveling Japan: 24-hour Tokyo

From the heated toilet seats to the birdsong piped through the railway stations, Tokyo is a city unlike any other. You’ll find all the pop-culture chaos you associate with the uber-modern Japanese metropolis beside the serene calm of a Buddhist shrine and the broad sweep of a public park.

It means if you find yourself with only limited time in the city, you have to plan it well, but on the upside there are few cities that run as efficiently as Tokyo. Once you’ve decided where to go, you’ll get there quickly.

Tokyo is famous for its gourmet restaurants, but you can also find culinary treasures by being a little brave and wandering down the odd staircase or back street.

Read the rest of the story: Japan: 24-hour Tokyo.

The stress of the city and it’s aging of your brain

There is a reason more than half the world’s population lives in cities, with the number expected to grow. Cities have a lot to offer. Residents can walk to nearby shops and enjoy cultural attractions not available to those in more rural areas. Also, living in a city may make your commute to work much shorter.

Unfortunately, according to health officials from the World Health Organization, that convenience may come with a price — higher levels of stress and a measurable impact on your brain.

The problem seems to be "attention," or more specifically, the lack of it. With so many different distractions — from a flashing neon sign, to the cell phone conversation of a nearby passenger on a bus, a city dweller starts to practice something known as "controlled perception." That toggling back and forth between competing stimuli can be mentally exhausting.

In fact, according to a recent study from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, just living in an urban environment makes it more difficult for an individual to hold things in memory.

In the same study, researchers split undergraduate students into two groups. One spent the day in a suburban neighborhood, the other group in a busy city. Overall, those in the city scored lower on attention tests and had a worse mood comparatively.

Read the rest of the story:Does living in the city age your brain?.

Travel to Japan now more luxurious with top-quality hotels emerging in Japan’s cityscapes

A slew of luxury hotels are nearing completion in a number of Japanese cities, with operators delighted at the state of the inbound tourism industry

despite the strength of the yen against other currencies.

Figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organisation show that some 4.2 million foreign tourists visited Japan in the first six months of the calendar year, up a remarkable 35.8 percent from a year earlier and the second-highest figure ever recorded for the period.

To meet the surging demand for top-notch accommodation in Japan’s second city, the first St. Regis hotel in the country will open in the heart of Osaka’s bustling commercial and entertainment district on October 1.

The city is benefiting from a sharp increase in the number of tourists from China, Taiwan and South Korea and the St. Regis Osaka will be in the thick of the action on Midosuji Avenue – often described as the Champs Elysees of Osaka.

Read the rest of the story: Top-quality hotels join Japan’s cityscapes.

HOSPITALITY-BASED PREP SCHOOL OPENS CAMPUS IN SHIZUOKA: Students Receive ‘Five-Star’ Education in a ‘Classy, Sophisticated Atmosphere’

Preparatory education for university entrance examinations is an important rite of passage for many Japanese teenagers. This period of preparation can be a time of profound personal growth, confidence-building, and personal triumph for many of these ambitious youths. Toward that end, Tokyo-based, Mustard Seed Academy (MSA) recently celebrated the debut of its new campus in Shizuoka City last month, introducing to the community a unique approach to preparatory education in Japan. According to author, school dean, and senior English instructor Hajime Nakazawa, “If students deeply experience their worth and value, then they will be empowered to do above and beyond what they think they can do. We strive to provide that kind of uncompromising quality in student care, education and guidance, down to the smallest detail — including the restroom sinks.”

The “sinks”—is he serious, one might ask? The commitment to demonstrate “love, faith and hope” to the students, as stated in the school’s mission statement, is clearly evident in the school’s polished interior design by Ms. Yokoyama of Kukan Kosei Co. Ltd. in Minato-ku, Tokyo. Walking into the school, you cannot help but notice the chandeliers before you, flickering soothing light against the baby-blue colored walls. As you enter across the marbled-floor lobby, you’re greeted by a sienna-colored uketsuke, or front desk which might, at first, lead you to believe you had just walked into a hotel. However, allowing your eyes to follow the white crown molding along the chocolate-colored walls into the two adjacent classrooms for a momentary glance reveals that you’ve indeed entered a very “classy” sort of school.

“We want our students to have a vision of the best things in life. Of what’s possible. That they deserve the very best,” says Mr. Nakazawa, “The atmosphere we create here for learning is not only one of high academic standards but also of high personal and moral standards. Our students deserve all that we can give them. Wouldn’t you want the best for your child?” As this is the fruition of a dream over 10 years in the making, he emphasized that he envisioned a prep school with quality student care likened to a five-star hotel and restaurant, catering to the specific needs of every student like valued guests. “What can I say, we all like to be treated well.”

And yes, down to the sinks. The women’s powder room (and rightly called, as “restroom” would seem quite inadequate) is a sight to behold in a prep school. A chandelier lamp reminiscent of the lobby’s design rests comfortably upon a white half-moon table, decorated sparsely yet elegantly. And yes, the pink flowery-glossed porcelain sink rests below the stylish faucets beyond comparison to those of any school any of us are familiar with. A trip down the hall to the men’s restroom reveals the equally elegant yet tastefully spartan facility appropriate for maturing teens.

Ian Shen, Mustard Seed Academy’s full-time native English-speaking Instructor and Chaplain, explains, “Though it may seem a bit excessive as a cram school to some, I’m very proud that our school reflects of our strong commitment to our students in every way. There’s nothing that compares as far as I know.”

The desire to enter a top university in Japan is the first of many dreams a young man or woman may have. Mustard Seed Academy Shizuoka campus nurtures and educates these students in this five-star, hospitality-based atmosphere, offering its educational philosophy of cultivating hope, faith and love in the next generation of Japanese teenagers, as it has been doing faithfully since 2005 in Tokyo.

Class registration period is currently open for the 2010 school year. Introduction Open School Sessions in Shizuoka are held March 13, 20, 27, or April 1 and 10 from 3PM to 5PM, and in Tokyo on March 10, 14, 17 and 21 from 1:30PM to 3:30PM. For more information, visit or call 03-5261-5217.

Original Press Release at
Additional photos at

MSA Shizuoka (398 KB)

Earthquakes and Anime – Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Earthquakes are an every day occurrence in Japan, but every 80 years it is predicted that Tokyo will be hit by a really huge earthquake. And now there’s a new anime about to be released with just that doomsday scenario as its premise. The anime draws its inspiration on the statistic that there is a 70% or higher possibility that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake will occur in Tokyo in the next 30 years.

So in 2012…

The anime will depict what would happen if an 8.0 earthquake took place. The story will center on Mirai, a middle school freshman girl who goes to Tokyo’s artificial Odaiba Island for a robot exhibition with her brother Yutaka at the start of summer vacation. A powerful tremor emanates from an ocean trench, the famed Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge crumble and fall, and the landscape of Tokyo changes in an instant. With the help of a motorcycle delivery woman named Mari who they meet in Odaiba, Mirai and Yutaka strive to head back to their Setagaya home in western Tokyo.

There are 11 episodes in the series each lasting 23 minutes. The series originally aired this last July in Japan.

Anime Review by: AniviewReviews

More Information:

Official site of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Yomiuri Giants celebrating more than just 75 years this 2009 with another CL pennant Win!

Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara is racking up the frequent flier miles this year. Exactly six months to the day after piloting Japan to its second consecutive World Baseball Classic title, Hara was once again airborne doage-style, getting tossed aloft by his Giants players at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday after their 5-3 victory over the second-place Chunichi Dragons clinched the Central League pennant for Yomiuri.

Alex Ramirez and Yoshitomo Tani each homered and right-hander Wirfin Obispo worked seven solid innings to improve to 5-1 as the Giants clinched their third straight CL title and the club’s 33rd overall.

“We’re just going to take it day-by-day from now on,” said Ramirez, who drove in two runs on Wednesday. “The first stage has been cleared and now we’ve got to win the Climax Series, but our No. 1 goal is to win the Japan Series.”

To read more go to


Homelessness in Japan

I have come across homeless people in my travels in Japan. I have seen the tent communities in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. The homeless make their homes using sheets of blue plastic, cardboard and bits and pieces of other materials. They are neat and tidy. The communities are very orderly too.

Recognizing the characteristic blue plastic, shimmering in the sunlight, they had made their homes along the concrete shores of the Sumida River in Tokyo.

In Maebashi, there were some homeless people living along the Hirosi River near a public toilet facility. At Ueno Station in Tokyo, the homeless had set up makeshift housing near the station. At Shinjuku Station one evening, I came upon a small group of men huddling on the steps leading out to the east exit holding pieces of cardboard. No doubt they planned to use it as a floor covering to mitigate the effects of the hard, cold concrete floors of the subway station.

At Takasaki station, some homeless people were living just outside the station. I came upon a dignified looking middle-aged woman sitting in a very large cardboard box. When I saw her head sticking out of the box, my heart skipped a beat. I would see her most times outside the east exit on my way to teach a night class near the station. Perhaps, she wouldn’t accept my money and against my better judgment, I offered her some. Gesturing with my hand, she accepted it.

In Shinjuku, there were homeless people living along the main strip in stairways of boarded up buildings located close to my neighborhood. Whenever, I’d come face-to-face with someone, I offered them some money, which they accepted.

Now, I’m in Hamamatsu. I’m staying around the corner from the Shin Hamamatsu Station. When I leave very early in the morning to catch the red line to take me to work, I see many homeless people sitting on the benches with their belongings. One early morning, I see an elderly man rummage through a garbage bin. They weren’t just living at Shin Hamamatsu station but also at Dai Ichi Dori Station. None of the homeless people I saw were ever panhandling.

Canada has homeless people. The streets and parks of downtown Toronto, where I am from, are full of homeless people. Homeless people are found throughout the land.

I have been told that the homeless in Japan are on the streets because of shame and their own accord. They have lost their jobs. They have lost their social positions. They are on the streets because they are too ashamed to admit to their families their changed circumstances. How tragic! Honor and shame values continue to exercise a pivotal role in Japanese life despite its Westernization even though these values have been pushed to the background in the West.

Why is it that the individual must bear the brunt of a society’s mishaps and economic failures? No one deserves to be on the streets.

It can happen to anyone. It can happen to you, to a family member or to a dear friend. Marital breakup, domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness, job loss can all contribute to someone falling through the cracks and ending up on the streets.

As someone who has worked with the homeless in Toronto in my career as a social worker, I have seen how government policies can contribute to this problem. The Harris government when it was in power in Ontario in the 90s was directly to blame for the dramatic increase in homeless people in the province. He chopped away at social services and implemented policies that made individuals ineligible for assistance.

Any society that fails to take care of its most vulnerable citizens cannot be called a just society. There are no excuses for homelessness. This problem isn’t going to go away. For it to diminish, the root causes of homelessness need to be stamped out.

Many homeless panhandle as a means of generating much needed money. In Japan, I have hardly ever been solicited for money. It happened to me just the one time in Hamamatsu.

In Toronto, homeless people beg and do so in an aggressive and sometimes belligerent manner. They come up to you and get in your face. I have seen this happen on a regular basis. It’s offensive but I think it’s the only way they think they can get someone’s attention. Sometimes, I’ve seen panhandlers get nasty and turn ugly with passersby who have ignored them. They scream out profanities, wave their hands and throw themselves about.

Some panhandlers on the other hand I’ve noticed employ a less offensive approach. They try to make eye contact with a passerby hoping to get his or her attention and by doing so; they can size them up for a donation. Eye contact is crucial. They know it. Eye contact forces recognition of the other. They use it to call attention to their plight – “please help me!” Some panhandlers are savvy and can usually figure out whom to hit on for a cash donation: they many even have a sixth sense.

I remember the time when I was in a Madrid cafe having breakfast with an acquaintance from the hostel, a blind man came in and approached us for money. I offered to buy him breakfast, which he declined. He told me that the patron (the owner) would refuse to serve him and preferred a cash donation instead. On my walks through Madrid, I came upon many panhandlers. Many were Romanian gypsy women begging on church steps. The Madrid subways were always full of homeless people sleeping on cardboard boxes.

On my way to the station to catch the red line to take me to work, a homeless man that makes the station his home wished me good-luck, ‘Gambatte’. How kind of him to do so! I was so glad when I ran into him on the street before I was to leave Hamamatsu because I wanted to give him a little money. He was so grateful and was totally taken by surprise! On my way to the JR station, a homeless man asked me for money by making the Japanese gesture for money, which is the Okay gesture, but done horizontally. ‘Here you are.’ I said.

Homelessness is a global issue. Responsibility lies not only with government but also with the general public to mitigate its effects. Let’s show compassion!

Originally posted on ThingsAsian. Photo by the_toe_stubber