Monday, September 28, 2009

Sake of the Day

“For me, namazake is the best kind to drink, and I’m so into Kikusui.”

So declares apprentice manga artist Eiko Magami as she refers to Funaguchi Kikusui Ichibanshibori, a canned, non-pasteurized and undiluted nihonshu.

Turns out that 99% of sake on the market has been pasteurized twice - once straight after brewing, and another time after a decent maturation period or just prior to shipping.

Namazake, like a fine wine, has not; it continues to age in the can.

“Kikusui was released in 1972, and it was the first attempt at this kind of sake at the time,” advises Ryoko Takano at Kikusui Sake Co., Ltd., which takes its name from a Noh song concerning a 700-year-old mountain hermit, and is based in Shibata in Niigata. “This is our long-time best seller because of its fresh fragrance derived from a first-pressed and non-pasteurized method, and its full-body taste derived from the undiluted process.”

The rest of this rather wayward (and much longer) homage to one of my favourite Japanese brews is going to be published through Geek Monthly in its November issue, with feedback from DJ/producer Ken Ishii, anime writer/director Satoshi Kon, and Death Note director Shusuke Kaneko - plus an extended mix of the story will be published in book-form next year. I kid you not.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Sometimes a pictures says more than any amount of waffling by me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Japanese film posters

There's nothing quite like seeing a brand new flick advertised here in Tokyo with fliers in which the boring Roman alphabet is expunged (or at least expanded upon) in favour of kanji, hiragana and katakana characters.

It makes it all so... Blade Runner, or at least You Only Live Twice. Yum.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tin Toys Museum, Yokohama

When I was five-years-old, I bought a toy robot with the money my Nan gave me for my birthday: a made-in-Japan, wind-up tin carouser whose major identifying feature was a big ‘W’ emblazoned across his chest.

Just occasionally I still wonder what that ‘W’ really meant. Is it some secret identity or code? ‘W’ for ‘Wind-up’? An honest Jenglish mistake, like Wobot? Nothing earth-shattering at all?

I still have old Dubya. He’s like Old Yeller, but never bites. He’s rusty, missing his arms, and has been deconstructed several times, but he still works when you tweak the metal key that’s stuck above his right foot. He sits proudly atop the mantle next to my desk, having returned to Japan from Australia over eight years ago.

We even found his mint-condition, spitting-image double at the Tin Toys Museum, which was a bit unsettling for us both.

Though not, strictly speaking, located in Tokyo – it’s actually in Yokohama, about 30 minutes by train from Tokyo Station – Teruhisa Kitahara’s museum is an essential (if somewhat hidden) must-see for any visitor to this sprawling metropolis.

The co-author of the esteemed Taschen Books tome “1000 Robots: Spaceships & Other Tin Toys” (which clocks in at a whopping 704 pages!), the prolific Kitahara-san is possibly the world’s best-known collector of tin toys – for quarter of a century now – and recently appeared on the Japanese TV antique program Kaiun!! Nandemokanteidan, as an old-school toy expert.

His excellent museum boasts a collection of some 3000 pre-plastic toys from the 1890s to the 1960s, including a swag of mint-condition ‘50s robots and quite primitive early Astro Boy collectibles.

It’s a throwback to a time (in the early ‘60s) when tin toys constituted about 60% of Japanese toy exports, before plastic gummed up the works and took the anime merchandising boom to crazy new heights!

But wait... there’s more! The museum is built high up on a bluff that commands superlative views over Yokohama Bay, and is right around the corner from the Gaikokujin Bochi, or foreigners' cemetery - the most historic of its kind in Japan, and rated #38 in Tokyo's tourism hot-spots.

Even though it's not in Tokyo.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Greatest Necessity of the Age!

Sometimes things aren't so subtle after all, especially when you have a big, slightly blacked-out loo (stuffed, apparently, with used toilet paper), on the cover. This is the brand new EP, The Greatest Necessity of the Age!, out through IF?

It's by an apprentice expat French plumber in Tokyo - and we're unsure if he's an apprentice expatriate or new at his job.

One thing is for sure, we certainly dig the moniker, Joseph Gayetty. Rarely have more appropriate names reigned so truly - and if it's for real, then the world is full of suitably surreal unintended humour.

Topless Robot

Topless Robot is the site run by Rob Bricken, my former editor at the late lamented Anime Insider magazine.

I absolutely love it, but then again I'm biased as Rob is a mate of mine, and I always dug his style - which here, via his own outlet, is far more free to clambake intended targets; I also love the diversity and, well, panache.

In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary they define 'panache' as a dash or flamboyance in style and action.

For Iffy Bizness use, it means effortless cool. Whatever that is.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Yurakucho Yakitori Alley, Tokyo

Chiyoda Ward: home to over 36,000 businesses employing over 888,000 people, at least according to the stats I just found elsewhere on the Internet. I could be wrong, but at least it should give you the gist of this central location in Tokyo.

It's the nesting place of the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Station, the electronics wonderland that is Akihabara, and the insanely overpriced Ginza.

But while Ginza is Tokyo's most expensive and "fashionable" district (at least for designer brand types with fat wallets and not so much imagination) and home to brand-name stores like Chanel - and Ginza in fact competes for the title of the world's most pricey real estate - right next door there's down-and-a-wee-bit-dirty Yurakucho... home of the infamous Yakitori Alley and some awesome faux old skool Japanese movie posters as well.

And an alley it truly is, situated only five minutes from Yurakucho JR Station under the railway tracks, boasting a series of roadside shacks and open-air grottos with makeshift names like "Tanuki" (raccoon dog) that are the complete antithesis of Ginza's glitz and supposed glam.

Yakitori literally means "grilled bird", and here you'll discover every possible part of a chicken (meat, liver, skin, gizzards, heart, cartilage) shoved on wooden skewers, along with other treats like shitake mushrooms and okra. Believe it or not, it's all delectable. The liver is the part I generally demand, and you can get it dry and salty or with special sauce; your choice, depending on the mood.

A throwback to old Japan, these places are the most informal eateries in Tokyo, incredibly atmospheric and down-to-earth, great meeting places, and the best way to see how many Japanese salarymen and office ladies spend their summer evenings: Indulging in yakitori, huge mugs of beer, sake, riotous fun, falling off plastic stools, and some good old fashioned rabble-rousing.

Then you can check out the posters round the corner.