Friday, November 30, 2007

New taiko tune

This is the latest composition from Amanojaku leader/master drummer Yoichi Watanabe, performed by Ayutsubo Daiko.
It's inspired by Tokyo festival rhythms that even young people these days are rediscovering.
Beautiful beasts, the natives gather around a phallic shrine/float/"yagura," celebrating in dance and music the harvest, filled with gratitude to the gods for the gift of Life.
The beat is nostalgic/primordial with a lot of sexy rock 'n' roll drive that gets your heart racing.
It's both new and old, faraway and immediate, all at the same time.
Why look to the West (rock, R&B, etc.) for the roots of cool when nothing is hipper than Edo-style "iki?"
We cannot live/express ourselves/function as human beings if we cannot be proud of who we are.
Yes, it's a challenge in this increasingly globalizing world. Economic power and other discriminatory hierarchies are used to define superiority, leaving chunks of people/races/regions out of a chance for personal realization, which is a human right.
It seems too easy to use culture (down to the simplest aspects of everyday life) as a tool to dominate/wipe out the legacy of weaker groups.
When a kid grows up to be a giant wanna-be, going blond or wearing dreadlocks (not that I have anything against these as fashion for fun and it's the concept of self-negation that's the problem),
something is wrong with us as parents.
We must also accept that we are all hybrids in this New Era.
We are no longer that Sukeroku samurai of Kabuki.
Japanese grew up on Motown and Mozart.
The cross-pollination from all kinds of music (blond/dreadlocks), as long as that truthfulness-to-who-we are remains, can give birth to a new kind of Japanese music.
The best in Edo culture has always been defined by influences from abroad, Korea, China, Europe.
Fortunately, being open to diversity is the essence of the Japanese aesthetic.
No one writes/creates by starting out with the goal of "being Japanese."
One must write/create with the goal of being honest/yourself _ nothing else.
And in so doing, you create what is Japanese _ and universal _ because that's what you are.
Watanabe talks about what makes for "the Japanese sound" in this englightening Podcast.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Driving simulator 2

This gives you more of an idea of the dome's size. Toyota says the purpose of the machine is to see how people respond in driving when they are tired, sleepy, etc.
But it'd be a good machine to simply test people's driving skills and see if they're fit to drive.
Toyota says that's not the purpose of the machine.

Driving simulator

This is the view from inside Toyota's new driving simulator: The Lexus is real, but the landscape is all computer graphics.
The simulator is a giant ball that tilts and cocks, and swooshes on a rail in a huge warehouse-like building (See the other photo above to get an idea of its size).
NHTSA has a similar machine.
Toyota refuses to say how much it spent on the simulator.

Friday, November 23, 2007

OKINAWA FIGHTERS head to dance competition

Roppongi warehouse-style techno disco Yellow is a eardrum-blasting brain-numbing thump-thumping of trance escapism on the main dance floor Friday night in Tokyo.
But the real action and real soul are tucked away in a corner room.
It's for sitting around and sipping on drinks in between the dosages of trance.
The sound is more funk/R&B. And that's all it takes to get these talented young dancers showing us all what real dance IS:
demonstrate without a doubt the reason Dance is art in movement and feeling as human interaction.
We find out they are in town to take part as the Okinawa Fighters in a rather serious dance competition Sunday at Shinkiba's Studio Coast, Free Style Japan 2007.
I was (innocently) applauding two fantastic dancers who were, as I find out later, practicing, doing an enticingly fun-to-watch mock battle, contesting their hiphop/break-dancing/robot moves.
They suddenly invite me to the dance floor, motioning with their arms, spread wide/open in friendship, showing me moves, comically banging away at my hips, shaking their torsos, swaying their pelvis, cheering/laughing/clapping, making me feel as though I'm a pretty good dancer myself.
The boys are not touchy-feely with just the women but with each other in clean camaraderie that is breath-taking.
Let's face it: It's more fun to dance with a guy who knows what he is doing.
What I got was maybe seven of them _ all good enough to go to a dance competition _ pretty cool!
One says in Japanese "This is the Okinawan style."
There is so much diversity on the island everyone makes a point of being warm, he says.
Dance the way they execute it _ playful, sincere and erotic in the best sense of the word _ is the epitome of that spirit.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Robot crashes 2

Another photo. Another link.

Robot crashes

Some reporters were oooohing that this robot from Hitachi was "kawaii." It has a cute voice, displayed cute arm movements and wheeled about on its knees, sitting Japanese style, pretty cute. Hitachi invited us to their research center, more than an hour-train ride away from Ueno, so the environment would be controlled (just like their test conditions) so their robot would move properly. Little good that did. As soon as it approached noon, and everyone went on their lunch break like good obedient conformist Japanese salarymen, the network server and wireless got jammed with traffic. And the robot failed to work properly. We had to wait an hour for a repeat of the demonstration. Can you imagine what would happen if the robot was in real-life _ eg., talking to a kid or carrying something delicate _ when it suddenly goes dead? I asked Hitachi officials if they agreed the robot wasn't practical yet because of the remote-control glitch, they replied, yes. At least, they were honest. They also said the days of pursuing entertainment robots are over. Robots have to be safe and useful, and they have to make business sense, they said.

Whistleblowers 2

Our story about an American whistleblower came about because someone left a blog comment, telling me about the lawsuit. The lawsuit says that NUMMI plant management routinely pressured an employee to downgrade or delete reports of serious auto defects. Another link to the story.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Little YELLOW Slut (formerly Little YELLER Slut, formerly Puny YELLER Slut, formerly Puny Yeller Gal)

You know her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, proudly gleefully
YELLOW-ly hanging on Big Master's arm,
War bride, geisha,
GI's home away from home,
Whore for last samurai,
Yoko Ohno,
Akihabara cafe maid,
Hi-Hi Puffy Ami/Yumi,
Kawaiiii like keitai,
Back-up dancer for Gwen Stefani,
Your real-life Second Life avatar
Eager to deliver your freakiest fetish fantasies,
Disco queen, skirt up the crotch,
Fish-net stockings, bow-legged, anorexic, raisin nipples, tip-
Toeing Roppongi on
Stiletto heels.

Yessu, i spikku ingrishhu, i raikku gaijeeen, they kiss you,
hold your hand, open doors for me,
open legs for you, giggling pidgin, covering mouth,
so happy to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

Everybody's seen her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, waiting at
Home, cooking rice, the Japanese
Condoleezza Rice,
Smelling of sushi,
Breath and vagina,
Fish and vinegar,
Fermented rice,
Honored to be
Cleaning lady,
Nurse maid, gardener,
Japan-expert's wife,
Mochi manga face,
Yodeling minyo,
Growling enka,
Sex toy, slant-eyes closed, licking, tasting, swallowing STD semen,
Every drop.

Yessu, i wanna baby who looohkuh gaijeen, double-fold eye, translucent skin, international school PTA,
maybe grow up to be fashion model, even joshi-ana,
not-not-not happy to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

I recognize her:
That Little YELLOW Slut, rejecting
Japanese, rejected by Japanese,
Empty inside,
They all look alike,
Faceless, hoping to forget, escape
To America,
Slant-eyed clitoris,
Adopted orphan,
Dream come true for pedophiles,
Serving sake, pouring tea, spilling honey,
Naturalized citizen,
Buying Gucci,
Docile doll,
Rag-doll, Miss Universe, manic harakiri depressive, rape victim, she is
You, she is me.

Hai, hai, eigo wakarimasen, worship Big Master for mind, matter, muscle, money, body size correlates to penis size,
waiting to be sexually harassed, so sorry, so many,
so sad to be
Little YELLOW Slut.

(a poem in progress under new title "Little YELLOW Slut" - updated for the fifth time and should be final version).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Whistleblowers (Criminals Part Two)

I did a story about whistleblowers in Japan.
Someone who has the courage to speak up against the Establishment is special in any culture.
But they are extraordinary in Japan because of the tremendous pressures to enforce corporate loyalty.
I faxed a copy of the article to Mr. Semba, a whistleblower in my story.
I guess he didn't know the article was going to be in English.
He wanted it translated into Japanese.
It would be impossible to get anything else done if I had to translate every article I did.
But I knew he couldn't understand the story that was about his three-decade battle, and I had to do it for him.
He was very sweet: "You wrote all that? You are a genius!"
Not really.
But in translating I realized the Japanese word for "conformity" was "wa," which means harmony, something totally positive.
Did you know that the word for "individualism," "kojinshugi," sounds really negative in Japanese?
How all this relates to the idea of crime was what I was getting to.
The individual courage and integrity of the whistleblower are such contrasts to the criminal.
The whistleblower speaks up, saying "No."
Most of us look the other way, shrugging it off as someone else's problem.
The criminal doesn't merely pretend not to know.
The criminal carries out the act.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Puny Yeller Gal

You know her: That Puny Yeller Gal, proudly gleefully yellerly hanging on that Big Master's arm, war bride, geisha, GI's home away from home, whore for last samurai, Yoko Ohno, Hi-Hi Puffy Ami/Yumi, disco queen, skirt up the crotch, fish-net stockings, bow-legged, anorexic, raisin nipples, tip-toeing Roppongi on stiletto heels.
Yessu, i spikku ingrishhu, i raikku gaijeeen, they kiss you and hold your hand, giggling pidgin, so happy to be Puny Yeller Gal.
Everybody's seen her: That Puny Yeller Gal, waiting at home, cooking rice, the Japanese Condoleezza Rice, honored to be cleaning lady, nurse maid, gardener, Japan-expert's wife, sex toy, open legs, open mind, open mouth, licking, tasting, swallowing, STD semen, every drop.
Yessu, i wanna baby who looohkuh gaijeen, double-fold eye, translucent skin, international school PTA, maybe grow up to be fashion model, even joshi-ana, not-not-not happy to be Puny Yeller Gal.
I recognize her: Puny Yeller Gal, rejecting Japanese, rejected by Japanese, ashamed, empty inside, they all look alike, hoping to forget, escape to America, adopted orphan, naturalized citizen, docile doll, rag-doll, Miss Universe, manga, anime, rape victim, faceless, she is you, she is me.
Hai, hai, eigo wakarimasen, worship the Master Western male for mind, matter, muscle, money, so sorry so sad so many Puny Yeller Gal.
(a poem in progress - updated once)

Isaku's page gets new look

Isaku Kageyama has updated his Web page at
Sunday Nov. 11, his taiko drum group Amanojaku performed at a 20th anniversary concert for Ayutsubo Daiko in Shizuoka.
Amanojaku leader and Isaku's master teacher Yoichi Watanabe has taught taiko in the U.S. and Brazil, but his oldest students are right here in Japan.
The group performed a new piece by Watanabe based on a "matsuri" rhythm.
Three drums were placed on a fancy metal scaffolding _ a big one on top and two next to each other on the bottom.
And four drummers played the drums from each side.
The tune is funky with a lot of drive as it moves into several grooves evocative of "iki/hip" Tokyo festival music that brought to mind mikoshi shrines, colorful floats and shouting crowds.
It's a celebration of the Japanese community, a thanksgiving for life, the harvest, and family.
My story on Isaku.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Usually people make a point of avoiding criminals, but watching criminals up close (relatively up close, that is) is something journalists get to do as part of our jobs.
In movies, criminals are rather special, the anti-hero, or even the hero him/herself, someone to be feared, like a Mafia boss or Hannibal Lecter.
In real life, criminals are simply pathetic.
They are losers.
This was a revelation that came when I covered a murder trial in Detroit.
A man charged with murdering a researcher was asked how the murder happened, and he said _ with a straight face _ that he pushed her and she fell over backwards, hit her head on a sharp corner of furniture and died, as though it was her fault that she died.
We try to understand how a criminal mind works and we sometimes come up with elaborate explanations because we want to understand why something as horrible and tragic as serious crime happens.
This article doesn't address crime.
But I found out rationalizing irrational behavior is called "cognitive dissonance," and it's not that sophisticated because monkeys and toddlers do it.
This is exactly what happens in the criminal mind.
The criminal compartmentalizes, rationalizes, justifies to come up with a weird theory, no matter how filled with laughable self-serving illogical contradictions, to explain how it was the perfectly sound and smart thing to do.
But if cognitive dissonance is about survival, the ability to move on and shrug off complex doubts about the past, then does that mean the criminal is more highly evolved than a person with a developed conscience?
Being able to live with crime isn't a cerebral process.
It's an animal instinct for survival, a level of existence on the basest level.
It's not really about being human at all.

Picasso portraits

Photographs by David Douglas Duncan of Pablo Picasso are now on display at Yoshii, a small Ginza gallery.
Duncan began taking photos of Picasso in his 70s, according to a review in The Nikkei:
Picasso, in shorts, dancing in his studio filled with the bold lines and circles of his paintings.
Picasso, again in shorts, playing with his grandchildren, also just in shorts.
Picasso peeping from a catlike mask of paper that he cut out.
Picasso putting that on top of a closeup photo of his own face, so that the photographic image of his eyes peep from the paper mask.
A photo of that.
Picasso laughing from a bathtub.
Picasso studying his plate sculpture.
Picasso at a bullfight.
Picasso facing a canvas, focused intensely, drawing a single line, the first stroke of the painting.
He is always so full of life.
Duncan is quoted as saying that not a single photo of Picasso he took caught him with his eyes closed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Despair/Disco (Story of Miu 6)

Miu and I went to a DISCO called The Room in Shibuya.
And it was as tiny and shabby as a room.
People stood next to each other in rows and shifted their weight from one leg to the other nervously to the thump-thump of music as a mirror ball glistened sadly from a corner.
Miu says this is the new, tucked-away look of Tokyo discos.
The big slick ones with shiny floors are obsolete, although they apparently still exist in parts of Roppongi, where old men, many of them foreigners, try to pick up young Japanese women.
We were not dressed appropriately in our T-shirts and jeans.
You must wear short skirts and tops with your breasts about to fall out, then people will want to talk to you and want to have sex with you, according to Miu.
A DISCO is a place where boys take girls they pick up on the streets:
(1) By dancing, the male can make sexual overtures to the female and find out her interests/lack thereof in having sex.
(2) By dancing, the female will get tired, allowing the male to suggest going to a hotel to have sex.
A disco delivers relatively high return for low investment.
Dating for weeks to just kiss isn't efficient.
"There has to be someone out in the world who is your true love," Miu says, shouting a bit over the music.
"Romantic love must exist. Like Romeo and Juliet. Or is that unreal like a father's ghost or a forest moving, which aren't at all everyday like a disco?"
Miu says a man she got to know recently says he finds someone like Juliet a bit too much.
I'll tell her maybe it's better to hang out with another Capulet, or how about my friend Mercutio?
I may be someday someone's Romeo but I will never find a Juliet, he told Miu.
DESPAIR was one of the paintings on display in Uneo by Edvard Munch.
Munch's strongest works depict personal angst.
Despair, Anxiety and Scream were shown in two different sequences.
One had the Scream in the middle.
But the Scream has to be the culmination of the series.
Indeed, Munch painted them in that order: Despair, Anxiety, Scream.
Munch believed art should be about everyday people.
Never mind the people in the paintings may look psychotic, surreal and warped.
Not really everyday at all.
"I will paint living people who breathe and feel and suffer and love," Munch said.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Father of the Hybrid

People ask Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada for his autograph as though he is a rock star because he is the "father" of the Prius.
Recently, I did a story about how he worked on Toyota's Prius, the first gas-electric hybrid to go into commercial mass-production.
The Prius celebrates its 10th anniversary in December.
I did another story about Toyota: How American executives are being wooed away by rivals Chrysler and Ford.
That's a new challenge for Toyota.
Toyota is very Japanese in valuing lifetime employment and employee loyalty.
To get ahead in Toyota (Japanese-style,) a worker must be loyal and stay with Toyota for years and years.
I wrote about Jim Press after a group interview when he became the first foreigner to join the board of Toyota.
And then again when he left.