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Showing posts from May, 2011

Mahler 3rd: NHK Symphony

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Tonight, NHK surprised me with a wonderful performance of Gustaf Mahler's 3rd symphony.



Recorded on February 11, 2011, conducted by Myung-Whun Chung, with Mihoko Fujimura, alto & the New National Theatre Chorus The Little Singers of Tokyo.

I am told Myung-Whun Chung is not so popular in South Korea these days as he is strongly supporting the current president. Well, I'm glad to hear that he can showcase the very best of Korean sensitivity and contribute on the world scene. How muddled things can get when we turn to the political realm. Not so fast, do calm down.

(6th mov- - VI. Langsam. Ruhevoll. Empfunden)



I was enjoying Chung's conducting of Mozart and Bruckner back in 2007. But tonight, in the NHK interview, I noted that Chung spoke in English (So did American/Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt, who was born and has spent most of his career in the United States). A German conductor (Markus Stenz?) spoke in German, of course. Why didn't Chung speak in Korean? NHK …

Maia Hirasawa: I'm The Worrying Kind

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Nice tune again from Swedish Maia, with a trumpet and trombone to help her when she feels a little concerned. Her tune Boom! for the Kyushu Shinkansen was a Number One hit last week here in Japan, according to J-Wave. Congratulations!!



Original song by The Ark (Ola Salo)

Kyushu Shinkansen/ Boom! by Maia Hirasawa

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If you like trains (and music!) as much as I do, here is a new Shinkansen line that is just a must. Starting in March 2011, the island of Kyushu got its first real super express train line. And they just love it over there. The first ride was filmed on February 20, 2011 and a lot of people showed up. Do have a look.



Superexp translated what the narratar says:
That day,
Thank you for your wavings,
Thank you for your smiles,
Thank you for your cooperation.
Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now.
In Kyushu, we are full of new power.
From Kyushu, we should deliver happiness to all over Japan.
With you all, Kyushu-Shinkansen starts now.

Great song (Boom!) by Maia Hirasawa, from Sollentuna, Sweden. Isn't life amazing? How connected we are. It is a small planet, after all.



Maia is based in Sweden, and did charity concerts this spring in Gothenburgh and Stockholm.

As the March 11 earthquake and tsunami happened, the good people in Kyushu decided it was not the time to celebrate too much. Rather, they made th…

Elderly Volunteers To Save Us From Fukushima Meltdown?

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Possibly one of the most moving stories from Japan this spring, as TEPCO admits that at least three core meltdowns may have occured at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Meltdowns do mean we are in new territory, and there are no easy solutions. Asahi has more:


More than 160 elderly people have volunteered to brave high
radioactivity and help stabilize the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in
response to a call from a former engineer... Yasuteru Yamada, 72, who previously worked for Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., said people aged 60 or older must undertake the mission because their age means the adverse impact from radioactivity will be minimal. "Progress will be limited as long as workers have to change every few minutes, and a coordinated response cannot be expected even if robots are deployed," Yamada said.

"We have to come to the forefront because we accumulated technology and capability on the job and because we will be subject to small effects of radioactivity due to our…

Kabuki: Botan Rodo (The Peony Lantern)

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I had the unusual pleasure to watch kabuki at Meijiza, an old theatre from the 1870s, today. Of course the building has been torn down and rebuilt, that seems to be part and parcel of Tokyo culture.

The staff was terrific and we had tea before the performance, all smiles and helpful guides (and not another furrener in sight). As Kabukiza in Ginza is no more (and they had English translations) the Meijiza is perhaps your only opportunity to get some ancient theatre in Tokyo. Thus you need to do your homework, and thanks to the Internet, you can learn a lot about the plays.

The Meijiza, east of Kanda, was packed with fans of kabuki. Many ladies showed up in their very best kimonos. Here is the Japanese website and a little English information too.

I got to see Botan Rodo, the Peony Lantern, originally written by a Kyoto priest slash playright in the mid 17th century.



A great love/horror drama with Buddhist notes, as the protagonist is faced with not one but two female ghosts. His karmic a…

Nice Map

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Setsuden, Not Teiden: The Cry From Japan, Advice Please!

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Heavy rains today in Japan, especially in Tokyo, where the Toei Subway lines were shut down during the afternoon due to "blackout" (停電 teiden). That's just 4 lines out of some 15, as the rest of the Metro and the JR lines and everyone else were ok. We know it is coming, a long, hot summer, and there is a lot of discussion now about how to deal with electricity shortages.

"Reduce electricity" (節電 setsuden) then of course is not just a slogan, it is an urgent cry for help and consideration. If, and this is a huge issue right now, IF we can all pull together and all reduce electricity consumption, then we may be able to avoid the blackouts. Doesn't that seem like a thing that Japanese people - and everyone living here, foreigners included, companies and public entities and towns and cities - should be able to accomplish?

"Save energy" (省エネルギー shou enerugii).

We need every good piece of advice there is.

Quoting The Asahi, Japan Probe notes:



The Institute o…

Hamaoka Nuclear Reactors To Be Shut Down: Kan

This is something I was briefly involved in when I worked for Japan Offspring Fund, a small consumer organization. We wanted the Hamaoka Nuclear Reactors to be permanently shut down, because they are built in a very risky earth quake zone:

The Chubu Electric Power Co., Ltd insists that their Hamaoka reactors are 100% safe. In our opinion, the effects of an earthquake can never be predicted, so their assessment cannot be trusted. The Tokai megaseism could be up to 60 times as powerful as the 2004 Niigata earthquake. It is almost impossible to estimate where radioactive dust and debris, containing uranium, would fall as it depends on wind currents and wind speeds, as well as climate conditions. As radioactivity can stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time, it can fall anywhere and seriously pollute any spot on our rotating planet.

Seems Prime Minister Kan has the same feeling. Good. This is the kind of news that should go viral in an age when most news is controlled by people who …

Cyndi Lauper in Japan, 2011

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I just love Cyndi Lauper. She didn't cancel her tour in March and went on to do some very wonderful shows in Tokyo, Osaka and other places. Truly an inspiration. She also mentions how she first connected with this place back in 1986 at a concert in the Budokan, when she sang True Colours a capella, and got such an amazing response from her Japanese fans.

The Memphis Blues Japan Tour website is nice too, with photos from her trip here last month.

Videos from Osaka March 22, 2011.

True Colours:



Fearless/Time After Time/Don't Wanna Cry:



From the CNN interview, where she notes that she was the only act this spring to perform in Japan: "They are coming to see me, I'm singing my guts out, I'm trying my best... They were so kind to me, my whole life I have been coming here... All the artists should pitch in. This is the place we came all through the 1980s, these people have been generous to us, and I think we should be generous back":



Toku is the stage name of the flueg…