December 24, 2006

December 22nd: A second reunion

Friday afternoon it was over to Dover to visit the other side of the family -- my mother and sister. They had both visited me in Hiroshima four years ago, so not quite the long lost family reuinion feeling I'd had the day before. They'd both moved since I had last been home, so it was nice seeing where they live now.

In the evening we drove out through the fog to a restaurant called The Abbot's Fireside in the village of Elham for a Christmas meal-cum-family reunion with some aunts and uncles I hadn't seen for absolutely years. The building dates from the 16th century and is well looked after.

We had a wonderful three course meal together with planty of wine. I had mackerel terrine for a starter, sea bass with a coriander sauce and couscous for the main course and panna cotta with a mix berry sauce for dessert.

There was a lot of reminiscing and laughter over the meal and for me it was strange since a lot of the things we were talking about happened a long time ago, but I was somehow taken back and it felt like we were talking about recent events.

December 22nd: Sounds that take you back

Woke early on Friday morning to a sound I hadn't heard for years -- seagulls, which was a sure reminder of being in Folkestone. In Tokyo, the early morning silence is usually broken by crows -- not that I'm awake to hear it that often.

December 21st: Homeward bound

Thursday morning saw me up at 6:00 ith my final preparations for the trip home. Got to Shinjuku nice and early only to discover that the 8:03 Narita Express had been cancelled due to a points failure, and so I had to head to Nippori and then take the Keisei line. Still managed to arrive in plenty of time for check in, however.

Flew wih Virgin Atlantic, and it was a smooth and comfortable flight, despite being sat in front of two guys who went on and on about their Japan (and other travel) experiences for practically the entire flight.

The fog was really thick at Heathrow -- real pea-souper stuff -- so thick in fact that we lost sight of the wing outside. We were informed by the pilot that we would be landing using the automatic landing system, which was a new experience, but it went very smoothly.

Was through baggage claim and immigration in no time, thought I had to remove my glasses at passport control, as I now look nothing like the picture in my passport!

Then it was through to the arrival hall where my father was waiting. After having been away for almost ten years, it was an odd feeling at first, because time had obviously passed, but at the same time it was like picking up again from last time. For me, it was difficult trying to choose what to say, as there is so much catching up to do that I didn't know where to start.

Had a coffee and a chat and then had a leisurely drive down to Folkestone.

December 19, 2006

10 songs that floated my boat this year

Probably the last blog post before I head off to the UK for Christmas. These are, in no particular order, ten of my favourite songs of 2006.

Go ahead float - Dalindeo
Stuck - Peven Everett
Scoop out - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Ipa amarelo - quasimode
Step it up - The Bamboos featuring Alice Russell
Blow your horn - Quantic featuring Ohmega Watts
Scene-Cartain call - indigo jam unit
Lightworks -JDilla
The siren's call - Jazzanova featuring Thief
Ai no tabi - Sleepwalker

A new beginning?

Well, if you believe the English saying, today is when things all start for me. Can't really say I've noticed anything different yet (do you ever though?).

Afternoon sky

Snapped yesterday near my flat.

Hats! - 5

At Pizza Salvatore in Shinjuku.

Kamukura Ramen

This ramen (Chinese noodle) shop in Kabukicho in Shinjuku is unlike any other ramen shop I've been to. To start with, the decor is really trendy, and it's bright and spacious, whereas most ramen shops tend to be much smaller affairs where you have to breathe in to let other customers pass behind you when you're sat at the counter.

The decor isn't the only thing that sets this shop apart, however. The Kamukura chain (apparently it started in Osaka) is known for its unique tasting noodles. The broth they come in is thinner and less oily than in more standard ramen shops, the pork is sliced thinner (which almost makes it melt in your mouth) and rather than bean sprouts, the broth is packed ith Chinese cabbage (hakusai). Delicious!

An evening in Yokohama

Sunday afternoon it was down to Yokohama -- or more specifically the redeveloped port area for the Afrontier club event at Motion Blue in the Akarenga Soko (Red Brick Warehouse).
The main attraction of the event for me was to see Native live, playing songs from their recent new album. The event started at 5p.m., and we arrived at about 5.10 thinking a warm-up DJ would be playing, but in fact Native were already on stage, playing to a half empty club. They were really good however, and the keen jazz dancers in the crowd were impressive to watch too, and it was disappointing that they only played a 50 minute set.

After that the Afrontier DJs were on followed by live performances from Maki Mannami and the Higher Self Ensemble Orchestra and then Isao Osada Club Jazz Session, who were OK but didn't really do it for me. I enjoy music which blends different influences to create a new sound, but sometimes, if you put too many ingredients into the pot, you end up with a stew which is less than the sum of its individual parts.

December 18, 2006

December 15, 2006

In front of a pachinko parlour

Drumming up business before Christmas.

Canal near Iidabashi Station

A bright, warm winter afternoon at Iidabashi.

New pet shop in Nakano

What's your favourite animal?


Went out for a 'bonenkai' (end of year party) on Tuesday and had some really great food and drink at a place called Musubiya in Ochanomizu. The restaurant is quite small and there were twelve of us, so it was quite a squeeze, and coats and jackets were piled up on a vacant seat at the end of the table.

Unbeknown to any of us the pile of coats toppled during the evening and the collar of my jacket came to rest on the top of a spotlight bulb that formed part of the uplighting system. When it was time for me to leave I noticed there was a huge scorch mark on the collar, a couple of inches in diameter. Sadly, it looks like it's 'sayonara' for the jacket, which is a pain as it's barely a year old.

On the bright side, I guess I had been persuaded to stay to have one more for the road, there could have been a fire.

December 14, 2006

Would it be impossible?

Futuristic - Peven Everett
Ipe amarelo - quasimode
It's simple - Visioneers
A taste of honey - Tubby Hayes Quartet
Sun walkers - Jneiro Janel
Frost and fire - Everything But The Girl
Stolen hours - Patricia Holloway
Would it be impossible - The Superimposers
Go ahead, float - Dalindeo
This is the lost generation - The Lost Generation

December 11, 2006

Shop in Nakano

The strange thing is, that's exactly what they sell -- clothes for ladies and dogs.

Odd buskers

This pair had quite a crowd going just across from Studio Alta early Sunday evening. The singer was kind of Marilyn Manson meets My Little Pony, squeaking and wailing away in a high-pitched voice, and occasionally he would jump up and down turning in a circle, first in one direction, then the next, with the front row of the crowd doing the same. Then a policeman came along, ahd a quiet word, and the show was over.

Shinjuku cool cat

Christmas shopping in Shinujku

Went to Shinjuku on Sunday to do battle with thousands of other shoppers and do some Christmas shopping. Had good fun looking at stuff I couldn't afford (nor would dream of buying) as well as stuff I was actually interested in. Managed to get some of the presents I was looking for, though not all, and also managed to find a new hat shop -- CapTain -- so the collection has grown a bit. If I carry on like this, I could become the Imelda Marcos of hats, but I still have a long way to go yet.

Was shopping into the evening, so eating out was on the cards, and I plumped for okonomiyaki at Boteju. It was good to eat okonomiyaki after so many months without it -- good enough to warrant a return visit sometime, but not quite the same as you get in Hiroshima.

Hats! - 4

Enjoying a beer in Boteju.

December 04, 2006


Heritage hum - James Moody
Didn't I - Darondo
Don't know about that - Dirty Diggers
Devil's pie - D'Angelo
Quiet fire - Roy Haynes
Snakehips - Soweto Kinch
First lady - Soil & "Pimp" Sessions
Bomb in a trumpet factory - Quantic
Surely shorty - Peven Everett
Time - Ju-Par Orchestra

Looking for love

This guy was singing away in a reedy voice on the streets in Shinjuku on Sunday complete with his dirty waving stuffed toy mounted on a tripod. After his song he showed his audience a flipchart where he revealed that he wasn't performing for money, but was hoping to find a girlfriend.

Wonder if it worked ...

December 01, 2006

Soil & "Pimp" Sessions at the Liquid Room

Thursday night. Finished work at 7.30 and hotfooted down to the metro, hoping to get across town from Kudanshita to Ebisu before 8.00. Luck was on my side with the trains and I was able to get to the Liquid Room, grab a drink at the bar and find a fairly good place in the crowd just in time for the gig to start.

This was the last night of the Soil & "Pimp" Sessions autumn tour and the venue was packed to the rafters with an eager crowd. It was the fourth time I'd been to see them, but the first time in Tokyo.

Shortly after 8.00, the introductory theme came blasting over the speakers, and a couple of minutes later, Josei, Akita Goldman and Midorin (aka J.A.M.) made their way on stage to rapturous applause. The trio kicked off the set with a blistering cover of 'Quiet fire', which was to set the tone for the whole evening.

They were then joined by the rest of the band and things stepped up a gear as they launched into 'Suffocation' followed by 'Memai'. The band were equally as hyped up as the crowd, the atmosphere totally electric and you could tell that it was going to be a good night even at this early stage. Compared to the gigs I'd seen in Hiroshima (which were great), this was at another level altogether. Shacho was agitating to the max, encouraging the crowd during the riffs and solos and rousing us with his banter between songs.

They played a selection of favourites old and new, but as with any band that has built a good repertoire of tracks, you're always left wishing that one particular song had made its way on to the set list that night.

As is tradition, the set built to a climax with their thrash jazz anthem, with the crowd chanting "Soil!" at full voice.

The gig drew to a close and it was time to shuffle off home, adrenaline still pumping, really hot despite the cold air outside, ears ringing, but still wantig more.

Roll on February and the new EP and more concerts.