Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Imaike Go Now 2017 Day 1

A friend gave me a heads up about Imaike Go Now during one of my Japan trips and it just so happened to fall on a free day, so I arranged a short outing to Nagoya with the help of the almighty JR Pass. If someone told me I would be living in Nagoya years later to catch the event again, I wouldn't have believed them. But there I was, taking the subway a few stops over to Imaike the morning of the first day of the show.

The event was a single day gig in 2015 but this time around they had it going for two days. Other than that, the live houses were the same and the mix of bands also similar. It was rather uncanny having traversed these same streets and live houses before, only now the neighborhood is much more familiar to me.

Chiina @ 3-Star Imaike
I arrived at 3-star Imaike to get my wristband and see the first band of the first day, Chiina. I wrote about Chiina previously when I saw them in Tokyo and they've come a long way since then, releasing a few new records that I still haven't heard and collaborating with a bigger ensemble they call the Chiina Philharmonic Orchestra. I don't think I recognized any of the songs they played at this gig so perhaps that's why they didn't seem as fun as when I saw them right after they released the fantastic Granville, but they still played lighthearted folk music that made the audience smile.

HINTO @ 3-Star Imaike
Sparta Locals was always talked about among people in the overseas Japanese indie music loving community but like many other groups, they just never happened to make a big impact on me. The vocalist/guitarist of the band went on to form Hinto and while I never listened to them either they turned out to be quite good on stage. Lots of girls were in the audience but I couldn't see what was to attractive about the guy. I guess they really like the twangy guitar sound they happen to be known for.

Open Reel Ensemble @ 3-Star Imaike
The next act I went to was in the same club but this time the floor wasn't half as packed and people merely lined the walls, uninterested. But when Open Reel Ensemble revealed their repertoire of instruments--three old film reel machines hooked up to a central sound board unit--people began to take interest. The three fiddled with the machines like they were turntables, stopping, and rewinding various segments of a track. At one time they sampled the call backs of the audience into one of the songs, using the reel to record and play back our voices in sync with the track. The music was fantastic--I always enjoy electronic music live more than I think I will--and seeing three guys busy running back and forth to stop spinning reels and adjust the sound deck makes for quite a performance. Definitely a unique experience and a breath of fresh air from all the rock oriented groups I saw.

Klan Aileen @ Huck Finn
The two members of Klan Aileen dished out some abrasive, dark sort of rock music that doesn't sound anything like the straightforward sound their studio recordings have. All of the effects stripped away they come across as a lot more dynamic, the drummer pounding away and the guitars blaring. Then again, maybe it was just because I saw these guys while standing in front of the speaker...Anyway, they were definitely fantastic live.

Mass of the Fermenting Dregs @ 3-Star Imaike
I couldn't let the night go by without seeing Mass of the Fermenting Dregs. Natsuko on the bass is legendary for her stage antics and the band also puts on a stellar performance--it was hard to get a picture when they were all putting so much energy into playing the music. It had been so long since I actually put on a MotFD CD that I couldn't hum the melody to any of their songs but like magic I would suddenly find myself familiar with all the songs they belted out. I found myself engulfed in the soaring soundscapes as much as I was in waves of nostalgia, recalling just how much I used to listen to this band years ago but was only seeing live for the first time. It was a great way to end the night, and I came out of the club feeling like I got a lot more than I expected.

Triple Fire @ Tokuzo
There was still time to see one more band and I chose to see Triple Fire, a sort of comedy-band that didn't really take itself too seriously but proved to be really popular. Their vocalist staggered across the stage muttering more than he was actually singing while the three bandmen behind him were dead serious about the music they were playing. I can't describe their sound very well, but it was very calculated--nothing like the singer who was rambling on aimlessly to their accompaniment.

After a whole day of standing and running around I didn't realize how tired I was until I got home and it dawned on me that I would have to do this all over again the next day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya Kakouzan Nittaiji temple 2017/04/08

I passed by the Kakuouzan station on my bike and saw plenty of signs for travelers looking for Nittaiji, a famous temple in the area that I had never heard of. Right outside the subway station is a slight incline and the temple is located at the top. The hill is lined with many old style shops, cafes, and restaurants making the walk to the temple all that more enjoyable.

 In my mind was a little temple in a small clearing at the top of a hill but instead the complex was massive and the buildings all looked very new. Kakuouzan is a small town and I had no idea anything of this scale lay just a few minutes walk from the station.

Nittaiji is famous for not being associated with any particular sect of Buddhism. It was built as a sign of friendship between Japan and Thailand, and in particular is coveted for supposedly  having some of the remains of Buddha stored inside. Creepy. Or holy. Find out more at the temple's English website.

The pagoda located just outside the temple was impressive. It started raining when I got there so I had to take pictures from under whatever covering I could find but I would love to go back to take more pictures. The cherry blossoms were blooming nicely at the base and continued down a small slope.

I can't imagine what education is like in this nursery school.

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya Heiwa Kouen (Peace Park) 2017/04/07

 Much of this week's cherry blossom viewing was dampened--literally--by daily forecasts of rain. I visited the park just before a downpour and didn't get to enjoy the tranquil expanse of greenery and cherry blossoms for very long--neither did I take many pictures, but the park comes highly recommended, though probably not from the walking-route I took up a steep incline from Motoyama station. The walk from Higashiyama-Kouen (Higashiyama Park) station should be much closer and convenient for the Sakura garden, pictured below.

The rainy forecast deterred most would-be picnickers, so the grounds were clear of the blue stuff and rather quiet despite being in glorious full bloom. The entire area was vast and a welcome departure from the linear little riverside path I took the previous day along the Yamazakigawa river.

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya Yamazakigawa 2017/04/05

One of the most popular cherry blossoms spots in Nagoya is the Yamazakigawa riverside, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it located a few stops away from my dormitory. The Path of Four Seasons is often cited as the best place to see them, located a 10-minute walk from the Mizuho Undojo Nishi/Mizuho Athletic Grounds West station on the city subway's Sakuradori Line. The river, however, extends for kilometers both north and south, and the path of cherry blossoms runs all the way down much of its length. Instead of taking the subway, I decided to start further up and work my way down the river.

After taking these pictures I realized it was so close to my dormitory I might as well return my bike and enjoy a walk instead.  

Few cars pass on the narrow road next to the river and pedestrians often spilled into the street while viewing the blossoms. They seemed to continue on forever. 

Instead of the bolstering laughter and cheers from the inebriated participants at Tsuruma Park, the Yamazakigawa riverside was a calm walk in cool weather the entire way down. Many people were taking their dog out for a walk or having a stroll with the family. Those who did stop on the way did so on one the steps that lined the sides of the riverbank with cherry blossoms above.

It runs across quiet residential areas instead of the main road so the atmosphere is very relaxing.

By this time I had reached the Mizuho Athletic Grounds and you can see the stadium right by the river. The route also seems popular with runners.

I was told that the path used to be lined with street stalls like this one in the fashion of just about every other park and flowering viewing spot I've been to. Nowadays, the streets are clear because vendors were banned by the city--perhaps for the good, as the route was much easier to walk. A handful of these roasted sweet potato stands seem to survive.

Some interesting bell shaped flowers. Let's not forget all the other flora making their appearance in spring. 

At night the lamp posts turned on, illuminating the path down the river.

My stroll started at the Yamazakigawa river parallel to the Sakurayama subway station, through the famed Path of Four Seasons, and ended as I got close to Aratamabashi subway station. I walked all the way back up to Sakurayama, but those not so ambitious could always take the subway back to where they need to go, via the Sakuradori line or Meijo line at Aratamabashi station.

I tried fiddling with maps, but instead found out that the route I took comes quite recommended and was already on the Mizuho-ward's official homepage. The river runs parallel to the Sakuradori subway line so any part of the river is accessible so long as you head east from Sakurayama, Mizukuyakusho, Mizuho Undojo Nishi, or Aratamabashi. I've posted it below:

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya Tsurumai Koen 2017/04/04

The weather in Nagoya has been gloomy despite the delayed opening of the cherry blossoms this year but celebrations are still in full swing. The most lively area I've been to so far is Tsurumai Park, where nearly every space under the blooming blossoms was occupied by people of all ages having fun. There were food stalls and some street performers to compliment the already festive mood, and an outdoor beer garden was also set up along the path closest to the trees. 

But if you weren't there for a picnic with friends and might enjoy something more quiet, Tsurumai Park is large and has plenty of serene areas with smaller bunches of cherry trees. Taking a stroll through the remainder of the park is much more peaceful than the hubbub around the station and there were still many trees to be found in these smaller compartments throughout the park.

A gorgeous lake with a small hut in the middle at one particularly quiet corner of the park. 

Another had other springtime flowers in full bloom next to a small playground where children ran about under another grove of trees. 

Once the sun went down, the lanterns affixed across the rows of cherry trees lit up above all the patrons in the park, who continued with their festivities until, I imagine, long after I left. 

Tsurumai Park is located right outside the Tsurumai subway station served by the Tsurumai subway line as well as the JR Line and free to enter. One of the fountains in the middle of the park is shaped like a pokeball and the park became a popular destination for Pokmon Go players upon the game's release.