I finally “get” Perfume

Perfume is an insanely popular Japanese electro-pop trio. So I’d heard of them for ages, but I could never get into their music, it being totally different from what I normally listen to.

Well, I don’t know what happened, but now I get it. I own a bunch of their songs that I bought on iTunes, and their poppy synths and child-like voices are getting me through some tough times.

This may be sort of like my brief Girls Aloud phase, but less embarrassing. (Sorry if any of you are Girls Aloud fans, but let’s face it, they aren’t very good.)

Anyway, this is my current obsession. As with most music videos, I have no idea what’s going on here.

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Ryusenkei – A Bit of Everything (That Was Great About the 1970s)

The best thing about listening only to music in Japanese is that I’m forced to keep discovering new bands.  Let me introduce you to my latest amazing find.

I was digging around on SoundCloud one day and I found this track:

I was instantly a fan and had to find out more about the original song.  That was how I found Ryusenkei (流線形).

I love 70s music.  I grew up on Steely Dan and The Bee Gees and Donna Summer, but I haven’t been able to find anything like that in Japanese. I guess, like in the West, you’re lucky if the old stuff makes it onto CD – forget about legal downloads. And I simply don’t do expensive CD imports.

So this band was like my salvation, because they are pretty recent. I bought two of their albums (Tokyo Sniper and City Music) from iTunes, and another (Natural Woman – 2009, I think it’s their latest) from Amazon downloads.

So they sound like the 1970s, and they have absolutely done this on purpose. Do you know Georgy Porgy by Toto?  If so, have a listen to this and see if it doesn’t sound familiar:

They do stuff like that all of the time.  I love it.  I’m pretty much obsessed with them right now.  I’m not sure three albums was enough, I might need to find more.  🙂

Meanwhile, here is their Facebook page, if you’d like to show them some love.  (They mostly post YouTube videos of the music they are so obviously influenced by.)

I Am Still Lovin’ Me Some Chobits Over Here

Yeah, soo…I now have the Japanese audio tracks from the first three DVDs of the series in my iTunes, and I listen to them pretty much every day.  Chii being an idiot makes it easier to pick up what everyone is saying because it’s usually at her level, which is only a bit above mine.

Just for fun, here’s a picture of Sumomo. (Best character ever, right up there with Tachikomas. Maybe I just have a thing for cute robots.)

Music I Cannot Live Without: “Love Logic” – Minuano

It’s snowing for the second time in a week and Somerset is going into panic mode, again.  Invest in a snow plow or even just some grit for the roads, seriously!

Meanwhile, I grew up in Chicago and don’t drive here, so this isn’t really affecting me that much.  Also, I am listening to some music by a Brazilian-influenced Japanese band called Minuano.

According to Wikipedia, “The Minuano is a cold wind that blows in the South of Brazil and in Uruguay.”  However, listening to their album “Love Logic” is more like being in Brazil now, at the height of summer, maybe with a cold drink (Guaraná Antarctica FTW!) in my hand as I watch the waves play on Ipanema Beach.

I was fortunate enough to discover this band at Christmas, when I was gifted $30 in iTunes vouchers and loaded up on Japanese music.  I got really into Lamp as well – they share the same lead singer.  Her voice is marvellous, light and airy but without the “cuteness” of, let’s face it, most Japanese female vocalists.

As good things are for sharing, here are their details:

Minuano Myspace
Minuano Facebook
Minuano “Love Logic” iTunes (US)

The 5 Japanese Podcasts That Make Me Wear Out The “Refresh” Button

Last time I described how to grace your computer with podcasts in Japanese, even if you (like me) live outside of Japan.

Now I’d like to share some of my favourites.  These are the ones that make me sort of look forward to Sunday night (new episodes usually come out when it’s Monday morning in Japan) instead of merely dreading the start of another work week.  Even though they’re entirely in Japanese (no subtitles), after watching/listening to them over and over again, I am starting to understand what’s going on.

Anyway, here’s my top five, in reverse order (Letterman style):

5. NHKラジオニュース

If you’re up to speed on your katakana, you’ve worked out that this is NHK Radio News. Which is boring, right?  I mean, radio news, come on.

Well, this was the very first Japanese podcast I got into, mostly because I could easily work out that it was the news.  As a direct result, some of the very first Japanese words I could hear and understand were “ロンドンオリンピック” (it was summer). It’s very nice to have on in the background, and they come out with 5 or 6 episodes a day, so there’s never an excuse for not listening to Japanese.

(Another word I quickly learned was 原発…yeah, they need to use that one a lot these days in Japanese news…)

4. 大杉漣の「漣☆写でGO!+(プラス)」- Video

This one wasn’t so easy to work out what was going on, even though it’s a video podcast.  As far as I can tell, a guy in a hat walks around a city that’s probably Tokyo with a hand-held sat nav and a photograph, and he has to find the image from the photograph in real life.

Only he spends most of his time aimlessly wandering, going in shops and looking at things, speaking to shop owners and advertising their wares for them, and making the cameramen laugh.  Sometimes a very large woman turns up with additional information.  Then a loud commercial for the sat nav happens.

Here he’s hanging out with Girl Scouts.

Bizarre.  Again, loads of episodes.  I watch them while I’m studying kanji, and then I look up and there’s kanji on the screen, and when I recognise them I get a warm fuzzy feeling.

3. SUNTORY SATURDAY WAITING BAR AVANTI

Yeah, you heard me – Suntory.  The brand of whiskey that Bill Murray does ads for in Lost in Translation.  (He’s not in this.)

When it isn’t being featured in Sofia Coppola films, this whiskey puts out a 10-minute or so podcast every Saturday.  It starts with a couple of guys in a bar having a drink, and then they talk to someone else about something (I don’t know what – give me a break, it’s in Japanese, all right?).  The background sounds are great – lots of jazz and glasses clinking and more jazz.  About six years of episodes are currently available.

It’s like listening to the news, if the news were happening in a bar.

2. 週刊!NIPPONちびっこランド – Video

Oh, Nippon Chibikko Rando, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

Kids television.  Apparently, I never grew out of it.  I love this show so much.  Each episode is about 15 minutes long (the average attention span of a 5 year old).  A bunch of people act out Japanese sayings to explain them at child level, and then there are cartoons.  And then some kids go out into a rice field or a shop and learn how to do manual labour.  Then there are more cartoons.  And a song.  And then it all happens again the following week.

Can someone tell me why this cat’s eyes are on fire?

They have a different series for every season.  At the time of writing, it’s about 3 episodes into あき.  But I still have なつ and はる stored on my computer (春 was my favourite!).  I watch them over and over again, and then rip the audio onto my iPod, and listen to them over and over again.  Complete heaven.

And now, at long last…

1. シークレットガールズseason2 – Video

Oh boy oh boy.  This podcast shows the exploits of Secret Girls, a manufactured girl band whose sole purpose seems to be to sell things to the audience and learn English.  The songs are mediocre, the acting is worse, and the lip synching is a complete disaster.

I think they’re, um, surprised?

Nevertheless.  I.  Love.  This.  Show.  I guess it’s in an ironic way.  Like how the original Star Trek episodes are epically amazing at the same time as being, let’s face it, a little bit crap (But I still love you, Captain Kirk!)

My biggest complaint is that they seem to release only one episode per month, which is in no way acceptable.  How can this rubbish take that long to make?  I’m desperate to know what happens with the Secret Girls and their arch-rivals, 3ign (pronounced “sign”) who dress all in black and are actually evil (while, at the same time, being much better dancers).

Have I missed any?  What are your favourites?

Japanese Podcasts Outside Japan

Some of you are going to be like, yeah, Japanese podcasts, that’s old news – we’ve been on top of that for years, where’ve you been?

But probably, some others of you are like, あれ? What are these Japanese podcasts you speak of?  Is it really possible/legal to get real Japanese audio/video for free even though I live in America/Britain/Lithuania/[insert your country here]?

Folks, sit back whilst I lay down some knowledge.

In 2008, Tofugu ran this article about how to get Japanese podcasts on iTunes, even if you’re not in Japan.  Well, in 2012, several iterations of iTunes later, it still works.  The basic principle is still the same – it just looks a little different.  Here’s what you do:

Step 0: Get iTunes.  Since these days you cannot ride the London Underground during rush hour without seeing at least 157 pairs of white headphones, odds are you use this already.  (For the 5 of you who don’t, download it here.)

Step 1: In iTunes, click on “iTunes Store” on the left-hand side of the iTunes window.

Step 2: At the very bottom of the main window (scroll aaaaall the way down), you’ll see this:

Click the round flag in the lower right-hand corner.  (Obviously, your flag may vary.)  This allows you to change the country of your iTunes store.

Step 3: In the next screen, scroll down to find Japan and click it.  (In case you weren’t paying attention in geography, it’s under “Asia Pacific”.)

Step 4: Now iTunes thinks you are in Japan.  If your OS is in English, however, the menus will all stay in English so it shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate.

Step 5: Click “Podcasts“.  Unlike the music and videos, podcasts are free and therefore do not require a Japanese credit card or Japanese iTunes gift card.

And there you have it!  There’s quite a lot of stuff there, and the titles are in Japanese, so it can be a bit overwhelming.  Next time I’ll talk about my favourites (oh, and I do have favourites!)