Archive | Interviews RSS feed for this section

Interview with Roger Dahl

19 Mar

Roger Dahl is an American cartoonist who has lived and worked in Japan.

He has a book titled “Comic Japan: Best of Zero Gravity Cartoons from The Japan Times-The Lighter Side of Tokyo Life” which is a collection of his comics about life in Tokyo for an American couple.
(Click here to read my review and to enter (by 2015 March 22nd) for a chance to win a free copy of his book).

Self-portrait by Roger Dahl

Roger Dahl has kindly agreed to do an interview with me.

– My questions and comments are in red. Roger Dahl’s answers are in black.

1. Could you please give us a short self-introduction?

I was born in Tacoma, Washington, not far from Seattle where I now live (in the North Beach area of Ballard). I graduated from two universities: The University of Puget Sound, where I got a degree in Art, and from the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. My medical specialty was in Prosthetics and Orthotics – making artificial limbs and braces for patients. I worked briefly for a hospital in the Washington, DC area, but decided I just didn’t love being stuck mostly in a lab all day (I DID very much enjoy interacting with patients). I often tell people that my medical training made me a better artist; all those courses in anatomy have helped me make my cartoon characters anatomically correct.

2. How / when did you first become interested in Japan?

My aunt and uncle were missionaries in Japan for many years, so I became familiar with the culture from an early age. I didn’t really get interested in visiting until my sister went there and had a blast. A few years later I visited for four months, staying in the home of a professor at Tokyo University. It was a great introduction to Japan, and I have loved the country ever since.

Interesting trivia:  My relatives had a cabin in the mountain resort of Karuizawa (one of my favorite places in Japan). John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived there for a time when Sean was young. Lennon occasionally would attend chapel services, so my uncle met him. Since then, I have met others missionaries who hung out with the Lennons. All say that they were extremely pleasant.

3.  You lived in Japan from 1991 until 1995, didn’t you?  Have you been back to visit Japan since ’95?  How do you continue to draw comics about Japan?

Actually, I moved to Japan as a resident in 1989. I was hired in Seattle by a representative of a Tokyo conversation school. It was a miracle that they hired me, as I had no teaching experience, and was competing with candidates who had strong credentials. It turned out that teaching was an excellent fit for me, and I loved the job.

Over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday break of 1990/91, I committed to creating a comic strip about Japan, as I found the culture so amusing and wasn’t seeing any such satire in any of the national English daily newspapers. I came up with about a dozen comic strips which became Zero Gravity. I was told by a seasoned journalist that I would have no chance of getting hired by any of the big papers, but I forged ahead anyway. Two of them offered me jobs, and I went for The Japan Times because it was the biggest, most independent and prestigious, and simply felt like the best fit for me. The editors there told me that what interested them most was the one political cartoon I added just to demonstrate versatility.

So that hiring was in February 1991. I was then living in Naka-Meguro, Tokyo. At the same time of my Japan Times hiring, I was also offered a job to teach at a private boys senior/junior high school (Zushi Kaisei) in Zushi, just south of Kamakura, in the suburbs of Tokyo and Yokohama. I taught there for four years while also producing my political cartoons and comic strips. It was really challenging juggling these job demands, but I’m glad I did this, as a lot of the material for the comic strip came from my experiences living in Zushi. Because it is so close to Tokyo, I still spent lots of time in the megalopolis, which I never grew weary of.

When I decided I needed to return to the States (especially because my father’s health was declining), my Japan Times editor graciously asked me if I’d like to continue cartooning from abroad. I actually never dreamed it would become a long-term arrangement, but here I am in my 25th year.

Having the resources of the internet has made all of this possible. I feel like I manage to keep abreast of the cultural and political zeitgeist of Japan sufficiently to continue commenting as I’ve been doing. I didn’t have the internet while in Japan, so in some ways I feel better informed now, even though I’m not in-country. It helps that I maintain so many friends – both Japanese and expatriates – in Japan.

4.  I came to Japan in 1990 (around the same time as you)…a lot has changed in Japan in the past quarter-century.  What are some of the good changes you’ve noticed?  Some of the not-so-good?

I think a lot of the pressure to conform has diminished. I tend not to be very conventional in my thinking, so I consider this shift progress. I do somewhat regret, however, that some charming traditions might be lost as Japan forges ahead in its postmodern development.

The global phenomena of obsession with electronic devices seems to be one relatively recent change in Japanese society that I’m suspicious of, as it seems to separate people more than it connects them. Of course, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone in Japan.

5.  What brought you to Japan initially?

As I mentioned previously, it was initially the awareness of the country through the stories of my aunt, uncle and cousins. Also, as an artist, I think I was always drawn to the aesthetics of Japan. My ancestors came from Scandinavia, Sweden, Norway and Denmark – and I’m only a generation removed from that region of Europe. I have often reflected that the Japanese are the Scandinavians of Asia, sharing many traits, such as minimalist aesthetic traditions, love of refined craftsmanship, healthful lifestyles, personality reserve, etc.

6. What did you do for employment at first?  How did you get a job with the Japan Times newspaper?

I guess I kind of answered that already with my account of preparing strips for submitting to the national English dailies. I’m a big advocate of boldly attempting the seeming impossible. That was why I was willing to go to Japan to teach. I was slightly terrified of teaching, but found out that it came fairly naturally to me.

Submitting strips to big newspapers took some moxie too. My initial interview with The Japan Times left me with some doubts, as the managing editor wondered if I’d be able to find sufficient material for a regular feature.

A big change came when JT started asking for three cartoons a week instead of two. That was a really difficult challenge.

7.  What do you think Japan should learn from American culture?  And vice-versa?

I’m discovering that culture has really become globalized, and that everyone is influencing everybody else now. I think this is mostly a good thing. I think America has more to gain from being open to Japan, as Japan has always seemed more willing to adopt new things from abroad and make them its own.

I think the US’s individualism is worthy of emulation, as is its positive emphasis on activism and altruism. I wish Americans could adopt Japan’s efficiency, attention to good service, and general considerateness; I really wish American cities could feel as safe as Japanese urban centers.

I sure wish Japan would switch to driving on the right side of the road!

8.  What advice would you give to newcomers to Japan?

Don’t interpret everything through the filter of your own culture, but be open to enjoying the new one you find yourself in. You very well might find better ways to approach life than the way you are accustomed to

Try to become adept at doing things the way the locals do, but don’t be afraid to express your individuality.

I would add that one should avoid having a critical attitude toward Japan when annoyances arise. I realize that must sound ironic coming from a satirist like myself, whose job often involves criticism. But in my day-to-day life in Japan, I was mostly going with the flow, and not making much of a fuss when frustrations arose.

9.  What is a question that you’ve never been asked in an interview, but you think you should have been asked?  And, of course, what’s the answer?

How much of you and your experiences are in your ‘Zero Gravity’ characters and their experiences?

A lot of the things that happen in the strip are based on the my own experiences or that of friends. However,  many of their frustrations are not my own.

For example, I didn’t have as many frustrations with food, train commuting, office bureaucracy or language challenges. I would say my life in Japan was extremely pleasant. I was heartbroken to leave Tokyo and return to the US, and had terrible reverse culture shock. I desperately wanted to return to Japan almost immediately

I will add that the character of Larry in my comic strip is basically me. He looks a little like me (at least the way I looked twenty years ago!) and has my basic personality.

10.  Any comments for the visitors to my blog?

I noticed that some of your blog followers were asking about my possible relation to Roald Dahl. (It was asked here) He and I share a Norwegian heritage, but I have no knowledge of any common ancestry. Dahl is a relatively common name in all of Scandinavia, meaning “valley“. There are a lot of mountains and valleys in Norway! Also, in my family’s case, Dahl is a shortened version of the original name, which was, Ringdahl, I think.

Since I started illustrating children’s books (I’m about to start on my third book with Penguin), questions about my relation to Roald Dahl have come up regularly.
I certainly don’t mind speculation that I’m related to such an eminent creative person. The only drawback is that if I Google my name, links to Roald often come up instead.

Thank you, Mr. Dahl for taking the time to answer my questions. Your answers are very interesting!

Interview with Matt Alt

16 Sep

Matt Alt is, like me, an American with a Japanese wife who lives in Tokyo.

Also, like me, he is interested in 妖怪 (Japanese monsters).

His wife and he have written a few books, including “Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide” which I reviewed (Click here to read my review and to enter (by 2014 September 27th) for a chance to win a copy of the book).


Matt Alt has kindly agreed to do an interview with me.

– My questions and comments are in red. Matt Alt’s answers are in black.

1. Could you give us a short self-introduction (that covers info not answered in the questions below) ?

I’m Matt Alt. I co-authored Yokai Attack!, Ninja Attack!, and Yurei Attack! with Hiroko Yoda.
When we aren’t tracking down yokai, ninja, and ghost stories, we live in Tokyo where we run a translation company.

2. Where are you from? When / why did you come to Japan?

I was born and raised in Maryland, just a normal suburban kid.

There is very little in my family’s background to suggest any underlying interest in Japan. I was obsessed with robots, though, and that coincided with the first wave of Japanese robot toys hitting the American marketplace – Micronauts, Shogun Warriors, and then Robotech and Voltron and the Transformers and the whole Eighties toy boom.

This being the Eighties Japan was getting a lot of attention as the next economic superpower, and as a result my school system set up a Japanese program at my high school. It was one of the first at a public school in the US.   Both there, and in university where I majored in Japanese, the vast majority of students were studying the language for business reasons. I and a few friends were the only ones studying because we loved manga and anime. I’ve heard that proportion has totally flipped in recent years.

3. How did you become interested in yokai (Japanese monsters) ?

I owe my interest in yokai to Hiroko, my wife and co-author of our books. I’d known about them through pop culture sources like Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro, but Hiroko really pounded it home to me that these weren’t anime characters, that they were folklore with a great deal of history in Japan. As she introduced me to old woodblock prints, stories, and art, I got more and more excited — and shocked that there was so little information available about them in English.

4. I’m also interested in Japanese yokai…but don’t know nearly as much detailed information about them as you do! How did you learn so much about them?

Besides my “living database” of Hiroko, there is a great deal of scholarship about yokai in Japanese. There are a huge number of books and magazines on the topic ranging from stuff for kids to pure entertainment to scholarly treatises. Besides the usual art books you can often find abroad, the writings of people like Kazuhiko Komatsu, Katsumi Tada, and Murakami Kenji offer a lot of insight into Japanese yokai culture. Being able to read Japanese is key. We rely heavily and almost exclusively on Japanese resources when we write our books.

5. What did you imagine Japan would be like before you first came here?

An otaku paradise! That was the naiveté born of a robot-obsessed fifteen year old. But it wasn’t, not at all, and I realized I actually preferred the reality all the more.

6. What type of culture shock did you experience here? Do you visit your home country often? Experience reverse-culture shock there?

Business takes me back to the States semi-regularly and I always try to go back for the holidays. Without question it’s tough to live so far from family and old friends. But I have a lot of new family and friends here in Japan too. I don’t really get homesick or culture shock, but it is often shocking to me, with the speed of modern travel, that I can be having breakfast in Tokyo one morning and dinner in Maryland that evening. That plane flight feels long when you’re on it, but by historical standards it’s the blink of an eye.

(As for me, I rarely travel outside Japan. It’s so expensive. My most recent trip to Japan was in 2004. And I experienced a lot of “reverse culture shock”! (Click here to read my post about it.  — Tokyo Five))

7. What is you favorite yokai ? Favorite “non-Japanese” monster?

With so many yokai it’s hard to choose from. I love what you might call the weaker ones, the less malevolent ones, most of all. Tofu Kozo is one. The idea of this tofu-carrying kid being a supernatural creature. Or Aka-Name, the yokai whose idea of haunting is licking out dirty bathtubs. Those sorts of creatures are the most interesting to me, because nearly every culture has a folklore tradition of scary monsters. Annoying or silly ones, not as much.

8. What do you think of manga / anime such as “Ge-Ge-Ge-No-Kitaro” ?

As I wrote in the preface to Drawn and Quarterly’s English translation of “Kitaro,” which came out earlier this year, Shigeru Mizuki is a genius at his craft and responsible more than anyone else in the 20th century for popularizing yokai among the public at large. I’m a big fan of Miyazaki’s work as well – he weaves yokai, or yokai-like, creatures into his work very subtly and deftly. I love the mix of the historical and supernatural of “Mononoke Hime,” for example. And I really like what I’ve seen and played of “Yokai Watch.” The way it sort of remixes rather than simply parrots old yokai lore is really charming, and the way kids are reacting to it reminds me of how kids used to react to Kitaro.

9. What question are you never asked in an interview that you should be asked (and what’s the answer) ?

A lot of people interview us about yokai, but very few ask about their impact on modern culture – I’m not talking recent iterations of yokai shows like “Yokai Watch” but Japanese character and culture in general. They are very much the key to understanding the question of why Japan is so great at creating mascots and characters in general. They represent an intersection of folklore, craftsmanship (illustration), and storytelling that forms the fabric of modern Japanese pop culture.

10. Any final words? Links? Plugs?

Thanks for reading our books! If people enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them, that makes us really happy. Even though writing is sort of a side business for us (our main one being localizing Japanese games and manga and other content into English and European languages) we have many other book projects simmering on the back burners even as we speak. Stay tuned!

Thanks again to Matt Alt.

Yesterday was a ‘metal’ day!

15 Apr

Yesterday after work, my wife and daughters met me at Shibuya Station.

They had bought a number of gifts for me!

Among them was the current issue of Tokyo Journal magazine with Gene Simmons on the cover dressed like a samurai:


and the Classic Rock magazine with the members of KISS on the cover wearing business suits (like an updated version of their “Dressed To Kill” album cover):


It came with two compilation CDs.

From there, we went to a ramen restaurant for dinner and then headed to the “O-East” club for the reason we were there…to see the Skid RowUnited World Rebellion: Chapter One” concert!

2014-04-14 21.56.02

I did an interview with bassist Rachel Bolan last month about this concert, among other things.

After that interview, the members of Skid Row kindly gave my family and I guest tickets to their Tokyo show that included special seating…and backstage passes to meet the band after the show!

It was a great show!  They played songs like “Let’s Go” and “Kings of Demolition” from their new album, as well as their classics such as Slave To The Grind“, “18 And Life” , “I Remember You“, and of course “Youth Gone Wild” !

My wife had also bought a few 色紙 (Japanese paper boards) that are sometimes used for autographs, which the band signed for us.

My wife, our daughters and I all had an excellent time and were treated like V.I.P.s by the members of Skid Row!

Thank you Rachel Bolan, Scotti Hill, Dave “Snake” Sabo, Johnny Solinger and Rob Hammersmith!

Interview with Rachel Bolan

6 Mar

Do you know who Rachel Bolan is?

He is the bass player of the excellent heavy-metal band Skid Row.

Skid Row. Rachel Bolan is on far-right.

Skid Row are scheduled to play a show in Tokyo on 2014 April 14th to promote their latest album “United World Rebellion: Chapter One“!
This will be Skid Row‘s first visit to Japan since 1995. Nineteen years ago!

Today, Rachel Bolan was kind enough to answer some questions from me for an interview!

My questions are in red.   Rachel Bolan‘s answers are in black.

1. Could you give us a self-introduction, please?

Rachel Bolan, co-founder, bass player and song writer for Skid Row.

2.  The new Skid Row release “United World Rebellion: Chapter One” is quite good.  Will there be a “Chapter Two” ?

Thank you. There will be 3 chapters in all. As a matter of fact, we just finished up recording  United World Rebellion – Chapter Two”. We are very excited about it!

3.  What music / albums do you listen to most often these days?

Lately I have been listening to an artist named Gin Wigmore. She’s great!
I also listen to the music that I grew up with. KISS,
The Ramones, Aerosmith, Queen, etc.

4.  Do you like Japanese food?  Have you ever tried Tokyo’s original dish “Monja-yaki“?

I love food in general, but Japanese is one of my favorites. Japanese meals always seem so well balanced.
I haven’t had
Monja-yaki, but would like to try it. I think every culture has a dish similar to it. My Uncle used to make something like it. It didn’t have dough in it however. Just egg as a binder.
I’m getting hungry. Haha.

5.  Skid Row is scheduled to play a show at the O-East club in the Shibuya area of Tokyo, Japan.  Could you give us a preview of what fans can expect at that show, set-list-wise and otherwise?

We usually try to play something from every album. That gets more difficult as time goes on because our catalog keeps growing and I can’t see us playing a 4 hour show. Haha.
We will play all the songs that you would expect us to play. Some new songs as well as some deep tracks. Lots of energy on stage because we love what we do! We may be getting older, but we haven’t slowed down a bit.

チラシ (Flyer) for Skid Row’s upcoming show in Tokyo.

6.  The last time Skid Row toured Japan was in 1995, wasn’t it?  Why did it take so long for you to finally return?

That’s right. Almost 20 years since our last visit. I have no idea why it’s taken so long. We’ve always had such an amazing time.
I wish we were playing more than one show on this trip. We’ll make sure it doesn’t take another 20 years until we play there again.

7.   How many times have you been to Tokyo?  Are there any sites that you’re particularly looking forward to revisiting?  Or some places in Tokyo that you haven’t seen yet that you would like to visit?

I believe I’ve been to Tokyo 6 times.
I hope to get back to
Kiddieland if its still there!! (It is. It’s actually not too far of a walk from the venue you’ll be playing at!)
Also, Akihabara. I like to check out all the gadgets.
I have never been to Tsukiji fish market.  I’d really like to see it.

8.  How do the fans in Japan compare to those in other countries?

It’s funny. I’ve been asked that question by many journalists from many different countries.  The answer is always the same. Skid Row fans are awesome in every country we go and very similar except for the language they speak. We have the most dedicated fans in the world.  That’s why we called the trilogy ” United World Rebellion “.

9.  Do you receive a lot of fan-mail from Japan?

We do get quite a bit of email from Japan via Facebook and such.

10.  Do you have a message for the fans in Japan?

I just want everyone to know how excited we are to return to your incredible country. And how  much we appreciate your unconditional support over the past 25 years.
There’s not a night I step on stage that I don’t think how great a life that has been afforded to me because of fans like you. I mean that from the bottom of my heart!

Thanks again to Rachel Bolan for taking time to answer my questions.  These are great answers!  Very interesting interview!  I look forward to your show next month!
Thanks also to Skid Row‘s webmaster, Noel Saabye to getting me in contact with Mr. Bolan.

Here are some relevant Skid Row links that everyone should check out:
SkidRow’s Official Facebook Page
Hayashi Promotions Skid Row Japan Tour Info

Interview with Bryan Maine

19 Nov

Recently I was contacted by a young man from Canada named Bryan Maine.

He has been to Japan twice and has written the book about his experiences on the most recent trip.

It seems that he met a Japanese girl at his university in Canada when he was nineteen.
They began to date and he “fell head-over-heels” for her.

The following summer, the girl returned to her home in Japan and, though they had only been dating for a short time, Bryan sold his car in order to buy an airplane ticket and follow her to Japan.

Things didn’t turn out the way he expected. He made a number of cultural gaffes by doing things that might seem insignificant to a Westerner.

Bryan Maine asked me if I would do an interview with him about his book and his experiences in Japan, so I sent him ten questions.

Here are my questions (in red) and his replies (in black bold):

1.  Could you give us a short self-introduction?

I am currently living in Vancouver Canada where I have spent the last year performing comedy and writing my book “Grasping at Self Worth“. 

Prior to moving, I lived on Vancouver Island.  A beautiful place with lots of wild life and nature.  It was nice there but I am definitely a city guy.

In high school I was an exchange student for four months and lived in a small town name Oyama at the base of Mt.Fuji.   I came back much more confident in myself and enjoyed the experience.

The second time I went to Japan for two months.  I stayed in Tokyo and came back completely broken.

I feel a strong pull bringing me back to the country every couple of years and am craving a trip back as soon as possible.

I wrote a book about my experiences in Tokyo and am currently raising funds till December 9th for funding and publishing. Check it out.

The cover of Bryan Maine’s book “Grasping at Self Worth”.

2.  Did you study the Japanese language?  How well can you speak Japanese?

I studied Japanese in high school before going to Japan as an exchange student.  I attempted to take it again during my first year of college but accidentally enrolled in the second year course and couldn’t stay in.

 After returning from Japan for the summer, I attempted to take the second year class again and this time the teacher let me in.

I can speak Japanese very well; understanding around 80% of any given conversation.  My problem is with spelling when attempting to write.

3.  What made get interested in Japan?

The aspect of Japanese life that I find most interesting is how honour has been imprinted into their history.  The idea of a person being driven by their own sense of honour is very appealing to me.  I also really enjoy the sense of community that Japan maintains in a way I feel western culture has lost.

4.  You’ve been to Japan twice, haven’t you?  When were you here and for how long each time?

Yes,  the first time I came to Japan I stayed in Shizuoka Prefecture for four months at age sixteen.

The second time I stayed in Tokyo for two months when I was twenty.

5.  What are some examples of culture shock you experienced when you came to Japan?

Going to an onsen (hot spring) for the first time was very nerve racking.  I was sixteen and our high school went on a school trip to Nagasaki.

To conserve water the students all had to bath in the onsen which blew my mind.

In Canada we have more than enough water so being in a country that actively thinks about its water consumption was strange. 

The first time I walked in, everyone stopped what they were doing to fill their curiosity about what a naked white guy might look like but then surprised me how quickly no one cared about the fact we were all naked and was able to relax.  The comfort attached to being naked in public opened my eyes a lot to the idea of being comfortable in my own skin.

6.  What made you decide to write a book about your experiences in Japan?

I came back completely broken and attempted to write the book six years ago.  It was awful.  My mind was all over the place and I couldn’t look at what had happened objectively.  

A couple years passed and I became alright putting the experience behind me.  I had almost put it entirely in my past when the earthquake hit Japan and I saw the footage of the tsunami on the news.  I was working an office job and we were all watching the TV at work.

As I watched the footage, not knowing any details and only seeing as houses so similar to that of my friends were consumed by water I began to cry and worry about the people I had known.  It was at this moment I realized that even though I don’t think about it as much, Japan and my experiences their are a strong part of who I am.

 I decided to attempt to write the book again. Even though I am frustrated with how much of a big pansy I come off in it, it is true to who I was at the time. 

7.  If your relationship with your ex-girlfriend and her family had gone better, what do you think you’d be doing now?  Would you be living in Japan?

This is a question that I have no real answer to.

I do know I loved her very much but feel since she was the first girl I really loved that I probably was too immature and idealistic to have it be a relationship I would still be in today, six years later.

I think we would have broken up still but much later and on much more pleasant terms.  Both leaving stronger people than we went in.

I think I would still be living in Canada at this point but do dream of the day that I can come and go between the two countries freely as both have aspects that I enjoy in life.

8.  In hindsight, what do you think you’d do differently if you could go back to that summer in 2006?

I would maintain my own sense of worth.

Looking back I think, we should have broken up at “this point”, and “this point”, and definitely “this point”.  I should have had lines that I was not willing to cross for anyone, and no one should expect me to.  Because of my youth I believed that if I just keep trying then everything would work out.

Now I understand that some things, like self respect, should never be sacrificed.

9.  What advice would you give to people starting an international dating relationship?

Recognize that they have the potential to be much more fulfilling that dating someone who is just like you. 

An international relationship will give you access to perspectives and ideas that you wouldn’t be able to acquire on your own.  They also have added hardships on varying degrees. Recognize they exist and insist on maintaining a healthy mutual respect for one another.

I believe that respect is just as important as love,  how can someone give you one without the other.

10.  Any message for my blog’s readers?

The articles (on this blog) are crisp and well written.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and look forward to being apart of it all.

Japan is an amazing country but as an outsider can be very lonely at times. 

Different people have different experiences and as long as you are confident in who you are, your experiences will come out more valuable than you went in.

I hope you have enjoyed this interview and please check out the link and help the book reach the funding goal.

Interview with an Italian Samurai

6 Dec

Have you ever heard of Holy Martyr? My great friend Masa told me about them.

They are a heavy metal band from Italy. But their album titled “Invincible” is quite unique because the songs on that album are about famous Japanese samurai stories and battles!

The guitarist of Holy Martyr, Ivano Spiga, did an interview with me.

The interview is on my website’s “Interviews Page“…Click here to read it.

Even if you’re not a fan of heavy metal, you should read the interview to learn why they decided to make a Japanese-themed album and also if it’s true that Italians use a spoon when they eat spaghetti, as many Japanese people believe.

Of course, I also recommend that you check out the music of Holy Martyr.

After you read the interview, come back to this page and leave a comment to let me know what you thought.

Let me introduce you to…

13 Nov

I have written a number of posts about interesting people. Most of whose stories are related to Japan in some way.
Maybe you haven’t seen many of them…so I decided to put links to all of them on a new page that I titled “Who’s Who?“.

Please check them out and leave comments to let me know what you think.

The new page is here.

I Love Rock And Roll

19 Jul

Do you know the song “I Love Rock And Roll“? If you do, in fact, love rock and roll then I’m sure you know this song well. “I Love Rock And Roll” has been covered by many artists since it’s original release 36 years ago (I can’t believe it’s already been that many years!)…but do you know who wrote and recorded it originally? It’s quite likely you guessed it was Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

But, although her version reached the #1 spot on the U.S. music charts, Joan Jett’s version of the song is a remake. She isn’t the original artist. It was Alan Merrill with his band (at the time) The Arrows who wrote and originally recorded the rock masterpiece “I Love Rock And Roll”.

Alan Merrill in 2011.

Alan Merrill is American and currently lives in his home state of New York…but he has lived in both England and Japan for a number of years…and reached celebrity status in both countries. Mr. Merrill was kind enough to do an excellent and interesting interview with me.

Click here to read his interview with me (and then come back and leave a comment on this post with your opinion of the interview).

My favorite country in the world is Japan.

Alan Merrill

(My interview with Alan Merrill:

A “Sonic Boom” will hit Japan

27 Feb

First of all, as I mentioned in this comment, the “2011 Tokyo International Marathon” was held today.

30,000 people from Japan and other countries ran the 42.195 KM (over 26 miles) course through the streets of Tokyo.
For the past five years now, the Tokyo Marathon has been an annual event held at the end of February.


Anyways, my friend has just informed me that the American rock band KISS will be coming to Japan this April to play seven shows around Japan to support their “Sonic Boom” album.

(I did an interview with the artist who designed this album cover, by the way.)

The dates of the shows that KISS are scheduled to play in Japan are:

2011 April 13 – Nagoya, Japan at the Aichi Prefecture Gymnasium
2011 April 14 – Yokohama, Japan at the Pacifico Yokohama
2011 April 17 – Saitama, Japan at the Saitama Super Arena
2011 April 18 – Kobe, Japan at the World Hall
2011 April 20 – Tokyo, Japan at the Nippon Budokan
2011 April 21 – Tokyo, Japan at the Nippon Budokan
2011 April 23 – Sapporo, Japan at the Makomanai Indoor Stadium

Tickets for the shows in the Tokyo area (which are Yokohama, Saitama and Tokyo) will go on sale on 2011 March 12th.

I have seen KISS play in Japan in both Yokohama and Tokyo before. In Yokohama, I saw them at the “Yokohama Arena” (not the “Pacifico”, where they’ll being playing this time). In Tokyo, I saw them at both the “Tokyo Dome” and the “Nippon Budokan”.

An interesting thing about this tour is that KISS will play a show in Sapporo, Japan. KISS has played many shows in Japan since their first time here in the 1970’s and they’ve never played northern Japan before. I’m sure that KISS fans in Hokkaido are happy to hear that there will finally be a KISS concert in their area!

The name of the 「日本武道館」 (Nippon Budokan) in Tokyo means “Japan Martial-arts Hall”.
Traditionalists don’t really like the idea of musicians playing pop music in this “sacred” hall. The first pop band to play there were The Beatles when they first came to Japan. The traditionalists protested their concerts. But The Beatles drew huge crowds to the Budokan…and they held the record for the most consecutive sell-out shows there. They played four sold-out shows in a row at the Budokan.
But KISS beat The Beatles‘s record when they played five sold-out shows at the Budokan on their first Japan tour in the late ’70s.

Since then it’s become quite normal for musicians to perform at the Nippon Budokan. Even with the bigger and newer “Tokyo Dome” not far from the Budokan, upcoming Japanese pop stars still consider it a sign of success to play at the Nippon Budokan…not unlike American musicians playing at the “Madison Square Garden”.

The famous "Nippon Budokan"; Tokyo, Japan

Have you ever seen a KISS concert? If not, you’re missing out on the best live show by any band. Their shows are quite exciting…fire-breathing, blood, flying guitars, flying musicians, outrageous costumes, kabuki-style face paint.

To get an idea, watch this music promotion video for the single “Modern Day Delilah” from their most recent album “Sonic Boom”:

And, in a more good news for us KISS fans…the band has announced that a new KISS studio album of brand-new songs is due out later this year (2011)!

A number of newspapers in Japan had articles about the upcoming KISS tour here.
I bought today’s copy of 「夕刊フジ」 (“Yuukan-Fuji“) evening paper:

Here’s a close-up of the article about KISS:


The headline says: "Hell's group" KISS return for a Japan tour after four-and-a-half years!

Lydia Criss interview

23 May

Peter Criss was the original drummer of the hottest band in the world…KISS.
His ex-wife, Lydia Criss, has written an excellent memoir about life with KISS before and during their heyday in the mid-70s.

Lydia Criss was kind enough to do an interesting interview with me.

Ace talked all of us into going shopping at this store in Tokyo that sold only Nazi regalia…

(–Lydia Criss)

Click here to read Lydia Criss’ interview with me.