Thursday, November 26, 2015

Live picks: Week of Friday, November 27, 2015

Featured: Petersfield 7 inch release party at Shimokitazawa THREE

You're bound to find at least one new favorite band in the very varied line-up on Saturday in Shimokitazawa! The event is headlined by the shoegaze / Velvets pop of Petersfield, celebrating their new vinyl single. Also on offer is glam rock from Young Parisians, punk from Bubbles, wild garage from Minnesota Voodoo Men, indie pop from Flashlights and more! All this plus DJs including garage rock legend Daddy-O and Yoshiko from's!

More events

See flyer, Facebook page or venue for details.

Mystery Meat Vol. 32: To Be the Meat...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Live picks: Week of Friday, November 20, 2015

Featured: Fungus Buggs, Sunday 11/22 at Hatagaya Heavy Sick

No, we don't know what Fungus Buggs means either, but if you want to get into the Tokyo garage and rock scene, this Sunday at Heavy Sick in Hatagaya sees one of the best lineups one could possibly imagine! There's guitar pyrotechnics from Eddie Legend A Go-Go, featuring the self-same Eddie of bands like Mad 3; the venerable Supersnazz, with their energetic pop; full-on rocking from The Titans; blog favorites Stompin' Riffraffs; and finally Tinalovers, made up from members of Mellvins and The Fadeaways! All this plus garage rock DJs supreme Daddy O-nov and Kyoko (and yours truly for good measure). Don't miss it!

Featured: One Track Mind, Tuesday 11/24 at Hatagaya Heavy Sick

Got To Have Pop is a monthly "DJ party" with a rotating roster of guest DJs, with regular appearance by yours truly, who also sings a few tunes live on occasion. This month we are joined by mod and powerpop experts Takeo and Mamiko! Tuesdays at Heavy Sick are usually intimate affairs, but if you have the chance, do come along and say hello to me and Barman Mr. Death (famous from Bamboo House!)

More shows

See flyers, Facebook or venue sites for details.


Blast Jams – DJs and bands including Stompin' Riffraffs at Heavy Sick.


The's presents NOW! with The Cyclops from USA, featuring Tina from The Trashwomen, with's, Thunderroads and more at Shimokitazawa Shelter. Afterparty at Poor Cow guaranteed!

Americo, Rock-a-Cherry, Jeansmates and friends at Musashisakai Statto.

Punk Rock Gig #4 with The Bubbles, Three Minute Movie, DJ Yoichi, more, at Heavy Sick.


The Let's Go's, Autocratics and more at Nishi-Ogikubo Pit Bar.


Acid Baby Jesus Japan tour with Car Crash, d/i/s/c/os and Raydios at Heavy Sick, Hatagaya.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Live picks: Week of Friday, November 13, 2015

The Tokyo garage rock scene seems to be over the mikkayoi and back in business – there are so many shows this week it's going to be tough to choose!


On Friday, you can start out with Monster Billy Attacks in Shibuya at The Guignette By Moja to see our favorite man and three chicks The Stompin' Riffraffs, surf legends Jackie and the Cedrics, burlesque dancer Rita Goldie, The Burlesque Devils, and much more, all for the low, low price of FREE!
Facbook event page

Then, head over to the venerable UFO Club in Higashi-Koenji for an all-night Back From The Grave garage rock show-down: Texaco Leatherman vs. The Minnesota Voodoo Men!
Facebook event page

Finally, pop-punkers The Let's Go's are as busy as ever with two gigs this weekend! This band just seems to get better and better, so I highly recommend checking them out. They start out at Shimokitazawa Basement Bar (free for the under-18 set!) and play Sunday around the city with equally poppy The Havenots. See flyers or their Facebook page for details!


Over at Hatagaya Heavy Sick, you can see the melodic rockers That's A No No along with indiepoppers Flashlights and Petersfield, mod action from Nervous Hearts, all organized by The Standards.

And if you didn't have enough of Back From The Grave, there is another one on Saturday, believe it or not! Gasoline celebrate their new album release with guests!


But wait! There's more! Hatagaya Heavy Sick plays host to favorites Theee Bat, Machinicalis, those Mellvins girls, and more!
Facebook event page

And finally, if you're still out for more punk and more, The Fadeaways, The Bubbles and many more bands play at Shinjuku Jam! There doesn't seem to be a Facebook page but check out the flyer below.

More flyers

Whew! That should keep you busy. Here are the flyers we couldn't fit in above...


Sunday, November 8, 2015

How to eat: Hana-Maru – udon noodles and tempura galore!

Today we go to Hanamaru, a chain famous for its udon dishes. Udon is a type of thick wheat noodle, usually served in a broth seasoned with fish-sauce and various toppings. It also goes well with tempura, various deep-fried pieces of vegetable, fish and meat. Udon is healthy and delicious, and the various combinations make for a lot of variety of the basic dish. But you should be prepared before you enter, or ordering may be a little difficult!

Hanamaru literally means "round flower", and its characteristic symbol can be seen all over Tokyo and the rest of Japan. There are about 350 restaurants in Japan, and they are also starting to expand internationally.

The system at Hanamaru is a little different from the previous chains we have covered, as you don't have either vending machines or table orders. Instead, you go straight ahead to the ordering counter and pick up a tray. You tell the person at the counter what udon dish you want, and they make it fresh literally before your eyes! You can order by pointing at the menu at the counter, but since chances are it will be busy, you had better be prepared before you get there...

There will be several menus posted on the walls on the way to the counter, so stop and look at one of them First, note that the udon bowls at Hanamaru come in three different sizes: small, medium and large. We find that small is more than enough, especially if you combine it with tempura or karaage (fried chicken). At the top of the menu above, you see the different sets, where you get a curry or a side dish along with your udon bowl. Below that are various forms of beef udon, and then comes the regular udon dishes, topped with egg, vegetables, etc. Decide if you are going for a set or a single bowl – the pictures should be fairly self explanatory.

Apart from the type of topping and size of the bowl, you also have another decision to make: hot or cold! In the summer, it can be refreshing to get you noodles in cool ("tsumetai") soup, but hot ("atatakai") is the most common. You will be asked which you want, and if your Japanese is not up to scratch, saying "hotto" should be enough to get you hot soup, and "cold" (actually pronounced "korudo", but not a common loan word in Japanese) just might work too.

The person at the counter will take your order and prepare the udon bowl and any extras, and you simply put it on the tray. (Don't try to pay yet!)

Then, you move your tray along the tempura station, where you can pick up various fried seafood, vegetables and meat. You put these on a separate platter on the tray. 

After this, you reach the payment station, and pay for the food before taking a seat.

There are also a few other useful things to note: There is a water dispenser where you pick up glasses and fill them up yourself. Beside it, there is a station for picking up various condiments to put in the soup, as well as spoons and other eating implements. Finally, there will also be a hot water dispenser to top up the soup if you want to. 

After loading your tray, you sit down at any free seat. Note that there will be chopsticks and soy sauce at your place, but spoons and other condiments will have to be picked up at the station.

Here, we ordered a kara-age set with tamago udon for 580 yen. Tamago is egg, so we get a soft-boiled egg on the basic udon noodles. Kara-age is fried chicken, which is served with another egg on top of boiled rice. It is especially delicious with mayonnaise, which comes in a little plastic container on the side. Finally, we picked up some tempura, in this case a cluster of deep-fried vegetables for 140 yen. You can eat the tempura as is, or drop it into the soup on top of the noodles, whichever you prefer. 

Here, we tried on of the beef udon dishes at 550 yen for the medium size. To be honest, beef on udon feels a little wrong, so in the future we will instead just get a basic bowl and top up with tempura! But if you absolutely must have meat, the beef udon is a good choice.

When you are done, you just return the tray to the kitchen station, which will be somewhere near where you picked up the food. 

Overall, Hanamaru is great value and you can build a lot of different types of meals with the various toppings and tempura in addition to the basic udon. 

Quick facts

Link: Official Hanamaru web site (Japanese only)

Where to find it: Although not as plentiful as some other chains, you can find Hanamaru at most major parts of Tokyo – there are about 350 locations in Japan

Price: Small udon bowls start at 300 yen and go to 650 for the large beef bowls. Sets are 530-580 yen. Tempura are about 100-150 yen each.

Hours: Varies with location.

Order system: Take a tray and order at the counter; pick up extras and pay at the end of the counter. Sit anywhere you like and don't forget to return your tray afterwards!

Take-out? It doesn't appear so.

Vegetarian options? The basic udon bowls are all based on fish sauce, so not strictly vegetarian. You may be able to stop the chef from putting in the sauce ("Soosu irenaide kudasai!") and get the noodles flat, but it's a gamble. A better strategy may be to order rice on the side and pack up with vegetable tempura, of which there is plenty.

What to get: The kara-age (udon and fried chicken) set is our favorite, and a small size udon portion is enough to feed all but the most hungry. But we think you should just look for the most appetizing udon on the menu, and pile on the tempura by taste – you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Art: Tokyo Art Meeting VI – Sensing the Cultural Magma of the Metropolis

This Friday saw the opening of the new exhibition Tokyo Art Meeting VI – Sensing the Cultural Magma of the Metropolis at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. We were there and highly recommend it!

The exhibition is huge, and comprises of over a dozen artist, both Japanese and international, who reflect the city of Tokyo in many different ways. But for us, the best part by far was the three rooms dedicated to Yellow Magic Orchestra, the original Japanese synth pop band. The exhibition traces the cultural influence and visual style of YOM with hundreds of artifacts, including stage dresses, photographs, commercials, record covers and posters, and much more. Two rooms are used for the regular exhibition, and a third lets you see and hear an YMO concert projected on a huge video screen. Overall, it has a similar effect as the famous David Bowie is exhibition that has been touring the world, although on a smaller scale of course; showing how the musicians work go beyond just the music into many other aesthetic fields.

There were many other things to look at too – see some pictures below! Also of musical interest, a new Yoko Ono exhibition opened this weekend as well. We'll check it out and perhaps cover it in an upcoming post.

The entrance is made up to look like a wall covered with gig posters

YMO members are present as dolls, photographs and video

YMO's highly stilized stage costumes were also present
Several famous Japanese artists could also be seen at the exhibition, such Takeshi Murakami and (above) our persona favorite Yoshitomo Nara
Other parts of the exhibition were dedicated to other modern art, often with an influence from Tokyo's fashion and manga culture

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Live picks: Week of Friday, 30, 2015


The Japanese not only have a regular word for hangover – futsukayoi, literally "second day illness". They also have a sometimes very useful word for the hangover that lingers even the day after most regular hangovers are over: mikkayoi, the "third day illness"! It seems that Tokyo's band scene has a touch of the mikkayoi this weekend, after the one-two punch of Halloween Ball and the Halloween Hangover parties (plus dozens more events we didn't even have the time to catch up with). We're certainly feeling a little soft around the edges ourselves. So this weekend, why not chill, maybe go to an art opening or two, pop down to Poor Cow, and generally take it easy. That's not to say it's a quiet weekend – the Tokyo Gig Guide has many things on offer as usual, and you could spend the entire weekend just at Heavy Sick for some good garage rock and punk, including our favorites The Fadeaways on Sunday – but we are taking the weekend off. Next week looks to be as crazy as usual so be sure to come back soon! Mata ne!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Band: The Stompin' Riffraffs – A Man and Three Chicks serve up some Blast Beat Rockin'

Japan has many good bands that are happy to simply slavishly copy their international rock heroes, but the best one are those that start in one end of the musical spectrum and – through luck or genius or both – end up somewhere else and completely unexpected. Take the amazing Stompin' Riffraffs from Tokyo and Fussa. Their musical base may be classic 50's rock-n-roll and rockabilly, and on record you could sometimes mistake them for a twangy revival band. But put them in front of an audience, and the magic happens.

The energy and fun of a Stompin' Riffraffs show is so great it leaves everybody exhausted and smiling from ear to ear! On stage, they turn up the rock-n-roll to 11 and full-scale chaos ensues. Imagine if The Ramones had started out in Tokyo in 1960 instead of New York in the 70s, and instead of four skinny slackers with attitude problems, they were born as three cool chicks in gold lamé dresses and mysterious face mask, joined by a rockabilly guy in a sharp dinner suit. The Stompin' Riffraffs may not be punks but they share the same kind of energy as they race through old rock standards and their own compositions as if they were chased by the Roadrunner. Throw in a little outer space sounds courtesy of their signature Theremin and a lot of screaming, and that's as good a reference as any when it comes to this unique band!

The Stompin' Riffraffs were started by siblings Nao (vocals, guitar) and Miku (piano, theremin, scream) and Saori (drums, scream) in 2006, and soon joined by Rie (bass, scream) (yes, they do scream a lot!). In addition to the standard rock setting, The Riffraffs make good use of the Theremin, the space-age instrument that sounds like something in between a woman singing and a cat squealing – in outer space! Their performances are full of energy, with Nao skidding around his knees like possessed, Miku bashing the keys with her hands, arms and feet (and sometimes whole body), Rie dancing and jumping straight out into the audience, and Saori banging away in the back, always with a big smile on her face.

The name was inspired by the US title of a French new wave movie, The Riff Raff Girls. They first started appearing at local shows in Tokyo, in particular the Back From The Grave garage rock events, and soon started playing all over Japan. They have gone to the US several times, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as appearing at the Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekend. The have also done shows in the UK and recently made their first festival appearance in France. After their first official album Horror Show in 2011 and a clutch of vinyl singles on various labels, in 2014 they signed with Wild Records in Los Angeles, which specializes in rockabilly, rock-n-roll, garage and other roots music. Their first Wild release A Man and Three Chicks is out now, with more to follow!


There really is nothing like seeing the band live, but videos can at least capture some of the madness of a Riffraffs show! First up is a collection of live clips, including their appearance as The Joker and three Catwomen at the Halloween Ball, filmed by Mario aka Tokyo Gorehound.

You can also catch them in the official music video for Phantom Rock off their latest album!

And finally, here they are appearing at the Bethuene Retro festival in France this year! 

Where to hear them

If you have the chance to make it to Japan, make sure to catch them live – they play regularly all over Tokyo and often in other cities. Keep up with their busy schedule on their blog!

If you absolutely can't get to Tokyo right now, the next best thing is to find them on YouTube, or this live recording from WFMU Radio, New Jersey.

You can also hear them on several vinyl and CD records, although most of their earlier releases are hard to come by except at their live shows. The Stompin' Riffraffs' first US album, A Man and Three Chicks, is available on Amazon or directly from Wild Records.