Archive for the ‘Hanging Out in Japan’ Category

Topshop Topman In-Store party!   Leave a comment

I had the pleasure of filming not one but two Jamaican DJs spinning good music during the Top Shop/Topman London fashion week event they held a few months ago! This was shot at the massive Topshop building in Shinjuku, Tokyo by yours truly.

Aoyama Rooftop Party   Leave a comment

On a lazy sunday afternoon, I checked out a rooftop party in the trendy upscale district of Aoyama. Didn’t stay very long, but here are some pics…

Goodbye Tokyo summer.

Some nice views of the city from up here.

My first J-pop music video!   1 comment

I’m holding a tiny Japanese woman up in the air. Around me, about two dozen people are screaming “Yahho! Yahoo!”

I’m an extra in a J-pop music video for the uber-cute group, Team Junjo. I heard about the casting through Craigslist, which explicity requested foreigners for the shoot. Shot on a RED camera, the shoot was done at GLAD in Shibuya, by a production group called the Alchemy Brothers. The shoot was about six hours long, loads of fun and an experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.

During the video we had to learn a dance for the song, and like most people, afterwards I couldn’t get it out of my head. I met some very interesting people that night, a mixture of students, entertainers and media people.

Me and some of the cast

Glad, Shibuya

Afterwards, we hung out side, chatted about random things and headed to an Izakaya that sold 50 yen beers, unfortunately, we bought the 180 yen beers , but who cares. Yahho! I’ve changed my view on J-pop. It’s actually a lot of fun, and I think I’ll try and make in to Team Junjo’s first concert this September. Afterwards we did Pirikura (Japanese sticky pictures)You can check out their official blog below (Japanese)

50 Yen Beer Izakaya in Shinjuku

Doing Pirikura after a few beers

Team Junjo’s offical blog: http://ameblo.jp/teamjj/ (Japanese)

Akiko Moriyako Photoshoot   1 comment

Akiko Moriyako is a Japanese musician who plays reggae and Jazz-inspired music. I met her last year when I was on the Maxi Priest Billboard Live tour, and maintain a good relationship with her. She came to Tokyo to do a photo shoot for her album release later this year, and invited me to take a few snap shots of my own. These are a few of the photos.

Jamaican in Japan: Me Playing Some Pool   Leave a comment

In Hamamatsu, I hang out at a weekly English meetup called “Eigo Mura” (英語村) (English Village). It’s right below a sports bar and this is some footage of me and my friend Yuki hanging out and playing some pool.

Bowlin for Pins   2 comments

I had the opportunity to check out Round 1 bowling arena with a few friends. These Bowling Pin costumes were hilarious!

Japanese Golf Range   Leave a comment

Me and the Hamamatsu Hangmates hitting a few balls for the holiday. I’ve only been to one other golf range which was in Kingston Jamaica, and I must admit, I had loads more fun there. The clubs we were given to practice driving weren’t even drivers, they were putters, and unusually small (Can anyone say “Japanese size” :p). That evening I went home with a back ache from stooping too low, but it was still fun. The Hamamatsu Hangmates group are a cool set of cats. Good times.

Four Yukata Girls and One Jamaican   Leave a comment

Japan, I’m starting to discover, is a place that love fireworks and barbecues. It is summertime, and the days usually end with the sky a milky pink-white, with an armada of clouds slowly scrolling across the sky. After a great trip to Tokyo and Osaka on tour with my cousin Beniton the Menance and Maxi Priest I’m more open to heading to different places. I’m meeting up with Emily and some friends to go to the Kajima fireworks.

 Emily wants to meet at seven thirty to catch the fireworks, which start at eight-thirty. Since it will be a thirty minute drive to get there, it sounded like a good plan. However, Emi ended up calling me at ten minutes past eight to go, and it seemed like I’d miss the meat of the show. Still I went. Emi waved at me from across the street at Zaza city where we met up, adorned in an attractive Yukata. A Yukata is a traditional Japanese dress worn for these kinds of occassionas (not to be confused with Happis worn during Golden week).

The drive there is quiet, sprinkled with light conversation from Emi and her friends in the car. The fireworks are in Hamakita, just outside Hamamatsu city. As we near Hamakita, I can already see the flash of fireworks in the sky. A loud boom echoes through the air. I can just imagine the screaming crowds jostling to see what was happening. Emi was excited, more excited that I normally see her. “There is where my elementary school was.” She said, pointing towards a small building we drove past.

I tried to imagine Emi as a child, with the small smooth face, bone straight hair and endless energy. For her fireworks were a normal part of her life. She had invited me to no less than four viewings in a month and a half.

 We met up with some other friends of hers, all dressed in Yukatas and found some parking. We had a good walk to the river. Every fifty feet or so, I would see a firework explode in the sky, the boom sounding like quick thunder. Behind me, Emi, her friends and the other Yukatagirls walked and talked, smiling each time another firework exploded.

 Hamamatsu isn’t a very metropolitan area, and more than once I saw a few people looking at me for long stretches, wondering who I was. We were walking on the main road, which eventually diverted onto a small dirt path leading to an intersection below an overpass. We walked pass some tall grass and then came back to a normal sidewalk. There I saw several thousand people, many of them in Yukatas walking around. There were dozens of stalls sell food, fireworks and liquor. It was a frantic mess of lights, voices and bodies.

I made sure to keep and eye on the girls near me, because the Yukata girls around looked startlingly similar, with their hair in buns, walking with a similar, practiced gait. A few more people glance at me now (I think at this point its impossible for them not to, I am the only black person I have seen thus far in a crowd of thousands of Japanese people) and we walk up a hill. It is densely packed, but as we near the top, I can see the outline of the river below, and hundreds more people sitting around there. A structure on a small field is setup, and a voice says something over loudspeakers.

“They are going to show the final fireworks.” Emi tells me, darting to a spot with a good view. I stand where I am and take in the last of the fireworks, which are magnificent, brilliant and beautiful.

One the last of the glowing particles faded into nothing, the crowd stared moving. The group of us–four Yukata girls, one husband and wife and another friend of Emi’s who wasn’t wearing a Yukata, decided to eat some Chinese food afterwards. I groaned inside a little… I don’tnormally like the mixed outings because most people order beef and pork dishes, but we all chip in for the final bill. But I didn’t drive there, and it didn’t really matter. It was only nine o ‘ clock or so.

I met the other Yukata girls, Yuka and Emily who were also regular Salsa dancers. They were both very thin with mischievous eyes. I like something about Emily, who had a thin, long face and a bright smile. We snapped a picture by the car before heading to the restaurant and headed off.

I had never eaten Chinese food in Japan, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it really tasted that Chinese. I figured out a way to get enough chicken and shrimp dishes to survive, while chatting and laughing with the group. It was a good outing, and I was glad to take in the
fireworks as a start to my Friday night. Hopefully next time I’ll reach earlier to another such outing, and be able to see more of the stalls and mingle with the crowd.                                  

Japanese Rock Education; the Nagoya roadtrip   Leave a comment

I’m on my way to Nagoya.

I’m in the Hamamatsu station, looking out for Kori, the guy I’m traveling with. My phone rings, and I hear a voice ask for me. “I am here, where are you?” he asks. I raise my hand. “Ah, I see you!” he shouts into the phone. I hang up and a short man with a very angular face runs up to me. His smile is so big it recedes into his face, making his eyes tiny and white. It frightens me for half a second.
“Are we ready to go?” he says.
“Yes.” I reply.
We go into his car, a small red vehicle , and drive off.
My Nagoya trip is the culmination of a few random events, and a few not so random events. One year ago, I went to the Cannes film festival. During the crazy two weeks that is Cannes, I was shooting a short film and somewhere during that, I ran into Daiki, a slim Japanese fellow with a calm demeanour. He was holding a small, expensive camera and helped us out with the shoot. At the time, I could barely communicate with him. My Japanese was below basic. Even so we still made a connection. “If I come to Japan, ” I said back then, “I’ll link you.”
Now, I’m making that link.  Kori is Daiki’s friend who happens to live in Hamamatsu, where I live. Daiki is having a film event in Nagoya, and I’m tagging along for the ride.
Our first stop is small café where Kori buys some, onigiri. “This is Japanese fast-food.” He says. The café is at the foot of a small hill on the outskirts of Hamamatsu. Inside feels very comfortable and artistic, with the smell of incense and wood. I sit at the counter, and I pause.
I see a young woman busily making some food. She is tall, with lovely eyes and a face that reminds me of an actress I saw somewhere. Her skin is bronzed dark. As she moves, oblivious to me watching her, I feel like time stops. She is intensely focused on the food and moves around the kitchen expertly. Another woman, and they move in unison, occasionally chatting to each other about the food they are making. Then, she walks past, her green skirt swishing and swaying. I paused for a second and started breathing again. Her name was Umi, and she was beautiful.
I don’t often feel this way about women I meet initially, but this is the first time in a while I remember just staring at someone. Her outfit wasn’t risqué and she didn’t seem to have a shy bone in her. I was intrigued.
I chatted with Umi and the other lady in my most chill Japanese (meaning I spoke at a regular tone with no pauses) and found that they were mother and daughter. They owned the establishment, which made a select set of clothes along with food. “I’m a  designer as well.” I told them. The mother seemed very impressed. “Her name means beach,” her mother told me, in reference to Umi. “I know.” I replied as I left.
We hit the road, leaving Umi in our wake.

*  *  *  *
One of the most interesting things about traveling are the experiences you have meeting people. For, me conversation is always the treasure. When I was in Germany, I chatted with a politician about his music (he was a part-time house DJ). Today I’m talking to Kori about religion.
“What is your religion? If you don’t mind?” he asks. I tell him that things are mixed in the way I grew up, that Jamaican is a relatively conservative (yet not ) conservative society and my perspectives shifted as time passed. Like anyone, I said, I’m still searching. Kori was similar. He had spent ten years traveling through different countries. He loved rock and Jazz. “ACDC is the best ever!” he said to me with his super smile. He had the sinewy, wired body of a person who is very active. This was confirmed when he told me he was a surfer. “I went to Australia for school, but then I realized that surfing is my life.” He said. His English is very good, and I asked him where he studied. “Listening to music is one of the best ways to learn language,” he said. “Axle Rose was my first English teacher.”
His car was a mirror of his lifestyle. A guitar was wedged in between a tattered biker jacket and a skateboard in the back seat. Beside the skateboard was a mid-sized plastic box was filled with CDs and minidiscs. Rock paraphernalia, little cups and empty boxes of cigarettes were everywhere. We drove along the highway listening to Kyioushiro, (the Japanese John Lennon). Every twenty-five minutes we made stops. “I have to get coffee.” He would say with a laugh.
We listened to ACDC’s back in Black, a Lenny Kravitz CD and Velvet Underground.  I was getting a rock education from a Japanese surfer. When we reached Nagoya, we hung out on the roof of a SEIYU supermarket while we waited for Daiki to arrive at the Café where the film event was being held. Sayuu is  a chain of large supermarkets in Japan. On the roof, I could see Nagoya’s landscape; a sea of angled roottops and cream colored buildings. Far away, I could see hills. The sky was a quiet blue and cotton ball clouds lazily coasted across the sky. I slept for a few minutes. I grabbed Kori’s skateboard and did a few lazy ollies, alternating between that an Mafia live on my Iphone.
Kori’s phone rings.
“It’s Daiki, ” he says. “He’s here.”
We hop back into the car and it comes to life with a growl. Ten seconds later, we are at the Café. I see Daiki, and remember him immediately. When I saw him the first time, he had a goate and a moustache, and was wearing what I’ve dubbed the Japanese “superV” t-shirts. Its like a V-neck, if a V-neck exposed your entire chest. Now he was clean shaven, but was instantly familiar. The last time I saw him was in France, now I was in his hometown in Japan. Life is funny.
We drink chai tea and catch up. The film event is a mixture of traditional Japanese story telling and Daiki’s Miru movement. The idea is simple. You shoot some video,  and do one take. It has to be a minute long and silent. That’s Miru, or roughly translated, “Seeing”.
The presentation is in a studio beside the café, and I walk inside a quiet place with wooden floors. I’m instantly reminded of any dance movie I’ve ever watched, or old episodes of Fame. I take off my shoes and slip into some tiny indoor slippers. After a minute or two, I sneak to the bathroom to wash my feet. Even though I washed my socks a few days before, they were  a tad smelly. I didn’t want to be the smelly foreigner. In the bathroom, it took me four minutes to figure out how to flush the toilet. There was a touch screen panel with instruction in Japanese, no less than ten buttons and and white exterior housing that resembled a large thermostat.
The toilets just get more complex and feature-ridden. I sneak back inside, (my feet smell like hand wash now) and I watch the first show. I’m not entirely sure what the story is about, but I think it had something to do with dragons that like oranges. A little girl cried throughout the entire performance. Daiki showed some Miru films, and we sat in silence for a few minutes, watching grainy videos on a large screen.
A play started, following the narration of a storybook illustrated by Eric Carl, the Canadian artist. It was an interesting experience. Afterwards, we ate curried chicken and chatted about nothing in particular.

The night was winding down and Kori said he probably wasn’t heading into the city. I have a rule about new cities; I cannot go into one without experiencing  the night life. I did a quick change in the bathroom, slipping into the nice pants and a slim tee.
“You need to go to Sakae,” Kori told me. “That’s where people party.”
Like Tokyo the week before, I was ready to go. I wouldn’t be able to take a train back to that area in Nagoya until seven in the morning, so I had no choice but to have fun. Kori and Daiki dropped me to the station. He gave me some quick instructions on how to get to Sakae and I ran into the train. I was immediately lost, but a nice girl helped me figure out where I was, and where to go. In a few minutes I would be in Sakae, and it would be a great night.

Pirikura – Sticky Picture Taking   Leave a comment

Anyone who knows anything about Japan must wonder why Japanese people always take little pictures of each other in photo booths, print them and then keep them. I don’t know the reason yet, but heading out with this group, someone suggested we do it. Tonight, I’ve taken my first Pirikura with the group. Memories forever…