Category Archives: Entertainment

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Capturing the surreal –

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As I mentioned in my introduction for English Avenue, one of my hobbies is photography.
As I got more into photography different aspects began to appeal to me more than others.
One particular aspect that I’ve become obsessed with is geometry in photography – either in the form of lines or symmetrical patterns.

Life’s Treadmill.

However, geometric photos alone can be a little boring – they need a human element to bring the photos to life and to give the photos a sense of scale.
Often just a lone figure is great but, occasionally, more than one depending on the scene.
Also, the combination of geometry and the human element give the photo a kind of surreal look – hence the title of this blog – Capturing the surreal.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Around this time, one of my English students introduced me to the work of Giorgio De Chirico – an Italian artist whose art influenced the ‘Surrealists’ – a cultural movement that began in the 1920s.
I found his artwork to be both inspirational and beautiful and I wanted to try and create real life photos that were similar to some of his artwork.

The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street by Giorgio de Chirico.

I began searching Tokyo and the surrounding area for forms of geometry I could incorporate into my photography.
I’d often spend 30 mins to an hour before sleeping doing google searches or searching Pinterest for locations I could use.
I found some amazing locations – not only in Japan but around the world and started making lists of places to visit.
As I got more into geometric photography I also started to notice patterns and lines in my everyday environment that I hadn’t noticed before.

Stepping out of the shadows.

The one downside to this type of photography was the time I would sometimes have to wait for the right person to step into the frame.
Sometimes I’d go to a location and no one would be there to step into the frame, which was pretty frustrating.
Another aspect that I was keen to combine was shadows.
This provided another problem as it meant I was dependent on the right weather as well as the right time of day for the location to be in the light and not the shade.
However I did learn that a few locations would work just as well in the rain or just after the rain.
A further problem was being able to get the right vantage point (height) so that I could show the sense of scale – a problem I’m still dealing with regarding some locations.

Rain check

‘Capturing the surreal’ is an ongoing project for me and I’m really looking forward to being able to add some locations I’ve found further a field in Japan and abroad.

And, as a final note, if you have any geometric location recommendations please let me know.
I can be found on these links:

https://www.instagram.com/laurence__bouchard/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/drzzz/
https://www.facebook.com/laurencebouchard2015

*Below are a few more images:

Some lines have to be crossed.

Out on the tiles.

From a jack to a king.

Detour.

Life through bars.

Untitled.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Christmas in Japan –

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Japan, of course, is not a Christian country.
But Japan doesn’t let that fact stop it from celebrating Christmas.
Like Halloween, Christmas is a holiday that has been imported to Japan, even if the history of the holiday isn’t all that well known among the revelers.
Even in America, Halloween’s roots are pretty much forgotten these days, but Christmas is a completely different story.
It is, by far, the most important holiday of the year.

Families travel great distances to get together.
A lot of money is spent on buying and exchanging gifts. (Other than birthdays, America doesn’t have the same tradition of gift-giving that Japan does.)
Even more money is spent on buying Christmas decorations and Christmas trees.
Most families go all out to make Christmas a special holiday.

That’s why it’s so interesting to see the way Christmas is celebrated in Japan.
Some of the trappings are evident (Christmas lights, Christmas trees, etc.), but missing is the strong familial (and even religious) connotations.
Naturally, not every family who celebrates Christmas in the U.S. is deeply religious, but I think there’s a level of seriousness and importance missing.
Still, it’s a fascinating thing to see.
I guess I shouldn’t even bring up the KFC connection, which still baffles me.

In many ways, Christmas and New Year’s are the exact opposite of each in the two countries.
In America, New Year’s is strictly a party.
There is no other significance attached to it whatsoever.
Christmas (and to a lesser extent Thanksgiving) take care of all that for us.
But, in Japan, New Year’s is as serious as holidays get.
It truly is the Japanese Christmas in that way.
All that’s missing are the trees and decorations!

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Jam Sessions in Tokyo –

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One of the reasons I decided to settle in Japan rather than Vancouver (my hometown), was because of the music scene in Tokyo.
I didn’t know any Japanese musicians personally.
But surely, I thought, in a city with more than 12 million people (which is around 1/3 the entire population of Canada), there must be a lot of opportunities for musicians.

Eager to connect with local players but having no idea where to start, I turned to good ol’ Internet.
I looked up websites for jam sessions and made a list of places to visit.
The first thing that I realized was that, compared to what I was used to, many of the jam sessions were on the pricey side.
Of course the meaning of “expensive” just depends on what the local norm is, but I was used to going to jam sessions for free.
But some of the more well-known jams in Tokyo charge anywhere between 1000-3000 yen for entry.

I haven’t been to jam sessions in cities other than Vancouver and Tokyo/Yokohama, so I can’t really compare either of these places to what’s typical around the world. There probably isn’t one standard business model anyway.
But comparing Vancouver and Tokyo jams, the one clear difference is the target audience.

In Vancouver, it was good for the venues to get musicians who were willing to play for free (even students) because that meant these places could draw in customers who just enjoyed having a meal with live background music.
I remember a jam session that even served a free plate of fries or pint of beer to all the players.
For the players, it was a good chance to meet others and to play in a stress-free environment.

In Tokyo/Yokohama, jam sessions are typically where amateur musicians go to practice music with others and improve.
Depending on the jam, you might see a lot of beginners or players with a lot of experiences.
I think one of the reasons why people go to these jams is because for many, practicing at home isn’t really an option (although the biggest upside, of course, is to mingle with other regulars).
Naturally, the players are the main customers of these jams, and there’s often a cover charge in addition to minimum order.
I feel that regular restaurants (as opposed to dedicated jam spaces) could benefit from hosting jams, but I haven’t found one yet.

Anyway, it’s been really great meeting people at these jams over the years.
They came from all sorts of different backgrounds and some of them became close friends.
I hope to continue finding more good jams in the future…!
In the meantime, if you know a good place, please feel free to leave a comment…

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- March brings a record number of tourists to Japan –

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Well, it’s official.
Japan saw over two million tourists visit the country in March.
Suffice it to say, that’s a lot for a single month.
Not surprisingly, the majority came from China and other neighboring countries in Asia.
For those of us who live in Japan and see Chinese tourists almost every day, that’s pretty much a given.

The country seems to be gearing up to meet its goal of 40 million tourists by 2020, which to many seems like an ill-advised idea.
Even now, with about half that number of tourists visiting the country every year, there is a severe lack of hotel accommodations.
In four years, is it really possible to provide lodging to twice as many visitors as we are having now?

Seems a little far-fetched to me.
But, with fewer economic opportunities to turn to, Japan seems to rely more and more on tourists to boost the economy.
This seems like it ought to be more controversial in Japan, but perhaps the people are so hungry for anything to work that they’d settle for an assist from the Chinese.

Cherry blossoms, of course, were a major draw for the tourists.
Being near Meguro River, you could see the tourists out in force.
I can’t imagine what viewing the cherry blossoms will be like in 2020.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! John Cody CarpenterのCDがビルボードNo.1に!

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代官山の英語学校、English Avenue(イングリッシュ・アベニュー)には、
John Cody Carpenter(コーディー)という先生がいるのですが・・・

最近お父様のJon Carpenter氏と一緒にリリースしたCD “Lost Themes”
ビルボード・ダンス電子音楽部門で第1位に輝きました!
本当にすごいです!

Cody’s latest work! Enjoy!!

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! 高倉 健 Ken Takakura

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On November 10, 2014, the great actor Ken Takakura passed away of lymphoma in Tokyo. He was 83.

Takakura began his career at Toei Studios in 1956 and rose to prominence at the studio before the end of the decade.

KTakakura2

(Source: onnanomesen.blog.so-net.ne.jp)

In the 1970s, Takakura left Toei and soon found himself as a leading man in many prestige pictures at Toho Studios. One of his most notable roles was in the crime drama Station (1981), which swept the Japan Academy Prize ceremony the year it was released. Station was just one of many collaborations Takakura had with director Yasuo Furuhata, including the award-winning Poppoya (1999) and the film which proved to be Takakura’s swan song, To You (2012).

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(Source: wildhoney2014.blog.so-net.ne.jp)

Like Toshiro Mifune before him, Takakura found his way into American films over the years. His first foray into American cinema was Sydney Pollack”s The Yakuza (1974), with Robert Mitchum. However, Takakura’s best known film in the U.S. is the 1989 crime thriller Black Rain, directed by Ridley Scott, in which Takakura co-stars with Michael Douglas. (This film should not be confused with Shohei Imamura’s Black Rain, which was also released in 1989.) A few years later, Takakura appeared in the Tom Selleck comedy Mr. Baseball (1992).

 

The Yakuza

(Source: flickfacts.com)

Black Rain

(Source: hiroshima-puneuma.blog.ocn.ne.jp)

ミスター・ベースボール

(Source: orionsforever.at.webry.info)

News of Takakura’s death resulted in nonstop media coverage in Japan. The actor’s face was splashed across newspapers, magazines, and news programs across the nation. Many fans have mourned his loss on social media. American fans of Japanese films have also paid their respects, citing such films as action flick The Bullet Train (1975) as one of their personal favorites.

 Ken Takakura(Source: buta-neko.net)

 

 

KTakakura5(Source: http://www.asahi.com)

One thing’s for sure: Ken Takakura is one of the most respected actor’s in Japan’s 100-plus-year film history, and one of the few whose passing could make headlines worldwide. Let us all take a moment to celebrate the life and career of Ken Takakura. But we should also make sure his memory will live on in the excellent films he leaves behind.

KTakakura3

(Source: mainichi.jp)

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! 世界一のご長寿さん The Oldest Person in the World

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Japan is home to the world’s oldest living person, Misao Okawa. She is from Osaka and is at this time, 116 years and 250 days old. She was born in 1898!Misao-Okawa

Credit: Mashable.com

 

She succeeded the oldest living person in 2013. This person was also Japanese. His name was Jiroemon Kimura.

Misao is what is called a “supercentenarian”. A centenarian is someone who is a hundred years old or over. And a “supercentenarian” is someone who has passed or reached their 110th birthday.

This is an extraordinary achievement! Misao has attributed her health to sushi and sleep.

This shows us that a decent amount of sleep is just as important as eating good food. Let’s hope she continues to stay healthy!