Saturday, July 25, 2009

Spring Sakae 2009

During the last weekend of May, I went with my friend Cesar (Panama) to a live music festival in Nagoya called Spring Sakae. Sakae (栄) is the name of the downtown district in Nagoya. It is full of stores (for example, Lachic, which organized the event), people, high buildings and some famous tourist spots like the TV tower or the Oasis 21 complex.

The festival lasted two days but I only went the first day. There were lots of artists performing in different live houses around Sakae. Basically, people could make their own schedule according to their taste and attend the concerts they were more interested in. Also for me it was a great opportunity to see a lot of locals in Sakae within a record time and without needing to pay extra! The groups were all Japanese and most of them were on their beginnings, although some of them were already quite famous.

This is the list of artist/local that I saw:
  • 小泉ニロ (Koizumi Nilo) / Nagoya Blue Note: the local was great and the music was not bad (Brazilian music).
  • 城南海 (Kizuki Minami) / CIPHER the underground: my favorite of the festival, I really liked her voice. She had the ability to sing with a very high-pitched voice like in traditional Japanese Enka songs. Last weekend I was in HMV (a music shop) and I saw a leaflet of her saying that her 3rd single, 白い月 (shiroi tsuki = white moon), was going to be released on the 22th of July 2009, and her 1st album will be on sale on August 19th!

  • UPLIFT SPICE / PLUS PARK: this group was a bit more heavy compared to the previous ones and I really like the singer's voice, I think it is very special. The guitarist was also good and i loved his haircut, which covered his face completely. And the guy on the drums was also great. It seemed to be a popular group by judging the public behavior.

  • Sonomi / Spiral: not worth it
  • AFNICA / Nagoya Blue Note: it was a very cool performance and the music was kind of Jazz. The best were the drums.
  • 瓜生明希葉 (Uryu Akiha) / CIPHER the underground: nice voice and violin, the style was like in an animation movies
  • Platinum / CIPHER the underground: funny but not worth it
  • Ayuse Kozue / Ozon: this was one of the stars of the night I think, she reminded me of the singers from the eighties. Good performance.
  • Metis / Club Quattro: I don't remember liking it especially.
It was a very nice day and I am glad I went because it was a very Japanese experience and I felt integrated with them. Everything was very well organized and after each performance you had time to go out and walk to the next local or to drink or eat something.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sumo chanko party - 相撲ちゃんこ会

The day after Mt Gozaisho I went to a traditional party called chankokai (ちゃんこ会) in a Sumo gymnasium of Nagoya. In this party you get served a dish called Chanko by Sumo wrestlers.

There are several kinds and flavors of chanko and the most popular, nabe (鍋=pot), is served by the wrestlers directly from the pot to your dish.

I was invited by Kikuko-san, a very kind woman that volunteers to help international visitors know better about Nagoya and Japanese culture. I met her when I arrived to Nagoya, and she helped me and some other international students with several administration procedures. She also invited me to participate in a Samurai parade which I enjoyed very much.

During the event I was sitting down besides the guy on the left in the picture above. He told me he is manager of several Sumo wrestlers. There is something special about that Sumo belt he is holding but I don't remember exactly (maybe it's the winners belt?). It was quite heavy!

And of course I took the obligatory photo with a wrestler. In this case Shimasegawa (嶋瀬川) born in April 4th 1980, height 177cm and weight 147kg. Actually my favorite wrestler was Tokusegawa (徳瀬川) but he was very busy with other people trying to take pictures with him because he was the last champion of some secondary Sumo league. By the way Tokusegawa is Mongolian not Japanese, and he was born in August 6th 1983 and 191cm 154kg. In the video bellow, he is the first one from the left.

The party ended with the Sumo wrestlers singing and clapping. Although all of them were in pants, the most funny one was one that was wearing Calvin Klein underwear hehe. I took a first shot in my video. His name is Kongoufuji (金剛富士), March 10th 1983, 183cm and 90kg.

Mt Gozaisho - 御在所岳

A few weeks ago I went for a hike to Mt Gozaisho (御在所岳), a 1210m peak (35° 01' 13" N 136° 25' 28" E) not very far from Nagoya in the border between Mie and Shiga prefectures. From Nagoya I took the Kintetsu (近鉄) Nagoya line, changed in Yokkaichi (四日市) to the Yunoyama (湯の山) line and got off in Yunoyama Onsen (湯の山温泉) where there is a bus that takes you to the ropeway. It takes around one hour or so.

Although normally I would like to climb it on foot, this time I decided to go up on the ropeway and get down on foot. The main reason was that it was really hot and that it was an opportunity to see the landscape from the cable car. It reminded me of when I went to Picos de Europa and got on the cable car.

On the top of the mountain, like in Picos, there was a restaurant, places to buy drinks and even a shrine.

Fortunately there was also a lot of nature and nice views, even though it was a bit cloudy. I managed to spot a deer among the bushes and took this picture with zoom.

While I was having lunch (a sandwich with ham and cheese :D) suddenly I heard some voice calling me. I turned my head and it was one Japanese friend that I had met just one week before or so. It was such an amazing coincidence to meet him in the middle of the mountain that I couldn't help thinking about how small the world is.

We shared the way down and it was great because he knew that mountain very well so he could explain me a lot of things about it. For example, he showed me a place protected by some rocks where he had spent the night once. Also on the way down he showed me some interesting rock formations that are famous in the mountain.

There are several paths to go up or down Mt Gozaisho but the easiest one was washed out because of the rain some weeks before and it was impossible to take it. Still, the mountain was being climbed by hoards of Japanese people, you couldn't feel lonely in that mountain :).

When we arrived to Yunoyama onsen, we relaxed near the river in a place called ooishi kouen (大石公園 = large stone park)where we put our feet in fresh water. It was really relaxing. Actually, the most typical tradition is to go to the Onsen (thermal baths) but for me it was too hot for that so I preferred the cold water of the river stream.

Summing up, I think that Mt Gozaisho is good for a one-day hike because it has very good connections by train and the views are really good. I was told that the best time is in Autumn because of the red/orange colors of the trees (momiji) or in winter because actually on the top there is a ski resort as well. By the way, the pic above is some bamboo coming out from the asphalt and I found it scaring hehe like if it was from a horror movie! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Okehazama Historical Battlefield Festival

At the beginning of June I participated in a Samurai parade to commemorate the historical battle of Okehazama (桶狭間古戦場まつり). The festival takes place every year in the city of Toyoake.

Some days before the festival, I was invited to take part in the promotion of the festival in the media for one day.

First, we went to the NHK offices in Nagoya where we appeared in the program Sarasara.

The stage was right at the entrance to the building and there was a clown to make the audience laugh and relax at the beginning of the program (which was in live!). The Japanese girl on the right asked her mum to record the video for us. When she gave me a copy in DVD unfortunately I coudn't see it because it was protected with CPRM. Fortunately, this protection is crackable with relCPRM (in Japanese).

After appearing in the Japanese TV (sounds cool hehe) I was invited to one of the best lunchs I have ever had in Japan. Then, we went to go on with our promotion to the Chūnichi Shinbun newspaper (中日新聞). They published it both in paper (see picture above) and on their internet website (here). Finally, we also went to a cable TV called CCNET which recorded the whole festival. Their video is here in streaming but I can't access it without a CCNET contract.

Some days later, on Saturday, we had the first rehearsal. During the parade we were going to represent the battle and I had the luck to perform the role of Kinoshita Tōkichirō (木下藤吉郎), who in the future would become Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most important figures in the Japanese history.

The next day, Sunday, we did more rehearsal but this time with the real armours.

Finally, we went out, walked in the streets of Toyoake city and made our representation of the battle of Okehazama.

The representation was filmed and at the end of it, the presenter asked me some questions in Japanese :D.

Here you can see more pictures and get more information about the festival. It is the website of Kikuko, the person who invited me to the festival (thank you!), and it's probably one of the most useful websites to know what things you can do or see if you are around Nagoya.