Dear Online Diary,

My Obon weekend was quite cool. So cool in fact, that I barely even took a picture. Here are whatever few random moments I managed to capture, and I’m sure you’ll make your imagination work for the rest.

Love,

Dave from Kyoto

Featured: 1.2.3. End of night at Sonic Mania. 4. Outdoor lunch with Jus’. 5. Babies: My friends haz them. 6. Napping all afternoon in Yoyogi park. 7. Aliza’s awesome beach birthday in Biwako 8. As a special extra: quick snaps of yesterday’s rock concert at Tranq room…

Not featured: lots of drinking and round-up of the usual Tokyo places, driving through the streets of Tokyo at 1am, soaking in the Japanese Alps and much more…

KJM‘s Shuya Okino played some damn cool tunes, yesterday at Metro…

But seriously, what’s with the rockstar entourage thing?

Staff rushing to fetch the official record-bag carrier when Mr. Okino decided to head for the exit, half a dozen groupies in tow?!

Guys, this is broken-beat/jazz house, not 1980s arena rock… Sure, he is good, but still only a couple steps removed from what your grandma listens to on 94.2 Smooth Jazz FM.

I should preface this somewhat-less-than-glowing review of Sonic Mania (aka Summer Sonic for people who dance at night) by mentioning one important detail:

I don’t really like music festivals.

More exactly, I don’t like a certain kind of music festivals (that kind). I think I have spent enough of my youth, dancing half-naked on Californian beaches or through Black Rock Desert that I don’t need to defend my record of appreciation for spontaneous music-oriented gatherings. I just still can’t figure the draw with mainstream music festivals: horrible acoustics, quantity-over-quality line-ups and uninspiring settings.

If I wanted to dance in the middle of stadiums, I’d be a football cheerleader.

Acts at major music festivals fall into two categories: bands that were cool 20 years ago (and whose sole surviving member badly needs to pay his taxes) and up-and-coming bands you will hear a 100 times better at a smaller, more targeted venue. The packaging of the two together, along with laundry-detergent levels of sales/marketing based more on PR momentum than musical coherence (complete with nonsensical stage schedules) are what make music festivals such a profitable deal for major industry players and a miserably pointless experience for everybody else.

Sonic Mania certainly followed that pattern. In fact, every other headliner on the line-up could accurately be summed-up as: “That guy you’ve never heard of, with ties to that band you definitely knew [and perhaps liked], back in the 2000s/1990s/1980s”…

Considering how much whining is liable to follow, I should add I had a perfectly OK night, fun even. But my enjoyment of the event was entirely down to being with a cool group of people and, most importantly, being comped and not having paid 10,000 of my hard-earned yens to attend that semi-debacle of a festival night. I feel I kinda owe it to the poor saps that paid out of pocket to let the world know what passes for top-yen-worthy festival in Japan these days…

10pm-ish: Arrival, Primal Scream

Enjoying the balmy Kyoto Summer (35C, 100% humidity) in between trips.

Pictures featuring, in no particular order: Kishiwada hanabi, Gion matsuri’s latest Yukata trends, Kyoto’s bi-monthly Summer storm, Becca and Niki keeping it real in Osaka, Biwako hanabi (not featured: the smorgasbord of fresh sea beasties sashimi, spear-fished and prepared by our host) and Ujigawa hanabi (with special props to our awesome spot-saving skills for that one: any closer and we’d be lighting our cigarettes on rocket flames)…

Thanks Lauren for the Ujigawa pics (the better ones above).

The upside of the strict ‘no-camera-no-keitai-no-nothin​g’ policy of some of Berlin’s clubs, is that I haven’t had to feel very guilty about practically not taking a single picture when going out… Here is whatever little I took anyway.

Ostkreuz Tower of Doom

Minutes from the Ostkreuz Tower design planning committee meeting (ca. 1912):

Head of City Planning: How are the plans going for my diabolical lair of doom and despair? [strokes evil overlord‘s pointy beard and burst out with maniacal laughter]

Chief Architect: About that. I got your specs and there are a few details we need to go over…

HoCP: [cocks eyebrow mid-maniacal-laughter] ?

CA: Page 6, paragraph 13. When you write “The Tower of Doom shall be standing at the top of a massive dark volcano spitting rivers of glowing lava amidst bursts of thunder and the howling of a thousand souls bound for eternal damnation”… I don’t think we have the budget for that.

HoCP: What? But that was a fundamental part of the design!

CA: Sorry.

HoCP: What about the flock of fire-breathing dragons, then?

CA: I doubt Animal Control will go for that.

HoCP: The moat? At least give me the moat and giant man-eating crocodiles!

CA: We looked into that and it just doesn’t sound practical.

HoCP: But how are people to guess this is a train-station water cistern, if it doesn’t carry an adequate sense of doom and heavy foreboding?

CA: Well, there are a few things we can do…

HoCP: listening…

CA: We could make the tower really ominous and lugubrious, like something out of a Tolkien novel. Make it entirely black. But not some sleek shiny black: we go for suffocating, light-absorbing, black-as-coal black. Something that would look great against our typical backdrop of sunless gray skies…

HoCP: Keep going, I like what I’m hearing…

CA: Shape-wise, I was thinking we’d go for a martial theme: dangerous and uninviting, military without the reassuring overtones… a pointy prussian helmet, maybe?

HoCP: That sounds awesome! And so appropriate for a building that will define the landscape of the neighbourhood. When can you start?

CA: The wheels are already in motion, sir…

HoCP: Beautiful, beautiful… [strokes mean-looking white Persian cat while adjusting glass eye] Everything is going according to the plan…

[both erupts in evil laughters]

I’m not saying this is how it happened.

But you’ll have to agree there’s a strong possibility.

If you ever happen by Germany…


While discussing the finer points of Berlin’s traumatic history and the intriguing question of how the wall partition may have been extended across the Spree river (and what would have prevented people from simply swimming their way West):

Calmly hypothesise:

… by restricting access to the river, through additional barricades and watch-towers…

Do not shout:

Sharks mit fucking Laserstrahlen!!!


When the workshop organiser congratulates you on receiving First Prize for “Best Workshop Poster” and casually suggests that you treat yourself to a nice evening out with the prize money:

Do say:

I could not possibly take sole credit for this recognition of what was a collective research effort. I shall be taking my colleagues out to the finest restaurant this town has to offer!

Do not say:

Actually… I had to promise 20 euros per vote. I am still largely out of pocket on that one.


Upon hearing that this year marks the anniversary of 150 years of Japanese-German friendship:

Do say:

Yes, indeed. Who could forget the fine contributions of German culture to Japan’s enlightened Meiji era and its constitutional reform. Not to mention Mori Ōgai’s influential translations of Germany’s greatest poets…

Do not say:

About fucking time we gave it another go. Nobody will see it coming!

Let’s just leave Italy out this time, though.


Germany’s similarity to Japan in its lack of appreciation for deadpan, combined with a much lower linguistic threshold, could prove quite lethal to my complete absence of self-censorship in a social setting…