Tokyo’s Nakano district doesn’t just have an Obon Dance, it has an Obon Jovi Dance!

The west Tokyo neighborhood’s take on the centuries-old event is like bad medicine, and bad medicine is what I need.

As we have often covered in the past, mid-August is generally known as the Obon season in Japan. This is a time when tradition holds that the spirits of our ancestors return to the realm of the living to say “hi” and have a snack.

One of the cool things about Obon is that despite its longevity in Japanese culture, there isn’t a hard and fast set of customs that span the country. This means that spending Obon in one region can be completely different that another. For example, while people in one area enjoy making horses out eggplants, another makes Mad Max vehicles instead.

There are some threads of commonality, however, such as the Bon Odori or “Bon Dance” held during festivals. Like other customs of this holiday, the steps of the dance itself can vary widely from region to region but is generally done in larges groups using slow, easy-to-follow motions for participants both young and old. Here’s a taste.

Although there is no standard song for this dance either, it is usually set to an arrangement of traditional Japanese instruments like shamisen and taiko drums. But again, the highly flexible nature of the Obon season can sometimes yield some really interesting results.

For example, here’s a short clip from a festival held by Nakano Station in west Tokyo posted to Twitter by @hayatodelarossa.

Hopefully you had the volume up while watching that because then you’d be treated to the trippy sights and sounds of watching Japanese people do an age-old dance to Bon Jovi’s 1986 hit “Livin’ On a Prayer.”

However, the more you think about it, as the following commenters have, the more it kind of makes sense.

“That’s an Bon Jovi Odori!”
“I think “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a good match since the Bon Odori was originally a form of religious worship.”
“In Matsudo, we dance to ‘Gengis Khan.’”
“I thought it was Bon Jovi live on stage for a second. That would have really been something.”
“I think Bon Jovi should get automatic citizenship for that.”
“I like this modern style Bon Odori, anime songs work well too.”
“The Ebisu Bon Dance ends with ‘La Vie En Rose.’ It’s very cute with the hand movements.”

A classic song mixed with traditional Japanese culture and a dash of word play for good measure: What’s not to love? We can only hope that Japan’s recording industry copyright watchdog JASRAC was too busy shaking down barbershops playing obscure jazz on portable CD players to notice this one and let it slip by.

And so, it’s exactly the kind of adaptability illustrated above that has allowed this great piece of culture to thrive so many years since its inception. If you’d like to learn more about it, then please be sure to check out our other articles regarding Bon Jovi or visit your local library.

Source: Twitter/@hayatodelarossa via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Twitter/@hayatodelarossa

Yu-Gi-Oh! brings anime battles into real-life with amazing fan-made dueling arena【Video】

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Strongest Imitator System is a major step in making those anime duels come to life.

Although I’ve never played any such card games in my life, I managed to get into the anime Yu-Gi-Oh! by chance and gradually developed an appreciation for its game in particular. However, I could never play it in real life because the anime had set my expectations unrealistically high.

Rather than having wizards and dragons emerge from our cards and start attacking one another, a real game of Yu-Gi-Oh! has little more to offer than a fiberboard table and bottle of orange soda to gaze at in awe while playing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve always hoped for the day would come when the duels depicted in the anime would become possible.

And now in this age of augmented and virtual realities, it looks as if that day might be on the horizon. Twitter user and evidently brilliant technician, Reo (@reoasxdtmgt) has come up with one of the best Yu-Gi-Oh! simulators to date called the “Yu-Gi-Oh! Strongest Imitator System.”

The video shows some projectors creating the duel arena on the surface of an ordinary table along with each player’s life points. As each player places their cards visual and audio effects occur seamlessly. If you look really closely at the cards in play, it looks as if the images are moving on them as well.

According to Reo the effects are controlled by the player’s smartphones, which he admits can be difficult at times, but also means you don’t need any fancy gear to run it (granted, a projector is arguably “fancy”).

Reo also says the result seen here came from a year of hard work. It clearly shows, however, and online praise was unanimous.

“That is so cool! I want to duel you!”
“This guy is a genius.”
“This is an OOPArt!”
“If this could work by speech recognition then we’d truly be living in the anime.”
“That was so good I don’t even know what to say.”

Indeed the Yu-Gi-Oh! Strongest Imitator System lives up to its name, but more work needs to be done to truly get humanity into the future promised to us by the anime so long ago. Sadly, I’m too old to start building a deck now, but when they finally do achieve full-sized dragons, I’ll at least have found an e-sport I can get behind.

Source: Twitter/@reoasxdtmgt, Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@reoasxdtmgt

Awesome fan-made stop-motion video using Gundam models is a Gundam fan’s dream come true 【Videos】

The scene is an exact reenactment of the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime, complete with CG special effects.

Gundam: one of Japan’s most iconic creations. The giant fighting robot that first emerged in an anime from 1979 has inspired dozens of series and hundreds of model kits, and even life-sized statues have been erected in their honor. Such a magnanimous franchise deserves great tributes, and what better way for a fan to express their love than to use actual Gundam models in a stop-motion video?

YouTube user Rihito Ue, an amateur filmmaker, put countless hours into reenacting scenes from the original Gundam anime using his own Gunpla Models in his fantastic fan-films, “One Shot Gunpla: The StopMotion Works”.

This incredible play-by-play rendition of a major scene from the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime is almost the perfect homage to the iconic franchise. While the model Gundams fight and shoot guns at each other, actual audio from the anime describes what is happening. In fact, the video includes shots from the anime, which is playing on a television in the background, while the models are shown replicating those scenes.

Ue has also made sure to include the explosions and laser weapons that are essential to any standard Gundam battle, in the form of CG special effects, which are slightly corny, but awesome nonetheless.

The video was shot using various methods to get the look that Ue wanted. While the battles between the models were made using stop-motion filming, the actual scenery of the house was taken with one shot. Mirrors were also used to give a more dynamic representation of what was happening around the room, which gives the filmography a kind of seamless feel.

▼ Ue has a “Making of” video that shows exactly how the film was created.

The first video is a little rough around the edges, but there are two sequels, and each one is better than the last. The quality of these films is surprisingly high for an amateur stop-motion video, and the overall storytelling is awesome, so Gundam fans will love these faithful reenactments.

Ue also has video tributes to classic Japanese monster films, like Gamera and Moguera, which are shot in the same style. Even if you’re not familiar with those characters, the reenactments are still enormously entertaining to watch, so hop over to his channel to check out what he’s got!

If you’re looking for something from a different franchise, Pokémon Go has been the subject of an outstanding (albeit gruesome) tribute, and a fan film of Dragonball Z has proven to be better even than Hollywood renditions. You’ll definitely want to check them out!

Source: YouTube/Rihito Ue via Japaaan Magazine
Images: YouTube/Rihito Ue

“Once In Your Life In Osaka” is this year’s song of the summer 【Video】

If you love Osaka, you’ll love it even more after watching this music video.

For many travellers, a trip to Japan just isn’t complete without visiting the city of Osaka, where you can feast on regional delicacies like takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and pick up unusual Japanese phrases unique to the regional dialect known as Kansai-ben.

While the area’s distinct culture draws huge numbers of visitors to the city every year, there’s set to be even more tourists arriving soon thanks to a catchy new hit song that’s become so popular it’s received over a million views online in just two weeks.

Called Once In Your Life In Osaka (Osaka Bon), the song has been created in conjunction with COOL JAPAN TV, which aims to promote the country’s “cool” culture to a worldwide audience. Featuring the three members of Thai band Room 39, along with some famous Japanese performers, the music video for the song showcases the best of Osaka, with the help of some traditional summer bon odori dancing.

Check out the clip below:

The video features famous sites like Tsutenkaku Tower and the Shinsekai district…

▼ And the lively Dotonbori area.

There’s also a good dose of Kansai-ben phrases like “Nandeyanen” (“What the hell?”) sprinkled in amongst the lyrics too.

▼ Japan’s DJ Koo makes an appearance in the video.

As does professional traditional Japanese dancer, choreographer, and stage producer Ukon Takafuji, who coreographed the moves in the video. As the heir of the Takafuji clan, which has a lineage of traditional dancers stemming back over a century, Ukon has been working with DJs in recent years to help promote traditional dance in a modern world.

Also in the clip is self-titled “party creator” and event organiser Afromance, who is working with Cool Japan TV to produce an outdoor festival called Awa Fes at Osaka Castle on 25-26 August. The two-day event will have a traditional Japanese summer festival and bon dance theme, featuring music, dancing and tonnes of foam, which will be shot out on partygoers from two huge canons.

The “Once In Your Life In Osaka” song will also be played live for revellers at the event. If you’d like to attend, details can be found at the official online site and tickets can be booked from Lawson convenience stores or online ticket sites like Ticket Pia for 4,500 yen (US$40.45) each. For now, it’s time for us to work on getting the song out of our heads with the help of Tokyo Bon, Tokyo’s version of the bon song.

Source: PR Times
Featured image: PR Times
Insert images: YouTube/LOVEis+

Time-lapse video shows the awesomely orderly efficiency of otaku lining up at Comiket【Video】

We can all learn from the extraordinary discipline exhibited by these otaku.

Comiket, the world’s largest anime convention, welcomes more than 500,000 attendees every year who’re eager to get their hands on rare manga, unique collector’s items or show off sizzling hot cosplays.

It’s not easy to manage such a huge crowd in a limited space, and if left to the attendees’ own devices, the entire convention would no doubt end up in utter chaos. Luckily, otaku in Japan are a disciplined bunch.

▼ Japanese Twitter user @Netiel shows us a time-lapse video
of attendees queuing to get into Tokyo Big Sight.

Throngs of people are ushered in orderly batches and lined up in neat rows like clockwork, an astounding feat considering that this year’s Comiket was also one of the hottest in recent years.

Temperatures soared close to 40 degrees Celcius (104 Fahrenheit) during the event’s three days, and it’s amazing how attendees could be so well-behaved even in the unbearable heat.

▼ This astonishing orderliness can be clearly observed in the 2011 Winter Comiket too.

It’s difficult to see what’s happening when you’re just one among many people on the ground, and Japanese netizens are quite impressed by the video’s perspective:

“That’s human Tetris!”
“Reminds me of that game, The Last Guy. Anyone agree with me?”
“Japanese people are quite awesome, eh?”
“Every Japanese citizen should participate in Comiket to train for emergency evacuation drills.”
“They look just like ants.”

Are anime conventions this neat and orderly in your neck of the woods? It’s incredible how Comiket attendees can keep calm and move as one with a single purpose of getting into otaku heaven, almost making us forget they were scrambling over one another in the Opening Dash before that.

Source, featured image: Twitter/@Netiel
Top image: Pakutaso

Japanese musicians create incredible music and visuals using open tape reels【Videos】

Open Reel Ensemble will blow you away with their internationally acclaimed musical style.

Nowadays music is easy to come by; you can just download it from an online store, hit play, and voila! You have your favorite tunes, kept safe forever in your cloud. Back in the old days we had to go to the store to buy cassette tapes, which were somewhat more fragile. If you weren’t careful, you could accidentally unravel the tape and ruin your favorite album for good!

But some creative musicians realized that the magnetic tapes in cassette reels could be used for more than just recording and playing music. Japanese musical group Open Reel Orchestra discovered that you can make intriguing electronic-style music simply by manipulating magnetic tapes and reels. Who would’ve though that they could used for making music, too?

Open Reel Ensemble is currently made up of three members: Ei Wada, Haruka Yoshida, and Masaru Yoshida. The group formed in 2009, and have released three albums as well as books and DVDs.

Their unique music and creative performances have received international acclaim, earning them spots at big international music festivals like Sonar in Spain and Ars Electronica in Austria. They have even produced music for Paris Fashion Week for four seasons in a row!

▼ Their performances show exactly what they do to make their sounds, which makes for a very interesting concert experience.

Various methods of manipulating the tape produce different sounds, which the musicians put together to make music. Some methods involve pulling the tape out of the reel and letting it slide back in, some involve controlling the turn of the reels either by hand or with computers, and some use sticks on the tape like drumsticks to make a percussion beat. It’s almost like being a DJ, but with tapes, instead of records.

Making instruments using the loose tape and the reels seems to be their specialty. One of their signature instruments is a hand-carved bamboo stick attached to tape, which is used to control the reels and make a specific melody while looking like an enormous violin bow.

They’ve even invented a sort of accordion using tape reels!

The group is very creative, as much of what they produce is visually artistic as well as acoustic. They often use avant-garde art to advertise their upcoming shows and albums, like in this video, “Toki Ori Ori Nasu -Falling Records-“, which was meant to advertise Ei Wada’s solo performance.

Open Reel Ensemble is one of many groups who show that you can make music with anything, so long as it makes noise. If you know how to put together, say, the sounds of iPhone ringtones, or the clacking and dinging of spoons and cups, then you can make real masterpieces. It’s truly amazing what these creative and talented musicians can come up with!

Sources: Open Reel Ensemble Home PageYouTube/Open Reel Ensemble via Laughing Squid
Top image: YouTube/Open Reel Ensemble

Japanese genius finds a clever way to remind himself how awesome coming home is【Video】

When you open the door, you’re not just coming home, but stepping into a world of awesome bargains and services that we sometimes overlook.

Have you ever stopped and thought about how awesome your home is?

That might seem like an oddly prescient claim, considering the fact that I haven’t recently been in most of your homes (statistically, I could only be hiding under the living room table of one person reading this at any moment). But trust me, in their own, often forgotten ways, our homes are awesome, and ironically a great way to remind yourself of that is to think of you home like it’s a store.

When Japanese Twitter user @mansooon opens his front door, he isn’t greeted by the heavy silence of a dark and empty entryway. Instead, he’s set up a device that detects when the door has been opened and greets him like he’s a valued customer at a supermarket, complete with a rundown of the day’s amazing special offers!

His recorded message says:

“Thank you for coming home again today! We’re currently holding our ‘Welcome Home in the Summer’ promotion.

In the kitchen area, yesterday’s leftovers, stir-fried bean sprouts seasoned with salt and pepper, are being offered at an incredible 100-percent discount. There’s yours for free! For free!

In the bathroom area, our popular bathtub can now be enjoyed for only the cost of water and gas!

Don’t miss out on these great deals!”

When you stop and think about it, simple as they may be, it’d be pretty nice if you went grocery shopping and were given a premade vegetable dish for free, or went to one of Japan’s relaxing bathhouses and could take a soak for nothing more than the cost of filling the tub and heating the water, with no profit factor built in. Making the service sector factor feel even more tangible is that the device (called Yobikomi-kun) is playing a jingle often heard in Japanese supermarkets, which set up machines like this to draw in customers and inform them of what’s on sale.

“Ever since I put this in my entryway, coming home feels fun,” tweeted @mansooon, whose innovative Yobikomi-kun use inspired others to comment:

“It’s like there’s a sale going on when you get home.”
“Yep, my bathtub is really popular too!”
“If you used a recording from your favorite voice actress, it’d make you want to rush home right after work.”
“I love how the camera shakes up and down in joy at the end of the video.”
“I want one of these.”

If that last comment matches what you’re thinking, Yobikomi-kun can be purchased online from retailers including Amazon and Rakuten, though not all models include the flashing LED lights of @mansooon’s version. Given the specific nature of your home’s special services and offers, you’ll have to record the narration yourself, but as @mansooon’s 30-second effort shows, it shouldn’t take long to lay down a morale-boosting monologue for when you get home at the end of the day. And if getting out the door at the start of the day is also a problem, there’s a clever solution for that too.

Source: Twitter/@mansooon via Jin
Images: Twitter/@mansooon