you're strange and you're beautiful

There are few things more painful than rereading old posts.

(Major kudos to the people who struggled through some of my earliest posts on here, some of which I’ve had to actually remove because of their poor quality.)

Just putting a note up here to say that while a lot of my study has taken a backseat due to personal problems, I am mostly choosing to do a lot of it in my own time and privately. I think, like a lot of people, I got seduced into presuming my content and experience had some kind of default merit, which is definitely not the case. I also got schooled pretty hard from some very experienced people about what a monumental task I was undertaking with learning Japanese. And that I had enormously underestimated the amount of time and effort it would require to get anywhere close to my goals.

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The fourth annual Shinsedai Cinema Festival relocates to The Revue Cinema in Roncesvalles Village

Toronto, ON – Chris MaGee, co-founder of The Shinsedai Cinema Festival announced today that the fourth annual edition of the festival will be presented at The Revue Cinema in Roncesvalles Village, fromThursday, July 12 – Sunday, July 15, 2012.

Celebrating the new generation of films from Japan, the festival has become an avenue for young Japanese filmmakers to have their work screened overseas. It is renowned for presenting: dramas, quirky comedies, hard-hitting documentaries, experimental shorts and more. The Festival has also commissioned Toronto-based musicians and sound artists to create live scores for numerous classic Japanese silent films.

One early acquisition for The Festival’s 2012 line-up is the Canadian premiere of world renowned artist and animator Akino Kondoh’s new animated short film KiyaKiya.

The Shinsedai Cinema Festival has established itself as a vital part of Toronto’s lively and competitive film scene, representing a unique film project in the city. In 2011 the Festival received over 100 film submissions.

“One of the city’s youngest and most original movie events”

–          The Toronto Star

Gen Takahashi’s Confessions of a Dog received its Canadian premiere in 2010, and since then, the film has secured a DVD release in Britain and invitations for screenings from numerous festivals across the globe. The music documentary Aruongaku received its world premiere at the inaugural festival in 2009. It has gone on to be an anticipated part of the international festival circuit, winning praise wherever it has screened.

“The goal of The Shinsedai Cinema Festival has been to expose the great new films being produced in Japan to as many people in the city of Toronto as we can,” said MaGee. “The decision to move the Festival to the Revue, one of the city’s premiere repertory theatres in 2012, allows our audiences, filmmakers and out of town special guests the opportunity to enjoy the variety of cuisine, restaurants, pubs, and retail stores in Roncesvalles Village, before, between and after our screenings.”

“[Shinsedai] is wonderful! It gives young filmmakers a chance”

–          Yojiro Takita, Oscar-winning director of Departures

Programming information for The Shinsedai Cinema Festival at The Revue Cinema 2012 will be announced over the coming months and available online at www.shinsedai.ca.

The Shinsedai Cinema Festival was co-founded in 2009 by Toronto native Chris MaGee, author and founder and editor of Toronto’s own J-Film Pow-Wow, the premiere Japanese film blog in Canada, and Jasper Sharp, UK writer, film historian and curator. Its purpose is to bring modern, boundary-pushing and independent-Japanese cinema to Toronto audiences each year, challenging Western audiences’ understanding and appreciation of what Japanese film is, now, and where it is going.


For Nihon is a compilation of electronic/ambient artists put together by Keith and Hollie Kenniff. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund set up by New York’s Japan Society.

The compilation is available to download now and to pre-order as a double CD.

This is a beautiful collection of music and a wonderful way to contribute to the massive rebuilding efforts ongoing in Japan. Also be sure to check out the other albums on unseen for some beautiful shoegazey electronica.


The following is a press release from the #quakebook website. This book is a beautiful product of technology and humanity coming together in a more intimate and immediate way than ever before. 

Tokyo, Japan — In just over a week, a group of professional and citizen journalists collaborated via Twitter to create a book to raise money for Japanese Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. The book will be available for download via Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader ebook platforms within several days. One hundred percent of revenues will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

The 98-page book, titled 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake and known on Twitter as “#quakebook”, is the brainchild of a Briton who lives in the Tokyo area and blogs under the pseudonym “Our Man in Abiko”.

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それは日本の心ですね。 (via Distant land)

桜 / Sakura

Image by . SantiMB . via Flickr

Courtesy of Our Man in Abiko, this brought tears to my eyes. It is a sweet moment of pause amid the flood of terrifying news stories, and I just had to pass it along.

In my self-education about Japan, I have seen so much drama regarding politics, finance, foreign policy, national history etc etc that it’s easy to lose sight of why I fell in love with a country I’ve never even visited. This kind of post reminds me.

NB. I’ll write something reflecting on the past few days when I can; right now I just haven’t been able to yet. If you have questions please ask. Sitting around the dinner tables earlier half darkness, watching the latest press conference about exposed fuel rods at Fukushima Dai-Ni power station 247km north of here, I asked the gathered Japanese house-mates what they would do if the problems there worsened. One of them replied that their family l … Read More

via Distant land

Earthquake & Tsunami message

image courtesy BBC

It’s impossible to get a full scale of the disaster yet – on the one side there is the devastating news footage of fires and floods, and on the other are the proofs that Japan’s civil engineering has kept so many people safe. Judging by my twitter feed alone, it would seem that most people are reacting with calmness and efficiency to such a wild and destructive act of nature. An 8.9 is simply inconceivable to someone like myself who has never even felt an earthquake before.

I wanted to use this post not just to reach out to the people I’ve gotten to know through this blog and Twitter,  but also to join in on the fundraising efforts for the aftermath of the quake and tsunami. I have always used the Red Cross for my donations, mainly because I trust them and I know that funds are shared. Either visit your country’s Red Cross website or if you have a phone contract then text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a donation of $10.

However, as a pro-equality and LGBT friendly blog I want to equally promote Doctors Without Borders. As my few regulars will know, I don’t use this blog as a platform for my own personal beliefs but I do reserve the right to put all the options out there. Disaster relief is never as simple and straightforward as many of us would hope, and some people have their specific preferences. It’s pointless to get caught in controversy: just help out in a way that you hope other people might do for you if your world suddenly fell apart at the seams.

Needless to say that while I am talking mainly about Japan, funds like these will most certainly be needed for surrounding countries – especially the recently stricken New Zealand. My husband and I live a pretty spartan existence, but we always try to find something to give in cases of natural disaster.

If you live in Japan or have any better methods of donating, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter @katiemuffett and I will update this post to point people in the right direction.

My thoughts and wishes are with everyone affected by this disaster.

Updates (in chronological order): this set of images has been making the rounds on Twitter and seems to best illustrate the impact of the quake, especially on Sendai

Nicholas Kristof wrote this superb piece about Japan’s response to crises for the NYT.

Got a trackback from this blog with Ways You Can Help

Tobias Harris (@observingjapan) sent this link where MIT students have set up a blog about the Fukushima nuclear plants – a must see for those who are subjected to the fake diagrams and ‘fallout maps’ currently making the microblog rounds. No excuse for misinformation in this day and age.

New at Japan Flix: ‘Three String Samurai’ [review]

The fresh-faced JapanFlix has been selecting the tastiest flicks from all genres of eiga and giving them a much deserved US release. With all of them available to rent or buy through iTunes, it couldn’t possibly be easier to get a flavour of what we here in the States have been missing. I was given a special treat preview of the 2005 comedy Three String Samurai (オーバードライヴ in Japan), now available through the JapanFlix website.

There has always been a special place in Japan’s heart for the shamisen, both because of it’s native folk music connections and the peculiarly ancestral depths that it evokes.  The sound evolved around the late 1990’s, with the addition of multicultural instruments an expansion of the repertoire. In particular, the focus has strongly favoured the Tsugaru-jamisen native to northerly Aomori prefecture – which just happens to be where the story of our hero takes place.

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The Day I Embarrassed Tomorowo Taguchi. [video]

I didn’t realise there was video of this until just now. Looking through the NY Japan Society’s Youtube channel (check it out for some great interviews and their new show), I noticed some of the Q&A’s from 2010’s JapanCuts festival.

Any readers who saw my original post on this Q&A will recognise my embarrassing question (at about 5:30 in the video below). In my writeup, I had to combine his answer to me with a few others just to make it fit into context. He had already talked about his friendship with Jun Miura and the kind of boys-night-out that he usually had with his mates. This roughly gave a clue into how my question’s response came about.

Watching this back, I don’t feel quite so bad because Taguchi is clearly smiling and joking. At the time – as my sister was silently dying of laughter next to me – my heart was slowly sinking into my stomach, thinking I’d come across as…well, I didn’t quite know what he thought!

Two things I love about this response:

1. The way that Taguchi prepares himself by wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

2. Poor Daichi Watanabe not hearing my original question, and absolutely cracking up at Taguchi’s answer.

Did my question make sense?? I didn’t mean to suggest…uhm…not that I…what?

Let me just say that I am all for male friends kissing and cuddling in bars, even if they don’t go home and shag each other! That is all.

恋文, 友川かずき (a love letter)

My personal history of male infatuations is largely comprised of the angry and middle-aged types. Men who have reached their prime through the “thistles of ignorance, thorns of genius and blossoms of love”.* They wear their souls on their skin, and never lose the urgency to fight and to know. These men reject the poison-sucking of ‘friend zones’ and cutesy, nice-guy infantilization. They belong solely and unapologetically to themselves. They most certainly will rage against the dying of the light.

‘Screaming Philosopher’ Kazuki Tomokawa (aka Tenji Nozoki) is a prime specimen among these types. While he is in fact very attractive (those heavy-lidded eyes, romantic lips), no one could accuse his music of pretty affectations or self-consciousness. Even as a young man, he sang with the experience and depths of a much older, more ragged human being. A pretty person would simply be incapable of growling and spitting at the abyss, or whispering against the ear with such angelic tenderness…especially at 60 years old.

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Tumbling Toward Fluency

In the never-ending search for ways to integrate Japanese into my very Western life, I have started a Tumblr blog that I am writing solely in Japanese. For those who haven’t tried out Tumblr yet, it is rather on the buggy side but very handy for micro- and photo-blogging. This miniaturist layout is especially useful considering that I can barely eek out 2 or 3 sentences of Japanese at a time.

I see this as the natural progression from trying to keep a 60/40 split of English and Japanese (respectively) on my Twitter account.  It is a brilliant feeling when a Japanese word or expression spontaneously comes to mind, rather than attempting a laborious translation from English. Yet the hard work must be done, and mistakes have to be made.

To that end, I have put a request in the sidebar of the new blog for all corrections and comments on my pre-school 日本語 to be left in the comments. I learn best by being corrected, not only because it leaves a deeper impression, but also because there are more than just one lesson to be learned.

For example, I was writing an email asking someone to read my blog so that I could have their opinion. I immediately remembered a correction from a native speaker on Lang-8 that 読書 (どくしょ) is only used for reading books, or discussing reading itself; the form 読む (よむ) is much more appropriate for internet reading like blogs and online articles. It may seem a small point, but I haven’t forgotten it.

99.9% of the bloggers I follow are on Blogger or WordPress, so it will probably take a while for me to get integrated into this new community. If you have a Tumblr then have a look-see at leaving me a few corrections.