you're strange and you're beautiful

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.

It only takes one to Tangorin.

One of my worst blog titles. I promise, the post is much better!

Over on the philosophical/bioluminescent/日本語 wonder that is Gakuranman’s site, he recently held a competition for short entries on Japanese student learning methods. Considering how confusingly I worded that concept, I barely have enough mastery of the English language and therefore did not contribute anything personally. There are some excellent entries (click on the winner’s names to see their comments) and I look forward to his completed article on study methods.


Being a beginner myself, I’ve got nothing in particular to offer. However, I did want to give props to one of the most clicked bookmarks on my browser toolbar: Tangorin. The site is the lovechild of Grzegorz Bober and the JMdict/EDICT collective, and the fruit of this vocabular orgy is – in my opinion – the best combination dictionary and grammar tool. (speaking of tools – see picture at right)

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‘Oh, My Buddha!’ w/Tomorowo Taguchi & Daichi Watanabe @Japan Society

[I’ve been rather torn about this writeup, because I was the one who asked the question which caused the embarrassment. Hence the extremely belated publish date. Read on to decide if maybe my question got lost in translation?]

Few would think there was anything that could make  actor/director Tomorowo Taguchi blush. Yet the man who has acted the full spectrum of psychopaths, miscreants, and weirdos, is fully capable of of being sweetly abashed.

Even at the second screening of his Oh, My Buddha! 「色即ぜねれしょん」 [Actual release title “Shikisoku Generation”] at the Japan Society, Taguchi was clearly delighted at the fresh round of praise for his second directing effort. He and leading man Daichi Watanabe gave an enthusiastic opening to the film, and afterward expressed their affection for a project celebrating the sweetness (and gentle disappointments) of youth.

The natural question was raised: how an actor well known for his iconic subculture status – especially for characters on the decidedly less savoury side of life – could turn out a film so affectionately portraying understated, middle class innocence? Oddly enough, this proved to be a rather difficult and embarrassing for the director to answer.

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‘Parade’ @Japan Society w/Isao Yukisada and Tatsuya Fujiwara

warning: this post contains spoilers (labelled)

“A horror movie disguised as a teenage slacker flick”

Such was director Isao Yukisada’s summation of his 2009 film Parade「パレード」. Speaking during a Q&A at New York’s Japan Society on July 10, Yukisada was surprisingly talkative and candid considering the deeply subversive film he had given to his audience.

Of course, there were likely many who had either sussed out the mystery earlier on, or simply read Shuichi Yoshida’s 2002 novel (though the collective gasp indicated that a fair few had not). Yet for a film that manages to successfully be two genres at once, and focuses on 5 different individuals, the ending loses none of it’s potency.

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‘Blood of Rebirth’ w/Toshiaki Toyoda @Japan Society

For those in New York of the 日本 persuasion, the 4 July holiday has been a mere sidenote. The main events have been courtesy of this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and Japan Cuts. These sacred days of summer have offered long-awaited premiers of films still fresh off the reels in Japan, as well as rare opportunities to see The Best of Unreleased Naughties on the big screen. Spring may have had it’s cherry blossoms, but NYCJapan is in full bloom.

click to see my Flickr shots

A prize moment for devotees of cult films Aoi Haru and 9 Souls was the guest appearance of director Toshiaki Toyoda, who attended both screenings of his comeback film Blood of Rebirth 「蘇りの血」 for the film’s introduction and Q&A session afterward.

Saturday’s New York premier was akin to greeting a lost hero’s return for the packed audience, who applauded and cheered as he entered the stage doors. While almost all would have been acquainted with his very public arrest in 2005 – and the tarnishing of Hanging Garden‘s release – Toyoda’s life after prison until the announcement of Rebirth had remained a mystery. The movie itself only proved to deepen the mystery even more.

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