Writing about Nagoya’s culinary offerings for CNN Travel
CNN Travel wanted to move a bit away from Tokyo and look at another city in Japan — Nagoya. I obliged by writing about their unique culinary offerings.
Japan’s Aichi prefecture has long been known for its automotive industry, anchored by homegrown car manufacturer Toyota.
Yet in recent years, the region has become just as celebrated for the food originating from Aichi’s capital city, Nagoya.
Fittingly, part of the charm of the metropolis’ cuisine is owing to an approach that’s also made the nearby automaker such a force.
Talking with Piko-taro, the man behind “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen,” for The Japan Times
Really really happy with this one — I sat down with Piko-taro, the artist behind one of the year’s biggest viral hits with “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen.” It was definitely a silly chat, but we also talked about slightly more serious stuff — his process to making music, being a long-obscure artist finally having his moment in the spotlight, and being referenced by The Chainsmokers.
Pikotaro still can’t believe it all. Two days before he sits down with The Japan Times, the performer saw that American DJ duo The Chainsmokers had changed their Twitter name to “Pineapple & Pen,” a nod to his song “PPAP.” That pair previously claimed YouTube’s most popular clip with “Closer” — until Pikotaro’s 45-second ditty took the top spot.
“Is that real? Is that really their account?” he asks me midway through our interview. I assure him that it’s authentic, and for a split second he looks surprised. Just another highlight in a surreal month.
Writing about collab cafes — and visiting Tokyo’s Ted Cafe & Bar — for Eater
Here’s a fun one for Eater — wrote about the wave of “collab cafes” that have sprung up across Japan, centered around the Ted Cafe & Bar that opened recently. Yeah, the bear.
People crowd around a giant stuffed toy, snapping photos and lining up to take a selfie with the super-sized version of Ted, the foul-mouthed bear from the film franchise of the same name. At the recently opened Ted Cafe and Bar, tucked away on the second floor of a building in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya neighborhood, the venue is completely devoted to the Seth MacFarlane creation. It’s nearly full at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday, the only time I could get a reservation this week. I’ve come by myself, but the restaurant has kindly placed a Halloween-themed Ted in the chair across from me in what they dub the “VIP room,” so I’m never really alone.
Writing about Tokyo’s first Russian maid cafe for The Japan Times
Recently went to Tokyo’s first Russian maid cafe, and wrote about the experience for The Japan Times.
Twelve men sit in silence at a new cafe in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district as three women dressed in Russian attire start serving a sour-looking plate of borscht.
The men have each paid ¥15,000 to attend this soft opening of ItaCafe, which bills itself as the city’s first Russian maid cafe.
The general chit-chat you might expect to hear at a comparable Akihabara venue isn’t present at the soft opening on Oct. 16. Instead, it’s replaced by operatic background music and the shuffling of feet that comes courtesy of the press in attendance, who move around the diners to get a closer look at the chilled beet soup on the table in front of them.
Writing about YouTube channel Life Where I’m From and reviewing a compilation for The Japan Times
Two new articles in The Japan Times today, highlighted by an interview I did with the man behind Life Where I’m From, offering a kid’s perspective on everyday life in Japan.
Greg Lam’s YouTube channel Life Where I’m From started one morning with a simple idea.
“Honestly, my wife started cooking breakfast and I was like, ‘Hey, hold on, is it OK if I just capture this?’ ” The Canadian videographer recorded the most important meal of the day, with his elementary-school-age daughter, Aiko, explaining the finer details of preparing a Japanese omelette and eating natto.
Talked to starRo for The Japan Times
Interviewed LA-based producer starRo about his new album Monday (out now, and very much worth your time) for The Japan Times. Talked about quitting your job, future R&B and the changing face of internet music.
Shinya Mizoguchi used to loathe the start of the week. “Everybody hates Monday. It’s not a positive day of the week,” he says via Skype from his home in Los Angeles. His perspective changed over the past year, however, when he quit his job as a project manager at a tech company to focus solely on his musical endeavors as starRo.
Now, he sees the positives of Monday, so much so that his first full-length album is named after it.
“People are motivated, and it’s easy to get a hold of people,” he says. “That’s when things start rolling.”
Talked to bo en about his new EP for Metropolis
I’ve recently started contributing a bit for Metropolis magazine here in Tokyo, and my latest piece is an interview with bo en about his latest EP with Sugar’s Campaign singer Akio.
“Calum Bowen is no stranger to singing over his whirlwind pop, and the London-based artist who releases music as bo en figured his vocals were bound to pop up on his newest collaborative project with Japanese singer Keita Hatada. He says that, initially, the last song on the pair’s recently released Bokura No Irotoridori EP would be a duet, a back-and-forth affair.
“But he’s really good, and I sounded bad next to him,” Bowen says with a laugh from a yakitori restaurant in Ogikubo. “The blend just didn’t work that well.”
Writing about Maltine Records for The Japan Times
Revisited an online label I love for The Japan Times, Maltine Records, which will hold a big event this weekend in Shibuya. Talked to founder Tomad about it, and the state of the imprint.
“Music runs online in 2016. Songs become smash hits via YouTube, while global superstars command attention by giving exclusives to streaming services. Looking back at a time when web-only artists were novel seems absurd now.
“‘Around 2010, I think the internet music scene really existed separate from the indie and major scenes,” says Tomohiro Konuta, founder of online imprint Maltine Records. “But now, lots of artists become big from Soundcloud or Bandcamp. In a way, everything is internet music. It isn’t really special anymore.'”
Talking to Yasutaka Nakata and Oliver Heldens for The Japan Times
Two new features in The Japan Times this week. I had a larger feature about artist and producer Yasutaka Nakata, ahead of his festival.
“Yasutaka Nakata’s schedule tonight is packed. He’s being photographed by a Japanese magazine in a basement studio after 10 p.m. on a Friday, and it’s taking a little longer than expected. After this he’ll have a (very) late dinner before heading to Tokyo’s east end to do an early-morning DJ set at club ageHa.
The months ahead don’t look any less chaotic. He mentions “deadlines” for electro-pop trio Perfume, bubbly performer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and a number of young music acts hoping to get that same digi-pop shine that Nakata has become known for as a producer and composer. And that’s just the tip, he has even more personal projects to undertake ranging from his duo Capsule to his solo work as a DJ.”
Writing a guide to Korean electronic indie music for Bandcamp
Returned to Bandcamp with a large feature about Korea’s burgeoning indie electronic scene, featuring interviews with a lot of artists.
“Earlier this year, Seoul synth-pop artist Neon Bunny embarked on a tour that took her to Austin, Texas for South By Southwest and a jaunt around Europe. Wherever she went, she was labeled as a K-Pop artist by journalists and promoters.
“Yeah, it’s a really freaky thing to me. I’m not a K-Pop artist in Korea. If I go abroad, though, I’m a K-Pop artist,” Neon Bunny (real name Yoojin Lim) says from her apartment in the capital of South Korea. She loves Korean pop music—Lim recommends checking out the debut from Blackpink and Cosmic Girl’s “Secret”—but says she feels strange being given the description.”