By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad currently studies responsible tourism management at Leeds Metropolitan University. For more on his life in the UK and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.
Marco Lienhard has been involved in Japanese music for more than 30 years, first as a member of Ondekoza and then as the artistic director of Taikoza. When building his reputation as a professional taiko player in Japan, Lienhard also mastered the shakuhachi, eventually peforming at four major shakuhachi festivals around the world. He is also the founder of shakuhachi and koto group the East Winds Ensemble.
Lienhard has also released several albums, and his music can he heard on the score of the Nintendo Wii games Red Steel and Red Steel 2. His music has also appeared on ESPN, the History Channel and PBS. In this exclusive interview, Marco discusses his efforts to expand taiko’s global audience, the biggest influences in his career, and his personal highlights among 6,000 performances (and counting).
Where are you originally from and what sparked your interest in Japan and its traditional music?
I originally came from Switzerland, the French part. I went to Japan when I was 18 on some exchange program. I was very interested to go to Japan, but did not know much about it. Once there, I discovered the shakuhachi and the taiko. I had been studying the flute, but that sound of the shakuhachi just was amazing and I decided to study the instrument and master it. The first time I heard it was when I saw Ondekoza. There was taiko, too, and that was just so exciting to see. I did not know that I could play taiko too, but the flute seemed more approachable at the time.
I joined Ondekoza a few months later thinking I would stay just a few months, but it turned into 18 years.
For me, the sound of the shakuhachi was what drew me into it, though I fell in love with the traditional art forms as well. I enjoyed the theater as well as the music. I would go see two to three plays a month, noh or kabuki.
What drew you to taiko in the first place and to become a performer? What are the most important lessons it has taught you?
When I went to Japan, I had been studying piano and flute for many years. To become a performer was just a natural progression from studying with Ondekoza and becoming a member of the group. One thing led to another—studying with them and getting into the whole practice and running aspect of the group.
Marathon running was part of the training, and before long I was running marathons. I joined in August but by November they had me run a full marathon. My first performance was in January for the Imamiya Ebisu Festival on Dotonburi Street in Namba, Osaka. Once I started performing, I got the bug and just wanted to get better at it and study the shakuhachi as well. I was the only one who studied the shakuhachi so I was put on stage very quickly. Taiko has taught me a lot. It is sort of a college or university if not more—a life lesson.
Mr. [Tagayasu] Den, who was the founder of Ondekoza, [influenced] what taiko is now. He was a great influence in the development of modern taiko, though he never really played taiko. He was the brain and the force behind the group. He would lecture us on everything. He would turn a book into lessons for us to learn and apply to stage or performing or taiko. His vision as a director also influenced me on staging of a show
You were a professional taiko player in Japan. How does one become a professional taiko player?
While I was in Japan, I joined Ondekoza and as a member of Ondekoza I studied and later performed professionally with Ondekoza, traveling around the world to perform. At the time, Ondekoza and taiko groups were still not that popular and they did not yet have an apprenticeship system. As a member, you learned the repertoire and practiced with the regular members until you were at their level and were performing among them. It took me about four months before I had my debut on shakuhachi, and taiko drummer Den, the director of Ondekoza, is the person who would decide who was playing and what instrument.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “There are no second acts in American lives.”
Fortunately, there are Second Quests.
Over 25 years after the blockbuster Nintendo video game series first hit the scene bearing its namesake in honor of Fitzgerald’s wife, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses returns for an encore run in some of North America’s most distinguished theater halls (including, for the first time, a pair of dates in Mexico). Presented by Jason Michael Paul Productions, the show—currently on tour through December—presents the very best of Zelda’s lush symphonic scores paired with a live orchestra and visual effects.
In this JQ exclusive, producer and lead creative Jeron Moore sounds off what’s new about the show, the experience of working with Nintendo to bring the ultimate live experience to fans, and the evolution of Link throughout the saga’s rich history.
What was the inspiration for this installment of the show?
Well, if you’re a Zelda aficionado, you’ll recognize the term “Second Quest” from the New Game+ mode from the original 1986 entry, The Legend of Zelda, on the NES. It’s a mode you’d unlock once you defeated the game, and what it did was reorganize the game a little bit, made the dungeons a bit harder, made the items a bit more challenging to find, made the bosses a bit more difficult to defeat. We’ve taken the idea of visiting familiar places while encountering new challenges and applied that to the Second Quest, which has been revamped to include a half hour of new material while keeping all of the classics that make The Legend of Zelda what it is.
What surprises can we expect from the Second Quest?
They wouldn’t be surprises if I told you! But I will hint that we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of a particular, very special handheld title. We’ve also finally included some music from one of the most recent Zelda games, which we steered cleared of with the first season program. And at the request of Mr. Eiji Aonuma, you can also expect to see a fully revamped Wind Waker segment, featuring gorgeous visuals from the game’s recent HD release on the Wii U. The Wind Waker has never looked better.
How did the idea for format of the show come about? The large screen, the orchestra?
It’s simple. There’s just nothing classier than a large orchestra tuning up, then performing powerhouse symphonic interpretations of your favorite music, no matter the genre. For The Legend of Zelda, we wanted Symphony of the Goddesses to be as accessible as possible. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a room and feeling left behind because you didn’t walk in with a prerequisite knowledge of the material. The music undoubtedly stands on its own, but incorporating visuals opens it up and informs the entire audience of context, not just those who’ve played the games before. Of course, being the fans that we are, we’ve carefully edited the footage into an entertaining narrative that, we feel, makes sense. With that, we’re able to hit on many of the important moments universally adored by fans, so yeah—lots of inside jokes, but we try not to let anything fall flat.
By Lyle Sylvander (Yokohama-shi, 2001-02) for JQ magazine. Lyle has completed a master’s program at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and has been writing for the JET Alumni Association of New York since 2004. He is also the goalkeeper for FC Japan, a New York City-based soccer team.
Tom Byer (a.k.a. Tomsan) is an American soccer coach who has lived in Japan for nearly 30 years. The first professional American soccer player in Asia, he has been a major figure in Japan as a coach and educator. In fact, many people in Japan see him as a major catalyst behind the country’s rising status as a global soccer power. Byer is responsible for increasing soccer’s popularity and teaching fundamental skills to hundreds of thousands of children, including many of the nation’s most celebrated players. In the process, he has become a well-known media personality and has even extended his influence to China, where he signed a contract with the Chinese Football Association to be a technical director for youth teams.
Where are you from? Was soccer popular there when you were growing up?
I was born in the Bronx, New York City. I grew up in Rosendale, Ulster County, Upstate New York. Soccer was just becoming popular when I was a kid. I first started playing baseball and changed over to soccer after my brother and his friends started to play. But soccer was still a very minor sport.
How did you end up living and working in Japan?
I was introduced to Hitachi FC, which is currently playing in the J-League as Kashiwa Reysol, back in 1986 because my college coach at Ulster County Community College had some connections here. So I had a short stint with them, which gave me experience in Japanese soccer. And when I hung up the playing boots I decided to get into youth development. I also did many things on the U.S. military bases for kids playing soccer.
Can you tell us about your company T3, which aims to educate Japanese schoolchildren about soccer?
My company is called T3—the T stands for “Tom” and the 3 for “san,” Tomsan, because I am known by Tom-san throughout Japan from my appearances on daily television for 13 years. The name of the TV corner was, “Tom-san’s Soccer Techniques.” We try to help every child we come in contact with to “realize their potential.” We are technical specialists helping kids, coaches and parents understand the importance of developing technique. I have performed over 2,000 events for more than 500,000 people over the years. I established another company which I headed up for 16 years which established over 100 soccer schools throughout Japan. It’s difficult to find almost any player in Japan today who hasn’t been influenced in some way regarding our activities. This means either they’ve grown up watching my daily TV corner, read the monthly KoroKoro Komikku manga, or have played in one of our 100 schools, camps, or bought our DVDs or books.
Let’s Talk Japan is a monthly, interview format podcast covering a wide range of Japan-related topics. Host Nick Harling (Mie-ken, 2001-03) lived in Japan from 2001 until 2005, including two great years as a JET Program participant in Mie-Ken. He practices law in Washington, D.C., and lives with his wife who patiently listens to him talk about Japan . . . a lot.
In this episode, Nick speaks with JET Program alumni Chelsea Reidy and Elayna Snyder about their upcoming 900-mile bicycle tour of Shikoku’s famous 88 temple pilgrimage.
Listen to hear them describe their creative “Temple by Temple Project,” which they are funding through Kickstarter, and how they plan to share their adventure with others.
As a JET, I keep track of my friends from my Japan days on Facebook. I started seeing posts by my fellow JETs for this cool e-book about crafting in Tokyo. Imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the authors, Angela Salisbury, was an old friend from high school!
I reached out to her to find out more about the book, crafting in Japan, and the JET crafting scene….
Rose: So, how long have you lived in Japan?
Angela: 3 years
Rose: Why did you move to Japan?
Angela: Adventure! The real answer? My husband’s job needed him in Asia, and we decided Tokyo was the place for us.
Rose: Is there an expat crafting scene in Tokyo? If so, can you tell me a little bit about it? Read More
Sakura matsuri season is upon us. For JET returnees, this time of year hearkens back to picnics with friends or students. Copious amounts of alcohol under the pink shower of blossoms and maneuvering through crowded lines of vendors celebrating the coming of spring. Sakura season also brings out the finest Japanese talent in New York and no event worth mentioning would be whole without the beating heart of COBU.
You haven’t been following COBU around like a bloodhound? Shame on you. Don’t even know what a COBU is? Double shame on you. Fortunately, oneesan is here to clue you in.
Spearheaded by artist and visionary Yako Miyamoto, COBU is more of a statement in taiko than a collaboration. We are heard. We are seen. We are felt. We are here. A handful of iron women play tirelessly in perfect sync. A little humor, an appropriate smattering of sexy and a metric ton of showmanship make COBU a delight for audiences across the tri-state area.
This year’s Branch Brook Park performance in New Jersey was a staggering hit by COBU, showcasing the talent of their following, or deshi. Upstage, COBU performing members Micro Fukuyama and Haruna Hisada kept time and loudly cheered on the fledgling members as they demonstrated some of COBU’S trademark choreography and pulsing patterns. If you have ever witnessed a COBU show before, it’s easy to become dazzled by the performing members, but this showcase invited audiences to the notion that, hey, they can be a part of this rhythm, too.
Let’s Talk Japan is a twice monthly, interview format podcast covering a wide range of Japan-related topics. Host Nick Harling (Mie-ken, 2001-03) lived in Japan from 2001 until 2005, including two great years as a JET Program participant in Mie-Ken. He practices law in Washington, D.C., and lives with his wife who patiently listens to him talk about Japan . . . a lot.
Dear JETs and JET Alumni,
One of the main reasons I started the Let’s Talk Japan podcast was to highlight the positive impact JETs and JET alumni have on their local communities in Japan. In Episode 10, I interviewed Meredith Smith, Media and Public Relations Director for Smile Kids Japan, a volunteer organization founded by JETs in Fukui Prefecture which encourages visits to orphanages in Japan. Through its website and volunteer leadership, Smile Kids Japan helps facilitate such visits by serving as a resource for best practices. This organization is doing amazing work, and I hope this episode helps raise its profile both in Japan and abroad.
If you have not already done so, be sure to “Like” the podcast on Facebook, and follow the podcast on Twitter @letstalkjapan. Additionally, please consider leaving a positive rating and/or review in iTunes.
STUFF FOR THE TEEN AGE, THE TICKETLESS TRAVELER
by Rabecca Hoffman, Kingsbridge Library
March 21, 2013
Harajuku? Geisha? Robots? Awesome! Japanese culture has been an obsession of mine for a while now, as well as for the teenagers at my branch, so when we recently had the opportunity to invite Lucia Brea, Fukui Friendship Ambassador, to stop by and talk to the Kingsbridge Library’s Teen Advisory Group, I jumped at the opportunity. Lucia spent four years in Japan through the JET Program teaching English to students of all ages in the Fukui Prefecture, and I was able to sit down with her after her visit to ask her a few questions about her experience:
What is the JET program, and would you recommend it for other people? Are there other ways to go about living in Japan as a foreigner?
The JET Programme stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, now in its 26th year, which aims to promote grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other countries. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a passion for developing strong relationships with communities and the drive to live in Japan for an extended period of time. It is an opportunity to experience Japan and continue to enhance relationships between Japan and their home country like I did at the New York Public Library. There are many other ways to live in Japan as a foreigner, the JET Programme is one of the best…
By Fernando Rojas (Fukui-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, Fernando was JHS ALT in Fukui prefecture, home of the echizen-gani, a city named Obama, the Fukuisaurus, and nuclear power plants. While in Japan, he picked up shuji (Japanese calligraphy) as his hobby and continues to practice today. He is currently a fellowships associate for the Social Science Research Council’s Abe Fellowship Program in Brooklyn and co-representative for the JETAA New Jersey subchapter.
Hailing from Tome City in Miyagi Prefecture, Saiko Goto was a recent JUSTE Program participant at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Informally called the “Reverse JET Program,” the Japan–U.S. Training and Exchange Program for Language Teachers allows Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) from all over Japan to take courses in ESL teaching at U.S. universities.
Goto received her teaching license from Gunma Prefecture Women’s University, where she majored in English. She currently teaches at Sakuma Junior High School and has taught English for eight years. Before returning to Japan in January, Goto spoke with JQ about JUSTE and the ongoing impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on her school.
How are teachers selected to participate in the JUSTE program?
Teachers are selected according to their prefectures. In some prefectures, teachers have to apply for the program. In other prefectures, teachers are picked by the board of education. In my case, I was recommended by my principal to the Tome City Board of Education and selected by the Miyagi Prefecture Board of Education.
Have you found the JUSTE program beneficial? In what ways has the program helped you?
Being on JUSTE has been very beneficial. I have met and talked with many people from different countries, as well as learned a lot from them through English. I have also thought more about my teaching and the importance of learning English. The program has also helped me to create more effective activities. I made many activities with other JUSTE members and we will use them in my classes.
Would you recommend the program to other JTEs in Japan?
Definitely. By participating in the program, you can have many chances for meeting people and learn a lot. I visited a former ALT during the winter vacation and experienced life in Arkansas with her and her family. I also became friends with other JUSTE participants. We will share our list of activities with each other online and keep in touch.
New York Times bestselling author and columnist Bruce Feiler (Tochigi-ken, 1987-88) has written a range of books dealing with topics as varied as life in Japan (depicted in 1991’s Learning to Bow), religion, and his own diagnosis with cancer.
His latest book, The Secrets of Happy Families, is a playbook for today’s family with tips and advice for increasing overall happiness and strengthening the family unit. Unlike other family-related books, Feiler does not advocate one particular method or philosophy over another; rather, he has done a thorough investigation of what happy families have in common and offers readers a slice of the pie.
In this exclusive interview, Feiler shares how his experience in Japan has given him insight into family life across cultures, as well as his take on the modern family’s trials and tribulations.
It seems the book market is already glutted with all sorts of self-help books about families. What sets your book apart and why do you feel that it is particularly timely?
In many ways, I was motivated by the deluge of self-help books. They’re boring, tried, and out of fresh ideas. As a parent, I was completely frustrated and had tons of questions about how to make my family function more effectively, and the only books out there were from “family experts.” Meanwhile, in every other arena of contemporary life—from Silicon Valley to elite peace negotiators, from championship sports teams to the Green Berets—there are proven new ways to make teams and groups run more smoothly. I wanted to know what those people were doing with their own families, then test their ideas with mine. Not every idea worked. That’s why I put over 200 new ones in the book, because what clicks with your family may be different from what clicked with mine. But my hope is that if you take three ideas, you’ll have a happier family in a week.
In the chapter about the agile manifesto, you talk about the importance of “being part of the family team.” In writing about the importance of teamwork within the family, were you inspired at all by your experience in Japan, a culture which valorizes the group above all else?
I think it may be more the other way around, in that I was attracted to Japan because I’ve always been interested in tight groups and well-run teams. At the time I lived in Japan, in the late 1980s, Americans still believed that the individual mattered above all else. But one thing we’ve learned from the Internet is that we all have a natural inclination toward groups, social networks, and other gatherings of people. The first generation of happiness research has shown us that relationships matter above all else. Happiness is other people. And the people who matter most to us are our family. Yet there have been almost no books that tell us how to do that.
Are there other cultural practices you observed in your time in Japan which you believe could benefit American families?
One I learned while in Japan is that being part of a group doesn’t just happen. Japanese schools, in particular, work on it. I remember a school trip I went on where classes were divided into small groups. The number one rule was, don’t be late. The number two rule was, only one person in each group was allowed to have a watch. Guess what! You better stick together. Having a close family doesn’t just happen, either—you have to work on it. Fortunately, there are lots of new ideas out there to do that, which I’ve tried to gather.
******* JET Alum Artist Beat is a periodic feature organized by Jessica Sattell (Fukuoka-ken, 2007-2008) intending to share the wide scope of creative work that JET alumni are pursuing as artists, designers, and/or craftspeople. She is interested in interviewing and providing exposure for artists and arts professionals, and welcomes links to online portfolios, stores and businesses. Feel free to email Jessica at hello (dot) jessicasattell (at) gmail (dot) com with suggestions.
Joshua Powell (Saitama-ken, 2005-2007) is a Seattle-based book designer and illustrator. He has designed and produced a number of books for Japan-focused (and JET alum run) independent publisher Chin Music Press, including Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer, which was a 2011 Washington State Book Award Finalist and won First Place in the Quality Paperback category at the 2012 New York Book Show. NPR called another title that he designed, Oh! a mystery of mono no aware, “a triumphant kick in the pants for anyone who doubts the future of paper-and-ink books.”
Josh graciously took the time to discuss his JET tenure and how his experiences in Japan influence his design sensibilities.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you decide to apply to JET and live in Japan?
From the ages of 9-17 I practiced traditional Japanese martial arts, training under a Japanese teacher who had relocated to my home state of Virginia. His two sons as well as other Japanese sensei would visit and teach at the dojo for extended periods of time.
When I was fifteen I was lucky enough to travel to Japan for a karate competition. I never really sought out Japanese culture. I just kind of fell into marital arts and by virtue of that, Japan became a pretty central part of my childhood and teenage years. The trip I took to Japan lasted two weeks, and after it was over I always had this feeling that I wanted to get back and live there – I wondered what it would be like to have things become more familiar, to feel comfortable there. It was a thought that just stuck in the back of my mind, and then when I found out about the JET Program years later, I didn’t think twice about applying.
Were there any experiences while you were on JET that you found particularly meaningful or memorable?
My two years on JET are very important to me – a consistently rewarding and meaningful time. There are many things that contributed to the experience being so great, but it really came down to the people I met and the places I visited while in Japan. I felt extremely lucky with the school I worked at – Omiya High School in Saitama-ken. I had great co-workers, some of whom I considered close friends, and so many enthusiastic and positive students. Outside of work I had some really great friends, other JETs as well as Japanese friends who I mainly met while traveling. There were so many opportunities to get out and explore the country. Unlike many JETs, I only left the country once during my two years. I almost exclusively spent my time off exploring Japan. Coming from the U.S., the ability and ease with which I could explore the country never ceased to amaze me – just hop on a train and you’re off on a new adventure.
One of the things that I came away from Japan with was the knowledge that you don’t need a lot of things to be happy. You can live in a tiny apartment and have few material possessions (no point in buying a lot of stuff when you aren’t staying somewhere permanently), but as long as there are good people in your life and you’re able to get out and experience new things, life can be very fulfilling.
As you mention in your interview with One A Day, you’re trained in printmaking. Has that influenced your work as a book designer?
Yes. I’m mostly self-taught when it comes to design, so of course I’m building off of the visual language I learned through making art, and particularly printmaking. And of course bookmaking is a form of printmaking – making an edition of ink on paper objects. So naturally, my enthusiasm for the physical book is greatly influenced by my background in printmaking. I’ve always worked with commercial printers – none of which were in Seattle. So in a way that’s very odd, that I’m giving up the actual printing aspect of the whole process to someone else. Nonetheless, since I’m not only doing the design but also handling the production aspect of the process (preparing files, choosing papers, communicating with the printer), I still have a hand in it. If I were to print the books myself or to work closely with a local printer, Read More
By Adam Lobel (Nagano-ken, 2000-02) for JQ magazine. Last year, Adam returned to New York after 10 years in Japan, where he researched satoyama (traditional landscape of Japan) as a master’s student, and collaborated with Japanese policymakers in science and technology while working at a think tank. Adam currently helps manage his family’s business, a land use law firm in Manhattan, and looks forward to contributing to New York’s green building movement.
Born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, Matthew Gillam was hooked on Japan after visiting when he was 17. After college, he lived in Japan for eight years, and then returned to the U.S., where he completed a master’s at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Matt has spent the past 14 years as a researcher at the Japan Local Government Center (JLGC), discovering and sharing best practices from local governments in North America with his colleagues in New York and Japan.
By encouraging organizational discipline and providing tools to build strong networks, Matt has helped strengthen the JET Alumni Association, thus helping thousands of JET participants smoothly transition to life back home. He promotes JETAA’s role an important stakeholder in productive business and cultural relationships with Japanese localities, helping broaden the JET Program’s mission long after participants return home.
In this thought-provoking interview, JQ spoke with Gillam about what it was like to study Japanese at the University of Iowa in the 1980s, life in Japan before the existence of JET, and the kindness and hard work JET families displayed in the aftermath of 3/11. He emphasizes that JET—an experiment in grassroots internationalization—has changed how the world thinks about Japan. Matt gave this interview before heading to Japan, where he spent four days with It’s Not Just Mud (INJM), a non-profit volunteer organization based in Ishinomaki.
How did you become interested in Japan?
I was exposed to Japan when I was seven: my sister spent the summer of 1969 as an exchange student in Yamanashi. She fell in love with Japan, and told us about it after returning home. Eventually she went to live in Japan, teaching English at Sony Language Labs. In 1979, just before my senior year of high school, my mother and I went to visit. Before that trip, I never liked to travel. Suddenly, I was in a completely new place. I realized there was a bigger world, and it was interesting. That’s when I fell in love with Japan, its people, food, art and architecture.
After my sister returned to the U.S., she placed a Japanese student in a nearby town. I fell in love with that student, who eventually became my wife. In college I flunked out of forestry, my first major and, looking for something new, got into Japanese language. I did a year abroad at Kansai Gaidai in Osaka, and spent eight more years in Japan after graduating.
How did people react to your decision to study Japanese? What was Japanese study like at the University of Iowa in the 1980s?
Some people did not understand my decision to study Japanese, especially because it was a small Midwestern town. Their reaction was, “Why Japanese?” This was 1982: Japan was just beginning to emerge as a major economic rival, and Japanese culture hadn’t permeated the Midwest yet. It was a strange thing to do.
My sister understood, and my mom understood, but other family members and friends did not. In those days, some people’s reaction to Japan was still influenced by the Second World War: “These people were enemies; I am not comfortable with them.” That only got worse through the eighties with trade friction.
Study materials were primitive by today’s standards: Japanese textbooks by Prof. Eleanor Jorden, a kanji dictionary, and language lab with cassette tapes. Our professor, Thomas Rohlich (now at Smith College) started the same day I did. We had a Japanese teaching assistant from Tokyo, but most of the teachers were white men.
There were no Japanese restaurants or pop culture. Fisher Control, a company in my hometown, employed a Japanese engineer, who had relocated with his wife. At the beginning of my first year of college, there were 30 students, the biggest class they had ever had! That number slowly decreased, until there were only six or eight students by my third year. There were a couple of Japanese students on campus who became casual friends. Prof. Rohlich’s wife was from Kyoto, and she hosted a gyoza party. That was about it.
Interview conducted by Rick Ambrosio (Ibaraki-ken, 2006-08). A staple of the JET Alumni Association of New York (JETAANY) community, Rick manages their Twitter page and is an up-for-anything writer for JQ magazine.
From porn to Playboy to parenthood, Tera Patrick describes herself these days as a “Betty Crocker Rocker Mompreneur.” Suitably following Hurricane Sandy at this year’s Exxxotica Expo in New Jersey—the nation’s biggest event devoted to love and sex—this multi-award-winning force of nature attended the three-day fest from Nov. 9-11 to press the flesh with fans and read from her best-selling autobiography, 2010’s Sinner Takes All.
But here’s something you might not know: Patrick’s been a diehard fan of Japanese culture since her days in Tokyo as a teen model. In this exclusive interview, the Montana native dishes on Harajuku girls and yakuza tats, the controversial Measure B that could forever change the adult industry, and the upcoming sequel to Sinner Takes All.
How are you enjoying Exxxotica?
I’m enjoying Exxxotica a lot—it was really important for me to come back. This is my first time at the show; I haven’t been back here since 2009. And in light of Sandy, it was really important to give back and boost morale and donate Tera items. I’m doing care packages for veterans tomorrow.
Last month you were a special guest at New York Comic Con. How did that end up happening?
You know what’s funny? I always say guys like three things: they like porn, comics and chicks. So it wasn’t too farfetched for me to be there; I actually debuted my first show at Comic Con in 2007 when I appeared in the video game Saints Row. So I’ve been in video games, I’ve had the privilege of being on Adult Swim and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I’ve done adult. I do a lot of different things—I’m an author now. My first memoir was Sinner Takes All; my second follow-up memoir comes out February 2013.
We heard that for Halloween your outfit was a Harajuku girl. Is that true?
Yes. I’m actually very fascinated by Japanese culture. In my memoir Sinner Takes All, my first modeling job at the age of 13 was in Omotesando in Tokyo. So I’ve always been obsessed with Japanese culture, and I usually spend one month of the year in Japan.
Japan still is my favorite country to visit. I love Japanese food. I’m Thai—my mother’s from Thailand—but I love Japanese food, Japanese culture. I love everything about Japan, so I’m really excited to take my family there for the first time in December. So I’ve been a bit selfish, and I always spend a lot of time in Japan. I’ve been tattooed in Japan; I’ve only been tattooed in Japan.
For the complete interview, click here.
By Preston Hatfield (Yamanashi-ken, 2009-10) for JQ magazine. Preston moved from San Francisco to New York City in January 2012 and is now accepting submissions from people who want to be his friend. Abduct him from his house in the middle of the night, or find him on Facebook and ask about his JET blog in which he details his exploits and misadventures in that crazy Land of the Rising Sun we all love.
Multinational pop rockers Monkey Majik are teaming up with shamisen heroes the Yoshida Brothers, the duo known for their traditional sound and pluck, for a three-date North American tour that kicks off Nov. 14 at Manhattan’s Marlin Room at Webster Hall, followed by the Mod Club in Toronto Nov. 18 and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa Nov. 20.
Monkey Majik was founded by Maynard Plant (Aomori-ken, 1997-2000), a native of Ottawa, Canada, while he was teaching English in Sendai on the JET Program. Known for a having a fun and versatile style of music, the band first earned mainstream attention in 2006 for their singles “Fly” and “Around the World,” and have since collaborated with other Japanese groups like SEAMO, m-flo, Bennie K, and the Yoshida Brothers.
In this exclusive JQ interview, the versatile vocalist and guitarist discusses the band’s origins, his own relationship with music, and his sense of home and community in Sendai, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami.
Which came first: the love of music or Japanese culture, and how has the one influenced and supported the other since you came to Japan?
I probably first took interest in Japan when I was about 10 years old or so when I visited Expo 86 in Vancouver, Canada. My interest in music also started at an early age. Most of my family is musical, so it always came natural. Certainly since arriving in Japan about 15 years ago, my musical interests have changed. The Japanese music scene is incredibly diverse and different from the Western scene. The sound is very unique and [it] has had a deep effect on our music.
It’s funny, many ALTs in Japan feel like rock stars, but you actually became a rock star. What was it like going from small time notoriety and fame at your school, to becoming famous on a national level for your musicianship?
It didn’t happen overnight, so I suppose I never took notice. It’s a lot like learning Japanese—you don’t just wake up fluent one day. Success is born out of hard work and commitment. Regardless of where you live, the same elements come into play.
How did the current band members come together? Were you friends before you started collaborating professionally? How have each of you influenced Monkey Majik’s sound, style, and group dynamic?
I put the current band together after most of the original members quit in 2000. I first called my younger brother Blaise, and within a couple of months we found Tax (Kikuchi Takuya). It was around 2005 that our original bassist Misao Urushizaka quit. We then recruited Dick (Hideki Mori). It’s difficult to say if the friendship came before membership, but one thing is certain now: we wouldn’t be doing this if we hadn’t become best friends. We have a lot of respect for each other and all [band] decisions are made together.
Frederik L. Schodt first traveled to Japan in 1965 as a teenager, and since the early ’80s he has written numerous books about Japanese culture both popular and obscure, including the landmark Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, the first substantial English-language work on the art form. Schodt also has translated a wealth of books and manga series (many by his late friend, the “god of comics” Osamu Tezuka), and in 2009 he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette for his contribution to the introduction and promotion of Japanese contemporary popular culture.
Out Nov. 13 is his newest book, Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe, the true story of “Professor” Richard Risley Carlisle, an American who introduced the Western circus to Japan in 1864, and in turn gave many Americans their first glimpse of the East when he took his “Imperial Japanese Troupe” of acrobats and jugglers on a triumphant tour of North America and Europe, stirring a fascination with all things Japanese that, Schodt says, eventually led to today’s boom in manga and anime.
In part one of this exclusive, wide-ranging interview, I spoke with Schodt about his fascination with the late 19th century, his relationship with contemporary pop culture icons like George Lucas, and the story behind his middle initial, which is colorfully connected to the events of the film Argo.
It’s been more than five years since the release of your last book, The Astro Boy Essays. What else have you been up to since then?
I’ve actually gone through this and done some rough calculations, but it seems to take me about five years between books. I’ve been doing this same sort of thing that I always do, which is a mix of writing books and translating and then also working as a conference interpreter. For different periods, the weight and the ratio changes, but the mix is pretty much the same. And I’ve been working on the book of Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe, I guess, for the last two or three years doing research. But it’s been a lot of fun, I have to say—it’s been one of the most fun books I’ve worked on in a long time.
What are some developments in manga/anime/Japanese pop culture in the U.S. that you feel has moved in a positive direction? At the same time, what things are you a bit critical of in the way they were handled?
I think it’s wonderful that a popular culture from another country such as Japan developed such a large fanbase in the United States, and that was a real surprise to me. I always hoped that people would take more notice in Japanese manga and anime, because I thought they were such an interesting manifestation of popular culture that had been long overlooked in the United States. But I never imagined that both of those entertainment media would become so big and so entrenched in the United States in terms of the fanbase, so that’s been wonderful to see.
It seems like the biggest development in recent years has been the cosplay phenomenon—that’s become a real part of the lingo here now.
That’s right. And I think cosplay in the United States is a little different, and in fact I think the whole fandom in the United States has assumed sort of American characteristics, so it’s developing on its own in new directions, and it’s kind of wonderful to see. I go to some of the larger cons every once in a while, and I really enjoy seeing how young people are interpreting this cultural phenomenon developed in Japan, although I have to say that cosplay is really indirectly inspired by the masquerades and the costume competitions that started in the United States in the sci-fi comic book community. So it’s very interesting. It’s this sort of cultural interchange that I’ve always been fascinated by where you have these two countries that are kind of reflecting each other and sending influences back and forth to each other, and interpreting a phenomenon in slightly different ways.
For the complete interview, click here.