Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Shinjuku Melody - October 2008 #4 (30th & 31st)"

October 30th & 31st - having run out of not only patience, but also days in October, this is definitely the last one of this series. I originally meant for it to be one video containing the whole week's worth of performances, but there was too much material for one YouTube posting, so I divided it up.

As I mentioned in "Shinjuku Street Bands - October 2008 #3", I have no intention of focusing exclusively on street bands for videos, I just wanted to finish this project, so I slogged it out until the end. (I'm open to recording the subject again, but for now I want to do other topics for awhile.)

All of that said, there is some excellent guitar music in this one I think - with two sections highlighting Otofuke, the solo guitarist with a unique guitar-playing method (the first section is very brief, but the second takes a better look from multiple angles), and one section (at the end) of the group, Oshare Dorobo. Others are featured as well, such as the three-piece group Ondo.

December 31st, 2008. Another year over. But not just any year it seems. It's looking like "2008" will be remembered in history in much the same way as "1929". Here's to moving forward constructively; to not slipping into World-War-III; to proving that history does not have to repeat itself!

Happy New Year everyone! May it be a great one!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Shinjuku Street Bands - October 2008 #3"

I don't intend to make writing and taking pictures of Shinjuku street bands a profession, but I would like to finish the project at least! I went by there every evening in late October 2008 and this is the next video in that series. #1 was taken earlier actually, and then #2, #3 (and #4, when I can get around to editing it) were taken in the same week. This one, #3, is from a couple of days - back-to-back.

In searching for the street bands, I walked around the station (about a 20 minute hike - Shinjuku Station is large) and there are some brief views of areas of Shinjuku around the station. Also in this video are views of three police officers shutting down a performance by the South-East Exit of the station.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Shinjuku Street Bands - October 2008 #2"

October may have been the peak of street bands performing in Shinjuku (mostly in the South and South-East exit areas), what with comfortable temperatures (no humid heat and no biting cold), and not very strict patrolling by local police officers. Since then however, the police have been more rigorously enforcing a ban on unlicensed pubic performances, and the weather has made it uncomfortable to be outside anyway (for both the performers and the audience).

For one week of October in particular, I went to Shinjuku every day, and this is one of the days (or "another of the days" - if you've seen the previous Shinjuku Bands post), a not very crowded evening, with only three bands:

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Nighttime Ikegami Line"

The Ikegami Line is interesting, for a few reasons. The first thing you notice when using the line is that the trains only have three cars, which is really unusual for Tokyo. Most lines have ten cars, with a few six and eight car trains on one end of that, and a few 15-car trains on the other.

The next thing you notice as you travel down the line, is that several of the stations are as though in a time slip, with wooden roofs and other station bits that look as though they're either from the many-decades-ago past, or on a seldom traveled line out in the countryside somewhere.

Then - as you watch the trains going in the other direction, you notice that there are several different types of train on the line. By riding a few of them and noting the plaques that say when they were manufactured, you notice that the oldest of the four types being used dates back to around 1963 or so, and the newest is from this year (2008).

Other than that, it's just a normal branch line, except the station names tend to be more interesting than those on many other lines.

Anyway, that's not much, but it's four in the morning and I need to get some sleep, so....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Guitar Music by the South-East Exit"

Time-wise, I can't walk the streets of Shinjuku every evening in search of street bands, but following my visit there on Monday, I returned on Tuesday and saw a guitar player I had enjoyed listening to before (and bought a CD of his music) named Otofuke Kenta. Before I get going with an attempt to put some of the thought typhoon I had earlier this evening (Thursday) into words, here's the guitarist's website:

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a musician, then a photographer. I abandoned the idea of becoming a musician when I assessed how much difficulty I had distinguishing one note from another, but have never abandoned my love of music, nor my quest for visual experiences and recorded images. The quest continues as the years continue their relentless acceleration towards the inevitable end of the story... and the man walking through life begins to... worry about running out of time... and to look at the sky and deeply feel that the world needs more art and music.

...... There was a moment earlier this evening, with the air thick with meaning, sorrow, tragedy, hope, promise... and all the wordless feelings such moments carry. In the moment I determined to write the experience into form with words. This is that attempt, but there was so much more. Maybe some of the moment is conveyed between the lines? I wish I could do better - this is where music would help - if only I could create music to fit the thought typhoons....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"A Hard Evening in the Plaza"

On Monday I stopped by Shinjuku to see if any bands were playing and found the band Ondo playing in the plaza by the Southeast Exit (correct name? I think it's "Tonan" in Japanese). As they finished playing one song, an unfriendly looking cleaning man came up and seemed to be telling them they shouldn't be playing in the plaza, which they smiled off and then began playing another song as he walked off.

As I dug my hands into my pockets, I thought "It's getting cold to be playing outside..." and was just getting into the song when the bass player hurriedly put down his instrument and dashed off down the street. I looked back at the other two members of the band, who kept playing. Looking back down the street to see where the bass player had gone, I saw him talking with a policeman by what looked like the band's van - probably getting a parking ticket.

I looked back to the two band members still playing and pondered the band's difficulties - the time and trouble of setting up their equipment for a performance; the difficulty in parking their van; and then the unfriendly man telling them not to play. As they finished the song, a pair of policemen walked up, and that was the end of the evening's performance. As one of the policemen talked with one of the three band members, I bought one of their CDs from the keyboard player/singer (at least two of the three sing, maybe all three), and she mentioned that they would be playing at a "live house" in Shibuya the following Monday (is "live house" an English term, or just a Japanese term?)

The band's website is:

You can hear clips of their songs on this page:

Incidentally, the system with the police asking people to write something on a clipboard when they are asked to stop playing in public seems to be one in which the written statements basically say something like "I promise not to do this again here", so if they are caught a few times, there comes a point where the police can take out a stack of statements and say "You obviously are willfully breaking the law" and then they can be... fined I guess. (One of the musicians filled me in regarding what the clipboards were about.)

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon