Sunday, 30 March 2008



X Japan is maybe the most famous band in Japan with its popularity reaching across the whole globe. They formed in 1982 before I was even born and gradually gained popularity though good music and extravagant appearance. They also led the first groundation for what would later be known as Visual Rock and even later Visual Kei.

X was also the first band in Japan to gain such success while being on an independent label, meaning they basically managed everything themselves. They performed for 15 years until 1997 having their farewell concert. One year later Hide, one of the five members and lead guitarist was found hanged with a towel in his apartment in Tokyo. While police sees the case as suicide certain fans believe it to be an accident. Notably some fans killed themselves in copycat suicides shortly after. Hide's death also sealed the end of X Japan, or so it seemed.

Yet 10 years later at the end of 2007 Toshi, the band's lead singer, announced their reunion with 2 reunion concerts in March 2008. Everybody was really surprised, especially since X Japan is not X Japan without the deceased Hide. Nonetheless the 2 concerts were immediately sold out and they announced a third concert, which was also sold out right afterwards. The place was to be the Tokyo Dome, usually a place for Baseball Games, barely fitting all the fans when completely filling the seat rows and the ground below with chairs.

As you might have guessed by me talking about this, I got the incredible luck of getting one of these tickets. I like the band since it was recommended to me by my good friend Kike from Spain, who also loves them dearly. I knew most of the songs by heart and knew I could really enjoy the concert to the fullest. So I decided to invest a large amount of money and go for one of the tickets.

Even before I entered the Tokyo Dome, I was amazed by the number of fans and especially by the wonderful outfits they have chosen for themselves. A lot dressed like X at the height of their fame and power and thus looked simply amazing and wonderful. I tried to take some pictures of them outside, since the taking inside was forbidden.

Once we entered the Dome, I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a huuuuge stage erected in the rear center of the dome, which split itself actually in 5 stages with 3 catwalks right through the ground audience. I made two pictures of the stage, while the band was not performing, so I hope that is ok to post them here.

the rightmost stage was right in front of us

I did not cease to be amazed, since I then noticed that our seats at section B16 (I went with three dear coworkers, also X Japan nuts) were pretty close to one of the three biggest stages and directly beneath one of the catwalks. Then I rejoiced to meet my coworkers and we exchanged screams of joy. Since we actually had seats we sat down, but of course, once only one chime was to be heard or one shape to be seen, everybody would stand up and scream.

Enlarge and you will find just how close B16 was!

The performance started shortly after 18 o'clock and lasted almost 5 hours until something before 23 o'clock. Inspite of the incredible length nobody got tired of screaming or clapping or singing along with the songs. The concert started with a big boom when huge curtains shading the stage fell down and the four living members of X started playing.

There is one thing about Japan that made this concert possible. Japanese have a very strong believe in deceased ancestors as well as people close to them. So it was natural for them that on this day actually all five members including the deceased Hide were performing on stage. Because of the sheer size of the stadium they had to erect several huge displays to enlarge the tiny creatures jumping around on the stage. Therefor it was easy to split and vary the screens in a way to always show all five members of the band, where Hide's part was constructed from video recordings. Sometimes it really looked like he was there on the stage, when focusing on the screens, it was incredibly awesome but also a little bit scary. One of Juan's friends, who actually had been to all three concerts later told us, that on the concert one day before, she had the luck of standing right in front of the stage. And there she from time to time had to rub her eyes, because she actually saw Hide standing on the stage. Rubbing her eyes it then was one of the other members, but she could have sworn it was Hide just one instant ago.

The first performance came to an end with Forever Love, on of X's famous ballads and a quarter of an hour of silence for Hide. Then Toshi thanked everyone for their understanding and they continued after a short break. At the next song, also a ballad, Toshi actually cried and I am pretty sure, standing close by, that the tears were natural; he was both touched and sad at the same time.

A second huge surprise was when guitarists from Guns'N'Roses, Luna Sea and Limp Bizkit entered the stage and supported X for the missing lead guitarist. (Before their entrance, Hide's part was played back from recordings). The three guys merged perfectly with the four guys from X, while adding their own rocky touch to the performance. Now having seven people including four guitarists on stage, also allowed them to spread across the stages and catwalks, so that we often were really close to one of them.

The third part ended with one of my absolute favorites KURENAI and a short fourth part was a performance of a newcomer band called h.Naoto, with some pretty interesting scary visuals. After that followed a long drum/keyboard solo of Yoshiki, where he was literally floating through the air on top of a isle including his drum set and two keyboards to his left and right.

In the break in between the vast audience would start waved by jumping up one after the other, which looks really impressive with such a huge audience. Also since every fourth person had little light sticks I could just turn around 360 degrees and stare at the sea of light only vaguely guessing just how many excited fans there were in the audience.

Then one more time they started playing two new songs, one only written for the three concerts, there other being the cool Song they wrote 2007 for the SAW IV soundtrack and simply titled it I.V. Then they continued playing some old songs and finished again with one song I had so eagerly anticipated: Endless Rain. I love the song dearly and was so curious about hearing it live, since it lasted for more than 10 minutes on their Live CD, with never ending fan chorals. And my expectations were surpassed. When the song ended all the thousands and thousands of fans continued the song for over 30 minutes never loosing the tune and always keeping the sound wonderful and beautiful. I was deeply touched by the atmosphere erupting from the audience back then.

Not enough I was immediately re-energized when after that the piano solo tunes from Art Of Life could be heared. The solo lasted for over 30 minutes and was elongated to over one hour when Yoshiki appeared after these 30 minutes and took over the second piano. Then after one hour Toshi, Heath and Patta joined in with Guitar, Bass and Vocals and created one composition of a song never to be forgotten making Art Of Life the longest song I have ever heard and fully enjoyed until the last tune.
After Art of Life the performance reached it's finale with one of their oldest sings "X" and everyone doing the X Jump (jumping up while crossing your arms to form a X while screaming X).

We are X
We are X
We are X

The finale again went on for a long long time with no one getting tired. Then X members started throwing stuff into the audience like balls and Frisbees and what else. And finally they procured a huge stuffed Hide puppet hugged it and said farewell to us the audience and finished the third and last of their three reunion concerts.

It was an incredible night I will never forget. And I still cannot grasp my luck to have seen a true legend, who was already said to be dead, back on stage. It was like a time travel into the past with a grip to the present age and stuff for many night's dreams :)


Saturday, 29 March 2008

東京アニメフェア Tokyo Anime Fair

Welcome to this years Anime Fair in Tokyo / Odaiba Big Sight.

You don't even have to enter to start marveling, since the Big Sight is itself a "big sight" ^^. The area for the fair consists out of four inverted pyramids (i.e. standing on their peaks) uniting to one huge area on top. It looks really impressive, and accordingly you have to take stairs to get to the main area.

Big Sight

Another big sight was the line of people queuing up for being let in. It started way outside the building itself and continued outside almost to the station U11 in Odaiba. However entering the building you still have a 10-15 min walk until you reach the real entrance to the fair. Adding 10 minutes on the outside, you can calculate a 20-25 minutes straight walk to the entrance. Now if you imagine standing this distance in a slowly always stagnating line, you can guess that it would take at least 4 hours to get in.
By then the fair would have almost been closed. So we did not stand in line but "only to see how far the line went", went inside next to the line and checked its end. When we thought to have found the end, we of course had to check if it was really the end, so we just joined the line at the very end and waited maybe 4 minutes until we were let in (4 hours / 4 minutes) .Once we were inside the fair, we were assured that the line does indeed lead inside, but now that we are already inside, we thought we can as well stay inside and have a look around and postponed the standing in line for after the show, when there are less people ;)

The inside was pretty huge and, as you can image from the line of people outside, pretty crowded. In spite of that there was disappointingly few cosplay to be seen. Basically the only cosplay was performed from Boothgirls distributing there flyers. Accordingly the number of perverted men was also way smaller than at the Game Convention.

Hired "Boothgirl" cosplayers

and some cool full costume mascots

one real cosplayer and he was foreigner ^^

Very interesting was the corner for the art schools and newcomer Animes:

their movie looked really good

we got two Manga and the postcards from this art school

pretty cool decoration fitting their Anime

We got a lot of cool stuff for free, including three DVD with Award Winning independent Anime, three lores of Manga, a poster of Motoko from Ghost in the Shell, some stickers including a Sasuke sticker (yuli-san was very happy) and some very cool free postcards.

We recognized some familiar Anime like Death Note, One Piece, Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist and got interested in some new Anime like 図書館戦争 (Library War), Yuli will investigate in that one. Studio Ghibli also was present and seems to have remastered a very old movie called パンダ子パンダ (Panda Panda) and we found some merchandising stores, were Yuli plundered all they had with Sasuke on it ^_^.

Studio Ghibli Corner

and the remake of Panda Panda

Al from Full Metal Alchemist

One Piece


Death Note

Ghost In The Shell Table

Some other more or less interesting new Anime to come:

an Anime based on the Game Dragon Quest

and one based on Highlander

this one didn't seem very interesting

Yuli also agreed that Baseball is boring

However this one did

There were surprisingly many attractions for little children to be found around the fair. I wanted to jump into the bird, but they told me it was only allowed for little children. I must find a way to transform myself between the shape of a child and adult for and back. Any ideas?

We even found a little space which hosted the German animation: Die Sendung Mit Der Maus, which I loved as child and still love to see it from time to time :) Yet I am surprised it made it as far as Japan ^^

Sendung Mit Der Maus

Of course where there are Anime there is merchandise. The merchandise ranged from

standard figures to

very interesting artistic puppets.

Trading Cards are also a must concerning Anime, as are

stuffed puppets.

Yuli fell over the Naruto merchandise ^_^

Ryan expected a little more, and Yuli and me also found the Comic Salon in Erlangen, the town we are studying in in Germany also more interesting. But then again the Anime Fair was just what it was, a means to present some new Anime and Anime ideas and a representation of some studios and colleges involved in Anime and Manga.

We enjoyed it nonetheless and got a lot of loot, which we eagerly searched through when coming home ^^

our loot


Friday, 28 March 2008

長寿祝い Special Birthdays For The Long Lived

Good Day!

Today I am telling you about a really nice little thing in the Japanese language. Once a person gets 60 years old, she/he is considered to have passed all aspects of life on earth once. This is because with 60 you will have experienced all possible combinations of the 10 干 calender signs with the 12 支 zodiac animals. So you count as experienced in life and bound to have gathered some wisdom, that is reason enough to start celebrating certain special birthdays for the long lived getting older than that.

Now the funny thing is, most of those special birthday consist of one Kanji with a certain meaning plus the Kanji for long life 寿 Ju, which curiously enough, you can also find in 寿司 Sushi. Not enough the first Kanji has usually a little Kanji game into it resembling both the age of the birthday and bearing a meaning at the same time.

The 60th birthday itself is celebrated with 還暦 KANREKI, which means just what I explained you above, the 10 干 calender sings and the 12 支 animal circles have been completed once in every possible combination.

Apart from this the birthday Kanji often has this little Kanji game into it, which I mentioned. For example the 77. birthday is called 喜寿 where 喜 KI means enjoy, like, love, joy. So 77 is a very joyful birthday. However the Kanji 喜 was written differently in the 平安時代 Heian Era (794 - 1192).
Back than it was written . 七 means seven, so the Kanji is written like three times seven. Now the Kanji 十 means ten and looks almost like seven. So with some imagination you can see 七十七 in the old version, which means 77. ^_^

Now for some quiz:
Yet another birthday is written 米寿 BEIJU. But at which age do you celebrate BEIJU? For what age does 米 BEI (rice) stand for?
The solution is written below in white color, so just mark the text with your mouse, when you are giving up.

For people not familiar with Japanese/Chinese Kanji, who want to do the Quiz too, here are the Kanji for the numbers from 1 to 100.

1:一 2:二 3:三 4:四 5:五 6:六 7:七 8:八 9:九 10:十 100:百

#米 BEI (rice) when written fast and hurriedly looks like
#and thus its the 88th birthday Kanji^_^

And one more quiz, the other way round.
The 99th birthday is celebrated with 白寿 HAKUJU, where 白 HAKU means white. But why? The Kanji has no resemblance whatsoever to 99 九十九? Can you guess why 白 HAKU was chosen?

#100 in Kanji is 百 HYAKU (100) and 1 is 一 ICHI (1).
#Now if you subtract 1 from 100, you of course get 99.
#So let's do it:
#百 - 一 = 白

Here is a table I found with the rest of the special Birthday Kanji.
Some of them are really funny. And you see that they reach as far as 120 大還暦, which means you finished the cycle of life twice and are probably already considered a god or dead ^_^.

満年齢 祝い行事
読み方 長寿祝い名の由来
60歳 還暦
かんれき 十干十二支の暦では60年で一巡するとされ、61歳になって生まれ干支に環る(本卦環り=ほんけかえり)ことから。
69歳 古希
こき 唐の詩人杜甫の漢詩「人生七十古希稀なリ」から採られた。
76歳 喜寿
きじゅ 草書で書いた喜の字が七十七に読めることから。
79歳 傘寿
さんじゅ 傘の略字が八十と読めることから。
87歳 米寿
べいじゅ 米の字を分解すると、八十八と読めることから。
89歳 卒寿
そつじゅ 卒の草書が九十と読めることから。
98歳 白寿
はくじゅ 百から一を取ると白になることから。
99歳 百賀
じょうじゅ 60歳を下寿、80歳を中寿、100歳を上寿とするのもある。
きじゅ 紀は一世紀のこと。
100歳 百一賀
ひゃくいちが 100歳以上は毎年百二賀・百三賀などとして祝う。
108歳 茶寿
ちゃじゅ 茶の字を分解すると、十が二つと八十八になることから。
109歳 珍寿
ちんじゅ 文字どおり珍しいことから。
110歳 皇寿
こうじゅ 皇の字を分解すると、白(99)と十二になることから。
120歳 大還暦
だいかんれき 二回目の還暦を迎えることから。

Thursday, 27 March 2008

桜花見 Sakura Picnic

桜花見 Picnic with Sakura

After hearing about it in school, reading an article about it and seeing first pictures from Claire's Blog, I had to see Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossoms) for myself. Actually you can see them on almost every street, which covers whole streets or even cities in wonderful pink, but like Japanese people I wanted to do 花見 Hanami, which usually means having picnic in a park under Sakura, gazing at them from all angles and perspectives.

Now as beautiful as they are, as short lived they are. You can see them in full flower less then 2 weeks in one year. Since the coming weekend is already completely planned out with Anime Fair, Ghibli Museum and the X JAPAN concert (yes I have a ticket hahaha), I was afraid of missing the chance of a Hanami altogether.

That is why despite of being under the week, I followed one of my coworkers to Shinjuku yesterday, to have a little evening/night Hanami in 九段下 Kudanshita (where the 靖国神社 Yasukunijinja is located). In this area you can find a really beautiful park with lots of wonderful Sakura trees.

Now you might wonder what sense is there to do a Hanami (which literally means "to watch the flowers" at night, but I may assure you that since all the trees are lit by lights, even at night a wonderful dreamy surreal scenery is offered to you. In case you even have the chance to be in Japan during the Sakura time, be sure to try both watching them at day and at night!

Some people, all teachers in cooking schools, were already waiting for us to arrive. And later more and more people joined and filled the evening with merry talk. Luckily for us the cooking teachers prepared some self made picnic items (and luckily for me some vegetarian ones too *yay*), while others brought lots of stuff to drink. So it was a really merry evening with lots of talking in Japanese and lots of amazement about the beauty of mother nature.

Alas Ryan and me had to take the last train back, and even more sadly work on the next day. But the Sakura made up for that and only thinking of them energizes me again :)

I hate last trains... ;)