Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Japan? Samurai, Ninja, Geisha and Benshi...

In the old days (1908 ~ the 1930s)、during the heyday of Silent Films, there was no such thing as subtitling of movies in countries like Japan (that loved western culture). 

Also, as in the west, pianists or string quartets would accompany the Silent Films (Until the music started recording those soundtracks in 1923). So, how did, say, Charles Chaplin or Rudolph Valentino, become worldwide stars when people couldn't understand the silent movies? Or the cards that were inserted into the films to explain situation or dialogue? 

There's no way the average Japanese could read this back then... 
Heck, it would be troublesome today!... Wait a sec... You guys all read English...
Imagine if the cards said this:
Get it? They could be on the screen for 2 minutes and it wouldn't matter! Chuckle!

Outside of English speaking countries, the films were narrated and explained by what is called, "rhetorician." The Merriam Webster dictionary defines, "rhetorician," as a: "master or teacher of rhetoric; an orator." Or "an eloquent or grandiloquent writer or speaker."

In Japan, these orators were called, "Benshi." 

Benshi (stage left)

The Benshi would stand on the stage to the side of the screen and explain the situations in the movies and even add in character dialogue... 

Some of these benshi were incredible at what they did; many became superstars in their own right. In fact, these benshi were responsible for people like Chaplin or Valentino becoming famous in Japan. Many fans came to see the Benshi, not so much to see the Hollywood stars! Chaplin or Valentino or the rest were the side acts... Many people came to be entertained by the oratory of the legendary Benshi...

For many people in Japan, it was the Benshi, not the Hollywood stars in the movie that was the main reason for attending the theaters back in old Japan in those days. 

I believe, as far as cinema and the mass media, the rhetoricians, the Benshi, were the very first in the evolution of today's voice actors. 

Thirty years ago, in Tokyo's Asakusa district, there was a theater called, "Kaminari Theater" (Lightning Theater) and they used to have performances just as they were held during of the heyday of silent films: They would have evenings set up to recreate the exact experience and event of Benshi and Silent Films from the 1920s. 

In the old days, in Japan, going to the cinema and seeing a Benshi was a premium experience for the high-class; people would have dinner and champagne or sake while watching the Silent Films.

I went often to those recreations in the 1980s.

Kaminari Theater used to show these Silent Films with quartet & Benshi. When the films were over, I was so impressed, moved and inspired, I had tears in my eyes. 

Benshi: Sawato Midori

If this is difficult for you to comprehend, about the Benshi, here's an example: It might be difficult to understand because it's in Japanese, but watch this lady, Sawato Midori, she is awesome. At the very start, she does the voices, of the daughter, mother, sister; then she goes on to do the voices of the samurai men who are fighting... And then flawlessly back to the narrator.

Here is Sawato Midori who is probably Japan's top Benshi.... Even today! She's an incredible talent, : https://youtu.be/nAdtP6Y01bs?t

I met some executives at a silent movie company in Tokyo the other day and am attempting to arrange a showing of, perhaps, a Chaplin movie (and an old samurai movie) with a string quartet accompaniment and a Benshi for our Mt. Fuji - Atami Film & VR Festival and other Japan film festivals planned. 

The events will be promoted just like the above explanation. They will be promoted as something like, "A time trip back to Japan of the 1920s." 

The shows might include a dinner (like the food they ate back in those days) and drinks.. Drinks from the 1920s: Salty Dog, champagne, rice wine.

After everyone is served, the main event starts: A Harold Lloyd, Chaplin or Samurai Silent film with quartet and Benshi... 

Everyone can experience the past and even foreigners will like it as the Samurai movies even have English subtitles in most cases movies and the Chaplin films have the dialogue and situation card inserted. 

I think this would be the most fantastic theatrical experience! 

Time trip back to the days of the Silent Movie stars, dinner, the show featuring a string quartet and the Benshi!

A once in a lifetime trip to a better time and an age long gone by.

Form more information about the Mt. Fuji - Atami Film Festival see: http://atamifilmfestival.org/


For more information about Mt. Fuji Atami Film & VR Festival

Please, come and "Follow" our Twitter page: https://twitter.com/FujiAtamiFilm

And, we have a Facebook page too! https://www.facebook.com/MFAFFcinema/


This post is dedicated to Stephen David Brooks, Koji Kamibayashi, Sawato Midori, My wife, Candice Anne Marshall, Scott Hillier, Giedre Bumbulyte and Elliot Grove.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Japanese Have No Holes in Their Socks

By Mike in Tokyo Rogers

My mom was Japanese. I was raised with the idea that it is unquestionably taboo to wear shoes in the house. There is absolutelynothing in the entire world that you could do that is worse than wearing shoes in a Japanese person's house. Nothing. The dog craps on the living room floor, set the house on fire, earthquakes, tsunamis, whatever – they do not compare with walking into the house with your shoes on. It is the unwritten law of the land for Japanese people.

It is so forbidden that it doesn't even matter if no one is home, you cannot enter a house with your shoes on. I have heard stories on TV news where they talk about burglars entering someone's home to rip them off and yet the burglars remove their shoes when entering the houses. I'm not making this up. This shows just how engrained in the Japanese psyche removing your shoes, as a sign of respect, is in Japan. Entering someone's home with your shoes on is just not done here. Period.

Because I was raised in a house with a Japanese mom, I believed that everyone thought this way. That is, until I got into high school in Southern California – and made friends with some typical Southern California kids.

Southern California people are a strange breed. The typical Southern Californian will wear their shoes indoors, but go running around outdoors barefoot. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? I remember inviting a friend over to my house one time and I told him that he had to take his shoes off before entering. He didn't want to.

"But my feet are dirtier than my shoes." He insisted. Well, maybe in his case that was so. One time when I visited his house it was so filthy that I didn't want to take my shoes off. He opened the fridge and took a big swig straight out of a carton of milk. He wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve, then as an after-thought, he held the milk carton towards me and asked, "Oh? Do you want some milk too?"

"Uh, no thanks." I said. Not only did I not want any milk, I didn't want to touch anything at that house. The grime in that place gave me the willies.

What a pig sty! I took a shower as soon as I got home.

I had always felt strange when I would be visiting someone's house and they insisted that I keep my shoes on when I walked inside. Frankly speaking, I find that a bit disgusting. When you are walking around in your shoes outside, you are stepping in all sorts of dirt and debris. And when you stop to think about it, you are also stepping in all sorts of specks of animal excrement, human spittle, gum – Lord knows what else.

So why in the world do people wear their shoes into their homes? Aren't shoes to protect your feet when walking outside? I never understood this kind of thinking when I lived in the USA and I even understand it less after being in Japan for so long.

You would be surprised at the look of complete horror on a Japanese person's face were you to step into their house with your shoes on. That is an absolute no-no. But, really folks, if you had one iota of common sense, you'd understand. Only savages, barbarians, and the French, wear their shoes inside the house.
Recently, I've been wondering how is it that the Japanese became this way? Certainly Japanese dwellings had dirt floors a few 1,000 years ago. Did they take their shoes off then?

Nearby by my house is a traditional Tatami maker's home and business. Tatami is the traditional, uniquely Japanese, flooring that you can find in any Japanese home or apartment. Tatami is a flooring mat made of woven rice straw and covered with woven rushes, and they are used to cover the floors of Japanese houses.

I found it interesting that there would be a tatami maker so close to my apartment here in Tokyo in this day and age so I went over and asked about business. The shop is called, "Ishii Tatami Ten" (which translates into "Ishii Tatami Store"). There I found the father, Ken Ishii, with his son, Takuya, hand-weaving tatami like they do everyday, like their family has done everyday – at the same location – for over 90 years. The business was first started by the father's great grandfather and passed down through the generations. Both father and son seemed to take great pride in their work – as they should. They showed me how tatami is made and, after watching for a while, I now consider tatami as a kind of art.
Business seems good for the Ishii family. Even though modern Japan has wooden floors in most new homes and apartments, there is always at least one room with tatami flooring. My home has both Western style rooms, called "Yo-shitsu" and Japanese style rooms called, "Wa-shitsu."

Tatami has been used by the Japanese for more than 1,000 years. At first, only warlords and kings used it as an ancient king in Western civilization would use a special chair. In ancient times, in Japan, the person sitting on the tatami was sitting on the throne. The nobility would use the tatami to receive guests. All would understand that the person sitting on the tatami was a king, prince, or leader of a powerful samurai group. Whereas in the west all would bow down in front of a pompous fat jerk sitting on a throne, in Japan they'd have to touch their knees on the dirt in front of a pompous skinny jerk sitting on a tatami.
In the 16th century, tatami, became widely used by the samurai and the merchant classes. Rooms with tatami were considered rooms to be used for important meetings and ceremonies. The rise of the popularity of the very spiritual Tea Ceremony also gave a boost to the wide-spread use of tatami.

Also, since tatami rooms were used for ceremonial purposes, these were the rooms were the samurai would commit "seppuku" (uh, hari-kiri) whenever they screwed up something big-time. Think about it: You go into the clean room to kill yourself – spilling your innards all over the tatami floor – That's okay. But don't you be wearing your shoes when you do it. And it is true, when Japanese commit suicide, they will always remove their shoes first. Go figure.

By the 19th century, tatami was used in all Japanese homes and became an integral part of the fabric of Japanese culture. It is still, to this day, the room to be used for important family discussions.

Tatami is perfectly suited to Japan's climate and to the idea of not wearing shoes inside the home. Tatami is soft and retains heat in the winter, while being cool in the summer. I especially enjoy the fragrance of tatami. It reminds me of the smell of freshly cut hay.

Also, since Japanese apartments and homes are small, tatami is better suited for various uses. A tatami room, with a futon rolled out, may serve as a bedroom at night. In the morning the futon is rolled up and the room may be used for many purposes. This couldn't be done if there were a bed in the room.

The father of the tatami shop, Ken Ishii, told me that there will always be a future for tatami in Japan as it cannot be manufactured by machines. Each one must be hand made to fit the various special sizes and requirements for certain rooms. No two tatami are alike.

Not only that, but tatami are relatively inexpensive. Depending on quality of materials, one tatami mat cost anywhere between $100 to $500 per piece. Most rooms in an average apartment in Japan are about six tatami.

So tatami fits perfectly with the Japanese temperate weather, and is woven into the culture. It is unthinkable to wear shoes in a Japanese home and especially in a tatami room. This is also why you will never see a Japanese person who is wearing socks that have holes in them. The Japanese consider it quite embarrassing to have to remove their shoes in front of a host only to have holes in their socks. The only person I have ever seen in Japan wearing socks with holes in them was me.

This leads me to ask, in Japan, which came first: The tatami or the socks?

By the way, the son tells me that the Japanese did indeed take their shoes off inside the house more than a thousand years ago when the floors were dirt. He said, "The dirt inside the homes and the dirt outside the homes was different." I'm sure that is probably true – and how perfectly Japanese

(This article first appeared on Lew Rockwell)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

1978 Los Angeles Punk: Black Flag & the Rotters.

Just a quick post. Hope it inspires you....

40 years ago, I played in a one-hit wonder late 1970s L.A. punk band called The Rotters. We had a smash hit called, "Sit on My Face Stevie Nix." 

That's me wearing my Kamikaze headband! See? I wore headbands even before those wankers in Guns & Roses!

I had a dream back then. We were a lighting smash success within a few months and on radio stations and charts all over America and Europe. 

One night, my band played at a new club in Hollywood called Madame Wongs with another band. We all were expecting a packed crowd of 300+. 

My band opened. When we hit the stage, we were dumbfounded to see a crowd of only about eight people. Eight! 

We played a flat and disappointing set. 

After us, the next band played in front of the same eight people... That band was fucking awesome! They were electric and exciting! Their power made the small crowd (including me) go simply crazy. 

After the show I asked the guitarist how they do it. My band was flat "because" of the disappointing size of the crowd; their band was explosive. The guitarist forcefully blurted out to me, "It doesn't matter if there's three people in the crowd or three hundred people - we always kick ass!" 

They did indeed. 

That was 1978 (79?) The guitarist's name was Greg. The band? Maybe you've heard of them! Their name was Black Flag. 

The point of it all? Live your dream. It doesn't matter if there is only one person who sees what you do or 10,000 people: Do it for yourself and build a legend. 

Sometimes, it doesn't matter what other people think now. It only matters what you think. 

In my case, I remember what Jack White from the White Stripes told me. He said he was a "Big Fan" of the Rotters and even bought our record when he was 13. He said: "It is better to have punked and lost, than to have never punked at all!"

James Dean said, "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die 

Black Flag 1978. Nervous Breakdown.


Anyway, I made a movie. It premiere's at Raindance Film Festival in London on Sept. 25, 2017. You can get tickets here: 

Here's the trailer:

Here's our webpage: http://ghostroads.jp/


About Mike in Tokyo Rogers: Mike has been a professional music/TV/radio/anime-related program producer in Japan since the eighties. He began in the music business in 1978 as lead vocalist with the legendary Los Angeles Punk Band, “The Rotters” (Sit on My Face Stevie Nix.). As a university student, he was assistant to the legendary Rodney Bingenheimer (Rodney on the ROQ – KROQ Los Angeles from 1980 ~ 1981.) So Mike has met Blondie, Phil Spector, The Go Gos, the Dickies, The Germs, Black Flag, the Vibrators, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Angry Samoans, the Ramones.) Mike was the first and only foreigner in Japanese history to become the General Manager of a major Japanese broadcasting station (TV Tokyo owned InterFM). Has produced a few smash hit programs (some real losers, too!) and several of Tokyo’s highest rated and most famous radio programs. A recent hit program was “The TV Show” (Set Program with “Ninja Slayer”) which, between April – Oct. 2015, garnered over 10 million viewers.  He is currently producing and hosting “WTF?” the hugely popular Sunday live show on InterFM 89.7. And his life’s dream is his just completed full-length motion picture, “Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story” which will world premiere at the prestigious Raindance Film Festival in London on Sept. 25, 2017.

… Oh, and he likes to write about himself in the third person!)

Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story Japanese Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxwJ4AfzOwM&t

Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story Foreign trailer: https://vimeo.com/210533272)

3) These are short - and true. You'll laugh. please read: 

Rock N Roll Music and the Proof of the Existence of God!

Belinda Carlisle Naked, The Ramones, Rodney Bingenheimer and Me - Another True Story

David Bowie, Blondie, the Beach Boys, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and me! A True Story!

Friday, June 22, 2018

The "L's" and "R's" of the Japanese and Eric Crapton

Everyone knows the Japanese have a problems with "L's" and "R's." They keep mixing them up.

Well here's a hirarious tlue story:

About 15 or 16 years ago and Japanese record label (can't remember which one) put out a "made for radio only" cd of Eric Clapton's newest song (can't remember which one that was either....

Well, you know how Japanese have trouble with "L's" and "R's"? They spelled his name:

Eric Crapton. 

I still have a copy downstairs somewhere.

I keep telling the Japanese that they have it all wrong! It's "R" as in "Rondon" and "L" as in "Lome!"

Don't believe me? Here you go:

You can even buy one if you like at the collectors site called Discogs Marketplace (where they sell one that shows the Koreans may have the same problem with consonants).

Top 3 New Video Countdown for May 6, 2023! Floppy Pinkies, Jett Sett, Tetsuko!

   Top 3 New Video Countdown for May 6, 2023!!  Please Follow me at:  https://www.facebook.com/MikeRogersShow Check out my Youtube Channel: ...