Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO

I recently posted a blog about videographer Soezimax (which you can read here) in which I briefly touched upon his CampFire campaign project of creating a new idol group. I wanted to use this post to go a little more in depth into that project… OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO!

OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO

With an average age of 16, the girls hail from the Kansai region and have been training to become the next big idol group. All of them are studying at high school while working around the clock to become amazing performers. While many people may see this as putting too much pressure on teenagers during a crucial time of their development, they clearly have lots of fun doing what they do. The girls display strong character and the ability to deal with all situations. Not to mention the amazing support they receive from Soezimax and their senior idol group MilkyHat.

MilkyHat – The senior idol group

Osaka Shunkashuto is made up of seven girls in total; Maina, Anna, Mana, Eon, Rina, Maya and Yuna. Each girl brings their own bubbly personality and characteristics to the group.

Maina is the most confident and the eldest of the group. She takes centre stage in most of the performances. Most recently, she came 3rd in a national Japanese song tournament in which there were over 10,000 entrants, yet she was still disappointed with her place! 

Anna, complete with cute dimples, she seems to be the most humble of the group. She is consistently smiling in every video behind the scenes and seems to really enjoy every second of being a part of something special.

Manna was recently selected to be the leader of the group during a photoshoot for the CD single cover. Much to her surprise, she was taken back by the announcement, however her fellow Shunkashuto members were very supportive of the decision. Watch the announcement here!

Eon seems to be the loveable jester of the group. She’s often seen in videos fumbling her words and actions, much to the hilarity of the rest of the others. She shows great enthusiasm when Soezimax presents new challenges, be it a sample of the new single, or dance challenge.

Rina is one of the more quiet members of the group. But what she lacks in volume, she makes up for in solid performance. While she may not always be in the main spotlight, she stands out in all of the music videos for her sharp dance performances, and support of the other members.

Maya recently graduated from High School (おめでとうございます) and seems to be the most interactive person via social media. I’ve managed to catch her not only on Twitter, but also TwitCasting (mobile web streaming) a few times. Much like Rina, Maya seems to play a strong supporting role to the other girls and oozes confidence when speaking.

Yuna is the youngest of the group… and also the clumsiest (check out the end of the “I Want You Back Video” at the end of this blog post). As she’s one of the tallest members, Yuna can usually be found in the centre of the action. Despite her age in comparison to the other members, she manages to hold her own, and keep up with her peers.
 

OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO – The Lazy Song (Bruno Mars Cover)
 
 
OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO – Baby (Justin Bieber Cover)
 
As you can see from the videos above, the girls work together as a tight unit and their choreography is more than impressive. If this is the kind of talent Soezimax is working with at the moment, I can only imagine what level they will be at in a few years time. No doubt with the CD and music video release later this year, the girls will be thrust further into the spotlight. However, judging from the many “behind the scenes” videos, they can prepare themselves for anything. I wish all the girls amazing success from this project, and hope they realise what an amazing opportunity Soezimax has presented to them. 
 
I’ll close this blog post with another cover video from the girls (Keep an eye out for a bonus scene at the end) and point out once again how great they are at what they do as a group… 
 
Though Maina and Yuna are my favourites (^_-)-☆
 
 
OSAKA SHUNKASHUTO – Want You Back (Jackson 5 Cover)
To find out more information about LIVE shows and updates from the girls, be sure to check out the official website:
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Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Hanato Chiruran

I’m always on the look out for new Japanese music (After all, there’s only so much Scandal one man can listen to) which is how I stumbled across a podcast called “It Came From Japan“, an independent outfit ran by Daniel Robson. I listen to the podcast on a regular basis, and really enjoy all the bands Daniel suggests. However none of them really jumped out at me like Hanato Chiruran did.


Hanato Chiruran


I’ve always been a fan of bands with disjointed guitar riffs and jazz beats. The first musicians that jump to mind are Acoustic Ladyland and Giraffes? Giraffes! which is where I think Hanato Chiruran would fit in the west.

Hanato Chiruran are a Japanese rock band formed in Tokyo in 2008. They have had collaborations with many other musicians, including hip-hop artists, but over time they have changed their style to classic rock and roll. Releasing their first album “Dirty and Beauty” in 2009, they followed this up in 2010 with “Bulldozer” where they were picked up by a management team and began touring in Europe in 2011 and 2012 in places such as Germany, France, and Italy.

It’s hard to describe Hanato Chiruran’s unique sound without hearing it for yourself. Lead vocalist Yumiho has a beautifully haunting voice, combined with John Frusciante style guitar from Kokeshi, funky and lightning precise bass tones from Karuta, and indie trip-hop beats from Rossi. Altogether they give an amazingly epic sound for an indie band.


Hanato Chiruran – The Game

The track which caught my attention from the “It Came From Japan” podcast was “The Game”. I sent a tweet to Daniel asking if I could download the track from iTunes. He then messaged the band directly, which put me in contact with Yumiho. She was kind enough to explain that they had no digital version, only a CD, but she would send me a CD in the post!


“To Sean, Enjoy our CD, Thank you!” – A message from Hanato Chiruran / Yumiho


Hanato Chiruran – Bulldozer

I received the CD in just a few days and immediately imported it to my iTunes and it’s been sat on repeat for days now. There are segments of each track which are reminiscent of some of my favourite tracks by western artists including Bloc Party, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and The XX. “The Game” is still my favourite track, just for it’s haunting opening lyrics where Yumiho asks “Did we shoot a dice when we walked in for the first time?” as we realise this is a romantic song full of regret, but no sooner do we fall in love with her soft traditional Japanese vocals, that the rest of the band explode into action into a fast paced five minute belter. The video above doesn’t really do the track justice due to the recording quality of the video camera, but believe me, it sounds fantastic.

I’ll wrap up by leaving you with another track from the album, it’s called “JUMP”


Hanato Chiruran – JUMP


For more information on Hanato Chiruran, you can find their official links here:
Hanato Chiruran official website

Hanato Chiruran on Facebook
Hanato Chiruran on Twitter

Don’t forget to check out “It Came From Japan” too:
It Came From Japan official website

It Came From Japan on Twitter

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Sugar’n’Spice

As most of you know by now, I’m a huge fan of the band Scandal. They played a big part in my love for discovering new Japanese music to listen to. One day whilst browsing YouTube for Japanese bands, one particular video caught my attention called “Hybrid Age”. The reason it caught my eye is because my username on YouTube is Hybrid3415 (Don’t ask, it’s a username I’ve used since I was 15) So I gave it a listen…



Who was this bad ass of a front woman, accompanied by a cute punky drummer and attitude fuelled crunching indie guitar tones? It was of course Sugar’n’Spice. I loved the track so much, I had it on repeat for over an hour. I followed the links via their description and shortly downloaded the album also entitled “The Hybrid Age” from iTunes. I soon came to love their other tracks, with one of my other favourites being “Queen Kate”, a song in which lead singer Kyao, daydreams of visiting London and hanging out with one of her idols; Kate Moss. The track has a very rough British punk, Libertines-esque, vibe to it.



Since discovering the band, I’ve tried to share them with my friends via Twitter and Facebook. I recently tried my hand at DJing at a local rock night, where I was able to throw in a few tracks by Sugar’n’Spice too. As Kyao manages most of the social media aspects of the band, we have had a few interactions, the same goes for the other members Tsue (guitar) and Mie (drums) …

A quick Tweet to Mie chan for her birthday…
And a question to Tsue about her incredible appetite…


Kyao was even kind enough to help me surprise one of my best friends for his birthday! Since hearing Hybrid Age, my friend Bob has enjoyed the band as much as I have. I asked Kyao via Twitter if she wouldn’t mind getting the band to sign a CD and send it over to me for his birthday. How cool is that?!


The girls hosted a LIVE web chat before one of their shows recently. I messaged them to let them know that I would see them one day…


If your Japanese is like mine isn’t that strong, Kyao says; “A guy from England is watching this too! He will visit Japan one day and come to our show, coming from across the sea. Thank you so much!” (Thanks to my friend Mami chan for the translation)

It’s really great to see an upcoming band that has such great interaction with their fans. I really look forward to seeing what the girls produce next with their new addition of Okumurakana on bass guitar, and hopefully seeing them play live one day.

Sugar’n’Spice… Ganbatte ne!

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There are links scattered throughout this blog post linking to the band’s Twitter profiles and YouTube accounts, for more information check out the following links:

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… SCANDAL

I’ve been holding fire on this blog post for a while, as I knew it would be a lengthy one. I have mentioned SCANDAL a handful of times on this blog, and countless times on my personal Facebook and Twitter feed (much to the pleasure/distain of my friends and followers). I first discovered SCANDAL accidentally back in 2009 while searching for videos of Korean girl group “Girl’s Generation” via a YouTube suggestion, but didn’t really take notice. It was only when my friend Bob showed me one of their live performances in 2011, that my interest was really captured.
 
First of all, check out this short video (made in 2011) as it’s a good introduction to the band (although a little tongue in cheek to actual events…

SCANDAL – Scandal’s Theme
 
SCANDAL formed in late 2006 when four girls from an Osaka dance and performance school decided to put together a rock band. They would practice in downtown Osaka in a high rise building which was next to an adult entertainment store. It was from this store which the band took their name from as the neon sign read “Scandal” (スキャンダル/Sukyandaru). The girls would go on to play live street performances in park areas in Osaka and Kyoto to random passers by, at weekends the girls would also play in small clubs.
They were soon snapped up by an indie record label “Kitty Records” and went on to be a part of a “Japan Nite” tour of America in 2008. While the girls played to a combined total of approximately 10,000 people that year, it was still regarded as a failed tour, much to the upset of the girls who felt incredibly disheartened. This would explain as to why since then, the girls have not ventured outside of Asia (except for one performance at the AM2 anime convention in America in 2011).
 
SCANDAL were really brought into the limelight when their tracks were used on various popular Japanese anime shows, including Bleach (Shoujo S, 2009), and Full Metal Alchemist (Shunkan Sentimental, 2010)

SCANDAL – Shunkan Sentimental
 
From there, SCANDAL have gone from strength to strength, with a chain of 17 singles, and 5 studio albums (to date) spanning 2008-2013. Not to mention the intense touring schedule around Japan, as well as the band visiting neighbouring Asian countries, such as China and Singapore. 
 
There have been countless backstage videos which show how hard the girls have worked over the past seven years, including a very emotional video from the drummer, Rina, in which she explains how hard it was at one point that she considered leaving the band. With such a hard working schedule, and not seeing family or friends for a long time, the pressure was obviously heavy. However in true SCANDAL fashion, Rina tells us in the video below that the girls clubbed together and said “Without Rina, there is no SCANDAL”, which empowered her to continue to try her hardest…
 

Check out the two videos below. It shows one of the debut performances in 2007 of “Space Ranger” (one of their first singles to be released) in comparison with their performance at Osaka Jo Hall this year. After originally playing down the road from the huge stadium with their live street performances, this performance at Osaka Jo Hall was a monumental accomplishment. If you get your hands on a copy of the performance, you’ll notice the bass player Tomomi become overwhelmed with emotion during the opening track and starts to cry with happiness.
 
The largest difference between these videos is obviously the crowd participation. Being in a band myself, I know how awkward it can be when writing material which involves crowd participation, especially when you perform and the crowd don’t join in (as the girls discover in the video below). However, compare the part at 0:05, with the point around the 0:49. I can’t imagine how they felt at that moment when over 14,000 people in Osaka Jo Hall shouted “HEY!”. So this video truly shows how far the band have progressed…
 

This is why I love SCANDAL, not just for their amazing music, but for their drive (not to mention all of the girls are easy on the eyes, heh). You can hear the progress in the music from the simple riffs in tracks like “Doll” up to their latest single “Kagen no Tsuki” which has a much more mature sound to it. Not just musically, but also lyrically. While my Japanese is not up to conversational level (yet) I am still able to pick out key words, and themes from each song. It also helps my learning process by translating parts of the songs or even interviews on YouTube.
 
I wish SCANDAL all the best in their future career and look forward to watching how the band progress from the heights they’ve already attained. I will wrap this blog post up with the latest music video for their single “Kagen no Tsuki” in anticipation of their next single “OVERDRIVE” which is released later this month.

SCANDAL – Kagen no Tsuki
You can purchase music and DVDs by SCANDAL here, or from any Asian import specialist.

Bradcat’s Guest Feature – Graphic Designer – Thom Baker

As a new feature on Bradcat’s Baka Blog, I’ll be taking the time to hunt people down who have experienced Japan first hand, from people who have visited, to people that live there. Hopefully this will give me an insight into how people view culture. My first guest is Thom Baker…

Tell us about yourself, who are you, and what do you do?

Hi, my name is Thom Baker, I am an independent graphic designer specialising in branding and typography.

Why did you visit Japan?

I was offered the opportunity to go to Tokyo with Staffordshire University on a cultural visit, which was great! I’ve always had an interest in the visual culture of the Far East, Japan especially – from the calligraphy and landscape paintings and Hokusai woodcuts to the manga, anime and modern graphic design. There’s this aesthetic prowess from Japan that I don’t think you find anywhere else.




How long did you spend there?

Just under a week with traveling. Actual time travel going on there, got in the plane Friday, got out on Sunday after traveling for 12 hours and then got back a couple of hours after we left (I may have exaggerated this slightly).

During your time, what was one thing which stood out the most to you?

The contrasts, between the very old and traditional and the very modern and mad. Near Harajuku one side of the street was crazy, neon lights, big screens cute characters and loads of people and colour. The other side was a massive park with a Shinto shrine and a tea house of the Empress. Both stunning in completely different ways and a two minute walk from each other.



What cultural differences surprised you the most?

The simple respect there seems to be there. There’s no litter anywhere and bikes left unlocked on really busy streets in the middle of the city. It felt extremely safe and relaxed despite how busy everywhere was.

What was your favourite place to visit?


Many places for different reasons. The cat cafe was just bizarre, none of the cats are actually interested in being pet, so to get their attention you buy a little tub of chicken – they’re all you’re friend then! Shibuya junction just blows your mind, there’s just so many people, the Shinto Shrine, the themed restaurants. They were all great but some of my favourite places were just being there, on a normal street, with people going about their daily lives. I’ve always wanted to see a tea ceremony too, just the thought and care taken in every act is beautiful, to see and take part in that was wonderful. I haven’t really answered your question! Tokyo was my favourite place when I visited Tokyo – does that count?

What was the best thing you ate or drank during your time there?

All the food was great. Two things really stood out.

We went to one of the older parts of Tokyo where it was more residential, really had a Bladerunner look about it with narrow streets and filled with neon signs and stuff. We went into a proper noodle bar which was full of locals – had some absolutely brilliant noodles, everyone was really helpful, with the staff and locals helping us order and explaining what things were.

Another one was a Bento box in this massive market, it had sushimi and miso and tempura. Really good stuff!


Would you go back, and why?

I would definitely go back! It would be great to live and work there for a bit, properly experience life there. It’s such a vibrant and colourful culture – but as I said, theres a quiet respectfulness that runs through everything. It truly is a beautiful place! I love Tokyo!


You can see Thom’s work on his website which can be found here. While he was in Tokyo, Thom was kind enough to bring some gifts back for me, including the last SCANDAL album, some green tea, and a few Yen coins! Thanks for the gifts Thom, and thank you for your time for this interview.

More guests on Bradcat’s Baka Blog soon…


Bradcat’s Personal Focus… Cultural Care Package

When I started learning Japanese in November last year, I signed up for a lot of language exchange websites. This was mainly to help my own learning, but found myself inundated with messages from Japanese people wanting to learn English on a causal basis. I only really stayed in contact with those who were willing to help me if I helped them. I needed someone who had a decent grasp on the English language, but also wouldn’t mind taking the time to explain the things I was learning.

This is how I met Mami! She was incredibly helpful in explaining phrases and defining key words for me. We’d also chat about cultural differences between England and Japan, such as education, food, and music. Whilst chatting one day, I suggested that I’d like to send her a “British care package” as a thank you for taking the time to help me out. This is what I sent to her…

Included in my package:

– Bone china tea cup and saucer
– Lots of Earl Grey tea
– Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Buttons
– Robinson’s jam
– Selection of sweets (Yes, I know Maoam aren’t British, but they’re very popular)
– A two pence coin from the 1930’s
– A CD of British musicians spanning 1970’s – present

Luckily the package made it to Mami chan in one piece. I was particularly worried about the tea cup! A week later I received a message from Mami on LINE to say she’d received her goodies and would like to send me a care package too. Incredibly flattered by her generosity I obliged, and she designed a package based around things I love. Sure enough, a week later, this arrived…

Inside the box I found a small note letting me know which songs Mami enjoyed the most from the CD I’d put together, along with an contents list:

– Instant ramen noodles
– Chocolate koala snacks
– Crisps
– A Steins;Gate plastic art sheet (You can read about Steins;Gate here)
– A bottle of Ramune (Because I’d mentioned I’d seen them in a YouTube video)
– Scandal’s latest single “Kagen no Tsuki” (Which I featured on my blog a few weeks ago) which came with a Haruna (my favourite member) art card


Hopefully there will be more of these packages in the future! Mami chan, hontou ni arigatou gozaimasu! (本当にありがとうございます)

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus…ONE OK ROCK

Formed in 2005, ONE OK ROCK are starting to generate a real buzz in the Japanese pop rock scene. While initially not having any major success in the Oricon charts, they have recently started to break into the top ten. To put it into perspective, their first album released in 2007 and sold around 26,000 copies, while their fifth album released in 2010 and sold 105,000 copies.



ONE OK ROCK – Clock Strikes

ONE OK ROCK comprises of four members, Taka (vocals), Toru (guitar), Ryota (bass), and Tomoya (drums) all hailing from the Osaka region, except for Taka who was born in Tokyo and was previously a vocalist in Japanese boy band “NEWS”.

The band’s name, ONE OK ROCK, comes from “one o’clock”, the time that the band used to practice on weekends. However, noticing that the Japanese language makes no real distinction between r’s and l’s, they changed “o’clock” to “o’crock” (or “o’krock”), which was then separated to become “ok rock”

While not being the biggest rock band in Japan, they have still recently announced a world tour and will be playing the UK in October (the show is unfortunately already sold out!)


Check out this great video in which ONE OK ROCK meet Western pop punk band Fall Out Boy. There are subtitles on the video (click the subtitles button on the video) if you’re not confident with your Japanese linguistic skills, don’t worry!