Bradcat’s Place Focus… Pro Wrestling Bar Count 2.99

The referee’s hand comes down to the mat. “One!” the audience shouts, “Two!” they move to the edge of their seats, “Thr… Ohhh!” The three count is cut short as the wrestler on the screen kicks out in the nick of time.

I wrote an article last year about my love for professional wrestling, especially Japanese wrestling. But for anyone who enjoys televised sports, you’ll know there’s nothing better than watching with friends. There’s also nothing better than watching said sports with a drink in your hand too. Today I introduce you to “Pro Wrestling Bar Count 2.99” which combines the hobbies of drinking and professional wrestling.

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Located in the heart of Osaka in Minami (between Nipponbashi and Shinsaibashi) Count 2.99 is a cozy bar (adorned with plastic figures of wrestling legends) which can seat about 8 people, and a few tables which can seat a further 12. There’s also an “Announcer table” which is designed for just two people to fulfil their desire to be a commentary team during live events. For special events, some of the tables are removed and more chairs are brought in allowing for around 30 people in total.

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The main screen behind the bar

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The rest of the bar is strewn with wrestling memorabilia, wrestling belts, standees, and posters for historic and upcoming events. The owner (Koji) has spent many years adding unique pieces to his bar, creating a one of a kind space. Even the entrance to the bar is sectioned off with guard rails just like a real wrestling event.

Aside from just being a bar, Count 2.99 also supplies tickets to events in Osaka from NJPW to smaller indie shows. For those people who hate the ticket ordering system in Japan, you can simply purchase your tickets from the bar, they are usually better seats than you’d probably expect too.

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On the right side, there is the polaroid wall. This features thousands of wrestlers who have visited over the years, with each one having been signed and dated. Some of the wrestlers have since retired, whilst others continue to wrestle to a world-wide audience including…

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asuka-triple-h.jpgWWE’s current NXT Women’s champion Asuka (Formally known as Kana)

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The bar has also hosted many special events for these wrestlers including birthday parties which fans are allowed to attend too. Usually when a wrestling promotion visits Osaka, most of the wrestlers stop by for a drink. Only the other week I was sat at the bar after finishing work, and Rina Yamashita (Who wrestles for Pro Wave, Ice Ribbon, OZ academy, REINA, and a host of other companies) walked in, and pulled up a stool just next to me. She had no idea that I was a fan of female professional wrestling, so she was surprised when she realised I knew who she was!

img_1396There are copies of Weekly Pro-Wrestling for people to pick up and talk about too.

Soft drinks start from ¥600 and cocktails are around ¥800. Snacks are available assorted nuts will set you back ¥600 and some soft noodles are just ¥900 (Prices were correct at the time of writing) You can check their website for a full list of food and drinks. Be aware that like most Japanese bars, there is a seating charge! Many foreigners aren’t used to this concept.

Overall, Koji has created an amazingly fun bar, which every professional wrestling fan needs to visit if they come to Osaka. The best part is, I’m going to be helping Koji to learn English as he’s expressed that he wants more western fans to visit. So please visit the bar and exchange wrestling stories with him!

Links:
Count 2.99 Website
Count 2.99 Twitter

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Bradcat’s Place Focus… Game Bar Continue

Everyone knows that video games are the life blood of Japan, after all it’s where they came to fruition in the early 70’s. So when people come to Japan, it’s totally natural to have an uncontrollable urge to visit an arcade. The bright lights of the local Namco/Sega arcade are enough to draw any one in. But what if you don’t want to pump ¥100 coins into the machines for a mere 3-4 minutes of fun? What if you want to kick back and relax whilst playing video games?

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You head on down to “Game Bar Continue” (ゲームバーコンティニュー) in the Chuo-ward of Osaka (approximately 5 minutes walk from Shinsaibashi station). Located on the 5th floor in a side street, this little paradise can easily be missed if you aren’t looking for it. As you exit the elevator you’re always greeted with a warm welcome, regardless if the bar is empty, or rammed shoulder to shoulder.

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There are a few other “game bars” scattered around Osaka, all offering different prices for drinks and charges for the games. At Game Bar Continue you pay a flat fee of ¥500 to play the games and then ¥500 for most drinks (some of the special drinks are ¥700) but you can stay for as long as you like! Game Bar Continue is open from 6pm-5am most nights (depending on how many customers are in the bar). As you can tell from the photos, it’s a very chilled place so you can easily lose track of time.

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You’ll find a vast range of video game consoles spanning over three decades, including (but not limited to); Super Famicom (AKA Super Nintendo) x3, PS2, Neo Geo, N64 x2, Playstation 3 x2, Wii-U x2, Xbox, Xbox 360, and many others. Not only do Game Bar Continue cater for the avid pixel junkie, but they have a colossal selection of board games too, many of which I’ve never seen before in my life. The entire bar is elegantly plastered in video game history too, from retro handhelds, to a (mint in box) Tamagotchi!

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Yes, that is a “bucket” of Super Famicom (SNES) games

The staff are Nisshi, Tomo, and Tenten (I’m yet to meet Yuzu and Deremai) who are always on hand to serve you another drink or snack. If there is a game you’re dying to play, all you need is ask, and they’ll leap into action to grab it for you. On my latest visit, I had an incredible urge to replay Metal Gear Solid 3 after recently smashing my way through Metal Gear Solid 5. Sure enough, they had it, and within minutes I was parachuting my Naked Snake into the jungle. *ahem*

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The bar is quite big and seems to be separated into three sections, the main bar, three tables (for board games) and a side room for those wanting a little more privacy and their own party area. I’ve found on each visit there are a mix of people; those who want to block everyone out and just play video games, and those who want to be a little more social. That’s why this place is so fantastic, you can do whatever you like and not have to worry about anyone else.

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On a previous visit I went with the intention of scoping out a new photography location. The owners have kindly said that I’m welcome to use the bar as a photography location shoot for my fashion photography. However, whilst taking some test photos, I was tapped on the shoulder and asked “Do you like board games?!” before I knew it, I was sat with Takashi, Shu, “M”, Koisei, and Chandai playing “Game of Life” (as it was one of the only games amidst a treasure trove of Japanese board games that I recognised).

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Feeling thirsty or a little peckish? Game Bar Continue offers a small snack menu and a vast array of alcoholic drinks and cocktails. You’re given a complimentary bowl of mixed nuts when you arrive, but you may want to peck at something whilst gaming into the early hours. Here are just some of the basics on offer:

Beer menu
[ビール]
キリン 生一番搾り(Kirin Ichiban) 650円
シャンディ・ガフ (Shandy Gaff) 650円
レッドアイ (Red Eye) 650円
カンパリビア (Kanparibia) 650円
(and loads more!)

Food menu
[フード]
MIXピザ (Mixed pizza) 800円
ソーセージ盛り合わせ (sausage platter) 700円
ラージャン麺 (Rajan noodles) 600~円
ピクミン麺 (Pikmin noodles) 600円
チャーハン (Fried rice) 600円
(and loads more too!)

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So if you’re ever in Osaka and fancy a little R&R&R (Rest and relaxation and retro) make sure you head down to Game Bar Continue. A little heads up for tourists, you might want to brush up on your Japanese as you won’t find any English speakers here! But you came to Japan for the immersion right?!

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Address:
Game Bar Continue 中央区東心斎橋1-12-19-5F, Osaka, Japan 542-0083
Website: http://gamebar.jp/index.html
Facebook: Game Bar Continue Facebook Page
Twitter: Game Bar Continue Twitter

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Popular Urban Legends

Many western horror films have taken heavy influence from Japanese urban legends (都市伝説) (Toshi Densetsu). Is there a particular reason for this? Yes, because they’re bloody terrifying. The classic chanting “Bloody Mary” into a mirror, or your average banshee story, pales in comparison to some of these. So strap yourself in, lock all the doors, and stick the big light on, it’s about to get scary…

Aka Manto (Red Cape)

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You’re out and about, then suddenly you’re desperate for the toilet. In your haste, you burst your way into the public restroom, and take a seat in the last stall. Big mistake, as this urban legend likes to pick it’s victims from this exact location. Legend has it, that a mysterious voice will ask you a simple question of “Blue paper? or red paper?”

If you give the answer of “red paper” he will slice your throat until your clothes are stained red with blood! “Well in that case, I’ll just pick blue paper instead!” I hear you say with bated breath. You might want to hold onto that breath, as people picking blue paper will be strangled to death. Picking any other colour will result in you being dragged to the “other side”, so the only safe escape is to not pick any paper, and he’ll let you live.

Teke Teke

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This urban legend has multiple origins, yet all share the same basic premise. It revolves around a young Japanese high school girl who fell onto the train tracks and was cut in half by an oncoming train. Now a vengeful spirit (or Onryō/怨霊) the girl’s torso haunts people by asking where her legs are.

As her legs are missing, she’s known to travel around on her hands or elbows, so that her torso makes a scratching or “teke teke” sound. Anyone that crosses her path during the night will be sliced in half, mimicking her own disfigurement.

Fatal Fare

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A stranger enters the backseat of a taxi in the middle of the night, and requests that the driver take him to an unheard of location. The stranger gives the driver directions on the way, becoming increasingly more complex with each turn. As the driver becomes more and more agitated, he’ll turn around to ask the passenger for clarification, only to find the backseat is empty. Upon facing forward again, the driver will unknowingly drive off a cliff to his death. There are variations of this urban legend in western culture, the most common one being “Killer in the backseat”

Kokkuri

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This is the Meji period’s answer to the Ouija board. The name refers to the act, the board, and the spirit (or spirits) possessing the apparatus to speak with the human world. We’ve heard of countless stories and movies which feature Oujia boards, so you get the idea these things aren’t intended to be taken lightly. Many people believe some deaths have been connected to Kokkuri by not “finishing” the rituals properly.

Kuchisake-onna

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I’ve saved the best (worst) until last. This one has a rich history and an in depth backstory. This is the urban legend of the split mouthed woman (Kuchisake-onna/口裂け女) which originated around 1979 from the Nagasaki prefecture, after a woman was horrifically mutilated by her husband. This vengeful spirit is known to wear a long trench coat and surgical mask, worn in Japan to protect people from colds and illnesses. Oh, and she also brandishes an oversized pair of scissors.

She’s rumoured to approach people (mainly children) walking alone at night and asks the question “Do you think I’m beautiful?” If they answer “No.” then she introduces you to her oversized scissors, and the game is over. If you say “Yes.” she removes her mask to reveal her disfigured face, and her mouth has been slit from ear to ear. She’ll then ask the same question again. If for some twisted reason you say “Yes.” again, then she uses her scissors to cut your face in a similar fashion to hers. If you think you’ll be safe by saying “No.” then think again, as she’ll be upset and kill you anyway.

Apparently the only way to escape is by giving a neutral answer (such as “You’re so-so”) as this will confuse her and give you enough time to escape. You can also use sweets to distract her, because who doesn’t love sweets?

Those are just some of the many, many Japanese urban legends which exist in folklore. Feel free to have a quick look on Google and I’m sure you’ll find hundreds, some even more bizarre than the ones above! Some these legends also have movies based on them.

Just be sure to keep a fresh pair of underwear handy.

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Japanese Pro Wrestling

If there’s one thing the Japanese people are known for, it’s their all or nothing attitude. Every Japanese person I’ve met strives to be the best at what they do. I’m a huge fan of professional wrestling, and of all the companies and promotions out there, nothing is more impressive than the product that comes from Japan because of this mentality.

For those not too savvy with wrestling, I’m sure you all have some sort of distant memory of watching a wrestling match “back in the day”, probably staring Hulk Hogan or The Rock. The flamboyant entrances, the huge stadiums, the roaring crowds and the huge swinging punches. Japanese pro wrestling feels like an entirely different world from what you imagine pro wrestling in America to be like. Let’s take a look at some of those differences…

The Crowd

All too often on televised American wrestling you’ll hear a crowd erupt when the entrance music of their favourite wrestler hits, followed by a chant in unison for that superstar. Throughout the match, there will be chants for the wrestler, or chants for their finishing move. In Japan however, this doesn’t really happen.

The Japanese crowds are infamous for being deathly silent as they get absorbed into the match. The only times they’ll break that silence is during the entrances, and during a chain of moves(Chain wrestling being a sequence of back and forth traditional moves such as chin locks, reversals, take downs e.t.c.) This is usually followed by a sharp round of applause before snapping rapidly back into silence.

Take a look at this amazing compelation of moves by Kota Ibushi

The Style

First, take a look at this short clip of KENTA (Now known as Hideo Itami in WWE) going to town on Bobby Fish

Looks painful, right? Well, you’re right. In Japan, this is known as “Strong Style” whereby the kicks and punches are done with force, for that high impact sound, and realism. Yes, they’re really hitting each other. Obviously exchanges like this can’t happen too frequently, otherwise both men would be broken by the end of the match. However throughout the match, in-between the high flying moves and big suplexes, moments like this help make the match ups more believable.

There’s a large focus on traditional Greco-Roman wrestling too, with many bouts between the older wrestlers having a very strong grappling undertone to them. The submission holds are loose enough as to not seriously injure their opponent, yet at the same time done with some force to make it look painful. In America (especially on WWE programming) these traditional holds are held very loosely, and it’s up to the opponent receiving the hold to “sell” the move as best as possible.

This strong style is the reason why Japanese wrestlers are heralded as being some of the toughest men and women in the industry. Mainly because they can take one hell of a beating.

The Chops

Kobashi and his infamous chops

The open hand chop is synonymous with wrestling legend Ric Flair. Whenever a wrestler lashes an open palm chop across his opponent’s chest, it’s usually met with a unison “Whoooooo!” from the fans (Flair’s signature taunt) However in Japan, the chop has somewhat of an initiation ceremony feel to it. As you saw in the video above, Kobashi and Kojima barely exchange any other wrestling move, than the open hand chop. It’s almost a test of endurance and follows on from the other point I touched on with the strong style. You only have to look at the athletes chest after the match to see there’s nothing “fake” about being blasted across the chest with a tree trunk palm.

The Stipulations

Japanese wrestling has slightly different rules to those seen in the west. It’s common on American TV wrestling to see a wrestler thrown to the outside area, and being given to the count of 10 to get back into the ring, or risk being counted out and losing the match. In Japan, these counts last up to 20 as they add more tension, and also give the wrestlers time to perform huge diving moves from the ring to the outside.

Similarly, a lot of wrestling promotions have time limits, with wrestling matches ending in a draw. This is practically unheard of in the west, where there normally has to be a clear winner. In this indie wrestling match from “Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling” (founded by one of my favourite female wrestlers, Emi Sakura) we see the match end in a draw. However things take a comedic twist as the referee decides to pick a winner via a game of Janken (Rock, Paper, Scissors) luckily my other favourite female wrestler Riho comes out on top!

On the flip side of this very cute exchange, there’s the infamous Japanese “Death Match”. These are normally absolutely barbaric and sometimes difficult to watch. They can consist of the ropes being replaced with barbed wire, and weapons are usually legal. Sometimes thumbtacks are used and scattered across the ring, or tables are wrapped in barbed wire and set on fire. It’s almost like watching a “Saw” movie.

Look at this Piranha Death Match from 1996

Or this Japanese Death Match which featured on American TV with Sabu and Terry Funk

The Theatrics

Forgetting the extreme matches mentioned previously, the focus here is wrestling. Not sports entertainment, or returning to the ring to promote a new movie. Pure wrestling at it’s finest. The only theatrics you’ll see in Japanese professional wrestling will be the pyrotechnics during some of the big superstar’s entrances. Even then, they are minimal, with some Japanese legends having nothing but their entrance music playing. The wrestlers let their “fighting spirit” tell the story, rather than silly gimmicks, or ridiculous Jerry Springer-esque storylines.

That’s not to say that Japanese wrestling doesn’t have it’s ridiculous moments from time to time. As western wrestlers have slowly started to make more of an impact in Japan, we’re starting to see gimmicks claw their way into the matches, which take away some of the purity of the sport. This makes for the western wrestlers to become the perfect heels (the bad guys) as the Japanese see them “infecting” the sport with their outside interferences and use of weapons when the referee is distracted.

However it does also allow for ridiculous match ups like the following two which feature one of my favourite athletes from Canada who is making waves in the Japanese wrestling world, Kenny Omega. Here we see him take on 9 year-old Haruka (who is luckily saved by the 3 minute time limit before Omega hits his finishing move)

Respect

At the heart of these brutal chops, barbed wire matches, strong style kicks, and ridiculous matches with dolls lies the important factor of respect. Being able to take multiple chops to the chest is an initiation, coming out of a barbed wire match gives you battle scars for the rest of your life, taking a strong kick shows your toughness, and wrestling an inanimate object shows that you can carry a match by yourself and STILL look fantastic.

That’s what Japanese wrestling is about. Being the best at what you do, and always trying to better yourself to make it to the grand stage of Japanese wrestling; Wrestle Kingdom…

Bradcat’s Japanese Culture Focus… Arcade Culture

In 1978, Tomohiro Nishikado (a video game designer from Osaka) developed the most famous video game of all time; Space Invaders. He worked for Taito, a video game company which came to fruition in 1953 manufacturing pinball games. Over the years, Taito moved further into the arcade market to become a huge player in the coin operated video game industry.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.32.58The iconic Sega arcade in Akihabara

Fast forward over 35 years later from Space Invaders, and Japan’s downtown areas are now clustered with arcades. Upon leaving a main train station, you’re never more than a stone’s throw away from an arcade or ゲームセンター (“Gemu Senta” Game Centre). These incredible structures are normally broken up into categories and different floors. They’re owned by many different companies including Sega, Capcom, Namco, and as previously mentioned, Taito.

The arcades are set out in a very specific way for various reasons. The UFO catchers (toy grabbing machines) are usually found on the first floor, the second floor will often be comprised of semi-casual fighting games, and driving games. As we climb higher, the third floor is normally a space for rhythm games such as Dance Dance Revolution, whilst the higher floors are reserved for more serious gamers and gamblers. Obviously every arcade is different, but you’ll normally see this similar layout. Sometimes the hardcore gambling games are kept to the basement levels rather than the top floors.

In Kyoto with Sakura Panda Tea Time

The staff are always on hand to help with any malfunctions (trapped prizes, or faulty buttons) and sometimes will even lend a helping hand if they see you’re struggling. I remember one occasion in Osaka when I had my heart set on a Hatsune Miku statue, and even after pumping in over ¥800 (¥100 a turn) I still wasn’t any closer. The attendant was watching the entire time chuckling to himself. Eventually he opened the cabinet, moved the figure to the edge, and made the game 90% easier for me. It seems the staff work there, because they enjoy what they do, as they’re also damn good at the games.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.45.19       My UFO goodies from Osaka

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.36.58My Kumamon toy from Kyoto   Obviously I’m a casual gamer.

After three weeks inJapan, I’d barely scratched the surface of arcade culture. I’d spent most of my time playing Taiko No Tatsujin, a simple rhythm game comprised of a large drum, and two wooden sticks. Obviously I never went higher than “Normal” mode, however there is an advanced level known as “Oni” mode which draws in the insane level gamers.

Japanese arcades are so innovative, I can’t imagine half of the things I saw there ever catching on in the west. There are rhythm games which make Guitar Hero look like a primary school education tool. With multiple screens, literally rows upon rows of buttons which have to be mashed in sequence, with a display which looked like a July 4th celebration with explosions of colours and numbers. I saw a shooting game involving two guns, both with analogue sticks on the backs of the guns for movement of the character on screen. Not only this, but the guns would “snap” together in different combinations (side by side, on top of each other) to form extra weapons. Other nice touches included arcade cards which could be purchased, and registered online, so that on your next visit, you could continue with your progress instead of starting over again.

So what is it about the arcades which draw the Japanese to them? Simply put, there’s something for everyone. Casual gamers like myself, can jump into one of the arcades, spend ¥2,000, and leave with a few prizes and a sense of enjoyment from the cabinet games. Older gamers (I saw plenty of Japanese salarymen relieving stress after a days work) can go to the gambling floors, bet on horses or other virtual sports, or find some classic games from the 1980’s at the back of the rooms.

But then there’s the hardcore gamers. These guys can spend hours upon hours inside these amusement dojos. I don’t say dojo without grounds for it, as these guys train on these games. World champion Street Fighter player Daigo Umehara is a testament to this. It seems some Japanese communities have taken this culture from being a hobby, to a lifestyle. There seems to be a constant state of being good, isn’t good enough, with high scores being printed in magazines such as “Arcadia” for all to see, and try to beat.

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 22.32.05One of the many fighting games in which I had my ass handed to me

This competitive element is only to be found in arcades. It’s something that can’t be attained from playing online at home. Many players talk of a different feeling when trying to beat someone that’s sat on the other side of the cabinet you’re on. Because the player is paying to play, they take on a new attitude and play differently as they don’t want to waste their money. They’re playing to stay alive.

The popularity of arcades in Japan in comparison to the rest of the world is easy to understand. In the west, we have fairly large homes with enough space for a huge TV and multiple gaming consoles, gaming nights, and lots of noise. In Japan, the apartments are very small and often packed together with lots of neighbours. So big parties are pretty much out of the question, which leads people to head on down to the arcades, to make as much noise as they like.

In the west it seems video games are seen as a time wasting hobby, while in Japan it’s a widely accepted lifestyle. I also find it strange that anime has become immensely popular with foreigners, but arcade culture hasn’t caught on. Will it catch on in the future? Will we see a return of arcade culture in the west? If it’s done right, and people support it, I think we will.

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Osaka Shunkashuto (One Year Later)

Last year I introduced you to Osaka based idol group Osaka Shunkashuto, at that time they were getting their foot in the J-pop door, and slowly pushing it open. One year later, that door has been slammed off it’s hinges as Osaka Shunkashuto are quickly becoming the hottest idol group to come out of Osaka.

When we looked at Osaka Shunkashuto last year, they were fresh out of Soezimax’s “CampFire” (similar to KickStarter in the West) campaign to help fund his vision of producing a female idol group with a fusion of rock and roll and idol group elements, including music videos featuring a lot of military hardware. Since then, the girls underwent vigorous military weaponry training so their movements in the music videos would seem authentic. Soezimax held a mini-audition to help decide which of the girls handled their weapon in the most authentic manner. That accolade went to my favourite member, Yuna!

Weapon handling audition for PV

There’s an extensive list of videos on Soezimax’s channel documenting the recording of the E.P and the music video. Some awesome Japanese actors were used (森崎正弘、大澤竜、松本大貴、市原厚樹、前田耕陽) and from the behind the scenes videos it’s easy to see everyone had a great time filming. The girls (along with Soezimax and his crew) worked incredibly hard around that time as they produced not one, but two main music videos. On top of that, inbetween shooting, they also made cover versions of popular songs too! Talk about having no days off! Here are the two music videos which were produced for the E.P. The first being a slow love ballad (Moshimo Aetanara), while the second is slightly heavier (Dawn of My Lifetime)…

もしも逢えたなら – 大阪★春夏秋冬

DAWN OF MY LIFETIME – 大阪★春夏秋冬

If you have time to watch some of the behind the scenes footage (links are provided after each music video) you’ll see lead vocalist Maina practicing her English. Maina is known to be a huge fan of ONE OK ROCK and her inspiration is clear in each music video. She’s constantly trying to improve, and for a 17 year old, her English ability is outstanding, I can only imagine where she will go from here.

As some of you know, in April last year I was able to visit Japan for three weeks. During this time I was able to check out many musicians in the Tokyo area such as Outside Dandy, BARBARS, and Sugar ‘n’ Spice. While I was in Kyoto, Osaka Shunkashuto announced they’d be playing a show at Yao shopping centre (their usual performance venue) in Osaka, however I wasn’t scheduled to go to Osaka until the following day. My friend Bob (whom I was traveling with) questioned my sanity when I put forward the idea of traveling from Kyoto, to Osaka for a few hours, see Osaka Shunkashuto, return to Kyoto, only to return to Osaka the following morning…

So off we went…

Osaka Shunkashuto – I Want You Back (cover) performance from Yao, April 5th 2014

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Here I am, meeting Mana, Anna, Yuna and Eon. Unfortunately Maina and Rina had to leave for a radio broadcast which is hosted inside the Yao shopping centre. If you get the chance to visit Yao, then do so. It’s an incredible structure which is home to hundreds of shops, a huge arcade, and event stages. They have their own radio station which broadcasts live via U-Stream too.

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I also had the pleasure of meeting the managing team behind Osaka Shunkashuto, who are an adorable married couple who also speak fantastic English. They were kind enough to allow me to spend a little more time with the girls than other patreons, and gave me some goodies, along with this (somewhat blurry) photo of me with Mana, Anna, Yuna and Eon.

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I was also lucky enough to meet Yuna, my favourite member of the group. She’s just as funny as she is in the videos, and just as sweet. I took some Omiyage for the girls in the form of Cadbury’s chocolate (very British) and an adorable Kumamon teddy which I’d won in Kyoto the previous night during my outing with fellow J-Blogger “Sakura Panda Tea Time“. The girls were very grateful that I’d traveled to see them.

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Yuna signed a photo of herself for me (in English too) while Eon practiced her English speaking skills with me, informing me “I study English, because I am smart”. Very cute and equally as funny.

Here, the girls share their experiences of the music video filming and E.P recording. If you listen around the 3:00 mark, (English subtitles are available) I get a special mention for attending one of their live shows, which they seem to be very grateful for. I felt very privileged that Soezimax included this in the video.

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New member of Osaka Shunkashuto, Runaちゃん!

In November 2014, Soezimax made a huge announcement via YouTube. It would be the addition of a new member called Runa who would become the youngest member of the group at just 14 years old. I imagine this must be terrifying for her, to join an already established group, however judging from recent videos and Twitter posts, she seems to be settling in just fine.

Since the start of 2015, both Soezimax and Osaka Shunkashuto have worked tirelessly for the next chapter in their careers. Not only have they been producing more music videos featuring cover versions of popular songs, but also they’ve finished yet another E.P bringing the number of recordings up to three!

カメレオン少女 – 大阪☆春夏秋冬

Osaka Shunkashuto continue to expand their live shows as more recently they’ve started moving away from Yao, and into smaller live houses. There are a number of new videos showing the girls performing in Tokyo to substantial audiences which a very energetic vibe to them. With the direction of their music constantly evolving, the girls seem to be focusing on the rock and roll elements with catchy guitar hooks, galloping bass lines, and uptempo drum beats. This energy spills over into their dancing and performances.

Osaka Shunkashuto performing live in Tokyo

It’s been an amazing 12 months for the girls. I’ll continue to support them in any way that I can, from retweeting tweets, to writing articles such as this. The girls were recently enrolled in a competition to support ONE OK ROCK, based on the number of votes gained determined the winner of the support slot. The girls finished 7th out of hundreds of entrants, which was very impressive! I can only imagine their ranking if we could get them more supporters here in the west.

So come on everyone, let’s help these girls continue their growth in popularity and maturity. You can follow them on Twitter by checking out their profile page here. Don’t forget to subscribe to Soezimax’s YouTube channel as he releases videos on a regular basis

ショーンと大阪!春夏秋冬でした!

Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… F.E.M.M

There are seldom moments in the music industry where fantastic artistry and music come together to form something totally different. Creative back stories for bands are somewhat a thing of the past, except for gimmick artists. However Far East Mention Mannequins (aka FEMM) really bring this fusion of artistry into a new light.

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Touted as a music unit created by the FEMM Agency Syndicate, and fronted by mannequins MS-000000 (aka LuLa) and SW-000000 (aka RiRi) this electric duo are handled by their “Agents” Honey-B and W-Trouble.

Confused? Don’t worry. This debut video released in 2013 will explain all…

F.E.M.M Introduction Video

From what I can understand, FEMM isn’t just these two hypnotic mannequins, but a large team of creative individuals. After watching some of their music videos on YouTube, it’s obvious this unit is made up of graphic designers, videographers, fashion designers, producers, photographers, and other incredible artists who have worked with musicians such as Skrillex and Beyoncé. While LuLa (described as the healer mannequin) and RiRi (described as the combat mannequin) are the main performers, their “Agents” (the people who speak on the behalf) Honey-B and W-Trouble can be seen briefly in one of their music videos (Astroboy), and they also feature in rare interviews with online magazines.

LuLa and RiRi in a rare public appearance

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FEMM exploded onto the scene late last year with their “Girl Power” track “F**K Boys, Get Money”. It clearly has heavy influences from Hip-Hop artists such as Nicki Minaj, with the in-sync typography and outlandish costumes featured in the video. But it’s also receiving critical acclaim for breaking the stereotypes of the archaic subservient Japanese woman, which many still believe to be true.

FEMM – F**K Boys, Get Money MV

FEMM’s tagline is “Do Dolls Have Feelings? Do Their Songs Move People?” I’m inclined to agree. After hearing just one track (Wannabe), I was hooked. It has the dark electro synth aesthetic that I love, which drove me to listen to more of their tracks, and eventually download their album from iTunes. Which brings me to  the other great thing about FEMM, all of their music is available worldwide unlike most Japanese artists who limit their tracks to the Japanese iTunes store.

FEMM – Wannabe – Alternative MV

So what are you waiting for? Join the FEMM movement, become an agent, and share the noise. You can find FEMM in the following places…

FEMM Official Website
FEMM on Twitter
FEMM on Facebook
FEMM on YouTube