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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in madara_blog's LiveJournal:

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Monday, June 20th, 2016
4:38 pm
Tokyo: A Treasure Trove of Hello! Project Goods
Ai chan
One of the great things about visiting Tokyo is the chance to get Hello! Project releases without paying the exorbitant CDJapan shipping costs and the chance to get all sorts of other H!P and J-pop goods by simply walking into a store.

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Thursday, May 12th, 2016
4:43 pm
Sakura Matsuri 2016: Kyoto and Brooklyn
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On Saturday, April 2, 2016, I was in Kyoto, Japan and wound up, quite by chance, at Umekoji Park where a Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) was in progress and it included a full afternoon program of dances by various student groups and other amateur groups from the region. I was so enthralled by these performances that I stayed the whole afternoon and dropped my plans to visit temples in the city.
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Four weeks later, on Saturday, April 30, having been back home in New York since April 5th, I went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual Sakura Matsuri and enjoyed some of the best weather of the year so far, enhanced by the full blossoms of the Garden’s cherry blossom trees:
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Friday, April 22nd, 2016
9:01 am
Japan Journal, Part 2: Satoyama/Satoumi Events, continued
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Since today is Earth Day and the Satoyama/Satoumi Movement is so intricately intertwined with the goals and principles of Earth Day, I thought I’d use the occasion to share the rest of the pictures I took of the Hello! Project performers on Saturday, March 20, 2016 at the Satoyama/Satoumi event at Pacifico Yokohama. This was after the second HinaFes concert I attended earlier in the day (Angerme/Kobushi Factory Premium), about which I’ll write in the next entry.
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Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
9:32 am
Japan Journal, Part 1: Satoyama Opening Ceremony, March 19, 2016
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I just got back from four weeks in Japan and there's so much to process and so many pictures to sift through that I thought I'd just start with the one Hello! Project event where I was allowed to take pictures, the Satoyama/Satoumi events of Saturday, March 19 and Sunday March 20, 2016, held at the Pacifico Yokohama, including the opening ceremonies, where I would see pretty much all the current H!P acts, plus several of the OGs (Original Girls). These events coincided with HinaFes, also being held there, where I would see two of the concerts, Morning Musume Premium and Kobushi Factory/Angerme Premium. I will cover the concerts in a later entry.
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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
2:01 pm
Location Hunting in Japan
I'm planning my first trip to Japan and, in addition to seeing some H!P concerts and all sorts of landmark sightseeing stops, I want to look for various locations used in sentai shows, those action series about five super-powered young people in color-coded costumes that provide the footage for the Power Rangers franchise. I found a website that actually identifies some of these locations: http://neokerberos.free.fr/index.htm

For example, I learned that this location from "Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger," ep. 2 is Funado Park on the Sumida River in northern Tokyo:
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...and is seen again in Gokaiger #7:
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Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
12:08 pm
Petit Best 16
Petit Best 16

This year’s compilation of Hello! Project videos (PVs) of the past year is one of the best collections I’ve seen in years. Most of the PVs were new to me, since I prefer seeing them on Blu-ray rather than Youtube, so there was an element of discovery about them, especially since there were so many new girls who weren’t in last year’s Petit Best 15 collection. Morning Musume and Angerme (formerly S/mileage) both had new members, while two new groups made their first appearances in a Petit Best collection, Country Girls and Kobushi Factory. I count 20 new girls total, which must be something of a record. And this is the first Petit Best collection to have two new groups in it (as opposed to special units) in eleven years, since Petit Best 5 in 2004, which gave us three groups--W, Berryz Kobo and Viyuden--in one fell swoop (and still one of my favorite Petit Bests).
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Thursday, December 24th, 2015
3:08 pm
Christmas Videos - These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
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First, the Hello! Morning Christmas Special from 2005:
This episode of “Hello! Morning” aired in Japan on Christmas, December 25, 2005. This is Part 1 of 2. It begins at the bus station, site of numerous skits in the show, where Kaori plays a teacher trying to lead her charges, six adorable schoolchildren (all played by then-current members of Morning Musume), in different Christmas songs, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but they keep getting interrupted by various eccentric characters, including a rapping granny played by Kei Yasuda. Meanwhile, in a studio portion, all current members of MM and all then-still-active past members of MM gather under the guidance of Yuko and interact with a comedian named Shingo Yanagisawa in short improvised skits.


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Monday, November 30th, 2015
2:48 am
Hello! Project 2015 Winter Concert Disc 1: Dance Mode
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Disc 1: Dance Mode, from the Hello! Project 2015 Winter Concert Blu-ray set, is one of the best winter concerts H!P has done in years. There’s a whole level of new energy and excitement as a total of ten new girls join in on the action. (And there were four missing due to illness, along with one regular member, Haruka from Morning Musume.) I counted a total of 55 performers onstage in the ensemble numbers, surely a record for a winter concert, and five were absent! And, for the first time ever in a winter H!P concert, there were no pre-9th Gen members of Morning Musume included in the ensemble. (A 6th Gen’er would appear in a separate act later on.)
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Tuesday, October 6th, 2015
1:07 pm
Sayumi’s Graduation
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I’ve had the Blu-ray of Morning Musume.'14 Concert Tour 2014 Aki Give Me More Love - Michishige Sayumi Sotsugyo Kinen Special since February, but I didn’t watch it until this past weekend. Frankly, I’d dreaded watching Sayumi Michishige’s graduation because I knew how sad it would be for me. Sayumi’s the last connection to the Morning Musume I knew when I became a fan ten years ago. She was still a relatively new member in that first concert I saw (Hello! Project Winter 2004). And pretty much everything I’ve watched with MM this past year has still had Sayumi in it. My God, she was there on stage a year ago when I saw them live at the Best Buy Theater in New York on October 5, 2014, remember?
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Saturday, September 5th, 2015
8:58 pm
Ten Years of Fandom – A Personal Album
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Last Saturday, August 29, 2015, marked the tenth anniversary of my becoming a fan of Morning Musume and Hello! Project. I celebrated by doing a four-hour karaoke session with other fans at Duet 35 in Manhattan. I opened the session by breaking out a portable DVD player and running the first few numbers of the concert that marked my first exposure to these groups, the “Hello! Project 2004 Winter~C'MON! Dance World~,” at which Natsumi Abe graduated from Morning Musume. The others present hadn’t seen this concert before. It was an attempt to recreate that thrill of discovery that I first experienced ten years ago. The first three numbers in the concert were “Ai no Sono ~Touch My Heart~” (Morning Musume Otomegumi), “Hare Ame Nochi Suki” (Morning Musume Sakuragume), and “Go Girl (Koi no Victory)” (Morning Musume). We did two of the three (“Ai no Sono” and “Go Girl”) during the session. (For some reason, all my attempts to call up “Hare Ame Nochi Suki” on Duet 35’s machine failed.)
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Friday, July 17th, 2015
9:30 pm
"China Through the Looking Glass" - Fashion, film, culture and history
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The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art is currently showing an exhibit called “China Through the Looking Glass” which runs until September 7, 2015. It takes up space on three floors (including the Anna Wintour Costume Center) and offers dozens of outfits and costumes by famous designers based on Chinese motifs and inspirations, along with other art objects (vases, sculptures, installations) and other commercial objects (e.g., perfumes). It even takes up space in that famous Chinese Courtyard on the second floor. There’s a labyrinthine quality to it all, matching the “Through the Looking Glass”/Alice in Wonderland reference, and one can easily get lost and leave without seeing everything, or see everything multiple times as you circle the place trying to get out. It doesn’t help that everything is so dark and it’s so crowded. Still, there’s a theme park aspect to it that should prove fun for adventurous museum-goers.

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Sunday, June 7th, 2015
9:40 am
S/mileage Concerts, Part 2: Live Tour 2014 Aki - Full Charge - Final In O-East
Concert: S/mileage Live Tour 2014 Aki - Full Charge - Final In O-East
Features the last concert of S/mileage held at Tsutaya O-East on December 17, 2014

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This was a much more streamlined, somewhat shorter concert than the Budokan one, in a smaller, darker venue, with a much smaller stage for the girls to work on, kind of like the C-ute Cutie Circuit concerts. It gives them less space to play around in, but also means more creative choreography to keep the numbers interesting.
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Thursday, May 28th, 2015
6:14 pm
S/mileage Concerts, Part 1: Live 2014 Natsu Full Charge 715 - Nippon Budokan
Concert DVD: S/mileage Live 2014 Natsu Full Charge 715 - Nippon Budokan
S/mileage in their first concert at Nippon Budokan, held on July 15, 2014.
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I’ve been meaning to write about this concert for months, but every time I sit down to re-watch it to take notes I get so caught up in it I can’t write anything down. Finally, the latest S/mileage concert DVD arrived (S/mileage Live Tour 2014 Aki - Full Charge - Final In O-East, held at Tsutaya O-East on December 17, 2014) and I watched that and noted some interesting comparisons so I decided to cover them both and this time watched them both in the computer so I could type up notes as I was watching. The piece turned out to be so long, I broke it up into two parts.
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Friday, April 24th, 2015
5:38 pm
"Make It Pop" - American music show with K-pop influence
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“Make It Pop,” a new 20-episode show currently running on Nickelodeon (with one more week to go), is about an all-girl singing group made up of three freshmen at a private high school, presumably in California. The big difference here is that the girls are all Asian or Asian-American. And they sing upbeat pop songs about teenage subjects or with aspirational themes. There are two songs in each episode and they’re usually done as full-fledged musical numbers with back-up dancers and, occasionally, special sets. Some of the songs are done on stage at a local roller rink-turned-music club, while others are fantasy numbers performed when the girls are thinking about some problem to be solved or desire to be fulfilled.
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Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
9:22 pm
Billie Holiday Centennial: 100 years of Lady Day
Billie Holiday would have turned 100 today, April 7, 2015. I would argue that she was the greatest jazz singer of the 20th century and maybe the greatest blues singer also--after Bessie Smith. She died in the hospital on July 17, 1959 at the age of 44 "from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver" (per Wikipedia). She had first achieved popularity in the mid-1930s and attained quite a following in the 1940s, but her battles with alcohol and heroin addiction and arrests for narcotics possession took a heavy toll on her and her career. Still, she made dozens of great recordings over the last 20 years of her life, giving new life to the standards, while achieving hits with songs offered to her or which she co-wrote.

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Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
6:55 am
Yoshihiro Tatsumi, pioneering manga artist, dies in Japan
Yoshihiro Tatsumi, manga creator extraordinaire, died in Tokyo on March 7, 2015 at the age of 79. His obituary in The New York Times first appeared a week later, on March 14:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/13/arts/yoshihiro-tatsumi-japanese-cartoonist-of-dark-stories-is-dead-at-79.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

Coincidentally, I referenced Tatsumi in my film blog entry of March 8 where I discussed the film, ON WINGS OF LOVE, starring Hibari Misora, Chiemi Eri and Izumi Yukimura, a film I'd first learned of in Tatsumi's manga autobiography, A Drifting Life.
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Thursday, March 5th, 2015
7:35 am
Berryz Kobo Last Concert 2015 Berryz Kobo Ikube〜!
On Tuesday Morning March 3, 2015, I got up super early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went to the computer to read The New York Times. At some point, I checked in on MM-BBS and the Berryz Mega Goodbye Thread, devoted to the final activities of Berryz Kobo before their disbanding, up to and including their final concert. Well, imagine my surprise when I learned that their final concert had just started in Japan and there was a live stream available on the Douyu Channel and Shoujo Q posted a link. When I clicked on it, Berryz was just finishing “Special Generation.” How much had I missed? That was their first song! So there I was, watching the final concert of one of my favorite J-pop groups, whom I’ve met and interviewed twice, live from Japan on my home computer. How lucky was that? I had tuned in at 4:29 AM (New York time) and the whole thing lasted three hours, till 7:28 AM, when Douyu finally cut away from the crowd chanting in the arena long after Berryz had left the stage. “Berryz Saiko!” What an experience. I only left the computer once—to go make coffee during the VTR segment early in the show. And when it was done, it was time to get ready to leave for work. How often do I get to start the day this way?
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Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
8:17 am
Osamu Dazai: "No Longer Human," a tale of tortured adolescence in prewar Japan
One of the reasons I like Japanese literature is that one finds authors (at least the ones who are translated into English) who chafe at the restrictions and conformity of Japanese society, who critique it in more vivid and explicit ways than can be found in typical examples of Japanese mass media, such as movies, anime, manga, and pop music videos. One gets a sense from these books of what it must be like for a sensitive soul to experience daily life in Japan. One of the most harrowing depictions of such a life is found in the novel, “No Longer Human,” by Osamu Dazai. The Japanese title is “Ningen Shikkaku,” the literal translation of which might be more accurately rendered as “Disqualified from Being Human.”
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Sunday, January 25th, 2015
7:14 pm
The Prehistory of J-pop: Shizuko Kasagi
In researching Hibari Misora as I was in the process of watching some of her films, I came across quotes from a book that included her as a subject. I tracked down the book at Kinokuniya and bought a copy. The book is "Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop," by Michael Bourdaghs (Columbia Univ. Press, 2012) and it has a chapter on Misora. But as I started reading that chapter, I kept coming across references to Shizuko Kasagi and realized that Ms. Kasagi was the subject of the book’s first chapter, so I figured I’d better read that chapter first. So I did and it was the first I’d heard of Ms. Kasagi, who’d been a popular singer in Japan even before World War II and specialized in jazz and boogie-woogie style songs, experiencing her greatest period of popularity after the war during the Occupation by American forces. Eventually, though, her popularity was eclipsed by Misora during the 1950s, who, for a time, sang songs in a similar style and, sometimes, the same songs.
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Sunday, November 30th, 2014
6:27 pm
Morning Musume '14 Concert Tour 2014 Haru ~ Evolution ~
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This is quite possibly my favorite Morning Musume concert of the last ten years. I watched it three times before doing this writeup, something I haven’t done with one of these concert DVDs for a very long time—if ever. I still think of these girls as the “new lineup,” even though 9th Gen has been there since January 2011, 10th Gen since October 2011, and 11th Gen (Sakura Oda) since 2012. But in that time, they’ve all progressed to constitute one of the most finely tuned, technically skilled lineups in MM history.
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