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Friday, July 31, 2015

Song of the Week: Eiko no Kakehashi - Yuzu

Eiko no Kakehashi by Yuzu
This week’s Song of the Week is Eiko no Kakehashi by a duo called Yuzu. The title “Eiko no Kakehashi” (栄光の架橋) means The Bridge of Glory.

Yuzu (ゆず) is a Japanese folk/pop rock duo who formed and made their debut in 1997 and released their first single in June 1998 with Summer Color (夏色). The duo comprises of vocalist/guitarist Yujin Kitagawa and vocalist/guitarist Koji Iwasawa.

Both members of Yuzu come from Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture. Yuzu started out as street musicians in High School and their move into the J-Pop music industry was a big success story. The original name of the band was “Lights”, but Kitagawa disliked the name, so they changed it to Yuzu (after the fruit).

Eiko no Kakehashi was released on July 22, 2004 and was a massive hit for the band becoming one of the most popular songs of 2004. It reached number 2 on the Oricon charts. The song was Yuzu’s 21st single and was used as the theme song for NHK’s transmission of the Athens Olympic Games that summer.

I really like their music and songs with their mainly lush acoustic and upbeat sound.

Here is a live performance of Eiko no Kakehashi by Yuzu

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Emblem Revealed

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Emblem
The new Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems were revealed on Friday, July 24th, exactly five years to the day before the opening ceremony of the games.

The new emblems were unveiled in front of officials and athletes at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku on Friday night.

The emblem was designed by Japanese artist Kenjiro Sano. The design is very modern looking and based on the letter “T” which stands for Tokyo, Tomorrow, and Team. Tokyo is of course the first letter of the host city, Tomorrow stands for “a better world and a brighter future”, and Team “Japan will unite as one team when the world comes together for Tokyo 2020”.

Kenjiro Sano, a graphics designer was chosen from an open call for submissions in which a total of 104 designers submitted proposals.

It is an interesting design and very modern looking compared to the original logo used during the bidding process. I like the colours of the emblem. The black of the central column represents diversity, the circle represents an inclusive world where everyone accepts each other. The red of the circle represents the power of every beating heart.

The IOC Vice President, John Coates said, “The emblem reflects the vibrant nature of Tokyo and the welcoming spirit of its citizens.”

What do you think of the new Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games emblems?

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Emblem

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Emblem

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Emblem

Friday, July 24, 2015

Song of the Week: Kona Yuki - Remioromen

Kona Yuki - Remioromen
This week’s Song of the Week is Kona Yuki by a group called Remioromen. The title “Kona Yuki” (粉雪) means powdery snow, which is what I’m dreaming of right now as I sit here in the 34C heat & humidity of the Japanese summer.

Remioromen (レミオロメン) is a Japanese rock band who formed in 2000 and made their debut in 2003 with the single Ameagari. The band is a three piece and comprises of vocalist/guitarist Ryota Fujimaki, bass guitarist Keisuke Maeda and drummer Osamu Jinguji.

Kona Yuki was released on November 16, 2005 and was a massive hit for the band becoming one of the best-selling singles of 2005. It reached number 2 on the Oricon charts. The video for the song also picked up “Best Pop Video Award” at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards Japan.

It is a great song and I hope you enjoy it.

Kona Yuki by Remioromen

Monday, July 20, 2015

Umi no Hi

Umi no Hi
Marine Day or “Umi no Hi” (海の日) in Japanese is an annual Japanese National Holiday held on the third Monday of July. It is also sometimes called Ocean Day or Sea Day.

This year Umi no Hi will be on July 20th.

Umi no Hi was established to appreciate and celebrate the ocean and to consider the importance of the ocean to Japan as an island nation.

History of Umi no Hi 

Umi no Hi was established on July 20th 1941 to commemorate the Meiji Emperor and his 1876 voyage in the Meiji Maru, an iron steamship constructed in Scotland. The voyage included a trip around the Tohoku region as well as a brief stop in Hakodate before returning to Yokohama on July 20th 1876. Umi no Hi was officially designated a national holiday in 1995, when it became the first holiday in the summer months. It was established as a holiday to express gratitude for the gifts of the sea, honour its importance and to pray for the prosperity of Japan as a maritime nation.

How is Umi no Hi Celebrated 

There are no particular traditions associated with Umi no Hi since it is quite a modern holiday in Japan. Many people take advantage of this holiday and the beautiful summer weather to visit the beach. You can also see special events held at aquariums and water parks around Japan to celebrate Marine Day.

How will you spend your Umi no Hi this year?

Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima
Image source

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Song of the Week: Fragile - ELT

Fragile Every Little Thing
I have started a new weekly post series called 'Song of the Week' which will highlight one of my favourite J-POP songs from my time in Japan ranging from 1997 - 2015.

First song off the list is Fragile by a group called ELT (Every Little Things). ELT, a pop/rock duo made their debut in August 1996 and from the late 90's to early 00's were one of the biggest and most popular groups in Japan. They are one of the few groups from the mid 1990's that is still active in the music scene.

ELT were huge when I first arrived in Japan in 1997 and you could hear their songs everywhere. Originally formed as a trio, their keyboardist left the group in 2000 leaving the group as a duo. ELT comprises of Kaori Mochida as the singer and Ichiro Ito as the guitarist.

Fragile was their 18th single and was released on January 1, 2001. It was their fourth single to top the Oricon charts. The song was also the theme song for Fuji Television's drama 'Ainori' which was broadcasted from October 2000 to September 2001.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the years.

Fragile by Every Little Thing (ELT)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Expat Survival in Japan - HiFX Blog

HiFX Blog
I was recently asked to help contribute an article to the HiFX Project dedicated to helping the next generation of expats understand the issues people encounter in their first six months living abroad. As an expat Aussie living in Japan and having more than 12 years experience living and working in Japan, I jumped at the challenge to put pen to paper and share some tips on how I survived my first six months in Japan.

Here is a little excert from the article;

What were your first thoughts and feelings on arrival to your new country? 

I arrived to Japan via Osaka and was immediately blown away by the sheer size of the city and dazzled by all the neon lights and electric atmosphere. I remember feeling like I was on a completely different planet. I also remember feeling that my Japanese ability was inadequate as well because what I had learned at school was completely different.

If you are interested in reading more of the article, please head over to the HiFX Blog.

HiFX Blog

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Waffnuts and Chounuts at Krispy Kreme Japan

Waffnuts and Chounuts at Krispy Kreme Japan
This month Krispy Kreme Japan released a new line of interesting hybrid donuts called Waffnuts and Chounuts.

After the success of cronuts (the hybrid of croissant and donut) Krispy Kreme is banking on the success of these limited-edition pastry offerings in Japan.

The Waffnuts are a hybrid of Belgium waffle and donut, and are said to be light and crispy, while the Chounuts are a hybrid of chou cream (profiterole or cream puff) and donut.

The Waffnuts come in three different flavours, Strawberry, Green Tea and Almond and cost 240 yen. The Chounuts come in two different flavours, Lemon Cheese and Double Caramel and cost 210 yen.

Waffnuts Strawberry 

The Waffnuts Strawberry Donut features strawberry icing with freeze dried strawberries on top for a sweet and sour flavour.

Waffnuts Strawberry Donut

Waffnuts Green Tea 

The Waffnuts Green Tea Donut features Uji matcha green tea powder in both the donut and icing and is topped with a white chocolate drizzle and chocolate cereal flakes. The matcha used in this donut is from the Uji region of Kyoto, which is famous for producing the finest matcha in all of Japan.

Waffnuts Green Tea Donut

Waffnuts Almond 

The Waffnuts Almond Donut features almond frosting with dark chocolate drizzle and salted almonds.

Waffnuts Almond Donut

Chounuts Lemon Cheese 

The Chounuts Lemon Cheese Donut is filled with cream cheese that has been infused with lemon rind and is topped with a white chocolate drizzle.

Chounuts Lemon Cheese Donut

Chounuts Double Caramel 

The Chounuts Double Caramel Donut is filled with both caramel cream and a salted caramel sauce and is topped with dark chocolate.

Chounuts Double Caramel Donut

The donuts are available from June 10th to July 21st in Japan.

The hybrid donuts look really interesting so we just had to give them a try.

The Taste Test 

We selected three donuts to test and they were Waffnuts Green Tea, Waffnuts Strawberry and Chounuts Lemon Cheese.

The Waffnuts Green Tea had a nice chewy texture from the Belgium waffle and good crunch from the chocolate cereal flakes on top. Unfortunately, the matcha flavour was not as bitter or strong as I would have hoped, especially coming from Uji. More matcha flavour please Krispy Kreme.

Waffnuts Green Tea

Waffnuts Green Tea

The Waffnuts Strawberry had a nice sweet taste from the strawberry icing and good sourness from the freeze dried strawberries on top. It was a great combination. Definitely our favourite of the three with a real authentic strawberry taste.

Waffnuts Strawberry

Waffnuts Strawberry

The Chounuts Lemon Cheese was light and fluffy like a good French Cruller donut and we loved the cream cheese infused with lemon rind filling. A winner in our book.

Chounuts Lemon Cheese

There you have it. We hope to try the other two on the list and report back soon. Stay posted and if you are in Japan, definitely give these a try!

Krispy Kreme Japan Website

Waffnuts and Chounuts at Krispy Kreme Japan

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