Over the weekend of 7-8 July 2012 there were two concerts that I attended in the Tokyo area, featuring some artists who have made a strong impact on music of anime, but to begin…
One of the reasons I purchased the DVD of the anime Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise was because of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack. This lead me to delve further into his past as I revisited the music of his band, Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) and its members, and discovered that the bass player, Haruomi Hosono had composed the promotional song for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind live performance clip, and the soundtrack to Night on the Galactic Railroad. Following further, I found that Sakamoto’s ex-wife Akiko Yano had composed and performed the soundtrack to Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbors The Yamadas and voiced Ponyo’s brothers and sisters in Ponyo. Akiko Yano has also performed piano duets with Hiromi Uehara, who is probably Japan’s foremost jazz pianist. It was one such duet, since taken down from youtube, that led me to buying several CD’s and DVD’s by Hiromi Uehara and got me to check out her performance at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival in June 2012 with her trio.
To jump a bit, after attending Animelo Summer Live 2011 and thoroughly enjoying Chiaki Ishikawa’s performance, I bought many of her releases, including solo CD’s, See-Saw’s Dream Field CD, her Own Write DVD and the Clipping 4 Songs DVD. The most recent solo CD, この世界を誰にも語らせないように, had a first release bonus of a coupon for concerts in Osaka and Tokyo. Having bought two copies of the CD, I used the numbers on the coupons for my travel agent to bid for a ticket at each location. My bid for a ticket for 8 July in Tokyo was successful so I made travel plans to Tokyo for that weekend.
A short time later a friend showed me a television special called “The biggest bomb” which mentioned about a Japanese fishing boat called the Lucky Dragon No. 5 which had been hit by radioactive coral ash fallout from a nuclear test in Bikini Atoll, and mentioned that the boat was on display in a museum near Tokyo. I added that museum to the list of places to visit in Tokyo and checked on other concerts that weekend via Tokyogigguide.com and found that Ryuichi Sakamoto was organising a two day concert No Nukes 2012, with YMO, Chitose Hajime, Asian Kung-fu Generation, Analogfish, German electronic music group Kraftwerk and others on 7 & 8 July. The travel agent was able to get a ticket to Saturday’s concert for me, so I planned my train journeys in Tokyo and looked for things to see on the following Monday, as my flight home would leave Narita at 8:30pm on Monday 9 July. Although it was difficult finding museums and galleries open in Tokyo on a regular Monday, a quick response to an email sent to the people running gotokyo.org provided some suggestions including the Miraikan and the National Art Center.
Once on my way, flights from Adelaide and Sydney were quiet and almost completely free of turbulence. Immigrations and customs was quickly passed through at Narita, and I was on the 6:50 Keisei line train from terminal 2, a "stop all stations" service that I should have changed from earlier on, but eventually changed at Funabashi to a limited express and avoided about 12 out of 40 stops between Narita and Nippori. The hotel that I had previously used was fully booked so I stayed at the Hotel Lungwood very close to Nippori station, and the people there passed me my concert ticket and held my bag while I took the Yamanote line, the long change at Tokyo station, and a Keiyō line rapid train to Kaihin-Makuhari. This train was particularly crowded until Maihama, the station for the Disney Resort, a few stops before my destination.
I arrived before door opening time at the Makuhari Messe exhibition halls and was quickly guided to the single day ticket queue. At door opening, our tickets were exchanged for a wrist band, which we were required to attach before entering the halls. The first hall already had the smell of cooking from numerous food stalls and many of us took advantage of the bag cloakroom service (1000 yen for the day) where, unlike lockers, we could have our bags retrieved and returned to storage throughout the day without additional charge. There were also stalls for merchandise, the Namida Project, Greenpeace Japan and other groups promoting the use of renewable energy. The second hall was set up for the performances – no chairs, drapes on the walls to improve the acoustics and a gated area near the stage so that those closest to the stage would not get too packed together. There was a large screen behind the stage and several high-definiton video cameras were used to capture the performers in great detail and display on the screen and stream live. We were given a printed schedule which included times for each act and throughout the day, acts started on time, usually performing around 40-45 minutes of a 65 minute window of time before the following act.
One of the highlights had to be Asian Kung-fu Generation and Chitose Hajime’s set. The latter’s use of a Yamaha grand piano gave the audience a clue to one of the songs that would be performed. Her presence on stage was strong and although I don’t know many of her songs, I did recognise “Kataritsugu Koto,” the ED to Blood+. Ryuichi Sakamoto also came in and sat down at the piano and they performed “Shinda Onna no Ko” together. A previous performance of this song is here.
YMO’s set was also noteworthy for featuring many old favourite songs. Their set list can be found here. There are clips of most of YMO’s 7 July performance on this user page at Youtube. I had hoped to hear some old favourites from Kraftwerk, but although they performed Radioactivity and Trans Europe Express, they didn’t perform Autobahn or Tour de France. After Kraftwerk, the day’s concert was finished, and most of the audience wandered back to the station to catch a train home.
Other excellent articles in English about the concert:
- pre-concert article
- Japan Times report with pictures
- brief review
- in-depth article about the high cost of protesting publicly about the problems of nuclear power in Japan
- Commentary by Ryuichi Sakamoto in the Ashai Shimbum
Sunday started with light rain, and after a Japanese style breakfast at the hotel, I took the Yamanote line and Keiyō line again, this time to Shin-Kiba station and headed north to where the Lucky Dragon No 5 is housed. Very little was written in English, but the pictures and diagrams showed the effects of atomic testing on the Lucky Dragon No 5 and its crew and other Japanese fishing boats and their catches and on other people around the world, including the indigenous people living near the site of the Maralinga atomic tests in South Australia.
I caught a different train from Shin-Kiba and changed at Osaki and Shibuya to Shimokitazawa, an area of narrow streets, shops, and in July many bands performing in the streets. Before Chiaki Ishikawa’s concert there was to be merchandise sales, and when I arrived there was already a large queue in the basement car-park of the venue. I bought at least one of everything on offer including Chiaki Ishikawa’s book “Not Enough”. After that I used a locker at the station to store my backpack and wandered around the streets before returning to the live venue, “Garden” shortly before 1:15pm. True to the reference number on my email, I was put at the head of the queue to enter the venue and when we entered we paid 500 yen for a drink ticket and lined up across the front of the stage. About 20 people fit across the front row of the stage. After several replays of the video clips of “First Pain” from Element Hunters and “Fukanzen Nenshō” from Kamisama Dolls, the screen was lifted to reveal the stage. Shortly after 2pm Chiaki Ishikawa and her two guitarists appeared. Chiaki-san was only on stage an hour, but she was relaxed, elegant, in excellent voice and humour. There was probably between 200 and 300 people at the venue.
The tracks that I remember being performed were:
- The Giving Tree
- My book
- Uninstall original version /アンインストール_～僕が最後のパイロットRemix～
In addition to Chiaki-san and the guitarists, backing tracks were used. At the end there was a very long applause, but no encore. There was a later performance that day, to fit in more of the people who had applied using the coupon included with the CD.
On Monday I travelled out to the Miraikan, one of the few museums open in Tokyo on a Monday and really enjoyed everything that I saw there. If you are interested in biology, space science, earth science or robotics do not miss it! I didn’t have time to watch a movie in their theatre and may do so next time I visit. After another couple of train journeys I also visited the National Art Center, where there are no permanent displays, but on this occasion there was an exhibition of works from a gallery in St Petersburg that were well worth the trip. It was then time to head back to my hotel, pick up my bag and take the Keisei line train back to Narita terminal 2 and then the overnight flight to Sydney and connecting flight home to Adelaide. This was a very brief trip, but given the opportunity to see Chiaki Ishikawa perform under ideal conditions, I am glad that I didn’t miss it. That and the combination of Chitose Hajime and YMO at day one of the No Nukes 2012 made this trip almost as special as my previous and first trip overseas, to Animelo Summer Live 2011.