35 Years of Japan Mods Mayday

May 17th 2015 was the 35th anniversary of Japan Mods Mayday, held as always in Club Citta, Kawasaki (there is a sister event in Nagoya) – so how was it? Was it a celebration of past glories? Was it a summary or assessment of the current Mod scene’s vitality? Was it a brave shout to the future, a cry that Mod is not just here to stay, but also to grow stronger?
Well, let’s see …
(photos: The 56789s, and Yoshiko with Lui Bluesface)

The obvious crowd-puller of Mods Mayday was the return of the 5678s after six years. This time, they were billed as the 56789s, because of the addition of legendary keyboardist Morgan Fisher, and their set also included a cameo appearance from soul singer Lui Bluesface. Strangely enough, they weren’t the headlining band; that honor was taken by the Ska Flames.
In this anniversary year, other notable bands that appeared on stage where The Standards, The Boss, The Hammond Connection and The Blue Beat Players, among a large number of lesser-known bands and DJs spinning vintage vinyl. So, going back to one of the initial questions – how much of Mods Mayday is a snapshot of the Mod scene right now?
(photos: Gen Shiraogawa of The Standards – with badges – courtesy of Junko Shoji)

The Standards and The Boss are perhaps the clearest representatives of British Mod as defined in the late Seventies, (actually Neo-Mod – the loose Jam/Secret Affair/Two Tone coalition), while the cover versions, DJ sets, and vintage clothing stalls from stores such as Young Soul Rebels and Ipcress Lounge provide plenty of original Sixties vibes. That’s only a small part of the total Mods Mayday experience, however. Over the last few years, attendees have noted the prevalence of Ska and Bluebeat bands who habitually headline the event. This year, The 5678s returned, but they are more associated with Tarantino/surf rock/Cramps/psychobilly rather than Mod. Morgan Fisher is an extremely diverse musician, but he started out with Mott the Hoople – ten years after Mod originated and five years before the Neo-Mod movement.
My personal opinion seems to be that Tokyo Mods Mayday says more about the diversity of the Tokyo music scene in general rather than a specific celebration of Mod and Modernism. Maybe that’s obvious, but Morgan Fisher appeared because he’s a long-term resident of Japan (been here since 1985) and personal friend of the 5678s – and so is Manabu Dove, the main organizer of Mods Mayday itself.
If the organizers (including Mr. Dove) have neither the funds nor the inclination to draw big name Mod bands from abroad – such as The Moons, French Boutique or the reformed Secret Affair – then perhaps this is a sign of the future, as well as a snapshot of the present. Japan Mods Mayday is JAPAN Mods Mayday – Japan, in all its many guises and moods.

For more information, see QUADNET … coming soon …
and for some Modernist SF, with the adventures of Jimmy Diamond, Mod detective, go here.

Reiko’s School Trip to the End of the World

Sapporo – the capital city of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido! The word ‘island’ doesn’t really do justice to the sprawling scope of Hokkaido – think of it as Scotland, and Sapporo as Edinburgh, and you’ll have an idea of the wild and wintry atmosphere of the place. Sapporo is the fourth-largest city in Japan by population, the home of ‘miso ramen’, soup curry, lamb BBQ, a fantastic variety of seafood, along with Sapporo brewery and the world-famous Sapporo brand of beer.

Notable landmarks include the Clock Tower, the TV Tower, and Odori Park. What has really put Sapporo on the international cultural map, however, is the Snow Festival.

Every February, visitors can walk among giant ice sculptures that dominate Odori Park and other public spaces throughout the city center. These 400-plus sculptures include images of famous men and women through history, and global landmarks such as Osaka Castle, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Parliament Tower, the Pyramid of Giza and many more. The statues are traditionally carved by soldiers from Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, who are also responsible for transporting into the capital the tons of extra snow and ice used as raw material. The Festival had its humble beginnings in 1950, when just six bored high-school students decided to build some snowmen in Odori Park. Since then, the event has snowballed (groan) into the global attraction it is today, and there is discussion of going back to its roots and getting more local residents involved in the creation of the sculptures.

Voice of the Sword took place in Tokyo during August and September, and Voice of the Mirror’s settings were Tokyo in October, Edo in the year 1814, and a bizarre alternative-reality Japan where the Kagetori had succeeded in their attempt to ‘acquire’ the Earth.
It is now February, and before the end-of-year exams the entire second grade of Chiyoda High School go on a school trip to the Sapporo Snow Festival. After the traumatic events of the first two books, Reiko Bergman and her friends are hoping to hang out with their friends, chow down on some oishii ramen and sushi, and generally have fun.
If you have read the first two books … you know that is not what’s going to happen.

This is the setting of Voice of the Jewel, and I can also confirm that Chiyoko, Hikaru Genji, and Officer Kato of the Nine Star Division (who investigate supernatural threats to the Japanese nation) will all be returning as supporting characters. There is, however, a brand new antagonist. In volumes one and two Reiko fought Tengu, Kappa, Tanuki and the alien Kagetori, but if you want to know who is the shadowy figure stalking Reiko and her classmates through the falling snow and icy streets of Sapporo … stay turned to this blog!

Buy ‘Voice of the Sword’ here.

Buy ‘Voice of the Mirror’ here.

Paul Weller and the Tokyo Mod Legacy

(ABOVE: Manji Masanori solo)

To explain what happened last night, let us begin by defining our terms.
In the early Sixties, the ‘Mod’ movement (the word being the shortened form of both Modernism and Modern Art) became a force to be reckoned with. It encompassed both fashion and music, and resulted in the rise of ‘Cool Britannia’, a cultural wave that swept around the world until the dawn of the Psychedelic Age, when the centre of the universe shifted from London to the USA’s West Coast.
Despite that, the Mod movement lived on. It returned in the wake of the Punk revolution in the late Seventies, survived due to a cult following during the Eighties, was referenced by Blur and Oasis in the ‘Britpop Wars’ of the mid-Nineties, and experienced a full-blown revival thanks to the 2012 London Olympics, the popularity of athlete Bradley Wiggins, and social media kingpins such as Warren Peace.

The Jam (Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler – pictured above) came to the public’s attention in 1977. At first labelled a Punk band, their taste in fashion and songs exploring the mess of late Seventies Britsh culture marked them as Mods for a new era, and created a new movement joined by bands such as Secret Affair, Squire, the Purple Hearts, and everyone on the Two Tone record label.
The Jam’s connection with Japan was forged in 1980, after their legendary concert in Nakano Sun Plaza. The Jam Fan Club was formed by Minako Watanabe and Akemi Zushi. This resulted in finally meeting the members of The Jam backstage in 1982.
During the long years that followed, Paul Weller’s work with The Jam, The Style Council, and his solo albums has always been an inspiration (arguably the main inspiration) for Japan’s Mod bands and fashion stores. The Mods Mayday annual festival, organized by Manabu K. Dove from Club Asia, is a major part of Tokyo’s social calendar. The Young Soul Rebels boutique is one of Kichijoji’s hottest stores, and Yoshiko Watanabe from The 5678s has acknowledged the Mod influence in many interviews and live appearances.
All this led to In The City 2015, to mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of The Jam Fan Club in Tokyo and to celebrate the strength of global Mod culture.

All this led to In The City 2015, to mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of The Jam Fan Club in Tokyo and to celebrate the strength of global Mod culture.
The event was held in the Good Heavens British Bar in Shimo-Kitazawa; it kicked off with a solo set from Manji Masanori from Boss, followed with a selection of songs from The Crickets and then The Setting Sons (pictured above) – two Tokyo Mod ‘supergroups’ containing members from a number of other bands.

This was followed by a live talk show featuring Minako Watanabe, the Fan Club co-founder, in conversation with Gen Shirogawa (lead vocalist from The Setting Sons) and Junko Shoji. This was to announce the launch of the bilingual website Quad.net, and the fiction anthology Setting Sons Project, in which different writers will take a different track from the Setting Sons album as an inspration to create an original short story.

If you’d like to know more about the Setting Sons anthology, then send an email to albionjpc@jcom.home.ne.jp becuase we’d love to hear from you.
If you want to know more about the Tokyo Mods, then take a look on Facebook and send some of us a friend request.
If you’d like to know about Mod fiction and science fiction, take a look at the adventures of Jimmy Diamond …

Ryomei Shirai Faces the Music

Multi-talented musician Ryomei Shirai is best-known as a member of The Moonriders, a genre-busting band formed ay back in 1975. Over the last few years, the members have released a number of solo albums and projects, and this is Ryomei’s. “Face to Guitars” is an album that ranges from straight-ahead rock to jazz/funk, progressive rock, and even Celtic reels in an eclectic fifty minutes worth. Ryomei held a special promotional event at Ebisu Livegate on Sunday March 22nd – and I was very happy to be a part of it.

“Face to Guitars” is out now on Vivid Records.

Youtube preview link here.

3/11: Four Years On

3/11 was four years ago, and the publication of the charity anthology “Tomo” was three years ago. I was honored to be a part of it; here’s the email I received today from Holly Thompson, editor of the anthology and Co-ordinator of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Japan branch.

Hello Tomo Contributors,

I hope you are all well and in good health on this fourth anniversary of 3/11. As you all know there is still much struggle and hardship in Tohoku, and Tomo has continued to support teens in a small but important way through the NPO Hope for Tomorrow Japan.

Peter Goodman, Stone Bridge Press publisher of Tomo, has informed me that the print run of the trade paperback edition of Tomo has nearly sold out, and that when the final remaining copies are sold, no new print copies will be available. The ebook/Kindle version will continue to be available, however.

Perhaps you will consider taking this occasion on this fourth anniversary to speak up about the Tomo anthology, about the extensive readers’ guide on the blog, and about the store of incredible interviews (http://tomoanthology.blogspot.com)–thank you all!

It is my hope that Tomo will continue to enable people to keep in mind all those who have suffered hardship and unspeakable losses in Tohoku during and following 3/11. It is also my sincere hope that Tomo may also continue to serve as a reminder of the the many ways, small and large, that we, as writers, illustrators and translators, can, through words and story, help support communities in times of disaster.

Wishing you all the best,

Holly Thompson
Editor, Tomo Anthology


Here’s a link to the Tomo page …

Here’s a link to an excerpt from “Staring at the Haiku”, my contribution to the anthology!

Blue Bottle Coffee, Tokyo

One of America’s hottest coffee shops, Blue Bottle Coffee, now has branches in Tokyo! Its flagship roastery and cafe, in the residential shitamachi area of Kiyosumi,opened last month. Their cafe in Aoyama opened March 7th and they’ll have a kiosk soon in the Aoyama Tartine Bakery building, currently under construction. That’s the good news! The bad news is … everyone else knows this too. Be prepared for a wait. Lines of customers go winding down the street and on average, it takes an hour to get inside.

Directions to the stores will follow soon.

A Beat Generation Guide to San Francisco

The following photoblog shows some locations associated with the American Beat Movement of the Fifties and Sixties … the locations consist of:

City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway
North Beach SF

The Beat Museum
540 Broadway SF

The Naked Lunch cafe and diner
504 Broadway SF

(These three locations are all within two minutes walk of each other. Also, taking photos is permitted inside the Museum – hence the pictures below!)

Golden Gate park

Big Sur, about 3 hours drive from SF.

City Lights bookshop front

The mural in the alleyway around the corner from City Lights

A quotation from Jack Kerouac’s work carved into the alley sidewalk

Beat Museum Mural (next to entrance)

Shirt worn by Neal Cassady when driving the ‘Furthur’ bus for Ken Kesey

An Underwood typewriter of the same model used by the Beat writers

The 1949 Hudson used in the 2012 film version of “On The Road”

Howl Text

Howl Joke

Signboard outside The Naked Lunch Diner

Spicy Chicken Burger and Roast Lamb Cheesesteak Sandwich with Chili Fries at The Naked Lunch Diner

If you look carefully at the lady in the background, you can see she’s reading “The Maltese Falcon” by another San Francisco literary landmark, Dashiel Hammet. How postmodern is that?!

The Naked Lunch Interior

Golden Gate Park

The Janis Joplin Tree

The first Human Be-In

Big Sur

Bixby Bridge

The tiny beach under Bixby Bridge where Jack Kerouac – possibly – wrote the poem “Sea” in 1960

A glass of Big Sur ale to round off the day!

A Science Fiction Lover’s Guide to San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay area … the setting of such science fiction classics as “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, Morgan’s Takashi Kovacs series, Gibson’s Bridge trilogy … and the lesser-known gems such as “Our Lady of Darkness” by Fritz Leiber, and “The Fire Rose” by Mercedes Lackey.
It’s also the setting for films such as the 2014 “Godzilla”, the 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with Leonard Nimoy, “Rollerball”, “The Core” and the rebooted “Star Trek”. It can also boast the the longest and silliest car chase in film history, from “Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine” (1965).
With such a rich heritage for the futuristic and fantastic, surely book lovers can expect to find some rare and unusual literary finds? On a recent trip to the USA, I was lucky enough to sample some of the city’s genre bookshops, and I thought I would share my findings here!

Borderlands Books
866 Valencia Street, near Mission
415-824-8203 (see photo above)

Borderlands is the flagship store for fantasy, science fiction and horror, which means that most of its stock is new. It does, however, have an impressive section of second hand books at the back, on the first floor. There are four floor-to-ceiing cases and one free-standing mini-case containing used paperbacks, and covering most of the authors in the field. The price is mainly two dollars, which is a bargain considering some of the book sare vintage out-of-print editions. I found the first volume of E E Doc Smith’s Lensman series here … and even more of a surprise, an autographed copy of Poul Anderson’s “The High Crusade”.

Dog Eared Books
900 Valencia Street, near Mission
Tel: 415-282-1901
This is just down the road from Borderlands, and it focuses entirely on second hand books of all genres, fiction and non-fiction. The Science Fiction section is of couse considerably smaller than Borderlands, but it is possible to find some gems here if you’re lucky, such as some of the obscurer titles by Michael Moorcock.

And then there’s the motherlode ….

Kayo Books (above)
814 Post Street
Tel: 415-749-0554

Kayo Books, in the Tenderloin area. The first floor is pulp fiction, which covers private eye, hard-boiled, true crime, and every variation thereof. The science fiction used books section is upstairs, and is twice as large and eclectic as the afore-mentioned Borderlands. You can expect to find most titles by the greatest names in the genre, as well as hard-to-find works by writers such as John Brunner, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, Roger Zelazny … the range is just mind-boggling. Not only that, the first floor has a comics section at the back, where you can find second-hand graphic novels and loose issues of Bronze Age comics such as “Tomb of Dracula”, “Werewolf By Night”, and Jack Kirby’s “Forever People”, “Demon”, “Kamandi”, “Omac: One Man Army” … just thinking about it makes me feel light-headed.

Sadly, we didn’t get time to check out …

317 Castro St

Mountain View

(650) 968-7323
which is apparently the biggest second-hand bookstore in San Francisco, or …

Isotope Comics
326 Fell Street (near Haight Ashbury)
Tel: 415-621-6543
which is apparently the best comic shop in the area. An honorable mention should go, however, to …

Jeffrey’s Toys
685 Market Street
which sells all the latest comic titles as well as having a bargain bin of back issues for a dollar (and I found some issues of Camelot 3000 in there).

And .. last but not least! This curiosity is being sold at the store “Boccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts” in the Ferry Building, at the Bay end of Market Street. It seems that Chris Cosentino, celebrity chef and TV star, is also a comics fan, and got the idea and the opportunity to write a one-shot special “Wolverine: In The Flesh”. The plot tells of Wolverine tracking a serial killer in the Bay area who professionally butchers his victims, and the clawed Canadian hero brings in a friend of his to help, a local master chef who looks suspiciously like … Chris Cosentino.

This autographed rarity is on sale at the Boccalone store for the extremely reasonable price of five dollars.
San Francisco! We’ll be coming back to riffle through your racks and boxes again … we can’t wait!