Category Archives: Music

Perfume and OK Go

Hi guys,

This is just something fun I wanted to share. This is a video by the American alternative group OK Go. This video was filmed in Japan (you can see the ladies of Perfume at the beginning). If you can’t see the video below, you can click on it here.

The song is pretty catchy. You can also watch the interview explaining how they made the video:


Tulip Time in Seattle!

Every year, my wife and I go to the Tulip Festival at Mount Vernon, WA, which is a famous festival near Seattle. This year was the first for Little Guy. We always visit Tulip Town farm when we go. The weather was really great this time (it’s often rainy and muddy), and we got lots of photos:


I took that photo with my camera phone. This one too:


When we go to the Tulip Festival, my family and I often sing a famous children’s song in Japanese:

さいた さいた
ならんだ ならんだ
あか しろ きいろ
どの花見ても きれいだな

Saita, saita
Chuurippu no hana ga
Naranda naranda
Aka shiro kiiro
Dono hana mitemo kirei da na

Which I might loosely translate as:1

They’ve bloomed, they’ve bloomed
The tulip flowers have bloomed.
They’re lined up, they’re lined up:
red, white, yellow
No matter which flower you look at, they’re all beautiful.

This song was first published in 1932 (Showa 7), in a children’s book called 「エホンショウカ ナツノマキ(絵本唱歌 夏の巻)」 which might translate into something like “A Summer’s Collection of Pictures and Songs”. You can hear it here:

But also, being a Buddhist nerd, I am often reminded of a passage from the Amitabha Sutra (阿弥陀経), translation by Reverend Inagaki:

In the ponds [of the Pure Land, 浄土] are lotuses as large as chariot-wheels — the blue ones radiating a blue light, the yellow a yellow light, the red a red light and the white ones a white light. They are marvelous and beautiful, fragrant and pure.

Enjoying the Tulip Festival here is like enjoying a small sample of the Pure Land, I think. :)

Happy Spring everyone!

1 You might wonder why the English translation is so much longer. A complete sentence in English is SVO (Subject Verb Object), but in Japanese it is just V or A (adjective). So, “saita” is the past-tense to bloom, and is a complete sentence, but in English you have to say “the flower bloomed”, or even “it/they bloomed”. Tae Kim has a much better explanation of this.

Sour Grapes

Earlier today, I got really upset about something that I was rejected for. It was something I originally didn’t want, but was invited to take part in. However, I started to get my expectations up, and then when I was finally rejected, I felt insulted and was brooding and mad all morning.

Then I suddenly realized I was just being sour grapes. The term “sour grapes” (makeoshimi 負け惜しみ in Japanese)1 means that you want something, but you couldn’t get it, so now you act angry and pretend you didn’t want it. That’s exactly how I was behaving. Worse, thinking back, I didn’t really want it anyway; it was just ego. So, when I got rejected, my ego was bruised, and I got mad. How silly.

When I realized this, I kind of laughed for a moment and forgot about it. My bitterness was gone just like that. Sure, my pride stung, but oh well. Life goes on.

It reminds me of that great Japanese song 女々しくて (memeshikute) by Golden Bomber:2

The phrase 女々しい (memeshii) means “effiminate”, but applied to a guy, it kind of also means “whiny” or “emotional”. So, instead of sucking it up, and learning from the experience, I was just being memeshii.

I guess I need to develop more emotional intelligence. ;)

1 I couldn’t find the equivalent Korean term. If anyone knows, please send a blog comment, thanks!

2 Golden Bomber is a good example of Japanese Indie music, compared to big-name, polished groups like AKB or Johnny’s. The lead singer is a really nice guy, writes all the lyrics, and is pretty humble. Golden Bomber can be really naughty sometimes (please do not watch the “kpop version” of 女々しくて), but they have great energy and don’t take themselves seriously. They are a lot of fun.

Merry KPop Christmas

Earlier this month, I was going to write a blog post about how KPop in 2013 has been overall not very good and most big groups have had disappointing new songs, etc.1 Then, on that very same day, I found this song by the ladies of Secret:

I really liked their album Poison and “Talk That”, but since other groups had lackluster comebacks, I wasn’t expecting much. Personally though I thought this was a nice, sweet Christmas-themed song. It’s very aegyo (애교) which means “cutesy” (the closest Japanese word might be kawaii 可愛い) and I usually don’t like aegyo stuff, but this was a good song at a good time of year.

Also, on a serious note, it’s good to see the ladies of Secret have recovered after their car accident last year, especially Zinger (Hana, the girl in the black dress) who had been seriously injured. I wish them good health and safety this coming year.

And for you readers, I wish you all a Merry KPop Christmas. :)

As for me? I’m getting some rest and taking the week off and will be posting again after Christmas, so stay tuned!

P.S. Secret did have one other song/video this year (YooHoo), but I guess that one was a bit too aegyo for me.

1 I think Brown Eyed Girls is the only other KPop group this year to have had a good comeback. The rest? Meh.

Buddhism As Explained By 80’s Synthpop

When I was a little kid, my mom had to work a lot, so we had a baby-sitter who would often come over and watch MTV all the time. So, I remember this song by The Eurythmics very well, even though I hadn’t heard it in almost 30 years. It’s still an awesome song:1

The main lyrics are:

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused

When I hear these lyrics now, I feel this is a great summary of Buddhism and the idea of samsara. This is called rinne (輪廻) in Japanese or yunhoe (윤회) in Korean for reference.

Everyone, everybody, is wandering the world looking for something. We never quite find it, but we keep looking, keep wandering. Thus, we never find rest or peace.2

Also, we come into this world confused and because we’re confused, we sometimes do harmful things to ourselves or other people.

If a person does not appreciate these two points, the rest of Buddhism will make no sense.

1 This is the alternate video. I was unable to find the original that most people might remember.

2 Compare with the following sutra.

Perfume Teaches Japanese

For this Sunday afternoon, I wanted to share this one. The lovely ladies of Perfume came out with another song recently called “1mm”:

The video is clever because the lyrics are super-imposed all over the screen as they’re singing. There’s no furigana, pronunciation guide for the kanji characters but they are singing it, so you can still see how they’re read.

Honestly, I can read most of the lyrics, but I’m pretty slow so I have to pause the video sometimes. The only way to improve is practice and exposure. “Flight time” in other words.

Anyhow, catchy song, I like Kashiyuka’s new look and the video, as always, is super clever and artistic.

If you like Perfume, techno-pop or learning Japanese, enjoy!

Happy Halloween 2013

I decided to post this classic Arashi song for fun to celebrate Halloween this year. In the past, it was really hard to find Johnny’s music videos on Youtube, but now Arashi has it’s own channel on Youtube/Vevo,1 which makes things a lot easier. This it the song “Monster”:

The song was used as the theme for the live TV version of the Japanese children’s classic, 怪物くん (Kaibutsu-kun), which in this context can be translated as “Little Monster Prince” or something.

The story behind Kaibutsu-kun is about a “Monster World” and a “Demon World”. The Prince of Monster World, which includes were-wolves, vampires and Frankenstein monsters, is sent to the Human World as punishment because he’s spoiled and selfish. His three servants (a werewolf, vampire and Frankenstein) come with him. He has eventually learns to be humble and how to make friends while stopping the demons from causing trouble.

Since these monsters are part of Halloween too, it all fits together nicely.

Also, this is probably the first Arashi song I truly liked. I knew a few songs before that (I can sing them in Karaoke too), but for some reason I couldn’t stop listening to this song for weeks. Coincidentally that was around Halloween too.

Anyhow, enjoy and have a safe, happy Halloween!

1 Which seems to only have 1 video in it. Hm. One is better than none, I guess.

2 Roger Zelazny’s novel “A Night In The Lonesome October” also features all 3 monsters too. Hint, hint. :)

Brown Eyed Girls PV: Kill Bill

I haven’t done one of these Kpop posts in a while, but I really thought this one was worth sharing. Recently, the group Brown Eyed Girls put out a new album. Their first video is a video called “Kill Bill”, like the movie of the same name. This is definitely not for kids, but it’s a brilliant parody of the movie:

I liked the fact that they put in the English subtitles too. The song is all about getting revenge on a lover that cheated on her, even if it’s self-destructive revenge. Similarly, the movie Kill Bill was about self-destructive revenge until the very end when the Bride meets her daughter. The other thing I like about this video is that it has a bit more of an asian or “Korean” feel than the movie. For example in the beginning, member Narsha is writing “Bill” in Hangeul: 빌.1 It’s interesting to see what Korean-style calligraphy looks like.

As always, BEG raises the bar on music and creativity. Once again, they did not disappoint. :)

As for the movie Kill Bill, I thought it was a great movie until I saw real samurai movies. Then I realized that it wasn’t really that original, and had that annoying “oriental fantasy” feel you sometimes find in Hollywood movies.

Anyhow, enjoy!

P.S. This article makes a good point that Brown Eyed Girls are a lot more sexy and talented that other groups, despite showing less skin, being 10 years older on average than other KPop stars, and not following the standard “mold”.

1 Actually the ㅂ (pieut) in Korean is a “P” sound at the beginning of words, and “B” in the middle. So if you read it literally, it sounds like “Pill”, not “Bill” in this case. It might have been more correct to write 삘 instead, but that’s not 100% accurate either. Ah, foreign languages are challenging but so interesting. :)

Japanese Language In Hangeul

Sandara Park Typing Japanese In Hangeul

I follow the ladies of 2NE1 on Twitter and I saw this post by member Sandara Park. She’s very friendly and likes to post on Twitter often, though I can’t always read them. This one caught my attention because it seemed different somehow.

The text is (with Romanization):

5가쯔노 오사카와 아쯔이데스까?

5 gajjeuno osakawa ajjeuideseukka?

This made no sense until I read it out loud. She was typing Japanese using Hangeul. It reads in Japanese: 5月の大阪は暑いですか? (go gatsu no ōsaka wa atsui desu ka? Is Osaka in May hot?)

It’s interesting how Japanese sounds get expressed in Korean Hangeul:

  • Japanese つ (tsu) doesn’t exist in Korean. At all. The closest sound is 즈, 주 or 쯔 (jeu, ju or jjeu). In a Japanese-language book on Korean that I read, it said that “tsu” is the hardest sound for Koreans to pronounce. Me too. ;-p
  • Japanese か (ka) is expressed not as 가 but as 카. This is important because Korean letters have sound-shifts but they don’t on Japanese. 오사가 would sound like “Osaga”, but 카 has no sound shift so it is closer to Japanese “ka”.
  • Unlike Japanese,1 Korean uses spaces between words. The particles の (no) and は (wa) appear at the end of the word but before the spaces.

Anyway, interesting stuff. :-)

P.S. Have a great weekend everyone!

1 In Japanese, the kanji help determine where one word ends and another begins.