Riding a Bike through the Sky in Okayama (Washuzan Highland)

After hitch-hiking around Okayama and seeing all of the major sights it had to offer, I decided to make my way to Washuzan Highland so I could ride the “most terrifying rollercoaster in all of Japan” (that’s really not so terrifying).  Washuzan Highland is a Brazilian-themed amusement park about an hour from Okayama Station.  The park has everything from roller coasters to swimming pools to petting zoos.  Because it’s located in the countryside of Japan, it has a huge amount of attractions but not nearly as many tourists as other amusement parks.  With the tropical plants, Brazilian performers, and the vibrant atmosphere, I really did feel like I was in a different country here!

The terrifying rollercoaster, called the “SkyCycle”, is actually a pedal-powered roller bike that’s extremely high up in the sky.  Although I didn’t find it scary, the fear likely stems from the fact that it’s not automated like other rollercoasters; the bike is entirely in your control and you go around at your own pace.  Looking down might cause panic for those who are afraid of heights, but this is a great ride for people like me who love adventure.  The ride is only about a minute long but you get an awesome view of Okayama Prefecture and Shikoku Island from it:

I was a little disappointed that the ride wasn’t a bit longer, but I understand that people may get scared over time if it were.  The bike has two seats but you can ride it alone.  I rode it twice so I could experience it from both the inward and outward seats.  The outward seat is definitely more thrilling because it faces the edge and you can feel the motion of the turns more.  Though it looks a bit dangerous from all of the media exposure, SkyCycle is completely safe because each chair has a seat belt, so you don’t have to worry about falling off.  You should be careful of dropping your camera though!

After surviving the most terrifying rollercoaster, I decided to go swimming for a while in the pool.  It’s not very deep but it’s extremely refreshing on a hot day in August!  Next I did some rollerskating at the roller rink.  I specifically remember that the song Cookie by banvox started playing on a loudspeaker, and I picked up the pace.  It was really cool to hear one of his rare older songs played in his home prefecture!  By that point I was exhausted, so I bought a melon and hung out at the petting zoo.  I enjoyed seeing the white hens and hamster tree.  I ate some nice egg sushi from a place nearby as well (the tamago sushi here is ginormous).  Though this happened nearly three years ago, I still remember what an exhilarating experience this was!

Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures of the park, but trust me it’s worth riding the SkyCycle for this view:

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I may come back here again with my GoPro if I have time in the future.  If you have the time, consider checking out Okayama!  It’s such an under-rated city and has much for you to discover.

Access

303-1 Shimotsuifukiage, Kurashiki, Okayama 711-0926

Admission Fee: 2800 yen (worth it because there’s hardly any wait time for the rides)

Kanazawa: The City of Gold and Miraculous Wonder

People always ask me what my favorite place to visit outside of Tokyo is—and though it’s extremely hard to for me to choose because there’s simply so many—one of my favorite destinations of all time is Kanazawa.  Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa prefecture and is known for its famous seafood market, historical buildings including samurai houses, and brilliant gold architecture.  It has a rustic charm that is similar to Kyoto, but is far less touristy and is surrounded by the beautiful sea.

Kanazawa is also the birthplace of famous musical artist Nakata Yasutaka (producer of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, capsule, and Perfume), who created his own indie music festival called OTONOKO that was held once a year from 2016-2018 (it currently if unknown when it will be held again).  The festival attracted around 200-300 people and created a close community of music lovers that had traveled from all over Japan.  It’s one of the best music festivals I’ve ever been to in Japan because it features both the experienced artists of ASOBISYSTEM and the new and upcoming talents too.  I was happy to share this experience with many friends I had met at his previous music events held in Tokyo and other cities as well as explore the famous capital that is his hometown.  There is so much to do in Kanazawa outside of the festival too!

Here’s a list I’ve compiled of all of my favorite places in Kanazawa.  You can easily spend 3 full days doing things here:

Kanazawa Castle & Kenrokuen

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Kanazawa Castle is one of my all-time favorite castles in Japan and is located right next to the famous Japanese garden Kenrokuen.  This castle is massive compared to other ones I’ve visited and you can tell a lot of detail was put its re-construction after in caught on fire in the 1600s.  I first came here in the winter when a light layer of snow had piled on top of the castle’s roof and it was extremely aesthetic.  I was glad that it was one of the first places I had visited because it’s a huge part of the city’s history.

Strolling through Kenrokuen and listening to all of my favorite music was also a huge pleasure.  It’s considered one of Japan’s “three most beautiful landscape gardens” and is the best garden of Kanazawa so you should definitely check it out if you’re here.

The castle is free to enter, and Kenrokuen’s admission is 320 yen.

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

I recently wrote an article on the The Top 3 Most Innovative Art & Technology Museums I’ve Been to in Asia, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is my top pick.

What you see here might just be my favorite exhibition in the world.  The image of the pool looks like some kind of mirage or frozen frame from a vaporwave music video, but there are actually living, breathing people going about their daily routines under the waters of this pool.  You can even “dive in” and join them—but you can’t jump or use the ladder.  Instead you must reach the underwater zone from another entrance (which can easily be found by following the signs).  In addition to the pool, there are various rooms with simulations you can enter.

This museum is an important part of Kanazawa’s culture because it draws a large number of people to the city.  Its design is very modern but somehow fits in the center of Kanazawa’s historic streets because it has a beautiful outdoor park and is near the Kenrokuen Garden.  The outside of the museum has free exhibits you can see as well.

The entrance fee is 360 yen for temporary exhibitions (some exhibits are free).

Golden Ice Cream & Sake

Since Kanazawa is the city of gold, you can find all sorts of golden souvenirs here.  The golden ice cream is by far the most famous (and delicious too).  At a confectionery shop called Hakuichi, you can savor the best gold-leaf ice cream in Japan.  I went during October one year and they added an edible ghost topping too!  The gold sake is also something I bought back for home.  It tastes just like any other sake but the gold flakes inside make it look like a glittery snow globe.  My friends joke that I have eaten more gold than anyone they know, and that very well may be true.

Omicho Fish Market

The Omicho Fish Market is where you’ll find some of the freshest seafood in mainland Japan.  Kanazawa is most famous for crab, but you can find almost any other kind of fish imaginable.  My personal favorites were Kaisen Maruhidon (rice bowls with mountains of seafood on top) and the tiny servings of sea urchin sold in the stalls outside.  Most restaurants will gladly customize your orders for you and there are amazing sushi restaurants here as well.

One of my favorite memories was when Nakata Yasutaka’s first solo album Digital Native was announced the night before the festival, so my friend and I split a crab then ordered a pitcher of sangria from a restaurant below the station in celebration.  A waiter peeled a fresh avacado for us too, but I don’t actually remember what we ordered in last photo…  That just goes to show how much fun I had here!

Higashi Chaya District

The Higashi Chaya District of Kanazawa is where some of the traditional teahouses and upscale ryokan are located so it’s one of the prettiest parts of the city.  There are also cafes, souvenir shops, and a lot of interesting architecture here.  It’s a lot similar to Kyoto’s Gion district but the crowds are more evenly distributed.  I love the winding streets and also the liveliness here.  Everything seems like it was built to perfection.

I highly recommend checking out the Nomura Clan Samurai Home here because it has unique artifacts and a beautiful home garden.  The Godburger is also a nice meme.  Although haven’t eaten there yet, it’s definitely on my bucket list.

Piano of Memories (思い出ピアノ)

As I was walking underneath Kanazawa Station, I noticed a really interesting exhibit.  Here sat an ordinary piano that anyone could walk up to and play but it had an interesting concept.  People could upload videos with the hashtag “sharepiano” for others to listen to online.  I uploaded this video I took to Twitter and the pianist actually found it and was happy I captured this moment!

Kanazawa is a popular destination for both foreign and domestic tourists, but it’s spread out enough so that things like this can be heard and appreciated.

Hotsprings, Hotels, & Other Recommendations

When I first came to Kanazawa, I didn’t have a lot of money so I decided to stay at a hostel called Good Neighbors Hostel (now called Off) near the station for around 2500 yen a night.  The 2nd time I stayed at Neighbors Inn (owned by the same people) for around the same price.  Both were extremely memorable times.

The first time I met a Perfume fan from Hong Kong who had awesome stickers of all the idols on his laptop.  We became good friends during the duration of the festival and the hostel had a Death Note-inspired “Guest Note” that we wrote in (fortunately no one died).  The second time the hostel had a ball pit so I took hilarious photos of myself pregaming in it.  I always have the best time staying in this city no matter where I am.

If hostels aren’t your style, you can find a variety of cheap hotels on websites like Booking.  Additionally, if you are looking for a day hot spring I recommend Terume Kanazawa.  The admission fee is only 1100 yen.

The official after party for the festival was held at an event space called Double with two floors (one bar floor and one music floor).  It is here where the strong gather and continue to party until down.  In 2018 I managed to meet Nakata-san before he left and get me T-shirt signed.  It was on my birthday weekend so it made it extremely special:

Here is a shot of the after-party I recorded in 2018.  It truly was a time to be alive and I hope to go again if it resumes in the future:

Access

From Tokyo Station, take the Hokuriku-Shinkansen towards Kanazawa.  This takes approximately 3 hours and costs 15,000 yen one way.  Nakata Yasutaka actually designed the shinkansen departure melody for this train so it’s extremely special!

You can also fly to Komatsu Airport and take a bus to Kanazawa Station which may be cheaper unless you have the JR Rail Pass.

If you are interested in other day trips from Kanazawa, please see my Shirakawago article.

The Future Legacy of Super Dance Tools: Carpainter at Planet Cafe, Hamamatsu

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Carpainter plays a 90 minute set at EFEKT’s 7th Anniversary at Planet Cafe, Shizuoka.

During my backpacking trip to the Capybara Zoo of Japan, I spent an entire night dancing at Carpainter’s Future Legacy Tour held at Planet Cafe in Hamamatsu.  I had previously attended the album’s original release party at Contact Tokyo in December, but I wanted to travel here so I could experience the music scene in Shizuoka in addition to seeing him perform at a rare venue.  This particular event was not only a release party, but it was also combined with EFEKT’s 7th Anniversary.  In this article I will be reporting my experience at Planet Cafe and also talking about Carpainter’s latest releases: Future Legacy and Super Dance Tools Vol. 1.

Planet Cafe & EFEKT

Planet Cafe is one of the most famous music venues of Shizuoka located in the populous city of Hamamatsu.  Unlike its name implies, it has the atmosphere of an underground club instead of a cafe.  It’s divided into two rooms with one bar and one DJ booth, making it easy to listen to music and socialize with people.  I found it to be much more laidback than the typical clubs in the Tokyo scene.  The entrance fee was only 2500 yen and well worth the price for the quality of music.  The party lasted from 9pm – 5am so it was quite a long time—almost the duration of a music festival!  There was never a dull moment in the club because the music selection of all the artists was carefully chosen.

EFEKT is an “all style bass sound music” party routinely held by a group of Shizuoka-based DJs at Planet Cafe.  In addition to bass music, you can except to hear a lot of nonstop dance tracks with techno and disco influences here.  At this party in particular, I heard a lot of fire UK Garage tracks which really made me happy.  In addition to Carpainter, they have featured artists such as Licaxxx, submerse, and Chimpo at their previous events at Planet Cafe making the lineup more diverse each time.

Resident DJs: MASKAT, SADA, SUGURU, SINYA (see the EFEKT Twitter for more information).

You can hear a sample mix by MASKAT here:

Address

Planet Cafe
223-1 Motoshirocho, Naka Ward, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka 430-0946

Future Legacy Release Party in Hamamatsu

Future Legacy

Future Legacy is Carpainter’s 3rd official album defined as “The Japanese Techno Revival”.  Its 14 tracks are reminiscent to old school techno and breakbeat music with a bit of house music effects as well.  A recent DOMMUNE article mentions that Carpainter used rich and melodious synthetic sounds in the album’s production influenced by Detroit techno similar to his Orient EP.  Future Legacy also features the usage of female vocals for the first time in the track O.V.E.R. ft. Utae.  The album fuses old techno sounds with Carpainter’s own unique style making it one of the best nonstop dance releases I’ve heard in quite a long time.  I’ve enjoyed keeping up with the album’s production and would rate it quite high in terms of originality.

The album’s first track Re Genesis starts with a slow and simple build that immediately draws you in.  He used this track to open his set at Planet Cafe and it instantly got the crowd excited.  My personal favorites from this album are “Tiger & Dragon”, “Chaos or Order”, and “Declare Victory”.  A big theme of this album is the balance between looping sounds and inserting cuts and breaks to keep the dance spirit alive.  Each song has a unique way of doing this so it’s something you’ll want to keep on repeat for a while! The album ends with the previously mentioned uplifting dance track O.V.E.R. that was originally premiered at Trekkie Trax’s 7th Anniversary.  It truly is a treasure of Japan and is available worldwide:

Planet Cafe

I arrived to Planet Cafe around 11pm which gave me the perfect amount of time to drink and socialize before seeing the special guest performers.  The club attendees were a mostly a mix of Shizuoka locals and people who had traveled from Tokyo to see the event (like myself).  Though I was the only foreigner, I found it very easy to talk to people here.  The number of people that attended this was similar to the Carpainter event at Outer Kochi last year, so overall it was a good crowd and there was lots of room to dance.

Carpainter played a 90 minute set that consisted of a wide range of music including records with songs he grew up hearing in the Netherlands with his brother Seimei.  In addition to tracks from Future Legacy, he also played his previous bangers like PAM!!! and mixed it into an old style of techno music.  It was really fun to watch the crowd’s reaction because no one knew what song was coming next.  My personal favorite was this creative slip-in of “Mr. Roboto” towards the end:

In addition to Carpainter, isagen, a Shizuoka-based DJ and producer was also featured as a special guest in the lineup.  I have previously written about isagen in my LARGE SIZE article last year, but he has really grown as a skilled DJ since my last article.  In his set at Planet Cafe he played songs from his cgab release on Trekkie Trax as well as tracks I didn’t recognize (which I assume will be part of a future release).

Recently isagen has been featured on THREE THE HARDWARE, which is a unique video project started by tofubeats that demonstrates the production of DTM (desktop music) made with second hand equipment.  A recent video called THIS IS UK STUDIO explores some of the sound effects that isagen and other featured artists have made through experimentation.  This project is inspirational because it shows that you can make virtually any sound on your hardware with the right technique:

My clubbing experience in Hamamatsu was unforgettable and I hope to come back here in the future to listen to new types of music!

Super Dance Tools Vol. 1

Super Dance Tools (Vol. 1) is the latest release by Carpainter which contains 17 tracks over 5 minutes designed to be used as “tools” for DJs.  The loops with the combination of acid techno and hard techno sounds make it an addictive dance album by itself, but it sounds even better when the songs are skillfully transitioned into other songs during sets.  The album has gained international praise by artists such as Anna Lunoe, and the songs have been featured on London radio shows such as NTS.

You can listen to a preview of the album below:

A great example of Super Dance Tools being utilized is in this video of Addison Groove’s Getterfunk Takeover set where “B-Reverse” is played:

My top picks on this album are “Supernova” and “Drifting” because they have a nice build that makes me want to loop them on repeat for hours, but “1994” comes as an unexpected surprise because it ends the album on a mellow note.  I hope to see more artists use these tools to create unique sounds, and anticipate the possibility of more volumes in the future.

Final Remarks

Carpainter will always be one of my favorite artists in Japan because he has introduced me to so many styles of music through his DJ sets.  Despite being from Michigan, I had no idea what Detroit Techno sounded like until I heard him describe it in his interviews as a major influence of songs he produced for Orient and Declare Victory.  The people that I’ve met through his events continually inspire me to listen to new music and travel around Japan to experience it in different places.  I am excited to see what direction his music takes him in the future and hope that someday he fulfills his dream of debuting in the UK.  If that happens, I will definitely be looking more into the UK music scene as well!

For more information, please see:

Experiencing the Nightlife in Taiwan

Since no trip to a foreign country is complete without experiencing its nightlife, I decided to check out a few unique cocktail bars and venues in Taipei and Taichung while I was traveling in Taiwan earlier this year.  Through going to music events in Tokyo, I was fortunate to have met my friend Hojo who not only manages tours and bookings for foreign artists, but also curates in own events in Taiwan with CUSTOMS and DJs music that transcends genres (see Hojo’s SoundCloud for reference).  In Asia it’s generally easy to find bars and spots to socialize, but the scene I found here far exceeded my expectations.

At Taiwan’s venues, particularly at FINAL, the entrance fee is affordable, the cocktails and music are top-notch, and you can actually sit down with people and socialize.  A big issue with some venues in Tokyo is that they are too crowded, and although I am a club enthusiast I sometimes find it hard to relax even when I really enjoy the music.  People in Tokyo have a tendency to seek stimulation (and I am guilty as charged), but it’s very easy to get drained from the steady flow of events.  However, in Taiwan I never had that issue.  Each night I went out I was able to find the perfect atmosphere for whatever mood I was in, meet a lot of new friends, and make awesome memories that make me want to come back here in the future.

The Fucking Place (操場)

The very first bar I went to in Taipei was called The Fucking Place.  This place became a meme when Trekkie Trax toured here because one of their members got legendarily lit, so it’s been on my bucket list for quite a long time.  This bar is close to a lot of clubs in Taipei, so it makes the ideal pregaming spot.  But why the name, you ask?  Hojo explains it all in his Tweet below:

True to its name, Fucking Place’s atmosphere is cozy and welcoming.  They have a large selection of hard liquors and you can ask for your own favorite cocktail combination too.  I drank whiskey mixed with milk and reached the perfect level of drunk among good people.

The upstairs of the bar is also worth checking out because it has a mini gallery that will perhaps expand in the future:

FINAL

By far one of the best venues I’ve experienced in Asia is FINAL in Taipei.  I was at here 3 different nights during my 12 day stay in Taiwan because each night had a diverse variety of music.  This club has always been on my radar because a number of my favorite artists from Japan (including Carpainter and Onjuicy) have performed here, and Hojo also runs his own events here.  Each night I connected with different friends from around the world so I would say the scene here is very international and friendly.

By chance, Night Tempo and Neon City Records were doing a large show here on the first Friday of 2020 during my trip, so I was extremely lucky to see them here.  I have been following Night Tempo since college and attended his first HMV show in Tokyo, but recently haven’t been able to attend his events in Japan because they sell out extremely fast.  Fortunately I was able to get door tickets here and catch his amazing 2 hour performance while catching up with my friends in Taiwan.

Night Tempo’s style has really changed from sampling old Japanese songs to producing Showa era idol music and recently working with famous vocalists like Anri and Mariya Takeuchi.  He played at Fuji Rock last year in addition to touring many Asian countries and America as well.  I have met some of my best friends through his music, so I always try to catch his events whenever I can:

The very next day, Hojo hosted CUSTOMS featuring IVVVO who I met, and other aspiring international artists with a lot of talent.  As I have heard from my friends who previously attended CUSTOMS events in the US, this one was nothing short of amazing.  Each artist played whatever style of music they wanted, and no one could predict what was coming next so it was fun.  One of my favorite moments was captured below:

I would recommend FINAL to everyone because it plays and caters to all tastes of music.  The scene is here is one of the best I’ve come across in Asia and I look forward to seeing who else performs here.

The Cave

While I was in Taiching, I decided to check out this bar called The Cave because it was the other venue in Taiwan where Night Tempo toured.  I came here on a weekday so no live performer was playing, but I really appreciated the ambient atmosphere and the carefully mixed cocktails the bartender crafted for me.  I ordered one that looked like cotton candy and was coated with honey, and another delicious cherry one that was both delicious and high in alcohol content.  This was one of the best bars that I have been to in Taiwan, and I highly recommend it to everyone.  It was very cozy but perfect for the mood that I was in.

Afterwards, I decided to go on a walk to the nearby Taichung Park Pavilion.  I really appreciated the vibe of the neon lights and how bright the pavilion shone at night (I think it looks prettier at night than during the day).  Additionally I ran into so many cute dogs that were being walked here, so it was a real delight.

Round4

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We all know the lyrics to this one.

On my very last night in Taipei, I went to a small lounge called Round4 recommended by Hojo.  Since it was a weeknight it wasn’t very crowded, but the bartenders gave us the best hospitality.  A bartender named Jimmy came out and talked to us, and also made special coffee cocktails that I’ll never forget.  I really like it when the bartenders make an effort to connect with their visitors, so this is a place I’d like to drink at again because it has good vibes.

Which raises the question…

Will I return to Taiwan in the future?

Since it’s right next door to Japan, I would say there is a very high chance that I will return.  I had a phenomenal time both experiencing the night life and spending time with nature in this country.  There will be a music festival held at a temple this year that I am considering coming back for.  Once the dates are decided, I may buy another plane ticket depending on my schedule.  The life of a traveler who also loves clubbing is never complacent.

Can you show me a miracle? // Madeon Good Faith Tour in Tokyo

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Can you show me a miracle?

Last month I was lucky enough to purchase tickets to Madeon’s Good Faith tour in Tokyo (held at Akasaka Blitz).  The event was so popular that tickets sold out in a matter of 10 minutes, but fortunately through a lot of refreshing on the Lawson Ticket site I was able to buy a standing ticket.  The standing tickets are the best in my opinion, because you’re able to get close to the stage and dance!

Though I lived in America for many years, this was the first time I had ever seen Madeon live.  His performance was such an emotional ride that it’s hard to describe with words, but I was filled with nostalgia and inspiration as I watched him pour his every being into his music.  The visuals were stunning, and perfectly matched the theme of each song.  In addition to songs from Good Faith, he sang nostalgic songs like Shelter and played a number of live edits that took careful precision and timing.  In fact, he put so much into this performance that he was nearly out of breath at the end, but he kept on singing for all of us.

Some of my favorite visuals are the ones shown below:

Good Faith has a lot of highs and lows, and the visuals were carefully designed to reflect that.  Similar to Porter Robinson’s shows, the visuals shift with the feeling of the song.  Some of them are very complex with intense motion, while others are very still and soft.  The show really is a trip and I think everyone can find something that they relate with here [as he intended].

If you haven’t listened to Good Faith yet, please take the chance to when you have time.  You won’t be disappointed.  My favorite song is “Miracle” because it deals with working out a lot of complex emotions (fear, anxiety, hopelessness), but delivers a powerful meaning.  All of the songs are beautiful and combine a mixture of piano, synth, and electronic sounds.  Seeing him play on the piano nearly brought me to tears because it was so beautiful.

For more videos, please see my Instagram:

I hope to attend many more shows like this in the future!

“Success is the Best Revenge”: Witnessing Pasocom Ongaku Club’s Night Flow Tour in Hiroshima

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Pasocom Ongaku Club performs live at ONDO in Hiroshima, Japan.

At the beginning of the month I traveled all the way from Tokyo to Hiroshima in order to attend two events that were part of Pasocom Ongaku Club’s Night Flow Album Release Tour.  The first was held at Mondo Cafe in Fukuyama, and the second was at a food and music venue called ONDO in central Hiroshima.  in the blue shirt—who is one of my favorite indie electronic producers in Japan—was also a part of this Hiroshima tour so I was ecstatic to go on this trip!

Hiroshima is typically a place where people go to visit historical sights, so before my arrival I had no idea what the nightlife was like.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how interactive the music scene is here.  Not only did the quality of music and talent of the artists exceed my expectations, but I also have fond memories from both events because they connected me with a lot of different people.  I also had the experience to see rare parts of Japan, so coming here was worth all of the time and effort.

In my previous articles, I covered how to travel around Hiroshima and Fukuyama, so in this article I will be writing a detailed report on the music producers that I saw here.

Who is Pasocom Ongaku Club?

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Pasocom Ongaku Club (パソコン音楽クラブ in Japanese; also stylized “Pasocom Music Club” in English) is a unit formed in 2015 focused on creating desktop music (DTM) of the new age.  They have an adorable dog mascot named Maron (マロン) that appears in a lot of their photos and merchandise.  Pasocom Ongaku Club have performed at numerous venues in Japan and utilize modules and digital synthesizers like the Roland SC series and Yamaha MU series to create 90s style music.  They have also participated in music production and remixes with other artists, commercials, and a wide range of other activities.
Official Website

A Brief Timeline of Pasocom Ongaku Club’s Releases:

  • 2015: The unit was formed and started uploading DTM tracks on their Soundcloud.
  • 2017: Released their first major album “PARKCITY” on Maltine Records.  Also self-released a miscellaneous album “SHE IS A“.
  • 2018: “DREAM WALK” and “DREAM WALK REMIXES” were released and extremely well-received, gaining them a lot of recognition.  They also released their CONDOMINIUM. – Atrium Plants EP.
  • 2019: “Night Flow” and “Night Flow Remixes” were released with critical acclaim.  Arranged “Pokémon Shiritori” (ポケモンしりとり)━the ending for the latest Pokémon anime based on the games Sword/Shield.  The group of children singing the lyrics to their song are called “Pokémon Ongaku Club”.

One of the most popular Pasocom Ongaku Club songs out right now is “reiji no machi” which features lovely vocals by Inoue Warabi:

I first saw Pasocom Ongaku Club in 2018 at a music/Q&A event called “ゆパ交流戦” in Osaka.  I was very impressed by their music production method and how they sang through what looks like a talk box to record some of their vocals.

The event was held again this year [2019] with a slightly different lineup.  I could not attend the event this year because I was in Korea, but the highlights were uploaded to in the blue shirt’s YouTube channel.

Who is in the blue shirt?

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Born in 1991, “in the blue shirt” is the solo project of a trackmaker named Arimura Ryo who currently resides in Osaka.  He started creating music in 2012 and also has managed sound production for commercials and web advertisements.  Released his 2nd album, “Recollect the Feeling” in April of this year.  Recently he has been organizing a recurring trackmaker/DTM workshop event called “Potluck Lab” and working on his own vlog series tentatively titled “Travels in the blue“.
Official Website

*I have previously written about this artist and his music in my Kaga Onsen Festival and Kyoto Metro LARGE SIZE articles.

A Brief Timeline of in the blue shirt’s Releases:

  • 2012: First started producing music━early demos and samples of his work can be found on his Soundcloud.
  • 2013-2014: First EP “Impasse” was released.  Worked on various compilations and remixes; most notably a remix of Porter Robinson’s “Flicker” on “Re:Flicker“.
  • 2015:toward morning” is self-released, and mini-album “Cyanotype” is released on Maltine Records.
  • 2016: First official album “Sensation of Blueness” is released on Trekkie Trax with much success.  Tracks are also featured on “Trekkie Trax The Best 2012-2015“.
  • 2019: Created a trackmaker/DTM workshop event called “Potluck Lab” held in Kyoto.  Releases 2nd album “Recollect the Feeling” and all vinyls sell out.  Preview of new EP is teased on Twitter.

in the blue shirt also released a remix of “reiji no machi” on “Night Flow Remixes”:

The First Night: At Mondo Cafe

After seeing all of Hiroshima’s major sights, I arrived at Mondo Cafe in Fukuyama around midnight.  This was my first time ever going to a music event in Hiroshima so I was a bit nervous by myself, but I was happy to see that some of my friends I had met at Kyoto Metro were here too!  It had been several months since I had last saw them so drinking together and catching up was a very pleasant time.  Some nice boys from Hiroshima also bought me drinks and I was grateful for their hospitality.

Though I didn’t know many of the local Fukuyama DJs, all of them had great talent.  The night was a mix of DTM, disco house, electronic, indie, and funk music.  During the event I tried to make conversation with other people, but the music was so good I didn’t want to leave the dancefloor!!

Pasocom Ongaku Club’s set consisted of their own custom intro, hit tracks Night Flow, and some nostalgic tracks from PARKCITY like “oldnewtown”.  It was very refreshing to see how much they had improved since I first saw them over a year ago!  I recommend their music to everyone.

in the blue shirt’s set consisted of many different genres; his own songs released on Sensation of Blueness, Recollect the Feeling, and toward morning were mixed in with songs from other international artists.  He also played “Don’t Wanna Fall in Love” by KYLE, “Nishio 2” by Lemaitre, and “Whatever You Want” by 95 Royale━which is one of my favorite house tracks of all time!  This is one of the best in the blue shirt performances I had ever seen!

By the end of the night I was filled with happiness and inspiration from all of the amazing tracks I had danced to that night.  It was extremely hard to sleep, but I managed to get a few hours in before the next event on Sunday.

Address

モンドカフェ
〒720-0077 1 Chome-9-21 Minamihonjo, Fukuyama, Hiroshima

The Second Night: At ONDO

The second event was on a Sunday evening so it started early around 6pm.  Much like Mondo Cafe, this event space was very homey but well-suited for the event.  Most of the people from last night also came here, so I had the chance to talk to some of the DJs and also see my friends again.  I was very grateful for everyone’s kindness and the hard work put into this event.  It felt more like a house party than a club event!

What made this event extremely unique was that Pasocom Ongaku Club dropped “Pokémon Shiritori” in one of their sets for the very first time.  The composition of this song is brilliant because they sampled the Pokémon Center healing SFX.  You can see the video I captured of it (this is one of my most-viewed videos):

Additionally, the VJ here was very talented.  The series of flashing logos and animations was the perfect level of stimulation for this kind of event.  The lighting at Mondo Cafe was ambient and soothing, but I liked the way ONDO was set up even more.

in the blue shirt’s set was once again filled with a high level of energy and precise mixing of multiple genres.  This set had his famous song “Seven Bridge” on it that made the club go insane as well as several tracks that I did not recognize.  I am now even more excited to hear the new EP he is working on!  I was really fortunate to talk with him and buy one of the few remaining vinyls of Recollect the Feeling.  He signed it with my name on it too!  I left the venue with a very good feeling.

Afterwards, I went to a lovely Chinese restaurant with some of my female friends.  It was so nice to catch up after all this time had passed and share these moments together.

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The last supper in Hiroshima.

Address

音楽食堂 ONDO
〒730-0026 Hiroshima, Naka Ward, Tanakamachi, 6−3, ​音戸温泉ビル

Final Remarks

Traveling around Japan for music events has been extremely rewarding for me.  I’ve learned much about the world, the people, and the culture of different prefectures of this country through music, and I’ve still got much to learn!  I go to clubs and events in Tokyo almost every week, but the atmosphere of the venues in Hiroshima and Kyoto are much more welcoming.  The artists and listeners are able to connect so much more freely with this type of event.  I will cherish all of the memories that I made here.

I do not have any big trips planned for the rest of the year, but I am planning to go to Nagoya in 2020.  Please stay tuned for more updates, and thank you always for reading. ♡

M3秋2019: Attending M3 for the First Time

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend M3, one of Japan’s biggest interactive multimedia events that is essentially the Comiket of music.  M3 is a great opportunity for aspiring artists and record labels because they are able to rent a booth and distribute their music in addition to connecting with other artists and fans.  I like this kind of event because it preserves the culture of physical music distribution and a lot of the music sold here is unavailable online so you won’t be able to find it elsewhere.  The same goes for the merchandise (such as hats and bags) as well.  There is also a space where you can freely listen to select music with your own headphones or have the option of renting some.  It’s very exciting to wander around here because you can literally see the happiness of people as they connect with the artists they love.

Getting to M3

M3 takes place at Tokyo Ryutsu Center, which consists of six exhibition stalls and a conference center with multiple floors.  This complex is actually really close to Haneda airport, so I rode the local Tokyo-Monorail towards Haneda-Airport Terminal 2 to reach it.  The event goes from 11:00 – 15:30, and I arrived at 11:30 just to avoid the initial crowds.  My timing was perfect because it only took me around 5 minutes to register and I was able to visit the 3 booths that I wanted.  The entrance fee is 1500 yen, plus it includes a guide with all of the participants listed and a map which is quite handy.

Navigating M3

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The floorplan of M3秋2019.

Navigating M3 is quite daunting at first, because each booth is identified with a letter and a series of numbers.  The booths are placed side by side and there’s a lot going on so it’s really easy to walk past the one you’re looking for.  Not only do they use all 26 letters of the English alphabet in the booth naming system, but they also use Japanese hiragana and katakana consonants and vowels as well.  There is very little English guidance and I don’t think much of the staff speaks English, so I would strongly recommend researching the artists/circles you’re interested in and finding exactly where their booth is placed before you come here.  It is extremely fun to wander around, but sadly there is not enough time to fully experience each and every artist’s music as this is only a one day event.  I would advise you to plan ahead so you can make the most of your time here.

Buying Music at M3

The CD I was most interested in buying was TVR Compilation Vol. 1, which is from a relatively new independent label in Asia.  One of my favorite artists who I’ve written about before; in the blue shirt, has released a rare song that is only obtainable at M3.

Here is the preview of the compilation that was uploaded a few weeks before:

Fortunately when I arrived there were multiple copies of the compilation I wanted, and the people running the booth were quite friendly and gave me an extra CD along with my purchase so it was an extremely good experience.  The compilation was only 1000 yen and was more than worth the cost.  All of the artists on the compilation have experience in the music industry, so it was quite the noteworthy compilation.

The first time I ever saw in the blue shirt at Lounge Neo in 2017, he played the song 「Dreamin’ of You」as an exclusive song in his set.  I’ve wanted the song for the longest time but I could never obtain it until now.  Finally in 2019 it was officially released as a part of this compilation, and I am very happy to officially have it in my collection now!

In addition to TVR’s booth, I also checked out the booths for Miraicha and Lipgloss Records.  I bought some merch for my friends overseas who couldn’t be here, and also picked up the Departure CD early that a lot of artists I know have collaborated on.  While I was here I saw so many familiar names of Japanese artists like IOSYS and ave;new that I listened to in high school through the internet, so I felt extremely nostalgic even though it was my first time here.  I had an amazing time even though I was only here to purchase a few things.  It truly felt like a dream to be here.

Closing Remarks

Overall M3 is a really friendly event that is perfect for networking and sharing music.  All of the music and merch is extremely affordable (most CDs are sold for 1200 yen on average), and I like knowing that all of the profits go to the artists and record labels (in addition to the booth rental fee).  M3 is quite comparable to Comiket, but not as big and daunting.  The size of the event center was enough to accommodate all of the artists and crowds of people, so I was relieved that I didn’t have to deal with long wait lines or commuter traffic on the trains.  All of the artists I talked to were happy to meet me, so I left the event center with an extremely good feeling.  If you love Japanese music as much as I do, please consider checking M3 out!

*M3 is a seasonal event, so you can check the latest information on their official website here.

Resurface to Reality: Raving in the Jungle of Koh Rong

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Resurfacing to Reality at Police Beach, Cambodia.

When caught up in work, stress, and a maze of relationships, it’s often easy to lose sight of yourself and forget what is important.  Though I love living in Tokyo, I find it often hard to relax here and there is an endless amount of events occurring which really places a lot of pressure on my life.  Spending 4 days on the small Cambodian island of Koh Rong in Koh Touch, a small village that only stretches for about a mile, really taught me taught me some valuable lessons I will treasure for life.

It was here where I went to my first old-school rave in the jungle and learned to live frugally compared to my extravagant city life.  The villagers were extremely kind and I was always surrounded by friendly people that took care of me despite the fact that I ventured here completely alone.  My time here really helped me let go of a lot of anxieties and insecurities I had that were holding me back recently.  Though I have many caring friends in all the countries I have visited, being in this setting helped me resurface to reality and form an entirely new perspective so I could enter a new mindset that I couldn’t reach before. I am still trying to find the proper words to convey exactly what happened, so I am just going to start from the beginning and write it all as I feel it.

The night began I as I wandered from my treehouse from around 9pm to a local bar called Karma, just because it had a lot of pretty murals, dank music, and was the designated pre-game spot before the rave in the jungle.  The best way to find out where these places are at is by word of mouth (simply by asking someone that works at the bar what’s going on for the night).  Here I met a crazy diverse group of people (one banker, one bar owner, and one government worker) who I really hit it off with so they ordered me some happy cookies, shots, and some Turkish coffee (which is just really strong, delicious tasting coffee) to keep me awake.  We all just had the same vibe–this was our first time in Koh Rong and we wanted to go out for the night but didn’t know what to expect–so we stuck together.  Fortunately all of us were experienced travelers who had done the Fullmoon Parties in Thailand already and were looking for something different.  And an absolutely insane night full of neon lights, fantastic music, and important self-discoveries was ahead of us!

If you haven’t heard, the main reason that people flock to Koh Rong is because of their weekly beach parties on the un-ironically named Police Beach.  In addition to the vivid nightlife, there is a ton of unspoiled nature and beaches to explore.  The reason I love Koh Rong is because unlike other places, it usually only has one event going on per night such as beach parties, bar hopping, or game nights between small groups of people.  There is no competition between events and everyone that shows up is generally friendly and looking to have a good time.  I did not encounter one unpleasant person while on this island.  I came during the off-season in October, but the weather was still sunny with only mild rain.  It was perfectly suited for me because I never felt like I was missing out.

We arrived almost at the start of the party because we were already buzzed and ready to dance.  I wasn’t extremely familiar with any of the DJs but they did a great job of mixing really classic techno songs.  I liked the venue because it had an indoor area that protects you from the rain, lounge chairs where you can relax and smoke joints, and nicely-sized dancefloor, and an outdoor area where you could relax on the beach but still hear the music.  It wasn’t anything fancy because it was partially in the jungle, but it was perfect for what it was.  I have been to many clubs in Asia so I was looking for something different like this.

Basically anything goes at this party–it preserves the old rave culture that is lost to Japan and many other places.  If you’re looking for something, then you’re likely to find it if you make friends with people beforehand.  I also loved the fact that wild dogs would roll up to the party and fall asleep on the ground (they were friendly and nice).  While I was at this party I really had a lot of fun twirling on the dance floor and running across the beach.  I felt relaxed, energized, and full of life.  It reminded me of being in college again, so I messaged some of my old college friends and told them I was thinking of them while I was there (since it was day time in the US and they were awake we had some great convos).

I stuck with the group of people that I had met earlier, but also was in my head for the most of the night.  To be honest I don’t remember a lot of things, but I was able to reach a level of thinking where I could compartmentalize my stress and anxieties and manage them a lot better.  That in itself made the entire experience worth it.

When the clock struck 6am, we climbed down to the beach and watched the sunrise.  It was breathtaking.  The sun looked like a red beady dot that was emerging from a sea of clouds, just like how we were all slowly trickling out of the jungle to the beach.  Earlier that night I had put a lot of effort into my appearance but at this time of morning I didn’t have a single care in the world.  I felt like a mermaid as I swam in the cool water.

When the party ended, I didn’t go to sleep.  I ran back to my treehouse and blasted my favorite songs from my balcony.  I met one of the bartenders on the way walking his dog and we had a lovely conversation.  Then I waded in the water until the first ferries arrived and sailed off to Koh Rong Samloem Island (which I will cover in my next post).  Overall, this was one of the best party experiences I had in my life, and I am so grateful I made the decision to come out here.

Compared to the beautiful islands I traveled to in Thailand, this was like an off-the-grid, undiscovered, party paradise that only the true backpackers make it to.

As an article on Matador Network puts it:

It’s not as if Thailand lacks an authentic culture…but the country, especially its islands, has been inundated with foreign tourism for so long that it’s far more difficult to forge sincere connections than it was on Koh Rong.

The biggest issue with islands in Thailand is that they are sometimes overcrowded with tourists so it’s difficult to partake in genuine Thai culture while you are there.  Plus because their Full Moon parties attract a large number of tourists, there are always other smaller underground parties going on at the same time as competition.  If you are only in Thailand for a short time, then it’s really impossible to hit up all the events.  However, at Koh Rong you never have the fear of missing out and can really learn from the culture of the people there.  The parties take place away from the hotel area so you can easily escape them if you need to.  There is a sense of peace and balance on Koh Rong that you’d never find elsewhere.  From what I’ve heard, Thailand used to be like this in the 80s, but this kind of culture is starting to fade away with the huge tourist boom.  However, I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to travel to both countries and make friends.

Will I come back to Koh Rong to resurface to reality again in the future?  Perhaps one day.  Next I have my sights set on the Philippines and Indonesia which I likely will traverse next year!  But this has been my best island experience by far so I likely will try to go again.  Thank you to everyone for reading my heartfelt post.

Invading Australia: Exploring the Picturesque Melbourne City

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Beautiful view from Albert Park in Melbourne.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been invading Australia; starting from the southern picturesque city of Melborune to the charming countryside of Adelaide.  Since a number of my Japanese friends have studied abroad or traveled to this country, it’s always been on my radar.  Unlike my previous trips to Asian countries where I have a set itinerary for each day, this trip was a lot more easygoing and spontaneous.  A friend I met at a beach party in Japan kindly let me crash at their place near the center of the city, so together we decided to hit the city while catching up and also experience the seemingly endless nightlife.

A lot of my American friends have asked me what Melbourne was like, and I told them: “Picture a cleaner, safer, version of your favorite American city with slightly less people, and that’s pretty much it!”  One thing I notice about most Australians is that they are pretty laidback and travel more frequently outside the county than a lot of Americans do.  Australia is very affordable to live in, and the tuition fees for education are greatly subsidized by the government compared to America.  The only downside is that eating out is somewhat expensive, but on the plus side, there is no tipping like in the US.

This trip initially started out very rough because I negligently forgot to apply for my ETA to enter the country (I thought I could do so upon arrival), so Jetstar had to reschedule my flight a day later after I applied for it.  Essentially all you need to do is fill out a form online and pay $30 to enter the country so it’s extremely easy, but make sure to do this before your flight!  I have never had issues with tourist visas until this trip, but it was only a small bump in the road because I still was able to do everything I wanted.

Once I landed, I took the Sky Bus to Southern Cross Station to meet my friend.  Immediately he recognized me due to my flamboyant blonde hair despite us not seeing one another for over two years.  We first got some lattes at Mid Town Coffee which I highly recommend, then immediately proceeded to go day drinking at Melborune’s famous rooftop bar.  The coffee and the White Russians somehow helped me fight off the jetlag as we walked around Chinatown and other parts of the city.  What I liked most about Melbourne is that almost all of the downtown area is walkable and there are inexpensive trams available as well.  The system is very easy to figure out.

 

Being in Australia felt like being in an alternate universe America.  Instead of GameStop, they still have EB Games, which seems to have more selection and be far more superior.  Forget about Burger King–it’s called Hungry Jack’s here.  Porn Hub should cum and get their pizza8bit burgers is also a great place to eat out (I love their logo design).  Lord of the Fries is not only a good pun, but they also has an entire vegan menu.  Despite living in Tokyo, I tried a lot of Japanese places here that were a little expensive but overall delicious.  Wagaya was one of my favorites due to its large sake list, but Japanese Gyoza Bar deserves an honorable mention.  Those are just a few of the places that we visited, but there are many more!

 

My favorite dessert places were Chokolait, where I had amazing rainbow pancakes made with pavlova, and a cakeshop called Glace where I had an amazing mushroom pastry.  They also had a really cute marshmallow one I wish I could have tried, but was too full!

 

There are a number of bars along the Yarra river that runs through the city, but my favorites were Storyville where I ordered Butterbeer, and the Croft where one of my Japanese friends DJed.  They also have syringe drinks available that are very tasty and fun to share with others.  All of these places had really friendly and welcoming atmospheres, and I even managed to make friends in the bathroom!

One event I recommend checking out is Delight because they run really fun music events with Smash Bros. tournaments at various locations in central Melbourne.  I met some very nice people here, and was impressed with the quality of music.

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それを考えぬく – EMBRACE

One of my favorite memories in this city was drinking Korean sochu while watching Kenny Beats & Zack Fox with two friends in an office building.  I felt like I was reliving my college days and it was extremely nostalgic.  The above poster I shot inspires you to let go of your thoughts and embrace your surroundings, which is exactly what I did during this trip.  It was really beneficial for my mental health.

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Seeing this Shelter poster hanging in my friend’s room only continued to add to the nostalgia.

Overall I was very impressed with this city and felt like I could finally escape from my high-stress life in Tokyo.  Some people refer to Melbourne as the “hipster” area of Australia, but I think it has a lot more to offer than just chic cafes and murals like other places that have that label.  I will be writing more about the art galleries and wildlife reserves I visited in my future posts so you can get a better feel about what this country is like, but I recommend that you visit it if you ever get the chance!

Seeing in the blue shirt at Kaga Onsen Festival After Party

kagaonOn July 20th, directly after my crazy backpacking trip in Hokkaido, I decided to take a plane from Sapporo to Komatsu airport, where I ventured off to the hot springs town known as Kaga for its yearly music festival.  As a music enthusiast, this was a rare opportunity that I didn’t want to pass up!

About Kaga Onsen Festival

Kaga Music Festival is one of the biggest original music festivals in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, and has a total of 7 stages (some being lounges and some being club stages).  The genre of the festival is mostly electronic, pop, and rock music, though I noticed that there were a number of indie artists that appeared at the after party this year, including one of my favorites from Kyoto City: in the blue shirt.

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in the blue shirt playing a live set at the official Kaga Onsen after party.

Though I was unable to attend the main festival due to time constraints, my experience at the after party made my trip here more than worth it.  If you are looking for a festival that is unique to Japan and isn’t over-crowded like Fuji Rock or Summer Sonic, then this is definitely a solid choice.  Kaga Music Festival has enough variety to keep you interested, but the music lineup doesn’t ever feel overwhelming and you can see almost everything you want.  As an added bonus, there are many hot springs nearby that you can visit on the way home!

Getting to the Venue

To get to Kaga Music Festival, it is recommended to take a bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa then take a local train to Kaga Onsen Festival where you can catch a free bus to the main venue.  You can alternatively fly to Komatsu airport and take a local train there like I did.  This is a cheaper option, but the number of flights are limited due to how remote the area is.

Most of the accommodations by Kaga Onsen Station are quite expensive, so I booked a cheap room by the nearby Daishoji Station.  After getting settled, I headed over to the main venue which was called Rurikoh, then walked to the after party located called Mori no Sumika Resort & Spa.  The entrance fee at the door was 3000 yen with one drink.

Attending the After Party

The inside of the venue was absolutely stunning with flattering neon lights, a relatively large indoor stage, and an outdoor pool area you could go swimming in.  The crowd here was mostly Japanese in their early 20s or 30s, but I saw a few foreigners walking outside the area.  After checking out the venue, I immediately grabbed a vodka tonic and went to see the first performing artist.

The first artist was an electronic music producer called Yackle, and I caught their performance right as they were mixing a capsule song into a Nakata Yasutaka song, which was perfect timing because those are two of my personal favorites.  This producer mixes a lot of different genres and makes their own edits so they are extremely fun to watch!  Yackle has recently released an album called Frank Throw which features beautiful vocals and a mix of trap and bass music elements.  This was my first time seeing one of there performances and it was an extremely fun experience.

in the blue shirt played his live set immediately after which consisted of a unique blend of vocal chops and remixes of his own songs, as well as other artists like Pasocom Ongaku Club:

This set was extremely exciting for me, because I haven’t seen in the blue shirt since Large Size in Kyoto which was nearly 5 months ago.  Some of the people that attended that event recognized me here and pulled me to the front of the stage!  I was extremely flattered to see that they remembered me and enjoyed dancing with everyone.

Recollect the Feeling

In April in the blue shirt released his latest album called Recollect the Feeling which is growing to become a respected indie release in the music scene.  With its harmonic and compelling use of electronic samples that are intricately spliced in what appears to be its own language, this album definitely leaves a tremendous impact on the listener. Consisting of both English and Japanese lyrics, each song has an abstract yet nostalgic feel to it using indie electronic and triphop music styles, along with a variety of synths and instruments.  Though some of the songs are short (under 2 minutes), when the album is played as a whole it takes your mind on an unforgettable journey through time.  It’s still too early to say if I like this album more than Sensation of Blueness, but it is a polished release that I truly feel was worth waiting for.

On the latest album, I think “Casual Remark”, “Good Feeling”, and “Bamboo Leaf” are my favorites because they are great to listen to when exploring new places—I feel like I’m completely in my own aesthetic world when I listen to them.  I believe his personal best work is “Cast Off” as it was the first song officially released and has the most consistent composition, but it’s really hard to choose because the album is best listen to as a whole. What’s amazing is most of these songs were played on his sets as WIPs/transitions since 2017 and it’s amazing to see them completed now.

Overall I’m really happy for this artist because they’ve managed to accomplish everything that is most important in album production: they’ve delivered a compelling album with quality merchandise, collaborated and done shows with other artists I really like, uploaded previews and mixes so we know what’s coming, continually have showed their progress, and seemingly created a new record label / collective called The Wonder Laundry.  I’m so happy to have kept up with them through the whole entire release process and see them playing at big festivals now!

Other Recommendations

Of the other performing artists, I also recommend checking out PARKGOLF, Tomggg, and Avec Avec.  All of them have unique electronic styles and are respected performers I have seen at various events in Japan.  I spent the rest of the after party socializing with friends that I met and hanging out by the pool, but here are some of my favorite tracks that I recommend:

I will consider attending the main festival next year if more of my favorite artists continue to make appearances.  I am excited to attend more unique music events similar to Kaga Onsen Festival this summer!