Full Moon Parties VS Jungle Parties (Koh Phangan, Thailand)

About the Full Moon Parties

If you’re backpacking through Thailand, then chances are you’ve heard of the infamous Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan.  These parties involve dancing on Haad Rin beach until sunrise in colorful costumes, drinking liquor out of buckets, leaping over a flaming jump rope just for the hell of it (at your own risk) while meeting many amazing people from all over the world.  I was really happy I chose to spend my New Year’s Eve here (from 2018-2019), because I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the island!

The reason I decided to attend my first Moon Party is I watched Travels with My Father and loved the hilarious mixed reactions the characters had to the party, so I wanted to experience it myself!  There is one episode where the son takes his father to Koh Phangan where his father stares at his son in disbelief as he dances (quite hilariously) through the drunk hoards of people and mingles with the locals.  After drinking out of a bucket of alcohol with his son, he then proceeds to read ‘Reporting on Hitler’ with noise-reducing headphones to escape from his surroundings.

Your reaction will probably be one or the other, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is: Try to enjoy the time you have with the people around you.  This is especially important for solo travelers.  Even if the people in your vicinity may not be your best friends or the first people you’d choose, I’ve became friends with the most unlikely people and learned a lot from them just from simply being open-minded.

How to get to Koh Phangan

The best way to get to Koh Phangan is to fly to Koh Samui (or other surrounding islands) and take a ferry.  The ferry ride takes less than 2 hours and start at only $10.

The first time I came here, I made the mistake of taking a 10 hour bus and ferry ride from Bangkok.  The ride was accommodating, but I realized I wasted a lot of time that I could have spent on the beach.

You can book buses and ferries from most destinations in Thailand from 12go.  They will also give you the total amount of time it takes so you can decide the best way to get here.

Koh Phangan has parties almost every weekend, so you can come any time of the month and have a good time!  The Halfmoon Festivals and Blackmoon Culture parties also occur during the month, along with more lowkey parties spread across the island.  I have heard from my friends that the Waterfall Party is one of the best, but I have yet to experience it for myself.  The best way to find the right one for you is to ask the locals!

Where to Stay and Pregame

Once getting off at one of the piers (I recommend Thong Sala), take a taxi or motorbike directly to Haad Rin because that is where most of the bars and people are, and you can walk to the beach party by foot.  The farther away you walk away from the pier, the cheaper the taxi will be (the first people that approach you will try to overcharge you).

Due to the popularity of these parties, a lot of guest houses and hostels require you to stay for 5 days minimum which can be expensive, so what I did was just stay for the night and took the first ferry back at 6am.

Once reaching the beach town of Haad Rin, I decided to wander around.  I found a hostel appropriately named Wild and Wandering where I met some of my best friends in Thailand.  This hostel has a nice stereo, a bar that serves buckets of alcohol, and tons of people to hang around.  I was fortunate enough to meet one of the owners at the bar while I ordered a pink bucket, and I bribed him a few hundred baht so I could store my stuff there for the night (which was a significantly cheaper option).

Inside of the hostel, they had really amazing Princess Monoke murals as well.  I danced and talked to my new friends until around 10pm, then we decided to go to the beach!  The fee to enter is only 100 baht, so it’s not really expensive.

Full Moon Party: New Year’s Edition

The first thing I realized is that most of the people that attend these parties are travelers looking to make friends.  Despite its crazy reputation, the beach is extremely safe.  I have read articles that claim you can buy joints and ecstasy pills on the beach, but that was not the case here.  I did not witness anyone selling or using illegal drugs–everyone was happily drinking out of buckets and no one acted too out of line so it was relaxing.  If you want to get things besides alcohol, you are best off not looking on the beach.

I spent the majority of my time wandering around the beach and doing a lot of people watching.  I enjoyed seeing people jump over the fire rope, dance the night away in their crazy outfits, and a few guys bought me drinks too which was really nice.  There were multiple music stages setup so you could find a genre that you liked and enjoy it with the calm sea breeze.  My favorite was the techno stage which was set up next to this bar called the Swing Bar.  It’s very easy to find–just look for the neon lasers and people sitting on swings!  They have a great menu of buckets and cocktails, as well as swings.

When midnight drew near, everyone gathered on the shore and watched a giant flaming countdown light up the sky as the year became 2019!  I felt extremely accomplished that I made it all the way here, and even though I originally came here alone I was surrounded by people that all shared the same passion for travel as me.

After the countdown, I went back to Wild and Wandering to wish all my friends happy new year!  The rest of the night was kind of a blur; I remember barhopping around the island with some people I had met and then going to a treehouse bar where I fell asleep with one of my friends.  Fortunately I had set multiple alarms so I was able to take a taxi back to the pier in time to make the first ferry.  I was a bit sad to leave, but also I felt like I wanted some time alone to reflect on things so I headed back to my neon pink hut in Koh Samui.  A New Year well spent!

Blackmoon Culture Party

Wanting to experience a party in the jungle, I came back to Koh Phangan in May during Japan’s Golden Week holiday.  The Blackmoon Culture parties take place on the night of the new moon in Ban Tai, away from the beach and surrounded by trees and foliage.  For that reason, they are popular for psytrance music.  Though usually that genre is not my cup of tea, I decided to try it because why not!

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I repeated the same steps as I did before; taking the ferry out for one night only, revisiting Wild and Wandering to store my luggage and see my friends; but this time I noticed the island was much more quiet.  My friend who lives on Koh Phangan informed me that the island is liveliest during the monthly Full Moon parties, but during the low season there’s not as many people attending the parties even though the island has that reputation.  However, this turned out to be awesome because we had the beach all to ourselves for a while.  It was great to catch up with my friends after not seeing them for 5 months.

After drinking a bucket and some mojitos, I took a taxi to Ban Tai around 1am and went to the Blackmoon Culture party.  The entrance fee is 600 baht which is 6x the price of the Full Moon Party, but it’s still affordable.  I immediately met some new friends from CA and we all shared a bucket while dancing to trance in the neon jungle.

At Blackmoon Culture, the sky is dark so you can focus more on the music and your [neon-hued] surroundings.  The music was good, but unfortunately there was only one stage.  The Full Moon Party had multiple stages so this was a bit disappointing, but I still had fun.  Though I prefer beach parties more now, I am grateful I had a psytrance experience in the jungle.  Going during off season let me see Koh Phangan how it normally is and become better friends with the locals, so it was overall worth it!

Those who are looking for a psychedelic night in Thailand: Please see my post on Koh Lanta for more information!

If you have any questions/additional details to add, please let me know in the comments.  I wrote this as a handy guide for those backpacking to Koh Phangan and wish to know more, so I hope you find it helpful.

 

Exploring Shikoku & Seeing Carpainter at Outer Kochi

I never would have dreamed that there was a club scene in the countryside of Japan, but through my travels I have learned that there is an underground scene basically everywhere–you just have to find it!  This time I went on a pilgrimage to Shikoku for the purpose of seeing Carpainter and Onjuicy perform at a venue called Outer located in Kochi.  I was very surprised to meet some very kind friends and enjoy the sights and sounds of a unique part of the country that I had never been to before!

I flew to Kochi from Tokyo a day before the event started so I had enough time to explore the city by myself.  When the plane landed, all I could see was rice fields and I didn’t know exactly where I was, but I knew it was about to be lit.  With a short bus ride to the station, I found that most of Kochi’s attractions were accessible by foot or via a cheap bus ride.  I grabbed some wine from the convenience store, and began my sightseeing trek around the city!

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I first stopped at Kochi Castle, which was quite a lovely sight to see.  I’ve been to a lot of white castles in Japan, but I liked this one because it involved a lot of climbing to reach the top and you could walk all around the castle!  Often you can only access certain parts of castles in Japan, but this one you can fully explore to your heart’s content.

Nearby the castle is the Harimaya Bridge, which is a super tiny bridge located near souvenir shops and the Sunday Market which is fun to see.  I stayed in the Kochi Green Hotel right in this area which my friend helped me get a coupon for only 3000 yen per night.

On the way back I decided to check out the Hirome Market for some delicious sea urchin and egg-like sushi.  There was also a disco ball and a giant tower of fries to see, along with many stalls selling beer and other novelties:

This market was very fun to see because it was so lively.  At all times of the day, you can see people drinking here.  There’s a great selection of seafood, noodles, yakiniku, desserts, and sake!  I could tell that the people of Kochi take a lot of pride in this market, because not only is the food good, but it is also a place where a lot of people come together and pass time.

The final destination on my list before the club was Katsurahama Beach!  Overlooked by the historic shogun Sakamoto Ryoma, this beach had a garden and stunning scenery.  I wouldn’t say it was the most beautiful beach in Japan, but it is definitely worth seeing if you are in Shikoku.

After spending a few hours here, I took a bus back to my hotel and started pregaming for the club.  This event was very special because it was the first time that Carpainter and Onjuicy performed together in Kochi, and also the first time Carpainter had ever been a back-up DJ for an MC (original Tweet).

As a foreigner with blonde hair, I definitely stood out but that was okay because everyone was very welcoming to me here.  I said hello to my 2 friends from Tokyo and proceeded to get drinks at the bar while they got ready for their set.  The event organizer greeted me and personally thanked me for coming all the way here because it was quite a long trip from Tokyo.  I thanked him back for having such a great event, and proceeded to be given shots by some locals and also one of the performing DJs.

The environment of Outer is quite different from clubs in Tokyo because everyone there makes an effort to get to know one another, plus with an indoor and outdoor area it’s quite spacious for moving and dancing around.  It’s not to say you can’t find a venue like this in Tokyo, but often you will find that the city is overcrowded and full of people who just want to party without paying attention to the music.  The crowd here was all very respectful and I really appreciated the time I had here!

During their performance, PAM!!! was played in addition to one of Onjuicy’s unreleased songs:

It was overall extremely fun to be so up-close to the performers and share the thrill  with the countryside people of Kochi.  I am excited to see the next place I end up following my friend’s tour!

“Moment” by Bahi JD Exhibition at Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery

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Framed album artwork for Carpainter’s “Returning” (2017).

If you have any interest in animation, please stop by the Shinjuku Ophthalmologist Gallery and check out this amazing exhibition by Austrian artist Bahi JD, who has worked as a key animator for various Japanese companies and has created many original designs. Not only has he drawn covers for Carpainter albums (“Returning” and “Digital Harakiri”), but he’s also drawn his own original manga (“地球のマグノリア”) and has worked intricately animating scenes of Blade Runner, Fate/Apocrypha, SSSS.GRIDMAN, and more, as well as his own original GIFs that went viral. I’m really lucky I had the opportunity to meet him here, as I have cherished his art for a while!

For those who would like to see the in-depth animation process behind his works; a room of the gallery is covered with stills and a looping video so you can see each individual frame of his original animation up close:

Most recently Bahi has created the storyboard for and directed the beautiful opening for the anime “Carole and Tuesday” which premiered April 10, 2019:

The dynamic colors and physics he uses in his animations are quite unique and highly entertaining to watch! I hope people who are interested in working in animation can see this, as he is a major inspiration as a foreign artist that is very successful now in Japan.  

For more information on his work, please see his online portfolio, and stop by this gallery which will be available until July 3rd, 2019.  There will likely be more of his works display in the future, which I will be sure to visit and write about!

Menmeiz Retro Aesthetic Vaporwave/Citypop Art Gallery

If you’ve ever walked through the streets of Tokyo, you’re probably familiar with flashing neon lights, the bustling districts highlighting fashion and music, and the fleeting nostalgic moments you feel as people in this city come and go.

In the most recent gallery/pop-up store by Menmeiz, vintage and retro-inspired artwork is on display from various artists on the 4th floor of Beams Japan in Shinjuku. The artist I wanted to see the most was Shiho So, who has not only done VJ work for some of my favorite DJs in Tokyo, but also has designed posters, album covers, and a book cover for “Ring of the Day” too!  Her art combines pastel colors with a retro art style that is reminiscent of the 80s in Japan.

In addition to brightly-colored balloons, shirts, hair accessories, zines, posters, and wands, this gallery also features citypop music by Night Tempo for the best viewing experience!  Conveniently located next to this exhibit, there is a store with vintage Sony stereos and cassettes for sale.

If you would like to know more about vaporwave and how this kind of internet subculture originated, you can browse through zines on the table for more information.  I personally enjoyed the one titled “ももたろう/PEACH BOY” because it was a nice homage of the old Japanese classic.

If you are in Shinjuku, please be sure to check this gallery out!  It is only viewable for the short duration of June 14th – June 23rd, but there will be more events like this available in the future.

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The Adventure of Hakodate, Monkeys, and Squid! (Part 2)

I woke up early on a chilly Saturday morning so I could make my way to the famed Hakodate Asaichi seafood market conveniently located near the station.  There I was greeted by many friendly vendors selling everything from freshly caught crabs to mouth-watering ice cream made from Hokkaido milk, but I already had my eyes set on the famous dancing squid dish from Tabiji:

One of the staff told me they receive fresh shipments daily, and I could definitely taste it! It was probably the freshest squid I had ever had because the fish eggs, rice, and wasabi with the slices of squid had an amazing flavor.  Thought I felt bad for the squid, this was a rare dish that I definitely did not want to miss out on!  Tabiji is currently the only restaurant in Japan that offers the dancing squid dish and they even have their own T-shirts available.  No reservation is required.

Also worth trying are the Kaniman (hot crab buns), and the Hokkaido ice cream!  After feasting on this wonderful seafood, I decided to go to Fort Goryaku, the beautiful star-shaped park:

This park is unique because it has an observation tower you can take to the top floor to see a panoramic view, and you can also stroll through it!  In the center is the Former Magistrate Office (reconstructed), and the spot is extremely popular for cherry blossom viewing.  Once again, I felt at peace while I was here.  I think it’s amazing that they transformed a military fort into such a lovely park!

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Nakata Yasutaka performs at Club Riviera in Sapporo, Japan.

After seeing all of the sights that I wanted to see, I decided to take the bullet train to Sapporo to make the Nakata Yasutaka show at Riviera.  The ride takes nearly 4 hours, but since I was exhausted from all the walking I did, it was actually quite relaxing.  When I got to Sapporo, I stayed in another internet cafe called Kaikatsu Club (conveniently located in the Susukino party district).  I pregamed a bit then headed to Riviera which is a very glamorous club!  This was my third weekend in a row seeing Nakata perform, and I was not disappointed!

Overall my 2nd trip to Hokkaido was relaxing and filled with fond memories.  I was able to reflect on my life and also do all of the things on my trip itinerary so I felt an extreme sense of accomplishment at the end of this trip.  I will come back to Hokkaido in the summer to see the lavender fields and hopefully go to the beach!  My aim with each trip is to combine sightseeing with nightlife, and I am sure I will be going on many more adventures!

LARGE SIZE at Kyoto Metro

Last weekend, I traveled all the way from Tokyo to Kyoto to attend a thrilling electronic music event called LARGE SIZE at the underground music club Kyoto Metro.  LARGE SIZE not only featured Japanese indie artists from the Kansai region (Kyoto and Osaka), but also Trekkie Trax Crew from Tokyo, and isagen (the event organizer) from Shizuoka, Japan, along with a selection of other talented music producers from around the area.

Located in the basement Jingu-Marutamachi Station of Kyoto City, this was a highly-anticipated event that united many music fans from all over Japan because it showcased talent from some of the most well-known independent record labels and underground artists that are currently trackmaking and producing music.  In this article, I aim to introduce the artists I saw and write recommendations of their music in English.

The original timetable for this event was listed below (note that “Carpainter” is actually the correct spelling of the artist listed at 17:30).  The event lasted for approximately 5 hours, and tickets were originally sold at 2800 yen (purchasable online, and for extra money at the door):

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Arriving at close to the start of the event, I was luckily able to see the majority of isagen’s 50 minute set.  isagen produces his own desktop music, DJs at events, and also is the trackmaker for his band unit called POLPTOM.  In 2018, isagen released an EP on Trekkie Trax called c.b.a.g, which you can listen to on his Soundcloud below:

Though this EP is tagged as dance and EDM, you can tell from the very beginning that it is not the typical kind of dance music you expect!  isagen’s music really has a unique vibe sounding both progressive and abstract at the same time.  As the event organizer, he did an amazing job of making the crowd excited and earning the respect of other artists, even though he was the opener!  I was surprised to see the club was already crowded at opening time, and the majority of people there had their full attention directed at his performance.  Though I have seen isagen perform in Tokyo before, I could tell that he put a lot of work into ensuring that this was one of his best performances yet!

The next artist was one of my personal favorites, in the blue shirt from Kyoto City.  Having previously announced the release of his new album in April via Twitter, everyone was surprised to see him open with his own banger remix of “If I ain’t got you” by Alicia Keys and then mix his newly produced music into it:

in the blue shirt will always be one of my top artists because he puts so much of himself into his music, and each time her performs he plays exclusive and unreleased songs that you can only hear during his performances.  His music will make you feel nostalgic, energized, moved, and inspired at the same time.  Using a complex range of samples and chords, below is one of my favorite mixes he has uploaded to his Soundcloud:

Another reason I love in the blue shirt is because he designs a lot of his own merchandise. His sticker is an adorable digital drawn mascot that resembles Parappa the Rapper, and his clothes feature a blue shirt logo he created himself with Adobe Illustrator:

Since his performances are relatively rare, I always pick up his merchandise whenever I get the chance!  Not only is it fashionable, but it is also comfortable and a truly magnificent display of aesthetic art.  I was extremely grateful to see this set before the official promotion of his new album!

Next up was Pasocon Music Club (パソコン音楽クラブ) who played an absolutely amazing acid techno set.  They are a duo that write a lot of desktop music resembling nostalgic game music, but recently they have been trying out a variety of styles.  People around me went really hard during their set and I enjoyed seeing them for the 2nd time!  Previously I saw them at an event called STRUCT in Osaka, and it was amazing because people remembered me (as one of the few foreigners) that attended!  Here is one of my favorite releases Pasocon Music Club has had on Maltine Records:

Though I was already mindblown from the high quality of music I had already witnessed, this was still just the very beginning of the fantastic sets I was about to hear.  Carpainter‘s live set featuring songs from his recently released Declare Victory EP (which was officially on-sale the day before LARGE SIZE), was absolutely earth-shattering!  I will write a separate review for Declare Victory at a later time, but for now here is the featured track which I recorded below:

Though this EP was just recently released, Carpainter has had this music produced for a while now.  During Trekkie Trax’s 6th Anniversary on the weekend of Halloween, he played a set that was entirely breakbeat, techno, and old school rave-styled with a bunch of tracks that he would later release February of 2019.  What’s even more amazing is that Virtual Self dropped Carpainter’s “Sylenth Warrior” along with Otira’s remix of “Mission Accepted” at their set in the US just less than a week before they came out:

Watching this all unfold at an underground club outside of Tokyo was an amazing experience!  I enjoyed the change of scenery and also meeting new friends that shared similar tastes and feelings about these artists.  I connect to Japanese people best by listening to music and sharing these exciting experiences with them!

After Carpainter, batsu, an artist from Osaka, began his set with Carpainter’s “EXCITE” and immediately set the crowd into a unanimous cheer:

Batsu is a producer that is really good at mixing and engaging the audience.  I have seen him perform various times in both Tokyo and Kansai, and his mixes are always upbeat and easy to dance to while paying homage to various artists.  Just recently he posted his own WIP of “Face my Fears” from Kingdom Hearts, and also did a mix for Trekkie Trax Radio featuring a ton of artists from this event.  He was overall an essential artist in making this event a huge success!

After Batsu’s energized set, everyone’s favorite crew, Trekkie Trax, made their appearance onstage (consisting of andrew, Carpainter, Seimei, and futatsuki):

In this set, Trekkie Trax played a lot of music from their own artists including Carpainter Qrion, Cola Splash, and also premiered part of their label’s upcoming release of “Trip” by Native Rapper.  My personal favorite part of their set was when andrew mixed a KiNK song into “Quick Turn” by Qrion.  By this time, everyone was jumping up and down and cheering, because this was the first time that Trekkie Trax has ever played at Kyoto Metro, and it was an extremely memorable set!

The last artist that performed was metome, an original music producer from Osaka.  This was my very first time listening to them so it is difficult for me to write a proper review, but similar to isagen, they seem to produce a lot of abstract music with unique sampling that bends your mind.  It was neat because the event ended with a similar vibe to how it started.  This is my favorite song from their Soundcloud:

Overall, I really enjoyed this event because it was very organized, all of the artists played with their maximum effort, and it was easy to talk to people and make friends.  I love to go to events outside of Tokyo as much as I can so I can be exposed to different types of music and learn more about the world around me.  I will definitely come back to Metro and travel to other underground clubs in Japan in the near future.  Please stay tuned for more music news and adventures!

A Steamy Weekend Getaway: Takasaki WOAL & Kusatsu Onsen

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As a free-spirited traveler, I go wherever the wind blows me.  Upon returning to Tokyo from Thailand, I learned that my friends at Trekkie Trax were playing a show at an underground club in Takasaki called WOAL, so immediately I started planning my weekend trip there. I had been through this area before on my way to Niigata for Fuji Rock this summer, but have never gotten off to explore the area, so this was definitely on my bucket list.

Takasaki, the city of luck, is located about 2 hours from Tokyo in Gunma prefecture and is known for its dumplings, daruma dolls, and hotsprings.  The easiest way to get there is by the Joetsu Shinkansen, so I took the very last one from Omiya Station equipped with umeshu and Strong Zeroes to pregame for this all night show (that lasted from 10pm – 5am).  I decided I would stay at a net cafe called Link’s Cafe (for the sole fact that I love Zelda) then immediately go to Kusatsu Onsen when I woke up because that was the cheapest move.  Though there are many onsen scattered around Gunma, Kusatsu is by far the most famous and prettiest!

The atmosphere of WOAL was very friendly and inviting.  It was about an 8 minute walk from the station, but very easy to locate.  As I descended the stairs, I was immediately lost in a world of vibrant rotating neon lights and a boastful sound system.  The bar was conveniently located near the entryway, and by chance I met all of Trekkie Trax there as soon as I walked in!  I was so happy I could make it to their first show of the year, which was located outside of Tokyo (a rare event)!

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it’s a spirtual thing. a body thing. a soul thing. A lo-fi image of my favorite DJ from Trekkie Trax: Carpainter playing in Takasaki, Japan.

At the time I arrived, a Gunma native DJ called Amps was playing.  He is a longtime member of Trekkie Trax and I’ve heard him play juke sets in Tokyo before, but due to the chaos of Tokyo clubs, I had never really got to know him before.  It was wonderful to hear him play in his element.  An example of some of his tracks can be found below, or on his Soundcloud:

Each DJ had one hour to play, and it was great because the club wasn’t very crowded so there was a lot of room to dance!  I had a chance to get to talk to each artist, meet some of the Takasaki locals, and also became friends with one of the resident DJs called Momo who kindly bought me a tequila shot.  I liked this event because all of the artists played the music they wanted and didn’t try to please the crowd.  Everyone here came for the music and it was a great atmosphere.

This whole night felt like a dream to me because in the middle of Carpainter’s set, Andrew brought out a tray of tequila shots, Seimei brought out pizza, and Momo and I were dancing at the very front in this sea of neon lights and banging techno music, so it all just felt unreal.  Tokyo club events like this are usually very crowded and sometimes noisy, but I was able to lose myself completely within the music here at WOAL which is why I love traveling for these smaller shows.  The feeling that I felt here, I will never forget!

What’s funny is the vibration caused from the speakers makes the toilet paper in the restroom fall to the floor, and it’s become somewhat of a meme in the Japan music scene online:

Feeling completely mindblown and fulfilled, the next morning I took the local JR train to Naganohara Kusatsuguchi Station, then took a bus to Kusatsu Onsen and was amazed at this beautiful natural hotspring in the middle of the village:

Much like Takasaki, the atmosphere of this town was friendly and very inviting.  Dozens of street vendors were giving free samples of tea, dumplings, and local sake.  Though there was snow on the ground, the steam from the local onsen was enough to keep me farm.  Feeling hungry, I decided to wander around and find some food first.  There are dumpling shops everywhere, so I decided to try the black sesame ones.  I also found an udon shop called Matsumoto, and tried the udon and mushrooms that Kusatsu is very famous for in tempura form:

After feeling full, I wandered to Sainokawara Park and paid 600 yen to go inside the natural hotspring.  The water was very tepid, but it relaxed my muscles and made my body feel amazing.  I highly recommend this onsen for day trippers, because it is very affordable for those who cannot afford an inn.  Additionally, you can feel very in-tune with nature by sitting on the rocks and watching the moon rise.  Witnessing amazing music followed by bathing in an onsen is the perfect feeling!

Scattered throughout the town, there are many free footbaths that you can use!  Additionally, a friend of mine runs a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) called Hotel Miyuki Annex, so I would recommend staying there, because they are local and quite affordable (my friend is Japanese but speaks nearly perfect English).  At night, the town becomes illuminated and beautiful!  Another recommendation I have is coming during winter, because I think the water in other seasons would be too hot for most people otherwise.  I only stayed here for the day, but most people stay here overnight.  Most of the town you can access on foot, and there are an endless amount of hotsprings for you to try!

Before I took one of the final buses back to civilization, I stopped at a local liquor shop.  They had amazing grape liquor as well as amusing sake and award-winning beer, so I picked up a couple souvenirs for my friends.  You really can’t go wrong with the food and drinks here!

I am now back in Tokyo, but I will never forget the vivid memories I have from this trip.  The people of Gunma treated me with extreme kindness, and the views of the mountains, steamy hotsprings, and neon lights are permanently etched within my mind!  I am grateful I had this as my first trip of 2019!

Carpainter – Orient Review: A Soothing Sensation of Techno for the Soul

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Very recently, Carpainter from Trekkie Trax (Tokyo’s beloved independent record label) released a new EP called “Orient” with roots stemming from Detroit Techno and UK Garage/Funk.  The EP contains two songs; the first titled “Orient” and the second titled “Mottled Pattern”.  Collectively they are composed with upbeat, inspiring melodies that are true to their influences, and are very reflective of Carpainter’s ability of an artist.

What I like most about these songs are they can be listened to in any setting–such as a club, a lounge, or even at home in your room.  While listening to this EP, I definitely feel a funky vibe that is overall upbeat and easy to dance too, but simultaneously, the intricate composition makes you feel reflective and contemplative of life.  It is music that is soothing for the soul, much like classic Detroit Techno:

Orient is a song with an intro that sounds similar to the songs that Carpainter produced on his Returning album, but quickly transforms into an extremely unique and funky melody full of energy.  The clashing techno sounds in the middle of the song make it very compelling to listen to, but the drums in the background make the song consistent.  It is evident he carefully chose the timing of the techno chords and electronic components of the song, and much like Detroit techno, this song possesses a lot of spirituality combined with technology.  What I find amazing is that not many people in Japan are familiar with Detroit techno, but this artist has a firm grasp on how to produce it.

In contrast, Mottled Pattern sounds like it had more of an acid techno and liquid house influence, but much like Orient, the percussion and synthetic beats make it a consistent song that is still very funky.  Much like a pattern that is “mottled” or unclear, the song is ambiguous in nature. It sounds like liquid techno at first, then has unexpected spaceship-like SFX in the middle which make it very peculiar.  However, this is Carpainter’s distinctive style, and what makes him stand out as an artist.  Overall, I like this song just as much as I like Orient because Carpainter put so much of himself into it, yet you can tell he had various techno influences as mentioned above.

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Though I have many positive things to say about this EP, my biggest criticism is it doesn’t actually reflect how much as he has grown as an artist.  In less than one year, Carpainter has done amazing things like open for Virtual Self in Tokyo, tour in Taiwan with the rest of Trekkie Trax, and also has performed at extremely reputable clubs in Tokyo while studying music and building a following of loyal fans.  I have witnessed him perform at techno, anime song, and house events as well as open for foreign performers that come to Japan, and in this single year of 2018 he has improved his abilities more than what this EP reflects.

One reason I love Carpainter as an artist is because he has played more genres than anyone else on his label, and has challenged himself to create music that is much different than what your normally hear from other Japanese artists.  However, if you don’t actively follow his club events and only listen to his music online, then you won’t know how much he’s grown as a producer since his last album (Returning, released in 2017).

Fortunately, Trekkie Trax has premiered more of Carpainter’s unreleased exclusive songs on their radio show, so hopefully Orient is part of a larger and more epic release.  Additionally, the reason of why he chose sunflowers as his cover art remains up to the listener to perceive (and will hopefully be elaborated on in a future interview)!

If you like artists like Lone, Ken Ishii, Disclosure, and various UK Garage artists, then I definitely recommend that you listen to it!

Support Carpainter’s Orient EP through Bandcamp here!