Autumn Adventures in Kyoto (Part 2)

After my fantastic first day of exploring architectural shrines, climbing a part of Mt. Hiei, photographing the vibrant red maple leaves, and trying delicious parfaits and cocktails, I woke up early and set out for my second day in Kyoto! The goal of today was to see as many shrines as possible and also experience the indie music scene while eating delicious food along the way. Fortunately I was able to accomplish all of that and and learn more about one of my most favorite cities in Japan. There is truly always adventure to be had here!

Please see Autumn Adventures in Kyoto (Part 1) for the first part of this article series.

Kiyomizudera Autumn Illumination

The highlight of my Autumn Adventures in Kyoto was seeing the beautiful illuminations at Kiyomizudera and surrounding temples. This temple is beautiful year-round, but fall is when its colors truly come to life. As you climb the steps you can see an awesome view of Mt. Otowa and Kyoto Tower in the distance that are partially obscured by the bright red leaves. There are light bulbs carefully placed beneath the maple trees so you can clearly make out the colors. The best place to take pictures is at the stage of Kiyomizudera which was built over 1000 years ago and has been the center of many kabuki shows and performances. In old times there was a legend that said if you jumped off this 4-story building and survived, your wish would be granted. Now you can simply make an offering at the shrine for your wish to be granted, and from my personal experience, sometimes wishes do come true!

After walking around the series of shrines and pagodas here, I also visited Kodaiji so I could see the dragon illumination. This temple has a zen garden and a picturesque pond so it is also another key spot for photography. If you continue to walk through the streets of Kiyumizudera, this temple is extremely easy to reach referencing the guideposts around the area. There are also food and souvenir shops galore so the atmosphere here is never dull!

Teori Zushi

While looking up unique dining options in Kyoto online, I came across teori zushi—which means “hand-woven sushi” at a restaurant called awomb. This healthy meal set is served with sushi rice and seasonal hand-picked fruits and vegetables so you can create your own customized maki rolls. The toppings are placed in a beautiful way that looks like art and you can use a fine-tipped brush to carefully apply soy sauce to your rolls. My personal favorites were the pumpkin and egg toppings because they were so light and delicious. Although some of these combinations may seem strange at first glance, you can season everything in a way that fits your own personal tastes so eating teori zushi is very fun! I would highly recommend this restaurant to people who love sushi and are looking for a new experience because this set gives you a way to experiment with flavor. I also ordered the sweet sake set so I could enjoy it with my meal.

awomb requires reservations in advance, but you can easily book a seat on their English website. The price for this meal set was around 3000 yen and the quality was well worth it. Please note their are two branches in Karasu and Nishikiyamachi so you can choose the location that’s most convenient for you. Overall this is the most delicious sushi I’ve tried in Kyoto!

Unique Kyoto Desserts

Though Kyoto has no shortage of mouth-watering food, two of my favorite desserts I tried on this trip was a flamingo egg waffle and dango topped with ice cream.

I first tried an egg waffle when I was in Hong Kong in 2017, but I had never seen one that looked like a flamingo before! You can try this delicious raspberry-flavored egg waffle with edible flowers at a teahouse called 京花果茶 圓-en-. The best part was honestly the the sweet cream they hid inside the waffle. I would gladly come back here and try another flavor if it was available! There is also flower tea available here for tea enthusiasts.

After I ate my teori sushi, I walked to Japanese Ice Ouca to try their famous “mitrashi dango”. You can choose between white or green dango and then select your favorite flavor of ice cream to go on top. I chose white dango with vanilla ice cream because I thought it would taste good with the sweet soy glaze and it did! This is such a simple concept (literally a scoop of ice cream on dango) but this is the first dessert place that I’ve seen it offered. I highly recommend trying it because it melts in your mouth and has the perfect combination of sweetness.

Both of these places are located in central Kyoto so they are pretty easy to access by bus or train. I look forward to the new dessert spots that pop up next time I visit!

“Pyramid” @ West Harlem

Whenever I travel to a different city in Japan, I try to immerse myself in the nightlife unique to that location as much as possible. West Harlem has become a reputable club in Kyoto that a number of my music friends have talked about. On the night I decided to check it out, the Kyoto-born label known as No Collar 4 Kicks (NC4K) was throwing their monthly event called “Pyramid”. This is a house, soul, and R&B free-for-all that starts at 10pm and goes on into the early hours of the morning. After doing all that sightseeing and photography I was ready to get my drink on.

As soon as I entered the club I was greeted by my friend 芽田ぱに子 who is a singer and trackmaker that moved to Kyoto to pursue her dream of music. I met her previously at a music workshop that was held in Kyoto the previous year. Though she was not performing tonight, it was great to see so many artists hanging out in one space and supporting one another. I also ran into two of my DJ friends who also came from Tokyo for the holiday weekend, any many rounds of drinks ensued. Within the first hour of my time here at West Harlem I felt extremely welcome!

The first DJ up was Lomax, also known as Magochi. Not only is he a talented DJ but he also makes delicious tacos under the name “Magobell”. Another artist from NC4K I really like is Stones Taro, who is the boss of the label and produces a lot of old school house music. My favorite song on NC4K is “New Old School” which they both made together. I heard it first when they performed at Batica in Tokyo in 2019:

This event was really cool because the DJs experimented with a lot of vinyl and the crowd had no idea what song was coming up next but almost everyone was on their feet dancing. At one point during the night I had a vodka tonic in one hand and a taco in the other while vibing to the beat so this event gets a solid 10/10 from me. Because I was dancing so, I didn’t take a lot of videos but here is a noteworthy one that shows the general atmosphere of West Harlem. Please check this venue out if you get the chance. Whatever night you go you’re sure to have a good time:

Final Thoughts

With the perfect mix of sightseeing, food, and music this day really couldn’t have been better. Whenever I first wake up in Kyoto, I always run to the Kawaramachi River from my hotel and skip across the turtle-shaped rocks while reflecting on life and preparing for the day ahead. Not only is this an exhilarating workout, but it also helps me get prepared for the day ahead. My music of choice while running here is in the blue shirt because he is also well-known in Kyoto and his music captures the essence of the city. I look forward to the next time I can travel here for another event!

In my next article I will be writing about the Evangelion sword exhibition I went to at Toei Animation amusement park. I will hopefully have more time to write this month because my projects are gradually slowing down. Please look forward to it!

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:

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!