Violent Onsen Geisha: Nakahara Has Left The Building (From Exile Osaka #4)

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Violent Onsen Geisha: Nakahara Has Left The Building
I was watching one of these quiz shows that are all the rage in Japan, corny moronic nonsense like Tick Tack Dough or Hollywood Squares. In most cases the guests are shown a video and they answer dopey questions based on what they’ve seen. Bona fide edu-tainment. The only difference is that in Japan famous celebrities, not common folk, compete for prizes — something which does not make sense to me. Anyway, on this particular show the celebrity panel was shown a short segment about Boryoku Onsen Geisha aka Violent Onsen Geisha aka film critic Masaya Nakahara. The narrator pointed out that Boryoku Onsen Geisha had remixed a track by a popular indie singer named Cornelius and the camera zoomed in on the credits listed on the CD as if to prove the national television audience that this was no crackpot, this was someone that trendy young consumers should know about. The celebrity contestants (who one year ago would have made faces to show how perplexed they were by such a strange performer) all tried to show how hip they were to the noise scene. One middle aged comedian mentioned that he knew about Einsturzende Neubauten, some young singer said that she was really into “noise music”. As I got up to turn off the TV I heard the host of the show say something about “noise idol”.

The meteoric rise Violent Onsen Geisha is fascinating when you take into consideration that the Japanese recording industry is tightly controlled and extremely conservative. A few years ago VOG was releasing tapes on Vanilla Records in Kyoto, an extremely influential label that is also responsible for early releases by Masonna and C.C.C.C. Now VOG’s mug is splashed across the pages of everything from TV Guide to the Japanese equivalent of The Saturday Evening Post. (It’s kind of pathetic how the Japanese media suddenly took interest in VOG only after his major label debut Que Sera Sera was released by giant conglomerate Toshiba EMI. Kansai labels such as Vanilla and Bron never get credit for anything.)

Violent Onsen Geisha has created some of the most spectacular albums to emerge from the Japanese underground scene. Start with Shocks Shocks Shocks, a reissue of the first Vanilla cassette on CD by Ring Records in the USA with stunning cover art. It’s raw sounding and filled with VOG’s trademark off the wall samples, jeep beats, and sheets of pure noise. The relatively new Teenage Pet Sounds is a maxi single but it has close to an hour of music. It’s much more produced and commercial sounding than his earlier work but a blast to listen to, especially on headphones.

Nakahara pulled of a prank that is also a part of underground folklore. He convinced people that there were other members in Violent Onsen Geisha who died under mysterious circumstances. Everyone now claims that they were in on the joke all along, but the truth is that there were many who believed the story and reported it as fact.

There’s been a boom of young bands who have started their own cassette labels who list Nakahara as a major influence. Nakahara is the “cassette tape superstar” and the rare appearance of Violent Onsen Geisha at Japan Overseas Night at Bears in September was highly anticipated. Machine Gun T.V. and Masonna played highly entertaining sets, Masonna was especially confrontational at this show, he grabbed an audience member and shoved him around violently. Solmania was scheduled to go on next but for some reason Ohno (and Nakahara) had not arrived yet.

After about 45 minutes they walked through the door, much to the relief of Bears manager Yamamoto Seiichi. After Solmania finished his set the lights came on and there was another delay. Suddenly, the inside of Bears was pitch black. It was impossible to see the stage but I assumed that Violent Onsen Geisha was on because everyone moved up front to get a better look. It was a long set of pure harsh noise and it ended abruptly. Later on I found out that Violent Onsen Geisha didn’t even appear that night. He popped in a prerecorded cassette and took the bullet train back to Tokyo. When it became apparent that Nakahara was not coming back an angry fan (Mikio of Prisoner #6) picked up the cassette deck and threw it on the floor. Was it live or was it Memorex? That is the question to be decided.

How To Make Kitty Litter Out of Discarded Manga (From Exile Osaka #4)

Manga are big fat comics (duh!*) the size of telephone books that come out weekly and are read by millions of people. Weekly manga such as Jump and Sunday Shonen Comics are printed on newsprint and are quickly disposed of after a quick read on the train or after dinner. Fan boys in Japan for the first time are often shocked to find that the same comics they paid $10 to read every week at the import collector store can be picked out of garbage cans for nothing at the train station. I discovered a new use for discarded manga by accident. My cat had to take a piss like you wouldn’t believe but I had run out of kitty litter. I grabbed the latest copy of Jump and started ripping pages out to use as a substitute. To my surprise, the manga absorbed my cat’s urine much better than the leading brand of kitty litter and there was no mess afterward. I figured what the hell, from now on I’ll use manga all the time and since kitty litter sells for $5 a bag, it has saved me a considerable amount of cash. It’s easy to obtain discarded manga. Simply wait until the newspaper and magazine recycling day. People tie up their manga in bundles and a truck comes around to collect them. Just get up early and pluck a couple of bundles off the street. You’ll have enough kitty litter for two weeks. I have developed a fail safe method to ensure your cat’s ultimate satisfaction. Follow these easy instructions:

1. Pick up a stack of manga from the street.

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2. Rip the glossy covers off the manga and place them flat down in the litter box. You are now lining the litter box to ensure an easy clean up.

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3. Rip off about 30 pages from the manga and tear them into thin strips. Place the paper strips in the litter box and make sure that there is enough paper inside for your cat to bury a large load.

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4. Place your cat in the litter box. If it takes a dump or a squirt (see photo below) you can take pride in your recycling efforts. If your cat refuses to do its business right away then add a little more paper. Do not stare at your cat. Cat’s have feelings, too. How would you feel if someone made goo-goo eyes at you while you were on the can?

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I have this photo in color somewhere. My cat Whitestock (RIP) modeled for this article.

*Message from my 2014 self to my 1995 self: “Nice explanation, idiot!”

 

Matt Kaufman’s Osaka Scum Report (1995) From Thora-Zine

This is my first Osaka Scum Report back 1995 in from Thora-Zine, a great mag from Austin, Texas published by Brent Bruni Comiskey. I regret writing that mean stuff about Jerry Garcia in the intro, but hey, I was in my 20s and thought that making fun of hippies was cool (forgive me). In the photo; Morihata of Hard Core Dude, Nao of Superball, Nishikawa from The Lumpens and Haruka from The Won Wons.

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The Hanatarash “Born To Be Wild/Omocha No Cha Cha Cha” Limited Edition of ONE. It comes with Eye’s TOOTH! (Exile Osaka #5)

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Nobuyuki Ozaki of Prisoner #6 purchased the rare Hanatarash CD “Born To Be Wild/Omocha No Cha Cha Cha” which was recorded in a karaoke booth and sold for ¥15,000 at Forever 3 Records. It comes with Eye’s tooth!

Listen to it here: https://myspace.com/hanatarash/music/album/born-to-be-wild-mc-13784097

 

What are the rarest BOREDOMS recordings ever?

“I have a Boredoms record that’s an edition of one. I swapped some early Masonna stuff [with Eye] for it. It’s cut right on top of an old New York Dolls record, so the needle slides back and forth from Boredoms to Dolls. Really great.”–Yamazaki of Masonna, as quoted in Bananafish #9.

Another rare Boredoms record made by Eye on the vinyl cutting machine he bought at a flea market is Chiki Bon Bon (one copy only, which was priced at ¥100000 ($1000 U.S.) upon release, sold at GIGA and bought by Ozaki of Prisoner No. 6)

Below: The only photo of The Boredoms Chiki Bon Bon in existence.

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Info from the great Boredoms disography site: http://eyevocal.ottawa-anime.org/boredoms/

Photos courtesy of Nobuyuki Ozaki.

The Name of This Place is Asia Coffee (Updated with new photos)

The Name of This Place is Asia Coffee (From Exile Osaka #3)

By Matthew M. Kaufman

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I was in Kanadian one day talking about interesting places to hang out, and Miki-San, the owner, said, “You have got to go to Asia Coffee (Ajia Co-hee). That’s where all the freaks hang out.” I think that the word “freaks” in Japanese has a slightly different connotation than it does in English; it has a positive meaning (in a David Lynch sort of way.) So, I imagined that Asia Coffee was one of those dives where artists and musician types hung out with drifters, winos and other characters.

One of the employees of Kanadian drew a crude map for me on a napkin, and I set off on my journey. I walked around for about an hour and a half; I knew that Asia Coffee was located in Tsuruhashi, but I just couldn’t find it. So, I gave up and took the train home.

A month later, Jaye, a fellow English Teacher, and I were having lunch in Kanadian, and I told her about Asia Coffee. We decided that we should go there afterward. I got a better map this time from one of the waiters, and we walked down to Tsuruhashi. Tsuruhashi is a wonderful neighborhood. It has one of the largest Korean populations in Japan, and there are loads of great Korean restaurants in the area.

We walked up and down the same block about 75 times, but we still couldn’t find Asia Coffee. Finally, we walked down a narrow street near the train station and there it was — a rusty old shack with “Asia Coffee” written across the top in faded katakana (Japanese characters used mainly for writing foreign words). There was a light on, but we were hesitant to go in — it was like walking into someone’s house. We opened the door and peeked in. There was only one table in the place and three people were sitting there, drinking beer and talking. The place looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned in 20 years — it was crammed with assorted junk, including an old bicycle and a clock that didn’t work. The floor was made of stone, and there was a cat chained to a chair in the corner. Everyone got up immediately as soon as we walked in, and an old woman cleared off the table. A thin old man in a black turtleneck asked us if we wanted anything to drink.

“What do you have?” I asked.

“We only have two things: Kirin Beer and Nepon [a bottled orange drink],” said the old man.

“Well, I’ll have a beer,” I said.

“I’ll have a cup of coffee,” said Jaye.

“No coffee; only two things: Kirin Beer or Nepon.”

We ordered a beer, and the old woman brought out a beer from the refrigerator and wiped it off with a towel.

“You don’t have coffee?” I asked. “But the name of this place is Asia Coffee.”

“Yes,” said the old man.

“But you do have curry?”

“Yes three things: curry, Kirin Beer and Nepon. No Coffee.”

A man of about 40 introduced himself to us. His name was Nishikawa and he was the son of the old women who owned the place. He told us that he worked in a Yaki-Niku restaurant in Namba. His brother usually worked here, but he was in the hospital. “Her other son is a drunk,” the old man volunteered. “He’s in the hospital for aru-chu (alcoholism — aru is short for alcohol; chu is an abbreviation of chudoku, which means poisoning).

Nishikawa told us the history of Asia Coffee. It was started by his mother 36 years ago. (Asia Coffee did at one time serve coffee.) Several years ago, a writer named Nakajima Ramo “discovered” Asia Coffee and wrote about it in one of his books. That led to sporadic media coverage from magazines, television and radio. Asia Coffee developed a cult following, and people from as far away as Hokaido would search out Asia Coffee when they were in the Kansai area.

One of the big attractions at Asia Coffee is the aforementioned Nepon orange drink. Nepon is manufactured by Tsuruya Shokuhin Kenkyusho, a research center in Kobe. Nepon is not widely distributed — presumably Nepon is made from oranges used in some sort of research and Asia Coffee is the only place in Osaka where Nepon is sold. (The company has someone deliver the drink twice a week, even though Asia Coffee is an hour away by car.) Nepon is very sweet. (It reminds me of Sun Dew, an orange drink that used to be sold in a plastic container. I haven’t seen one in years.) When Kansai Television interviewed Nishikawa’s son (the drunk one) he told them that drinking two bottles of Nepon would cure constipation. People believed him and more people wandered into the shop.

Nishikawa finished his story by saying that he wants his mother to come live with him, but his mother has no desire to give up Asia Coffee.

“She’s 80 years old,” he said. “Asia Coffee is her life. She opens the store at 5:30 a.m. and usually stays until 9:30 p.m. She likes drinking with the customers.”

“When she’s gone,” he added matter-of-factly, “this place will probably close down for good.”

“All kinds of people come in here,” the old man added. “Corporate presidents, vice-presidents, college students. She can drink them all under the table. She drinks five bottles of beer a night. And by the way, I’m not that old. I’m only 52.”

We had been calling him O-chan, an affectionate term for uncle. “Well, O-chan, we have to be going.” I had to take a piss and there was no way that I was going to use the toilet. It was literally a hole in the ground and it didn’t flush.

O-chan wanted us to sign a piece of cardboard to hang on the wall among the collection of greasy photographs and faded articles about Asia Coffee from magazines. We signed our names, paid the bill and left.

“Come back again,” said O-chan. “Don’t catch a cold.”

ASIA COFFEE PART II:

21st Century NEPON shop

Escargot, Yoshi-Yoshi and I were sitting around drinking beers one day after a Pagado gig and I told them about my venture into Asia Coffee.

“That’s the place where they have Nepon,” said Escargot.

“I’ve heard about it but I’ve never been there,” said Yoshi-Yoshi.

We decided to go to Asia Coffee the following Sunday. We met up at Kanadian. I told the boys some bad news. I forgot that I have an appointment with another English teacher to work on some stupid project. I had to leave in two hours.

“Well, we stopped by Asia Coffee yesterday, ” said Escargot. “We told the O-chan that you were coming and he said that he would prepare some special food for you and everything.”

I had to drop in. At least for an hour or so. We drove to Tsuruhashi and Escargot told me that O-chan used to belong to the Yakuza.

“No way!”

“Didn’t you see his hand? He’s missing one of his fingers! He was telling us about his days in the Yakuza. He was in jail and everything.”

“Did he ever shoot someone?”

“Well . . .”

We entered Asia Coffee and got a warm welcome from O-chan. Mrs. Nishikawa was asleep on a cot by the kitchen.

“She had too much to drink last night.”

Her son wasn’t there this time, but her brother-in-law was. He was wearing a Yankees cap and jacket. He got up from the table, be we insisted that he sit down and have a drink. We ordered beers and poured one for him and offered one to O-chan. I was trying to get a good glimpse of his hand.

“O-chan, are you related to Mrs. Nishikawa?”

“No, I just help out here. I used to come here when I was a boy.

“So, what’s the name of that cat over there?” Escargot asked.

“His name is Ryu (Dragon). He’s three years old and still a virgin.”

“Do you know that for a fact?” I questioned.

“Yes, I do. I take him for a walk every day.”

I finally got a good look at O-chan’s hand. He was missing the top half of his left pinky.

“Hey O-chan, how did you lose your pinky.” I wasn’t really sure if it was appropriate to ask such a thing, but it soon became apparent that O-chan had told the story many times.

“Well, it’s like this. My brother borrowed a large sum of money and couldn’t pay it back. So, I had to deliver my pinky finger as payment to the oya (yakuza boss).”

Mrs. Nishikawa woke up suddenly, and before we knew it, she was pouring us drinks and drinking quite a bit herself. Brother-in-law scolded her for drinking so much. Then he left.

O-chan pulled out a brainteaser for Escargot and Yoshi-Yoshi:

“This problem is very difficult,” he said. “They use it on college entrance examinations: You are standing in a field on a cliff overlooking the sea. There is a fire coming towards you from the north. The wind is also blowing from the north.” He sketched a diagram on the back of a napkin. “If you jump off the cliff, you will be killed. You don’t have a shovel either; the only things you are carrying are items that the average man has on his person.”

We tried to guess the answer.

“You jump over the fire.”

“A helicopter comes and saves you.”

“You hang off the side of a cliff.”

“No, you’re all wrong,” said O-chan.

We had to admit that we didn’t know the answer. “Tell us the answer, O-chan. It’s impossible.”

O-chan grinned. “Okay. I told you that you’re only carrying what the average man has on his person. Well, every man carries a lighter, does he not?

“Uhhh…okay, ” I said, still skeptical.

“All you have to do is set fire to the area at the end of the cliff and wait until the fire you set burns out. Then you stand in the area at the end of the cliff . . .”

“Wait a second! ” we all objected. “That’ll never work. What about the fire coming toward you?”

“The fire that you set with your lighter will burn out faster because the wind is blowing in your direction. Then you stand in that area. When the big fire finally reaches that area, it will have nothing left to burn and you’re in the clear.”

“That’s the most ridiculous . . .”

“No, it makes perfect sense,” O-chan said. “When I was younger, I thought I’d go to college so I started memorizing problems like this.”

We poured O-chan another glass of beer.

“I never did go to college. I spent 10 years in jail, from age 20 to age 30 — 10 years.”

Now, while this was going on, I had been taking pictures of everyone. All of a sudden, I realized that I had forgotten to put film in the camera.

O-chan started laughing. “Where you buy that camera, America?”

I was not about to get into an argument about international trade friction.

“No, I bought it at Daiei ” (Daiei is the K-Mart of Japan).

“Daiei? Why don’t you buy a real camera? Maybe you just don’t know how to use a camera . . .”

O-chan was ranking on me pretty good. I poured him another drink and he brought out another bottle and poured me one. It was time to leave, and I couldn’t drink anymore.

On the way home I started to realize what made Asia Coffee so special: Osaka suffered a lot of damage during the war. Asia Coffee was built 15 years after the war ended — maybe it was typical of the kind of business that one could start at the time if he or she saved up enough money. With the tremendous growth of Japanese economy in the ’80s, places such as Asia Coffee became susceptible to land-development projects. Old neighborhood shops started disappearing; replaced by modern ones devoid of charm and lacking any history. But Asia Coffee hasn’t changed at all in almost 40 years — it’s an anachronism. Perhaps people go there to leave the modern world for a couple of hours. If you’re ever in Japan and find yourself tired of eating at McDonald’s; shopping at 7-11; and hanging out at gaijin bars day after day, week after week — wondering why you came to Japan in the first place — search out an old run down place like Asia Coffee. You’ll be glad you did.

UPDATE 1: I went to Asia Coffee on Feb. 19, about a month after the big earthquake. O-chan and Mrs. Nishikawa were really down in the dumps. O-chan told me that the company that manufactures Nepon was destroyed in the quake. They haven’t heard any news from anyone in the company and are worried about their well being. There were only about 50 bottles of Nepon left, and O-chan wonders if Asia Coffee can survive without it. To make matters worse, Ryu ran away a few weeks before and hasn’t returned. I promised to bring them a kitten next week. I hope that everyone at Tsuruya Kenkyusha Shokuhin is okay.

UPDATE 2 (from Issue #4): Asia Coffee is back from the dead. The company that produces Nepon is back on its feet after being destroyed in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. O-chan is no longer there. We were told that he was arrested for trying to rob someone. Mrs. Nishikawa’s son Tsuneo is now in charge. I did bring them a kitten as promised. I found her in the middle of the street in my neighborhood. She was filthy at the time, but she has grown to be a beautiful cat. Her name is Takeshi. Asia Coffee made national television again when Mrs. Nishikawa raised the price of nepon to ¥500 ($5) a bottle!

UPDATE 3 (from Issue #5): Asia Coffee has closed down. I went there with Scott Burgeson of Bug, and it was just a hole in the ground.

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Photos (Top) Mrs Nishikawa holding Exile Osaka #3.  Mrs Nishikawa and Tsuneo.

Bottom: Tsuneo and O-chan.

An Inquiry As to The Nature of Lemon Candy (From Exile Osaka #3)

An Inquiry As to The Nature of Lemon Candy

by Jonathan Rubin

This article is about, ostensibly, lemon candy: tart, yet sweet, both hard and soft, and hopefully sour enough to pucker your face for minutes, if not hours. But what can we really say when we talk about lemon candy? Is it about ourselves, our loves, our universe? For me lemon candy represents that unattainable ideal, a goal: ultimate insane sourness, pure acid hell. For that my friends is good lemon candy.

When the editor of this esteemed journal sent me a selection of six lemon candies from Japan-all previously unseen by me here in the U.S.-I could not withhold my glee. Here before me lay a half-dozen untasted treats. Over the past weeks I have gradually consumed each and every one, noting the flavor, the texture and, ultimately, the acidulousness of each. What follows are my results.

Fujiya Lemon Squash ( 不二家 レモンスカッシュキャンディ)

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Surely the winner of the judges choice award. this candy offered a multitude of taste treats. It began with a rather tasty lemon shell, and then, just as my interest began to wane, filled my mouth with a Zotz-like acid power explosion-what tasted like a combination of lemon, sugar and vanilla. Although not the most sour of the samples, Fujiya Lemon Squash was certainly the best overall.

[Sourness Factor: 5]

The Lemon C-3000

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This was a basic, generic barrel-shaped lemon hard candy, not very sour but pleasantly sweet. It’s name implied a high vitamin C content, but could it really have 3000mg? It seems like a lot. An old standby, this candy was nuttin’ special.

[Sourness Factor: 3]

VC 3000 (VC-3000のど飴)

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What really struck me about VC-3000 was it’s unusual texture. Very hard and somewhat chalkish, it was a far cry from the standard, mundane hard candy (see The LemonC-3000). It had a pleasant taste and good overall sourness.

[Sourness Factor 5]

Ribon Nama Shio(リボン 生塩飴)

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Arriving in its cool glassine package, Ribon also had a surprise concealed within: a gummy sticky mess. However, I did enjoy the general taste of this candy and perhaps found the stickiness of it more intriguing than annoying. This also appeared to have some vitamin C, as there was a large “C” nestled amidst the small Japanese text on the package.

[Sourness Factor: 3]

HiChew Super Lemon (ハイチュウ スーパーレモン)

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An interesting and enjoyable little candy, chewy like a Starburst or Mambo. HiChew had a lovely smooth texture and a good taste. Like all chewy candy, I found it to be rather addictive and was very tempted to eat the whole package at once. However, I did manage to control my impulses.

[Sourness Factor: 4]

Shige Kix (シゲキックス)

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Small pellet-like and viciously sour, these little devils seemed to coated with pure uncut acetic acid. They were extremely chewy (not recommended for denture wearers). However, as the acid quickly wore off I was left with a tasteless nugget to gnaw on for nearly a minute.

[Sourness Factor: 10]