Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Samurai Festival – Soma Nomaoi 2008 Vlog Account

Soma Nomaoi is a samurai festival in the northern Japan area of Fukushima. It’s a 3-day festival with parades, horse races, mock battles, and wild horse catching.

This is a vlog account of the festival. I plan to get around and making a more indepth one sometime in the future.

The cicadaes are freaking loud in the background so they might drown me out at times.


August 13, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, event, festival, fukushima, horse racing, horses, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, life, samurai, soma nomaoi, tohoku, travel, video, vlog, youtube | Leave a comment

Sansa Odori Video Clips

Here are some low-res clips from the 2006 Sansa Odori Festival.

Sansa Odori

Morioka’s Sansa Odori Festival held in celebration of a devil’s defeat and flight from Morioka many centuries ago

Pretty Young Girls drumming near the Station for Morioka’s Sansa Odori.

Japanese Traditional Dance

Little kids play drums at Morioka’s Sansa odori

Sansa Odori Dancers twirling traditional umbrellas

Flute Players and Dancers

An unconvincing drag queen drumming

August 1, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, dance, drums, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, matsuri, music, sansa odori, tohoku, travel, video, youtube | Leave a comment

The Surreal World of Eyeball Love Globe Group from Tokyo Design Festa

The Eyeball Love Globe Group from Taiwan at the Tokyo Design Festa

The Eyeball Love Globe Group from Taiwan at the Tokyo Design Festa

Take a dip into the surreal and the avant-garde with the Taiwanese performance group – the Eyeball Love Globe group.

The Eyeball Love Globe performed at the Tokyo Design Festa this past May and have done so a few other times before being one of the popular re-occuring performances at the exhibition.

Eyeball Love Globe

the music for two of the segements is from Seven Cycle Theory:

Seven Cycle Theory

It’s also up for votes on Current TV:
Eyeball on Current TV – Register and Vote please!

July 31, 2008 Posted by | art, avant-garde, Blogroll, culture, current tv, dance, electronica, entertainment, event, Eyeball Love Globe, japan, life, taiwan, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, travel, video, youtube | Leave a comment

Bands from Tokyo Design Festa May 2008

Scenes from Three Bands from Tokyo Design Festa

Here’s a small slice of the music scene in Tokyo.

This vid is brief snippets of three bands I caught at Tokyo Design Festa.




Crazy Angel Company

Here’s a bit of a big band I caught at Tokyo Design Festa called Crazy Angel Company.

They have a lot of energy and it shows in their performance.

Crazy Angel Company

July 27, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, festival, j-pop, j-rock, japan, japanese culture, life, music, rock, rock band, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rockin’ It In Japan – The Sushi Cabaret Club Mini-Documentary

The following is a look at a mostly foriegn rock band, the Sushi Cabaret Club, based in Nagoya, Japan.

The members hail from Scotland, England, Australia, and Japan. They talk about their music, what brought them to Japan, what it’s like for bands in Japan, and what it’s like playing for Japanese audiences.

They also dispell a few myths like how easy it is for Western musicians to make it big in Japan.

A few of their fans talk about their interest in the band’s music as well.

The Sushi Cabaret Club site

I used another one of their songs in my Seijin-no-Hi (Japan’s Coming of Age Day) video:

It’s also up for votes for possible airing on Current TV:
Sushi Cabaret Club on Current TV – Please Vote!!!

Here are two videos the band made themselves while they still had their first drummer:

July 24, 2008 Posted by | culture, current tv, documentary, entertainment, japan, life, music, music videos, musicians, musicians in Japan, pop culture, rock, rock band, The Sushi Cabaret Club, video, vlog, youtube | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rockin’ It In Japan! – The Sushi Cabaret Club

Rockin’ It In Japan!
The Sushi Cabaret Club

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The Sushi Cabaret Club.

“I’m big in Japan.”
Tom Waites

There was a time when the Land of the Rising Sun was the lodestone for the aspiring and rising musician or for those who were long past their prime. With instruments, song sheets and dreams, these hopefuls flooded a Japan seemingly eager to be entertained by these wandering minstrels. The feeling was that in those glory days of yesteryear any musician with the barest inkling of musical talent could make it big in Japan. Perhaps that was the case or perhaps it was only a myth. Nowadays, musicians both domestic and imported have to struggle for recognition and tips like everywhere else.

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The Sushi Cabaret Club has struggled like many bands in Japan but they have garnered some measure of success over the years having their music featured in Internet and TV ads. They have also played at Fuji Rock, which is no small feat. The Sushi Cabaret Club is a mostly foreign rock band based in Nagoya. They have been together since 2003, though its members have been in Japan for longer than that.

The music of the Sushi Cabaret Club as described by frontman Dave Wallace and bassist Aaron Beutel is good honest rock-n-roll with honest lyrics and containing some good ballads. It is a mixture of American rock and U.K. rock with a touch of rock from the southern states of America. They are an eclectic blend of a variety of inspirations from Hendrix, AC/DC and Pink Floyd to one of the original musical rebels, Beethoven.

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Dave Wallace – lead vocals and guitar.

Wallace, from Scotland, is the band’s lead vocals and guitar. Before coming to Japan, he was playing guitar in Greece when he reached the end of his funds. When offered the chance to play guitar in Japan and make some money while he was at it, he jumped for it. He has been in Japan close to 10 years now.

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Dave Freeman – keyboardist.

Dave Freeman hails from Britain and is the band’s keyboardist. He has been playing keyboard since he was 11 and has been in Japan for over 10 years. He is as he describes himself married to music in sickness and in health till death do they part.

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Aaron Beutel – bass player.

Beutel was a bass player in Australia but he wanted to stretch his wings a bit and so off to Japan he went. Like many foreigners in Japan, he took the teaching route until he felt the call of music again. He hooked up the two Daves and became the band’s bass player.

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Nobu Yamada – drummer.

Nobu Yamada is the newest member of the band. The original drummer was an American, Mike Bagley, but like the story of most bands, band membership is rarely a permanent thing, and he and the Sushi Cabaret Club went in separate directions. Enter Nobu. Nobu has been playing drums since childhood. Though newly come to the group, Nobu picked up the band’s songs in about two weeks.

The novelty of being a foreign band in Japan had long worn off by the time the Sushi Cabaret Club formed so they have had to rely on talent and good music, which they have plenty of, in order to build-up a fan base. Still it has not been easy as music organizers do not always know how to measure up a foreign band.

Audiences, however, have not been a problem and the Sushi Cabaret Club has generally received good responses wherever they have played.

The band has put out four CDs and a recent one is just coming out.

Visit them on their Myspace for more info:

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, japan, life, music, Nagoya, rock, rock band, The Sushi Cabaret Club | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Video Clips of Soma Nomaoi Festival

Here is a collection of old video clips from my digital photo camera of Soma Nomaoi 2005. Soma Nomaoi takes in late July in Fukushima.

Soma Nomaoi

The festival’s main day is the 24th where they put on a parade with people in full samurai armor on horseback. Then they do horseraces with the riders in armor sans helmet. The last event is a mock battle where riders compete to catch banners floating down from the sky.

The vids are low res but it gives you an idea of what to expect on the second day of the festival.

Here’s the morning parade:

A Fan Dance before the races

An official singing before the races

Riders warming up

It’s Kurosawa meets the Kentucky Derby

A brief look at the mock battle

July 16, 2008 Posted by | culture, entertainment, festival, fukushima, horse racing, horses, japan, japanese culture, life, soma nomaoi, tohoku, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Running From the Bulls of Pamplona

Running From the Bulls of Pamplona

There comes a time in the life of every young man when he feels the need to test his meddle and tempt the hands of Fate. This may take the form of signing up with the French Foreign Legion and fighting in far away places, hunting large animals with large guns, jumping out of airplanes, or pitting his wits against the speeding enraged bulls of Pamplona.

Personally, I blame that macho-istic bastard Hemingway for my foolhardy decision to run with the bulls of Pamplona several years ago. Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel, “The Sun Also Rises”, brought world-wide attention to Pamplona’s bizarre age-old festival of allowing bulls to run through the streets as they please running over and goring those mad enough to run with them. Hemingway created an international pilgrimage of machismo to Pamplona’s San Fermin festival. For some of those pilgrims, that journey has led to a gory martyrdom.

But gory martyrdom is what the San Fermin festival is all about. Saint Fermin, Pamplona’s patron saint, was martyred in Roman times by being drug through the streets by bulls somewhere in France. This grisly demise is honored by Pamplona’s residents every year in July with a huge week-long festival. In the morning the bulls and the fools run. In the afternoon bullfights are held in the Plaza de Toros Arena. The rest of the day and on through the night time is spent in merry-making. Various different parades of floats, musicians, and banner-waving drunks periodically sway and weave their way through the crowds. People will party until they drop where they stand from exhaustion but the party just rolls on. Its like Mardi Gras with bulls.

Hemingway’s spirit seems to haunt the festival. I could just imagine old Ernest slouched jauntily in a doorway with a drink in one hand and Sangria stains down his white shirt as he watched the festival with approving eyes. In one of the streets, there is a bust of Hemingway wearing a bull runner’s bandanna.

The night before my run I was dancing and drinking in the company of some young local senoritas. One girl I particularly fancied was a dark-haired girl named Bettina. We chatted as best as we could with my limited Spanish which encompassed only a few swear words and some pick-up lines. Surprisingly, I was doing quite well but she would periodically point to her hand. On her hand she had scrawled her boyfriend’s name. I guess this was so she wouldn’t get carried away and forget about him. The ink wouldn’t wash off either much to my misfortune.

Still I was able through the use of pantomime to get her to promise me that she would cry for me if I were gored by a bull in the upcoming run. I believe Hemingway would have approved of this: dying a glorifyingly gory macho death and having a beautiful girl cry over your body.

Come morning I remembered that I had never actually read any of Hemingway’s works except for “The Old Man and the Sea” when I was in the 5th Grade. This story about a big fish didn’t exactly prepare me for handling big bulls. I was entirely on my own. My only knowledge of the run came from second-hand information and the opening scene of “City Slickers.” In it, Billy Crystal is seen at the festival running in front of a bull that is just jogging along at a reasonable pace. I thought this was the normal speed of bulls. No problem.

“Nothing outruns a bull.” an ESPN sports reporter told me matter-of-factually as I looked down into the bull pens during the wee hours of the morning. There were two pens. The first pen contained 10-12 motley-colored bulls. They were smaller in size compared to the bulls in the second pen. The four bulls in the second pen were massive dark-brown bulls I later learned were of a certain breed of bulls especially bred for their fierceness. I did not know this at the time. I was only aware of the fact the bulls in the second pen were awfully big and their horns looked awfully sharp.

The reporter explained to me that a person technically doesn’t run “with” the bulls because they’re simply too fast. People just run until the bulls get almost on top of them, then the runners either get the hell out of the way or get run over. Most people run behind the bulls but this too can be fraught with the danger as bulls have been known to turn around.

This revelation was not what I expected and it did little to bolster my courage. My instinct for self-preservation suddenly flared up urging me to abandon this suicidal bravado. My spirit, however, was embolden by too much Sangria to back out now. Shaking off the doubts, I took my manly place amongst all the other brave Sangria-inspired bull runners.

The traditional bull runner wears all white clothing except for a red bandanna around the neck and a red slash tied at the waist. These red target markers are thoughtful aids in guiding the bulls along the way and showing them where to apply their horns.

The run begins when a rocket is fired off to let those runners who are sobering up to their senses get a head start to the Arena where the race ends. A second rocket is fired shortly after to signal the release of the first group of bulls. After the second rocket fired, a few runners must have suddenly had second thoughts as I saw some bolt and go over the wooden barricades while others climbed up the bars of windows to get out of harm’s way.

A young bull runner and his bull running pals

From my viewpoint, I could see down a sea of heads to the pens but I couldn’t see the bulls. All at once I saw people turning around and then heads began bobbing up and down like a wave. Fear can be contagious. As those standing around me started running away in greater numbers, I found myself quickly running away as well before I even saw the bulls. I was caught up in that mass panic with the sudden clarifying thought of “What the hell am I doing here?” echoing in my mind. Its a question that must hit every bull runner the moment stark sober reality arrives in the form of several tons of speeding bull-flesh.

I bolted into a small square and leaped against the wall at the far side just before the bulls arrived. At first I could see nothing of them but I could hear them. I heard a dreadful hammering sound, the sound of cloven hooves beating against cobble stone. Then the bulls burst into the little square with a clattering flurry of hoof and horn. My Sangria courage swiftly evaporated at the sight. It finally dawned on me that I could actually die doing this stupid sport.

The bulls charged through the square and took a sharp right up another street. One of the bulls slipped and fell in the rush. After he picked himself up, he began to run straight towards me! I tried desperately pretending to be part of the wall but my performance did little to deter him. Fortunately the lone bull must have caught the sight of his compadres out of the corner of his eye because he suddenly swung his horned head around and ran after them.

I heaved a sigh laughing at my reprieve before casually strolling up the same street where the bulls had disappeared. I was a third of the way up the street when panicky runners darted by interrupting my thoughts. There was nagging doubt eating away at me that I was somehow forgetting something quite important. Then it hit me: “the Big Bulls”! Frantically I joined with the crowd in a desperate attempt to reach the end of this death-trap of a street. This particular street was far too narrow to accommodate the amount of human and bull traffic on it. With tall buildings enclosing both sides, there was nowhere to escape except forward into the Arena or backward into the oblivion of oncoming bull fury.

The end of the street was still out of reach, when once again I heard that terrible hammering sound. The sound was coming up swiftly behind me. Moses couldn’t have split the Red Sea as fast and effectively as the sound of those oncoming bulls split that street. Runners dove left and right for safety. I jumped to the side only to find the wall was already covered four ranks deep with quivering runners. I could only cower against the backs of others while my backside remained horribly exposed. The big bulls came tearing up the street with all the noise and fury of a runaway locomotive then were gone.

The gates of the Arena were closed by the time I arrived. I wasn’t too disappointed though. I had enough bull for one day I felt. I had thought my close encounter with the bull in the square had been quite close enough but a girl from the States I met before the run topped my story. While she was huddling against the wall in that narrow street, she fell off the curb and into the street just as the Big Bulls came rushing by. Her hand actually struck the backside of a bull as she stumbled. Fortunately the bull didn’t turn around on her as they sometimes do.

Where the Bulls end up at the end of the day

The next morning I decided to run again because I wanted to see what went on in the Arena. Also some travelers I met during the festival wanted me to guide them on the run because I now had the experience. So I became the official Bull Running Guide.

The next morning I led my little group to the front of pack. It took very little convincing for my group to decide that reaching the Arena before the bulls was a very good idea. The evening before, we had come across souvenir postcards depicting all sorts of horrific gorings from past runs. We successfully managed to enter the Arena well ahead of the bulls. When the bulls did arrive, I bravely leaped over the protective railing and from there I watched the bizarre last act of the San Fermin Bull Run.

The Arena was a kaleidoscopic spectacle of bulls chasing people and people chasing bulls. Rolled-up newspapers, another essential part of the bull runner’s wardrobe, were used to swat bulls in an effort to get their attention. I saw one man get too much attention. A bull tossed him several feet into the air like a limp rag doll. He was luckier than he deserved. He staggered away with his life and limbs still intact. Why people would purposely want to get the attention of a ticked-off bull is beyond any rational guess I can offer. Perhaps it is some kind of lemming instinct, a bit of Darwinism in action: stupidity in the form of bravado culling itself from the herd.

One group of runners seemed to be doing their best to remove themselves from the gene pool. They would just sit and wait in front of gates used to release fresh bulls into the arena. When a gate would burst opened, a charging bull would come running out but then he would stumble and sometimes fall as he crashed into those assembled lemmings. I had sated my Hemingway bravado more than enough already so I refrained from joining in on this suicidal sit-in.

Release the bull!!! Assembled lemmings await their Darwin Award.

After the bulls had gored their fill and the bull runners exhausted their machismo, the bulls were herded into pens and the runners herded out of the Arena. The runners would spend the rest of the day bragging of their exploits or counting their blessings. In the evening a local paper would come out with the statistics of the day’s run showing how many injuries there were and fatalities if any.

Today, part of me wants to go back there again and test my courage once more. But, I’m a little bit older and marginally wiser now not to mention sober at the moment. Next time I think I’ll drive with the bulls of Pamplona rather than run.

A Bull Runner Hauling Ass Before a Charging Bull

July 9, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, bull fighting, bulls, culture, entertainment, Ernest Hemingway, festival, life, Pamplona, San Fermin, Spain, Spanish Culture, travel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Drumming Rabbits – Usagi Taiko Group

This footage is from the Tokyo Design Festa of the female Taiko Drum Group known as Usagi. Usagi means rabbit in Japanese.

July 8, 2008 Posted by | culture, entertainment, japan, life, tokyo, travel, video, youtube | , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Run Like a Ninja Day!

Hey, folks, it’s July 5th, so that means it’s once again (or first to begin) National Run Like a Ninja Day. Time to show our support to our Ninja brethern and sisteren who provide us with so much entertainment at the cost of their own lives and limbs.

Run Like a Ninja Day is the bastard brainchild of Youtube Guru Andy McGaffican who created the concept as a shameless publicity stunt in order to get featured on Youtube and raise enough movie to send the entire cast of High School Musical into the sun.

Watch and learn how you can help the Ninja and get featured on Youtube.

July 5, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, High School Musical, japan, life, ninja, video, vlog, youtube | , , , , , , | Leave a comment