Seller Fusion Gigs Next Month

I was contacted by a fellow Iowan who is now in Japan studying Taiko Drumming. His name is Frightened Seller and he has a few fusion gigs coming up with Kazunari Abe, a Japanese shinobue player who has also played with Kodo, the world famous Taiko group. Their group is called Sora Ocean and they have a Facebook page with lots of video clips and concert information. Get out there and support another gaijin doing their thing in Japan!

Freightened Seller with Kazunari Abe on shinobue

Here’s a clip from one of their lives I found on the ol’ YouTube. They’re performing one of their songs called “Maybe” live in Japan.

Most of the events are in the Kansai area, so if you’re not in Kansai… What are you doing? Move there! Seriously though, these events should be cool. Here are the details for the April 19th event.

East Meets West at Kobe Concert
Sora Ocean Combines Shinobue, Piano and Vocals To Create Unique Sound

Monday April 19th
Open 18:30 start 19:00
Adv 2000 yen door 2500 yen
Sora Ocean / NolenNiu-de-Ossi / The Ventz / orgalounge
Kobe, Japan  

Sora Ocean, a band comprised of American artist Frightened Seller on piano and vocals and Japanese musician Kazunari Abe on shinobue, is set to perform its’ first concert in Kobe on Monday April 19th.  

The duo has created an entirely original sound by combining the traditional Japanese bamboo flute with the piano and English lyrics.  Original songs to be included in their set are “Flora’s Alive”,  “Moon Dust”, and “Romance”.  In addition, they will perform Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”.

Kazunari Abe is a musician and composer who plays the Shinobue, a traditional Japanese flute made from bamboo. He has performed in 23 countries with the taiko group “Kodo”, which he joined in 1995. In the fall of 2009, he returned to his native city Niihama in Ehime. He is currently performing throughout Japan and teaching Shinobue. 

Frightened Seller is a New York based classically trained pianist and composer.  His music has been featured in several independent films and has been played on radio stations throughout the world. He has released 3 full length albums and one EP that are available on iTunes, Amazon, emusic and most online stores. He is currently performing throughout Japan and studying Taiko in Niihama, Ehime.

Sora Ocean will be performing Monday April 19th at 19:00 at Varit in Kobe.  Following Sora Ocean, NolenNiu-de-Ossi will perform their unique style that also combines the use of traditional Japanese and popular modern instruments. Visit for directions.

Also check our the artist’s website: 

Future Performances:

May 1st, Jeandore Live House, Niihama Japan
May 16th Café & Bar U-en Osaka, Japan
June 5th Jeandore Live House, Niihama Japan
June 19th Sora Ocean Music Festival, Marine Park, Niihama, Japan

Good stuff!


Get your Zen Garden On

I don’t see these rock gardens much in Japan. You really have to go out of your way to find them. The last time that I can remember visiting one was at Sanzenin in Kyoto, when my parents were in the country visiting for our wedding back in 2007.

At Sanzenin in Kyoto

I think I also saw some near Himeji Castle when I was there some time ago.

The word for Japanese rock garden is karesansui 枯山水. The characters literally mean “dry,” “mountain,” “water.” The gardens represent a dry landscape. The raked patterns in the sand represent water, rivers, oceans, and lakes. Apparently it’s extremely difficult to create realistic waves in the sand using the rakes. I wouldn’t be surprised, the entire garden is a work of art. You can read more about these rock gardens on Wikipedia.

When I do find these gardens in Japan I rarely have time to sit around and enjoy the view. I’m normally traveling with a group that wants to keep moving, or maybe the site is crowded with other tourists so you’re not allowed to linger. Sanzenin was great though, very quiet, peaceful, and you could sit around as long as you wanted. Highly recommended.

On a somewhat related noted, we got my parents one of these cheesy mini rock gardens as a gift. We’ll see what they end up doing with it when I visit next! Hopefully it will be getting some use…

Deluxe Zen Garden, ordered from Amazon.

Good times.

– Harvey

Japanese Numbers App

Just released a simple iPhone App to drill your listening comprehension for numbers.

If you’ve ever gone to a shop in Japan, bought stuff, but couldn’t understand how much you owed without looking at the display on the register… this app can help you out.

The structure of this app is extremely simple, but I believe it fills a need.

Basically a Japanese person will read a number at you at natural speed, and then you have to identify which number was said. The numbers are all read in the context of “money,” so the audio says, “yonsenyonhyakusanjyuunien!” For 4,432 yen! I chose to make it money based because in Japan you will most frequently encounter big numbers in the context of money. Without a doubt!

Currently the app covers from about 1-9,999. As my wife would beat me if I asked her to read from 1-9,999 straight through to make this recording, instead we do 1-100 straight through, and then pick samples of numbers within that range that I think covers all the bases. All the tricky ones are in there so that you won’t get an easy ride. In future updates we will add more content.

You can also study the numbers by flipping through cards that show the number on the front and has the Kanji, romaji, and English on the back. You can also touch to hear the number read by a native Japanese speaker.

Numbers. Gotta love em. You can get Japanese 101: Numbers app on the iTunes App Store as always. Cheaper than a bento box.



A Friend to Chop your Head Off

Here is an interesting Japanese saying for you…

刎頸の友 (ふんけいのとも, funkei no tomo)

Here is a Japanese explanation of the origin phrase for those interested.

An excerpt at the end that gets to the point…


My rough translation:
And they drank sake together and said that they would not feel any regret if they had to chop off the others head. And with this they became extremely close friends.

There is another phrase with the same meaning that is 刎頸の交わり (ふんけいのまじわり, funkei no majiwari).

I believe the head chopping is from the tradition where if you’re doing traditional Seppuku (harakiri), the belly cutting is followed by someone else cutting your head off.

Actually I don’t know a lot about this phrase. The story is actually Chinese in origin it seems. The story seems to take place in China… so they’re not really drinking sake, some other kinda alcohol probably. Anyway… Does anyone know anymore about this? I’m curious.

Do you have any friends for which, if the time came, you would be willing to chop off their head? Eww….

– Harvey

Fancy Tokyo Railway Map

Found this cool Tokyo Subway Map on

It’s designed by a Korean graphic designer who does maps of other cities as well.

Notice that the Tokyo Map looks like the Japanese flag.

Designer Tokyo Map available from White Rabbit Press

It’s available in the following sizes from White Rabbit Press:

Tokyo Railway Handy Map – 375 x 260 mm

Tokyo Railway Map/Calendar – 610 x 880 mm

Tokyo Railway Portable Map – 518 x 370 mm

Check out this other post on on the same maps.

Also check out the designers website.

Goodies galore!

– Harvey

Ferriss on how he learned Japanese, and other stuff

I found this TED Talk with Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, where he happens to mention his approach to learning foreign languages, and specifically Japanese.

Pretty interesting. I had no idea he was an old school Japan-head.

I think his idea of focusing on the joyo Kanji is a good idea. It certainly cuts out any useless learning(?), as the joyo Kanji are all certainly useful. At IUC Japan we also focused on the Joyo Kanji hardcore, so he’s not the only one promoting this idea. Hrm… maybe I should be doing something like that for Chinese…

Here is a blog post by Ferriss on How to Learn any Language in Three Months.

Four hour work week… learn any language in three months… I’m not going to say I’m a total believer in his voodoo… but I’m also not going to discourage anyone from trying his techniques either.

What do you guys think about all this?


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