Meiko Kaji – Urami Bushi

I recently re-watched Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, and noticed the old-school Japanese song that plays during the credits.

Did some Googling and learned that it is “Urami Bushi” by Meiko Kaji. (Life is almost too easy with Google…) Meiko Kaji was a singer and actress and appeared in more than 100 films.

Here is a clip of Kaji Meiko (梶芽衣子) singing Urami Bushi (怨み節) after apparently not singing on TV for more than 20 years. This song, Urami Bushi, was the theme song for the Female Convict Scorpion movie, known as さそり (sasori) in Japanese.

Here is a relatively tame clip from the TV show… It was hard to find. Most are not so tame.

Here is a pretty sweet Meiko Kaji fan Tumblr.

Sale on Japanese Films at

Hey Everyone,

Public Service Announcement.

Best Buy is having a sale on some of the Criterion Collection movies, which includes some Japanese classics by Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu.

For example, I see Floating Weeds (浮草 Ukigusa) by Yasujiro Ozu, and Ikiru (Live) by Kurosawa, on DVD for just $9.99. That’s a steal! I also see some Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Kagemusha, Crazed Fruit, and the like for $19.99.

Going to use this opportunity to stock up on some quality films that I have yet to see.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Japan Geeks

Here are some holiday gift ideas that Japan geeks will probably enjoy…
I’m going to try to be a little one-off here, because I know lists like these are everywhere!

Life Lessons from the Masters

If you have anything you would recommend please tell us in the comments!

Gift Idea Number 1! Zen in the Martial Arts

I received a used copy of Zen in the Martial Arts as a gift many years ago. I recently pulled it out again and have been reading a chapter from it before going to sleep at night. This little book is great stuff. It gives you zen-inspired life advice based on the lessons that Joe Hyams learned while training with Bruce Lee himself.

This is one of the best “personal development” books I have ever read. It’s really timeless.

Gift Idea Number 2! Playstation 3

I, for one, will be getting a PlayStation 3 on Black Friday assuming I can snag a particular deal I’ve got my eye on.

Why a Playstation 3 you say?

  • Games are region free, so you can play Japanese games.
  • Final Fantasy XIII in Japanese.
  • Access to the Japanese PSN online store.
  • Did I mention Final Fantasy XIII in Japanese?
  • Miyazaki Hayao on Blu-ray! Like Ponyo (Not my fav, but readily available.)
  • 龍が如く 見参!(Ryu ga gotoku KENZAN!)
  • Many US-purchased games have the Japanese on the disc!
  • I’m about to graduate… so I’m going to treat myself!
Play Japanese Games. All Day Long.

Of course, if you’re not in Japan it may not be easy, or cheap, to get these games in Japanese, but it’s not impossible!

Gift Idea Number 3! KINDLE

With a Kindle your Japan-geek can carry around a ton of Japanese texts everywhere.

I wrote in a previous post about how I use my Kindle to read and study Japanese. Check it out.

With a Kindle your Japan-geek will have no excuse not to have Japanese reading material with them at all times.

It’s really cool and there are tons of free texts out there.

Namiki Power

Gift Idea Number 4! Namiki Pens

These Namiki Pens are ridiculously fancy.

Ummm… If you’re feeling generous get me this 6,800 USD Namiki Emperor Rabbit In Moonlight Fountain Pen. It has a rabbit on it.

Actually… just give me the 6,800 dollars and let me spend it how I want.

Here’s the Namiki Website for those who like to look at pretty things.

Gift Idea Number 5! Advanced Japanese for iPhone iPod Touch

Our friends over at have released yet another quality iPhone App to teach you Japanese.

Their Advanced Japanese Phrases, Idioms, and Newspaper Terms App is specifically for advanced users, and is great as always. Check out the screen shots below. If you’ve used their insanely popular Japanese Phrases App then you’ll know what to expect (except this one is prettier).

Advanced Japanese Phrases, Idioms, and Newspaper Terms –

This may look like work, but it's actually awesome.

Gift Idea Number 6! A non-Anime Japanese Movie

I have talked about a lot of Japanese movies on this blog, I’m a fan. Check out these older movie posts and take a look at what I have mentioned before. I like recommending non-anime movies because I think that usually they’re better for actually learning Japanese. The mannerisms, vocabulary, and speech patterns of the characters are usually more realistic than those found in Anime. However, you learn best from what you enjoy, so if Anime is your thing, by all means! I indulge in a little Miyazaki Hayao myself sometimes…

If I were to recommend one random non-Anime Japanese movie, it would be The Twilight Samurai.

This movie is gritty. Love it. Of course, you might end up talking like a Samurai… Heh.

Check it out.

That’s all! Let me know if you have any more “off the beaten track” gift recommendations for Japan-heads!

– Harvey

Live from Tokyo Movie in NYC Oct 29th

Looks good! If you’re in NYC on Oct 29th you should clear your schedule and go check it out.

Live From Tokyo Trailer from Lewis Rapkin on Vimeo.

Got this email the other day through the JapanNewbie contact form. Good info, passing it along.

LIVE FROM TOKYO – a documentary about indie music in Tokyo

We are thrilled to invite you to the world premiere of “Live From Tokyo” at the Asia Society Museum – Friday October 29, 2010 at 6:45pm in New York City. The event is being presented by New York-Tokyo as part of the Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool exhibition event program.

The film is about underground music in Tokyo

We will also be having a screening and a simulcast performance from Tokyo in San Francisco on November 12th at New People World Cinema.

Link back to video and more info on vimeo.

Man. This video makes me want to move back to Tokyo. I’m sure the super smokey live venues would change my mind again real quick though! We need some 禁煙 up in here!

– Harvey

Japanese Bands are Unique

Movie: Manji

So I just saw Manji, a 1964 movie by director Yasuzo Masumura, and based on a book by Junichiro Tanizaki.

This movie had my attention from the very beginning all the way to the end. Loved it!

First of all, Manji is all in Kansai-ben. If you’ve been reading this blog at all and paying attention, you know I love Kansai-ben, so that earned it points right off the bat.

Manji’s plot is also genius, and I imagine it must have been shocking back in 1960s Japan. It involves a strange love triangle initiated by Kakiuchi-san, a married house wife, who falls hopelessly in love with a beautiful model named Michiko who is played by Ayako Wakao. Unfortunately Michiko has a manipulating fiance… and Kakiuchi-san’s husband eventually gets suspicious about his wife’s fling with this model. Things go downhill from here. This is a movie of obsession. love. lust. jealousy. betrayal. treachery… Yup. That’s how I would tag it. It’s intense. It’s also very Japanese – with the exception of perhaps the music. The musical score for this film is a lot of moody Western classical, and it really fits the tense dark scenes of the film nicely.

I really really enjoyed this film. Please find it and give it a watch.


This clip is a huge spoiler, so if you plan to watch Manji sometime in the near future, best not to watch this. If you think you won’t be able to get your hands on it for sometime though, go ahead!

– Harvey

Metropolis – Anime Worth Watching!

Continuing my Japanese movie binge I’m moving on to a classic Japanese Animated movie – Metropolis.

Metropolis was made in 2002, but is based on a 1949 manga by Tezuka Osamu of AstroBoy fame, and it really shows – in a good way. This is a great movie with slick animation and surprisingly awesome music. Let me describe the music by simply saying, it’s got Ray Charles. Okay I’ll say more. The music is all classy New Orleans style Jazz, which really has an out of place, yet extremely refreshing feel when set against the film’s futuristic backdrop.

The plot for this Anime really reminded me of one of the stories in Animatrix if I’m remembering correctly… Anyway, without giving too much away, Metropolis is set in a future where humans and robots work side by side… but tensions rise and there is an underground movement of humans bent on destroying the robots who have been taking jobs away from the humans. Sound familiar? Well, Tezuka Osamu put this story together in 1949, so he probably got there first.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen this already it’s definitely worth a look.


– Harvey

Movie Time: A Scene at the Sea


So this time I watched A Scene at the Sea by the famous Japanese director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano. This is one of his earlier movies, done in 1991. The Japanese title is あの夏、いちばん静かな海, which directly translated would be more like, “The most quiet sea that summer.” Unlike most of his other films, this one isn’t bloody. I learned about this movie from a Japanese friend at my university.

I really enjoyed the simple yet touching story, the late 80s Japanese fashion, and the summer scenes of Japan. The main characters in this movie are both deaf, so there actually isn’t that much traditional dialog. There are many other characters who interact with the main character, and those extra characters interact with each other while referring to the main character, but there isn’t any dialog between the main character and his girlfriend.

The basic plot is something like this…The main character has a 9-5 job as a trash collector, and one day he finds a busted surf board someone has discarded. He brings it home, fixes it, and suddenly he has a new hobby and starts ditching work to go surf. He is a total beginner with crappy gear and little ability at first, so everyone but his girlfriend ridicules him for trying to learn to surf. He never gives up though and he slowly wins the respect of the other surfers. Later his infatuation with surfing causes some problems, but brings some new opportunities as well. This film has a good mix of drama, comedy, and a light touch of romance. It all works well, and nothing is over done to the point of being cheesy. It all feels very natural.

This is a good feel good movie and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Japanese cinema!

If you’re looking for other Japanese film ideas, check out these other Japanese movies that I have watched.

– Harvey

Film Binge: Charisma by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

I just watched Charisma by Kiyoshi Kurosawa on cue from my copy of A Hundred Years of Japanese Film by Donald Richie. This is a film I can recommend. It’s nuts. You’ll also notice that the main actor is Koji Yakusho, the famous Japanese actor of Shall We Dance fame.

Without giving anything away, this is one of those films that will keep your brain stimulated the entire way through. It’s twisted. Funny. Strange. Totally bizarre. However, it does have a fairly obvious message that keeps you engaged in an attempt to fully understand what the director wants to get across. It worked pretty well for me on first viewing, except for the end… That was a bit confusing… The DVD itself has some worthwhile extras on it: An interview with the director, and a “the making of” where you can watch the actors working and goofing off in the forest where the film was shot. Of course it’s all in Japanese, so its good times.

Anyway, good stuff! I recommend you give this one a look if you like quirky Japanese films. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s other films look like they have great reviews as well, so I’ll be checking them out sooner than later!

Related Links:
Read about Charisma on Wikipedia.
My post about Yukinogo Henge, another film I found via the Richie book.

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