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English translations and romaji lyrics to Girugamesh's song, "ALONE", from their sixth studio album MONSTER...

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English translations and romaji lyrics to Girugamesh's song, "takt", from their single INCOMPLETE...

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Vol.34 of Gacha Gacha's topic is "How do you enjoy time alone". They discuss their shopping habits, moving homes and maybe a little off-topic conversation...

News of GazettEs' World Tour Creates Tension

GazettE announces world tour with mixed reactions. There might not be a lot of tour dates, but what does this mean for the Jrock movement in America…

Case Study: Ameba

See the inner workings of one blog hosting website called "Ameba," and how they have tailored their service to Japanese consumers by connecting to deep-rooted social and cultural habits…

Japanese Pub Favorites at Zen Box Izakaya

Japan isn't all sushi and ramen. Check out this Minneapolis restaurants serving up traditional foods Izakaya style...

Friday, March 29, 2013

News of GazettEs' World Tour Creates Tension

Today, fans of GazettE received the news they have been waiting for, for six years or more when they announced dates for their world tour spanning from September 6th, to September 29th. During this time, they have four stops in South America before heading over to Europe, where they’ll play in France, Germany, and Finland.

Even though many are overjoyed and the fandom is buzzing with excitement, PSC Company and members Ruki and Aoi are getting backlash from disappointed fans in both America and Asia. Aoi apologized on his twitter account to fans for lack of show and had this to say.
Even though we can't do the summer tour in japan and and there aren't many shows, fans in various places will get to see the GazettE. For everyone overseas, sorry for making you wait. I'm looking forward to meeting you all!

Even after several hours, however, it continued.
Well. Let's settle down. This way of talking is rude.
Despite him asking for people to calm down, he apologized again.
I'm really sorry. I want to go to everyone's countries with all my might. But there isn't enough time. I'd be nice if boats and planes were faster.
In particular, American fans seem to be having a tough time with this news. "Since we are such a powerful country we should get at least one tour date, right?". But It's not surprising GazettE is opting out going to America for now and spending more time where there is a market for foreign music. I'm not saying there isn't a market in America but opportunities are few and far apart. Furthermore, we don't have a good track record for accepting music that is in a language other than English.

While we did have "Gangnam Style", it was short lived and didn't seem to have a lasting effect.  America hasn't had a chart-topper in a foreign language since 1987 when “La Bamba” by Los Lobosin gained national attention. In a place where, according to U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan,"only 18 percent of Americans report speaking a language other than English, while 53% of Europeans (and increasing numbers in other parts of the world) can converse in a second language," it's not surprising we don't get full tours or individual shows outside anime conventions where there is concentrated demand for foreign musical entertainment.

What we should take away from this is they are slowly making their way overseas, and that's exciting. Jrock fans had hoped X-Japan would be able to breakthrough the language barrier in the  America market and bring Japanese music out of the underground and into popular light. With GazettEs' modern sound and powerful live performances they are poised for success.

Despite, our personal feelings about the lack of tour dates and whether or not it's justifiable, we can all be excited about the future. This could be the beginning of a whole new chapter for the GazettE and depending how these shows go, we all could be seeing a lot more of them.
Tour dates and locations 
9/6 Jose Cuervo Salon@Mexico City(MEXICO)
9/8 Teatro Caupolican@Santiago(CHILE)
9/11 Teatro Vorterix@Buenos Aires(ARGENTINA)
9/14 A Seringueira@Sao Paulo(BRAZIL)
9/20 Le Trianon@Paris(FRANCE)
9/22 Le Phare@Toulouse(FRANCE)
9/25 FZW@Dortmund(GERMANY)
9/27 Muffathalle@Munich(GERMANY    

** All dates and locations are subject to change
** Information for their OHP

Upcoming releases:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Case Study: Ameba

The Washington Post’s Blaine Harden describes Japan as having gone “blog wild” with Japan coming in third in blogging-happy countries. Despite being third they continue to recreate what it means to blog. The deep rooted love for documenting the passage of time combined with interest based social networking sites and increasing mobility makes Japan one of the front-runners in creating a unique blogging experience. Due to its ability to capitalize on these factors, Ameba combines this trifecta with its promotion of popular culture and has become one of the most popular blogging sites in Japan.

In the article “Japan’s Bloggers: Humble Giants of the Web”, Blaine Harden sums up why blogging has been taken up by the majority of the Japanese public. Keeping written narratives when in school was a norm and now they blog often, and anonymously. Not wanting to cause tension with any readers they don’t openly blog on controversial subjects such as politics but stick to topics they have interest in like food, cats and celebrities.

Harden attributes three technologies that create an ideal environment for blogging: sophisticated mobile phones, high-speed Internet and commuter time. According to the Singapore Management University, 74 percent of Japanese mobile users access the Internet via mobile phone. With the introduction of smartphones that number has only risen. From September 2010 to March 2011 there has been an increase of 71 percent of people who now own and use smartphones. The graph to right shows the top smartphone-based activities of Japan. With microblogs and personal blogs being the top two.
Ameba, is a free blog host that allows you to connect to other like-minded bloggers by shared interests. Using tools such as “My Group” you can search by keyword and once in a group, members can post topics that create a stage for conversation. This is a completely customizable environment where you can choose from who you follow to various privacy settings. It also comes with sub-sites such as Ameba Now and the hugely successful Ameba Pigg. 

"Welcome to Ameba Pigg"
While Ameba Now was created in 2006 to compete with Twitter’s micro-blogging platform it’s success pales in comparison to Ameba Pigg. This MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) lets you create a avatar so you can interact with other players in a friendly environment. With popular activities like shopping and cafe going it highlights the group-centered culture of Japan. Using money you get in the game from making friends, fishing, or going to the casino you can buy new furniture, clothes, and accessories to individualize yourself. And if you’re feeling specially grateful, you can also purchase gifts for friends. If you don’t feel like taking the time to work your way to riches, you can get credits in the game by using actual money. Ameba is successfully capitalizing on Japan’s social inclinations of kindness, gift-giving, and group-centered online activity by creating a world that mimics the real action of participating in events based on shared interests regardless of proximity. What makes them most successful though, is their use of promotion to get their brand name out there.

Ameba works closely with idols in popular culture such as actors and musicians to best profit from interest-based social networking. Ameba is the official host of Japan’s most famous idols, from singer Ayumi Hamasaki to rock band the GazettE. Using collaborations they set up special rooms where fans can gather and interact with one another. This recent article goes into detail about a recent collaboration with a rock band called Alice Nine. During the time, Ameba Pigg offered virtual band goods, costumes and wigs, and even went as far as having a lottery that would entitle someone to be able to live-chat with one of the members. The catch being, all of this is available for purchase with real money, and it can get expensive.

James Curran outlines the connections to the ideals behind Ameba and other social networking sites. In his book “Misunderstanding the Internet” being able to separate their real life and online life by way of anonymity is key. Due to high stress from school and work paired with continuous connection to the Internet via their phone, it “provides students with a sense of personal space” and lets them escape to “their own world”.4 But while participating in a group, the need to retain individualism is still there and “ultimately, the creative promotion of self, is argued to gain importance”, which explains how one can put hundreds of dollars to customize their blog and avatar on Ameba Pigg. This gravitation to entertainment and self-promotion on the web is natural and we opt news for entertainment that makes us feel good about ourselves.

Blogging is not without problems. Blaine Harden points out slacktivism has taken hold of Japan and even though “the Japanese are about five times as likely as Americans, the British or the French to read a blog every week” they are less likely to act. Because of blogging and microblogging, Curran states “we have a sense that we are participating in something that is going on out there”, when really, we are a tiny voice among many.

Ameba is tailor made for popularity in the Japanese culture where high Internet speeds and accessibility to the web is readily available and by connecting us on shared interests and anonymity it makes an environment that is group-centered that is enhanced by commercial promotions. With rising questions about slacktivism and its affect on real action we need to be aware of out interactions with the Internet. But the need to connect is hardwired into us and whether we come together based on our love for volunteer work or delicate pastries our relationship with the Internet is a unique two way street.

**For a closer look into social media's integration with Japanese life check out this video that was shown at "Social Media Summit in Kansai 2012".
1. Harden, Blaine. "Japan's Bloggers: Humble Giants of the Web." The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 06 Dec. 2007. Web. 23 Mar. 2013.
2. "Digital Media in Japan." Singapore Management University. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.
3. "Alice Nine and Ameba Pigg Team Up for Digital Merchandise, Fan Lottery, Live Chat." Shattered Tranquility. Shattered Tranquility, Web. 23 Mar.    2013.
4. Curran, James, Natalie Fenton, and Des Freedman. Misunderstanding the Internet. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Japanese Pub Favorites at Zen Box Izakaya

In Minneapolis, Minnesota there are a number of Japanese restaurants from ones that serve expensive high quality sushi to the all you can eat buffets. But to get a real taste of Japan without having to break your wallet or catch the next flight to Narita Airport, you don’t have to look much further than just right down the street. On the corner of south Washington and Portland a few blocks away from Mall of America field, there is restaurant, or rather an Izakaya, that stands out above the crowd with their unique eats, atmosphere and culture.

At Zen Box Izakaya they’re serving up all the classic Japanese’s favorites like ramen and curry, but if you get the chance to stop in at this one-of-a-kind Japanese style pub, you have to try their traditional dishes that taste like they’re straight from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Your virtual transportation to Japan starts as soon as you step through the door way. Servers and chefs reciting the tell-tale “irasshaimase” of a Japanese establishment welcoming you. With the choice of sushi bar or booth seating your experience can be tailored. As you are being seated you might notice the open kitchen behind the bar bustling with activity or the sake bottles hanging from the ceiling, doubling as light fixtures. With all the nuances of Izakaya flare it will have your eyes shifting from place to place long after you sit down.

Their long standing of serving authentic Japanese food in not only flavor and quality but also portion size, is something worth experiencing. Their user friendly menu is easy to read and divide by preparation style with ‘Must Try’ stamps for their popular dishes. And for those with diet restrictions it is also vegetarian noted and caters to gluten free customers as well.

Takoyaki by: Hailey Scholla
For starters, try an Osakan favorite Takoyaki. This must-try common bar and street food is sliced octopus encased in a ball of batter donned with Japanese mayo and tonkatsu sauce with flakes of dried bonito and aonori. Since they are cooked in a special circular pan and not deep fried they develop a crispy outside without all the grease and still have that creamy, rich center people love  with a perfectly cooked piece of octopus inside.

Silky Tofu Poké by: Hailey Scholla
If octopus isn’t your thing, for a vegetarian starter instead of going for the common edamame how about trying their Silky Tofu Poké? This dish has roots in Japan but is associated with Hawaii and is usually served as raw marinated tuna. But tofu poké is done with all the fixings just minus the tuna. Silky Tofu, also referred to as soft tofu or Japanese-style tofu, is extra fine in consistency and can fall apart easily (so make sure to handle with care). This is piled on crispy lettuce topped with onions, Kaiware, and a delicious soy sauce based house-made poké dressing. The freshness and brightness of this dish  makes for a great way to start a meal.

And you can’t think pub without the drinks and Zen Box has a wide array of choices of typical Izakaya favorites. Choose from their imported whisky or popular beer brands like Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin Ichiban to pair with your main dish.

Avocado Tempura by: Hailey Scholla
Among the entrees, tempura is synonymous with Japanese cuisine and can be found at any Asian establishment and at Zen Box their Avocado Tempura hits all the right notes. Creamy avocado deep fried in tempura batter to perfection and served up with their house-made spicy mayo is so good it gets the recommendation from the servers and a ‘must try’ stamp next to its name.

Saba no Shioyaki by: Hailey Scholla
For a very special dish, the only place you’re going to find Saba no Shioyaki in Minneapolis is at Zen Box. This salted and grilled mackerel is perfect for fish lovers or for those who want to try a  very traditional Japanese meal that is eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The saltiness of the outside creates a crust that prevents the meat from drying out during cooking resulting in a moist, succulent fish that is served with a side of ponzu sauce.

Ume Onigiri by: Hailey Scholla
Keeping in mind the Izakaya mentality of sharing food, the food is served in low dishes or bowls that makes it easy to pick from creating an atmosphere that engages conversation and closeness. The friendly waiting staff are genuinely happy to be serving and are quick to engage in friendly chit-chat or recommend a great dish.

Their motto of “Good Food, Good Drinks, and Good Company” was apparent all around through the ambiance, food, and staff. Unfortunately I left without being able to try everything I wanted on the menu but I’ll be keen to keep Zen Box in mind when I have a tough day at school and want to unwind or on a Saturday night on the town with friends. My experience at Zen Box Izakaya was nothing but pleasant and to sum it up it their own words, “It is not just a destination, but a culture of its own”.
For a look behind the scenes and for special deals like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Hours of Operation:
Lunch hours: M - F 11:30 a.m - 2:00 p.m
Dinner hours: M - Th 5:00 p.m - 9:00 p.m; F - Sat 5:00 p.m - 10:00 p.m

Don't forget Happy Hour!
Happy hour: Everyday 5:00 p.m - 6:00 p.m
Late night happy hour: M - Th 9:00 p.m - 10:00 p.m; F - Sat 10:00 p.m - Midnight

602 South Washington Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Phone: 612-332-3936
**You can call for take out or dine in. They also deliver.**