JIN-191 -- Cheap Studios Keep Musicians Cool in Tokyo

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News

Issue No. 191
Wednesday, July 31, 2002


++ Viewpoint: Cheap Studios Keep Musicians Cool in Tokyo
++ Noteworthy News
- Nissan to Sell First Fuel Cell Car in 2003
- Koizumi's Promised End to Deposit Guarantees in Doubt
- Nikkei Decides to Consolidate English Operations

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++ Viewpoint: Cheap Studios Keep Musicians Cool in Tokyo

The first time I met Tatsuya he had a sampler strapped to his chest
and I swear to god he almost smashed his head open on a brick as he
flung himself into the floor. Me being the only foreigner in the
crowd, he purposely ran up to my face, screamed and spat into the air.
He then fellated the microphone while fondling his sampler, climbed on
a table and drop-kicked a chair. I immediately saw the potential this
apparent psychopath held with regards to live gigs.

When I approached Tatsuya after his "performance" he was quiet, shy
and reserved. And when I asked if he needed a drummer, I was surprised
at how eager he was to get me copies of his music. "Yes, yes, yes," he
said. I would later find out "yes" was the extent of his English.

What resulted was an eight month stint with a three-member pop/punk
band. The leader singer/guitarist was a neurotic ramen lover who
worked at a small shop in Tokyo that he claimed made the best Ramen in
the world; he actually begged the owner for a job after his first
bowl. The bassist was a 26-year-old salaryman who had to cut his heavy
metal hair after began selling computers. I was the white guy in the
back. While we were eclectic, most people seemed more bewildered and
fascinated by the foreigner swinging around the underground music
circuit of Tokyo.

Logistically speaking, the interesting thing about the whole
experience was how quickly we were able to go from, "Hey let's play
together" to actually playing. Musicians living in American cities
have to clamor for an apartment or space where they can practice and
not be shot by a neighbor. Musicians in Tokyo are slapping down 800
yen or so an hour and playing in soundproof, equipment stocked, AIR
CONDITIONED rooms that often have MD recording capabilities and great
PA systems. This is yet another quintessential example of convenience
in Tokyo.

The ubiquity of Tokyo studios creates ridiculously high points of
accessibility. Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Kichijoji, Nogata, Shibuya,
Hatagaya and Nishi-Waseda are home to several dozen alone. So really,
to get playing, all we had to do was walk down the street. When you
don't have to worry about how you're going to drag a drum set around
the city, or where to get an amp from, playing together is reduced to
the trivial process of coordinating the schedules of those involved.

At the end of eight months, a couple dozen gigs later, four
microphones destroyed by saliva, and six or seven chairs, we spent 60
hours living in a recording studio recording, mixing, and mastering a

So in leaving Tokyo at the end of this summer I'm going to miss these
studios. I'm going to miss going down from the humid streets into a
labyrinth of ice cold, soundproof rooms. I'm going to miss not needing
to have any equipment on me to play. But maybe most of all, I'm going
to miss watching the insane ramen chef drop-kick things.

-- Craig Mod

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** Nissan to Sell First Fuel Cell Car in 2003

In Brief: Not to be outdone by rivals Toyota and Honda, Nissan announced
this week that it would move up its target date for selling its first
fuel cell car from 2005 to 2003, Reuters reported. Toyota and Honda each
announced they would have a limited number of fuel cell cars on the market
by the end of this year. Fuell cell cars emit only heat and water and are
expected to be the main power source for cars in a decade or less.

Commentary: This race has really kicked into high gear. Car executives
keep saying widespread use of fuel cells in cars won't take place until
2010 or so, but if Nissan, Honda and Toyota will all have these vehicles
for sale in a limited form by next year, there will be more pressure to
create infrastructure -- basically hydrogen stations -- for these cars.
Recent reports that a few hydrogen stations are being built in Tokyo
show that the age of the fuel cell may be coming quicker than expected.


"Power, Style and (Cough) Smog" from the January 2002 issue of J@pan Inc

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** Koizumi's Promised End to Deposit Guarantees in Doubt

In Brief: As the latest Diet session drew to a close, analysts were beginning
to ask out loud if prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's promise to end
unlimited guarantees on bank deposits may be just more hot air. The pm seemed
to be backpedaling this week when he asked his bank chief to look into the
concerns voiced about ending the guarantee, Reuters reported. The Koizumi camp
stressed that any change in the formula would not affect the plan to cap
deposit insurance at 10 million yen per person per bank from early next year,
but some corporate accounts might be exempt from the limited guarantees.
Analysts say this could just be the first step in the complete unraveling
of the reform.

Reuters wire service

"Running on Empty" from the May 2002 issue of J@pan Inc

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- Two of a Kind - Man & Ape
Humans and apes have a lot in common, including much of their genome,
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- Economic Bondage
Western credit rating agencies say Japan's government is addicted to
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** Nikkei Decides to Consolidate English Operations

In Brief: The Nihon Keizai Shimbun has announced that it will take measures
to cut its 1-billion-yen-plus annual loss on English operations by
folding its Nikkei News Bulletin (NNB) subsidiary into the Nikkei Weekly operations
and calling the new section the English Business Office. It will also
turn the broadsheet Nikkei Weekly into a tabloid next year and eventually
rely solely on material translated from Nikkei's Japanese publications. The
Weekly now contains a lot of original material put together by its staff
of 20 or so reporters.

Commentary: The Nikkei has historically treated English language news coverage
as a necessary evil. It's too bad for the people in the organization who actually
want to put out an interesting English publication and Web site. Does this
downsizing mean less content on its Web site? That would be a shame. We will soon
be reduced to cracking the kanji textbooks or subscribing to J@pan Inc to find
reliable information on Japanese business. (Yes, we know, shameless self-promotion...)

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Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)


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