Asian News 3/14

Akasaka Development Reopens Two Venues

Tokyo Broadcasting System, one of Japan’s major TV networks, has finished construction of a major development project in the upscale Akasaka district of Tokyo and reopened two performance venues at the site.

When the project started several years ago the two venues run by TBS on the site – Akasaka Blitz for concerts and ACT Theatre for plays and musicals –were closed down.

This week new venues for both were reopened. Blitz has a first-floor standing area that can hold about 1,150 people as well as seating on the second floor for 484. ACT seats 890 downstairs and 434 upstairs.

Blitz reopens March 20 with a concert by local R&B singer Kreva. Swing Out Sister will appear March 30, and subsequent weeks will see appearances by Ne-Yo, Polysics, Night Ranger, and Firehouse.

ACT will start off with the Tetsuya Kumakawa Ballet Company followed by a Japanese production of "Turandot," a European touring company of "Abba Gold," and "Riverdance."

TBS also operates a Blitz concert hall in Yokohama.


Fuji And Summer Sonic Acts

Smash and Creativeman Productions each announced the first batch of artists who will appear at their respective summer rock festivals, Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic.

Fuji announced 11 acts, including Bootsy Collins Tribute to the Godfather of Soul, The Go! Team, Hard-Fi, Ian Brown, My Bloody Valentine and Underworld.

Summer Sonic’s lineup was a bit fuller, and so far includes Coldplay, The Verve, Sex Pistols, The Prodigy, Alicia Keys, Fatboy Slim, Paul Weller, Devo, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Panic At the Disco, Justice, Spiritualized, Against Me!, Vampire Weekend and OneRepublic.

Fuji Rock takes place at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture July 25-27, and Summer Sonic will be held simultaneously in Osaka and Tokyo on the weekend of August 9-10.


Bjork Upsets Chinese, Too

Bjork got a lot of people upset during her recent concert swing through Asia.

At a March 2 concert in Shanghai, Bjork started shouting "Tibet! Tibet!" at the end of her "Declare Independence" song.

The outburst was obviously a reference to China’s control over the once independent Himalayan region.

State-controlled media in China did not report on the matter right away, but later the Ministry of Culture released a statement claiming that Bjork had "hurt Chinese people’s feelings."

People who attended the concert told reporters that many in the audience were, in fact, made noticeably uncomfortable by the singer’s action. In addition, online chat sites were said to be filled with negative comments about Bjork.

Black ‘Enka’ Singer Hits Charts

Jero, the African-American singer who specializes in Japanese-language enka ballads, hit the jackpot by finally making his record debut at the end of February.

His song "Umiyuki" (Sea Snow) entered Oricon’s singles chart at No. 4, which is the highest ranking ever for a debut song categorized as enka, a dramatic song form popular among older Japanese.

Characteristically dressed in hip-hop fashion, the 26-year-old Pittsburgh native, whose real name is Jerome White Jr., has lived in Japan since 2003, mainly in the Osaka area where he studied the Japanese language and vocal technique while working in the computer industry.

Jero came to Japan at the urging of his grandmother, who is Japanese. He has told reporters that his dream is to appear on the popular New Year’s song contest on public broadcaster NHK, which seems extremely likely at this point.


Nakashima On RSJ Cover

Rolling Stone Japan will celebrate its one-year anniversary this month with its first cover depicting a Japanese artist.

will celebrate its one-year anniversary this month with its first cover depicting a Japanese artist.

Like its American counterpart, RSJ usually puts big international stars on its cover, though during the first year Kurt Cobain has graced the cover more than once. Singer Mika Nakashima will be the lucky local artist.

An actress as well as a musician, Nakashima is famous for having played the title character in the film adaptation of "Nana," an extremely popular comic about an indie rock singer and her struggle to make it into the big time.


Bunraku Master & Diplomat

Yoshida Minosuke, a designated living national treasure and puppet master, performed at the Louvre Museum in Paris on March 4, as part of a series of cultural events to mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of a treaty to promote commerce and friendship between France and Japan.

It was the first time the art of Japanese puppetry, called bunraku, was ever performed at the museum.

Yoshida was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Literature in 2007 by the French government.


Flo Rida Single Contest

American rapper Flo Rida’s hit album, Mail On Sunday, won’t receive its official Japan release until the first week of April, giving Warner Music Japan plenty of extra time to promote the fact that the single, "Low," has spent seven weeks at the top of the charts in the U.S.

In order to make the song more relevant to local hip-hop fans, the label is currently sponsoring a contest to give the song a Japanese title.

The winner of the contest will not only be flown to the U.S. to meet the rapper himself, but will receive a credit in the Japanese CD booklet. The winner will not earn any royalties, however.