Musical Diaries 6: Simple practice

Tonight (well, last Thursday) was relatively undramatic outside of the actual drama performances. The evening generally flowed smoothly. I read my lines much better, everyone did an amazing job. It was a pretty smooth as to be expected evening.

I also found that while I had been asked to translate my lines, and THOUGHT that meant I was going to be performing them in English, apparently it didn’t and so I am still performing in Japanese, and they just wanted to make 100 percent sure I understood the lines. Which despite the fact I understood them, translating them to nice English lines as opposed to literal translations did help me place much better where emphasis should lie, and generally made the sentences flow better.

Of course, maybe I was supposed to do the readings in English, but they seemed impressed with my Japanese reading to at least not tell me that was the case.

Don’t have an update for the weekend because I was kind of losing my voice on the Friday and felt that was a bad situation to try and spend a day with significant amounts of singing in.


9monsters, and appli dating in Japan.

So, this post is going to cover, a lot of ground. But basically this is all about gay dating stuff and with a lot of focus on apps specifically. You might be familiar with two of the more popular dating apps in the west, Tinder and Grindr. Grindr was quite a revolution for both dating apps and smartphone social apps too! Maybe not being the first smartphone social app to use the GPS functions to find people close to you but one of the first to become popular within a community.

Grindr become somewhat synonymous with gay men’s smartphones, and thanks to some distinctive notification sounds, if your phone wasn’t on silent it would certainly enable a little bit of an audible gaydar. The app itself was honestly a little crap to say the least from a technical side. But the combination of actually having users and the convince of not constantly being asked out by people from impossibly far distances was great.

Tinder is a little different from what I gather in terms of execution thanks to the swipe left/right system, but sticks with that general concept of GPS based match making and since it’s release in 2012 has become similarly ubiquitous with singles.

I gather tinder isn’t very popular here, but I know grindr isn’t.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this. But one day at a bear bar in Matsuyama I asked the barkeeper why it wasn’t popular here. When I stayed in Fukuoka several years ago it seemed pretty popular still but now, it was far more foreigners compared to Japanese people.

He told me a rather unfortunate tale of why grindr had become unpopular, and one that sadly makes too much sense. It was too popular. While I don’t want to generalize too much, Japanese gay men usually aren’t as out as men seem to be in Australia. Even young men. However, it become not common knowledge, but not unknown that a lot of gay men used this mysterious grindr app to chat and meet up. Some people who were not so open minded started using it as… a gaydar and so it became a tool for outing.

And outing someone when they haven’t decided to do it themselves, that’s just crap.

I should note, I haven’t been able to find anything written up to confirm all that, but having asked another bartender they backed it up too.

But because of this grindr issue, many people quite reasonably fled to other lesser known apps. The main ones being 9monster, and Jack’d

I’ve been umming and ahing this post for a while, and written about 5 significantly different variants of it because the reason Grindr had a problem was over exposure, and while I know this blog doesn’t have the reach to over expose either of these, but it doesn’t help either. Obviously, I’ve decided to go ahead.

So, 9monsters, often called 9mon by it’s users is in many ways, much like the rest of these dating apps. And just like Grindr 9mon is also very buggy and lacks a lot of basic polish. Really the only major notable feature it includes that would be considered a pro is a nifty auto translation feature that if messages aren’t sent to you in the language you’ve set as your own, they’ll have a translation underneath… Which I find a bit nifty when I am unsure on a kanji or word.

However, while that’s the only feature I’d deem particularly notable, there is one aspect of 9mon I find amazing. So firstly, why is it called 9monsters? Well I’ll let 9mon explain

Every user is grouped into 9 category monsters according to breeding in this application. Breeding allows you to find:(1)Your type, (2) Which category/monster other users think you belong to, (3) Who likes you. Each user can enjoy meeting people through this revolutionary “breeding.”

While some types seem to be based of gay type/animal associations I’ve heard of, like Bear and Wolf. I have never really heard of “Bulky Bison” or “Lovely Dog.” But anyway you pick your monster type, and then the fun begins!

9mon level

Yes, 9monster has a leveling system! And this is not a WoW bear druid no no, this is a level 53 wild bear, How did he get so high level? He used this button a lot.

9mon breeding

Man this is one unfortunate bit of engrish I am sure no one at 9mon even thought too much about it’s implications. But yeah, the app uses some extremely light RPG elements to encourage you to feed data into its algorithm. Breed more people, get bred by people, level up, get some minor rewards as you do (like every 15 levels getting placed in the daily featured list), get better suggestions and find out what type you really are too! It’s just really odd that all this happens through the word “breeding.” And a bit unfortunate that the app encourages you to “breed” with anyone you like, which adds a layer of promiscuity that is always somewhat present in these apps and brings it to the foreground.

I was going to talk about a few other things but I think this post is getting a little long! But I hoped you enjoyed learning a little about 9monster and grindr’s lack of presence in Japan.

Musical Diaries 5: Wrong places, singing and ENGLISH!

Saturday Practice!

This is the start of somewhat separate child/adult rehearsals on the weekends. Children from 1-4, adults from 2-5. It doesn’t sound like much difference, but I think it is appreciated, particularly by parents. But today started with some excitement! Me and my friend who is driving me to the practices went to the usual place to rehearse. Not the sports center where it was actually held. So… we were late…

However, today was something nice and new! SINGING! I was actually pretty good at keeping up the pace mostly for reading and singing which was a nice change of pace. The song was actually really catchy too.

And then we started a little more reading, with a focus on getting the basic blocking down for a few scenes. Just general entering leaving and vague positioning. Not being too worried about other details yet.

Despite a lot of practice on my part for my lines, it seems I still find myself quite nervous with reading Japanese I didn’t write aloud to an audience. So I stammered over it. I was told to translate the dialog for my scene into English and if I understood it right, that is how I will be performing it? I am a little concerned about this. On the other hand, I have also failed to demonstrate that I can adequately read my Japanese lines out. So both a bit annoyed but ultimately understanding of the situation.

Alternatively this could a director using the skills they might not have expected the cast to have within the show. If you’ve got someone who can natively speak English, why not use that? I am a little undecided on if I think this is a good or bad thing for the moment, but either way it is an interesting development.

Musical Diaries 4: akiramenai, HEEEEEEEEEEEE!

So I have two annoying choices to making content for the blog. Make it in another format and always have to tinker with formatting, or write it in wordpress and watch it just sometimes die on me without warning and eat the post…

 Anyway, so we are up to our 4th rehearsal. We have our roles, and so it’s really focused now on getting us used to the lines we are dealing with. Much like last time, I honestly don’t have a lot to do right now. With a very small part to play, and the staff wanting me to practice it more myself for now, I basically just spent the evening reading through the play as they talked.

Which to you the reader, probably sounds like a generally sucky time. But it’s fantastic! We have native speakers reading text in a performance style while I have a copy of the text they are reading to follow along with. Reading in this style is a great way to get used to a text and also to help solidify various kanji readings. And lets not forget the importance of tone for understanding something!

There are many parts of the script I am not 100% on. However, every time I think I understand more and more of it.

Early on in this session it was mentioned that while, for the children, the Saturday sessions would be a lot fun, the adult sessions were a bit of hard work! And for the people other than me, I think it would have been a bit grueling.

We also learned the first song, which starts with a word that feels like kind of a coda to the musical itself, even though it doesn’t crop up too much, akiremanai. What does it mean? Well, chances are if you watched a lot of anime, you’d know or at least have a vague feeling this means don’t give up! Which is a good word to have in the back of your mind when you are in too deep for something you really don’t have the language skill for…

We just read through the song, singing a little bit of it, although reading with others I felt a did a pretty good job. Although I failed miserably on the requested lyric subsitution (where you place our own dream in the lyrics. As much as I can do word sub in songs, its a bit more difficult on the spot with both a new song and a language you’ve never tried it in.

We also played some drama games. Most notably the one where you throw a pretend ball around, and people have to catch it based on how you threw it. It’s a classic drama game and one I am glad I was easily able to identify. (because explanation would not be easy to understand)

Overall, solid rehearsal, even if my role was pretty minimal.

Golden Week Adventures 2015, A statue in a tree!

“So… what are you going to do during Golden Week?”
“Hmmm… Well I think just some day trips around Ehime, like seeing that statue of Jizo carved into a tree at Kiriyama!”
“… The what?”

And that was a lot of conversations in the lead up to this trek to Kiriyama. Kiriyama is east of Saijo where I live. East of Niihama, east of Shikokuchuo. A fair trek to say the least. Being way up in the mountains, I couldn’t got alone. A lovely friend of mind I mentioned this too, and got a bit of help from about how to get there (or how not to get there) was like “LET’S DO THIS” and so we went together.

And so we drove.

And it was a NICE DAY. Not too hot, not too cold. Sunny, but not overly bright. A great day to go into the mountains. There were some wonderful views and I will let the photos speak for themselves as to Kiriyama and the journey generally.

In addition, we also stopped by the oldest house in Ehime, which is about 400 years old, and was given tea by the person who cares for it. We didn’t know this was there and more sort of stumbled into it when wanting to check we were going in the right direction. If you are going to stumble into somewhere, this is one of the better places to do it.

Then finally we come to the reason today happened.



Which on closer look…

So, I should probably spend some time running through who Jizo is for those who don’t know. Personally I don’t really know much so much of this is research I did just for this post. So firstly, Jizo is a Bodhisattva or Bosatsu, which in my understanding is similar to the western notion of a saint. Jizo serves as a general protector to anyone who needs help. If you read Mori Ogai’s Sansho the Bailiff  an amulet of Jizo helps the two children in the story, through a dream sequence was implied to take pain instead of them.

Of the Buddist icons within Japan, Jizo is perhaps one of the most well known. You can find out more here if you want.

Next up, Towel Museum!

VNMay: Suggestions Part 2, non traditional

This is going to be a confusing thing, because while I say non traditional here, this is probably going to be a list with more games you’ve heard of. Last time I focused on games that basically are choose your own adventure books with little deeper interaction. Today, I am going to run few a few of my favourite visual novels that offer a little more in traditional gameplay. For the distinction between Adventure game and Visual novel is pretty loose here, but I am generally going with games where again the primary focus is on text, not traditional mechanics. Remember, everyone calls Danganronpa a visual novel!


Trace Memory/Another Code and Another Code R (DS and Wii)

CING are a company very close to my heart, and their games are most like traditional adventure games on this list. However, with such a focus on long conversations compared to many traditional adventure games, it is hard to not think of them as visual novels at least a little. In the US their two major games Trace Memory and Hotel Dusk both of which received sequels that came to Europe and Japan but never the US. While all their games are worth playing if you can enjoy their slow placed very talkative nature, I feel the Trace Memory/Another Code pair of games are them at their best worth your time and effort to play a PAL wii game. The Wii game in particular is particularly slow paced but also just looks darn good.

On the adventure game side, these games are really easy. Few terribly taxing puzzles, although they really do push the hardware they use for puzzles so well. If you play the Wii game, you will certainly walk away impressed by the Wii remote usage. On the Visual Novel side, these games focus a lot on memory, and about a machine that can manipulate memories. So the main character, Ashley Mizuki Robbins, armed as always with a device that looks remarkably like the one you were probably playing it on when released, is tasked with finding out the truth. One interesting quirk these games have with storytelling is first their use of split screen for conversations, which is far less used than you’d expect in videogames, and secondly, quizzes. The game quizzes you on story beats at the end of each chapter.

Virtue’s Last Reward/ 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors

For a lot of westerners, these games alongside Phoenix Wright are probably the only examples of Visual Novels they have actually played. You probably already know these games are about a group of people trapped somewhere and have to follow rules in order to escape. Alternating between escape the room style puzzles and visual novel sections. While many say 999 is the game you should play first, which is technically true for a few plot elements to make total sense, I think you can enjoy most of Virtue’s Last Reward without 999. Which is useful, because 999 is a lot harder to get! The reason I like this more is down to a simple question

Basically, unlike most visual novels, there are very very few choices that effect the path you take down the game, other than this one. The villain mascot character in this game rather than being so math focused like that last, is more interested in the prisoner’s dilemma called the Ambidex game. Which while mathy, is also a lot about self interest vs co-operation. Basically, you and the other side are placed in separate rooms where you can’t communicate, and pick one of the options. Both Ally, both gain 2 points, if you both betray, 0 points, and if one allies and the other betrays, the betrayer gets 3 points and the ally loses 2.  Hit 0 points and you die. Hit 9 points and you leave alive. What was really remarkable about these choices is that up until the last few times I made them in replays, they felt tense. There were always stakes to the choices. As the Ambidex game might suggest, a large part of the important themes of game is co-operation and trust, or lack there of. The plot gets quite insane as things progress and honestly loses itself a little, but the character dynamics throughout the game up till that point are wonderful.


And the final VNMay recommendation is…

Ace Attorney  franchise, Wii, 3DS, iOS, DS, GBA

Honestly, there isn’t much to say about this franchise, since you almost certainly know it. But, the original Phoenix Wright trilogy probably was most important thing to happen for visual novels in the west. For many people, myself included, it was their first “visual novel” by a long shot. And even though in Japan it would be solidly considered in the adventure game genre, the English speaking community have defined this series strongly as visual novel. As both a gateway for players and publishers, this series has a lot of significance for the west, and is worth playing for that. However, luckily it isn’t JUST that it has going for it. Fun writing, a generally good localization despite the increasing oddness in the English series that is “America” not Japan. Not that the original localization team could have known where the series would go when they started it, but from Apollo Justice on wards it is a joke in itself. The mysteries themselves are also mostly pretty well crafted. Although the constant save/reload nature of the court room can get tedious. However, you can get them cheap on 3DS, DS, iOS, Wii and Android. Despite many things, my favourite versions of the games are actually the Wii ones oddly enough.

And that’s it for VNMay suggestions. Now you should play something!


Musical Diaries: Rehearsal 3, Getting to know you, reading.

Another practice on this rainy Saturday.

I mentioned how found the past two sessions difficult, because they emphasized the thing I am least able to do, read unseen Japanese quickly, well today quite different, for a few reasons.

Biggest reason, was that staff just made a huge effort to help me out! Which, made me feel like a child (which I am), but as a child with the right pushes I was able to thrive.

The other of these treating me like a child to help me out was a special copy of the script half fully filled with furigana! Making reading those kanji more viable. The other half will be done over the next week I am told.

These two changes make things a lot easier.

Another thing that also helped was asking for help too! There is a vocal warm up using the Japanese vowels I was finding very difficult which we did in the first rehearsal. Asked the instructor to write down the order of the 5 or so lines of vowels so I could practice at home.

This unwittingly lead me to become an example of being a good person during one of the little speeches. With something along the lines of “And Rowan, he was a little bad at this warm up last time, so, he asked for a bit of help!” Urging us that we should always seek help whenever we feel we are struggling. That moment early on in the day I think really set the tone for how I felt. Useful, although a special case.

After the warm ups we did a little getting to know everyone activity. Very simple, one person stands up, short introduction, then runs round a circle giving a high five to everyone. While I don’t remember a lot of the names other than the fact we had 5 Ito-sans, it was probably one of the better feel good introduce yourself activities I’d seen.

After that feel good moment, we had some script edits to make, in which I gained an assistant to help me out. And then casting was announced. From a conversation I had with friend also in the group, I found out the role made for me probably made more sense in the context of the time. Since the show happens during the occupation, and so Sogo Shinji asking an American official for permission and support was probably more sensible than what the musical has.

Once all this was done it was time to read the script! My ride had to leave early so I had to leave before I read anything , but despite that, I felt really good about today overall and am excited for the next rehearsal. There will be a bit more time between this and the next update, as next practice will be on Thursday and I don’t have a golden week of holidays to fill in the meantime!