Monday, November 9, 2015

Restaurant Review - Pizza Slice: Possibly the Best Pizza in Tokyo

Recently, a friend of mine and I passed a pizza place, aptly named Pizza Slice, on the way home from Shibuya one night. As we perused the interior, it had a look to it that was trying a little too hard to resemble a New York pizzeria: white tiled floors, neon lights that read "Pizza" beckoning patrons, pizza behind glass, pizza boxes piled ceiling-high, the whole nine yards. And this being Tokyo, their effort most definitely worked as it drew our American eye balls to the wooden menu standing outside the restaurant door.

The price didn't seem half bad for a slice––300 yen for a slice of cheese––so, as we were quite parched at that point in our journey (not eating lunch does that to an individual) we decided to stop in for a couple.

Now, as any American in Tokyo knows the pizza options here can be a little, well, sparse. It ranges from sorta kinda decent (Gust, Saizeria) to probably-okay-but-horrible-for-the-price (Domino's, Pizza Hut, Pizza-La). And they can be on the small side. It was a surprise, then, that Pizza Slice's, ahem, pizza slices were the sizes of slices we were accustomed to in LA from pizza places that attempted to resemble New York joints. I've never been to NY so there's no way I can make an accurate comparison, so I have to go with what I know.

Taste-wise, it was definitely as good as any place you'd find in Los Angeles that serves this kind of pizza. The cheese was nice and mozzarella-y. The pepperoni were big and pepperoni-y. The grease was as runny as you'd expect the grease on pizza to be.

Complete with greasy paper plate.

This place was hidden under the train tracks just like a pizza place in New York would be, so I hear. It's what numerous movies and television shows have also told me. Even the toilet was an American one, complete with palm tree and American flag near the entrance to the bathroom. There was one glaring omission, though. An omission that might be unforgivable to someone more strict than I am, and that was the absence of parmesan cheese on the tables. This may be to due to the relative high price of cheese in Japan, or maybe the owner's just an a horrible asshole that doesn't deserve our business anymore because I wanted some goddamn parmesan cheese, dammit! But I kid. I don't even use that much parmesan cheese on my pizza. But if you're one who does that's one thing from home you will definitely miss, so remember to BYOC.

That blemish aside, you'd be remiss to pass this place up if you're looking for a great piece of pizza in Tokyo. It might quite be the only place you'd find something that matches the stuff from home, assuming you call Los Angeles home. Come on, New York pizza can't be all that different. Can it?

3-1 Sarugakuchō, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0033, Japan

Extending a Tourist Visa in Japan: Yes, it is Possible

Of all the times I've been to Japan I wish someone had told me this earlier. Perhaps it's common knowledge and I'm just late to the party. But I used to think that if you were a tourist, it was a strict 90 days max and you're out kind of deal, but apparently, as I was told recently, I can absolutely extend my tourist visa. And you can too!* As soon as I heard this bit of information I headed straight down to my local immigration office, which was in Yokohama.

All you have to do is make a trek down to your nearest immigration office (入国管理局Nyukokukanrikyoku) and fill out an application and you're on your way. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying it, but if you have what you need the first time you go there it should be relatively painless. I did not have what I needed which resulted in a second day visit for me, but if you're smarter than I am you should be on your way to  a longer stay in this beautiful country of Japan.

Things you'll need:

  • Your Passport
  • The address of your current place of residence 
  • A decent reason for wanting to extend your stay

The reasons I have include wanting to visit other friends in other places that I haven't had the chance to yet, and more research for a novel I'm writing (check my other writer's blog if you're interested ;)). And I gotta say, I'm getting a lot of more inspiration for it now that I have a chance to stick around for a bit. 

The great thing is while you're in the interim you're allowed to stay here legally for two months until your results come, in the form of either a phone call or a postcard, which you provide the address for. And then if you get the extension it's good for the specified amount of time––most likely 90 more days––from the point you get the extension. So, you're good to stay for 5 months total, potentially. That should be plenty of enough time for you to get all of your sight-seeing in. All in all, it should cost about ¥4000 for the extension. 

Happy traveling. 

Here is a handy list of immigration offices throughout Japan:

If anyone more knowledgable has contradicting information then please, someone feel free to correct me. 

*This info is for tourists traveling from America. 

Some Advice For Visiting Foreigners in Japan: A Cautionary Tale

Hello all.

I've been visiting Japan for the better part of two months now and I've learned some interesting things about Japan that I wouldn't have thought about before. I will now impart this knowledge in the form of advice to those of you who are planning to or are currently visiting Japan. It's not so much advice as it is common sense, but I had a particular image of Japan before I came here, even despite being here 8 times before.


Now, as many of you who have visited/lived here can attest to, Japan in believed to be a safe haven from crime. Where one does not have look behind him/her a dark street for fear of being mugged or having your things stolen. Where people can leave their belongings unattended in a Starbucks without fear of it being taken. A land where, if you drop cash a friendly native will see it, pick it up, and return it to the nearest koban. While that's still largely true for the most part, this belief will lead people to keep their guard down, much as I did when had my wallet and cell phone stolen in broad day light. I'll spare you the small, useless details, but a friend and I left our belongings in an unlocked car in a small neighborhood in Higashi Totsuka of all places. We were going back and forth moving things between the car and a location from which our car was visible, but it was rainy that day and the thief took advantage of our rain-dulled senses (That's all I got here) and made for the car and took both of our things. The crazy thing was it must have been within a ten minute period as were not away from the car for longer than that. Our stuff was taken by a modern day ninja (allow me this stereotypical description, just this once please).

The irony here is that just before my departure to Japan a Japanese friend and I were trying to convince a non-Japanese friend of mine back home that Japan is the aforementioned land of all that is safe from crime. An ironic situation that she, when told, definitely did not miss the opportunity to reminded me of.

Also lost: a beloved Alf-themed t-shirt, a pair of black jeans and a bag that a friend's parent bought for me. I'll miss that Alf shirt the most, though.


Now, something I've heard you definitely need to do as a foreign tourist is to carry your passport with you at all times just in case you get randomly stopped. And as most people will rightfully think carrying around their passport is tedious. Especially on days you won't necessarily carry a bag of some sort around with you as I have been known not to frequently do. Also, the relatively recent American passport is quite rigid due to the RFID imbedded within it and carrying that around in your back pocket is sure to add unwanted stress to that sucker. So, me being me––I'm quite the mendokusagari––I opted to walk sans passport. I've gotten away with it for the previous 8 trips, so I thought this time would be no different.

One night I decided to take a walk at 1am in the morning from Nishi Nippori back to where I was staying at the time––I figured It'd save me the cost of a typical expensive Tokyo train ticket, and I'd get some much needed exercise out of the deal. It was then when a police car slowed near me. But I thought nothing of it. This is something that hasn't even happened to me in Los Angeles so you can imagine my surprise when it happened to me here in Japan. I was stopped for WWF (Walking While Foreign). Had I had my passport with me, the altercation would have possibly stopped right then and there. But, of course, I did not. So, these fine policemen called for back up in the form of another cop on a bike. They made some radio calls back to the station and they all accompanied back to the station. Not the common neighborhood koban where'd you'd go to ask for directions or some other similar mundane task. No. The actual local headquarters. As I entered the station everybody there stopped what they were doing and stared at me as I walked the down the halls to an empty room. Needless to say I felt like quite the common criminal. Upon further inspection of the faces and attitudes of the officers in the station I surmised the probable reason for my short incarceration: the ever-dreaded BOREDOM. As many places as there are that I want to visit that I have not yet had the chance to in Japan, the inside of a working police station was not one of them.

After a few questions about where I was from and subsequent questions asking me about how Los Angeles is, about an hour and a half later they finally drove me back to where I was staying so I could retrieve my passport and show it to them. But hey, the upside is I totally saved money on a ticket that night. So, in my eyes my mission was absolutely accomplished.

So, rather than actual advice this is a cautionary tale. Some people might think, duh, it's common sense. Don't leave your stuff in an unlocked car and always carry your identification with you. But, as any Japan aficionado, or––as told by the looks of shock upon the faces of my Japanese friends when I told them this story––even the Japanese natives will tell you that being a victim of theft is incredibly rare and not at all expected here. The passport deal, though, is probably a case of sheer stupidity and stubbornness on my part.

Anywho, as you might expect, I now keep my phone, wallet and passport on me at all times no matter where I go here. And anyone other than those with common sense and smarts reading this, please learn from my mistakes and don't ever keep your guard down. Even here in the magical land of Japan.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's a Thin Line Between Love and Hate for Japan


Just the other day a lovely non-Japanese friend of mine declared to me, I FUCKIN' LOVE JAPANESE PEOPLE! While I too shared her affinity for the island full of people I share half of my heritage with––or is it a fourth, me being half Okinawan (It's all very complicated)––I couldn’t help also thinking, simultaneously, BUT I ALSO FUCKIN' LOATHE JAPANESE PEOPLE!

I mean that somewhat facetiously, but a lot of what they do and how they operate as a culture does indeed infuriate me to no end––do you know how strong an emotion infuriating is?

That then led me to ask myself, if they cause me to feel such a palpable negative reaction to the mere mention of their existence, why then, as many of my friends know of me, do I love the country so dearly and want to exist there so much? It goes well beyond just sharing blood with the people. I have non-Japanese friends whose command of the language and knowledge of the culture far exceeds mine, and who know of the horrors I will soon speak of, yet, still love Japan, seemingly, unconditionally. But why?

I compared it to the oft talked about reason women like broken men (I’m sure it happens the other way, as well): perhaps I believe that if I stay with Japan long enough I can truly change it from the inside out. Foolish and futile, I know, as I am but one lone half-breed guy with zero influence in what I will eat for dinner on any given night, let alone enough to change an entire first-world country. But did the insurmountable odds stop Harry Potter and or Batman from trying? Or, to use a more appropriate, Japanese-themed analogy, Goku? Actually, Goku has his roots in Chinese literature, but hopefully you get the point.

Let’s get the good out of the way.

Since it’s been talked about ad nauseam, I have nothing new to add, so I’ll just lazily blast-list the great I find in Japan:

Food, culture, castles, comedy, porn, technology, efficiency (good lord, the efficiency), the service, the variety in all things tangible, the convenience stores, the vending machines, the trains, music, and, lastly, food.

Yes, I mentioned food twice. It’s that good––certain types not withstanding, of course––that it deserves a second mention. I’m not some idiot that doesn’t proof read my posts to make sure I don’t accidentally mention things twice twice.

Now, the bad.

Working Just to Work: The Japanese Work Ethic

Now, it’s great that they have such good work ethic. Indeed, without I would not have the efficiency, the food, the technology, and pornography that I love so dearly. But, it just seems that the people work just to work.

About two years ago I got the opportunity to work at a small production company that a friend was working at, largely thanks to a favor I did for them that same year. Now, despite the head honcho telling me I could come in at around 11am, my friend, who I was staying with at the time, tended to drag me along as he went there at around 8am, and he also drug me home at around the time the last trains ran, despite being done about four hours prior. During this time I observed what he did, and maybe it was fatigue that clouded my ability to judge things properly, but I could have sworn he wasn’t being especially productive during this extra time in the morning and in the evening. That led me to the conclusion that Japanese people do just work to work, perhaps in some attempt to look good to the boss. I know that’s absolutely the case in probably 90% of the work places in Japan, but the boss at this particular company actually spoke to me of wanting to start a union––a concept which, to my knowledge, doesn’t currently exist in Japan––to change the way Japanese people work, so I was reasonably sure he wasn’t cracking some kind of S & M-styled work whip, forcing my friend to come in when he didn’t need to.

Indeed, I recall another friend, in response to staving off boredom, or some similar subject, saying, “I’ll just work all the time.”

Again, another friend of mine used to talk of working morning, noon and night, often not having the time to properly eat or sleep. Normally, this would be said in the tone of a complaint, but he used to speak of it as some kind of accomplishment, or badge of honor. Like he just did a bunch of reps at the gym. “Yeah, I worked to the point of complete exhaustion and starvation today. How many overnight shifts can you do?”

That’s some deep engrained shit right there.

The real kicker, though, is the word “Karoushi (過労死)” which, by the definition in my Japanese-English dictionary, means “death by overwork and mental stress.” Had I not looked that up I was just going to say “death by work”––a gross underestimation.

They have one single word to describe what it takes a full goddamn six-letter sentence to explain in English. I absolutely detest that that word exists.

The overtime situation can be blamed for that, as people are expected––EXPECTED–– to work overtime shifts, many times, if not in every case, not being compensated for their extra time. People wake up, go to work in the morning, go home on the last train, go to sleep, then repeat that process six more times throughout the week. A position that is great for masochistic workaholics, but not so desirable for 90% of the rest of humanity.

There’s no wonder Japan’s suicide rate is so high. And it’s not like that it’s a recent phenomenon, either. I remember, when in high school, waking up and watching the Japanese news and there would be an almost daily story about some poor student or salary man jumping off of a building or onto the path of an oncoming commuter train effectively ending their existence. And that was eighteen years ago! Suicide is rampant there, the rate of which has rapidly increased since the nineties. Rampant is a word usually used for things like looting, or measles, or teenage sex. It shouldn’t be used for mass self-extinction.

It’s gotten so common that people actually complain about the distressed jumper disrupting the flow of their workday. I hear the jumper’s family actually has to pay for damages. It’s an actual problem for the country that begs the question, at what point does the country stop blaming the victim and start thinking to themselves, hey, maybe we should look internally and figure out that it’s maybe the way we do things that’s the real culprit?

Hey, maybe it’s mass decades-long data collection for all the inevitable robots that they plan to build to do that work in the future. At least that would provide a comforting narrative to all the sad chaos that’s happening.

But, apparently, it's not as bad as I once believed, so there is hope. 

The whole work situation in Japan is probably the one thing I most hate about the country that I love.

Above the sexism, the bureaucracy that I hear so much about, above the robotic nature of the people, above the near non-existence of free available wifi in an industrialized country that should totally have that––that one is a biggy.

And the reason why it takes precedence over everything else is perhaps that I can see change in the other compartments. Japan is like America in the fifties in some aspects. I can see change in sex inequality as years go by, slow as it may be. The opinion many hold of the unfriendliness of some people is something that seems to change by region and not a countrywide thing. And Osaka recently just tried citywide wifi. But years later I see no change in the Japanese workplace.

Now, I know I sound like some kind of whiny lazy American who doesn't like to work, but I just don't believe life should be lived away from it. It's that simple.

Maybe, in a couple of years Japan will change they way they do things and I’ll lose all the efficiency and tasty foodstuff and convenience I gush about to many people, but if that results in a stark drop in the suicide rate than, I believe, it would have been worth it.

In the meantime, I’ll take the good, I’ll take the bad, and I’ll largely shut up about it.

Japan, you beat the shit out of us, but we still love you in spite of the abuse.

your battered foreign boyfriend.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

From Rocket News 24: Japan’s secret garbage problem–and what you can do to help

This is a reblog of an article from Rocket News 24. The plight seems serious and heartfelt, so I figured I'd reblog it and get the word out. Keep Japan clean!

Japan’s secret garbage problem–and what you can do to help

Japan is one of the cleanest countries you’ll encounter as a traveler. The inside of the bullet train is kept absolutely spotless, taxi drivers can be seen buffing their vehicles of dust and road grit while waiting for the next customer. Graffiti is rare here and men in jumpsuits are employed to scrape off gum and anything else adhered to train station floors. Glamorous and gleaming is the way the Japanese like things. Even diesel trucks are washed down in their terminals after a day on the roads.
So it’s no surprise that the city streets are litter-free, that public trash bins ask you to separate your refuse into burnable and non-burnable bins, or that the Japanese have a reputation for taking their garbage home with them when attending sporting events.
So it may have been a surprise to some of our readers when someone commented on the trashiness of Japanese beaches in response to my previous article on Japanese beach culture, saying: “The number one beach activity in Japan is actually turning it into a giant open dump, full or empty beer cans, cigarette buds, and plastics of all kinds. It’s a big paradox when you see how clean the streets are.”
While I can’t speak for other beaches, our public beach on Shiraishi Island is quite clean. Beach-goers clean up after themselves and take their garbage home with them. We regularly clean the beach of any stray debris that washes up, including P.E.T. bottles, plastic bags and cans.
But I think I know what our disgruntled reader was talking about. And it’s one of Japan’s biggest, dirtiest secrets that needs to be addressed.
While Japan is known for recycling garbage and having clean streets, there is one big secret that most people don’t know about.
▼Trash cans that are found in stations and in front of convenience stores in Japan ask you toss your waste into the appropriate bin: Cans & Bottles, Newspapers & Magazines, and All Others
garbage cans
▼At 7 a.m. on the way to Okayama Station, this coffee can in the gutter was the only piece of litter I could find!
clean streets
▼As you can see, the water and beach on Shiraishi Island (where I live in the Seto Inland Sea), is sparkling clean.
clean water
You may not know it, but Japan has a garbage problem. Those who live here are well aware of the refuse constantly dumped on Mt. Fuji, a cultural World Heritage Site. As a matter of fact, because of Mt. Fuji’s garbage dispute, the sacred mountain did not qualify for status as a natural World Heritage Site when it was first nominated. After being turned down, it was resubmitted as a Cultural World Heritage Site instead, in which it qualified due to its significance to Japanese culture. Only now that it has become a World Heritage Site has the garbage predicament being tackled.
Other people are cleaning up Japan as well.
Mangetsuman is an individual who has taken it upon himself to clean some of the streets of litter in Tokyo.
 ▼Mangetsuman (Full Moon Man) volunteers his time to clean up streets and entertain people while doing so.
street cleaner
Greenbird is an NPO that has “teams” all over Japan of volunteers who go out and clean the streets of litter.
So it seems that Japan is doing a pretty good job with garbage on land. But what about the sea?
The truth is that the Seto Inland Sea is filthy. Sailors often have to dive into the water to untangle their engine propellers from floating plastic bags that get wrapped around the blades, freezing the shaft. Sailors, kayakers and fishermen see oil floating on top of the water as well as unbroken chains of garbage floating by on currents that are meant to bring plankton and seaweed to sea creatures to feed on. This flotsam is regularly tossed up onto beaches that dot the Inland Sea. Take a look yourself: 

Where is this? Shiraishi Island. And believe it or not, that video was taken on a pretty good day for that beach. I’ve seen it much worse.
▼Same beach, different day
These “angry beaches” as I call them, are all over the Seto Inland Sea. I’ve seen plastic car bumpers, old TVs, even a dead cat that have washed up here. But the majority of the plastic is P.E.T. bottles, something people know they can recycle.
Remember I told you Shiraishi Island has clean beaches? Well, we do. But we also have dirty ones. Our public beach is clean only because it faces West, and the sea’s current carries the dreck past it. With just a little effort, we can keep the beach garbage-free. But the East side of the island is different. Junk is deposited on that side of the island daily.
Japanese people who live in this area say most of the Inland Sea garbage comes from rivers on the mainland. When heavy rains, storms or typhoons fill the rivers, the water rushes down to the mouth at the Inland Sea. With it comes refuse that has been dumped into the rivers.
Who knows how long this plastic floats around the Inland Sea, or how many beaches it washes up on and off of, before it eventually empties out into the Pacific Ocean or the Japan Sea via one of three narrow straits that takes water in and out of the Inland Sea with the tides.
▼Even tiny pieces of plastic get hung up in the natural debris that washes up on shore.
tiny bits of garbage
Isn’t it illegal to dump into the rivers? Yes. It’s called fuhou touki (illegal dumping) and is subject to punishment.
In fact, water pollution control laws have been around since 1970. In 1973, the Environmental Agency implemented a Special Law for the Conservation of the Environment of the Seto Inland Sea, an area of Japan undergoing industrialization and thus degradation as a result of good economic times. The law was meant to improve water quality and the sea areas around reclaimed land used to build factories. The destruction of the marine environment had brought on “red tides,” (algae blooms) which resulted in a depletion of oxygen in the sea, which killed off much of the fish population. Wow! Right?
But most laws against water pollution in Japan are aimed at industrial waste. The problem these days is household waste and little is being done to address this.
Beach clean-ups are common in Japan. We even have them on our island.
▼Students from a local school come to clean up Shiraishi Island’s beaches.
Beach Clean-up
▼After the beach clean up. Natural rubbish is a part of nature’s ecosystem and will decay on its own.
Beach Clean-up
The fishermen clean the beaches on the island every year on Sea Day, the third Monday of July. But the sad thing is, these cleaned beaches will only last a day, because more junk will be washed up almost immediately. So, no matter how often the beach is cleaned, it’s never clean.
While beach cleaning activities increase awareness, it ignores the cause of the problem: People. People are illegally dumping garbage into the sea!
▼A full moon rises over Shiraishi Island. It is a bitter-sweet reminder that the full moon tides bring the most debris to our beaches.
Full moon
The tides are highest at a full moon.
▼The high tide mark on the beach after a full moon.
high tide mark
It was this beach in the video that made me go off plastic. I’m happy to say I’ve been plastic-free for two years now. This is not to say that I don’t occasionally have to use it. But I don’t choose it. I’ve also curbed my addictions to Styrofoam, cheap products and cheap energy. And you can too.
The dilemma with plastics is that even when properly disposed of, they are not biodegradable. And no one really knows what happens to their garbage after it has been disposed of. After all, there would have to be tens of thousands of households dumping their waste into rivers to fill up the Inland Sea with the amount of rubbish it has. I don’t believe for a moment that it’s the fault of just a few individuals.
▼Plastics and other non-biodegradables just lie there, then go to a different beach and lie there, forever on a permanent beach vacation.
regular tide mark
While I commend our RocketNews24 reader on bringing up the point that Japan’s beaches are full of garbage, and for prompting me to write an article about it, I disagree with the commenter about one thing. It’s not just beer cans, cigarette butts and plastic that is littering the beach. It’s all kinds of everything! We are all to blame.
Beer drinkers,
beer can
coffee drinkers,
coffee can
tea drinkers
tea drinkers
and 7-11 patrons.
plastic cup
Those who eat candy,
Snickers wrapper
popsicle stick
and the instant food brigade.
instant ramen cup
Those who wash their hair,
shampoo bottlewalk,
or plant flowers.
People with fresh breath,
People who wash their clothes,
detergent scoop
and people who tie up their boxes for shipping.
Those who use plastic containers,
plastic container
Those who eat fast food,
fast food wrapper, milk carton
even those who (gasp!) drink milk.
In other words, it’s everybody. And only we can take responsibility for the garbage we produce. Remember, this is just one of the many beaches on one of over 700 hundred islands in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea.
Since Japan seems to be doing little towards remedying water pollution, I thought I’d introduce at least one idea that could help. Here is a device I saw recently in Australia, invented to help combat river flotsam. And it seems to work.
▼Melbourne’s “litter traps” collect floating garbage before it becomes a menace.
litter trap
The litter doesn't come from people tossing it into the river–it comes from street litter getting diverted into the river through storm drains (yep, during heavy rains, storms, and cyclones).
▼Signs near each trap explain: “This litter trap is one of 17 [placed] at the most effective collection points.”
litter trap
Why isn’t anything being done in Japan? Good question!
Most people don’t realize the problem is as big as it is, or they’ve come to think it is normal. When people’s reaction to garbage in the sea is: “It comes from the rivers,” or “It’s because of the rain,” you know there is a problem. That’s just twisted thinking! The garbage problem comes from people (not the rivers) and it’s because of people (not the rain).
Or maybe, they just don’t know what to do about it. Perhaps Japan needs suggestions from people like you. After all, this is a world-wide issue being tackled by other countries as well. How does your country deal with the sea pollution?
My second guess at the reason nothing is being done is that people have yet to demand change. And this is where you can help.
If you love Japan like I do, you won’t allow this to continue. Let’s show Japan that we care about her rivers and seas. Demand change by taking the first step: share this article with your friends and on social media. Give your opinions on the subject.
Be proactive! Japan will thank you for it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Amuro Namie Drawing

I used to draw at one point in my life. Not so much anymore, but this is a drawing of mine that I liked. It's of Japanese pop star Amuro Namie (安室奈美恵). Apparently I was a big fan of hers back in the day, big enough to want to draw a picture of her anyway. I'm posting the original as well as a version of it with a filter that I liked on top of it. I can't find the original photograph for reference so you'll just have to take my word on it that it closely resembles it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra: Ska Band For the Ages

One of my most favorite bands of all the bands that have ever banded is Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra. They're a nine piece Ska band from Japan that has been around since the beginning of the 90's and they have not slowed down since. They've overcome a couple of tragedies and set backs here and there––the death of two former band members, members leaving for various reasons––but they keep trucking along. As well as keeping it traditional, they also infuse their brand of very danceable Ska with other genres such as Rock, Funk and Jazz. The sound of the band has changed a little over the years––there was more of a Rock sound to it than the Jazzy sound of recent years due to changes in their music direction, but they sound as good and as polished as ever.

The Ska genre is all but dead here in America, and I hear it's dipping in Japan as well (it used to be a haven for Ska fans like myself during the dark times), but you know who keeps releasing albums regardless of this miserable absence of a proper music scene? Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, that's who!

Do not mess with these dudes or you'll get a trumpet up your ass! Or a trombone. Or a Saxophone. Oh, you do not want a saxophone up there, let me tell you.

I count myself lucky being a fan of such a hard working and prolific band as I am never want for new music from them––they put out new full albums seemingly quarterly––and their quality has never waned. I couldn't imagine being a super fan of say, Creed, or something.

For reasons other than 8 year gaps between albums, obviously.

In fact, they have so much output that I missed an album from the end of 2012. I have since rectified the situation, but, as a self proclaimed hyper fan, I still beat myself up over that one.

As of late, they have taken a page from The Skatalites and have recorded a number of singles as a backing band for some of Japan's most popular artists and singers. From Okuda Tamio to Shiina Ringo to Puffy to Chara to Crystal Kay, and, most recently, Yoshie Nakano of Ego Wrappin' fame, Asian Kung Fu Generation and Mongol 800. They've even done a collaboration with Angelo Moore from Fishbone. They don't even stop there, having also provided the soundtracks or theme songs for television shows, commercials, video games and anime, most notably, One Piece.

About ten years ago, Skapara (their nick name) performed in Hollywood, CA and I was extremely fortunate to have seen them play live and it was one of the best Ska shows I've ever been to. They even played Coachella in 2013. These guys are going strong some twenty five years after their formation and show zero signs of stopping any time soon. I, myself, am in it for the long haul.

With all of their collaborations with famous Japanese artists I certain hope they finally do one with my other favorite band of all bands that have ever banded, Sambomaster. Then, and only then, will I be able to achieve full personal musical bliss.

Below are a few choice songs from their catalog. Enjoy: