No Knife

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Hello! This is a brief diary just sorting filling in some details from our recent Japanese tour. It was truly an amazing time! We have made some really good new friends and have been exposed to some really different culture. I suppose going over we all had certain ideas about what Japan was really like. I think it is safe to say that each one of us was surprised by the actual impressions we got. For example I was totally braced for incredibly expensive dinners and was weary of going totally broke on the trip. With a little help from our Japanese hosts, we managed to find some great meals at prices that would be cheaper than here in the US. Something that amazed me also was how informed Japanese people are about American bands. The Japanese tour manager, Katoman, knew more about music in San Diego than most of us. This is not an exaggeration!
2 bands, one from the US and one from Tokyo. Two vehicles, one mini van with 6 people and gear and the other was a station wagon with 4 people and all of our bags.

So here is a synapses of our trip...

We left on July 16th from LAX and expected a 15 hour flight. Believe me, we were so relieved to find it under 11 hours! An extra 4 hours on the plane can make a pretty big difference. I was a bit cautious about getting too jet lagged so I didn't really drink on the plane, tried drinking a ton of water and ate these homeopathic "jet lag prevention" pills. Some of the others kicked back and had a few cocktails and didn't worry about it too much. Needless to say my Jet lag was pretty bad and the partiers seems to have no trace of this debilitating illness. Moral of the story: when the drinks are free, you should have a few.

We arrived in Tokyo with no sleep and with a 16 hour time difference. Immigration took forever and the people who picked us up were a bit nervous that we perhaps had not made it through. Their concern was warranted because we had no work visas and were forbidden to play shows in Japan. Not to mention that we had tons of No Knife T shirts and CDs in our bags (a dead giveaway). First impression of Japan... this place is hot as hell! I was not expecting this.

Katoman, the tour manager and Kensuke, guitarist singer from our touring mates Nine Days Wonder picked us up. It was great to finally meet them after months of emailing back and forth about tour details. The drive to our crash pad was about an hour from the airport. On the way we struggled a little with conversation and were informed that we were headed to a welcome party for us. We were grateful but very tired. At his point is was 5 in the morning and we had been traveling all day. Obviously we were a little out of our element and we didn't want to offend any one but crashing early, not to mention that we were being prepared a feast by our new friends. Here at Akira's house, drummer of Nine Days Wonder, we met most of the band and some of their friends. This is where we would stay half of the time in Japan. Here I began to realize also how close families were and how hospitable and generous Japanese people can be. Many people in Japan live with their parents and Grand parents for many years. Also in most houses alters are set up to honor relatives that have passed away. We finally got some sleep at about 8:30 Am our time.

Next morning we got up and walked around Akira's neighborhood a bit. We ran across a great old temple and hung out in the shade of the nearby trees. By this time we began to notice that vending machines were all over the place. Even in a residential area it is common to find rows of vending machines. These generally are different types of colorful sodas but you can find vending machines with beer, sake and whisky as well. What a place! The sodas are super good in Japan too. They are not a thick and sweet as the ones we are used to. They are thinner and much more refreshing, but also many of them have vitamins in them too. ???

We play this night in an area of Tokyo called Shibuya. It is the times Square type area of the city. Tons of billboards and lit up signs, even movie billboards and video screens. Everywhere you look there are rows of bicycles and many of them are not locked. Crime is low in Japan and since honor is of such high importance perhaps this keeps people from stealing. Security at shows in really minimal. In the US people would be sneaking in all over the place, but here no one even tries. Dinner before the show was interesting. We went to the local sushi place and found it set up like a little island with the chefs in the middle. You don't really see the food prepared. All around the island is a conveyer belt with a solid steam of sushi dishes. You just serve yourself tea and ginger and grab of anything that looks interesting. You have to be a little cautious as I found out. Kensuke recommended a maki dish called nato. Bad move. It was super strong rotten tasting beans wrapped in seaweed. Really bad. Brian didn't want to be rude and ended up eating a whole plate full. I have to say though this was the only thing that I really didn't like. I am a big Japanese food fan and definitely got a good share of great dishes. We ate tons of Tuna sushi, eel, okono amiagi (an omelet type dish cooked with whatever you happen to have around), Ebi (shrimp), cold soba noodles with a great sauce and tons of other things I still don't know what they are. Our first show was good and there were about 80 people. Mitch and I were so jet lagged we pretty much were just waiting to get to sleep, hoping that the lag would be gone tomorrow.

Our second show was with Nine Days Wonder and we were able to see them at last. Man, these guys are good. They sound in the same vein of No Knife but certain things with a harder more aggressive edge and other songs sounding really new wave, "gang of four" style. Super great! The turnout was about 140 people and this was a place called Shinjyuku Jam. This part of Tokyo is a little sketchy, it's known for its Japanese Mafia. After the show were experienced our first uchiage, or after show party. This is tradition in Japan that after the show all the bands go out for food and drinks and toast the good show with many "Kompai" toasts. It's a good way to meet the other bands and sort of unwind from the show. The production at the shows was really high. The clubs will provide you with gear if you need it and every band gets a lengthy sound check. Also, everyone involved with the show sticks around the whole time and watches the other bands. There is definitely a lot of respect for each other and a good sense of camaraderie. We stayed out Kompaiing and eating until 3 am. Only problem was we had to start driving a little after 6 am to get to Osaka! Somehow these people operate on little or no sleep. ???

Leaving Tokyo we encountered a little traffic... It took us over 3 hours to get out of Tokyo. Our total drive time to Osaka was 11 hours. It should've taken 6. Tokyo traffic is very, very bad. Don't be in a hurry, no one else is and you'll just get stressed out.

The drive was great despite the bumpy ride and long hours. We passed a few small fishing towns and fields of tea. A good part of the drive was along the ocean. By this time we were beginning to get our bearings together and even were learning a little Japanese. The only problem was we were learning how to say things that you probably shouldn't repeat too loudly in public.

The Osaka show was great. The crowd was soooo great and we had a good time. We walked around a bit and hung out with the other bands at the uchiage after the show. Osaka has a more laid back feel and the traffic is totally manageable. Only problem... we had to drive that night 5 hours after driving all day. The place where we were staying was in Gifu at Hiro's (bass player) parents' house. That was a rough drive. These guys drive pretty crazy and the van was really bumpy. A serious white knuckle drive. All the time these guys are carrying on and singing Japanese kareoke.

We arrived early in the morning to (bass player) Hiro's parents' place to find a traditional style Japanese home with sliding shoji screens and old school architecture. Truly beautiful. Also there were snacks and drinks set out for us, a place to leave our laundry to have ready in the morning and in the main room... 10 bed rolls set out ready for 10 frazzled travelers. Unbelievable. Also in the morning Hiro's mother prepared such a feast with fresh fruit, cheesecake, salad and different breakfast rolls filled with all sorts of stuff and a pitcher of delicious iced coffee. Outside their house was a traditional garden and next door a lush green rice paddy. This view was more fitting to my previous notion of Japan.

Today a short drive to Nagoya. Cool town. Once again, less bustling than Tokyo and the club was in a interesting part of town. We wandered around and feasted on sushi. I went into a Pachinko casino by accident and man was that bizarre. All of these people were just sitting around pouring handfuls of metal balls into these incredibly loud blinking machines. Very surreal. Once again the show was cool and we had a great time playing. Ryan and I stumbled upon a street festival with all the kids dressed in traditional Japanese garb. There was tons of different foods and people selling things. One very cool thing about Japan is that you can just wander around with a beer if you want. This definitely adds to the festive atmosphere of "Ocean Day Festival". Tonight's drive was hellish. Very long bumpy ride all night past Tokyo to our next crash pad. We arrived around 10 the next morning. We are sure spoiled from riding around the US in our plush 15 passenger van with only 5 people in it.

We slept 'til early afternoon at Teru's parents' house. His Grandmother made us some amazing food and we refreshed with showers. Now we drive north to Sendai.

This was a great drive. The weather cooled of and even rained a little. The scenery was similar to the North West US, like the lush country side of Oregon. I suppose it's probably a similar latitude. Sendai's club was pretty scary. It was the basement of a building with gas and water pipes going every direction. On the ceiling these pipes were marked with all sorts of Japanese warnings with the occasional English words "Danger" or "Death". This club was very punk rock. The other bands were cool and after the show we went of for the usual feast and kompai toasts. Once again we had to do a late night drive back to Tokyo, fortunately I somehow finagled a place to lie down in the car and slept during the drive for once. This was such a relief after many rough nights of driving.