70,000 Tons of Metal Report – Part 2

Day 1 and 2 of 70,000 Tons of Metal
A first highlight of the gigs for me was the Finnish band Insomnium, a melodic death metal act, which seems to be my preferred heavy metal sub genre at the moment 😉 Their gig in the ice rink was especially nice because for one song Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquility came to support them. An awesome gig and the band is one of my two “discoveries” from the cruise. I shall check out their stuff in more detail once I’m back home. Trash giants Kreator were a must and I watched them from a safe distance in the Alhambra filming a nice “wall of death”, difficult to achieve in the Alhambra 😉

A word about the stages. There is the pool deck, which only operates from day two onwards and is being constructed in record time. It’s built over two pools on deck eleven and as soon as the boat arrives from its previous voyage, the pool is drained and the work crew constructs the beast within some 24 hours. The Alhambra is the in-built theater of the boat. The ice rink is quickly covered and the smallest stage is the pyramid lounge, the boat’s biggest bar on a normal cruise.
The boat leaves at 17:00 on a Thursday, sails the entirety of Friday and arrives at the destination port on Saturday morning.

Friday is a super busy day, the pool deck stage is ready for action and there are also all “meet and greet” sessions on that day. I was up and about from around 9:00, chasing from one gig to the other and I squeezed four meet and greets into the schedule. The first one wasn’t planned, but after seeing Alestorm on the pool deck in the morning in the first row, I decided to get my banana duck t-shirt signed 😉 for the other three target bands I had brought album booklets, Dark Tranquility, Sabaton and Primal Fear. I also like the meet and greets because you get to chat with the people waiting in line around you. We broke a record again this year with 75 nations on board!

While the Sabaton guys seemed a bit stressed by all the attention and the crew allowed pictures with only three people at a time, the other bands were more “personal” and you got to take pictures with them on your own, nicely provided by 70,000 tons staff.
The gig highlights of the day were Sabaton on the pool deck, followed by Dark Tranquility on the pool deck as well. I managed to get my favorite first row both times, if at the edge of the stage. One downer was that it was raining quite heavily during the Sabaton gig, but thankfully the rain stopped for Dark Tranquility. I had seen Dark Tranquility twice before, once at Japan’s Loud Park and once at Finland’s Nummirock. Both times the stages were far away from the audience. It also depends on the festival rules I suppose, but neither time did Mikael Stanne jump off stage into the audience. He did so happily at 70,000 tons and was singing right in front of us bathing in the crowd and helping out with the crowd surfers. Wow! What a day, all meet and greets done and first rows for three of the gigs. 🙂

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 1

After having been on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise for the first time in 2017 and having thoroughly enjoyed it, I decided to do this again and off I went to Florida once more. After a long but uneventful flight to Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, I arrived at the airport at about 14:00 local time and phoned my hotel asking for the complementary shuttle bus to pick me up. The hotel… last year I stayed at the Ramada Airport and Cruise port Fort Lauderdale and had wanted to book it again. When I went on booking dot com, something saying Ramada came up and the photo looked like the entrance of the Ramada I know and I booked it last year. Then, in January, I had to fill in the ESTA to get into the US and they ask for your address in the US and I noticed something was odd. The hotel I had booked said Ramada Plaza something. Uh? Wasn’t it supposed to say something about airport and cruise? I went back on booking dot com and realized I had booked the wrong hotel! The Plaza something is far away from the airport and everything else… Luckily I managed to change the booking. But, two of my friends from last year made the same mistake! They ended up having to go to the other Ramada and had to pay 50 USD with an Uber and 120 USD with a taxi to bloody get there! Uah! I’m damn lucky that I noticed something was wrong about the name of the hotel.

Trying to stay awake a bit, I hung out with other metal heads at the bar in the garden of the hotel, nicely getting in the mood 🙂
After a jet lagged night, off we went to the boat! What a pleasant sight to see the Independence of the Seas again towering over the Port of the Everglades 🙂
Last year the boat came in late apparently and they made us wait in the big waiting area of the cruise port, but this year it was a smooth going on board and after the check in and photo we could wander on board just like that. The staterooms (I still don’t know why they are not called cabins) were not ready yet, so everyone met at the Windjammer cafe.

It felt like home coming, really. Last year, I was overwhelmed by the size of the ship and gaping at everything and exploring everything, this time it was like, yeah, back on the boat! Everything is still there, the car on the promenade, the ice cream dispenser on the pool deck ;-).

After lunch in the Windjammer, they let us into our rooms by 13:00 and luggage could be dumped. At 16:00 we had the security drill and then off to the stern of the boat. First time around I did not find the access to the stern on the first day and witnessed our leaving from deck 12, this time, I knew the way and headed straight to the stern at deck 4 and watched out departure. I just love that sound of the mighty horn blowing signaling that the big, fat boat is leaving harbor!


The departure was at 17:00 and at 17:00 also the first band was supposed to play and it was Primal Fear who had the honor to open the musical part of the 70,000 tons of metal 2018. Primal Fear happens to be an old favorite of mine and after we left port I rushed to the venue. Luckily they were running a bit late and I arrived just in time for Primal Fear to start 🙂 here we go!

Things You Can’t Buy with Money

I have many passions: writing, heavy metal music, movies, traveling, to name the most important ones. There are some smaller passions too like riding my bicycle, playing the piano, chocolate, a tiny bit of gardening and so forth.
At work I do not talk about writing and my books, but since I’m a talkative person, I am making no secret out of being a big heavy metal fan and traveling around the world for concerts and festivals. Thus I am talking about Wacken and 70,000 tons of metal when I go for lunch with colleagues, or I tell one of the colleagues who already knows that I’m a metal head enthusiastically on the way home that Amon Amarth is coming to Japan again for the first time in four years (and I missed them four years ago). The lady’s comment struck me quite a bit as she said, “ah, I wish I had a passion like you”.
Uh!
My sister and I are calling it the “fan gene” and I am sure I have made a blog entry about this topic in the past as well, but who cares. I honestly feel sad for people who do not have a “fan gene” or a passion that makes their blood boil. It is ridiculously important to have your blood boil in a positive way from time to time! It releases stress, it keeps your mind healthy and sane! When you look forward like a little kid to getting on the boat again (70,000 tons of metal in five days, baby) despite being over forty, that is goddamn necessary and I kid you not, a key to happiness. When you look forward to seeing another country, another island, going on an adventure, you can take on more stuff with a smile on your face. If you have no passions like that, man, how dull must life be.
But the thing is, if you don’t have the “fan gene” you simply don’t have it, you can’t force it, either you love it or you don’t. Learning to love something is in my humble opinion only possible to a limited extent.
The passion can cost a lot of money, but the experience you get out of it is priceless and I regret nothing. Do what you wanna do, as long as you can do it, before old age, illness, or crazy politicians put an end to the fun.
I shall meet another 4000 people or so who think the same way in a couple of days if the planes don’t crash or the doomsday clock doesn’t advance to midnight.
Cheers! And in the picture – that’s my gear for the coming week 😉

Amami Oshima Report – Part 3 – Fishing Villages and Habu Snakes

On the first of January I made a bicycle day again and had a lovely time on a very fine day riding around and going critter photo hunting on the beach. I came across numerous starfish and sea urchins. The full moon for New Year also gave a wonderful display over the ocean that night.


On the second of January I thought I had to appreciate the full size of the island and rode with two busses (one had to change busses in Naze) to the southern end of Amami, a town called Koniya. The entire ride took two hours one way. One guy from the hotel said, oh in the past it took even longer to get there because there were no tunnels yet. Indeed there are several new looking tunnels close to the southern end, the longest of them 4200 meters. In nearly every corner that has decent access to the sea there is a fishing village comprised out of twenty, thirty houses, even inland there are several villages like that mostly to farm citrus fruits. Koniya turned out to be a super sleepy place, all very Showa-era. The beaches and landscape are utterly beautiful but the towns are fishing and not tourist towns, since they are too far away from the airport and in the north of the island. Closer to the airport are as beautiful beaches and landscape as well. It was interesting to see the difference of the tourist side of the island, the north, and the working side of the island far from the airport. From my island study point of view (looking for the perfect island to retire to) it was an important trip to make this bus ride to the south.

On my last half day before flying back to Tokyo and Yokohama I borrowed a bicycle again and discovered also a sleepy fishing village in the north before spending some more time at my favorite beach on the Pacific side.
One of the hotel staff was bringing me by free shuttle to the airport and we were chatting during the ride. He was in his thirties, was born on Amami but lived in Tokyo for ten years and now he returned. Somehow the conversation came back to the Habu snakes. He said that if you catch a Habu and bring it to a pharmacy they give you 3000 yen for it. Especially kids are making a sport out of Habu hunting/catching. In the past you got 5000 yen for one snake, but that resulted in too many caught snakes, so they reduced the price money! When he was a kid a Habu entered the bed room of his parents and his dad killed the beast! Kya! Last but not least he personally knows only of one guy who got his leg amputated because a snake bit him and that was an elderly man back when he was a kid. I still don’t know how to kill a Habu 😉 Personal Habu sightings during my trip? Zero 😉


It was a lovely trip to Amami and the next target is already fixed too, Tokonoshima south of Amami, between Amami and Okinawa, which is much smaller and apparently more of a “real” tourist island. Let’s see when I’ll be able to get there, not for golden week this year, that’s already booked for a bigger and more exotic island, New Caledonia 😉

Amami Oshima Report – Part 2 – Ferns and Habu Snakes

On the second day the weather was unfortunately not so nice with rain showers and strong winds which made it colder, so I was glad I booked a little tour to the so called Kinsakubara Forrest, a “virgin” Forrest that has not been once laid to waste by human hands or so they say. The forest is in the middle of the island and you are not allowed to go there by rent-a-car but are supposed to book a tour with a guide. The tour was three hours long and in the afternoon, so I rode by bus to the main town of Amami called Naze (a Japanese play on words, with different kanji (Chinese characters) it means “why” in Japanese) to explore the town in the morning. The date happened to be the 31st of December. Most shops in Naze had already closed for the New Year holidays but even if they were open the main shopping arcade of Naze made a rather sad and quiet impression on me. I found a cafe/restaurant which was very much what I like to call the Showa flair. The Showa era ended in 1989 and the cafe as well as the whole rest of the town made a seventies impression on me.

Then on to the tour which titled itself an eco tour. The guide was a bit odd, a guy in his fifties who kept on telling us how dangerous habu snakes are and went a bit ballistic on me when I asked, “come on are there really so many around here?” He snapped it was not a question of how many, I wouldn’t ask if there were bears around how many there are either (uh? I would). He pointed out sticks in bamboo holders by the side of the roads every few meters which are for killing habu and snapped, you also don’t ask how to kill the habus, you just kill them. Weird dude! I definitely need to know how I’m supposed to kill a snake with nothing but a stick! Strange guy, maybe he was tired of the question or of naive foreigners? Nevertheless, after windy and lonely mountain roads, we arrived at the rain Forrest and took a walk down a fairly wide and well maintained path (so much for the “virgin” forest. The main attraction of the area are giant fern trees which evoke a bit of a Jurassic Park flair and are very pretty indeed.



It started raining heavily during the walk and I was glad for an umbrella borrowed from the hotel in anticipation of more rain. All in all it was a very nice trip though despite rain and a weird guide.
Another story about the snakes. When the island was returned to Japan after WW2 in the 1950ties, they made a massive settling drive and tried to do something about the snakes (their bite is highly poisonous, that’s why there is so much fuss) and they introduced mongoose for a while. Trouble is those eat everything, not only snakes, but also the local black rabbit. The guide guy said that at its peak there were probably ten thousand mongoose on the island, then they started killing them again and are now trying to get rid of them entirely. The guide said ten years ago one could be lucky to see one rabbit per night tour (they are night active animals) now luckily there are some twenty rabbits again per tour. I find it funny he pulled out all those numbers but none about the habu 😉

Amami Oshima Report – Part 1 – Beaches

A Happy New Year 2018 everyone! May the Force be with us… somehow.
My search for the perfect Japanese island continues 🙂 Let me recap, my search started in 2011 and so far I have visited seven island (groups) and Amami is the eighth.
Amami Oshima (Oshima simply means big island) is actually the seventh largest island of Japan. Here is the ranking: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, Okinawa (main island), Sado (in the Sea of Japan and too cold and thus not so interesting for me ;-))and number seven is Amami Oshima (big island).
Amami has a circumference of after all 460 km, which is quite large. Yet only 61,000 people live there spread over six main settlements with the biggest “Naze”, having most of the population. The island lies between Kyushu and Okinawa and is a part of Kagoshima prefecture. It enjoys far less popularity as Okinawa, which, in my opinion is good for the island, because that makes it a fairly quiet place.

Since I had never been there before (and I’m not in the habit of making plans beforehand, I book a flight and a hotel and see what happens when I get there) I took a hotel I didn’t know where and flew to Amami airport. My hotel turned out to be a bit in the middle of nowhere but as usual that has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage was that it was not easy to get around without a car, the advantage was it was two minutes from a very lovely beach.

My first day on the island I spent bicycling with a very rusty and very basic bicycle that I rented from the hotel for free. Since it had zero gears, I had to push it up every little hill and there are many hills on Amami. 😉 I rode happily for some twenty kilometers in total nevertheless (which is a lot for me) and it was one fine day with sunshine and some clouds but no rain and lovely 17 or something Celsius. Perfect bicycle weather actually. I rode through very lonely hills with views to the sea every few meters, the East China Sea as well as the Pacific.

The best beach was at the Pacific side with magnificent views down the cost. The East China Sea side has many fjords and bays while the Pacific side is more of a straight line. Both views were utterly beautiful. A great escape from the hectic and too many people of the Kanto plain.

7040

I’m not watching a lot of Japanese TV but once in a while I watch news and the program “Close up 現代” = “close up on the present”, which describes mostly Japanese society issues or latest trends. Recently they had a program about the “lost 40ties”: people who are now in their forties and who have “failed” to find the famed “regular employment”, meaning life time employment contracts. A sub-category of those people are those who never had a regular job, and who stayed with their parents for whatever reason. The parents of these people in their 40ties are now in their 70ties – hence the number 7040. The parents are now in their pension age and it’s also the age where more and more cases of nursing those elderly happen.

They had a lady from Hokkaido in the program who is now 44. She never married, only did some odd jobs in her 20ties and 30ties, and lived with her parents. Now, being 44, she doesn’t find odd jobs so easily anymore and her 73 year old father is sick. The 67 year old mother and the 44 year old daughter care for him and live off his pension. The daughter held her personal bank account book into the camera – there were 9138 yen on it, which is the equivalent of around 80 Euro… wow…
Medical care is good in Japan, her parents might yet live another ten years, even the nursing case of her father, but eventually the lady will stand there with nothing. Parents dead, pension gone, never had a decent job, too old for odd jobs. Not enough time at the moment to learn something decent or to get into a more permanent job because she has to care for her ailing parents. What a sad life and what bleak prospects.

I’m annoyed about the parents. They should have thrown her out in her 20ties and urged her to get a decent job so that she can fend for herself, husband or not. It’s the responsibility of the parents to throw their kids out of the nest. With their selfishness or lack of consequence, they have ruined their daughter’s life in the long run.
I hope she all those other cases of the “lost 40ties” will manage to get a – late – handle on their lives…

A Few Movie Reviews

Rather than writing critiques of movies everybody has seen recently, I’d like to pick out three, that have, I believe, not had a super-wide audience. In two cases quite rightly so, in one case a few more people should watch it.

Colossal
The positive one, at least in my opinion, is the quite bizarre “Colossal” with Ann Hathaway. She plays a good-for-nothing party-girl with a boyfriend in New York, who throws her out when he can’t stand her good-for-nothing life style anymore. Having no place to go to, she returns to her hometown into the now abandoned house of her former family and runs into a school times friend who offers her a job in his bar. But, when she walks across an old playground, strange things start to happen as 10,000 miles away, in Seoul, a huge monster appears, Gozdilla worthy and tramples things and people under its feet. What the heck? The monster is soon joined by a giant robot and they fight each other in the vein of Godzilla vs. Mozra for example. Uh? Turns out her school friend who has a fancy for her is the robot and she is the monster and there is something magical going on with the playground. The drama unfolds as he makes advances towards her which are unwanted and turns out to be an asshole and on battle the monster and the robot. Sounds bizarre? It is bizarre, but at least it’s not what you see every day and manages to hold your interest (at least mine). Watch it with some popcorn and be puzzled.

Chips
This is apparently based on some 80ties TV series and it’s about bike cops in L.A. and there is nothing special about it, except that one of the main characters who is an ex-professional biker gone cop, is such a wreck physically as well as character wise, it had some entertaining moments. Since I’ve never even heard about the TV series it is based upon, I cannot make any judgements in that department and have zero nostalgia about the piece. Nevertheless I was kinda wondering who the hell gave the producers money to make this movie? If you are into bikes and snotty cops, watch it with a ton of chips and beer, otherwise, no need to bother.

Life
This is a lesser known European science fiction movie and let me call it “Alien” on the ISS. Some probe has brought the first extraterrestrial life form onto the ISS to study it there. I forgot whether the life form comes from an asteroid or Mars, but it does not matter anyway. In essence – the life form evolves and destroys the ISS, kills its crew and is smart enough to infiltrate the only life pod that makes it to Earth and will now happily contaminate our lovely planet. Sounds familiar? It’s Alien retold only set in the near future or present day rather than the far future. While the life form was nicely animated and looked creepy, it was not as creepy as H.R. Giger’s Alien. It had the same traits as the Alien, an aggressive predator without a mind/conscience. The parallels to Alien were exhausting. Here again, why invest tons of money in a movie like that? Why did nobody object to making this movie due to the total lack of new ideas and the parallels to Alien? Luckily I did not spend money on it, watched it on a plane…

Got Out

I was quite moved this week by the videos of the North Korean soldier who escaped to the South. How his car broke down, how he fled on foot only meters in front of other soldiers shooting at him. Whatever news reach us around this guy is of course to be handled with caution now – fake news, ne… but let’s assume it’s the truth that the guy joined the army at 17 as he says. I think none of us can imagine what kind of life he has led so far. They did not only pull bullets out of him (he got hit five times) but also worms from his intestines due to malnutrition etc.

The daring escape looked like from a movie and uh… how much courage it takes to do a thing like that. Once his truck broke down, it was all or nothing of course and it was surely better for him to get shot and killed than the prospect of capture. There are unconfirmed news bits now that the soldiers chasing him were all replaced… one has to wonder what will become of those poor chaps. One can also only hope that the escaped guy, Mr. Oh, if that’s really his name, had no family, since if so, they will suffer for his escape.
I wonder just how many years or decades it will yet take until the North Korean people are free of that regime. But one thing is for sure, the madness of a certain Agent Orange is NOT helping to improve the situation.

I hope for Mr. Oh that he will recover and find some peace and a better life in the South after his dramatic escape. But even more than that I dearly hope that the creatures sitting at the buttons of weapons of mass destruction will keep their fucking fingers to themselves…

Basic Instincts

Last week I wrote a “neutral” report about the contents of the Tokyo Motor Show, today though I’d like to explain, why I would never ever pay for a Tokyo Motor Show ticket by myself and go there voluntarily.
While there are of course many people going to car shows because of the vehicles, there is also a tribe of (male) people who don’t give a rats ass about cars, but who go there with the sole purpose of taking photos of pretty young women in short skirts.
These people are male, ugly, many of them are a bit older, and I find it simply disgusting to see these drooling farts eagerly shooting pictures of pretty women with huge, fat, expensive, compensating for something cameras.

There is a lot of talk at the moment, finally, about hordes of men in the show business and elsewhere abusing women sexually. You don’t have to look at Hollywood for that, it’s everywhere.
I stood at the booth of my company for only one afternoon and I’ve seen enough. There was a dude, ugly, in his fifties, slimy, drooling, fat camera, who was talking to one of the miniskirt girls with her laughing embarrassed. I am very glad they were too far away for me to hear what they were talking about…
Another creature, same description as above, but a different guy, tried to “get in contact” with one of the girls by having printed out a still he had shot of her… Yet another creature, same description, different guy, printed out the girls’ names (dunno where he got them from) and gave them attributes: Sexy XX, beautiful YY, sultry ZZ. Then he made them pose for him holding up their big lettered printouts……. I could have vomited.

As long as the human society is tolerating such behavior, as long as car show producers work with sexy girls, as long as we pay women for doing such things, there will be sexual harassment. For the women at car shows it’s of course easily earned money and some of them looked like they were truly enjoying the attention, teasing and playing with the drooling creatures. But the thought of what these creatures do with the photos, the thought of one or the other of them masturbating onto print outs for example… Humans are still ruled by instincts and we are not too far away from our animal brethren…
And now I need a drink.

Tokyo Motor Show 2017

The Tokyo Motor Show for passenger cars happens every two years and the last time I’ve been there was 2009 (OMG! ;-)) 2009 definitely wasn’t a good year to go to the Tokyo Motor Show because it was right in/after the financial crisis and all non-Japanese car makers had pulled out and the Japanese ones had minimal booths spending as few money as possible.
By the way, I’ve never been to the show as a private person, only when I had booth duty for the company I work for. This year I volunteered to do half a day of booth duty on the last day of the show, a Sunday and went a bit earlier than I had to to take a look around.

In 2009 there were also very few visitors, but now 2017 things have long returned to “normal” for such a show. It was well visited but not painfully crowded either.
Non-Japanese car makers have returned, but not too many actually, well, only the ones that actually have some sales in Japan.
Zero US car makers and from Europe only French and German. Peugeot and Renault were there, then Mercedes Benz, Audi, VW, Porsche (of course), BMW. The Italians = Ferrari didn’t bother.

But let’s put things a bit into perspective here. A colleague told me that for example at the Shanghai Auto Show there are 2000 exhibitors (!), at the Tokyo Motor Show there are 180… well, but one has to consider the market size of course too, 120 million, who have maybe the world’s best train system, vs. 1.4 billion people in China.
The motto of this year’s Tokyo MOTOR Show was: Beyond the Motor… eh? Interesting concept to make the motto of a “motor” show “beyond the motor”.
That topic was supposed to suggest that the car of the future is your “extended living space” where you can do something else than drive thanks to highly or fully automated driving dreams. It also had the undertone though, at least for me, that the times of the combustion engine are coming to an end. Almost everyone showed automated driving concepts and electrical vehicles of whatever sort.

I have at length described my problems with driving a car in this blog during the years when I still rode one, thus I am a front row customer when it comes to a fully automated car.
I want something like this: Once I am retired and live on the Japanese remote island of my choice 😉 I want to take out my smart phone, open an app, call/order/book a car and it comes (without driver) to my apartment at the designated time and I hop in and say: car! Drive me to the beach/the supermarket etc. and when I get off after the car has driven itself to my destination the fee for the ride gets deducted from my credit card via the app. So please, dear automotive industry: make it so until I retire! 😉

Loud Park 2017 Day 2

I started the second day of Loud Park with the opening act Cry Venom, a new formation which plays “neo-powermetal” whatever that is 😉 It sounded more like hard rock to me.
What was in the time schedule listed as a “secret act” turned to be the band Black Earth comprised of former and current members of Arch Enemy with male vocals.
Next up the Japanese hard rockers Outrage and I watched them from the arena half that was waiting for Apocalyptica.

Apocalyptica
Is a Finnish cello quartet playing instrumental heavy metal. This time they played Metallica songs. While it is amazing what these guys do with their cellos and while it is also amazing that you can headband while playing cello it’s tough to whip the crowd into action without vocals and cellos. It was interesting and I enjoyed it, but I do need vocals to get excited about something 😉
I took a bit of a rest and lunch during Japan’s Loudness, another 80ties heavy band that fiddles a bit too much with the guitars for my taste.
Devin Townsend Project sounded interesting, but I made the mistake to google him and landed at a devastating article which was not very kind to the gentleman and wondered what the heck was that all about 😉

Black Star Riders
Every year Loud Park has some rock band that in my opinion does not belong into the line up because it ain’t metal. This year it was these never heard of before Black Star Riders. They consist of old and new members of Thin Lizzy. Now that’s a band whose name everyone knows. Anyway, they were much much too soft for my taste.

Cradle of Filth
Right after the soft Black Star Riders was a bit of a shock 😉 I was already in the arena to try to get a good place for Sabaton and was close to the mayhem 😉 Cradle is a gothic metal band from the UK and they dress up nicely 😉 Despite my obligatory ear plugs I was struggling, since Dani Filth has an incredible falsetto that can shatter your eardrums. There was one Japanese girl head banging constantly and I just found it amazing that she doesn’t fall over!

Meshuggah
After the cradle, I managed to grab a spot at the inner balustrade and had a good side view at what was going on on the other stage for Meshuggah. I saw them once at Brutal Assault in 2013 and they freaked me out a bit, but while still freaking me out, man these guys can play. They have a very clear and powerful sound that you can feel in the mark of your bones. Extreme metal from Sweden by the way.

Sabaton
Then the personal highlight of this year’s Loud Park – Sabaton. It was only their second time in Japan and both times they played at Loud Park. For the first Loud Park in 2015 many people had not yet heard of them here and the crowd was rather neutral with a few excited people who already knew about them. Meanwhile though, more Japanese have heard about them and the arena was madness. People pushed for the stage and you got squeezed from all sides. I was very happy for my spot at the balustrade. The Sabaton “virus” has reached Japan. That was probably also why they did not signing session for Sabaton unlike the first time, since their presence at the signing booth might have caused a panic. While they sang my favorite song Carolus Rex in Swedish the first time around in 2015, they did me the favor to sing it in English this time ;-). It was amazing, but now you can’t watch Sabaton even in Japan anymore without the crowd freaking out 😉
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the Japanese crowd did too.


I must admit that I left Loud Park after Sabaton and did not see the Gene Simmons Band and Michael Schenker Fest anymore. Frankly, both are “too old” for my taste and I had the long ride home etc. to consider.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the 2017 Loud Park again and am already looking forward to what kind of line up they’ll have next year!

Loud Park 2017 Day 1

Every year in autumn there is Loud Park, Japan’s biggest heavy metal festival in the Saitama Super Arena.
I went every year since 2012 and this year as no exception. As (almost) every year it was raining for Loud Park and hallelujah that it’s indoors! 😉
On Day 1 I saw the following bands: Beyond the Black, Anthem, Brujeria, Opeth, Overkill, Alice Cooper, Emperor, Slayer
Not bad for one day 😉

Beyond the Black
Is a young German band founded only in 2014 with a female vocal. They do symphonic metal / power metal. I saw the in Wacken just two months earlier and liked their sound. They are a bit “soft” for my taste but make up for that with good melodies that stick in your head.
A nice opening for my Loud Park weekend!

Anthem
Is an old school Japanese heavy metal band originating in the 80ties in Tokyo. I saw them a couple years back at a former Loud Park already. It’s lovely, no frills, classic heavy metal. The 80ties flavor comes a bit through at times, but these guys can still rock!

Brujeria
Is quite a different beast. Extreme metal from Mexico. They’re not exactly easy listening and their shouting style reminds me too much of hip-hop, but these guys are brave and male no secret out of their political stance. They don’t exactly like the USA and especially not Agent Orange. They made us sing “Fuck Donald Trump” and the Japanese crowd and myself were happily sining with them!

Opeth
Is a progressive metal band from Sweden and while they were interesting, they are a bit too “elaborate” for my taste with too much “fiddling”, if I may say so. I had always wanted to see them though, which is now accomplished and I shall leave it at that.

Overkill
Is an American thrash metal band and I already saw them on the boat this year (70,000 Tons of Metal). They were also formed in the 80ties, but yeah, there is still a damn lot of power in these guys. They are fun to rock to.

Alice Cooper
Needs no introduction. Man, I saw the guy for the first time in the 90ties and then he was already old. The gentleman is 69 years old, by the way. I also saw him in Wacken just two months ago and he did the same show in Japan. Albeit, somewhere revealing a pretty katana, which I cannot remember from Wacken 😉 Alice, you’re a legend and it’s always a pleasure to see you again.

Emperor
Is a black metal band from Norway formed in the early 90ties. They disbanded and got back together several times. A Japanese friend of mine (who is a huge black metal fan and plays herself in the band Sungoddess) had come to Loud Park (which she hasn’t done since 2006 (!)) mostly to see them and we went together into the arena. My friend feared the crowd would go berserk for Emperor, but they were rather quiet and we stayed in the back of the first arena block where it was nearly “empty”. Well, that gave us the opportunity to watch them in peace. Emperor was good, but I found them a bit “sterile” is that’s the word and maybe that’s also why the crowd did not freak.

Slayer
Needs no introduction either. They love Slayer in Japan and they are coming to Loud Park every two years or so 😉 It was my third time to see them there. I was never that close before, afraid of the berserking crowd 😉 It was okay though in the other arena half and man, has that guy an amazing beard 😉


Day two of Loud Park with the highlight Sabaton: in next week’s blog entry.

Japan Writers Conference 2017 Report

It’s been a while since I attended the Japan Writer’s Conference, but since it happened in Tokyo this year, I was able to go for one of its two days.
It was great to meet some old friends and acquaintances.
The seminars were a pleasure to attend and a nice distraction from the day job.

The first seminar I went to by Marie Orise dealt with the “downdraft” and the “updraft” of a work of fiction. The downdraft is the first draft, the updraft is the refining, self-editing part of the fiction writing process. Marie made a poll concerning who has more trouble getting the story on paper and who has more trouble refining it. The audience was divided nearly fifty-fifty. I definitely belong into the category of finding the updraft harder to do. I have no problem at all getting a story written. But then refining it, oh my, what an act.
Some hints from Marie what to look for in the updraft were:
If something doesn’t “spark joy”, delete it.
Delete mundane details, no matter how much you like them.
Sometimes it helps to keep the three unities of theater in the back of your mind: The unities of action, place and time and to streamline your story with their help.
Always ask yourself what you want to say, how much of it and in what order.
I shall keep on struggling with the updraft and thanks for the tips, Marie.

Hans Brinckmann did a great seminar on how he turned his WW2 memoirs into two publications and it was fascinating to listen to his memories of when he was a twelve year old boy in Nazi Germany occupied Holland. It’s been a while since I listened to an eye witness report from WW2.

SciFi trilogy author Eli K.P. William’s topic was author voice and other voices like the narrator’s or the characters’ voices in a work of fiction.
Especially since I’m writing in a foreign language, I think it’s difficult to acquire a distinctive author’s voice. I was especially grateful for Eli’s tips on how to make your different characters sound less “the same”. His suggestions were: make “rules” for each character what kind of words they use (e.g. Someone has a Scottish accent), major characters have “dialogue tags” (e.g. Someone says “Oh Lord” all the time and you know it’s that guy speaking and you don’t need an “Z said” so often.), vary the rhythm of speech, imagine characters voices in your head while you write and edit, never let your character say something that’s obvious to the others present (also known as the “as you know, Bob” phenomenon. ) though sometimes this is very tricky, when you have characters explaining essential plot things to each other.
Let’s see if I can implement that into my future stories 😉

The last seminar I attended was on how to get an anthology together. Susan Laura Sullivan and Suzanne Kamata presented their long journeys as anthology editors and I admire the persistence and stamina they had in putting these anthologies together. I especially liked the cover of Susan’s anthology. That’s one nice display of muscles which I’d like to have 😉

The evening dinner had a special feature to offer too, five writers, including the author Peter Marsh, performed songs for a musical Peter wrote. Now that’s something you don’t get to hear or see every day! Congrats to a great performance!

Even though the next Japan Writers Conference will be held in Hokkaido, I hope to be able to attend!

The Wasen Festival

Autumn is beer festival time in Southern Germany and of course the whole world knows about the October Fest in Munich.
More or less at the same time as the October Fest is the “Wasen” in Bad Canstatt next to Stuttgart, which is the same as the October Fest only a bit smaller.
Wasen means wiese by the way and wiese is the German word for lawn. Also the October Fest is known as the “Wiesen” among locals.
On the lawn you put up beer tents and merry-go-rounds, raffle ticket booths and food stalls and there is your festival.

I’ve lived in Munich for a couple of years and thus of course know the October Fest quite well, but the Wasen in Stuttgart could be even handled as an insider tip, since it is apart from its smaller size an exact copy of the October Fest.

I went on the weekend during my business trip to Germany together with an old university buddy of mine and we went on a Sunday afternoon, which should have resulted in large crowds but while the festival was well visited, it was not crowded and there were no significant queues anywhere and you got a table in the beer tent without a problem.
Wow.
I don’t know why the Wasen was so “empty”.

While I didn’t go on any of the rides, I did enjoy the food around and the atmosphere. Even my little home town had a fun fair like this every year, if without beer tents. The rides, raffle ticket booths and the food stalls haven’t changed really over the years.

What has changed is security. At the entrance to the Wasen were guards and they checked your rucksacks and made you throw away soft drink bottles… more security before entering a beer tent and the guard there was complaining of the size of my rucksack and making an “exception” letting me in with it. It’s sad that the world has come to needing security guards for a fun fair.
Thankfully, nothing happened and my liter of “Radler” (“pale” beer with Sprite) was very good 🙂