One of the reasons for the paucity in blog updates is that I had been spending a LOT of time in the gym working out to get in tip top shape (one week I went 9 times: once every weekday and twice a day on weekends). I have a really good personal trainer at the gym and I lost about 10 pounds in the last 2 mos, but by that I mean losing 20 lbs of fat and gaining 10 lbs of muscle.HOWEVER, after just 3 days in Japan, 2 mos of hardcore training have gone straight out the window. hahaha. Nah, just kidding but eating ramen every day is KILLING me. Especially since I have no qualms about ordering 替え玉 (kaedama) a 2nd (or 3rd... or 4th) serving of noodles to go with any ramen broth that's left over. =P Aside from a modicum of protein from the chashu pork, ramen is predominantly carbs, sodium and saturated fats. I thought Ramen Jiro was as bad as you can get (for your health, taste-wise Jiro is f*cking AWESOME) but yesterday I went to a place called Junk Garage. The original shop is in Saitama and it is quite legendary. You can read about the original store in esteemed ramen blogs such as Ramen Adventures and Ramenate, Junk Garage essentially went out of their way to one-up Ramen Jiro for the title of most decadently unhealthy yet equally delicious bowl of noodles on the planet. If you want insulin dependent diabetes eat at Junk Garage a few times and I'm sure you'll get your wish. I went to the new location @ Ramen Street in Tokyo Station This is what my bowl of maze-men looked like:
It doesn't look too frightening, but maze-men is an upgraded form of abura-soba. Abura-soba is a style of Ramen where the soup is replaced with an oil-like gravy of melted pork fat. Bubuka is a chain that makes an awesome bowl of regular abura-soba. Maze-men takes abura-soba and throws in nastier ingredients that you mix together into a thick, HEAVY, testicular fortitude increasing meal. The standard maze-men at Junk Garage comes with premium noodles (from top-rated sister tsukemen shop Rokrinsha) drenched in a puddle of pork fat then layered with THICK pieces of mouth-watering chashu, mayonnaise, baby star crispy noodles, bonito flakes and spices. On top of that you can add varying amount of cheese, fresh garlic, more chashu, a heap of bean sprouts and get this... extra morsels of pure fat. Did I ask for extra fat? Oh hell yeah! I did get all the possible toppings but I didn't go overboard on the quantity. Correction: I didn't ask for yasai/moyashi (bean sprouts) cuz if you pile that sh*t up your bowl has the potential to look like this:
(note: the "yasai" is more typically a topping for Junk Garage's ramen which they also serve in addition to the more popular maze-soba. That's because the bean sprouts can soak up the soup to some degree but with maze-soba the sprouts just stay raw and crispy. blech.) (the massive bowl pictured above is actually the ramen, not the maze-soba at Junk Garage.)
After eating a bowl of maze-soba at Junk Garage you feel a bit queasy. The first 1/3 is like heaven and then the extreme fat/carb overload becomes progressively cloying. Too much of a good thing leaving you with the feeling that you might not want to eat ramen ever again. I don't even want to know how many calories are in a bowl of maze-soba but I'm sure I already hit my week's quota with that one serving.
If you go to Japan and want to satisfy your ramen fix, Junk Garage is definitely a place you want on your list as one of the most manliest and badass bowls around. Ramen Jiro is for pussies in comparison to Junk Garage. hahaha.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Okay enough about soup, fat and noodles.
The main reason I'm in Japan right now is to see shows and get nore video footage of the NMFT 3 bands. I had a pre-determined week off of work during the 1st week of August (due to OR shutdowns) so I decided to tack on an extra week of vacation prior to make a trip to Japan more worthwhile. UNFORTUNATELY, I'm in Japan for what seems like the sh*ttiest 2 weeks of shows in the history of rock music in Japan. Because of the big summer rock festivals Fuji Rock and Rock in Japan coming up this weekend and next, respectively it seems a lot of my favorite bands have decided to take a break. That and they probably want to enjoy the beach and summer weather. NATSUMEN invited me to go to Fuji Rock with them but I despise big music festivals especially in intensely hot and and humid weather. I just found out that uhnellys and Kominami Yasuha (congrats!!) are also playing at Fuji Rock but even NATSUMEN + uhnellys + deerhoof + Kominami Yasuha + Battles + Clammbon isn't enough to sway me since watching a performance at a big festival is barely a step above watching the same performance on youtube in terms of view and atmosphere. And at least I can choose to turn the air-conditioning on when I watch videos with my laptop on Youtube. Seeing a band play at a small live house is by far the best way to watch a live performance.
July 24 arrived in Tokyo in the evening. Didn't make it to Shimokitazawa ERA in time to watch Indigo la End and Happy!Mari (show started at 4pm. WTF?!) so I went to Club Que instead and saw Hoover's Ooover vs Noodles. I'm a sucker for female bands but I've never been a fan of the Noodles. A lot of my friends like them but to me they're about as generic an all-female garage-punk band can get. They've been together for 20 years now. Cripes! I at least give them props for making and playing music for so long. On the other hand, Hoover Oover is a band that makes incredibly catchy pop-punk songs and I've always wanted to see them perform at least once. On Sunday I got my chance and they didn't disappoint. All 4 members are great musicians but the highlight of their music is Masami's sweet-nasal voice with rapid-fire legato delivery
Some of my favorite female singers have a soft, "unappealing" nasal voice but utilize a legato technique to create an interesting flow: Eriko Hashimoto (Chatmonchy), Etsuko Yakushimaru (Soutaisei Riron), Makiko Hasegawa (Phenomenon). Well only the Chatmonchy clip has Ecchan flowing speedily in legato but trust me the other too use the same technique as well.
I forgot to bring my camera so here's my spy-cam footage of Hoover's Ooover taken with my iPhone:
Hoover's Ooover is a band I was interested in a few years ago but never had the chance to see live. Mainly because I tend to go to more underground shows and if they're playing there's usually a band I'd rather see more on the same night. But I'm pretty glad I got to see them on Sunday. They definitely kicked the Noodles collective arses (but yet again mad respect to Noodles for 20 years in the biz). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
July 25 Tickets to see Kowloon / Mouse on the Keys / toe @ O-west were long sold out but if I wanted to I could have gotten on the guest-list to watch the show for free. Unfortunately, I procrastinated on emailing Nakamura of Kowloon and never put myself on the guest list. I think the reason why is because I don't want to get into a situation where I owe big favors to bands who might guilt me into bringing them to Canada. =) Watching one of these bands in a single night is just the right amount of instrumental post-rock. But watching all 3 bands in the same night equates to instrumental meltdown. It would be like eating Junk Garage maze-soba for breakfast, lunch and dinner. ^%#@$ too much!!! So I can't say I was uber-disappointed that I missed watching this show, especially since I've seen all 3 bands play before. I did stop by O-west in case they had extra tickets at the door (no dice) but they were selling band merch outside so I picked up a new toe T-shirt and the concert shirt which came in XL (sweet! XL is pretty rare for T-shirts in Japan).
Instead of toe / MOTK / Kowloon I ended up going to Shimokita Daisy Bar to watch 昆虫キッズ.
edit: crap. gotta jet. will finish post later