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Simon Bartz

For Simon Bartz's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

Merpeoples bewitch; The Party's . . . party

| Feb 26, 2010

Merpeoples bewitch; The Party's . . . party

Four cute young women clad in ghostly white robes prance around in a forest holding twigs: No, it’s not an outtake from the classic 1973 pagan spookfest “The Wicker Man.” Yes, it is the excellent video for the Merpeoples’ spankingly sublime song “Sherman.” Singer/guitarist ...

Mad, bad and surreal to know

| Jan 29, 2010

Mad, bad and surreal to know

Long, long ago . . . in a distant age . . . there was no karaoke (cue twang of shamisen and cymbal flutter). “My uncle played guitar at a place like this before karaoke kicked off,” says Toshiaki Chiku, now in his 40s, ...

Sweat to a girl riot; soak up Gypsy jazz

| Jan 22, 2010

Sweat to a girl riot; soak up Gypsy jazz

“What’s that smell in here?” I ask The Harpy’s in the dressing room of the livehouse Motion, which lies at the butt end of the sleazy Kabukicho entertainment area in Tokyo’s central Shinjuku district. “It’s the smell of roses,” says bassist Maki Sato, her ...

Downtown Tokyo's fiery love

| Oct 30, 2009

Downtown Tokyo's fiery love

“Deep in the Valley,” which was made in downtown Tokyo and appears to have had a budget of ¥5 plus, probably, a box of persimmons for all involved (random gifts are very downtown), is an accident. And I mean that in a good, romantic ...

Astro Boy

| Oct 23, 2009

Astro Boy

Director: David Bowers Language: English Is a quake hitting Tokyo’s manga mecca Akihabara? No, it’s the collective groan of thousands of Atom fans as the manga legend suffers Hollywoodization. And in “Astro Boy” (as Atom is known abroad) the voices (including Nicolas Cage and ...

Great love in a garden almost grows

Oct 11, 2009

Great love in a garden almost grows

Miho leans out over the Lotus Pond to get a good photo of one of the bright-red flowers when the camera slips out of her hand. Standing next to her, I instinctively lean forward, stretch out my hand (my reflexes, even if I say ...

Guitar Wolf return to silence the lambs

| Mar 27, 2009

Guitar Wolf return to silence the lambs

“We’ve come back and we’re going to attack your planet with humongous love,” says Seiji (that’s Mr. Guitar Wolf himself) as he downs vegetable juice at a Jonathan’s family restuarant near Yoga Station in western Tokyo. I light a cigarette and look at him. ...

A rose among roots on Awajishima

| Mar 22, 2009

A rose among roots on Awajishima

I’m bent over double, throwing up water I’ve just drunk. I can’t keep anything down. “Excuse me. What are you doing there?” I look up. She’s perhaps in her 30s and her wavy, auburn hair curls into her face, accentuating her small upturned nose ...

True icon of indie

| Feb 27, 2009

True icon of indie

The Wedding Present’s latest album, “El Rey,” is one of the best records I’ve heard over the last few years and has also been widely lauded in the British music media. Criminally, it has not been picked up for distribution in Japan. But you’ll ...

| Feb 8, 2009

Storming the keep of Himeji Castle

“What are your three favorite things about Himeji Castle,” I ask my guide, Ayumi Miyazaki, an elegant middle-aged lady, as we slurp down tempura soba in the dungeons of Himeji Station in Hyogo Prefecture, prior to walking the 15 minutes up the main drag ...