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Misora’s ship has come in

by Steve McClure

Die-hard fans of the late Hibari Misora — the greatest enka diva ever — may want to book passage on the “Queen Hibari Misora cruise,” a unique, if somewhat morbid, maritime event being held June 12 and 13 to mark the 14th anniversary of Misora’s death at the age of 52 after a prolonged illness.

Here’s the deal: For 30,000 yen per person, you board the Pacific Venus luxury liner in Yokohama harbor and take a leisurely seven-hour cruise to Tokyo Bay and back. During the cruise, you will be treated to:

* A showing of the movie “Hiyodori Zoshi,” starring Misora and the late Kinnosuke Nakamura
* A film of a Misora concert
* A meal featuring Misora’s favorite dishes
* An exhibition of Misora-related articles
* A chance to buy various Misora-themed goods
* And most curiously, a Bon Odori taikai, in which cruise passengers will don yukata and dance in (presumably) festive matsuri fashion to the strains of Misora’s music.

Six hundred places are available on each of the two days. “State” and “deluxe” rooms are available for an extra charge of 5,000 yen and 10,000 yen, respectively, per person. For more information, call IPS Hibiya Travel Plaza, who are organizing the cruise, at (03) 3509-9075.

I don’t want to hurt the feelings of Misora’s legions of fans, but the whole thing just sounds a wee bit creepy. I mean, what’s next? The Yutaka Ozaki Memorial Pub Crawl, in which Ozaki’s fans retrace their departed idol’s last steps before he collapsed drunk and naked in a shitamachi alley?

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Towa Tei is a man who delights in creating different images, both visual and audio. As a graphic designer, he takes great care in crafting both his personal look (a mannequin-like otaku with impenetrably dark glasses) and his strikingly cool album art.

For “Towa Tei,” his latest release under the moniker Sweet Robots Against the Machine, he picks up musically where the first SRATM album left off. Today’s SRATM, however, is a much more fully realized concept than it was for that 1997 release.

“The previous time, SRATM was just a byproduct,” explains the former Deee-Lite member. “It’s what happened when I was making ‘Sound Museum’ [the second Towa Tei album], which was my idea of an R&B and vocal-oriented album. Some of the stuff just didn’t fit, so I put it out separately as SRATM.

“This time, I started out with the idea of making something as SRATM,” he continues. “I think it’s turned out to be more Towa Tei than any other album out there under the name of Towa Tei. It took me so much longer than anything else I’ve done.”

Compared to Tei’s more recent material, the music on “Towa Tei” is more angular and electronic — more robotic, if you will. In fact, one piece on the album, “Latte & Macaron,” owes its inception to Sony’s robotic dog, Aibo. Using a computer program called SoundLINK, designed by fellow DJ/producer Nobukazu Takemura, Tei hooked the dog up to his system and let it lead the way.

“I placed Aibo between the speakers and tried to arrange the track according to the movement of Aibo,” Tei relates. “It was a very fresh and new experience for me.”

No word on what Aibo thought of it or whether he’ll receive any composer’s royalties.