Monday, May 25, 2015

The Ventures, The 60s Surf Band, Still Big in Japan!

(That's me holding the poster for the "Ventures Final Show in Japan." I did drink with Don Wilson - the guy who is second from right - the one that looks like Rock N Roll Santa Claus. How could I forget that face? Nice guy.)


This is a short post about some guys who really inspire me. You know them as "The Ventures." They were huge in the sixties all over the western world.
They are still big in Japan...

Here's what Wikipedia says about the Ventures

"The Ventures are an American instrumental rock band formed in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington. Founded by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, the group in its various incarnations has had an enduring impact on the development of music worldwide. With over 100 million records sold, the group is the best-selling instrumental band of all time. In 2008, the Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their instrumental virtuosity, experimentation with guitar effects, and unique sound laid the groundwork for innumerable groups, earning them the moniker "The Band that Launched a Thousand Bands".

While their popularity in the United States waned in the 1970s, the group remains revered in Japan, where they tour regularly to this day. "

It's true. The Ventures are still big in Japan.

May I brag? I have drank with Don Wilson at a rip-off bar in Roppongi before...  I think that must have been in about 1988 or 1989. I have a photo around here someplace... If I can find it, I'll put it into this blogpost. Don was a nice guy and the boss of the bar was kissing his ass the entire time I was there and Don put me on the guest list for the show... (So, how could I forget, no matter how drunk I was? And I mean, how many people look like Burl Ives or a a Surfer Santa Claus?)

And don't really remember too much from that night excepting that Don was a nice guy, soft spoken, and I drank too much.

We drank Dom Perignon and it was outrageously expensive (I remember that). And I didn't have to pay anything, they paid. I was blown away that they would pay for some shitty DJ in Japan's drinks....

I vaguely remember the bar's name (I think it was "Chalace" or "Chantay" or something like that) and I have been by there in the last few years but it is now gone.

Good riddance.

I think it was like ¥90,000 (almost a thousand US dollars) for a few bottles of Dom Perignon and some snacks. What a rip off! Thank God my girlfriend and I didn't have to pay!

Anyway, like it says, the Ventures are still big (sort of) in Japan to this day. So big that they are actually having a "Final Show." Well, what the hell? I guess so, I thought all the original members were dead?

Anyway, a Final Live, they have!

It's kind of like my Punk Band when I was a youngster: every show we played was our "Final Show" (or "Last Final" or "Totally Final" or "Really, We're Not Joking This Time, Final" or "Seriously, the Final Final.")

But this just goes to show that if you have a brand and a name and an image, you gotta stick with it and live the dream.

The Ventures are playing Japan (again!) and the tickets are ¥6000 each! Holy Holy! That's $50 (USD) a pop! And the venue they are playing at The Mozart Hall at Katsushika Symphony Hills Mozart Hall and that place holds about 1300 people! You do the math: $50 x 1300 = $65,000 to go to Japan and play one night? Why not?

And that's not to mention what they get selling merchandise and a bunch of money from sponsors.

Is that cool or what?

So, well, the point is that:

1) Ventures are still big in Japan.

2) The Ventures can still come here and get paid to play and have fun.

3) They must all be in their late 60s or early 70s yet they can still tour the world and be treated like Rock Gods in Japan.

4) They probably still get to go out drinking in Japan and spend $1000 a night yet some rich Japanese person picks up the tab.

Scoff all you want... But you won't find me disrespecting these people.

They rock! They have lived the true "Rock and Roll Dream."

I wish I can do the same when I'm 80 years old! Don't you?

NOTE: Holy Shit! I just found out that Don Wilson was born in Feb. 1933! That makes him 82 years old as of the writing of this article! Wow! What a wonderful life! And he is on his final tour of Japan! You rock Don!!!! You are a hero!


This article reprinted from Robot55 ロボット・ゴー・ゴー (

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Become a Yakuza! Japan's #1 Online Yakuza Fashion Boutique! なんちゃってヤクザファッション専門店!

Folks! I have my nominee for "Best Website of 2015!" It is called "Birth Japan" ( and it is a Yakuza Gangster Fashion and accessories site on Rakuten. Rakuten is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among the world’s largest by sales. So, Rakuten is a name you can trust! 

Birth Japan seems to be run by some (former?) Yakuza. On their website they say they've gone straight and so you can trust them too. Honest!

My best friend, "Ken" (not his real name), showed me the Birth Japan website yesterday and I loved it!!! "Ken"also told me that he had finally found his dream; his calling in life. He said he wants to become a Yakuza! 

Wow! That's cool! Me too! I'm totally serious here folks. "Ken Nishikawa" (not his real name) has found the website of the year. I haven't had this much fun and been excited about a website like this since the early days of the internet. I'm being dead serious here ("Dead" in a "figuratively speaking" manner, of course) you will just LOVE the Birth Japan webpage!

I want to become a Yakuza too! And you can in an instant with Birth Japan! They even say so on their webpage!.

(Above) It says something like, "If you are a good person, you can become a bad person instantly. If you are already a bad person, you can become a really bad person in seconds!" (with Birth Japan!) 

What are we waiting for? I'm in!

The above is a cool link from their webpage. It says that "Everything here (at this click) is only ¥1 yen but there is a, er, 'catch,' or a 'condition.'" Gee, I wonder what that 'catch' or 'conditions' could be? 

Well, I trust these guys, so I'm going to click it... If I suddenly am "disappeared" then you'll all know what happened.

If anything, "Birth Japan" is a name you can trust when it comes to buying stuff from and looking like a Yakuza. The above shot is announcing their big 10th Anniversary Sale! It's the 10th Anniversary of the boss of Birth Japan being released from prison! You can also sign up for their mail magazine that is full of outlaw stories from the boss (before he went straight!)

This is really hilarious. These guys have a sense of humor! I love that photo of the boss at the top right!

Keep your eyes open when visiting the site, there are discount coupons and all sorts of stuff flying by the screen at all times. It really does remind me of the fun sites from the early days of he internet. I really do dig Birth Japan!

Check it! You can order a wide variety of fashions for Yakuza as well as accessories like sunglasses, chains, belts, shoes, boots, buckles, lucky charms, dog tags, etc. You name it. They got it. 

And, if you buy it, WHAMMO! You become instant Yakuza bad guy! How cool is that?

Check it! Luxury for you and your favorite gangster and gangsterette!

Talk about Customer Service! What's this? Another sale? Yep! You can get a 5% discount on all deliveries to your friends who are currently in prison and a 5% discount for your friends who have been released from prison within the last 3 months. ABSOLUTELY NO C.O.D.!

Hey, and if you know what's good for you, you'll go and "Like" the Birth Japan Facebook page! (

There's a few hours of fun and cool stuff on the Birth Japan site. Here is their "Image Video." How cool!
不良ファッションブランド「BLOOD MONEY TOKYO」イメージCM その2

Check out the Birth Japan website. It's fabulous! "Birth Japan" 
Tell them "Ken Nishikawa" (not his real name) sent you!


NOTES: Some folks reading this might think I am joking. And I am, a little bit. But I think the guys running Birth Japan might be genius. They could be onto something big here. Imagine of the Anime community found out about this? Birth Japan could become very wealthy.

Also, I have written about the Yakuza before and have no real complaints about them. They have always been polite and had manners.... They are much better than the government who, through coercion, extorts money from us at gunpoint and bombs kids in foreign countries. The Yakuza also follow a code of ethics.... The government? Ethics? Never in the same room or in the same sentence.

Read this: Yakuza: Japanese Modern-Day Cowboys  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2015 Kanda Festival in Tokyo, Japan!

2015 Kanda Festival in Tokyo, Japan! Article in English and Japanese. Great photos too! 

The Kanda Matsuri is one of the three great Shinto festivals of Japan, along with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka! Kanda Shrine was founded in 730 AD.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Japan's ¥100 Bullet Train Coins

Did you know that the Japanese mint released 300,000 new ¥100 coins into circulation to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Shinkansen Bullet Trains the other day? No? Well, it doesn't seem like most people knew about it, either.

My wife's mom just came over and gave a set of the coins to my son. That's how I found out about it

Here's what the Japanese mint says about these coins from their webpage: (

"A bullet train Shinkansen, which was developed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, has been widely known for half a century, domestically as an important infrastructure supporting the lives of the Japanese people, and internationally as one of the symbols for Japan’s high technology. On October 1st, 2014, the Shinkansen marked the 50th anniversary of its opening. We release a series of commemorative coins featuring Shinkansen to commemorate of this anniversary between 2014 and 2016. It will include one 1,000 Yen silver proof coin and nine 100 Yen clad coins."

Since the mint only released 300,000 of these, I guess that's why not too many people had heard about it; the mint might have intentionally tried not to advertise too much because people go crazy over stuff like this. 

I know I would have. I collected coins and stamps (and baseball cards, comic books, etc.) when I was a kid.

As it was, according to my wife and mother-in-law, people were lining up at banks and post offices around the nation on the day of release to try to get a set. I'll bet you half a donut that the people who did line up - and were lucky enough to be able to get a set - did the "Apple Store" thing; they must have lined up from the night before. And, since each bank and post office only received a few sets, the sets were all gone within the first one minute on release date.

There's no way I would ever do that for computer stuff... For commemorate coins for my kid? Or for my own collection? OK. I suppose so.

It seems that there were lots of disappointed people who tried to get a set but couldn't.

These sets were virtually impossible to get if you were in Tokyo, but I hear they were a bit easier to obtain if you lived out in the country... 

hokuriku shinkansen
Hokuriku Shinkansen 100 yen coin
Joetsu Shinkansen 100 Yen coin
Tokaido Shinkansen 100 yen coin
Tokaido Shinkansen 100 yen coin
tohoku shinkansen
Sanyo Shinkansen 100 Yen coin
Sanyo Shinkansen 100 Yen coin
Shinkansen 100 Yen coin reverse
Shinkansen 100 Yen coin reverse

My kid seems to like them. I reckon the little boy in all men would like them too!

Wishing, Hoping and Believing

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