On Friday I headed out to a #quakebook event at the Pink Cow in Shibuya. I hadn’t really checked out the roster except that I knew that Akiko Otao, the vocal director for Once Upon A Mattress, was singing, and I’d never actually heard her sing anything herself. She went up along with Ai Yamazaki, music director and conductor from the show, who played piano accompaniment as Akiko belted out some fantastic opera-meets-show-tunes, let-me-show-you-my-infinite-vocal-range material.
Bringing along half a dozen actors ensured that Akiko and Ai had the noisiest, most outspoken and most appreciative set of fans in the room. I felt a little badly for the other performers.
Thereafter, Our Man in Abiko, founder of #quakebook, gave an interview. While my friend Ed Harrison did the layout for #quakebook, and I’ve made a point of buying both his other books, I’ve held off on buying #quakebook because I don’t like reading books on my computer. Our Man announced that #quakebook will finally be available in physical form on June 14th, and exhorted everyone to order it from a physical store so that the store might order a few copies and leave the others on the shelves. I’ll have to go find an actual bookstore that stocks English books—I’ve been living off Amazon for years.
In the meantime, the digital version of #quakebook will be available for free. This decision was apparently the result of an accidental experiment: In the first two weeks after the quake, #quakebook sold about 5000 copies online. Then they sold about another 500 in the ensuing six weeks. However, when an Amazon glitch led to the book being listed for $0, they sold 3000 copies in 12 hours. So the idea now is to use the digital version to drum up physical sales, with the physical version serving as a time capsule: Our Man has been cautious not to let people update their stories so that the book will serve as a document of initial reactions at the time.
Our Man also outlined how they got in touch with some of the celebrities involved in the book—most of which involved people noticing that certain celebrities were following and reposting tweets the #quakebook Twitter feed, then approaching them with the idea of writing, with deadlines like “three hours."
Freedom, Music, and Dance
On Sunday I hit the “FREEDOM, MUSIC, and DANCE CARNIVAL” held by KAZ TAP STUDIO. Two members of the Mattress cast and crew were involved, and I headed to O-EAST in Shibuya expecting something like a little tap studio recital. What I didn’t expect was a full-on three-hour concert, with guest musicians and a freestyle hip-hop DJ (DJ BAKU). The music was essentially experimental jazz with tap dancer Kazunori Kumagai as the central instrument. He would issue “challenges” to individual musicians in turn, building off their rhythm and encouraging them to build off him—even the DJ. Each number tended to go on and on, but even after three hours, Kazunori still had new moves to pull out.
There were also some group events featuring the Tappers Riot tap troupe, and the encore included members of Kazunori’s tap class, which is where my Mattress mates got involved. Everyone kept encouraging me to try out the class, which is indeed tempting—I can’t dance, but the idea of making noise with your feet makes total sense to me in the same way that smacking pots and pans together makes sense to a two-year-old.
The event was partially meant to support relief in Tohoku, as Kazunori is from Sendai, and runs a sister school in the city. I’m not sure whether any part of admission went to relief efforts, but the usual Red Cross donation boxes were out there. He’ll be holding another event on June 12 in Roppongi as well.