Monday, June 18, 2007

Bring Out the Star in You with Karaoke

Pictured: Asakusa Tokyo courtesy of Fuji Film staff
by Horace Jurdon

If music soothes the savage beast, then the karaoke phenomenon can be credited with pleasing party animals all over the world.

With karaoke, anyone can be in the spotlight. Singing is a great stress reliever and the perfect way to leave your worries at the doorstep. Besides, singing makes you feel good and it's just plain fun. A karaoke machine is a great way to have a blast with your friends and family and it's the perfect starting point to building your own in-house jam session.

The Japanese word Karaoke is derive from two words: Kara, which means "empty", and Oke, short for okesutora, or orchestra. Karaoke entertainment systems provide pre-recorded musical accompaniment of popular songs. In most cases, karaoke performers follow the lyrics on a video screen as the music plays on.

After karaoke music and parties fully swept Asia, they began to form a solid presence in North America. Since the first virtual concert machine was introduced in Japan in the 1970's, karaoke parties have become favorite pastimes for small time stars of all types. In fact, karaoke became so popular that the media adopted the term to use for all occasions when live music was replaced by "canned" or pre-recorded music.

This history of Japan is rich with artistic elements, including music. Traditional Japanese music is present in ancient culture, mythology and history. Japanese Samurais are even known to use dancing, singing and music as an element in their training and education.

The history of karaoke can be traced back to the early 1970's, and a singer named Daisuke Inoue. A crowd favorite at a bar called Utagoe Kissa, Inoue was often asked to provide recordings of his music so that fans could sing along. Realizing the potential, Inoue created a tape recorder that played a song for a 100-yen coin. At that time, 100-yen was about the price of two typical lunches, so it was considered expensive to use this new music machine. Even so, the combination of old-time jukebox and future karaoke machine proved to be a huge hit in Japan. Inoue decided that instead of selling the machines, he would lease them so that the stores and bars would not have to purchase new songs on their own.

The invention of the karaoke machine was intensely important to the culture of modern Japan; so much so, that Daisuke Inoue was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for "providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other."

The act of singing karaoke is known as "Karaoke Time", and has been a popular form of entertainment in East Asia since the early 1980's. The karaoke phenomenon quickly spread to other parts of the world, and its popularity soon reached record heights. Before long, the karaoke craze reached North American shores, took the entire continent by storm and opened brand new opportunities for enterprising individuals.

The new entertainment import industry flourished in the Western world. Enterprising Americans were quick to see the investment potential in a brand new type of entertainment that provided cool, relaxing fun, as well as bringing people together in a tolerant, patient manner. Karaoke bars and nightclubs known as "KTV boxes" opened across North America, providing eager would-be performers with fresh new venues, software and equipment.

Since its inception in the United States and other western countries, people have begun to take karaoke more seriously. American bars are unlikely to have karaoke seven nights a week as they do in East Asia. Many however, have upgraded their equipment from the small, standalone machines that started the craze over two decades ago. Crowds can follow song lyrics on television screens displayed throughout the bars, and some even offer big screen TVs.

The karaoke sensation has also entered our homes. From inexpensive children's versions to high-end machines, home karaoke systems can be connected to a pre-existing entertainment center and families can join in the fun. Karaoke music can be downloaded from the Internet, and fans can sing along with their computers if they do not have a personal karaoke machine available.

If you've got song in your heart and just need to sing out loud, find a karaoke machine and bring out the star in you.
About the Author

Horace Jurdon loves writing for some of today's most popular web sites, on creative recreation and recreation and leisure issues.Feel free to grab a unique version of this article from the karaoke Articles Submission Service

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Accupuncture: The Japanese Way

Pictured: Tanzawa area in Kanagawa

by Tom Tahiki

Japan has been world-renowned for its breakthroughs in electronics. Need proof? Just take a look at all the cellular phones and other technological gadgets around you with Japanese brands. In terms of medical breakthroughs though, Japan is definitely not lagging behind. For centuries now, traditional Japanese healing arts have been used to address root causes of many diseases, restore balance and maintain overall health. Examples of these ancient arts are moxibustion, shiatsu and acupuncture. For this article, we will focus on the Japanese style of acupuncture.

First, let us talk about what acupuncture is. Starting more than two thousand years ago, acupuncture is a branch of medicine practiced worldwide both as a primary and adjunctive treatment for a wide range of health conditions. With thousands of years of research and practice backing it up, the basic method of acupuncture is to insert needles in various parts of the body to relieve pain and treat diseases. Different types of the practice exist in all parts of the world, each with various styles and applications.

While acupuncture has its roots in China, Japan gave this medical practice its own twist, which was accepted immediately in the world of medicine. The general concept of Japanese acupuncture is using the least amount of stimulation to create the greatest effect in the patient. As opposed to traditional Chinese medicine, Japanese acupuncture uses thinner needles that are barely thicker than human hair. These needles are inserted in the body not deeper than 1 or 2 millimeters, if they are inserted at all. Less points and stimulation is basically the trick. Hence, the Japanese technique demands much greater care and precision than the Chinese technique, making it a challenge to the practitioner but an advantage to the patient because of the reduced pain. The Japanese style of acupuncture also requires more training than the traditional Chinese medicine.

While there are the general rules, different styles in the Japanese practice exist as well. Examples are the two methods developed by two acupuncture legends of the twentieth century: Yoshio Manaka and Kodo Fukushima. Manaka is a surgeon who has developed an effective and versatile form of Japanese acupuncture therapy. Fukushima, an active pacifist, refined the non-inserted needling techniques which have become known as “toyohari”.

Toyohari is a refined system of Japanese meridian therapy. It is different from other types of acupuncture in the sense than it uses more delicate and specialized needling treatment methods. Focusing on the use of pulse diagnosis and palpation skills, the theoretical foundation of Toyohari is based on the classic medical theories of Nei Jing, Su Wen, Ling Shu and Nan Jing.

Here’s a bit of history: Considered one of the main pillars in Japanese acupuncture is Waichi Sugiyama, or the “blind acupuncturist”. Upon his death in 1964, Sugiyama has developed 100 acupuncture techniques and has established 45 acupuncture schools for the blind in Japan. Through books read to him, he has studied and simplified volumes of ancient medical texts in his goal to make medical knowledge more accessible to the blind.

About The Author
Tom Takihi is the proud owner of Japan Discovery, the largest portal of information of Japan on the web. To learn more about acupuncture and other forms of Japanese traditional medicine, please visit-:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tuna Hero

by Shawn Thir

Pictured: Odawara Castle Moat

One of my joys of living in Japan is the food. The variety in the Japanese diet is nearly endless as they eat just about anything. The emphasis on quality, freshness and appearance has been an awakening for my taste buds long dulled by the instant, ready- to- go fast food back home. When I first came to Japan, I spent many a weekend wandering around town checking out a bar here and there, getting lost and occasionally stumbling upon a great eatery. I'm not talking about some Ginza sushi shop where it costs 20,000 yen to dine, but a place that has a certain atmosphere, a warmth that keeps bringing you back.

A friend showed me one such place, a small kaitensushi-ya (a cheap rotating conveyor sushi bar)called Tuna Hero. How he found the place, I'll never know. Probably just dumb luck. It was cheap to eat and if your bill topped 1,500 yen, well, you knew you had just pigged out. Kon-chan, the master, had a conveyor belt in his small shop, but he never really used it. He'd just slice up some fish and bring it over.

The walls of Tuna Hero are plastered with pictures of children. In my poor Japanese, I asked the master why there were all these kids on the walls. He said that they were birthday pictures- the kids come in to celebrate on their birthday and he gives them some ice cream as a "present." Being a smart-ass, I quipped that I wanted my picture on the wall, too. And with that, the master produced a camera, lined me up against the wall and took my picture.

A few weeks later, the photo was on the wall under the clock with a message saying, "Come and study English with us!" The fact that it is under the clock is important- it's in a postion where everyone will notice it ergo, it's a place of "honor" if I may use that word. There I was, immortalized in customer lore for eternity. I frequented Tuna Hero since it was close to where I lived. It wasn't necessarily the food that brought me back, it was the fact the master would chat me up even though I couldn't understand a lick of what he was saying. When the shop wasn't busy, he'd duck out into his garden and bring out some fresh edamame(green soy beans. A perfect match with a cold beer!). On one occasion he gave me whale sashimi and on another, it was aloe sushi.

The shop never really got crowded and I assume that he did a fair amount of business in sushi deliveries in his Tuna hero mobile- a little Suzuki mini-car(probably had a lawn mower engine in it) with a Tuna Hero logo( kind of a Kintaro-looking kid triumphantly holding a tray of sushi) on the doors. I'd see him in the street and he beep his horn and give me a wave. For a guy thousands of miles from home and unable to speak read or write Japanese, he friendliness helped me deal with culture shock and adjust to live in Japan.

The moral of the story is this: find a restaurant, be it an izakaya, sushi-ya or yakitori shop to call your own while you're in Japan. It's a place to really get to know the average Japanese. It's a chance to get out of your English bubble- the gaijin bars and friends. Get out and see something for yourself. It will do wonders for your social standing. I once took a date to Tuna Hero and my stock with her jumped 10,000% when she saw that not only was my picture on the wall of the shop(thereby granting me some fame), but that the master actually knew me. In her eyes, that was something incredible.

Tuna Hero is still there and 5 years after the fact, the pictures are still on the wall. It's a little trip down memory lane. No...scratch that. Hitting the haunts of my early days in Japan is more like a soldier sifting through the burned-out wreckage of a battlefield. You look around, tip your hat back and think: "God damn. I f----ing made it in this country."

Shawn Thir

Shawn is the webmaster of Lets and has a favorite yakitori joint whose location he will never divulge. Let`s