September 23, 2023

Kazuya Kosaka

One of the rewards of listening to the Gold(en oldies) on J1 Radio is hearing covers of songs you never expected. Flash back to the late 1950s and early 1960s when Japan's television stations were first going on the air. They licensed Hollywood productions to fill in the program schedules.

Westerns were a staple on American television at the time, and so the genre naturally became a staple on Japanese television. Rawhide was a big hit. During a February 1962 publicity tour, Clint Eastwood, Paul Brinegar, and Eric Fleming met the Japanese press at the Palace Hotel in Tokyo.

It was only a matter of time before Japanese musicians began performing Western music and rockabilly. Kazuya Kosaka & The Wagon Masters not only covered the hits but reinterpreted them as well.

Here's Kosaku's version of "Rawhide."

And his cover of "Jailhouse Rock."

Kazuya Kosaka (1935–1997) is better remembered today in Japan for his long career in movies and television.

There are also J1 Radio apps for Roku, Android, and iPhone.

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September 20, 2023

Lord Simon: The Dispossession of Hannah

To save a young woman from a band of marauding students, Lord Simon bespelled her into the walls of his house, powerful magic he later discovers he cannot undo.

Determined to free her from this prison of wood and stone, Lord Simon consorts with grave robbers and physicians, politicians and priests, twisting the arms of the powerful and the profane in every profession. As his reputation and his house crumble around him, his obsession to save a woman long thought dead threatens to drive him mad.

The third installment in the Roesia series, Lord Simon: The Dispossession of Hannah encompasses the events in Richard: The Ethics of Affection and Aubrey: Remnants of Transformation.

Apple Books
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The Roesia Series

Tales of the Quest
Lord Simon: The Dispossession of Hannah
Richard: The Ethics of Affection
Aubrey: Remnants of Transformation

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September 16, 2023

Classic Toei samurai shows

Abarenbo Shogun ("The Unfettered Shogun") ran for 831 episodes between 1978 and 2008, placing it third behind Zenigata Heiji and Mito Komon. Over a four-decade long run, Mito Komon reached a staggering 1,227 episodes, the record for a Japanese period drama.

Abarenbo Shogun and Mito Komon share the same premise: a high Tokugawa official dons a disguise and mingles among the commoners to deliver rough justice to the bad guys. As the title makes clear, in Abarenbo Shogun, the official is the shogun himself.

Ken Matsudaira played Tokugawa Yoshimune for the entire series while five actors took on the lead role as Tokugawa Mitsukuni on Mito Komon.

As governor of Mito, the maverick Mitsukuni laid the groundwork that eventually led to the domain playing a key role in the Meiji Restoration a hundred and fifty years later. The equally impressive Yoshimune is ranked among the best of the Tokugawa shoguns.

The first episode of Abarenbo Shogun introduces another historical character, the respected Ooka Tadasuke, who was appointed by Yoshimune. As an Edo period magistrate, he functioned as both the chief of police and the presiding judge.

The series has Yoshimune using the residence of an old firefighter friend as his base of operations. It's a perfect setup for an action-oriented police procedural. With decent scripts, acting, and directing, it's easy to see why it lasted so long.

The Toei Jidaigeki channel has the first two subtitled episodes of Abarenbo Shogun. The channel includes sample shows from other classic samurai series, including Sonny Chiba's Yagyu Abaretabi and Shadow Warriors.

In Shadow Warriors, Chiba is the laid-back owner of a bathhouse in Edo. But that's a cover for his real job as a secret agent for the shogunate. In each of the five seasons, he returns as a different descendent of the Iga ninja Hattori Hanzo, a role he reprised for Kill Bill.

Yagyu Abaretabi, by contrast, is a road movie. Chiba again plays a historical figure, Yagyu Jubei. His brother is an inspector on the famed Tokai Highway. Chiba and his band of ninjas tag along as his bodyguards. It's another great premise for an ongoing series.

The Toei Jidaigeki channel includes the 1972 remake of the acclaimed Kutsukake Tokijiro, an Edo period yakuza redemption drama. But also in the mix are several martial arts and tokusatsu series that put the low in low budget. Production quality is all over the place.

The first season of Shadow Warriors is on Tubi. The movie Uzumasa Limelight looks at the genre from the perspective of a sword stuntman who has difficulty finding work after spending his entire career on a period drama like Mito Komon.

Samurai dramas were once as dominate on Japanese television as Westerns were on American television. Incidentally, Rawhide (1959–1965), the series that made Clint Eastwood a star, was a big hit in Japan at the time.

Especially with Shadow Warriors, be forewarned that broadcast standards during the 1970s and 1980s in Japan were not as stringent as those in North America. On the other hand, "golden time" shows like Abarenbo Shogun and Mito Komon remained more family friendly.

Related links

Toei Jidaigeki channel
Uzumasa Limelight
Shadow Warriors

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September 13, 2023


It's 1995 and Donna Howard is living an ordinary life in Portland, Maine. She works as a hairdresser, has a boring boyfriend, two opinionated brothers, and two exhaustively energetic parents. As far as she's concerned, she's an ordinary person and proud of it.

Except she can see the past. Walk down any street in the old part of the city and four centuries of its inhabitants walk right along with her. She can observe them, hear them, smell them. And she'd rather not. She'd prefer to leave the past in the past.

Until a customer "accidentally" leaves an ancient Roman coin at the hair salon. A coin worth an awful lot of money. Then the woman appraising the coin for the Portland Museum of Art "accidentally" ends up dead. And now the past won't leave her alone.

Not even the man who's visage was molded into the metal 2000 years ago, a man who wreaked mayhem then and may have witnessed murder now. Quite unwittingly, Donna uncovers family secrets, confronts historical controversies, and closes in on a very contemporary crime.

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Donna Howard Mysteries

Silver Spoon

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September 09, 2023

The Dial Comes to Town

The best technical support video ever. I'm so ancient that I grew up with a dial telephone. And those massive telephone books. This was an era when AT&T owned the entire system from end to end, including the telephone. Touch-Tone (a registered trademark) debuted in November 1963.

The AT&T monopoly (also known as "Ma Bell," after Bell Telephone founded by Alexander Graham Bell) was broken up in 1984 into seven regional "Baby Bells." I was in college at the time, and one of the first manifestations of the break-up was the proliferation of cheap Touch-Tone phones.

Those wall-sized racks of electromechanical switches make the geek in me smile. Today, the equipment that filled entire buildings would fit into a small closet. But this was the cutting edge of computing in 1940. And why the invention of the transistor at Bell Labs in 1947 changed everything.

Not only has the dial telephone gone the way of the dinosaurs, but the landline (also known affectionately as "POTS" or "plain old telephone service") is fast on their heels. Today, only two percent of households in the United States rely solely on a hardwired connection to place a phone call.

The question going forward is how fast fiber will replace the now "traditional" coaxial cable connection. And when and if wireless will replace everything else.

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September 06, 2023

The Space Alien

The year is 1953. The Korean War is winding down. The Cold War is heating up. In 1952, the United States tested the first hydrogen bomb. Godzilla stomped onto the world stage two years later. UFOs are appearing all over the world. In Ranpo Edogawa's latest young adult novel, five flying saucers zoom across the skies of Tokyo.

A day after that alarming incident, a woodsman stumbles out of the forest to report the landing of an alien spacecraft in the mountains southwest of Tokyo. A month later, Ichiro Hirano's neighbor goes missing. And then reappears as abruptly as he vanished, claiming he was kidnapped by a mysterious winged lizard creature.

That same lizard creature is now stalking the pretty and talented sister of Ichiro's best friend. What in the world is going on? What do the aliens want? And where did they come from? These are the kind of questions only master sleuth Kogoro Akechi and the Boy Detectives Club can hope to answer.

Apple Books
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The Boy Detectives Club

The Phantom Doctor
The Bronze Devil
The Space Alien

The Space Alien takes place in the year following the end of the Occupation (1945–1952). Stark reminders of the war remained, such as a concrete storehouse standing alone in a city block that was once home to a neighborhood of wood-frame houses.

Rice paddies could still be found throughout Setagaya Ward, located in the southwest corner of Tokyo proper. No longer "sparsely populated," this mostly residential ward has since grown to a population of nine-hundred thousand, the largest in the city.

Family names follow Western convention, the surname given last. Long vowels have been shortened to a single character with no diacritics.

Check out Kate's interview with me about the translation process (also here, here, and here). Please visit the website for more information.

Related posts

The magic mirror
Last storehouse standing

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September 02, 2023

dLibrary Japan (big upgrade in the works)

A couple of months ago, I earned an Amazon gift card for participating in a lengthy survey from NHK Cosmomedia about the kind of content I would expect from a streaming service that resembled TV Japan. And how much I'd be willing to pay.

By next April, we should find out the results from that survey.

Changes are afoot at NHK Cosmomedia, which owns and operates dLibrary Japan, NHK World, and TV Japan (also known as NHK World Premium).

I've speculated about the possibilities before. Cable cutting is surely eating into TV Japan's subscriber base. The (free) NHK World streaming service already carries a considerable amount of localized NHK edutainment material, including the all-important sumo tournaments.

dLibrary Japan recently started streaming series after their first run on TV Japan and shows after they debuted in Japan. With sumo bouts covered by NHK World, the only programming on TV Japan I really miss are the Taiga and Asadora dramas, and live news from Japan (in Japanese).

NHK World streams news on the hour from its own bureaus, half of the day from New York, and all in English. But, frankly, a lot of the time, I get the feeling that the NHK World anchors think they're on CNN. News from North America often gets more airtime than anything to do with Japan.

dLibrary Japan could become the VOD library for TV Japan, including real-time news and commentary.

It's never had a backlist and only held onto content for a year or two. While services like Retrocrush specialize in classic anime, long-running series like Abarenbo Shogun remain unknown outside Japan. (You can watch Shadow Warriors and a couple of tokusatsu series on Tubi.)

NHK World is available via streaming, OTA, and VOD, so NHK Cosmomedia doesn't need to reinvent the wheel. Ideally, they'd integrate the services in a single app with paid and unpaid tiers. But easier said than done, which is why dLibrary Japan is going on hiatus for several months.

Though I suspect that NHK Cosmomedia's more immediate goal is to rebuild dLibrary Japan with the capacity for future integration and expansion, which will take place at a later date. A Roku app that actually works would by itself be a big step forward.

In any case, for now, dLibrary Japan stopped enrolling new customers on 9/1/2023 and won't post any new content after 9/30/2023. The service will go offline on 10/31/2023.

Don't panic! The official press release promises they will be back!

We are thrilled to announce the upcoming introduction of an upgraded streaming distribution service. This renewed service will bring you an even richer selection of Japanese content and improved performance, including the addition of NHK news viewing. To make way for these enhancements, the current dLibrary Japan service will be suspended.

Well, I do like that bit about the news. All we know at this juncture is that the new service will launch "within fiscal year 2023." In Japan, that means before the end of March 2024. They won't need five months to update the apps and servers, so other stuff must be going on behind the scenes too.

I am very curious find out what sort of "upgraded streaming distribution service" NHK Cosmomedia has in store.

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