Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

The Past Year at the University of Chicago: The Video Record

Posted in Japanese literature,Music,Putting One Foot in Front of the Other by bourdaghs on the June 30th, 2010

Those of us who study Japanese culture and literature at the University of Chicago had an exciting year in 2009-2010. We’ve now posted video of some of the major events. Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo delivered this year’s Tetsuo Najita Distinguished Lecture in March. Video of his speech, “A Novelist Re-Reads ‘Kaitokudo,'” in the original Japanese is available here, and the lecture with an English-language voiceover (done by yours truly at the event) is available here.

Our Japan@Chicago conference this year was held in late May and devoted to the topic of “Engaging Commodities: Crossing Mass Culture and the Avant-Garde in 1960s Japanese Film, Music, and Art.” The event included several specials guests, musicians who were active in the 1960s rock scene in Japan. They spoke about their experiences then, and they also brought along their guitars and played a few songs for us. These included Alan Merrill, who was active in Japan in the 1960s Group Sounds band The Lead, then as a solo artist signed to Watanabe Productions, and later in the early 1970s pioneering glam rock band Vodka Collins. Here is video of Alan performed his 1973 Vodka Collins hit, “Automatic Pilot.” Alan closed his impromptu set at the conference with a rendition of a song he wrote and first recorded in 1975 with his UK band The Arrows after leaving Japan: “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (video here).

We also were lucky enough to have three original members of the legendary Yokohama band The Golden Cups join us for a question-and-answer session: Eddie Ban (lead guitar), Louise Louis Kabe (bass), and Mamoru Manu (drums and vocals). At the end of the evening we had a jam session with Eddie Ban and Alan Merrill. They played three numbers together, including a sly Japanese-language version of “Sweet Home Chicago” (video here).

It was a terrific year, and we’re already planning some very interesting events for next year….

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