McGurk’s Suicide Hall

New York Stories. In today’s episode I pay a visit to the place where McGurk’s Suicide Hall once stood

Over the past year I have been regularly updating my Youtube channel with New York Stories. In today’s episode I pay a visit to the place where McGurk’s Suicide Hall once stood, as well as visiting the place where the first baseball team in America had their headquarters. The latter location also became the Globe Dime Museum which was where Harry Houdini first performed as well as Weber and Fields. While he didn’t debut there, W.C. Fields also worked the Globe Dime Museum when he first came to New York.

Maspeth Walkaround

We take a Walking in New York City trip today around my neighborhood of Maspeth in Queens. I show you some of the old signs in the area, local stores and we finish with a great conversation with two auto repair shop owners/workers. The business has been around since the 1950’s and the guys were really gracious in talking to me about their cars.

The Christmas Lights Of Hiroshima

One of the unexpected memories from my recent trip to Japan was the Christmas Lights of Hiroshima

One of the unexpected memories from my recent trip to Japan was the Christmas Lights of Hiroshima, they were absolutely stunning. Just click the play button in the image below to see them.

Once I sync my laptops I will share some photos from this trip.

The Christmas Lights Of Tokyo

One unexpected surprise during my trip to Japan 日本 has been the wonderful displays of Christmas lights in each city. So far I have taken videos of the Christmas lights of Tokyo 東京, Osaka and Hiroshima. You can see all of the videos from the various cities RIGHT HERE.

To be honest I hadn’t expected to film Christmas lights (クリスマスのあかり) in Japan, but I was like a kid in a candy store. I’m an Englishman who lives in New York and over the years all of my family has passed away, so Christmas isn’t really an event that I celebrate. However, being in Japan made me feel like a kid again. Just click the play button in the video below.

In the video above I went to Roppongi Hills ( 六本木ヒルズ ) in Tokyo and also visited the Mohri Garden. As you will see in the images below, the display is stunning.

Young Love…

Senso-Ji In Tokyo – Video

Here is the first of many posts from my 2020/21 trip to Japan. In this first video I go to Senso-Ji on the first morning

Here is the first of many posts from my 2019/20 trip to Japan. In this first video I go to Senso-Ji on the first morning attempting to catch the Temple at sunrise. Unfortunately the light just went from dark to light without much of a sunrise, but the video does show Senso-Ji without all of the crowds.

Click the center of the image below to start the video.

Here are some images from the day.

Edo Castle In Tokyo

First of all I wrote about my journey to Tokyo (LINK), which I then followed up with two posts about the Naruko Tenjin Shrine (POST 1) and (POST 2). For the fourth post I skipped ahead

First of all I wrote about my journey to Tokyo (LINK), which I then followed up with two posts about the Naruko Tenjin Shrine (POST 1) and (POST 2). For the fourth post I skipped ahead and talked about watching the punk idol band, BiSH twice while I was in Tokyo (LINK).

So now I will go back to chronological order and cover my first trip into Tokyo on my fourth day. Now that may seem strange but on days two and three I attended Rockabilly shows so the first weekend was tied up taking it easy after the journey and then partying for two nights.

On the first Monday I headed into the center of Tokyo to pay a visit to Edo Castle and the Imperial palace. Now on the journey there I did get a good laugh. From my knowledge of Japanese culture tattoos are frowned upon, especially by the older generation. On the subway to Otemachi I kept checking the on board map, obviously the system is new to me as is the city. Two stops before my destination an older man asked me if I needed help, I was okay so I thanked him for his offer and then he pointed at my arm and said “Elvis Presley”.

My experience to this point had been virtually everyone avoiding eye contact with me with people staring out of the corner of their eyes. Other than the children, they are quite happy to stare full on to the bald headed tattooed man 🙂 So I was delighted that someone made contact with me, but at the same part annoyed because I was getting off in one more stop.

The day was gorgeous, it was the middle of November and it was 72 degrees. I did film a few clips that I might splice together, but at the time I hadn’t really planned to do any filming. My first port of call after viewing the opening garden was to try and find a drink. With it being a nice day combined with the fact that I have throat problems, I needed to make sure that I had some liquid. Fortunately there was a little hut with a vending machine and I noticed some coffee. Now I don’t really like cold coffee but I did want some caffeine, so coffee it was. Imagine my surprise when the can of coffee came out nice and hot.

Yes, hot coffee from a vending machine. Now I was set for my journey.

In the second picture in this post I am taking a selfie in front of some old soldiers barracks. Before I did that I stood patiently awaiting my turn at the gate as a fellow American took 600 or so photos. Then he did something that made my mouth open, as if he hadn’t taken enough photos with his $1,000 camera, the guy then steps over the gate with the clear sign in English on it saying “Please do not enter beyond here”. It took a few seconds as he walked in the restricted area when he caught sight of me, took more pics then stepped in the flower bed and bent the bush back at the side of the gate.

The first thought that entered my mind was the thoughts of the Japanese people nearby, this dude just single-handedly put all of us tourists in the ugly American boat. I was able to capture some great photos with my $200 digital camera, so I know damn well that his could capture dust if it really wanted to. So disrespectful.

So I didn’t make it all the way to the Imperial palace, the activities the night before caught up to me. But I walked and walked and walked, even paying 500 Yen to enter a garden that I had no intention of seeing, lol. It was nice to look at though.

As I left I decided to take one more selfie, and I’m so glad that I did. This selfie with the Ote-Mon gate behind me beyond the moat became my go to profile pic on all of my social media platforms.

Up next, Shibuya.

Watching BiSH In Tokyo

Even to this day it confuses me, I love the punk band without instruments, BiSH. Why does it confuse me you ask? It is quite simple really, my musical proclivities revolve around 1950’s Rock and Roll and Rockabilly

Even to this day it confuses me, I love the punk band without instruments, BiSH.

Why does it confuse me you ask? It is quite simple really, my musical proclivities revolve around 1950’s Rock and Roll and Rockabilly, and of course the genres that spawn off of that. Bluegrass, Honky Tonk, old time Rhythm and Blues, Western Swing, Jump Blues, Skiffle, Jug Band etc; Ever since I was a kid I have stuck to those styles of music with a healthy dose of classical music when I want to relax.

Why all of a sudden at 55 years old am I flying on a 13,000 mile round trip to go and see a relatively small Japanese band with a passionate fan base? Let me point out that when I planned my trip last year they were just on the verge of making it big, and since I left Japan they have blown up.

It all started with a Japanese cover band of Sony musicians who performed live on Youtube once a month. They are a band of really talented musicians and singers with amazing voices and they are a joy to watch. One of the group members, Manami, did a solo version of the following song. Unfortunately you are not allowed to embed the video on external sites.

As I do with a lot of covers that the band perform, I like to check out the original artist as well. In the comment section there were a lot of BiSH fans professing their love for the band so I figured I would check them out. Of course the first video that I wanted to see was the song ‘Orchestra’ as was performed by Manami. This was the first song by BiSH that I watched, and again, because it is uploaded in Japan, I can only post a link and not embed the video. BiSH – Orchestra.

Now to be honest with you there was a perfect mix that happened in the video above that initially drew me to the band. First of all it was the violin orchestra backing them, the rock opera feel is always something to get my attention. Secondly, the voice of the second girl to sing in the video really captured me, this isn’t just a manufactured pop band, this girl can actually sing. You will hear more about AiNA THE END soon. Lastly, I think that it was the combination of what I was seeing in the video, the girls sweating profusely, the crowd interaction and the expression’s on the faces of the singers. Normally I take a one and done approach to new musical acts, but these guys I wanted to see more of.

So perhaps I was fortunate with the concert footage that I followed up watching of BiSH. Copious use of the middle finger, girls stage diving, screaming, sweating, crying, and the audience going mental totally hooked me. I will be honest though, without the vocals of AiNA THE END I’m not sure if they would have been anything more than a passing phase, but this girl can sing with the best of them. In Japan they call her Husky Voice, in America we would say that she has soul. Here is my favorite solo song from her and again, because it is Japan you can’t embed the video, but just follow the link to hear this girl sing. AINA THE END ACOUSTIC. AiNA is also the choreographer for the band and creates all of their dance routines.

If I wasn’t able to see the band perform as a group, I would have gone out of my way to watch AiNA perform solo. In fact I will state it right now, at some point in the future when the band is no longer, I will make the trek to Japan just to watch AiNA perform solo. However I was able to get a ticket for two shows in Tokyo last year through a third party, and while I paid double the face value for each ticket I have no complaints. I’ve had to edit the ticket as I don’t wish to get anyone in trouble, this is a fan club ticket after all.

The more that I watched them the more that I began to enjoy the interpersonal interactions between the band members. Let me just add that I speak next to no Japanese, I survive using rough translations but for the most part it is the visual concept that I enjoy. Most of the band are in their mid to late 20’s, with the two youngest members, AYUNi D and LiNG LiNG being 19 and 21 respectively. So starting with them I totally adore the way that they interact with each other. To start with they were always fighting and needling one another, but as time goes on you can see that they are really affectionate towards each other. The other pairings that stand out and appear more of a big sister thing feature founding member AiNA THE END and LiNG LiNG, and also founding member Cent Chihiro Chittiii and AYUNi D.

All of the photos shown in this post were taken by me at both of the concerts that I went to. It was a one off event as I felt that I would not have a chance to see the band perform again. Now, the third party ticket prices for the upcoming tour are four times the face value due to their success, but I am hoping that when I arrive in Japan that I can hopefully find a ticket re-seller in either Tokyo or Hiroshima as I will be in each city for two concerts in each city. I feel pretty sure that I might be able to pick one up in Tokyo.

I’m not going to lie, half of the 200 or so photos that I took are of AiNA THE END ( アイナ・ジ・エンド)
AiNA THE END ( アイナ・ジ・エンド )
This one is right up there as one of my favorite photos that I took, this one featuring the band captain, CENT ChiHiRO CHiTTiii ( セントチヒロ・チッチ ) . Pronounced Chitchi.
CENT ChiHiRO CHiTTiii ( セントチヒロ・チッチ )

When BiSH perform, and it is another reason that I like them, they play for over two hours at every concert that they do on their own tours. I’m a working man so to see a band give you your money’s worth is always something that I appreciate. During the concerts there are normally at least two breaks, and this isn’t just based on the concerts that I went to, I also have many of their concerts on DVD that I purchased in Japan.

One of the breaks is normally a comedy routine conducted by Hashiyasume Atsuko ( ハシヤスメ・アツコ ) , and the other is when one of the girls addresses the audience as the others stand by patiently. One assumes that they are thanking the audience during this time and telling a personal tale. Other than the fact that you have nobody to talk to during the pre show, the concert and the post show, this is the only time where it sucks not to understand Japanese. I stand there and watch and hope to pick up one word here or there to give me some idea as to what the topic might be.

With that said, the following interaction needed no translation as during the first concert that I saw it was LiNG LiNG’s ( リンリン ) turn to speak to the audience.

As I have learned during my time following the band, one thing is as clear as day, LiNG LiNG is painfully quiet. Even when she does speak it is little more than a whisper. LiNG LiNG has written some of the most bizarre songs for the band, full of dark thoughts, and many times when the band is doing an interview she seems totally distant. To give you an idea of LiNG LiNG, just seeing a pigeon will make her cry as she has a phobia of flying creatures. Funnily enough though she loves insects.

Anyway, she started to address the audience with a really shaky voice until AiNA THE END asked her something that LiNG LiNG agreed with. One only assumes that AiNA asked her if she needed support. What makes this photo special to me is that all of the other girls find it highly amusing that she needed to hold onto AiNA, but that is AiNA to a tee. For a society where personal body contact is frowned upon, any time that one of the girls cries you will notice something straight away, AiNA THE END is the very first one to embrace them in a hug.

The final concerts images that I will share for now, and remember I have 100’s of them, are of the band member, AYUNi D ( アユニ・D ) . Now she isn’t my personal favorite, however there is no denying what she has brought to the table when she joined the band as a 16 year old in 2016. Her cuteness factor brought in a new wave of fans, which is kind of funny because I read in an interview with her that when she auditioned she couldn’t believe how cute the other girls were.

This is a girl who worked part time in a gas station before she became a singer, and to the trained eye there is something endearing about her that you can’t exactly put your finger on. There are certain tics that she has and during interviews she is as bashful as can be, even to a point that she will genuinely blush even in a worked interview. While I gravitate to AiNA THE END and LiNG LiNG, I can understand why people love AYUNi D so much. There was one thing very apparent during the concerts that I saw, and that is when AYUNi D does her solo pieces the crowd goes absolutely bananas. The BiSH fans love her.

This image is AiNA THE END again.

Now before I close this post for now, if anyone in Japan has a spare ticket for either of the Hiroshima shows in November, or the two Tokyo shows at the end of November or beginning of December, please feel free to let me know, I will happily pay twice the face value for a ticket.

At the time that I went to Japan I thought that it was a one off event, so while I was there I made sure to pick up some merchandise. Not only did I buy every concert DVD but I also stocked up on various trinkets including a Hello Kitty BiSH set that I bought at a second hand store. In fact it was easy for me to shop at a second hand store to buy merchandise rather than try to locate the actual places where I could find the items. I was even lucky enough to win three plush toys on a crane game. This is just a partial showing of the merchandise that I picked up in Tokyo. Since last year there are already two new DVD concerts with more than likely a third being released before I arrive this year, and there are two visual books that are new as well. One is of back stage photos from all of the four bands that the parent company owns, and the latest one which is at the top of my list of items to buy in Japan, and that is an illustration book entitled ALTERNATiVE SiDE of SUSHiO. That book is a must have for my collection.

These are just some of the items in my collection of BiSH merchandise that I picked up last year in Tokyo.

AiNA THE END
Two LiNG LiNG’s and one CENT CHiHiRO CHiTTiii

The Statues Of Naruko Tenjin Shrine

Founded in the year 903, like most of Tokyo the shrine is a post war reconstruction. The bombing of Tokyo during World War 2 leveled 16 square miles of the city and therefore most of what you see in Tokyo today is a reconstruction

Founded in the year 903, like most of Tokyo the shrine is a post war reconstruction. The bombing of Tokyo during World War 2 leveled 16 square miles of the city and therefore most of what you see in Tokyo today is a reconstruction. On the outskirts of Tokyo you are likely to find some original architecture dating as far back as the 13th century. Aside from the war, Tokyo also suffered from the 8.3 Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 which likewise destroyed much of the city.

Naruko Tenjin Shrine – Tokyo

In November of 2018 I made my first trip to Japan, and as I will be returning to Japan in November of 2019 I thought that I would start to share my photos from the 2018 trip

In November of 2018 I made my first trip to Japan, and as I will be returning to Japan in November of 2019 I thought that I would start to share my photos from the 2018 trip.

In 2018 I had yet to start vlogging so I took very little video footage while I was there, but this year I am going for 30 days and I will be filming every day that I am there. Also, my 2018 trip was focused on Tokyo, whereas my 2019 trip is going to be to Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto and Kanazawa, with day trips to Nara, Chiba and Yokohama amongst others.

After a 14 hour plane journey and then a horrible navigation of the Tokyo subway system during rush hour with all of my luggage, I made it to my hotel with enough time to have my first 7-11 Conbini food trip. It was much needed because I had been stood in Shinjuku train station for about half an hour, completely lost looking for my subway line. You know how they say that if you look lost in Tokyo that someone will help you within minutes? Not so much if you are a heavily tattooed Englishman with a white goatee 🙂

Before we get onto the shrine let me just mention something about Conbini food. These are convenience stores that are all over Tokyo (in fact I am sure they are all over Japan) where you can get some food and drink on the cheap. While I would highly recommend eating at a local Japanese owned restaurant when you can as the food is incredible, if you are there on a budget then Conbini’s are an absolute must. For breakfast you can pick up your morning coffee, perhaps a pastry and an onigiri or two for less than five bucks. The coffee was a bit of a letdown to an Englishman living in New York, after all I am used to a nice big 16 ounces to start the day, but thankfully there was a Tully’s nearby.

The same goes for dinner, virtually everything in the Conbini’s (7-11, Family Mart, Lawson’s) is not only fresh, but it is delicious as well. It’s as cheap as chips to pick up a gorgeous salad, an onigiri, a desert and a drink and still have change left over from 1,000 yen ($10). The sixteen nights that I was in Tokyo, at least ten of them involved dinner from a Conbini, every breakfast was taken there, and any other snacks that I needed I got from the 7-11 next door. My next trip to Japan is going to be for 30 days, the amount that I will save by eating from a Conbini will be scandalous. Trust me when I say this, the food at these establishments is fresh daily and tastes delicious.

The Family Mart haul, the salad is beyond amazing.

Saturday morning at 5am has arrived.

When I found my hotel on Booking the first thing that I did was look for which temples were close by. The Naruko Tenjin Shrine was literally within a 100 meters of the hotel.

This is probably one of the things that is the least known about me, I simply love culture. This is only one of hundreds of shrines, but I spent around 3 hours there studying every artifact, statue and building. Part of the reason that I am going back to Japan in 2019 is that I can never be bored there, it was the best trip that I have ever taken and I have only scratched the surface of what I can see and do in Japan, indeed perhaps for the whole of Asia.

It does suck that as I have lost both of my brothers and both of my parents so I am not able to share any of this with them, but I can share my experience with the world for those who want to enjoy it. It is important to me that people know that while I am suffering right now, there is still a lot to look forward to. Hopefully it will send a positive message to people who are suffering with loss, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Fuji-Zuka is a hill that is covered with lava rock from the base of Mount Fuji. It was created to worship Mount Fuji and is itself a scaled down replica of Mount Fuji.

It was trickier to climb that it may appear with nothing to hold onto until the very top.