ByÂ Sam Frank,Â an ALT who taught English in Hiraizumi-Cho,Â Iwate-ken,Â from 2002-04 and worked in Shirahama-cho,Â Wakayama-kenÂ as a JET from 2004-06, forÂ JQmagazine.Â He currently manages the New YorkÂ division ofÂ UnRatedÂ magazineÂ and works as a project manager/Web producer atÂ Arrow Root Media.
When it comes to cultural diversity, Japan has always been a borrower. Their entire writing system, known as kanji, is made up of Chinese characters; the countryâ€™s most popular sport is baseball, Americaâ€™s pastime; and South Korean television dramas get all the top ratings. Japanâ€™s music scene is no different. InÂ Live from Tokyo, American director Lewis Rapkin takes us on a kaleidoscopic journey through Tokyoâ€™s bustling underground music scene. Set within the backdrop of the modern Japanese megalopolis, the film explores Tokyoâ€™s eccentric music culture, and how a combination of global information, media-saturated urban areas, and cutting edge innovation has impacted it.
â€œSince the 2000s, when the Internet became widely used, the number of people listening to underground music has been growing,â€ explains Murata, lead singer of the band Kuruucrew, during one of the filmâ€™s many fascinating interviews. There are many facets to Japanâ€™s underground music scene, and Rapkin captures them beautifully. Early on in the film we learn how MP3s and digital downloads have altered Japanâ€™s musical landscape.TokyoGigGuide.comâ€™s Craig Eaton describes how you can now â€œget albums online, whereas in the past youâ€™d have to wait until it came to your country or order it, and wait for it to come in the mail.â€ With a simple click, you can now access Japanese underground artists such as Shugo Tokumaru, Sexy-Synthesizer, and Sajjanu.
When weâ€™re not learning about the underground scene through band interviews, Rapkin gives us an all-access pass to the bands as they perform on stage. Juxtaposed with time lapses of Shibuyaâ€™s nightlife, first person views from train lines, andÂ kaitenzushiÂ conveyor belts, we hear punk rock, J-pop, heavy metal, traditional Japanese music, and various synthesizer-based experiments.