Now that I have officially decided to leave Japan this year, it is finally time for me to sort out my Japan Bucket List. This is basically a list of things I want to do before I return to the UK. Given my procrastinating nature, even the very act of making the list has been difficult. Before I knew it, it has become too late to do some of the stuff that I would have loved to. Things like watching or even taking part in Yukigassen and visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival are now impossible. There are even some things on there that I know in my heart of hearts were impossible in the first place. It has long been a dream of mine to steal a train driver’s hat as he sticks his head out of the window when a train leaves the station. That is nothing but a pipe-dream from the very beginning though.
The first item on my bucket list to be chalked off was much easier to achieve. Kalk Zamen Kuri no Hana is, in my opinion, Shiina Ringo’s greatest album and therefore the best album ever recorded. Not an easy listen but certainly one that rewards you one hundred fold if you take the time to get into it. KZK just oozes a kind of class unusual for a J-Pop star. Heck, unusual for any pop star Hell, unusual for a musician. Of course, it didn’t achieve the mainstream success that her other albums before and since did, so unlike her other albums from this period there has never been a vinyl reissue of it.
As a result, it has become pretty rare. Despite half heartedly searching for in for the last 3 years, I never saw it in the used record shops I would waste time searching. So, after finally putting down the money for a Yahoo Auctions account (Japan’s far worse version of ebay, which you have to pay extra to bid over 5000 yen). I finally found what I was looking for.
For the cost of a cool 8000 yen I picked this up. And just look at it, it’s a thing of beauty.
The musical treat contained within is not betrayed by the packaging. As the album is very Japanese in its construction the cover’s spine is on the right rather than the left. Pure class!
Inside is a selection of the sheet music in gold plus bonus English Lyrics of Stem, odd since the English language version of this song doesn’t appear in the album.
The records themselves aren’t so exciting but the lyrics sheets are super nice.
Lovely Ringo on one side, turn them over for lyrics on the other.
As a special Bonus, here are the lyrics to Poltergeist, which is probably my favourite Shiina Ringo song (at least it is today).
And how does it sound? Well, like most LPs compared to it’s digital brethren it has a more woolly sound. Maybe it is because of the reduced sound quality but this version just feels like it envelops you in a way my iPod doesn’t. I can’t really judge the audio quality though. I’m far from an audiophile and my setup is blatantly not the greatest.
This version of the album also has a bonus song at the end and taken on it’s own merit Ichijiku no Hana is truly beautiful and lovely. But appearing at the end of this album it is a bit odd. It kind of spoils the already epic conclusion to the album and it’s original last song. It’s like that bit in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band when A Day in the Life finishes and there is some strange warbling just after (except not as bad) . Apparently Ringo wrote this song for this album but cut it out. Maybe someone wanted to add it here as bonus but it spoils the flow a bit.
One thing I did forget about listening to LPs is that you have to switch sides part way though. On a double album like this one, with only 3 songs a side, I am only just comfortable on my bed before I have to get up and turn it over. Which is super annoying. These days we really are pampered with 1000s of songs in our pockets.
And what of the other items in my list? Well, you will hear about them soon enough….