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The Sugarcane Recordings June 25, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music.
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Out in the country in Sashiki, the buzzes and drones from nocturnal critters was enthralling. So on our last night there, I convinced Jojo to sneak out of the house with me around 1 a.m. We sat in the middle of a dark sugarcane field and recorded some new songs with atmospheric accompaniment.

“International Cutie Pies”

“Moe Meguro”

Published… WTF?? June 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Other Arts.
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Thanks to Sacramento writer buddy Josh Fernandez, the haikus I wrote in Okinawa got published in a poetry journal!

WTF is a free quarterly zine produced by Rattlesnake Press and the Poetry Unplugged poets from Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento. It features “X-rated” works from local writers and artists.

I hoped mine would be printed in English and Japanese, to give them some kind of context. They only printed translations (I swear, I know how to count syllables), but it’s still an honor to get published.

You can pick up a copy at The Book Collector or order it online here.

Study and Intern in Okinawa June 3, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language.
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Some people have inquired as to how we got such a sweet internship:

Jojo and I participated in a program called Study and Intern in Okinawa, Japan. As far as I can tell, it’s the only internship for English speakers in Okinawa.


The Tonaki Song June 1, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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One night on Tonaki Island, we went out to this seawall with Sigrunn, new friends Kinjo and Saya, the pink guitar, the recorder, two bottles of awamori and some panda chocolates. Here was the result:

This song utilizes some traditional elements of Okinawan folk and pop music:
1) Hogen phrases (akisamiyo = oh my god, deji = very)
2) Musical battle cry “iia za za!” (a vocable = lyrics with no lexical meaning)
3) Finger whistling (yubi bue)
4) Lyrics about a drunken creeper (a.k.a. Yamada Denki)
5) Power derived from distilled liquor (and chocolates)

Now to wax poetic. (more…)

Ideal Roommates May 28, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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During our last week, Jojo and I filmed a music video for his band Please Quiet Ourselves. Jojo toted those masks around to Nakagusuku Castle, Kogen Hotel, Naha, and all over Okinawa City so we could present to you this:

A cab driver brought Jojo to tears by teaching him this Okinawan proverb: ichariba chode. Once we meet, we are brothers and sisters. We felt that strongly in Okinawa, being so quickly taken in by friends, and friends of friends of friends.This fraternal philosophy inspired the video.

Taco Rice TV Stars May 27, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Food and Drink, Photos.
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I saved probably the weirdest thing we took part in until now: Jojo, Sigrunn and I appeared on Japanese national television.


Life As an Observer May 26, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Other Arts.
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While in Okinawa, I got in the habit of always carrying a camera, an audio recorder and a notebook. Even a 10-minute trip to the convenience store usually warranted something worth documenting. I became hyper-aware of unfamiliar surroundings and sensations, wanting to share everything “strange” with people back home.

So, I have hundreds of photos of plants, architecture, artwork and geography. I have dozens of recordings of the monorail, the beach, the bugs, the birds and the music. I have pages of notes of history lessons and song analyses.

But, as much as all those have taught me about Okinawa, it taught me that there are things worth documenting anywhere in the world — including, most importantly, at home. We get so used to our everyday surroundings that we forget they might not be “everyday” to someone else.

So pay attention! Look up and around you when you’re walking instead of down at the ground! Take those earbuds out of your ears! Take your time eating! Slow down and enjoy everything!

This will sound dumb, but it really bothered me that I couldn’t record smells in Okinawa — sweet-smelling dusk air, salt that smelled more like the ocean than the ocean smells like the ocean, peculiarly good-smelling bathrooms. But we have equally fascinating scents at home: railroad tracks, the Rainbo Bread factory by my house, the kettle corn vendor at the Davis Farmers’ Market.

As a full-time observer, I learned so much about the island, but I learned more about how to enjoy day-to-day life. I hope you can take some of that away too.

“World Music” Boom May 7, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Language, Music.
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According to some experts, the surge of worldwide interest in Okinawan music stems from this song. The Boom is a mainland Japanese band, but the singer wrote “Shima Uta” after visiting Okinawa, and incorporated sanshin hooks and Hogen phrases. The Hogen title literally means “island music,” and the song is meant to capture the post-war island spirit.

According to Wikipedia, many others have covered this song, including … wait for it … ANDREW W.K.

Urasoe Bells May 4, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Music, Photos.
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I just found another citywide PA recording from Urasoe. I think it was marking the noon or 1 o’clock hour. You’ll get an idea of how serene the city could feel from our tatami mat apartment bedrooms, until the traffic light turned green (“blue”) on the major highway right below.

“Manhole”?! Oh. May 2, 2010

Posted by Elisa Hough in Other Arts, Photos.
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When my mom first returned to Okinawa five years ago, she took photos of a bunch of manhole covers. They have really unique designs, often denoting a particular neighborhood or district. I thought I better continue the project:

Tonaki Island




And my mom’s finished product