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Tuesday, April 6, 2004


Singers, antiques and racism

Singing hope

K.M. is a 23-year-old singer from Sweden with some 8 years performing experience who would love to sing at jazz clubs, corporate events and private paries. "How can I get in touch with the right people?"

First, you need to live here and be prepared to put in time and effort. The jazz scene in Japan in general is small and cultish, and managers and venues limited.

Japanese weddings do not feature singers (Well they do as the festivities wear thin, but it's called karaoke). As to corporate events and parties, well, good luck. I suggest that you begin by networking at The Ruby Room in Shibuya.

According to the listings magazine Metropolis -- and Matt who set the ball rolling -- Tuesday is an open night (from 8 p.m. on), giving musicians and performers the chance to show off their talents, meet other like-minded souls and have fun. Call him on (090) 1429 9270, or e-mail: sugar@gol.com

Power shopping

G. is coming to Japan from Germany on business later this year, though will be tied up in meetings for most of his trip. Staying at the Marunouchi Four Seasons Hotel, he's wondering if there's anywhere nearby where he can buy Japanese antiques. He's especially interested in "kaidan" (cupboard in the style of a staircase).

Well G., the 11-floor emporium -- Antique Mall Ginza -- is just a short walk away at 1-20-15 Ginza (11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily; closed Wednesdays). Your hotel concierge will point you in the right direction, and since it is close, may even show you the way.

AMG, which opened in 2001, is the largest permanent space dedicated to antiques in the whole of Japan, with 250 mini-shops. Each showcase -- Art Deco glass, kimono, 1950s ephemera -- is a different shop, so it is like browsing through a European flea market.


On a very different subject, a reader in the States who will be visiting Japan soon, wants to know how real are rumors of racism against African-Americans. "Are there certain places I should avoid, for example, hotels, hot springs, cities, etc.?"

In the past the general attitude of Japanese towards people of African ancestry seems to have been pity rather than fear or active dislike. The more recent mania for hip-hop and dance seems to have broken down barriers among the young.

Indeed most African-Americans I know or have met here say they love Japan because of the lack of overt racism. Africans may have more of a problem. (A young Ghanaian friend recently left for London with his English wife because he found it impossible to get a decent job here.)

It's true that in outlying areas of large cities, and the more remote areas of the countryside, you are more likely to be stared at and there may be hesitation as to how to deal with you in shops and hotels. But friendliness, modesty and respect work wonders.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers, to: lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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