SiberianNewspaper: There is more depth to Japan than Jpop and Kawaii

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo – as seen from the Starbucks in Tatsuya Records



The lights turn green and hundreds of people flood the giant intersection simultaneously from 3 directions. There is not one empty square meter, yet everyone is polite enough to walk past each other without bumping or hitting one another. I take another sip of my Macha latte. „Oh my God! This is like soo unbelievable!“ I hear an American tourist comment next to me. They too have been overlooking the famous Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo from the familiar safety and comfort of the 1st floor Starbucks. Well almost familiar. After all it is only Japan that serves a green-tea latte and the matching green-tea cake. In fact, lots of things are green tea flavoured here…
The Starbucks is part of Tsutaya records. Centrally located this multi-storey music store is in one of the most hip shopping districts of Tokyo. It also serves as a well-known meeting point for both natives and tourists.
I leave my English-speaking neighbours to their intellectual conversation and start wandering towards the CD racks via the escalators. A group of freshly blonde girls in short skirts and high boots are just coming up from street-level and are chatting excitedly. „Neeee? So nan desu ka…“ They all have their keitaidenwas (mobile phones) in their hands and giggle their way to the second floor. In this part of town all the kids are super hip and show off their styles while shopping. Most boys try to sport a funky haircut and look like a rock-star and the girls’ ultimate goal is to create cuteness-overload or as they would express it – be super “kawaii”.
This includes shoes that limit your speed of walking to that of a sick snail and hairdos with a myriad of clips. The mobile phones are pimped up with crystals and you know those little dangly things you can attach to your phone? Well the girl on the escalator had about 10 of them on hers, and I could only guess it’s a phone because she was holding the giant bundle of toys to her ear.  Kawaii!!

The Japanese mobile phone is ultra kawaii
The Japanese mobile phone is ultra kawaii

Image credit here.

La La

I walk into the Jpop section.
There is everything: Soul, hip-hop, rock, girl-bands and boy-bands. Of course I can only look at the covers as I don’t read more than a handful of Japanese letters. Ooh, there’s a nice-looking fellow on this CD and I can even read his name! It’s written in Engrish. Engrish? You ask me. Hai! It’s a language of its own, which you only find here in Japan on a vast number of things and products. Bands excel and advance on this linguistic journey, which is perhaps synonymous to cool, young and different.
I jot down 10 names of the coolest and weirdest ones:
10. Momoiro Clover Z
9. Generations from Exile Tribe
8. Chatmonchy
7. Flumpool
6. The Alfee
5. Superdumb
4. Siberian Newspaper
3. Hangry&Angry-f
2. LazygunsBrisky
1. Egg Brain

LazygunsBrisky Jpop Band
LazygunsBrisky Jpop Band
Later in my hotel I am going to play acoustic onomatopoeia on-line in form of a game called “guess how XXX sounds”. The rules are simple: You go on myspace or youtube and check to see if your word-association was right. “After all WHAT does a Siberian Newspaper sound like?”


A violin talks about feelings of melancholy and long, emotional travels. No doubt the name does capture a faraway romance in a difficult climate whith surprisingly uplifting tones. One could even say that an inspiration from Irish folk music comes into play (no pun intended!).

But why Siberia?  Why a newspaper? Perhaps because I happened to be born in Moscow myself, I really want to find out why this band identifies itself with 77% of the total area of my country where temperatures can get down to as much as −71.2 °C.  Siberia is the birthplace of tennis ace Maria Sharapova and Hollywood star Yul Brynner, as well as the source of the New Russians’ wealth in form of Gazprom-owned natural gas.

SiberianNewspaper Band
SiberianNewspaper Band –

 L to R
Takayuki Manabe (Classic Guitar)
Shusaku Yamamoto (Contrabass)
Yusaku Tsuchiya (Violin)
Masakazu Hilao (Percussion)
Takao Amori (Acoustic Guitar)
Kazuhiro Fujita (Piano)

“There is not the meaning about the name of the band superficially. Admiration to the continent. Some inferiority complexes. My brain does not stop if I start to devise it. I think it means “freedom” may be.” explains Yusaku to me.

He is the amazing violin I heard, the centrepiece of this acoustic sextet with an unusual instrumental constellation, and he is extremely polite and helpful when I request an interview.

Yusaku tells me: “Just one year after Siberian Newspaper was formed by the guitarist Amori, we were performing in Britain at the 2006 UK festival “In the City”. BBC radio loved the tracks so much that they were consequently broadcast worldwide.”
“We played in Manchester in 2006. This experience is one of most important things about the band. The audience seemed to catch our music at very sensitive feel. I was the first time that I felt the reaction that was such a physical. I was excited very much. We are influenced by traditional music, classic, Gypsy music, jazz and heavy metal and our motto is to struggle, thirst, despair, sometimes succeed, sometimes give up. However, the Japanese music scene has been patternized and is about to forget the splendid element of the individual.”

This is so very true, because especially in the West, when you ask about Japanese music, most people will immediately think of Jpop. But there is so much more to the creative music scene in Japan! And this particular band did new classical pop, so to speak, and went on to release their 4th Album in 2012, entitled “0” [zero], exploring this field of individuality further and wider. It is available on iTunes, for those who cannot buy it in Japan. They also covered the Four Seasons by Vivaldi on a special album.

4th Album released by Siberan Newspaper in 2012
4th Album released by Siberan Newspaper in 2012

I want to know how much the Japanese fashion scene is part of this groups life. So I ask: And what about fashion? Does fashion influence you?
“We choose the fashion which is not formal. But I am careful not to lose dignity and a style. Since I live in Tokyo I go to Omotesando and Harajuku well before gigs and do shopping. I am excited when I buy clothes for gigs. Then I travel to Osaka where our band is based.”
But Omotesando happens to be one of the most expensive shopping streets of Tokyo with all the top-notch designer brands. Harajuku is the complete opposite, it is crazy, cheap, insane youth culture and fashion frenzy.  How is this compatible in one style?
“I like good clothes of the form even if cheap, even if expensive. I like mix style.” He explains. He’s also goes to Tsutaya Records in Shibuya but is not so fond of the fashion there.
“I think Shibuya culture is ladies culture. And Shibuya culture loves showy clothes. I do not feel charm in it so much.”
And Siberia?
“No, I have not been to Siberia. But I want to go in the near future.”
For those who would like to find out more about SiberianNewspaper have a listen here:



One thought on “SiberianNewspaper: There is more depth to Japan than Jpop and Kawaii

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s