Justin’s 2018 Year in Review

I won’t bury the lede: I got married in 2018. This is my second marriage. I didn’t think I’d do this again. But I saw this beautiful, joyful woman playing some weird washing-machine-looking arcade game and I had to talk to her. That turned into a 7-hour date. A week later, I asked her to be my girlfriend. A week later, I dipped to the US – my first trip back since moving to Japan March 2016. I hung out with Dan and Kristen and my folks, and even had a political argument with my uncle. Emptied my storage unit (meaning I took out about 10% and left the rest for the employees to pick through) and drove my worldlies across country to my parental’s – bringing select items back home to Tokyo. 


Yeah, that’s all fitting in the SUV I rented…

Anyway, this summer Tomoko moved in with me. This proved even more life-changing than anticipated. I embraced her clean lifestyle, as well as kept closer to her schedule (early-ish to bed, early to rise). I want to spend as much time with her as possible – maybe give her a good start to her day. And any chores I do aren’t a “chore” because I was doing them for her.

We got engaged Halloween night (romanticreepy, right?!), and decided to forgo the long engagement to make things official on December 8 – our 8-month dating anniversary. A photo wedding and an LA honeymoon await us in 2019. 


Halloween filter!

People who have me on their social-media radar are likely sick of me putting over my wife, so I’ll keep this brief: Tonco is an amazing combination of beauty, cuteness and sex appeal; she is whip-smart and an expert at play; her energy is addictive and I’ve never been happier. 

On the work front, I feasted some months and famined others. Early in 2018, I was blessed with 2 steady video-game performance-capture gigs: One, a hotly anticipated blockbuster I did motion- and facial-capture for that allowed me to truly consider myself an actor; the other, simple mocap for a title which licenses one of the world’s biggest properties. 


Given beard/makeup without warning, commercial cancelled before airing. Yep…

In July, I played a Dragon Quest inn patron for a McDonald’s ad, a knockoff Jason for a noodle spot, and a damn werewolf in a car commercial. That was all amazing and fulfilling, but was followed by lean months. And to be honest: Those 3 gigs paid only a fraction what they would have in the US, and far less than even you would think. So even when I feasted, it was more Shakey’s pizza buffet than Brazilian steakhouse. 

Fall brought a small role in a stage play called Mother. Surrounded by a small group of fellow foreigners and a large group of kind Japanese performers, we had a run in Tokyo in September then a 3-stop tour in November. Live theater has its advantages, and it was nice to be on stage again. Additionally, it was cool to be outside Tokyo. 

In between, I did other work travel as well: 4 days in Shimane and Tottori for a tourism commercial that turned out amazing. I’d worked with the director and producer in 2017 on a spot where I had the (only) camera strapped to my forehead. That they wanted me back meant a lot – especially because they were such pros. I even got to do narration. 


Crab at 7am tee-hee!

I don’t know how sustainable this foreigner-actor thing is. Neither I nor my buds are doing much better than living paycheck to paycheck. I either need a side gig or need to create my own content that helps my brand blow up. The former pretty much requires a spouse visa, which is my next focus (my 3-year entertainer visa expires in March anyway). The latter is something I’m slowly working on, as I outline a script to get me and my homies some shine. I’m also pondering stepping back in the ring – as much for the connections and exposure as my love of combat-based storytelling – as well as continuing to formulate a live-performance character/act I may be able to do at variety shows and underground lives. 

And because I’m a consumer, here are some year-end things:

Favorite 2018 movie: カメラを止めるな

Favorite 2018 song: “This is America” by Childish Gambino

Favorite 2018 album: Sick Idol Sick by Melon Batake a-go-go

Favorite 2018 TV show: Maniac (Netflix)

Favorite 2018 book: Beastie Boys Book

Favorite 2018 game I played: [There is, shockingly, not a single significant 2018 title I played. I may own a few – like God of War – but haven’t fired them up]

Most played games: Angry Birds Match (mobile), Super Mario Maker (console)

2018 Interests: Intermittent fasting (though I think I’m done with it), knockoff Chinese retro handhelds/consoles, cooking.


I’m wearing guyliner!

Top 12 Underground Idols

Most of the world is aware of Japanese idols by now, right? Those bubbly, talented performers that take the stage by the dozens to sing, dance, and look cute for our enjoyment are practically synonymous with Japan. 

But like every cultural phenomenon, there is an alternative, underground movement. Called chika idol (地下アイドル, literally “underground idol”), these girls often veer into the wild, the weird, and the absurd. Also the extremely entertaining.  Continue reading

Persona 4 Golden: 40 hours in


Discovering the doorway to another world

I love RPGs, but I’m basically horrible at playing them. A former colleague asked on Facebook the other day what percentage of role-playing games people finish. I’d say under 10% for me. It’s not a matter of difficulty, mind you. So often start them, then just stop around 6, 9, or 20 hours, never to return again. 

There’s myriad excuses why; things just happen when you’re gaming. But as a result, I’ve only beaten 2 of the 10 numbered Final Fantasy games I played (including 13, which is probably the most-hated). I’ve completed 1 Disgaea, 1 Breath of Fire, 1 Fire Emblem, 1 Suikoden, and zero Persona games. I was playing and digging PS2’s Persona 3: FES when my launch-unit Playstation 3 shit the bed, around the 9-hour mark.

But now, I’m playing Persona 4 Golden on my Vita. And I’m loving it. I’m loving it so much, I decided to write about how great it is despite the fact that either people already know or don’t care about it.

Persona 4, like the others in the series, follows a group of high-school students in modern-day Japan. This setting has always appealed to me, and stood out in a genre so stuck on the medieval. Your characters rely on their Personas to do much of the fighting – demons they come to fuse with in one way or another. Not terribly dissimilar to Pokemon though predating it. And more recently, Persona installment stories entail going to a special netherworld – in P4’s case, by entering the TV with the help of a hollow bear named Teddy.  Continue reading

Country Girls Handshake Event Recap

This was written on 2016.4.30, 19:50

Home from Country Girls handshake event. Never a dull moment. It was held at Cosmo Square, one station over. It’s an entertainment island, last stop on the Chuo Line. Had to take a tram to the ATC shopping center. 

Then, well, it was not easy going. Imagine a mall with a museum and office building attached. And all you know is it’s on the 4th floor. Good thing I left myself plenty of time. I went the complete opposite direction for a while, before I doubled back and saw a sign at the info booth I decided against stopping at earlier. After many long, lonely hallways, I was in the right place. 


One of the single variants

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2015: My Year in Review

I think a lot of people found a lot of fault in 2015. I empathize with them. However, for me, it was a pretty big year on a lot of levels.

It began in quite a chaotic state. Kate’s job necessitated a move north to San Jose – an area I’m still struggling to appreciate in any meaningful way. The shift wasn’t made easier by my returning from tour less than a month before the shift started to take shape.

I went to Japan in March, by my lonesome. While I can lay out several reasons for the trip, I’m still not sure how to adequately explain the desire to go nor the end result. If anything, it strengthened my desire to be there and immerse myself in the country’s benefits. It became more relevant later in the year. Continue reading

Justin’s Japan Announcement

March 2014: I went with GWAR to Japan. It was their first tour there, and I thought I could be of service. I met up with them in Osaka for the first show, then traveled to Tokyo for show number two (Dave Brockie’s last). Would you like to know more? I wrote a travelogue on the trip.

March 2015: I went to Japan solo. There were many reasons – to reward myself for busting ass on fall tour with GWAR; to practice my Japanese-language skills; attempt to make some contacts that could lead to work; to pay homage to Brockie; to see my favorite Japanese group open their tour. It wasn’t as productive as I hoped but was still very worthwhile.

March 2016: I will be going back to Osaka Japan. And there I will stay for 13 months, as I have been offered (and accepted) a gig as a performer at the Universal Studios Japan theme park.


A strong American, alone in Osaka. 03.08.2014

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10.13.15 Democratic Debate In Review

I try to stay abreast of politics, even if it is often a source of rage. I think last-year’s me would be upset that I’m so invested so early into the 2016 presidential election hype, but that’s how it is. Here are my thoughts on last night’s debate.

I tuned into some “pre-game” on CNN. Is there any argument that major media outlets are treating Hillary Clinton like the home team on a local network channel’s sports coverage? I don’t think so. This theme remains any time someone from CNN gives their “take” on the debate, or the race as a whole. It is plain that they want Bernie Sanders to go away. And can you blame them? He abhors corporate media, and he says so early and often. He won’t play their games; he just wants to talk about the issues. Not to mention that he’s not being financially supported by giant corporations – who in turn advertise with these corporate media outlets thereby having some semblance of power in their coverage perspective.

Anyway, on to the debate. I will say the Democrats as a whole had a strong showing, and it was an issues-focused discussion that I thoroughly enjoyed. Continue reading