News Sushi: Morsels of News from Japan and Beyond #24

Editor Note: It is Friday and that means it is time for the World Famous, soon to be Intergalactic Famous, News Sushi from our very own, Hamish Downie. He brings us a decidedly different slant on Pop Culture as viewed through the lens of a non-native living in Japan. Thank you Hamish for your insights.


Don’t you wish you could do this some days?


The best of weeks, I usually need time away from people to recharge. That’s the problem with being a bit of an introvert in Japan. It’s really hard to find time and space to get away from it all. Especially when you’re not in the financial position to lock yourself away from the world in your country estate by Lake Como (oddly specific dream…) – you have to put on a brave face and dance for the crowd –


Doing what you can to move on with your life.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I recently lost my Uncle.

He was one of those “Mad Men” they made the tv show about. He represented a life of adventure to me. When my grandparents asked him whether he wanted a party or a trip for his 21st birthday, he chose the trip. And he took a cruise, somewhere, and had a holiday romance with an African woman, which scandalised my grandparents back in the day.

He was plucked out of art school when Television was in it’s infancy to work for Channel 9 (Australia’s NBC), and his first job was making the set for a musical performance by Marlene Dietrich. I remember he talked about her being poured into her full body corset. This was also the infamous night where she was rushed to hospital after her performance. As a kid, I wrote a school report on this event.

Later, he would do locations and set design for some of Australia’s most iconic landmark productions on our public broadcaster ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) – “The Brides of Christ” (where Naomi Watts was first noticed), “The Leaving of Liverpool”, and “Police Rescue”. By the time “Police Rescue” was on air, he was out of work, having been a victim of the transition to computers, which he wasn’t able to keep pace with. In part, this was due to him being a punishing creative director, and I think the young bucks realised the idea of putting their former tormentor out to pasture.

He picked himself up by getting a job at the Weston’s Biscuit factory, packing biscuits into the very packages he’d designed. Side note – I believe Bundeburg Ginger Beer still uses the package that he designed:

Ginger Beer looking grand on a stunning NYC afternoon 🏙☀️ . #bundaberg #gingerbeer #nyc #bigapple #aussieabroad

A post shared by Bundaberg Drinks (@bundabergdrinks) on

He was shrewd enough to by a townhouse in Glebe, which he paid for with his factory job, and the help of my father. This eventually allowed him to retire comfortably and move to the Blue Mountains.

Uncle Jon had always been on the forefront of things, including the New Age movement. I remember him talking about vibes, the power of now and looking for UFOs before anyone else. In the Blue Mountains he found a Buddhist Meditation Group, and became deeply spiritual, and involved with looking after people living with HIV. I think this is the time he was the happiest. I don’t think he had an easy life. No-one in the “City of Night” era did, but in the end, he was able to find some happiness.

I wish I had known he was unwell, so I could have sent him a copy of my film in post-production. I wish I had known that he’d have come to Japan to the opening of my film “An American Piano”, I didn’t invite anyone from Australia because why come all the way for a 20 minute film. He was a terrifying tower of a man who could crush you with a few barbed words, but he was also a sweet sensitive soul. He taught me to believe in myself and my talent. And he was always looking out for me. Right up until the end.


Some wise words from one of the actresses in my upcoming feature film…

Tell me every terrible thing you ever did and let me love you anyway….#writing#makinglovewithwords#instapics#blackandwhite#🌈

A post shared by Kaylene (@kaylenety90) on

And a lovely new Dobbit from Chi-Yow (who I profiled in one of the first columns I ever did):

Naaaaaaaaps #Dobbit #thedailydobbit #dinosaur #doodles #Dobbitnation

A post shared by Dobbit (@the_daily_dobbit) on

And some lovely mindfulness from The Bohemian Celt:

Continuing the theme of mindfulness… we have a Buddhist monk playing a shamisen from WhereNextJapan:

Last week we looked at the work Guy Gross did for ‘Farscape‘, and this week, we have a beautiful sunrise:

Sunrise from Guy Gross on Vimeo.

Perhaps his most famous work is the score he did for “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (also featuring a sunset):

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert from Guy Gross on Vimeo.

Which leads us to a recent video taken of a sunset (or the gates of hell) in Osaka:

Tugi Guenes tells me that after I retweeted his tweet (my way of saving things I like on twitter for this column) – it went viral! The power of a great image and a simple retweet! I’ve got some more social media at the end, but for now… it’s time for…


The Festival Director of two film festivals: The White Lotus Film Fest & the Just Before Midnight Noir Film Fest… Andrea Dean Van Scoyoc

Just answered the most wonderful interview questions from Hamish Downie about the opening soon…White Lotus Film Fest! Thanks, Hamish! #meditation #asia #japan #chineseculture #chinesetradition #bhutan #taiwan #koreanfilmmakers #koreanfilms #thaiforesttradition #thailand #buddhism #Taoism #films #filmmaking

A post shared by Andy Van Scoyoc (@thebohemiancelt) on

TGG: Andrea needs no introductions… (if so, please refer back to #16)! You’ve started a new film festival, can you tell us what it’s all about, and what kinds of films you are looking for?

Andy: Thanks, so much for having me, Hamish! I’m SO excited for The White Lotus Film Fest. Opened August 2 and a dream come true.

I’m back on my Eastern path (I have Asian ancestry I’m very proud of) and starting this film festival is just my way of honoring where a great part of my heart belongs.

TGG: What inspired you to start this festival? And will we ever see a return of ‘Just Before Midnight’?

Andy: I’ve always felt a pull toward Asia…in particular China. I knew (from my mother) that I had an ancestor born in China (his parents were missionaries) but never knew why I was always drawn to anything Asian…until just a couple of years ago when I had a DNA test.

Turns out I have Asian ancestry. I’m hoping to save up and have a more in depth DNA profile test to see if I can pinpoint exact locations and such.

This film fest feels like…coming home, almost.

Ah…the Just Before Midnight Noir Film Fest. It’s still alive and well and opens for submissions in January 2019…just shortly after the White Lotus wraps up.

The White Lotus Film Fest is a first year Fest so it’s not a public listing yet, on Film Freeway, but the Just Before Midnight Fest is going on it’s 4th year, so it’s public on Film Freeway and I’m opening up a new, Horror Category, so even more people can enter.

Here’s the link for it:

TGG: For all those indie filmmakers, how can we apply?

Andy: Just go right here:

I’m strictly limiting THIS fest to Asian heritage, culture and Meditation videos so I’m asking everyone to carefully read my guidelines.

As for the rest of the site, you’ll find my FREE 24/7/365 virtual Meditation studio, and my meditation release, Tranquil Apothecary.

Just Before Midnight…here’s the link, again:

TGG: And for film lovers, when and where will it be held?

Andy: I’m opening up my Meditation Center (The White Lotus Lounge) for the event. Fingers crossed people are interested!

The Just Before Midnight Noir Film Fest is a private, black carpet invite only event, due to some of the content of the films I receive, so it’s only open to the media and special invitees.

TGG: Thanks again for agreeing to be interviewed! I look forward to sharing photos from the event

Andy: Thanks, again! I’m very, very excited! I’ve attached the logo for the White Lotus Film Fest and the new logo for the Just Before Midnight Noir Film Fest.

Looking forward to seeing some awesome submissions to both festivals!


My Uncle used to terrify me with his art collection. From the demonic ventriloquist’s dummy to the African death masks (one of which was sucking his own nose)… it’s led me to a fascination with masks. And this next talented artist, has been making some incredible masks:

I hope she allows them for sale.

Now, for all the artists who read this column… some inspiration:

Next is a very interesting interview with the Japanese director of the film “Shoplifters” which just won the Palm D’or in Cannes, but has received some criticism from the Abe Government for showing Japan in a bad light. And is now threatening to stop funding for works of art that do not promote Japan in a positive light (smells like propaganda to me…) – here’s a quote from the article:

“Culture will die if obedience to power becomes a requisite for receiving public funding.”

I guess some of the American readers for this article will say that the arts do not need state funding. While this might be true in America, it is true just about everywhere else. Culture may not die without state funding, but it will just been seen in a vacuum, perhaps by no-one, or only by a wealthy benefactor.

More of not showing “Cool Japan” in Abe’s happy-go-lucky light… here’s an interesting (but sadly not unique story) from Tokyo’s answer to “Humans of New York”:

Lots of things to think about this week… so before you go, here’s something that you can switch your brain off for…

This week’s HOT LINK!


A post shared by Sunny Lee (@sunsunlee) on

Thanks for spending your Friday with me for another week. If you’d like more, please be sure to check out this week’s TGGeeks podcast, Reviews, and the ever popular ‘Old Classics – Newly Reviewed’. If you’d like to see more of me, then, please do check out my new series, Talking about the Writer:

If you’d like to support me, then I recommend clicking the link to the side for my comic Mirai or searching for An American Piano in Amazon. You won’t be disappointed!

That’s all for another week, but remember kids…

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One response to “News Sushi: Morsels of News from Japan and Beyond #24”

  1. Thomas C. Cannon III Avatar

    I love those folded paper masks. There’s an engineer/ artist from Ireland called PaperPetShop that makes mask designs in that similar style. But, those Japanese pieces hit it out of the park!

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