JPMay 15, 2007
During my first semeser of college, in 2000, my roommate’s friend for some reason invited me to come stay at his house in Japan for a couple of weeks in the summer. I knew next to no Japanese, and my knowledge of the culture was limited to what I saw in anime and what scraps I could glean from sitting in on smoky all-night mah-jongg sessions with their little group. But I went. The story of the trip is long, but I’ll retell part of it here.
It’s easy to visit a foreign place and discover its famous landmarks, the cuisine it’s most proud of, and its silly quirks. Sure, I found this stuff. But what brought me back year after year was the everyday stuff: the way people act when they’re sitting around the house, the way they play with the dog, the snacks they buy when they’re waiting for their friends at the train station.
So we did a fair amount of sitting around the house, watching the television. This commercial kept coming on for a new single from some band. It kind of intrigued me, hey, that’s a nice voice. That’s a good looking video. But, jeez, I didn’t know any Japanese, so heck if I could read the title, and my host always seemed not to be around when it came on. By the time my trip was coming to an end, I was determined to find the band.
We visited the CD store without knowing the name of the band, the title of the song, or anything, really. All I had was a memory of what the commercial looked and sounded like. We scoured the shop for clues: a CD jacket that resembled the video, a magazine article that featured a still frame, anything. After 20 minutes we had nothing. I resigned myself to never finding it, and headed for the elevator. Then, waiting for the ding, I heard the voice. I said something loudly and probably flapped my arms around a bit. Right there by the elevators was a display with a TV playing the video on repeat and stacks of the band’s CDs.
The band was called “clammbon”. I used real-life Japanese Yens to buy their one existing album, JP, and the single I’d seen advertised, “Kimi wa Boku no Mono”. I brought them back to the little house and recorded them into my new shiny-white MD player. My super-geeky Japanese life had begun.
For the next year I listened to that MD more than any other. I remember, on the airplane back to the USA, falling asleep to the weird electronic noises of the song “GLAMMBON”. I remember, back at school, stepping across 4th Street in the Wisconsin cold, listening, thinking that wow, this band is really onto something — this is music I could listen to for the rest of my life.
So that’s how I found clammbon. That’s the straight luck of bumping into them so randomly, the sentiment of doing so on my first trip to Japan, and the thrill of bringing them back to my home.