Getting a blood-red cassette tape from someone he didn’t know freaked him out, but also piqued his curiosity.

We get a lot of mail delivered to SoraNews24 headquarters. Some of it’s junk mail, some of it’s product samples, and some of it is stuff we’ve ordered online for testing purposes.

Pretty much all of it, though, is addressed to the company. So we were surprised when we were going through the deliveries the other day and found a package addressed personally to our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa. Even more mysterious: it had come from overseas.

▼ From New Zealand, to be exact

This was a headscratcher. Seiji hadn’t ordered anything from New Zealand. He’s never been to New Zealand, and he doesn’t know a single person who lives there…and yet someone named Craig Black had sent him a package.

Craig Black is a cool-sounding name, but not entirely without a touch of James Bond supervillain vibe. That sort of cool/sinister atmosphere was also present when Seiji opened the shipping envelope and found this blood-red box inside.

And inside that box was…a cassette tape?

This is a bold but low-percentage way of sending a message in 2023. As physical media in all forms is becoming rarer, fewer and fewer people own MP3 or CD players nowadays, let alone cassette players. But the mysterious Craig Black was in luck, because we actually do have a tape deck at SoraNews24 headquarters.

▼ It’s a tie between this and our Parappa the Rapper toaster for the title of “most surprising piece of technology at SoraNews24 HQ.”

But even if we had the means to play the tape, should we? What if the tape was cursed, and playing it summoned a Ring-like ghost, or emitted a series of sounds that would turn the listener into Craig Black’s slave? Faced with those risks, there was really only one professionally responsible thing for us to do, so all the rest of the staff went to lunch and left Seiji by himself to deal with any demonic and/or hypotonic problems that might occur.

Seiji slipped on his headphones and hit the play button. Sure enough, in mere moments he fell under a powerful influence. He became unable to control his body, and sounds, not words, began to spill from his mouth.

Do-n do-n do-n do-n,” he chanted repeatedly, as his head began to jerk and sway without any conscious thought on his part. Was this mind control?

No, it was just dance music!

Yes, this Craig Black had sent Seiji a music tape, and it turned out there was also a letter inside, which Craig had written using some automated translation help. The translation wasn’t perfect, but it was understandable, starting with:

“Good afternoon, Seiji. I trust that this letter will find you well.

Pardon me for sending correspondence to you lacking a proper introduction

I read many news articles from you and the SoraNews24 staff. As you are a musician, I think it would be wonderful to share music with you, so I have enclosed for your consideration this cassette and a download code.”

It turns out that Craig, like Seiji, is a musician, whose electronic music project is called researchintospeed. In his letter, Craig went on to say that he hoped to have the chance to meet Seiji in person some day, maybe to grab a beer or make some music together. He also mentioned that he would be coming to Japan for a short tour in which he’d be performing at a handful of clubs.

Seiji was both touched and impressed. Having performed overseas as an independent artist himself, he knows how tough it can be to navigate a foreign country and language, but also how happy it can feel when your music transcends national borders.

▼ Seiji playing guitar in the U.K.

Checking out the researchintospeed tour schedule, Seiji noticed that Craig would be playing a set at Mona Records in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood, so he decided to show up and check out his sound.

Seiji hadn’t had time to tell Craig that he’d be coming, and by the time he arrived the show was already underway.

Seiji is much more versed in rock than dance/electronic music. As researchintospeed’s energetic and inviting sounds filled the room, though, Seiji felt himself getting amped with the positive feelings, and he believes “Dope” was the best way to describe the performance, which included Craig occasionally grabbing a microphone to add some live vocal flourishes.

researchintospeed was the opening act for the night, and once Craig’s set was done, Seiji walked up and introduced himself to the happily surprised Craig, who greeted him with “Wow! E-, excellent! Wow! Amazing!” when he recognized who he was.

▼ Craig and Seiji, taking a snapshot to commemorate the start of their in-person friendship

Though neither of them is fluent in the other’s language, the two were, as Seiji puts it, “able to communicate through passion,” with the approximate translation of their conversation below.

Craig: “I love you guys! I can’t believe this is actually happening!”

Seiji: “Thanks! So you really read SoraNews24 a lot?”

Craig: “Yeah, all the time! Been reading for who knows how many years now.”

Seiji: “What articles have you been enjoying recently?”

Craig: “I really like the SoraHouse series, and all the food stuff…oh, and the Senbero series too!”

Seiji: “Haha wow you’ve even leaned the Japanese word ‘senbero’ from us! So Craig, why did you send the letter to me, personally?”

Craig: “Because you’re a musician! I saw you’ve even been writing idol singer lyrics.”

Seiji: “Ah, you saw that article too?”

Craig: “Yeah, I read your site pretty much every day.”

Seiji: “How did you find out about us?”

Craig: “A friend of mine told me about it, and I’ve been reading it ever since.”

Seiji: “So, do you mind if I write an article about you?”

Craig: “Not at all! It’d make me really happy!”

After that, the second band of the night started their set, and Craig, in true indie musician spirit, headed into the crowd to show his support and cheer them on.

researchintospeed’s remaining Japan tour schedule consists of shows in Sapporo November 9 and 10, Morioka on the 13th, and Tokyo on the 15th, Kobe on the 16th and 17th, and Osaka on the 19th. Seiji may or may not be able to attend any of those, but he’ll always remember the Shimokitazawa show.

▼ And not just because of the researchintospeed T-shirt Craig gave him.

We’ll be the first to admit that we cover some silly stuff on SoraNews24, but it’s our sincere hope that it helps foster an interest in Japan, whether the weird or wonderful parts (which often overlap), and helps create human connections. So thanks, Craig, and best of luck with the rest of the tour!

Related: researchintospeed official website, Instagram, Facebook
Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]