Q&A April 2012, Part I
5/14/2012 (updated 5/14/2012)

Has there been any comeback on the hilarious comedy songs you've written? Have Madonna or Britney Spears snubbed you at any glitzy showbiz parties? Has Kenny G threatened you with the sharp end of his saxophone? Amenhotep not returned your calls? I can't help wondering because obviously you didn't pull any punches in those lyrics. Thank you kindly, Jon Hooper

I am far, far below the radar for most of these people. They probably wouldn't recognize themselves by my descriptions. Aren't those songs you mention incredibly loving and sympathetic anyway?

Dear Monsieur or Madame Keeper du Bees:
I hope that you will ask Richard for a report on his recent Japanese mini-tour. I'm especially interested in hearing about which songs went over best, any interesting interactions with people, and what his personal high and low points of the trip were. Cheers, Pam

Always fun to visit Japan. I'm sure that degree of attention to detail and concern for the public good would drive one crazy after a while, but it's admirable in the short term. For instance:

- When they make you take your shoes off for airport security, they give you nice slippers to put on while you go through the scanner.

- When you press the lift/elevator call button in the hotel lobby, it tells you immediately which one is coming first - I'm sure they could all do that if they really tried.

- Better plastic. We are surrounded by plastic in our daily lives, but Japanese plastic has better colour and texture.

- Every taxi in Tokyo had full colour GPS about 20 years ago. If there's one town that really needs it…

- All hotel bathrooms have that heated square in the middle of the mirror that doesn't steam up.

- The toilet seats with the built-in bidets! Warms the water first before squirting, positions one and two.

I'm still amazed to see the levels of over-employment. Traffic wardens go around in groups of three, where one would be more than sufficient - no one parks illegally anyway. Big stores have underground parking, with about 7 people with white gloves and red glowing sticks ushering cars in. At the airport. There are always a couple of spare employees around at every gate, whose main job seems to be to bow at passengers. Service is phenomenal - I don't think there's anything like it anywhere in the world. Food is fantastic. I can't eat sushi after tasting the real thing in Japan, and the cuisine is very deep - many regional and seasonal variations. My favourite store in the world is Tokyu Hands, basically an arts and crafts department store. A whole floor of paper, anyone? A whole floor of tools? No real low points on this trip, but slightly disturbing were the daily tremors. I slept through one, and was onstage for another. I felt a big one up on the 30th floor of the Tokyo hotel, which swayed back and forth a bit until the damper in the roof kicked in. High point, probably walking around the cities, enjoying the temples and cherry blossom. Audiences are more reserved than in the West, but really have a deep enjoyment of the music. They do respond more to the guitar aspects of the show, understandably.

Please share your most memorable experiences while you were in Japan. I'm especially curious to know if you had time to ride the bullet train.

Please see above for general impressions. We took the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo, which gives a great view, if it's clear, of Mt. Fuji - I posted some pics already. Bento box lunch on the train, which is very fast and comfortable.