A Baumkachen cake is a cake with a hollow centre, made to resemble a ring of a tree. Originating in Germany it has grown very popular as a snack and dessert in Japan, often served at weddings
For a band to be classed as good, three things need to be in place. Coordination, ability and passion. However, there is a secret, fourth criteria which a lot of bands need to meet, one which is deceptively simple to achieve, yet all too easy to fail at
You need to actually write songs.
What you don’t do in order to be a band is to sit in the house of a madman and eat cake, but in my defense the cake was delicious. Sourced from the best bakery in all of Tokyo (or so the sign outside the shop said),it was tall and hollow and perfect. The madman bought it every day and he always got a discount, despite the fact he was terrifying. Standing at well over 6 feet and built like an athlete, he and nearly all the fellow members of his band all wore masks of varying types. The madman’s mask was a simple face, with screws for eyes and a rictus grin, yet the baker loved him and his friends all the same. Perhaps it was the way he talked, a childlike glee that seemed to bring the face of the mask to life, making it seem like a person in its own right. Perhaps it was the way he and nearly all the members of the band dressed in matching maroon coats, orange scarves, maroon shorts and thigh-high maroon boots and seemed never to get changed. Or perhaps it was the way he treated me.
The band (known as Unnamed) was nearly all comprised of these masked figures: the Smiler, the Bull, the Screw, the Baghead and the Barrel. Smiler was the leader and claimed to be a guitarist of sorts, but I’ve never seen him play a guitar, and when I asked him what he thought a guitar actually was, he said ‘A type of seal’, laughed, tipped back his mask and devoured a slice of cake. The rest rarely spoke, if ever, but I had learned some key things about them from the way they acted. Smiler and Bull were always betting on things, Baghead hates being underground and is always trying to get up as high as possible, Screw is a kleptomaniac who will take a ‘trophy’ from each shop he visits (leaving me to pay) and Barrel is the only person in the group who never eats. I asked Smiler about this once and he says it’s because Barrel keeps food inside his barrel mask, which he is constantly eating. ‘It’s also why he never talks!’ exclaimed Smiler as he laughed, tipped back his mask and devoured a piece of cake.
I first met Smiler at the bakery. My headphones were on, and I was listening to something or other in English, when I was suddenly aware of this figure standing behind me. I slowly turned around, realised I was staring into somebody’s chest and then tilted my head up, nearly head-butting the person in the queue in front of me.
‘Hiya!’ said the man ‘My name is Smiler and I’m looking for a person who can write a song for us. You’re wearing headphones, that’s musical. Care to help a band in need?’
Many good, logical plans came into my head. Saying no, screaming, running away. But instead I said ‘Sure’ and blindly followed him out of the shop, discarding my old life.
I followed him to a high-rise of apartments, blank white gravestones that mixed in with the rest of Tokyo near seamlessly. A key emerged from a pocket, a lift was called with a finger, and suddenly I was in a startling apartment. Chairs and sofas arranged into a vague circular shape in a comfy living room stretched in front of me. A kitchen filled with the smell of soup was tucked away in the corner, like a secret only I could see. The members of the band were all sprawled over the assorted upholstery. Somehow their masks didn't frighten me. It was almost like I assumed they wouldn't look any different, insane and lovable.
'This is Untitled!' introduced Smiley. 'We have Screw, Barrel, Bull and Baghead! I trust you'll figure out who's who. Now, get acquainted while I finish this soup off and then we'll crack on with the song!'
Awkwardly, I sat down on a free chair. The rest of the band stared at me, not saying a word.
'Er... hi?' I squeaked.
Baghead took my hand. He inspected it like it was a priceless artefact, then shook it with enough force to leave it sore and red. One by one, the rest of the band introduced themselves, with a nod or a wave or in Bull's case a punch to the arm. Then, Smiley brought the soup over and instantly started talking about the price of a snow-globe nowadays and I felt home. I was now just a part of the band.
My name is Reiko Mimori, I am the sixth member of this band, and this is the story of how we saved the world