I know I've discussed it before here, but I'll say it again: Japan is maybe the most fascinating, weird, wonderful, and culturally-unique place in the world. It is a place of extremes, in almost any realm you can think of, from design to industry to education and technology, repression to expression. I'd love to go there someday, but I'd probably get lost and shoved into a commuter train with a big stick and have to live in the train until I got skinny enough to get out again. But no matter -- one of Japan's most delightful exports came to my town last Tuesday night at Ballard's Tractor Tavern. I definitely got my tanoshimu on by seeing the three women who make up Shonen Knife, currently on a 30th (!!) Anniversary tour across the U.S.

How do I explain Shonen Knife to the uninitiated? I think the simplest way would be to imagine if the Ramones were completely adorable Japanese girls who smiled a lot and liked to sing fast, poppy/punky 2-minute songs about candy and strange animals. If you don't think this is excellent, you are a crazy person. The morning before the Tractor show, Shonen paid a visit to KING 5's "New Day" program and performed an acoustic version of "Capybara." I do warn you: once you've heard this, it's going to stick in your head the rest of the day.

Shonen Knife, "Capybara," KING 5 TV "New Day," 11/7/11

The Tractor was packed with lots of bigtime Shonen Knife fans, including a trio front and center who seemed to nearly levitate when Naoko, Ritsuko, and Emi stepped out onstage on their matching Mondrian dresses (and I hear Ken Stringfellow from the Posies was in the house, too). Naoko is the only original member of the band who remains, and is one of those dichotomies seen: the sweet, reserved woman in her 40s who plays punk rock guitar for a living. Ritsuko on bass and newest member Emi on drums alternated between wild theatrics and gracious bows. Ritsuko definitely has the Ramones-stance down perfectly, too. They were smiling, I was smiling, everyone was smiling.

After a sweaty, fun set that ran a little under an hour, Shonen Knife left the stage only to return in black leather and jeans to perform an encore of Ramones covers from their latest album, Osaka Ramones, including "Rock n' Roll High School," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Pinhead," "Blitzkrieg Bop," "The KKK Took My Baby Away," and "Beat On The Brat." Actually, I think they might have played all the songs from the album, but I was too busy singing along to count!

(Shonen Knife Flickr set)

I can't wait until I can bring Miss Nine to see Shonen Knife with me, although I am guessing that I might launch myself under a Japanese commuter train if that girl gets her hands on a copy of "Capybara." She is never going to stop singing it, that I know!

When the concert ended, the Naoko, Ritsuko, and Emi went over to the merch table to sign autographs and CDs and shirts and take photos with fans. I would have loved to have been able to stay and thank Shonen Knife for doing what they do. Best job ever? Could be, rokku staa, could be!