Ramen (Leave me alone to slurp in peace)



       A bowl of ramen is a self contained eating experience that goes beyond and differs from that provided by its soup counterparts around the world. For the most part, a bowl of soup is either blended or at least uniform in look and in taste-no matter where you put your spoon you will be met with a mouthful of taste and texture that will be repeated till you reach the bottom of the bowl. Ramen is much more than that of even a typical noodle soup in that it ever so majestically props up 2, 3 or even up to 9 or 10 ‘toppings’, spanning from ‘Cha-shu-‘ (slices of fatty, roasted pork), a boiled, raw or marinated egg, moyashi (bean sprouts), and/or several other ‘toppings’ that I will cover later.

      To begin your anticipated eating adventure it is fairly standard to dip the Renge (Chinese ceramic spoon) into the soup upon which you will then slurp the hot broth into your mouth to get your first taste of what is to come. This slurping of the soup, and of course of the noodles as well, serves to both cool the temperature of the soup a bit as well as to increase the the taste and texture of the overall experience.

      From here you are ready to selectively enjoy toppings one at a time, focus on a bunch of noodles that you have expertly gathered with your chopsticks, entwine the noodles together with a single topping, or float around taking a sampling approach targeting 1, 2 or a few toppings at a time.

     You will notice that not too much talking is going on with your Japanese friends as the Japanese tend to be quiet and reserved at the best of times and when the TPO (I have heard that this is a uniquely Japanese term meaning ‘Time, Place and Occasion’) calls for it. As we all know eating ramen is definitely one of those times that calls for quiet and speed. Fast, focused and quiet is the way to eat ramen, no ifs, ands or buts when it comes to ramen.

      How did ramen originate in, or come to Japan, and in what manner did this come about? Debate on to what degree ramen is uniquely a Japanese dish and to what degree is it an import from China.

The origin of the name ‘Ramen’:

Hypothesis #1:’Ramen’ <ラーメン、らーめん, 老麺, 老麺>is said mostly likely to come from a type of noodle that has been in existence in China since way back in time. This noodle type is called, lā miàn, lamian,<拉麺>, and is made by repeatedly stretching out a flour based dough until it results in long elastic noodles. ‘Lamian’ literally means ‘pulled noodles in Chinese. As you can probably already surmise, it is theorized that the name ramen came from a Japanization of the Chinese pronunciation of ”Lamian’ and while this seems to be the most obvious explanation, there are others.

Hypothesis #2: This proposal is that ‘Ramen’ is a derivation of a type of noodle in China that makes use of a fermentation process when making the flour based dough which is referred to using the Kanji of ,’‘ <meaning ‘to age’ and read as ‘Rou’>, and ‘‘ <meaning noodles>. So this hypothesis proposes that ‘Ramen’ comes from, ‘老麺‘, or Roumen, meaning ‘aged noodles’.

Hypothesis #3: This one proposes that the word ‘Ramen’ comes from a restaurant named, ‘Takeya’ <竹屋> that opened in Hokkaido’s Sapporo city in 1922. Apparently the wife of the owner of the shop really enjoyed the way the Chinese cook would yell out, ‘Haora-!’- meaning, ‘It’s ready!’ when he would declare the soup was ready to be served. The pronunciation then went on to morph into ‘Ramen’ amongst the customers of this shop. This one sounds a bit far fetched to me personally, but it is kind of fun to consider anyway.

Hypothesis #4:The name of a certain Chuuka Soba restaurant in Asakusa called ‘柳麺‘ <Ryuumen> went on to the derivated name of ‘ramen’.


A brief history of the birth of Ramen:

     It is speculated that the first person to eat ramen in Japan was none other than the famous Ibaraki Daimyou, Tokugawa Mitsukuni who was fictionalized as the ridiculously popular character of ‘Mito Koumon’. This take on things proposes that a Chinese adviser to the Daimyou had prepared and served to Mitsukuni a Chinese soup later called ‘Shiru Soba’. But it would be stretching things a bit to equate ‘Shiru Soba’ with ramen and it was most likely nothing more than the aforementioned ‘Lamian’ noodles served in a light broth of some kind. That said, once again, it is fun to ponder on such an occurrence.

     From some time around the second half of the Meiji period (ran from 1868 to 1912) small outdoor stands began to appear in the China town area of Yokohama that sold a noodle soup called, ‘Nanking soba’. This soup however was still quite far from what could honestly be called equivalent what we consider to be ramen today. It was, apparently lacking in any of the toppings like cha-shu-, menma or dried seaweed that are so common now and only featured chopped green onion placed on top of a salt flavored, clear soup with simple ramen noodles and was not called ramen regardless. It can, however, be considered to be the authentic roots of present day ramen. Most people who study ramen in Japan consider the birth of ramen to be toward the end of the Meiji period, in 1910 when a shop in Asakusa, ‘Rairaiken’ 来々 軒>began selling a soy sauce flavored, pork and chicken broth soup that was called ‘Chuuka Soba’ <Chinese noodles> and yet which could not be mistaken for anything other than ramen. The owner of ‘Rairaiken’, Ozaki Kanichi, opened up the shop with a staff of 12 Chinese cooks that he lured away from Yokohama’s China town to help him in his endeavor. Ozaki’s courageous and risky move of selling a pork/chicken bone based noodle soup amidst an environment in Japan where there was not a single shop doing so, as most restaurants in Japan up until then were Katsuo <Bonito> and/or Konbu <kelp> based soups, paid off. ‘Rairaiken’ proved to be a huge hit with its simple menu of Chuuka Soba, Wan tan and Shumai and a catch copy that doesn’t sound out of place even today – ‘Chuuka Soba is cheap, delicious and will fill you up’. Unfortunately, this historic shop closed its doors in 1976.

      The further development of the popularity and standardization of ramen took its next step with a noodle shop in Sapporo around 1922 with the opening of this shop, ‘Takeya’. A Chinese cook working at the shop added genuine Chinese recipes to Takeya’s menu which resulted in an explosion of popularity that prompted one of its regular customers, university professor, to request that they change the name to ‘Shina Ryouri-Takeya’ <Ramen cuisine- Takeya>. This Chinese cook, Ou Bunzai, went on to adjust the taste of his soups to more suit the taste of the shop’s Japanese customers by making the, until then, oily soup to a more miso based one topped with Cha-shu-, menma, and green onions resulting in the ever popular, Sapporo ramen. This development as added great impetus to the growth in the popularity of ramen all across Japan and can perhaps also lay claim to being the first ‘real’ ramen of Japan.

      Another rather unknown factor behind the booming popularity of ramen in its early years was non other than that of General MacArthur. In an effort to spur on political unrest, leftists in Japan were playing up on the food shortages at the time for their own benefit were cleverly bypassed with MacArthur’s diverting of extra American wheat supplies to ramen shops and ramen carts. He even ordered the distribution of fliers saying things like, ‘America is spending $250 million for your food’, and ‘Learn to appreciate it properly’. These efforts resulted in a further boom in the popularity of this wheat based noodle soup.



Not to go overboard (too late?) in looking at the spread of ramen it would be negligent of me to not mention the iconic ‘sound’ of ramen. This is the sound of the ‘Charumera’ that vendors would (and in some places still do) play to announce the arrival of their ramen carts (or trucks). The Charumera is also used as part of the musical accompaniment section of Kabuki plays.

It is said that even the great writer, ‘Edogawa Ranpo’ <江戸川乱歩>, (and yes that is a play on Edgar Allen Poe – but I won’t go into that any more here because, well…..) used to pull one of these ramen carts around to make money before he became a best selling author.






Mentioning one more piece of trivia about the popularization of ramen, or instant ramen, was surprisingly the ‘Asama-Sansou incident’.

     In 1972 members of the United Red Army took a Nagano inn keeper’s wife hostage in the Asama Sansou (inn) which resulted in a 10 siege on the inn by the Japanese police. Over the 10 days of which much was covered on Japanese TV, the police as well as the hostage takers were seen to be subsisting on Cup Ramen in styrofoam cups. This precious free advertising in a particuarly high tension event helped to make Cup ramen perhaps the most long running and popular comfort food in all of Japan.



       From one year to the next for as long as I have lived in Japan ramen is always ranked in the top 3 favorite foods usually following in 2nd or 3rd place behind sushi which is always #1. What explains this, and what exactly IS ramen?

It is commonly known amongst ramen aficionados that ramen is composed of the following 5 elements:

Chuuka soba noodles


Tare <たれ、垂れ> (a liquid blend of various elements)

An oil blend


Chuukamen <Chinese noodles>

Ramen noodles are made using wheat flour, salt and the ingredient that really separates ramen noodles from other types, ‘Kansui’ water which is an alkaline water that contains sodium and potassium carbonate. This ‘Kansui’ water was first employed when it was discovered that the water taken from salty lakes in China (Mongolia) would add firmness <Koshi> and a shimmering look to the noodles. It also apparently gives ramen noodles their unique, slightly yellowish look. Up until the end of World War 2 in 1945 most of the Kansui water used was imported from China. Following the war it was discovered that alkali carbonate produced in domestic Japan was perfectly acceptable. In recent years it has further been discovered that if the wheat flour is of a high enough quality it is easy to create ramen noodles made using salt that are indistinguishable from ‘Kansui’ water ones.

The noodles vary greatly in thickness depending on the type of soup they are to be used with. Generally speaking, the ‘heavier’ and richer the soup is the thinner the noodle. They also can be shaped in the wavy style that you often see with instant ramen noodles, or in a straight style that is often the preferred type amongst ‘ramen maniacs’.

Types of soup/ramen

Shouyu ramen

This is a ramen made centered around a light pork and/or chicken broth that is flavored with soy sauce and a light Japanese ‘Dashi’ of dried seafoods and seaweeds and is quite often often taken to be ‘Tokyo ramen’, or kind of the standard image of ramen and is even a ‘Space food’ as this type of ramen has been consumed on space shuttle flights.

Miso ramen

This ramen is based around a pork bone broth that is blended in with miso and originated in Sapporo, Hokkaidou. On the scale of thickness the noodles used in Miso ramen tend to be a bit thicker than than norm and the soup itself often features such toppings as corn, various vegetables and even a slab of Hokkaidou butter.

Tonkotsu (pork bones) ramen

Tonkotsu is made based on a rich, milky broth that is created by boiling pork bones over high heat for an extended period of time creating a thick broth full of collagen. In addition to this, the inosinic acid, fat and gelatin also play a part in producing a soup rich in umami that has a deep satisfying taste (can you guess what type I like the best?). The only drawback is that it can on occasion give off a slightly gamey smell which calls for a greater use of garlic, ginger and other spices. Tonkotsu ramen is most strongly associated with the Hakata ramen <博多ラーメン> of Kyuushuu. 

Significance of the designs in Ramen bowls



Dragon mark <龍、Ryuu, Tatsu> 

This design is a symbol of a fictitious dragon that had the power to rain down sweet nectar and to make crops grow. As a general rule, only the Emperor could make use of this mark, but in the event that it was to be used by his vassals the dragon had to have only 4 claws distinguishing it from the Emperor’s design that had 5.



Phoenix mark <鳳凰, Ho Ou>

This mark is also a fictitious phoenix-like bird that in China was thought to be the greatest symbol of good luck.

The ‘‘ represents the Emperor while the ‘‘, the Empress.

Lightning mark <雷文, Raimon, Kaminarimon>

This mark, ‘Raimon, Kaminarimon’ is the most orthodox ramen bowl design made up of repeating squarish whirlpools. It symbolizes the awesome power of nature in the form of lightning.


Happiness, Joy mark <双喜文, Soukimon>

This design is literally the Kanji ‘喜ぶ‘ doubled up. ‘Yorokobu’ means happiness or joy and so this obviously means tons of happiness and since 1 can represent the groom and 1, the bride, this mark is also often used for wedding ceremonies.




Noodle Harassment

     Have you heard of this social phenomena known as ‘Noodle Harassment’?

     Briefly stated it is another in a long line of real, or subjectively real, or purported to be real, but is in actuality a mode of simply complaining about any and everything that supposedly ‘hurts’ one. This very recent, and luckily rare complaint by non-Japanese that the act of someone sitting next to, or near you who is slurping their ramen, soba or udon noodles bothers you to the extent that you suffer a mild to beyond mild form of trauma. Yes, this is apparently true. There are even shops in Tokyo (and perhaps elsewhere) that now offer partitioned seats so these ever so tender hearts do not have to be exposed to the, gasp, horrendous act of a Japanese person happily slurping away at their noodles in their vicinity.

     Why is this such a silly claim (as if you needed to be educated about it)?

First, slurping cools the noodles and the broth and makes it more easy to eat. Sure, this factor does not apply to cold noodles, but the other ones do. Read on.

Second, slurping aerates the noodles and more importantly the broth which makes the tastes mellow out and expand in flavor on your taste buds before you swallow. Scientifically speaking it actually makes the soup and noodles taste better. I have seen this explained in detail on TV before (the Japanese love these kinds of shows) and I for one was totally convinced. Wine tasters frequently do this ‘slurping’ effect when tasting wine. You will also notice that after a liquid is in your mouth, giving it a chew will release extra aromatics for you.

A quote found on line about this:

‘Deliciousness” is conveyed by the sound of slurping, and further, slurping does in fact make the noodle taste better. In a graphic, the expert showed how wine connoisseurs gurgle wine, sucking air through their mouths to force air into the nasal passage, allowing the flavors to spread. The concept is the same with slurping noodles. The flavors of the noodles and soup are multiplied when slurping. The gaijin panel as well as the Japanese host and observers had their “aha” moment and the gaijins decided they would practice slurping.”

Thirdly, to some degree eating ramen is a battle with speed. If you take too long to eat your ramen, the noodles will get mushy (or as the Japanese say, ‘Nobiru’) and that is never a good thing.

Fourthly, and I don’t want to just say, ‘Hey, when in Rome, do as the Romans’, but it just looks bad; I mean really bad when someone (I never seen a Japanese person over the age of 5 do this) gently places noodles in their mouth and politely chews on them. It honestly ruins one’s appetite, I mean it ruins it for the one witnessing such a freakish act.

Following are a few quotes from Japanese upon hearing about Nu-hara <ヌーハラ>:

I saw an announcer on TV who was so proud of herself for taking care not to slurp her noodles in front of a foreigner in a ramen shop. How crazy is that? So much for ‘Nu-hara’, it is the foreigners who blasphemize Japanese culture that are in the wrong. That’s it, ‘culture harassment’….abbreviated as, ‘Karuhara’.

‘Noodle harassment?! This is Japan! Noodles taste good precisely because you slurp them!’

‘It is totally out of place for foreigners to tell the Japanese how they are to eat noodles.’

‘So what is next? Are Indians going to come here and tell us to eat rice with our right hand?’

I am sure that there will continue to be foreigners who are put off and apparently even mildly traumatized by the sound of Japanese who make a slurping sound when they (we) eat noodles, but I personally can see no compelling reason to not do so.


It would not be fair to write a bit about ramen and not mention the great movie, ‘Tampopo’. If you haven’t seen it and you love Japan and Japanese food and culture, you must put it at the top of your list of movies to watch. It is a comedy, but through this kind of Japanese ‘Shane’ as Japanese ramen master, you will learn a great deal about Japan and ramen. 


Kayama Yuuzou on BABYMETAL 2017 June 11

2017 June 12

Yahoo! News


A talk show was held at Sogou Yokohama department store on the 11th of June to celebrate the famous singer, Kayama Yuuzou’s 80th birthday.

He will be appearing on the main stage of the ‘Fuji Rock Festival 2017’ in the later half of July.

He said with a face brimming with happiness, ‘I am so happy to be celebrated like this’. And further said, ‘If you believe hard enough, your dreams will come true.’ When asked what artists he is interested in at the moment, he said, ‘There are so many!’. But, out of them it is BABYMETAL that he particularly pointed out, saying, ‘I bought a ticket and went to their Tokyo Dome show’. Not only are they amazing as far as visuals and singing go, their back band is also truly amazing.’ I am so happy to see that they are accepted around the world’, said with a happy and satisfied look.

Japan’s two greatest and most lovable female singers, Nakamoto Suzuka and Utada Hikaru




*Note: Other than the ‘Inazuma’ story all of the translations are my own. (I was unable to find the Japanese source of the Inazuma story and so made use of a translation by an unknown Japanese person.)


      This selection of mine naming Nakamoto Suzuka, aka ‘Su-metal’ and Utada Hikaru as the two greatest Japanese woman singers is obviously an almost totally subjective determination. I mean, how could it not be? I am sure there are some more or less objective measures of the skill level of a person’s singing voice such as range of octave, decibel levels, lack of contour errors, pitch accuracy and on and on. That said since I personally have no knowledge or understanding of these units of measurement I, and most likely you as well, can only go on my own personal sense of what constitutes a great singer. It is funny that I originally thought of doing a short 6 or so page post about the 4 greatest Japanese singers which of course started out with Su-metal and Utada and then went on to include Imai Miki and Takeuchi Mariya. However, once I began researching what I wanted to say, first of all, about Su-chan I realized that I would have to trim it down to include only Su and Utada.

    There are an almost uncountable number of beautiful phenomena in the world that move one’s heart running from sunsets, flowers, good food and starry night skies. However, for me, the most enthralling ‘thing’ in the world is the sound as well as the performance and all that entails of Japanese women singers. 

     What is it exactly about Su-metal and Utada that so captivates and touches the hearts and minds of so many people? In the end I would have to say from my perspective, and even following upon a few weeks of considering this question after deciding to write about it, that their attractiveness is an elusive charm that goes beyond verbal or even mental understanding. While I will try to express the possible reasons for their loveliness herein, I will say that I will most likely not be able to do so to a satisfactory degree. Both women visually lie in that realm that lies between, and overlaps into, cuteness and beauty, and without any sense of projected sexiness. They both move with a gliding sense of grace and dignity that seems to be backed up by a hidden power source and yet neither comes off as an overly crafted dancer in spite of the fact that you simply can not take your eyes of them when they move on stage (or off, for that matter). Internally, both are ridiculously confident. In fact, when my students have asked me to sum up Utada with one word, it was always ‘Confident’ that I would respond with. And I mean a confidence that goes beyond just an assumption that they can pull off a good show, but rather a rock solid sense that they almost CAN NOT fail- a confidence that is seemingly divinely gifted. In spite of this, neither of these two women conveys even a hint of arrogance and in fact are extremely humble almost to the point of being self-deprecating. And then there is of course their vocals, their voices. Words can obviously not do them justice and their is no need to try to express the power, the clarity, the cuteness, the at times frailty with which they express lyrics with their voices when a simple listen is all that it takes. 

     So, to dive in to actually writing about these two giants it is best to get to know their backgrounds a bit even though we may not in fact need to know anything about a singer to be able to enjoy and appreciate their singing. I have often thought, though, what it would be like to listen to Karen Carpenter’s voice without knowing anything about the tragic nature of her life. In fact I am pretty sure that I remember feeling a deep sadness or melancholy in her voice when I listened to the Carpenters on the radio as a little boy, so there may be something inherently in it that evokes sadness. That said, I am certain that knowing about the life and background of a singer affects they way we perceive their vocals. 

Nakamoto Suzuka (中元すず香)

     Su-chan was born as the 3rd and youngest daughter in 1997, December 20 in Hiroshima. It is said that when she was still only two years old that she would become so absorbed in the background music playing at shops that she would sing and dance so intensely that she would often get separated from her family. It is reported that she was considered to be a prodigy by those who heard her sing when she was still an infant. 

     She began her childhood modeling career at the age of 5 and won the Grand prize of Bandai cosmetic’s Jewel Drop, ’Image girl’ contest. 


     This was followed by another Grand prize at the age of 8 Alpark Scholarship Audition which played a huge role in her being able to be granted admission to the Actor’s School of Hiroshima (ASH).

  I can not go much farther in chronicling her early history and achievements as it would go on for several pages and have been recorded both in English and, to a much more detailed extent in Japanese elsewhere. I will just say that she apparently went on to win basically every contest that she entered either solely or with her sister, Himeka, with the exception of one where they most likely basically bowed out because of a scheduling difficulty and yet still took runners up place.

    Here are some of her early vocals prior to and following that fateful occurrence of being one of the three members of the iconic, ‘Karen Girl’s’ group that led directly into the formation of Sakura Gakuin to ‘Juonbun’ or as what we now know as ‘BABYMETAL’. 



And my personal favorite…

     Two of Su-chan’s most recognizable characteristics are evidently revealed in a short interview with her and her Karen Girl’s co-members, Mutou Ayami and Shima Yuika before they embark on their stage at the Animelo Summer Live 2008 – CHALLENGE, (Saitama Super Arena). What are those characteristics? One is Su’s constant scanning, constant taking in of what is happening in her surroundings. This characteristic of one’s eyes actively scanning one’s surroundings and of not letting the eyes settle into a ‘dead stare’ is something we often see with not only Su-chan but also of such mysterious intellectuals and mystics such as Krishnamurti

and contained in the teachings of Takuan Osho,

a zen master who taught the mental side of sword fighting to Yagyu Munenori and I would include the way my favorite fictional character of ‘Sugishita Keibu from the incredibly popular and long running Japanese TV series, ‘Aibou’

uses his eyes in constantly scanning any situation for clues. While this is often looked upon at least in the West as a sign of deceptiveness or an unsettled state of mind, it is more correctly seen as a sign of intelligence and wakefulness, at least in certain individuals. Of course I would include Su-chan in this latter category. There is something truly wonderful and actually quite rare going on with her as she does this and is something that I believe the reader can verify for themselves right now. See how you feel when you do not let you eyesight rest on a single item in your line of sight for more than a fraction of second before you move on to the next, the next and then the next object as compared with letting your eyes kind of rest on a single point. I believe you will see the almost animalistic sense of aliveness that this flitting of the eyes conveys. 


  Now, not to go too off into wild ramblings, I want to focus on the what could be called ‘Vacant mind’ of Su-chan as compared with ‘Su-metal’. And not to draw the comparison with one of my favorites, the aforementioned, Krishnamurti, a person who is well known to have a side to himself that was best summed up as ‘Vacant’, to the point of over embellishment, I would like to draw attention to this, what could derogatorily be referred to as sign of below par intelligence that is often pointed out in reference to Su-chan, this aspect of her character that is, I would say, rather a sign of exceptional and in fact genius level intelligence. We know of Su from the countless anecdotal stories that exist (often from Su-chan herself) that:

[Please remember that most of these were either 1 time, or limited in frequency, occurrences that happened early in Su-chan’s life. They are glimpses into her unique make-up and not on-going (I would assume) characteristics. Anyway, here are some of them.]

‘Su can not tie her shoe laces by herself’

‘She is unable to make a sound with a whistle as she blows on it holding it upside-down’

‘Su-chan has been known to walk along with her shoes on the wrong feet not noticing until someone points it out to her’. 

‘Su has apparently, at least once, when singing ‘Megitsune’, mistakenly sung ‘Joyuu yo’ <actress> with ‘Kyonyuu’ <big breasts>’.

‘In order to collect <Bell Mark> stamps <stamps that schoolchildren collect from various products to exchange for school related goods>, Su-chan would cut the stamps out of her older sisters’ notebooks, for which she was of course scolded by her sisters.’

‘Su-chan would often leave her family in bewilderment as she ripped off <Bell Marks> from their Sesame oil bottles.’

‘There were numerous occasions where Su-chan would be left behind yelling, ‘Hey, wait for me!’, as the filming crew would move from location to location.’

‘Su-chan would occasionally (OK, so at least once) show up for lessons only to find that she still had her pajamas on under her long skirt.’

‘Su-chan was happy to have moved from the 12-member Sakura                       Gakuin format to the 3-member BABYMETAL one because it reduced the need to fight for staff boxed lunches by 9.’

‘As her self-selected research assignment during summer vacation when she was in the 1st grade of Jr. High, Su-chan chose to do a joint research project with her sister, Himeka, into <The secret behind how pudding solidifies>.’

‘Her big ears that are tilted rather forward are great for hearing sounds in the front of her, but she has a difficult time hearing what people are saying when they are speaking in hushed tones behind her.’

‘She enjoys joking around with e-mails to herself where she does both the <Boke> and the <Tsukokomi> roles. Note: You will have to look these up for yourself as it would take too long to explain. In other words, she does a kind of 2-person comedy skit, ‘Manzai’ with herself in her e-mails’.


‘A question from Himetan’s blog! Where does a snake’s tail begin. This was

the topic of discussion amongst our family.’

* Mama: Where does a snake’s tail begin?

* Himeka: A snake doesn’t have a tail.

* Suzuka: Snakes have hands, don’t they? Maa, if they do or don’t who cares?

* Anyway, Mama wants to know the borderline between a snake’s body and it’s tail. If you happen to know please let me know.’

    All of these examples that are mostly well known amongst the vast

BABYMETAL lore all show a side of a girl who walks to the beat of

a different drummer. Now don’t get me wrong, this side of Su-chan makes

her all the more charming and enchanting and is a property that I personally

absolutely adore along with probably all BABYMETAL fans. This property is

called, ‘Tennen’ in Japan and said for the most part as an enduring, if not

almost admirable characteristics usually found in girls and women. 

      So lets now shift gears and focus on the other side of the equation that is Nakamoto Suzuka, Su-chan, Su-metal, which is that side of this enigmatic person that is so incredibly talented, creative, skilled and captivating that it kind of exceeds the power of words to describe. 

    First of all is her high work standard and stoicism. She is one who has a high degree of professionalism and has determined to herself that she will never cry on stage, no matter what the circumstances. Virtually all of her singing on stage is done live and since these lives performances go on to be recorded products for sale as is, there is absolutely no room for errors to be made. 

Himeka wrote in her blog that she often goes to Karaoke with Su-chan where they will sing for 7-hours straight at times. Upon writing this she was so swamped by questions about what goes on in these Karaoke sessions with Su that she has vowed to steer away from writing about her sister in the future. 

    Nakamoto Suzuka is an interesting blend: she is not able to do some things that we mere mortals can do easily, but is able on the other hand to do things easily (or make them seem easy) that we can’t begin to dream of. There is no denying it; she is a very unique person. 

     Babymetal’s choreographer, Mikiko-sensei said this about Nakamoto-san’s work ethic and abilities as a professional singer, ’Su-chan memorizes the lyrics to new songs faster than anyone else in Sakura Gakuin or BABYMETAL.’ She also conveyed in an interview that while Su-chan is not as naturally gifted as a dancer as the other two members of the trio, Mizuno Yui and Kikuchi Moa, she will work on the choreography until she masters it and invariably surprises even Mikiko-sensei with how she has done so and even added a little something uniquely hers to the movements. Apparently she does not dance in accordance with a count as most dancer do, but rather subjectively adjusts herself to the song itself. It is even said that she sees the song/dance in a kind of color code that makes sense to her. Mikiko-sensei also has said that she is amazed at how she approaches regular rehearsals with the same all-out energy and concentration that most artists tend to save for ‘the show’ – to the extent that after rehearsals she is often scolded by the make-up artists because she has sweated so profusely that her make-up gets totally messed up. We even know that she broke a cardboard guitar that was made for the ‘Graduation Toss’ MV due to moving around so aggressively. 

Quote from Mikiko-sensei

Su-metal as seen by Mikiko-metal

     ‘She is so full of natural, in born performance related talent that it is as if the word genius was created just for this girl. She undergoes a transformation on the stage that you could not imagine based on who she is in daily life. It is not to say that she is particularly good at dancing a particular dance movement exactly as set up, but rather she makes the movements her own to the point that her expressive abilities overpower the song. And so if she is required to simply extend her arms out in front of her she will do it in a way that emotionally moves those watching it. I think it is the non-sense concerned passion that she has within her that makes this possible. Up until recently I felt that whatever she sang had a uniform, ‘Su-metal’ feel to it, but recently she has become able to lay on a wide variety of emotions in her performances and is able to control or regulate herself song by song. Her English pronunciation has also dramatically improved.’

Quote from Su-chan’s ‘homeroom teacher’, Mori Hayashi-sensei at her 

graduation ceremony from Sakura Gakuin

     ‘Last year, THOSE three graduated, and now…This girl, Nakamoto…she who is unable to deal properly with others is now the Student Council President?! I was filled with worry. But now she is able to make a speech and is able to touch the hearts of the listeners to an amazing degree. In the past it would have been a miracle for her to say ‘My name is Nakamoto Suzuka’. I have the feeling that she has kind of turned into a totally separate person. No, but really, this girl called Nakamoto is an extremely stoic person. I think that her ability to stand on this stage today like this is due to the efforts she has made outside of the view of all of us. Anyway, that is how she has carried out so many achievements since she was in Elementary school to the present day. But, regardless, since she is still in the 3rd grade of Jr. High school I am sure that in this entertainment world that she will  encounter times when she could not exhibit her best. And while Nakamoto’s stoic nature is a wonderful thing, I hope that she will be able to find a place within herself that forgives herself when things don’t go well. But, really, honestly speaking, when Nakamoto …makes a mistake or messes up on something…even then I think everyone here thinks of her as a lovable girl. I feel that that also is a part of her attractiveness.As her teacher I hope that she will put great value on this side of herself as she grows as well.

     As for her talent as a singer, there is nothing better than for the reader to listen to any song, perhaps especially the solo ones of ‘Akatsuki’, ‘Akumu no Rhondo’, ‘Amore’, and ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’. And we must never forget that she is truly singing a totally new genre, one that mixes Idol with Heavy Metal and thus there are demands on her voice that literally no one has ever experienced before and that alone commands our total respect. 

     This is an interesting audio track that has been manipulated to take the musical components out of a performance of ‘Akatsuki’ leaving only Su-metal’s voice. If this doesn’t blow you away, nothing will. 



‘Tamashii no Rufuran’

     Before I move into and then close out with the side of Su-metal/Su-chan that I find the most fascinating, I want to add one of the cutest stories I have ever come across about Su-chan as well as Yui and Moa. 

    This is one of my favorite stories about Babymetal ever. There is something very touching and yet profound about it.

    The picture here is called “The Coronation” by Hirokazu Sato.

    Many have seen it and there are many stories associated with it. This is one of my favorites. It’s about the grasshopper. If you zoom in close on the left, next to the toad, you’ll see the grasshopper. Here’s the grasshopper story….enjoy.

    It comes from the comments on Twitter posted by Mr. Kenta suzuki who is an announcer of MBS TV. Inazuma Rock 2013 was the first big stage for three girls at that time (around 20,000 attendance) and many Japnese BM fans were worried about how the show would go.

     “BABYMETAL-san, this was their second appearance at Inazuma Rock Festival with the Metal Idols performing using live-singing and a live band. They put on a magnificent performance on the main stage! However, in the backstage area before the show, Yui-chan and Moa-chan were chasing grasshoppers together in harmony, and Su-chan quietly watched over them with a smile like a female bodhisattva, I saw that and was very healed.”

     “A continuation of the previous tweet… A grasshopper was caught by Moa-chan but managed to escape (since Moa grabbed it too gently). Then, Moa-chan said to it “Bye-bye” waving her hands… I would say once more… she bade it good-bye waving her hands… (It’s so adorable that) I was nearly floored.”


     The most amazing thing to me about Nakamoto Suzuka though is the uncanny and virtually inexplicable transformation that takes place whenever she steps on the stage. It is well known in the BABYMETAL world that Yuimetal and Moametal also talk of this phenomena where they don’t remember what has happened on stage due to the ‘Kourin’ <divine descent or intertwining of a god or spirit> of the Fox god. Now this of course may be, and probably is a gimmick to make BABYMETAL more fun and interesting, but at least, or especially with Su-chan/Su-metal, I don’t think we can write it off so easily. There really does seem to be something bordering on the miraculous that takes place. Using the aforementioned Krishnamurti as an example, he reported throughout his life the presence at times of what he called ‘the other’. This ‘other’ was strong presence that would appear invisibly and yet tangibly and intertwine with him bringing his mind to state that he reported could be ‘untouched by thought’ for long stretches of time. Could it be that something like this happens with Su-chan as well? Well, it is best to let her state it in her own words (translated by yours truly, actually). 


Su-chan speaking on Su-metal:

    ‘Particularly in recent shows I have come to be aware of the moment when the Fox God descends into me. There are more and more instances where I feel as if someone inside of me is taking me by the hand and leading me making it so I can sing and express myself just exactly as I wish to do. So, more than saying I am making use of self control it is more like there is someone inside of me doing it for me (laughs).’


    ‘I really feel this way. And that is that I feel like I am a totally different personality on the stage. When I exit the stage I immediately feel like something has gone away from me. And so I think that there is a separate personality that is assisting me. When I am in good condition for a live show, it feels like there is a someone or something taking me by the hand and leading me along so that all goes well. So, I feel a high sense of pride when on stage. It is as if I must carry out a mission to mysteriously be really cool on stage.

    It is like when I am singing and I think I will sing in a certain way and the voice that I thought would come out comes out exactly as I hoped. And when I am dancing I think this is how I want to dance in a cool manner and as I think that I am able to pull it off exactly as I had hoped. It is as if I am 1 or 2 seconds ahead in time watching

    At that time, I realized that there is a ‘me’ who is different from the normal, day to day, ‘me’. From that point on I started to look upon a Babymetal ‘me’ that is different from my everyday self. That feeling has not changed from that point to now, and now there is a ‘me’ that enjoys performing as that separate personality. At times I am able to view myself from a 3rd person perspective and my usual self is kind of able to design my other self you could say to do things in a more interesting manner. Doing things like this I am able to enjoy things from my side of things. Since I am now of the understanding that there are things that ‘this me’ can do there are things that most likely only this created version of myself can do. I would not go so far as to say it is a manga like character but I do at times feel that this version of myself will be completely fine with whatever she does. And so I feel that there is nothing I can not do in a live performance.’

    Nakamoto Suzuka is at once and at times, beautiful, cute, playful, fierce, as well as silly, down right badass, mesmerizing, totally down to earth, but most of all she is someone you literally can not take your eyes off of. 

    And one more final point. I will be truly exciting to see how her English speaking and comprehension improves over the next few years. I am amazed at how much she has already progressed in just a couple of years. When I am writing or translating often my wife sits on the other side of the table and is unable to see the computer screen. The other day I was going through videos of Su preparing for this. When I was listening to a compilation of Su-chan’s English interviews my wife blurted out, ‘Is that Su-metal!? Her English is so wonderful!’. (The other time she has responded so enthusiastically to the way someone speaks English was when she heard Brian Cox <the scientist> speaking)



      Su, Su, Su…. the amazing Nakamoto Suzuka…..and remember she has been crucified 4 times and yet is still going strong. 




EPSON scanner image



      Utada. That is the name I know her by and the name I use. Utada-Hikaru (宇多田ヒカル)。Think about it, her name is うた…だ。That name itself means ‘Song’. While the Kanji is different, the wording is the same…Uta Da. Now, you may say, ‘OK, that must be a stage name’. Actually her name comes from her father’s family name of ‘宇多田’ and is just by chance, or by fate, her family name.

                       Utada Hikaru (宇多田ヒカル) 

     Now matter how you slice it Utada Hikaru is one of the greatest artists in the history of Japanese music. Just take a look at her stats: 

1999 – First Love: Best-Selling Album in Japan 

2001 – Distance: 4th Best-Selling Album in Japan (All Times) 

2nd Best-Selling Album by a Female Artist in Japan 

Best-Selling Album of the Decade (00s) in Japan

2nd Biggest Weekly Sales Worldwide (Following Adele’s 25)

2002 – Deep River: 4th Best-Selling Album by a Female Artist in Japan (All Times) 

Distance: Best-Selling Album of 2001

‘Can you keep a secret’ was the best selling single in 2001

In the top 10 of overall sales in Japanese history ‘First love’ is still the number 1 seller of all time 

     The blockbuster, mega musician/producer, Komuro Tetsuya

said of Utada, ‘I felt that it was Hikaru who finished me off’. I am sure that he meant that he could not go on to compete or compare with what Utada brought to the Japanese music scene in 1999. He also reportedly said, ‘It was Utada Hikaru and the iPod that revolutionized the music (Japanese) scene’. 

There was also this amazing quote by someone high up in the music industry made on the 15th anniversary of the release of ‘Automatic’. 

‘It would not be an exaggeration to say that Utada Hikaru’s debut was like nothing that had ever occurred in the Japanese music world and she went on to be genuine social phenomena’.


‘Utada Hikaru has a music sense that is so complete unto itself and so unique that it makes all the western songs and artists that have been popular up until this point all look like complete fakes’. 


    Utada was not born in Japan, but rather in New York in 1983 to Utada Teruzane and Fuji Keiko (more about her famous mother later) . Her father, along with being a musician in his own right, worked as the manager of Utada’s mother, Fuji Keiko – a singer of such great renown as to be hard to explain in words. To put things simply, she was a thoroughbred from the start. So in spite of being a full blooded Japanese she grew up for the first 15 years of her life living in New York where she debuted with a cover of The Carpenter’s ‘Close to you’ in 1998 under the name of ‘Cubic U’, a play on her being the 3rd factor of the ‘Utada’ family. 

Stating that Utada is a true thoroughbred refers to what she received from her renowned mother, Fuji Keiko who may not be well known to people of the present time, but she was undoubtedly one of the greatest Japanese singers in the ‘70s. One only need to listen to her sing for a brief minute to appreciate what an amazing singer she was. 

‘Shinjuku no Onna’



   It is so tragic and so mysteriously uncanny that she took her own life in 2013, jumping from a building in Shinjuku. 

   Nature or nurture, or nuture and nature, there is no doubt that Utada is who she is to an unmeasurable degree because of her mother. And it seems to go beyond that as we can see that their lives are uncannily almost mirror images of each other (at least to a point). 

   First of all, there is the obvious remarkable similarity in the way they sing as well as their looks and the way they hold themselves. 



And looking at their respective histories we see:

Fuji Keiko got married in 1971 (to Maekawa Kiyoshi) at the age of 20.

They divorced in 1972. 

Utada got married in 2002 (to Kiriya Kazuaki) at the age of 20. 

They divorced in 2007. 

Fuji Keiko suddenly and unexpectedly announced her retirement at the age of 28 in 1979 and then moved to America. 

Utada also suddenly and unexpectedly announced her retirement at the age of 27 and then moved to the UK. 

Fuji Keiko got remarried (to Utada Teruzane) in 1982 when she was 31 and gave birth to Utada Hikaru the following year. 

Utada got remarried to an Italian man in 2014 when she was 31 and gave birth to a baby boy the next year. 

   I don’t honestly think there is any real supernatural or unexplainable factor that led to this string of coincidences, but it is interesting nonetheless. What can not be denied is that Utada Hikaru is the inheritor of some very outstanding genes. Adding to that, growing up under the influence of her incredibly talented mother and a father that was/is so steeped in the musical industry surely played a major factor as well. There is one more interesting but not really significant point I would like to make in this vein. In one of her fabulous ‘Kuma Power Hour’ radio shows….

[let me go off tangent for a minute as I want to tell you that this series of, I believe, 8 one-hour shows titled ‘Kuma Power Hour’ is something that you really must take a listen to. Utada talks a fair deal about herself as well as her mother, as well as displaying a vast amount of knowledge about the music scene both in and outside of Japan. The most interesting thing about the series is is that Utada speaks 50% of the time in fluent English and 50% of the time in fluent Japanese and it is a great deal of fun to listen to both versions of her talks back to back. As far as I know, Utada Hikaru is the only artist in the world that can truly be considered genuinely fluent in both Japanese and English. That in itself makes her a special presence in the music world. I know at times when she had just made her debut in Japan and her Japanese was not perfectly in mesh with the way Japanese girls would speak who had lived their lives only in domestic Japan, I got the feeling that that was rather stressful and difficult for her at times. She is a unique figure in that way in that she doesn’t really fit perfectly into ‘America’ and she also in a sense doesn’t fit perfectly into ‘Japan’ either-kind of an outsider. I know the feeling well having lived half of my life in the States and half here in Japan.]

…….Utada spoke about about her mother’s way of singing resembling very closely that of Patsy Cline’s. And it is true if you compare them back to back they do have the same feel. Patsy Cline also, it seems to me, implemented in some of her songs a kind of ‘Kobushi’ (tremelo) effect similar to that used in Enka. Sadly, she met a tragic end when she died in a car crash when she was just 30 years old which also seems to echo a bit with Fuji Keiko. 

  Obviously when someone asks who Utada is, the answer would be that she is a first class singer, but she needs to be equally praised for her songwriting. I love everything she has written (and sung) and it is interesting to see just how different she comes across when you compare her songs written in English with those in Japanese. Lets explore first of all one of her songs written in English, ‘Me Meuro’. The way she paints a picture of a young woman being totally devastated when her boyfriend leaves her is, well, it is a masterpiece of lyrical expression. 

Please follow along using the following Youtube videos: 


Me Muero (This is the One 2009)

‘Everyday my life’s in shambles

Since you took your love away

I got nothing left to gamble

I’ve thrown it all away’

<She starts out saying there is nothing left in her life. She has obviously given all she has to this man that she is in love with. Well, to start out it is perhaps typical of countless ‘love’ songs written and sung over the ages. But to start out like this in itself is atypical, I would say.>

‘Now and then I’m suicidal

Flirting with a new temptation

Happiness inside a bottle is what I need today’

<So we are seeing that she is herself most likely an alcoholic as who other than an alcoholic would find love inside a bottle. And she is professing to be considering killing herself over the loss of this boyfriend. Do you see how Utada has just added a layer of paint to this canvas? I personally begin to picture a young girl in perhaps a hotel room in a cheap hotel in Mexico (being that the title is in Spanish) talking with herself on how to live after her love has left her.>

‘Oh, my lover’s gone away, gone to Istanbul

Light as a feather

I lie in my bed and flip through TV channels

Eating Godiva

I’m smoking my days away reading old emails

In my old pajamas

What a day, me muero, muero, muero’

<And now Utada really starts to stack on the images, giving us more details about the state this girl is in. Her playboy lover has flittered off to Istanbul without a care for her. And she is left to lie on her bed trying to kill time flipping through TV shows and eating Godiva chocolate. Next, we get an image of her puffing away on cigarettes, reading old emails from her boyfriend without even bothering to change into new pajamas much less into proper clothes. Are you beginning to see the genius behind Utada’s lyrics?>

<And forget for a moment the big picture of her being thrown away by her boyfriend and focus on how she little by little adds to the image of what is going on with her, this young woman.> 

‘Loneliness makes its arrival

Depression starts to settle in

Should I go Wynona Ryder?

And do some crazy things.’

<And now the depression and loneliness really shows itself. How many days have passed? We don’t know. But if you are really listening, her desperation and sadness really starts to show itself to you. This use of ‘Wynona Ryder’ as a verb is absolute brilliance. The way she phrases it not as, ‘Should I do something crazy like Wynona Ryder?’ but rather as ‘Wynona Ryder’ as a something that you can do is only a sensitivity that someone like Utada could conjure up.> 

The rest of the song more or less echoes these themes and images, but I would guess that you will appreciate why I feel this girl is so damn skilled at painting a picture, be it suicidal levels or depression or…..the way to deal with these feelings as we find in the, what I feel, is the greatest song she ever wrote, ‘Show me Love (not a dream)’- this time in Japanese. 

Show me Love (not a dream) (Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 2011)

    This is an extremely deep song that speaks about dealing with psychological pain in such a poetic and concise manner that I feel I get more out of this one song than could be found after reading tomes of psychological/philosophical books. It is as if Utada has condensed the deepest thoughts of say, Krishnamurti or the Buddha into a little pill that all one has to do is swallow. And because it is done so artistically it is a pleasant tasting one to boot. 

    It was released as the theme song for the film version of ‘Ashita no Jo-‘ in early 2011 and was performed at her final 2 shows in the Yokohama Arena where she laid down her microphone and went into retirement at the ridiculously young age of 28 (more on that later). 



–I have tried to suppress this feeling (psychological pain) but it 

won’t fade away, it sinks slowly once again to the bottom of a lake

<This is such lovely, poetic way to describe the way most of us try to deal with psychological pain or feelings. We think we can push them aside to some place unconnected to us, but they almost always reappear.>


矛盾に疲れて 少し心が重くなる

–If you chase after two things at once, you end up with neither

My heart and mind grow heavy as I become totally fatigued with 

all the contradictions

<That first line is well known parable or saying in Japan and needs no explanation except to say that it is very good in expressing one of the factors of psychological pain-that trying for two opposing things and the contradictions and fatigue such efforts produce.>


(Inside my lavender dreams)



–I thought I understood that running away from this pain (feeling) 

only makes it more terrifying

I know that almost certainly there will never come a day where

I will be free from worry

<This is such a profound understanding-that you only make your problems worse by running away from them. They will come back bigger and more terrifying the more you escape from them.>


私の内なるパッセージ Show me love

内なるパッセージ Baby show me love

It’s all in my head Can you show me love

It’s all in my head Not a dream

–If I give into my lack of confidence I will

never be able to take this journey inside myself

Show me love

This journey within

Baby show me love

It’s all in my head Can you show me love

It’s all in my head Not a dream

<She is now expressing (I believe) that she knows the way 

to deal with her psychological pain is to go within and face it 

directly. I can’t correlate the ‘Show me love’ with the way I am 

interpreting the lyrics so I may be off base, but….

And the ‘It’s all in my head’ is the realization that all of her (our)

psychological suffering is something that we ourselves have created or

prolonged through our own thought processes. This is so Krishnamurtian.>



–A purple signal flashes and my mind goes completely quiet

Only the unease and trepidations continue on

<I used to do a weekly podcast for about 3 years, where I interviewed scientists, writers, professors, etc and I tried unsuccessfully to get Utada on as a guest. If I had succeeded this was the number one thing I wanted to ask her, ‘What in the world is this ‘purple signal’?!>

私は弱い だけどそれは別に

(Inside my lavender dreams)


–I am weak. But, that is not something

that I particularly ashamed of. 


実際 誰しも深い闇を抱えてりゃいい


痛みの元を辿って Show me love

元を辿って Baby show me love

It’s all in my head Can you show me love

It’s all in my head Not a dream

–In fact, each and everyone of us should 

embrace some kind of deep darkness

At times in sickness we need to struggle, to scream

and shout and go right to the source of our pain

Show me love

It’s all in my head Can you show me love

It’s all in my head Not a dream


<It is hard to tell if she means we need to at times get sick and 

go through it and get to the source of pain to deal with it, or if she

means ‘at times of sickness’ we need to do so. Either way, when you see her perform this, you really get the feeling that she personally KNOWS that you must go all out, get kind of raw and tenaciously trace the pain to its roots. Deep stuff.>



実際 どんな深い愛も完璧じゃない


自分を認めるcourage Show me love

認めるcourage Baby show me love

–Lets forget all the theories that we have built up

Whatever goes up, must come down

In actual fact, no love is perfect no matter how deep it is

Only I can have the courage to be able to accept myself

Show me love

The courage to accept myself

Show me love


実際 夢見てばかり見ていたと気付いた時




It’s all in my head

It’s all in my head

–After all it was only when I realized that I had just 

been dreaming it all that I was able to

take my first steps under my own power

This journey within

The journey within

It’s all in my head 

It’s all in my head


<I love how she brings this to a conclusion with the

profound realization that all of her (our) problems are nothing

more than dream stuff and that realization sets one free to

really start living.>


Following are some shorts clips from various songs highlighting her lyrical genius.

Workout (Exodus 2002)

I was talking with a born-again Christian

“So what’s it like to start life all over?”

He said “Amen,

I feel like I’ve been rediscovering the tomb of Tutankhamen.”


<I am not sure what it actually means, but it certainly makes you stop and think>


Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI (This is the One 2009)

Like Captain Picard

I’m chillin’ and flossin’

It’s seven o’clock

I issue you the warning

That’s right, we’re stealing this show

Damn right, letting him know

We’re sipping Chardonnay on 2 PM on our working day


<I love the utter brashness of this song. And it is such a tragedy that this album, ‘This is the One’ didn’t get the attention nor sales it deserves. I mean EVERY song on it is a masterpiece.>


Take 5 (Heart Station 2008)




–Take off your coat and come inside

There is no beginning nor ending

I want to live this day true to who I am


Deep River (DEEP RIVER 2002)




–This sword was not entrusted with the task of 

clashing with other swords.

With contradictions like this just who can you protect?


<Kind of hard to translate but I think she is saying that if this sword is

used for fighting, for battle, it is not fulfilling its true purpose which is to

protect and defend. If, in other words, we go on the attack and battle we

are actually losing the ability to defend and protect those whom we are entrusted 

to defend and that is the contradiction>


Prisoner of Love (Heart Station 2008)





–The blues, the sadness that is created by desiring after things

one can never attain

Everyone is looking for some kind of tranquility

We fight and steal in spite of fact that we have everything

we need

We are all chasing after a shadow of love


<This rant on the world is so spot on and the feeling behind it really comes across in ‘Wild Life’>


 Utada went into retirement from late 2010, in fact, I would imagine that you could say it started when she laid down her microphone in the manner of Yamaguchi Momoe at the conclusion of her 2nd night show at the Yokohama Arena. It is truly amazing that an artist of her stature could suddenly announce that she was going into retirement for  「人間活動に専念するため」<in order to devote herself to human activities>, or to live a life as an ordinary person. She stated several times that she felt strange that she knew nothing of how to balance a family budget or indeed do any of the daily tasks that most of us take for granted. She also stated, in all sincerity, that she would be happy to work as a cashier at a 7-11 (I don’t think that ever panned out). So, she gave it all up with no intention or set date for a return. That is some pretty heavy fortitude I would say. Now, of course, we know that she returned to the music world in the spring of 2016 after getting married and having a baby boy. I would love to add to this blog entry sometime in the near future when I have more to say on the fabulous album, ‘Fantome’.

I will sign off on this for now with a quote from Utada’s thoroughly enjoyable book, ‘Sen’. 

I believe she wrote this when she was 18 and it really gives insight into how she approaches singing and performing. 

I could have sworn I was reading one of Tohei-sensei’s books when I ran across this comment written by the loveliest singer/songwriter to ever grace this planet-Utada Hikaru. Pure Aikido is this. 

From Utada Hikaru’s book, Sen (線) 

”いろんな人が『腹筋を鍛える!きつい!』とかって言ってるけど、わたくし、宇多田ヒ カルはぜんっぜん何も考えて歌っておりやせん!ぜんぜん腹に力入れてないよ (笑)む しろ、カラダの力全部抜いて、頭のテッペンから口、のど、肺、食道、胃袋、おなか、足 のつまさき、までがぜんぶつながってて、一つの楽器みたいに歌うかな。集中することと、 力を入れてふんばっちゃうのはぜんぜん違うことだと思う。 

ただら、歌うのってぜんぜんつかれない。いっくら歌ったって声あれないし、しゃべった り笑ったりした時のほうがノドすんごいつかれるー! 

My translation: 

A lot of people say, “It must be tough to strengthen your abdominal muscles”. As for myself, Utada Hikaru, I am not thinking anything when I sing! And I certainly do not put tension in my abdomen (laughs). To the contrary, I release all the tension from every part of my body and sing with every part of my body from the top of my head to my mouth, throat, lungs, wind pipe, stomach, intestines to the tips of my toes as one single connected musical instrument.
I feel that concentrating, and digging in by filling your body with tension are TOTALLY different animals.
So, when I sing I don’t get tired at all. I could sing all day without my voice giving out. In fact talking and laughing tire me out way more than singing. 


BABYMETAL featured on Nakai’s Momm (Museum of modern music)

Broadcast on 2017 May 8

Nakai’s Momm (Museum of modern music)



The host of the show is Nakai Masahiro who is extremely famous in Japan as a member of SMAP which disbanded last year. He is well know as baseball fanatic and is highly regarded as a skilled MC of quiz/talk shows and the like. He is also known for his utter lack in singing skills. 



Sawabe Yuu is a comedian who was (is?) 1/2 of the comedy duo ‘Haraichi’ and is sought after for his skills in Aizuchi and keeping the flow of talk shows running smoothly with his friendly, self deprecating manner. You may know him as the co-host of the TV show, ‘Keyakizaka tte kakenai?’.



Watanabe Mayu (Mayuyu) is an extremely famous member of AKB48 as well as for acting appearances in TV dramas. She is also apparently a big fan of BABYMETAL. 



Yokosawa Natsuko is a comedian and member of Yoshimoto Kougyou. 



Himetan’s blog 2017 May 8

Himetan’s blog 

2017 May 8

I went to New York with my mother and younger sister!

I am fond of indoor life and so I have absolutely zero interest in traveling and my mother kind of forced me to go on this trip. 

She said we should do this as it will be a good change of pace during these days off, but in the end we came back earlier than planned. 

We went shopping, saw some musicals, did some sightseeing and all the usual things, but the most enjoyable thing of all was to watch amateur night at the Apollo Theater!!

These are performances by people who genuinely love singing and performing and so the atmosphere of the venue was, was….totally different from anything in Japan. It was all so new and fresh. 

What I had always thought was the entirety of the world was made to seem still rather small in scale.

For example, I felt that things that I had a kind of hang up about myself, I felt could be thought of as being charming and attractive at a place like this. 

I began to think that even if one doesn’t understand the words being spoken, that if you try to convey yourself and listen to what the other is trying to say that somehow things will work out. 

A smiling face is something that is universally communicated. 

It is like, a baby is cute regardless of national boundaries. 



This was my first overseas trip other outside of work!

I was able to make many splendid memories and have new experiences. 

This has also got me geared up to do my best professionally as well. 

I am getting interested in the idea of traveling to some nice domestic lodges with Monika (望日香, her dog) now. 

I am starting to like this idea of traveling a bit more. 

That’s all. 




Disk Union Solo interview with BOH [The Kari Ongen – Demo]

Translated for reference purposes only.

Please refer to the original Japanese article here

The release of the first mini album of the Kari band – ‘The Kari Ongen – Demo’. 

We have the ‘Kari Band’ 6-string bassist, BOH-san here to talk freely about this band that has spanned the entire world with its dynamic sound. 

The session unit ‘Kari Band’ composed of Fujioka Mikio (guitar), BOH (bass) and Maeda Yuuya (drums) which was launched in November of 2015 has at long last released its first mini album titled, ‘Kari Ongen -DEMO’. 

From live houses with a scale where the venue is filled by a few dozen fans to the arenas and stadiums that are considered to be the largest venues on the planet…… This band featuring some of the most talented artists in the world has experienced all this and all in between and has released their heart filled album featuring their original songs putting them up for an evaluation of their worth. ‘Kari Ongen -DEMO’ composed of these members who have garnered attention because of their virtual Heavy Metal god inspired performances along with guest artists such as Calmera, Nishiwaki Tatsuya, ISAO as well as rapidly up and coming pianist, Kuwahara Ai is certain to be met with enthusiastic approval from Jazz Fusion fans around the world. 

Our ‘Music Magazine’’s May features the interview that we carried out with the Kari Band, but here we would like to provide you with our solo interview with BOH-san. Coincidentally we were both born in the year of the dog and both come from Asahikawa city in Hokkaido so we felt like friends right from the git-go. I was so thrilled and happy to have received an instant approval to do another interview at another time centering on Jazz/Fusion and our shared home town. 


BOH-san, when you were a student where were you purchasing musical instruments and CDs and so on? When I (Harada) was a student the only place selling musical instruments in my home town of Asahikawa was Machii Gakki (closed in 1997). And for records there was really only ‘Kokuhara’ (closed in 2008) located in the building that housed the ramen shop, ‘Baikouken’, or ‘Gyokkoudou’ (since relocated in the suburbs) located in the basement of the department store ‘OKUNO’. 


Mostly I made use of Gyokkoudou’ and Shimamura Gakki (Musical instruments). 


Did you like music from an early age?


Actually, in fact it would be better to say that I didn’t like music (laughs). My mother worked as a music teacher at an elementary while my father worked in the market and served as the conductor of the Asahikawa city choir as a way to be of benefit to the community. When I was a little boy I was made to go to the city youth choir club as well as music school and so I came to hate music. Of course I did – it is not ‘wild’, you know. Growing up in Asahikawa it was just a natural progression of things that I would want to become a member of the Self Defense Force. 


That is because the 7th division of the Japanese Imperial Army was located in Asahikawa in the past. About 1/2 of my classmates from elementary school were children of Self Defense Force members. 


Yes, in summer vacation I would head out into the mountains and stay there for like a full week with only a supply of rice. I was always doing things like that as I wanted to get into that feeling of being in survival mode. However, there was this time that I went to a culture festival in Jr. High where my Senpai were performing and the girl I had gone there with said to me, ‘BOH-chan, do you play some kind of instrument?’. At the time I didn’t play anything so could only answer honestly that I was not able to play an instrument, to which she responded, ‘Oh, that is so uncool.’. The fact that she wasn’t even a cute girl just made me even more angry at her reaction. If that had been said to me by a cute girl I would have been shocked but since it was her I felt more anger than shock. Kind of the sense of, ‘Fine, I will transform myself into someone who is not uncool’, I went over to my friend’s house to give a guitar a try. Doing so, I felt this instrument with 6 stings and the way you had to work to make the chords was really off-putting. The bass, on the other hand, had only 4 strings, it was easier to play and you could look and sound good even with its monophonic sounds. Soon I was pumped up thinking, ‘I am simply the best!’ and from that point on I just got more and more into playing the bass. 

I am pretty sure that I was at first playing a score of Luna Sea that I had bought, and that was their ‘True Blue’ (released in 1994). My trip on this path started with me thinking, ‘I have just bought a bass but I am already almost as good as the professionals. This certainly means that the music gods are telling me to <become a bass player>’. I was interested in Western music and expanded my adventures into MR. BIG and came to like Billy Sheehan and that interest in the bass led me to be impressed with Victor Wooten, who I thought was amazing, and that further led me to ‘wonder how Marcus Miller was able to produce such amazing sounds. This furthered pursuit gradually led me in my high school years to listen to more jazz and fusion music. Also, at this time, my younger brother was into Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and other bands from the 60’s and 70’s and so I was also influenced by these bands as well.


What was the first work by Victor Wooten that you got your hands on?


That was a VHS of ‘Live at Bass Day’ 

When I was wondering if there was another ridiculously talented bassist out there after being so moved by Bill Sheehan, I was lucky enough to find this video in a video section of a music shop. The way he has his hands placed on the bass in the picture on the jacket is so obviously strange, you know. This got me interested in finding out just what he was doing. That is the reason I bought that album. As far as his albums go, I really like ‘Show of Hands’ (1997). 


The first band I heard with Billy Sheehan was ‘Talas’. I was labeled using his name in Katakana, ’ビリーシーハン’ <Billy Sheehan>. 



Counting back from MR. BIG’s best album (1996), I was also listening to performances from Talas and the David Lee Roth Band. I did not know of anyone else who was able to do such interesting phrasing as a rock bassist. It was extremely interesting to hear his different approach when he played rock in such endeavors as when he teamed up with Dennis Chambers in the fusion band, Niacin. The first bassist for me to carry out phrase analysis on was the bass player, Billy Sheehan. 


What other fusion type of bassists did you listen to? 


I was totally blown away by ‘Jaco Pastorius’s Word of mouth’. I couldn’t believe that these were sounds made by a bass. I also liked Stanley Clarke, Jeff Berlin, Stuart Hamm and  Nathan East. I was also later very drawn by the approaches taken by the guitar work of Brian Bromberg and I thought the vocals of Richard Bona were also wonderful. Added to that I was moved by the artist that it would not be an exaggeration to say created the 6-string bass, Anthony Jackson. He personally calls it the contrabass however. And his trio with Michel Camilo and Horacio Hernandez was absolutely outstanding. I got hints about performing slap playing mostly from Marcus Miller 



Not from Victor Wooten?


Wooten has kind of an acrobatic approach to slapping. The way he does slapping I feel is not the usual way one thinks about it where he kind of scratches the strings will all of his fingers. Marcus’ way of slapping is more of a building up of a foundation for the sound and his ‘backing’ is also fantastic. 


To return to your story…after you so impressed by Victor Wooten and Billy Sheehan, you made your way to Tokyo at last. 


From the time I was in High school I was saying that ‘in the future I will go to Tokyo and debut in a band’. My mother however felt that, ‘if you go to Tokyo and try to get into music while doing part time jobs will just play around with nothing to show for it’, and suggested that I enroll in a music school. I took her up on that and entered the Human Academy Music College in Aoyama, Tokyo. It is no longer in existence however. Upon entering I found out that there a lot of really good players (laughs). Most of the teachers were studio musicians and it was then that I learned that there are other ways to go about making a living at music other than debuting in a band and that led me think that I wanted to be a musician who could work doing sessions and as a back band performer. It was a 2-year program but I went on to be an instructor there after I graduated. After that I started to get a lot of offers from outside the school of people asking me, ‘hey, could you play for us?’, and it was during this time that I met DAITA-san, the guitarist for Siam Shade. At the beginning, I worked as a supporting bassist for the unit BINECKS that DAITA-san and KEITA had formed but later they said to me, ‘we are going to make our major debut and would like you to join as a member’. So, I became a member of BINECKS toward the end of 2007. I had no interest in making a major debut but they were my Senpai and all that, so I couldn’t really turn them down (laughs). 


When did you start playing mainly on a 6-string bass?


When I had first arrived in Tokyo I was of course playing a 4-string bass, but this extremely bothersome and rather scary teacher at the music school said to me, ‘Omae, your going to have to play a 6-string bass’. After summer vacation had finished and classes had started up again I still did not have a 6-string bass and that teacher got really angry at me – ‘Why do you not do as I tell you! I told you to buy a 6-string bass. Get one and bring it here!’. And so, I bought cheap 6-string bass. At the time I couldn’t really play the guitar nor the piano very well as the classes devoted to chords were rather hard to follow. But with the 6-string bass I was able to play the chords, making it easier to follow along with the classes and I was able to digest music theory as well as chord study much more than I had been able to do before. So, I started to think, ‘hmm, this 6-string bass is a good thing’. Additionally, I was told by a cute woman teacher that, ‘since there are very few back band bassists in Japan using mainly a 6-string bass you will be able to become a 6-string representative for Japan if you work at it from right now’ (laughs). From that point on to now I have been playing the 6-string bass. I only have one 4-string bass in my possession at the moment. I have been playing the 6-string for a long time now and am very used to it. It is very interesting to play and I don’t get asked to play a 4-string anyway. 


So it is kind of like, ‘If you need a 6-sting bassist, ask BOH-san’?


I think the people in the industry know, ‘if you ask for BOH, you know what you will get’. And I don’t know why it is, but I get asked almost exclusively to perform difficult pieces. It is not that I personally like difficult songs though. The other day when we finished recording ‘Chuku’ in a 13 time/beat (?) as the Kari Band I got an offer to perform in 13 time/beat for another band. I have gotten extremely good at this 13 time/beat so I am sure the day will come when people will say, ‘that guy is incredibly good playing in a 13 time/beat, but for quadruple time…not so much’ (laughs). 


On the Kari Band’s, ’Kari Ongen – Demo’ album you can really fully enjoy BOH-san’s 6-string bass playing. In addition to ‘Chuku’ that came up in the discussion a bit earlier, the tapping performance in ‘Ninja Groove’ is amazing and the tranquil riff in ‘Snowflakes’ is truly impressive. 


The foundation for ‘Snowflakes’ came from a phrase that came to me when I was practicing the bass in my home when I was a student. It is a riff of the Lydian scale (a scale where 4 degrees of the major scale have been raised up a semitone) that came to me due to being really into the guitar of Steve Vai at the time. If you delve into Billy Sheehan you always arrive at Steve Vai. I got really interested in this scale that he used that is kind of hard to determine if it has a good feel to it or actually a kind of bad feel and looking into it I found it was the Lydian scale that he was using.  I remembered being really impressed with myself for this really cool phrase that came to me at this snow covered park in Asahikawa. During the recording I was constantly repeating this scale over and over, it is actually really easy. The rest of the parts of this song I left entirely to Fujioka-sensei (Fujioka Mikio). (laughs)


In your Kari Band live shows you do a cover of Mike Stern’s ‘Chatter’ (included on the 2003 album, ‘These Times’), but the songs on this album are all original pieces, right?


The Kari Band is a session band and we started out just bringing together the songs that each of us liked. In the live shows we do quite a bit of cover songs. The inclusion of ‘Chatter’ was the idea of our drummer, Maeda Yuuya. 


With 6 songs on the ’Kari Ongen – Demo’ album it is treated as a mini album, but their is a myriad of music and sounds, and the contents are really dense. Also, the jacket is so overpowering. 


Yes, it is an instrumental album that has the feel of us the members who all like jazz and fusion getting together and performing what we most want to play at the moment. As for the jacket, right from the outset we said to ourselves, ‘lets go with a real Japanese look’. We have gotten a lot of messages of interest about the release of the album from people overseas as well and so I think this kind of jacket will be met with pleasure by people overseas (laughs). Also, there probably aren’t too many albums with a ‘Japanese style jacket’ in the Jazz/Fusion section of music stores. I am looking forward to the reaction it stirs and how it looks when it hits the record shops. 


BABYMETAL DEATH MATCH TOUR – May Revolution Kamishibai collection



Be sure to watch the  ‘FULL METAL BAND LIVE TOUR 2013 – Trailer’ before you begin reading. 

2013 May 18


ZEPP DiverCity Tokyo

Story 1 – 


That was a challenge to exceed oneself, to imagine a totally new self, or, in other words, to go into battle with oneself.

BABYMETAL embarked on a new ordeal that would put them to the test and was to recover the true spirit of Metal that had been taken away by the magical powers of A-KIBA.

Now, together with our like-minded comrades gathered here in this Tokyo town of Odaiba, BABYMETAL will board the [METAL ARK], ‘The Flying V’ as we venture out on this training journey.

Ladies and Gentlemen, is your neck prepared for what is coming?

Now, it is time to lift the curtain on the [May Revolution]!!

As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships, 

BABYMETAL has acquired the ability of ‘Speed’ in this country known as Japan.

As Himiko said…

‘If you show me True Metal I will give you ‘Romantic’. 

Himiko certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Su-metal with one of her canons. 

That canon is known as the scripture of the Lightning that rules the Heavens.

Into this scripture Su-metal inscribed….. this set list that she brought into existence herself! This canon changed into an emblem right before her eyes.

So, just what is the meaning conveyed by this emblem?!



Story 2 –

The Metal Master of ancient Egypt, ‘Cleopatra’ said this to BABYMETAL when she met them….’In order to acquire True Metal it is necessary to make use of prayer’. 

Dogeza Hedoban <Hedoban done from a kneeling position>…….

Yuimetal and Moametal did nothing but prayer non-stop and continuously in order to obtain True Metal. 

Story 3 –

As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships, 

BABYMETAL has acquired the power of ‘Prayer’ in this country known as Egypt.

As Cleopatra said…

‘Metal is already dead’. 

Cleopatra certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Yuimetal with one of her canons. 

That canon is known as the scripture of the Earth that rules over all creation.

This canon changed into an emblem right before her eyes.

So, just what is the meaning conveyed by this emblem?!

2013 May 19


ZEPP DiverCity Tokyo

<Same as the 1st paragraph of Story 1>

Story 2 –

The Metal Master of ancient China, ‘Youkihi’ <Yang Kei Fei> said this to BABYMETAL when she met them….’In order to acquire True Metal it is necessary to have Perseverance’. 


Yuimetal and Moametal put their backs to one another and did nothing but Oshikura Manju <a game of pushing against others using your backside>  non-stop and continuously in order to obtain perseverance. 

Story 3 –

As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships, 

BABYMETAL has acquired ‘Perseverance’ in this country known as China.

As Youkihi said…

‘What is yours is mine’. 

Youkihi certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Moametal with one of her canons. 

That canon is known as the scripture of the Goddess that rules over Freedom.

This canon changed into an emblem right before her eyes.

So, just what is the meaning conveyed by this emblem?!

2013 May 21

BABYMETAL DEATH MATCH TOUR – May Revolution – Final Battle

ZEPP DiverCity Tokyo

<Same as the 1st paragraph of Story 1>

Story 2 –

The Metal Master of France, Joan of Arc said this to BABYMETAL when she met them….’In order to acquire True Metal it is necessary to have Pride’. 

Kitsune sign….

BABYMETAL raised their hands in the Kitsune sign, formed a circle and danced so vigorously that they created a storm. 

Story 3 –

As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships, 

BABYMETAL has acquired ‘Pride’ in this country known as France.

As Joan of Arc said…

‘You do not necessary have to become No. 1, what you must do is become a truly unique and special entity of which there is Only One. 

Joan of Arc certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Moametal with the final canon. 

That canon is known as the Black Album of Kitsune-sama.

With this, at last, the emblems all came together depicting the Metal Master Constellation in the summer night sky, following this the door to this Metal Master was opened. 

This leads to making an appearance at the Martial Arts Fighting Competition <BudouKai> where the greatest Metal Masters all gather – Summer Sonic 2013!



BABYMETAL Apocalypse Web [BAW] clips 1,2,3,5,6,7

The following video contains a collection of BAW video messages numbered 1,2,3,5,6,7 released to members of the club in 2013. 




#1 includes a kind of parody of Takizawa Crystal’s ‘Omotenashi’ key word that went on to be a big hit after the announcement of Tokyo being decided for the 2020 Olympics.

‘Legend I,D,Z’ Asmart

‘Legend I,D,Z’ Amazon



The BudouKan Can

The BAW limited Tees talked about in #7.







THE ONE Big 5 Kitsune Festival


Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan

THE ONE limited special tickets – Advanced sales

It has been determined that a Big 5 Kitsune Festival will be held in Japan!!

We are announcing the advanced ticket sales for THE ONE limited special tickets!!

[Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan]

Black Kitsune Festival 



Akasaka Blitz

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

Red Kitsune Festival 



Akasaka Blitz

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

Gold Kitsune Festival 



Akasaka Blitz

Gates open at 5PM/Starts at 6PM

Silver Kitsune Festival 



Zepp DiverCity TOKYO

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

White Kitsune Festival



Zepp DiverCity TOKYO

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

Silver Kitsune Festival 



Zepp Nagoya

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

White Kitsune Festival 



Zepp Nagoya

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

Silver Kitsune Festival 



Zepp Osaka Bayside

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

White Kitsune Festival 



Zepp Osaka Bayside

Gates open at 6PM/Starts at 7PM

Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan

Black Kitsune Festival

METAL HEAD Limited to (Men) 

Mosh’sh Pit Only

Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

Their official birth documentation proves they are a ‘Man’

Must be in Jr. High or older in age

Someone who can present a form of identification that includes 

a facial photograph that verifies the criteria mentioned above. 

*You may be refused admittance in the event that you are not able to provide a form of identification that includes a facial photograph on the day of the event. 

Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan

Red Kitsune Festival

MEGITSUNE Limited to (Women) 

Mosh’sh Pit Only

Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

Their official birth documentation proves they are a ‘Woman’

Must be in Jr. High or older in age

Someone who can present a form of identification that includes 

a facial photograph that verifies the criteria mentioned above. 

*You may be refused admittance in the event that you are not able to provide a form of identification that includes a facial photograph on the day of the event. 

Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan

Gold Kitsune Festival

GOLDEN EGG Limited to (10 to 19 year olds) 

Mosh’sh Pit Only

Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

Must be a boy or girl in Jr. High or older in age but younger than 20.

Someone who can present a form of identification that includes 

a facial photograph that verifies the criteria mentioned above. 

*You may be refused admittance in the event that you are not able to provide a form of identification that includes a facial photograph on the day of the event. 

Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan

White Kitsune Festival

CORPSE PAINT Limited to (People with faces painted white) 

Mosh’sh Pit Only

Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

Must be in Jr. High or older in age

Someone who can honor and obey the dress code (Corpse Paint)

*You may be refused admittance in the event that you are not able to provide a form of identification that includes a facial photograph on the day of the event. 

Big 5 Kitsune Festival in Japan

Silver Kitsune Festival

You may be refused admittance in the event that you are not able to 

provide a form of identification that includes a facial photograph on the 

day of the event. 

ROYAL FOX SEAT Limited to (Persons 60 years or older and Elementary school students) & MOSH’SH PIT


Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

On the day of the event must be a boy or girl in 4 years or older and younger than Jr. High school age, and must be accompanied by a guardian who is 20 years or older.

The child will need to present ID that verifies his or her date of birth.

The guardian must be someone who can present a form of identification that includes a facial photograph that verifies the criteria mentioned above. 

Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

A man or woman who is 60 years or older on the day of the event.

Someone who can present a form of identification that includes 

a facial photograph that verifies the criteria mentioned above. 


Conditions for participation

Only those who meet all of the following criteria

Must be in Jr. High or older in age (Male or Female)

You may not go back and forth between the SEAT area and the PIT. 

The Japanese Smile

     I sat down wanting to simply write about the elusive and ever charming Japanese smile from both an explanatory and a linguistic point of view. You understand, I believe, what I mean by the Japanese smile.  For those of you who do not, there is a subtle, almost unreadable, subtle feeling about the nuanced Japanese smile that is understandable but yet not understandable about how the Japanese can smile without just saying ‘I am happy’, or ‘ I am smiling, but my smile is communicating something else’. I want to expound upon this and  perhaps much more in this post. I knew that I could just overwhelm the reader with examples both visually and linguistically but I realized I need to talk about so much that happens behind the scenes to make it understandable. 

     First of all we have to look at the concept that is so embedded in the Japanese mind of Honne and Tatemae.

    Honne, <本音>, or literally stated as ‘the real sound’, or in understandable terms, ‘one’s true thinking, feeling, or opinion’ 

    Tatemae, <建て前 >, or literally stated as ‘a structure build in front’, or in understandable terms, ‘thinking, feeling, or opinions expressed to not cause friction with those you are dealing with’. 

     In other words, Honne means one’s held to the chest, authentic thoughts, feelings or words. In the West these would be held above all others as authentic and those thoughts and feelings that we should honor and express beyond all else. I mean, of course, to do otherwise would be to be inauthentic and bordering upon or actually entering into the realm of dishonesty and lying. 

    So, Honne, one’s true feelings. When would it NOT be a good thing to express these thoughts? Even in the West, one would not say, ‘Hey, you are fat!’ upon seeing a friend who has grown in stature over the years. OK, so how about Japan? That would be the same in Japan. You would not draw attention to something unflattering to one in Japan either. But, yet it is different. 

    One the most imprinted on my memory experiences, and one that I wish beyond all things had never happened. What did happen was when two newlyweds (and I will leave their names out of this blog) died in a car crash when they were on their way to my house in the countryside town of Ujiie. I do not actually want to talk about this as it is too personal and yet I will will use it as an example of the way the Japanese deal with that most defining emotional state of life and that is Death. My friend M-san was on her way to to my house with her newlywed husband, T-san, when they were hit by a truck as they attempted a U-turn. I heard, along with my friend, K-san, a crash on the main road outside of my house. Upon going to the crash site we saw that they had both died upon impact. I went to the hospital and I gave my final words to the two of them. 

    It was the next day or two days later, that I experienced Honne/Tatemae upon going to the wake preceding the funeral. 25 or so friends were gathered in my friend’s coffee shop. Everyone was dressed in black, formal wear and yet everyone ‘seemed’ to be having a great time- having fun and talking about everything other than M and T’s lives. I couldn’t take in the brevity and the fun, almost off hand nature of what was happening. I lost it. I blew up and threw a wall mounted clock on the floor and yelled at everyone, ‘What are you doing?! This is supposed to be a time  to honor our friends. How can you be so cheerful and insensitive to act like nothing has happened?’. This, it goes without saying did not go over so well.

     It was only years later when I realized that I had experienced a full bore example of Honne and Tatemae. 

    In the country I come from, the United States of America, I was taught from the earliest age to express directly what I actually felt. You know, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re angry and you know it, stomp your feet’. To express your true thinking at all times was a sign of being an honest and strong individual. To not do so was to be two-faced. How does this go over in the unique society of Japan? Well, not so well. 

     Let’s take a look at the differences between Japan and the West, and even between Japan and its neighbors in Asia. To facilitate things I will give examples of differences between Japan and America knowing that these examples can be extrapolated out to the differences between Japan and other countries as well. 

The degree of homogeneity 

     The percentage of Japanese living in Japan at the present time is around 98.7% The 1.3% who are Non-Japanese are comprised in order by Koreans, Chinese, Brazilians, Filipinos and, followed by Americans in 5th place making up a shocking total of 0.0003% of the total number of human beings living in Japan. 

    The percentage of Americans living in America if you consider the Native American Indians as being the true inhabitants of America the percentage would be from 1 to 2 percent. 

    You may be saying that that is an unfair calculation but considered from the scope of historical time I would say at least to express the degree of homogeneity that this is perfectly fair. 

     Japan as a Nation has the longest unbroken history in the world, by far. 

     Japan began with Emperor Jinmu in BCE 660 making Japan over 2,600 years old with an unbroken lineage of 126 Emperors. 

 Historical Emperors of Japan


     America by contrast could be considered as having started with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, or the inauguration of Washington as the first president in 1789. Either way, its history is still less than 1/10th that of Japan. For longer than the period of time that United States of America has been a country, Japan was an isolated country (and isolated by deliberate choice) where only the very, very few were allowed either in or out of the country. This period is what we know as the Edo period, the period of Sakoku (isolated country), or the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This was a period in World history that historians agree was one of the most amazing periods of peace, a flourishing of the arts, manners and sophistication as well as a deepening of highly refined culture that ever took place on the world stage. Anyway, my point is, is that the Japanese over hundreds and hundreds of years developed a society and culture wherein every Japanese knew to a deep degree what another Japanese was thinking and feeling with just a brief glance. This ability developed to the degree where in Japan they can it, ‘Ishin Denshin’ <以心伝心>, meaning the ability to convey one’s thoughts or feelings without relying on words – something that comes close to telepathy without relying on a supernatural explanation. The Japanese also talk now and in the past about the importance of ‘reading the air’ – ‘Kuuki wo yomu’, <空気を読む>. This refers to reading the atmosphere of the situation and knowing how to act so as not to cause friction or to dispel the harmony of what is taking place amongst the people you find yourself with in a given situation. The comedian Dave Barry in his book ‘Dave Barry does Japan’ talks about this saying that to him it felt like the Japanese could communicate to one another in the way two comedians who had memorized a joke book. In the joke book all the jokes were numbered. And as each comedian had perfectly memorized all the jokes in the book, they could merely say to the other, ‘Hey, what about number 273?’ to send the other comedian into stitches. It is much in this manner that the Japanese are able to communicate a huge amount of subtle meaning with a short, pithy word or even a slight physical expression. And it is here that I feel I can finally dig into the idea I had for this blog, which is the subtle nuances both physical and linguistic of the Japanese smile. 

OK, here we go. 

    In Japan, or rather in Japanese, almost going against what I have proposed in that there is a deeper level in sublimity, in Japanese there is only one base word for smile/laugh and that is Warau <笑う>、(わらう). Warau can be used for smile and warau plus voice for laugh. I did at least one time ‘laugh out loud’ when someone would ask me to ‘waratte’ when taking a picture when they were asking me to just smile. 

    Japanese is funny. It is based on a long, long period of time of Yamato kotoba or purely vocalized language up until around 500 CE when the Chinese Kanji entered into the way the Japanese communicated. 

    Apparently the roots of the word ‘Warau’ came from a variation of the word, ‘Waru’ <割る>, meaning to break or split. This referred to the mouth opening or splitting and it is not a far stretch to go from ‘waru’ to ‘warau’. And this refers to the kind of smile where you emit a voice as well, or what in the West we would call a laugh. 

When one ‘splits’ the mouth without vocal emission the word ‘Emu’, <笑む>, (えむ), was used for smile. 

Imai Miki singing ‘Hitomi ga Hohoemu Kara’


There is also the word, ‘Hohoemu’, <微笑む/頬えむ>、which means the cheeks、<頬>、’Hoho’ relax in a slight splitting mannerwhich refers to what we in the West would call a smile but is in a way in modern Japan a more refined or subtle word for smile than how we would use the word. In fact, for daily life and for things like taking pictures and so on, the Japanized version of smile, <スマイル>, is used. 

     And now on to the Kanji that is used for ‘Warau’ – that is to say if you are still with me on this, and believe I would not blame you if you are not. Even the Japanese do not usually delve into things this deeply. 

The Kanji used for ‘Warau’ is <笑う>. 

     According to some, this represents two hands (the upper characters) held out in an expression of ecstasy with the bottom part being a variation on the Kanji for the human body. So what kind of ecstasy is this talking about? Well, it is said to be a representation of a Miko (Shintou maiden) raising her hands

and dancing wildly in the ecstasy of a magic spell. 


    The bottom part of the Kanji is a derivative Kanji representing the human body. This makes for quite a exorbitant and wild depiction of someone laughing.

    The ‘ON’ or Chinese reading for ‘Warau’ is ‘Shou’ and this is how it is read and pronounced in word combinations. 

    So, at long last, lets dig into the some of the variations of words and expressions for the Japanese smile. 

Words using ‘Warau/Shou’

爆笑 <Bakushou> 

The laughter of a group of people that erupts all at once in unison. 

*Also, the name of a famous comedy duo, ‘Bakushou Mondai’

微笑 <Bishou>

A faint, kind smile.

冷笑 <Reishou>

A sneer. A mocking smile. 

Literally means a cold smile. 

嘲笑 <Choushou>

Scornful laughter. 

Literally means to make fun of someone by laughing at them.

引き攣り笑い <Hikitsuriwarai>

A sardonic or disdainful smile. 


艶笑 <Enshou>

A seductive, enticing, alluring smile. 

笑殺 <Shousatsu>

A laugh or a smile used to dismiss or disregard something.


作り笑い <Tsukuriwarai>

A forced, feigned or fake smile or laugh. 

Literally means a ‘created smile/laugh’. 

失笑 <Shisshou>

A laugh that bursts out when one is unable to hold back a laugh in a situation where it is most inappropriate to laugh or smile. 

苦笑 <Kushou>

A wry smile.

Literally, a bitter smile. 

照れ笑い <Terewarai>

This is when one laughs softly or smiles in an embarrassed way having made a mistake or having done something awkward. 

Other expressions/words/proverbs

にやりと笑う <Niyari to Warau>

To grin. 

ニヤニヤと笑う <NiyaNiya to Warau>

To smirk.

ゲラゲラと笑う <GeraGera to Warau>

To laugh in a loud voice without concern for others.

げらげら笑いのどん腹立て <GeraGera Warai no Donbaratate>

Someone who suddenly goes from laughing joyfully to being angry all in a split second, or someone who emotionally unstable and filled with a wide variety of uncontrolled emotions. 

笑う顔に矢立たず <Warau Kao ni Ya Tatazu >

Meaning if someone meets you with a smiling face your feeling of 

animosity and hatred will nature drop away. 

Literally means an arrow can not stay standing up on a laughing face.

笑う門には福来る <Warau Kado ni ha Fuku Kitaru>

Happiness comes to those who are happy and cheerful.

笑って損した者なし <Waratte Son Shita Mono Nashi>

No one has ever lost by laughing.  


Hedoban Vol. 13 Editor’s talk on Metallica’s Korea show

This is only for reference purposes. Be sure to purchase an actual copy which contains this article. 

Hedoban Vol. 13




There is no way that we could stay silent after being mesmerized by such an overpowering and moving live performance!! 

Our comprehensive report on the Metallica&Babymetal Seoul performance. 

(Umezawa Naoyuki, Editor of Hedoban)

(Hayashi Kousei, Editing staff member of Hedoban)

Special Edition

‘Hedoban’ Editor’s round table discussion


It is amazing that they could put on such an overwhelming show just with their raw movements. I was totally blown away. (Hayashi)


This was the first time for me to see one of Metallica’s solo shows. 


Oh! Is that right? Up to now you have only seen them at Festivals and the like?


The timing of when Metallica came to Japan would always for some reason or other not match with my situation, such as them coming when I was still a child, or something in my private schedule prevented me from going. Because of that I have only seen them at Summer Sonic and a few times at overseas Festivals. 


What did you think of your first solo Metallica show?


Oh, well, I was terrifically moved as it exceeded my preconceived ideas of what it would be like. What I mean by that is that in the videos I have seen of Metallica solo shows up to that point featured statues of Maiden goddesses, crumbling stages and other kinds of large scale production effects. That was the image I had of their shows. Even in the stage shown in the movie, ‘Through the Never’, crosses appeared on the theretofore simple stage as well as the assembling suddenly of a Goddess statue. 


That is correct. 


But, now with this stage all there is is a single drum set and some amps. Other than these items all there is that is set up are 5 gigantic LED screens and nothing else. The stage is totally, radically, simple. However, all they needed to produce an overwhelming presentation was to make use of these high quality visual images and more than anything, their own movements set against this total simplicity. I was in a state of shock. 


So this was totally different than the Metallica you had encountered at the Festivals?


Yes, totally different! Of course I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor that only Festivals can provide and the set lists they carried out, but the sense of falling deep into the world of Metallica that came across at this show was truly outstanding. It was like one was witnessing one complete tale. 


Since they haven’t come to Japan since the 2013 Summer Sonic I have only seen them at overseas Festivals. This show in Korea was the best show I personally have seen since the shows in the 00’s and, no, actually it is right up there with the best shows I have ever seen by Metallica. 


You would evaluate it that highly!


Speaking of myself, I have been a big fan of Metallica ever since I was in Jr. High, so much so in fact that immediately after the ‘Black Album’ was released in 1991 I was so into them that I couldn’t restrain myself and went all the way to England’s Donington Park to see them play at the ‘Monsters of Rock’. 

P. 35

This was the show where AC/DC was the headlining act and Metallica went on before them. I took all the money that we had been saving up for my school excursion and used all the money to go there (laughs). For the 1991 New Year’s Eve show at the Tokyo Dome where Metallica put on a countdown performance, I lined up many times all night outside the Aoyama ticket agency located near the Aoyama cemetery in order to get front row tickets. I was that crazy about Metallica. 


You sound like ‘Meat Arai’’s Arai-san, or ‘Metallica information bureau’’s thingy-san! 


I felt that Metallica is right now in their utmost prime! (Umezawa)


Something like that. However, there was a period of time when I drifted away from Metallica as well. Metallica put out a video that was a documentary of their arena tour for the ‘Black Album’ called, ‘A year and a half in the life of Metallica’. In the documentary there was a scene of them backstage kind of behaving like they were becoming rich wearing bathrobes, you see.




With that I thought that Metallica had made it to the big time and that they had switched into what we now call Arena Metal. I was quite disappointed. 


Just because they were casually wearing bathrobes?! (laughs)


That scene just kind of summed things up for me regarding them at the time (laughs). They were of course playing large scale venues around the time of ‘…And Justice For All’ as well, but it was like they were performing just the way they did at live houses only on larger scale stages. There was a sense of exhilaration that it was ‘us versus Metallica’. To this immature youth that I was at the time seeing them wearing bathrobes and flying around in their private jet made me think, ‘Ah, that is not the Metallica we know. They are now no different from Bon Jovi or Def Leppard!’. And so, I kind of fell out of grace with them for some time. I had kind of lost my passion for this gigantic band that Metallica had grown into. 


I see. (laughs)


If I think about it now, I realize that I was kind of a representative of what it is to be a bad fan in that I turned on them just because they had become successful (laughs). And I distanced myself even farther from them when ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ came out. They came to Japan several times in the ‘90s and I would go the shows just out of pure momentum. I would force myself to put my opinions to the side and just sit down and watch the shows. But, when ‘Saint Anger’ came out and they came to Japan in 2003 I started to once again think that after all is said and done, Metallica is wonderful. This was a revival tour coming on the heels of all the upheaval with Jason Newsted leaving as shown in the video, ‘Some kind of monster’. It was here that I felt Metallica had returned to its original form. After that, I went to see them at Summer Sonic and the ‘Death Magnetic’ tour when they came to Japan to perform, but I wasn’t as let down as I was in the ’90’s. In fact, they seemed to get better each time I went to see them. They would perform their older songs with passion and they didn’t seem to get off kilter. But, even saying that, it did not mean that I was as moved by them as I had been before. 


You are saying that they were good at putting on regular live shows, right?


Yes, that’s right. That changed for me when we as the ‘Hedoban’ editing staff went to the 2014 Sonisphere  to the cover the Festival and saw Metallica’s show. I am sure the atmosphere of the Festival plays a part in this, but I felt the seriousness, the raw drive of Metallica coming through their performance. There was so much packed into the images they presented on the screen as well. And the fans around us were long time middle aged, devoted fans decked out in old Metallica T-shirts putting their arms around one another’s shoulders singing along with the band. So, including that whole atmosphere and all, Metallica’s performance at Sonisphere was truly fantastic. I hadn’t been moved like that for quite some time. I am sure that the fact that I was now facing Metallica with a more direct, head-on approach than I had long ago also played into this. But, I was more emotionally moved with this Korean show than I was even at Sonisphere. I felt that Metallica is truly at their utmost prime. 


One doesn’t get tired even though you are listening to such explosive, such hard music. (Hayashi)


Yes! It seems like the band is heading in a direction in just the way they should be. Further, I was most surprised by how good the sound was.


It was absolutely out of this world! Even the sound coming out of the drum sound check reverberated in every organ in my body, you could say. 

P. 36



There was a wave of excitement amongst the crowd when that kick of the drums resounded out with a response of, ‘What is this?!’. The way that dome is structured allows for a great deal of reverberation. But, I was amazed that in spite of that it was possible to put out such a clear and uncluttered sound. Once that first sound sounded out, I felt that I could give myself entirely to the show, you could say. There was after that no feeling of unease or of this being out of place. 


I was watching from the most frontal standing only arena area somewhere near the back left. But, even from this position in this spacious venture I was able to hear each and every sound coming from the guitars with great clarity. And even taking that into consideration, it was possible to hear the edginess of the guitars in full detail. With the impact of this sound discovery, I realized that THIS is the sound of a band that is able to occupy the main position in Festivals all over the world! It goes without saying that Stadium Metal means spending a lot of time and energy to get where it is, but in and above that it means the ability to convey that level of quality of sound to the people in the back as well. That is what signifies ‘True Stadium Metal’. There is no way I could think other than that in the world Metallica is truly the greatest Stadium Metal band after watching this Korean show. The thing that shocked me to my core the most in terms of sound was the first riff set out by James in ‘Battery’. His riff had the sound so amazingly lined up while not losing anything in its power. It was truly amazing. 


I don’t know if it was because of the way the system was set up or because the set up was so close to me, but anyway this was the most metallic sound I have ever heard from BABYMETAL. The sound was heavy, big and hard. 


That is true. BABYMETAL’s sound was also amazing. It may have been the most METAL sounding BABYMETAL live performance of all time. The bass sounds were also put out amazingly well. 


That is so true. That refined and perfected sound of Metallica combined with Metallica’s simple yet strong and solid performance made for a powerful impact. You could say that they are pushing the envelope on what entertainment is. Not only do they not leave a second to be bored, they also hit you will this explosive sound, this unbelievably hard sound and yet you are not worn out by it at all. 


With those kinds of sound and those visuals you could easily watch the goings on for hour after hour. I was so happy that they were willing to play their new first and second songs in the live show as their first and second songs and I was also happy that BABYMETAL fans who saw Metallica live were going on to say that they were, ‘Amazing!’ and ‘they were the best!’. I think it is wonderful that more people will see Metallica like this and go on to be Metallica fans. Hayashi-kun, were you able to watch both BABYMETAL and Metallica from a position near the front row?


Yes, I was. I was basically in the front row. The fans were also really wonderful. They participated in the sing alongs and rode along with the points where the excitement peaks and yet they did not out of hand at all. 


Was there a Mosh pit going on in the area near the stage? 


I was on the stage right side of things and from my point of view I could not see one. However, due to the intense fervor of the crowd there were people who fell down or started to feel bad and there were many of these people who were led away by the security staff. Also, right up near the stage there were young women who would scream out, ‘Kyaaa!’ every time James came near them on the stage. (laughs)


There he is, this middle aged guy in his 50’s dressed in a jean jacket covered in Metal patches and this time he showed up also wearing boots like you might imagine an engineer wears, right? 


When I saw him wearing leather pants from where I was near the stage, I was totally blown away!


The only one that could not only look good dressed out like that, but come across as a ridiculously cool Metalhead in his 50’s is none other than James. I can say without fear of overstating it that the ‘Metallica of now’, including their new album is the greatest of all time. Of course there will be those who say that ‘no, it is the Metallica of the 90’s that is the best’, or that their early years were the best and yet now that they are in their 50’s they are at their strongest both mentally and physically and they are at their peak with the sound they are putting out and the presence they bring to the stage. There is no band or even groups of bands that can stand their own against them. They play the key position in major overseas Festivals and sell out solo concerts with crowds of 50 thousand or more people. That speaks mountains as to their strength. Since they have not played in Japan outside of some Festivals for the past few years I feel that the degree of their strength has not been properly conveyed. But, seeing this live performance burned into me the inescapable fact that the ‘Metallica of now’ is stronger than any Metallica in the past. 


It is true that no one can stand as their rival. 


They are without rivals. They seem to be peaking with each generation. They peaked in their 20’s and then went on to a bigger peak in their 30’s and yet now in their 50’s they are reaching their biggest peak yet. 

P. 37

They are tough. Of course it goes without saying that each time they put out a new release there will be people debating whether it is good or bad, but when you seem them live that all goes out the window, right? 



That is so true.  (laughs) Whether they bring out an old song or a new one, the crowd will go wild, and that is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. I really felt that they are overwhelming. 


Their ability to raise the excitement of the crowd depending upon whether they know the song being performed or not, of course if they know it they will go all out, but they know that even if the crowd doesn’t know it, with this gigantic screen and hearing the music they will be moved by the song even if they are in their teens.  There is no band out there that will move the hearts of so many age groups as does Metallica. And what is more, the members themselves are not swayed by factors such as these in the slightest. They do not break from their hard established stance to any degree. 


Even if you were not thrilled by the new songs, you would be totally excited with them seeing this live show. (Umezawa)


This show was so simple, but the set was so firmly set up and in place, James was so metallically suited up and we had the new album behind it all. It seems when you look closely at all of this like we are returning to the roots, the starting point of Metallica. It felt to me that they were doing what they really like and were bringing to life what they really love.


They are not unnecessarily trying to outdo themselves. They are not shouting out, ‘We are the latest and greatest in Metal!’, or attempting to do something new just for newness sake. There were times in the past where they were experimenting with new things or it seemed they felt they had to do something different from their previous albums, but now they seem to be just going all out with what they have in a nonchalant attitude. Their publicity shots show this attitude as well. Their recent Twitter posts and Instagrams often show them smiling away. I feel that that shows them as ‘the Metallica of the present’. 


One gets the distinct feeling that they are having fun at what they are doing. 


Yes, yes that is it. Said in a good way, it seems they have leeway in what they are doing. Those who were not too impressed with their new songs and album I am sure changed their feelings when they heard them perform at this show. I am sure that if you are someone who loves Metal that even if you were not thrilled by the new songs, you would be totally excited with them seeing this live show. 


The atmosphere of this live show was just oozing with fun that the band members themselves were having.


I think that is true. Metallica is a band that has its high points and its low points. They have had members die on them, they have had members leave, members who go to therapists, they have tried working with orchestras and have do Lou Reed type things. They are a band that has walked an incredibly dramatic path with countless undulations, but the Metallica that they are now is firmly settled and relaxed in what they do. 


They are calm and relaxed and yet extremely strong, you could say.


They are at their peak in power. It was like James had grabbed all of us who were pontificating in the manner of ‘this is not the real Metallica’, or Metallica is finished!’ by the neck shouting at us, ‘just stop it with your verbal nonsensical garbage!’. One got the feeling that they were kind of saying, ‘enough of that, just come watch us perform live’. Of all the live shows I have seen of Metallica this one in Korea where I felt the power of ‘the Metallica of the present’ was the one that most reverberated through my whole being. And because of that I hope that they will as soon as possible perform in Japan to reach even one person who will see and experience ‘the Metallica of the present’ which is ‘the greatest stadium Metal’ out there. 


I truly feel that way as well!