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櫻井孝昌(Takamasa Sakurai) のJAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN!

#47 Interview with “Alice Nine” Lead Vocalist, Shou - Part One

Part Two HERE!
One of the most memorable moments of my work in cultural diplomacy thus far was my 11 night, 14 day tour of four Brazilian cities (San Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Brasília) in November 2011 with the then Kawaii Amabassador, Misako Aoki.
Seeing some 20,000 people in Recife scream their love for Japan right before my eyes is something I wish I could have broadcast live back to everyone in Japan. Everywhere we went in Brazil, we kept hearing the names of same three Japanese bands/groups by the local youth living there. One was visual-k rock band, Antic Café (Ancafe), another was Morning Musume, and the third was the group that I’m writing about now, Alice Nine. Following this trip, I saw Ancafe perform at the Budohkan (Japan) in January 2010 and Morning Musume perform in Paris in July the same year – both performances impacting on me greatly. As I’m writing this article and thinking back to those concerts, part of me now feels like I was there watching on behalf of all the Brazilian fans who couldn’t be there to see it themselves (Ancafe performed in San Paolo in 2009 to great success, but Morning Musume have yet to visit Brazil).
Shou is a fan of anime, manga and games.
Following on from this, I’ve written about my various episodes with the members of Ancafe and Morning Musume on a number of occasions here on asianbeat. One day I’ll meet with Alice Nine too. I always knew it would happen eventually and it’s mostly thanks to Twitter that we were finally able to meet.

One day when I tweeted the NHK World music program, “J-MELO,” top five ranking of Japanese artists most requested to be played by overseas listeners, I saw that one of the people who retweeted me was Alice Nine vocalist, Shou (and he even became a follower of mine as well). Ranking in the top five were: #1 the GazettE, #2 Arashi, #3 L’Arc-en-Ciel, #4 Morning Musume, #5 Alice Nine. So I sat down with Shou and we talked away as though we were trying to make up for all the time lost before we finally met. Talking with Shou, I came to realize what a strong ally I have in Alice Nine and why they’ve been able to establish such a strong following throughout the world. It seems such a shame to sum it all up in one article so for the next two weeks (this article and next) I will be bringing you my exclusive interview with Shou of Alice Nine.
Alice Nine’s latest single “Shadowplay” – currently on sale.
The thing that caught me most by surprise after meeting with Shou was the fact that Alice Nine haven’t once toured outside of Japan. They have performed in Cologne (Germany) and Los Angeles (USA) but only as guests at certain events, not their own concerts. Last year they performed in Taipei (Taiwan) and Jakarta (Indonesia) with a number of other bands and also took part in a music festival in Singapore. Nevertheless, just as their ranking in NHK’s “J-MELO” suggests, their presence is well and truly acknowledged overseas. So just how did Japanese visual-k rock find such a following overseas in the first place?
“The roots of visual-k can be found in hard rock, which is a completely Western born genre. Japanese people tried to replicate the style and what was born in the process was a completely Japanese interpretation of the genre. We, the next generation, then took what these pioneers had created and it became what we’ve come to accept today as “visual-k.” The rest of the world then came to accept the uniquely Japanese fashions and musical stylings of visual-k as completely new style of music.”

I’ve once even put this question out to people via my Twitter account: “What’s more important to visual-k: music or fashion?” And most of the replies that came through said the same: “Both. They’re both important; you can’t have one without the other.” It is already widely agreed that the anime and manga form the foundations of people’s passion for Japanese culture throughout the world. Young people everywhere first develop an interest in Japan through these media and then progress to other fields, such as music and fashion.
“The affinity between visual-k and anime has grown even stronger in the 21st century and I think that has also played a big part. Works like “Akira” and “Ghost in the Shell,” have drawn such high acclaim, and there are positive elements found in anime that closely tie-in with visual-k.”

With the proliferation of broadband internet, Japanese culture spread to the far reaches of the world and its consumption intensified through the activities of all the online Japan fan communities.
“The initial stages of this Japan fever probably only began with a small number of die-hard fanatics, but it’s these such people who have the strongest desire to want to share their passions with others. And that’s where the use of the internet really excelled.” There are young people everywhere who use various net tools to share their love for Japanese culture with the world and I’m reminded of this fact everyday on facebook and on Twitter. Just as their presence is an important asset to Japan, Alice Nine is an important bridge between them and Japan.

My interview with Shou continues next week!
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Next time: Interview with Shou of Alice Nine – part two
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JAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN! - Back Number

Columnist: Sakurai Takamasa

櫻井孝昌.jpgContents Media Producer, author, journalist, managing director of Contents Street Inc. Chief Editor of iPhone magazine “Tokyo Kawaii Magazine” (ASCII Media Works), World Cosplay Summit Executive Advisor, Chief Researcher at Kodansha/Kodansha BC China Management Laboratory.
Cultural diplomat producing events in 103 cities in 24 countries. Books include “Galapagos-ka no susume”(Kodansha), “’Suteru’ de shigoto wa umakuiku”(Diamond-sha), “Nihon wa anime de saiko suru ”(ASCII Shinsho), “Sekai no kawaii kakumei ” (PHP Shinsho), and “Anime bunka gaiko ”(Chikuma Shinsho). Writes regular columns in the weekly magazine “ASCII” and Yomiuri Shimbun.




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