Category Archives: Babymetal/Sakura Gakuin

Su-metal Solo interview (Hedoban Vol. 3)

 

This is for reference purposes only. Please get your hands on a copy of:

Hedoban Vol. 10

 

P. 18

Su-metal

(Vocal, Dance)

Solo interview

Metal is something has the feeling of stabbing you, you know. Because you are stabbed with such force, your body is forced to move before you can thing anything in your head. That is why I feel that Metal is something that can, ‘show your real self’.

So, of course, following our interview with Yuimetal and Moametal we get a Kourin from Su-metal, that one who emits a ‘vocal and dance’ of such an unlimited nature that her extremely transparent vocalizes Metal that is able to light up the whole galaxy! And then following that, with the same penetrating look that she shows in the live shows, Su-metal talks with us for the first time 2-years after the BudouKan shows. That is right, this is the confession of Su-metal that reveals who she is at the age of 16. This is the follow up solo interview with Su-metal.

From 16 to 18 years of age. Su-metal looks back over her ‘grin’ at their first stage at the overseas English festival of Sonisphere, to their battle filled European tour, to their teaming up with Dragon Force to 2 years of ‘Metal destiny’ reflecting on the Metal aspects of BABYMETAL.

2-years have elapsed since we did our first solo interview with Su-metal in Vol. 3 at the 3 year point since the formation of BABYMETAL. What did this 16 year old girl feel about the background of the world Metal scene, the 2 years of touring and the Metal spirit as she traveled around the world on their ‘Metal destiny’ tour?

P. 19

March 2nd, 2014

Red Night Legend ‘Kyodai neck brace Festival’ Tenka ichi Metal BudouKai Final

Black Night Legend ‘Doomsday’ Ceremony of Summons

Su-metal:

‘The Tokyo BudouKan was a dream-like place as it was a place that I had wanted to perform at since I realized when I was a small child that I wanted to be a singer.

Q:

I am certain that these past 2 years have been filled with excitement and miracles since we last interviewed you in a solo interview 2 years ago (Hedoban Vol. 3). With that in mind, how do you feel looking back over these past 2 years?

Su-metal:

It passed in the blink of an eye. So, 2 years ago at this time we had not yet performed at the BudouKan?

Q: I think you were about to perform there.

(This interview was carried out at the end of February.)

Su-metal:

I am surprised to hear that we were about to perform on the BudouKan stage just 2 years ago. (looking into the distance) Only 2 years have elapsed since then….? This seems so strange to me.

Q:

Can you recall in detail what happened at the BudouKan?

Su-metal:

Yes, well, of course DEATH!

Q:

We just finished our interview with Yuimetal and Moametal and they both said that the BudouKan shows were a turning point for them. How was it for Su-metal?

Su-metal:

Ever since I wanted to be a singer from when I was a little girl, the BudouKan was always a dream-like place. So in that sense, when we stood on the stage at the Budouakan 2 years ago, it was like, ‘Oh, my, I am actually here’.

P. 20

‘In my world, the BudouKan was a 3-day performance, DEATH!’

(Su-metal)

Q:

Didn’t you have the realization that you were actually there at the BudouKan?

Su-metal:

I don’t think I really realized it. The stage that I envisioned myself standing on when I became a singer since I was a small child was thh BudouKan DEATH!

Q:

So, you mean the image you always had in your head was of you performing at the BudouKan?

Su-metal:

Yes, that’s right. It was truly a dream-like place for me and so I didn’t feel like I was actually performing there. I mean, I performed the first day, went home and performed one more stage, you know. (laughs)

Q:

Uhmm…hah?! I don’t really understand what you are talking about.

Su-metal:

I performed one more stage at the BudouKan in a dream that night. We performed our first stage and then I went home and went to sleep. When I woke up in the morning I had at that point already performed at the BudouKan for 2 days, you see. (laughs)

Q:

(laughs)

Su-metal:

It took me a bit after waking up to realize that today the second day of performance was still hanging out there. I have a strong memory of coming to the realization that, ‘Oh, wow, I get to perform at the BudouKan one more time!’.

Q:

On the first day at the BudouKan there was that happening that occured with Yuimetal and, including that incident, did it seem to you that there was a heightening of sense of the togetherness of BABYMETAL?

Su-metal:

If I had to speak of the 2 days individually I would say that the first day had about the sense of, ‘Wow, well, we have made it to the BudouKan!’, and so we had the feeling that more than enjoying the experience we really had to do our utmost to put a professional show. In the pre-show rehearsal we had to focus on memorizing where we needed to stand for each song and things like that and so were unable to actually do much dancing. And perhaps because of this I was not so confident about the first stage. And so, for me the first day’s stage was not a very satisfying one for me. Thinking about it now, I am very happy that the BudouKan shows were performed over 2 days.

Q:

Did you get more of a sense of satisfaction from the second day’s performance?

Su-metal:

Yes, I would say so. I think that is why had a dream of performing at the BudouKan after we finished our first day.

Q:

I see!

Su-metal:

If I am not satisfied with the performance, I watch a dream…in the dream everything goes extremely smoothly. On the second day’s performance the actual show played out exactly as I had seen it in the dream the night before!

Q:

So, you mean after you woke up the next day everything went well as if it was a repeat of the dream?

Su-metal:

Yes! So for me, the BudouKan was a 3 day performance DEATH! (laughs)

Q:

Saying this in a good way…Su-metal has not changed at all. (laughs)

Su-metal:

(laughs)

Q:

You sang ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’ at the BudouKan but have not performed it since then, right? However, it has been recorded for this this new album…how did you feel when you heard it would be included on the new album?

Su-metal:

We didn’t play it for so long that I wondered if it had perhaps been shelved. There are, for example, songs that we recorded for quite some time that I thought would be close to completion for the CD that were not, in the end, included, you know. (laughs) And so I thought this song (NR,NR) had maybe ended up like that and had kind of gone away. That song is one that I personally love and so I was simply very happy when I knew it would be included on this new album DEATH!

Q:

Well, then you must be happy that with this song included on the album and the opportunities to perform it live will become more frequent, right?

Su-metal:

When we were first getting started as BABYMETAL, I would just go all out and do my best with each song I sang…. When I was first singing ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’, I didn’t really comprehend the depth of the lyrics, you see. Now 2 years have elapsed and I am getting ready to sing it again. In these 2 years I have acquired a variety of ways to use my voice and I think I have improved in my abilities of expression. With those changes as the backdrop we are getting ready to re-record this song and put it on the new album. I think the 2 years leading up to this point are of great importance.

Q:

I see. There are a great many things embedded in ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’. Among those would you include the way Su-metal has progressed and changed as a singer?

P. 21

Su-metal:

Yes, that’s right. This song is a ballad, and so my singing takes kind of the main, center position in the song, right? This song requires in an exceptional way that some sections of it be expressed solely through the singing and so I really hope that I can develop it as a song to an even further degree. And so, I am extremely excited to see how it will evolve as a song DEATH!

 

2014 July 5

Sonisphere ~ Apollo stage

Knebworth, UK

‘Once we went on stage we realized that there were tons of people out there which immediately made things much more interesting.’

(Su-metal)

Q:

After the BudouKan shows you suddenly found yourself flying off to perform overseas, right? How did the Su-metal of the time feel about that development?

Su-metal:

It certainly was an out of the blue occurrence! (laughs)

The first time I went overseas was as BABYMETAL.

Q:

To be clear, your first overseas trip was to Asia, right?

P. 23

Yes, right. We went to Singapore. And so, up until that point we our only overseas travel had been to Asia. America and Europe almost had the feel of being some world that only existed inside the TV screen. It didn’t really hit home that I was actually going to fly there. When I was told that we would be playing live shows in venues with about 1,0000 people capacities, I was like, ‘No way!’.

Q:

(laughs)

Su-metal:

Probably because it hadn’t hit me that we were going overseas to perform; on the airplane it seemed to me more like we were just going on a sightseeing excursion. The extent that I hadn’t comprehended what was going on dawned on me when in the middle of performing a live show I suddenly realized, ‘Hey, I am performing in a foreign land right now!’.

Q:

The fact that you came to this realization in the middle of a live show tells me that Su-metal hasn’t changed at all. (laughs) But, wait, didn’t you perform at Sonisphere on this trip? And what is more, that was a show where you performed in front of a crowd filled with approximately 60 thousand hard core, foreign Metal fans. When I asked Yuimetal and Moametal about this they said that this fact of ‘being away’ from home was an uneasy feeling for them. How did Su-metal feel about this?

Su-metal:

Sonisphere was……

Q:

You do remember it, right? (laughs)

Su-metal:

I remember it clearly! It still hadn’t hit me that we were performing overseas when we played at Sonisphere. Speaking honestly, it wasn’t until we walked onto the stage that I realized just how many fans were out there DEATH!

Q:

Eh?!

Su-metal:

We were not able to go and check out the venue before we went on stage. It was kind of like we went straight from the dressing room to the stage.

Q:

Ah, right….you do not do a rehearsal at these Festivals.

Su-metal:

Right. Perhaps because we saw the audience from a slanted angle it seemed to us that no one was in attendance and we were talking amongst ourselves wondering ‘what we should do’ with out a crowd to play to. But, apparently that was due to the angle that we looked upon the audience. Once we went on stage we realized that there were tons of people out there which immediately made things much more interesting.

Q:

So that is the meaning behind the grin that Su-metal showed on her face that we, the Hedoban team, witnessed as it was shown on the Sonisphere screen!

Su-metal:

Personally I was not aware I had done that (laughs).

Q:

It suddenly got fun?

Su-metal:

That’s right DEATH!

Q:

Whoa, that is amazing….

Su-metal:

I think I must have been happy about it perhaps, or something…I am not sure what I felt. I am sure though, that it immediately became very enjoyable! What is more the audience in the front were standing there with blank looks of bewilderment on their faces DEATH!

Q:

Ah, their expressions, right.

Su-metal:

Right. They had expressions on their faces that said, ‘Hmm? What? Eh!”

Q:

You could make out those expressions from the stage?

Su-metal:

Yes, I could see their expressions! When I saw their expressions it made me feel, ‘Alright then, let’s really knock this out of the park!’ DEATH!

Q:

Their expressions lit your fire?

P. 24

Su-metal:

Yes, that’s right DEATH! But, I was nervous so I may not have comprehended what was actually going on. (laughs)

Q:

The moment you saw their expressions and you got riled up it sounds like the desire to put on a show that would bring enjoyment to everyone overrode your nervousness, right?

Su-metal:

Yeah, I think that sounds right. There was a sense that there was a definite moment when my mood switched over.

Q:

BABYMETAL really gets passionate and worked up when you play ‘away from home’.

Su-metal:

Hehehe. It does seem that way, DEATH!

2015 January 10

LEGEND 2015 ~ Shinshun Kitsune Festival ~

Saitama Super Arena

Q:

So, Sonisphere is over, I have talked with Yuimetal and Moametal about Brixton (London) and so now I would like to ask Su-metal about the ‘Shinshun Kitsune Festival’ that you performed in January of 2015 after coming back to Japan. Do you remember it?

Su-metal:

(laughs)

Yes, it was JUST last January! It’s amazing that that was last year already….

Q:

At that show it was the first time for you to perform ‘Road of Resistance’ in Japan, right? How does that song stack up in Su-metal’s mind?

Su-metal:

I don’t usually listen to BABYMETAL songs on a day to day basis, but, I listen to ‘Road of Resistance’ an incredible amount of times.

Q:

Why is that?

Su-metal:

Hmmm…I wonder why…

I guess you could say it gives me energy and motivation. ‘Road of Resistance’ is a song that represents all that was 2015, you could say.

Q:

Do you think that applies to not only BABYMETAL but to Su-metal herself as well?

Su-metal:

No, I think it is especially true of BABYMETAL. I often use the terminology of, ‘there is the ‘me’ that is my daily provisional disguise used to sneak around unnoticed in the world, and then there is Su-metal’, right? As you know, there are things that I could not normally experience as my ordinary ‘me’, but I am able to do so as Su-metal.

Q:

Yes, you have talked about that before.

Su-metal:

Right. What I mean by that is that my character or personality changes….it feels like a separate person takes possession of me during a live show DEATH!

Q:

That is something that never changes.

You were speaking like that in the ‘Hedoban Vol. 3’ interview as well. Are you saying that the gap between the two has gotten more drastic since that time?

Su-metal:

Yes, perhaps. I absolutely love that ‘me’.

Q:

You mean <the ‘me’ that appears as BABYMETAL’s Su-metal>, right?

Su-metal:

That’s right, DEATH! I do think my ordinary self is cool as well though. (laughs)

Q:

That is a quotable remark said in Su-metal fashion (laughs).

Su-metal:

When I listen to ‘Road of Resistance’ and am reminded of these things, I get a burst of energy and power in recalling that, ‘this is a path that Su-metal has traveled upon to this point’.

Q:

Looked upon objectively as well, ‘Road of Resistance’ is a song that allows one to reflect upon the many and varied aspects of Su-metal. Are you able to hear the fans when they are singing, ‘Wow, wow ~’?

Su-metal:

Of course DEATH!

Q:

You take your ear monitor out to be able to listen, right?

Su-metal:

It turned into quite an experience when I took my ear monitor off and listened at the ‘Shinshun Kitsune Festival’.

Q:

Is that right?!

Su-metal:

There was a bridge that spanned from the stage to a separate location. I was listening to the fans’ voices from where the bridge was extending out and so I was virtually able to hear ‘Wow, wow~’ coming from 360 degrees all around me. I truly loved the resounding cheers that flew out and around from the upper regions of the BudouKan and this was something very close to that. I really got the sensation that everyone was saying, ‘Welcome home!’, and were supporting us yelling out, ‘Do your best!’. The ‘Road of Resistance’ in that show was truly an experience filled with a high degree of emotional energy.

Q:

Were the cheers of everyone during ‘Road of Resistance’ at the ‘Shinshun Kitsune Festival’ the most impressive ones you have encountered?

P. 25

Su-metal:

It was because of those cheers that we were able to do the 2015 World tour. I am quite certain about that.

2015 June 1

BABYMETAL World Tour 2015

La Laiterie, Strasbourg, France

2015 June 3

BABYMETAL World Tour 2015

X-TRA, Zurich, Switzerland

2015 June 5

BABYMETAL World Tour 2015

Estragon Club, Bologna, Italy

‘The stage that revamped our way of thinking was the Strasbourg, France stage’.

(Su-metal)

Q:

I have already asked about the next performance, the one in Mexico….

After that you performed in Canada and then Germany followed by the 3 solo shows in Europe of France, Switzerland and Italy. I was lucky enough to have been able to see these 3 shows.

Su-metal:

Thank you so much for coming!

Q:

Oh, no, the pleasure is mine. The Bologna, Italy show was particularly hot with ridiculously high temperatures at the show venue, don’t you think? That said, that show is the one that made the deepest impression on me.

Su-metal:

Hmm…I am not sure how I think of those 3 shows.

In my inner reflections on those shows, all 3 were really rich and intense! First off, the Strasbourg, France stage…. With the tour kicking off in Mexico we felt, ‘this is going to be quite tough from a physical and stamina standpoint’, and approached things with a strategy of performing while not taxing our stamina too much. Doing so it began to lose grip on just what is our ‘100%’. At the German Festival the 3 of us talked about how, ‘we are not performing for everyone at our utmost potential’. And as these 3 shows started up we were of the mindset of, ‘we are capable of doing much more than this!’. The 3 of us along with the Kami band and the entire staff consulted together several times focusing on, ‘lets do perform this and that in this and that way’, and the stage that followed this revamped approach in mindset was the Strasbourg stage. I personally feel that that show was incredibly good!

Q:

Did you perhaps feel like you had been reset?

Su-metal:

Yes!

With that show we felt like we had been restored as BABYMETAL-100%! Because of the warmth and kindness of the French fans I think it is fantastic that we could reset ourselves in France DEATH! As for the Zurich, Switzerland show…. I felt that the way the fans got into the show was special and unique. At first it seemed like they were not so excited….

Q:

That is true….

Su-metal:

It was a mysterious phenomena where we were performing a ‘solo show and yet we were ‘away from home”. I think in fact that they were having a great time but were just not sure of how to ‘get into and move with’ the show. (laughs)

Q:

Ah, I get you!

Su-metal:

I get the feeling that perhaps many of the people were seeing BABYMETAL for the first time. Because of that what happened was a phenomena where at the quiet part in ‘Ijime’ the whole crowd all squatted down. Seeing this from the stage it was as if the all the people had disappeared.

Q:

Whoa!

Su-metal:

Since the venue is dark where the audience is, it was as if they all disappeared when they squatted down. I was panicking, thinking, ‘What should we do? What should I do?!’, when they suddenly stood up in unison. I was so surprised as this way of dealing with the show was a first for us.

Q:

Looking at things from the point of view of the audience I didn’t think that our impression would change that much, so it is amazing to hear that the perspective changed that dramatically when seen from the stage.

Su-metal:

Yes. And then there was Bologna, Italy which was just simply hot, hot and hot. It was so hot that during rehearsal we were saying, ‘Isn’t this bordering on being impossible?’. But, I think I may actually like situations like that. It is actually those kinds of difficult situations that make me want to really dig in and do my best. I wonder what that means….

Q:

(laughs)

That tendency to dig in and do you best when facing overwhelming odds is something that is stronger in you perhaps than Yuimetal and Moametal. What do you think?

P. 26

Su-metal:

Hmmm…I am not sure. But, it is true, I think, that I do go all out when facing hardships. That said, I think those 2 are also that way.

Q:

You know, though, listening to you like this I get the feeling that when performing ‘away from home’ Su-metal is able to harness some kind of awesome power that goes way beyond your usual abilities!

Su-metal:

(chuckles)

Initially at Bologna it was so incredibly hot that, in a good sense of the words, I just totally gave up and relaxed….doing so I realized that I was able to sweep all those concerns away (laughs).

Q:

You were trying to keep things in check as a way to deal with the heat, but somewhere during the show your ‘limiter’ popped off?

Su-metal:

Honestly, I have no memory of it DEATH!

Q:

For myself as well, the Bologna show made a deep impression on me. I have a strong image of that show being one were everyone, including the Kami band, just went all out without holding back at all.

Su-metal:

Since the Kami band-san were also of the feeling of, ‘well, we really have to give it our best together’ because the situation was so tough, we were all reinforcing each other through volleys of eye contact communicating with each other in a manner of ‘are you alright?’, ‘yes, I am OK!’. At the Bologna show, the 7 of us including, of course, the Kami band-san, we all came together with a very strong sense of unification, I feel.

Q:

I think Su-metal has grown and flourished in sensitivity greatly over the past 2 years. Does it feel like you have 2 brains working at the same time when you are performing? Is it like there is a cool, logical ‘you’ and a ‘you’ that has had her ‘limiter’ removed?

Su-metal:

At times, I get the unexplainable sensation that there is a ‘me’ that can observe things in an extremely objective way, you see.

Q:

Does that even occur at large venues?!

Su-metal:

There are times when that happens. How should I put it….it is ‘a sensation where it is as if someone is taking hold of my hand and pulling me along’. And that happens in the middle of a live show.

Q:

Ohhh!

Su-metal:

‘Someone’ is leading me along at a running pace saying, ‘Come this way!’ DEATH!

Q:

When you say ‘someone’, you don’t mean you can actually see them though, right?

Su-metal:

I can’t see their form, but….

It is an extremely, extremely sensuous phenomena. Of course, I don’t mean it is situation like this (said as she gestures someone being pulled along by the hand). (laughs)

Q:

It would be quite a disturbing situation to actually see that during a live show, I can imagine. (laughs)

P. 27

Su-metal:

It really is a perceptional, sensuous thing….it is something that know within myself about, for example, if I prepare in this way, I will be able to sing well, or, even if I am fatigued I can give a bit more. At times like these, I am in awesomely good condition DEATH!

Q:

Do you mean that it is like, ‘those times where there is feeling-wise, another person present’?

Su-metal:

Yes, that is it.

It is like there is someone there who knows where the goal is and even if I am lost or perplexed as to how to proceed, that person gives me a sense of peace and can lead me to the goal. It is something like that.

Q:

It is as if something is guiding you to the correct path.

Su-metal:

That’s right, DEATH!

Q:

Wow.

Su-metal:

Something comes into me during these shows is how if feels perhaps. I really can’t express it in easy to understandable terms. Recently this feeling comes upon me and when it does I feel a huge sense of achievement. Because of the fact that everything I do goes smoothly, I am able to enjoy any and all things. I get the feeling that I can do anything! DEATH!

Q:

You become invincible.

Su-metal:

Invincible DEATH

It is a sense something like ‘arriving at the final stage of transformation’.

Q:

There was a feeling of that at last year’s Yokohama Arena.

Su-metal:

Yes!

That could be the reason I was able to see things with a sense of, ‘Hey, everyone, come and follow along!’ DEATH!

Q:

Related to that, is that, ‘Come on, bring it on!’ <kakatte koiya!> that you yell out a phrase that comes naturally from Su-metal’s feelings?

Su-metal:

Come on, bring it on!’ really comes out of that feeling.

2015 June 12

Download Festival 2015

Donington Park, UK

2105 June 15

Golden Gods Awards 2015

Indigo at The O2, London, UK

‘Were not not able to rehearse ‘Gimme Choco!’ even 1 time before the actual performance.’

(Su-metal)

Q:

Since you have transformed we can go on to the next question (laughs)

You unexpectedly joined Dragon Force’s stage at the Download Festival and were granted awards from ‘Metal Hammer’ and Kerrang!’, right?

Su-metal:

We learned about the ‘Metal Hammer’ and Kerrang!’ awards at teh last minute. And so we suddenly found ourselves needing to reside in England for about 10 days. Because of that we were luckily able to go to many places and we were able to do a collaboration for the first time with Dragon Force-san at the Download Festival. Were not not able to rehearse ‘Gimme Choco!’ even 1 time before the actual performance.

Q:

Really!? That was an unrehearsed live performance?

Su-metal:

Yes. It was like, ‘OK, you go on after this song. Once the introduction starts, just go out there and dance how you feel you should’. We were like, ‘Eh, is this going to be OK?’, but I went out and sang. I felt that because Dragon Force-san employs a piano player, and the song varies depending upon who is performing it that the sound that the sound was different. I felt, ‘Ah, this is the charm of music!’. I was also so happy to have seen a different side of ‘Gimme Choco!’ DEATH!


Q:

A music writer who witnessed this wrote, ‘this was an attack version of ‘Gimme Choco!”.

Su-metal:

So, in addition to be super happy about being able to perform at the Download Festival, it was also wonderful to be able to experience the atmosphere that, heretofore I had only gotten a glimpse of on TV, of the award ceremonies for ‘Metal Hammer’ and Kerrang!’.

Q:

They are something like the ‘Nihon Record awards’?

Su-metal:

Yes, that sounds right!

I was surprised at being able to appear at these award shows, and the nervousness I felt at knowing I had to do a speech in English……well, I practiced like crazy (laughs).

Q:

(laughs)

Is that right. And, you also appeared on the front cover of ‘Metal Hammer’. How did you feel about BABYMETAL being shown on the front cover of an overseas magazine?

Su-metal:

It was truly strange. I was so happy to be accepted by an overseas Metal magazineas we were for the first time with coverage by ‘Metal Hammer-san’. But, in no way did I think that we would be featured on the front cover. I was amazed by the fact that we had become an entity that is approved by such a major outlet which made me happy to get a reaffirmation that we have been accepted DEATH!

P. 28

2015 September 16

World Tour 2015 in Japan

‘I really want to perform at Hiroshima’s Green Arena DEATH! I would love to have a venue

where I could perform for the people who have been so kind and who have helped me out so much.’

(Su-metal)

Q:

And following that you had the Japan Tour. I just spoke with Yuimetal and Moametal and they both said that it was extremely fun. Is Su-metal of the same impression?

Su-metal:

Ohhh, it was really a lot of fun DEATH!

Q:

In our interview with you in ‘Hedoban Vol. 3’, Su-metal said that she would like to return to Hiroshima one day to perform there, right? Although it didn’t happen on this Japan tour, it seems to me that if you keep going at this pace that someday you will be able to play at the Hiroshima Green Arena or a similar venue.

Su-metal:

I really want to do that, DEATH! I would love to have a venue where I could perform for the people who have been so kind and who have helped me out so much. There are truly a lot of people who see BABYMETAL perform for the first time when we play in local venues and I really get the feeling that they approach these shows with a feeling of, ‘We have been waiting for you!’. At these shows I once again strongly realize that there are people out there who are waiting to see us perform. Also, I love being able to eat the various delicious regional foods that the catering services prepare for us (laughs).

Q:

(laughs)

Looking back over these past 2 years that have included overseas tours-in what ways have the existences of Yuimetal and Moametal changed in Su-metal’s perspective?

Su-metal:

Hmmm….I don’t feel that they have changed in that sense. The fact that they are extremely important to me is something that will never change. They are also like little sisters to me. And in addition to that, recently they have become people that I can and do depend more upon. For example, in interviews when I am unable to explain something adequately in words they help me out with comments like, ‘It was like this, perhaps’, or ‘It was like that, maybe’. Up until recently I would be watching them from behind when we are performing a live show kind of wondering to myself if they are doing OK from a physical perspective. Recently, however, I think the 3 of us are on equal ground. I guess you could say that I now view them as being almost the same age as myself. Conversely, there are times more and more where they are worrying about me. I feel that they have become very reliable, you know.

What is Metal to Su-metal?

‘Metal is something that cleanses one’s mind and heart….It is to that extent that Metal has struck deep and hard into my core.’

(Su-metal)

Q:

This is my final question for you. When I asked Su-metal what Metal meant to her in our last interview, you said, ‘Metal has become something that is not scary to me anymore’. You also said, ‘there are a variety of factors contained in Metal’. Following that 2 years you have performed live shows in large variety of countries overseas. For the Su-metal of this present point in time, what has come of Su-metal’s image of Metal?

Su-metal:

Metal is ‘something that makes it possible for me to encounter a new me’. Also, it is ‘something that teaches me who my true self is’.

Q:

Ohhhhh!

Su-metal:

I was able to meet this entity called Su-metal….Su-metal has shown me so many worlds of which I knew nothing about. There are things that I can only do because of Su-metal. I mean there are things that the ordinary ‘me’ could not do for lack of courage – there are things that would be too frightening for ‘me’, but as Su-metal I am able to carry them out. And I would add that I think Metal itself is something similar to this as well. Metal is something that cleanses one’s mind and heart….It is to that extent that Metal has stabbed deep and hard into my core.

Q:

It feels like you have been stabbed?

Su-metal:

That’s right!

Metal strikes you with a feeling like you have been stabbed. Because it stabs you deep and hard like that, your body moves with the energy before you are able to think about it with your head. That is why I feel that Metal is ‘something that teaches me who my true self is’.

Q:

Do you feel there are great number of areas where Metal has saved you over the past 2 years?

Su-metal:

Yes! There is no doubt about that! (said sharply and with force)

Q:

That is wonderful!

Su-metal:

(chuckles)

Supernatural Kitsune Iroiro

Various types of ‘Okitsune-san’

Supernatural Kitsune (妖狐)

(clockwise from upper right corner)

 

 

 

Byakko/White Kitsune

Byakko/Shiro Gitsune <白狐/白ギツネ>

 

A white furred Kitsune.

This Kitsune is considered to be of the type that brings

good fortune to people-a ‘Zenko’ <善狐 >. The Zenko are a fictitious Kitsune that

we were reported in Edo period essays to be the counterpart to the Yako <野狐>

Kitsune that were able to take possession of people causing sickness or death.

They are also often the helpers of ‘Inari no Kami’ <稲荷神> (The guardian/god of crops).

 

 

Genko

<玄狐>

 

A black furred Kitsune that lives in the northern region of Japan and is a

transformation of the Big Dipper, or the Great Bear <Hokutosei/北斗星>.

This Kitsune is a bringing of great fortune and appears when the ruler of the land

works to bring about peace.

 

 

 

Kinko and Ginko

Gold and Silver Kitsune

<金狐/銀狐>

 

 

The gold Kitsune is a symbol of the positive and/or light, while the silver Kitsune is a

symbol of the negative and/or darkness. They can also be considered as representing day and

night, respectively. Both are beneficial Kitsune.

 

Yako

Wild Kitsune

<野狐>

 

This Kitsune is a class of Kitsune that failed to overcome the tests they encountered in the

attempt to become a holy Kitsune. This also includes the wild Kitsune who do not possess the

proper spirit to even attempt to become a holy Kitsune. They basically just do bad things and even

take possession of people from time to time.

 

 

Senko

Holy Kitsune

<仙狐>

 

This Kitsune type is a good, beneficial one that is reported to be able to live over 1,000 years. There are cases wherein this Kitsune actually turns out to be an evil entity as well.

Tenko

Heaven Kitsune

<天狐>

This Kitsune lives over a 1,000 years and is a good, beneficial type that possesses divine powers and has evolved into a god. It has the power of clairvoyance and can see into the true nature of any

and everything. It possesses four tails.

 

 

Kuuko

Air Kitsune

<空狐>

This Kitsune lives more than 3,000 years and is a full fledged god with divine powers who is able

to do anything it wishes. It lives longer then the Tenko and has no tail.

 

 

Kyuubi no Kitsune

Nine-tailed Kitsune

<九尾の狐>

 

This Kitsune surpasses the other divine Kitsune and living so long with divine powers its tail divides into nine tails. I wrote about this a couple of years ago –‘Kyuubi no Kitsune and the Story of Sesshouseki’

 

Mikiko-sensei on News Zero 2017 June 16

 

Koi Dance (with the always lovely, Aragaki Yui aka, Gakki)

 

 

 

An old, but ever so fun to watch ‘Pocky’ CM from a ways back in time. 

 

 

Perfume ‘Tokyo Girl’

 

Kayama Yuzou 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 Yuzou’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.

BABYMETAL on Japan Countdown Check 2017 June 11

This is the section featuring BABYMETAL that appeared on Japan Countdown Check 

on the morning of 2017 June 11. 

 

Note: You may also be interested in ‘Wagakki band’ which appeared for a few seconds at the 

beginning of the clip. 

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

 

 

      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. 

    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’.

‘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 from 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. 

 

     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).’

and 

    ‘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

 

Up next, part 2 – Utada Hikaru

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

 

 

      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. 

    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’.

‘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 from 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. 

 

     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).’

and 

    ‘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

 

Up next, part 2 – Utada Hikaru

Perfume talks about BABYMETAL/Kami Band

Perfume talks about BABYMETAL/Kami Band on:

Perfume LOCKS

 

 

 

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 ‘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 in my mother kind of forced me to go on this trip. 

She said we should do this at 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. 

 

 

 

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