Tag Archives: 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

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

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