Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Singer songwriter/Lyricist (Writes songs in Japanese)
We introduce you to a German singer songwriter who sings and writes songs in Japanese. kai, a.k.a. shigure, loves Japanese culture very much and has come here six or seven times so far. This time he is still a tourist who can’t stay here more than 90 days. Even though he’s never stayed in Japan for a long time, he speaks Japanese really, really well. We think musicians have good ears and a high-level of listening skills. But above all, it’s thanks to his deep love of Japanese language.
*Interview in Nippori (Arakawa-ku, Tokyo)
Gateway to Japan.
As a songwriter “kai”, I want to be a professional songwriter. And I want to do a lot of things as a solo singer “shigure” (in Japanese; a rain shower in late autumn or early winter) in Japan.
I came to Japan for the first time in October 2001. I have been interested in Japan since I was a child. My mother loved Japanese things and I also loved Japanese things, not only anime but also Japanese musicals. Originally I loved theatre. I was influenced by my mother who loved opera and operetta. I was attracted by stage actors, especially their singing methods.
I came here for the first time to see musicals such as Takarazuka Revue, a Japanese all-female musical theater troupe. Takarazuka Revue Company went to Berlin as part of their world tour. I saw it and was very impressed by that. It was very unique because that company consisted of women only and some women play male parts. So I wanted to go to Japan to see the real one.
Attracted by Japanese idol group.
I like Japanese music, too. Especially the theme songs of Japanese anime aired in Germany.
I started to listen to Japanese pop music in my teens, to groups such as “w-inds.” and “DA PUMP“. I think I got to know them when I came to Japan for the first time in 2001. Especially w-inds. made their first appearances that year so their songs were played everywhere in Tokyo. I think you couldn’t escape from them. They bring back memories from when I was new here.
I came here again in 2003 on a working-holiday visa. I worked at an English school. At that time, I talked to even my Japanese friends in English.
So I wanted to study Japanese more and decided to do so. I was interested in Japanese culture. To me, the Japanese language sounds pretty relaxing and nice. So I majored in Japanology.
I wrote Japanese lyrics whenever and wherever.
We had professors from Japan and they encouraged me to study harder. This was good for me because I was kind of lazy so didn’t study on my own.
I started to write songs in Japanese in summer 2005 after I entered university. I’ve written quite a few songs in Japanese so far.
I wrote lyrics in Japanese as a part of studying because I didn’t like studying something by using textbooks. Before that, my Japanese language was on a level of 5-year old kids. I began to study it more seriously in order to speak it really well.
Even when I authored reports, I wrote Japanese lyrics and submitted them to my professor. He corrected them even if I didn’t write serious reports so that was good for me. But he belonged to the older generation so his Japanese was sometimes out-dated.
I read lyrics written by other professional song writers carefully and looked into the differences among them such as how they use words.
shigure’s musical works
First demo single “Kisetsu o Koete”
First mini album “Nagaremono”
I don’t like covering songs but I really loved the Japanese ’70s folk song called “Nagoriyuki” (Non-seasonal Snow). I listened to that for the first time in 2003 at a band street live performance and loved their version of Nagoriyuki. Another Japanese rap group also covered it and I loved that, too. I checked that song on the internet and found its name. Then I listened to the original one which was sung in the 70s. There are many versions of Nagoriyuki because it’s a timeless masterpiece.
“Nagoriyuki” sung by Iruka, a Japanese female singer songwriter
Released in 1975
The word of “Nagoriyuki” reminds people of so many things. When they hear that word, some would feel sad and others would think it’s the song of making a new start. Japanese like stories about meetings and partings. Japanese novels tend to be dark, sad endings. Also for example, the word “sakura” (cherry blossom) reminds them of commencements, new school days, breakups and romantic meetings.
That’s interesting because the German language doesn’t conjure up as many images about different paraphernalia as Japanese does.
My songs must be international.
In the future, I want to write lyrics for Japanese pop idols or anime programs as the songwriter “kai” does, not as a singer “shigure”. Sometimes I write songs that are not suited for shigure’s image. I would like to provide them to idol groups or other musicians. I love music and have been influenced by many types of music. That’s why I want to write for both myself and other musicians.
But my friend told me that it would be very difficult because the labels have their existing relationships with professional song writers and that system blocks newcomers access.
As for me, I can write in English, German and Japanese. That’s my advantage and lyrics I write must be international by necessity.
There are SNS communities which have many song writers and composers. They are asked to write lyrics or compose songs that are competitive. There are music groups which divide tasks, like song writing, composing, designing, singing and playing as if they were small labels. I have connections with them.
Now I’m writing for a Korean female singer who sings in Japanese and another guy composes. It’s going to be very international. I come up with many, many lyrics now.
But I don’t say I have my base only in Japan. Of course my main target is Japan because I write lyrics in Japanese most of the time. However I would like to be everywhere because we are now in the internet age.
What is Tokyo to you?
My second home.
I feel really good whenever I’m in Tokyo. I feel as though I become another person. I feel free more than in Germany.
When I’m there, I have to care about my ID, insurance and everything. Here, I don’t feel that pressure that much. Also I experience something new every single day in Japan.
I don’t want to stay in the same place for a long time because of that. I want to travel and go back and forth between Japan and Germany.
I’m a “Nagaremono” (vagabond) just like a stray cat.