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Akari Volume II

Updated: Feb 20


Release date: Aug 26th, 2022

Released by: Tsunami Sounds

Directed by: Damon Broussard

Art by: Suzuum

Videography by: Rieko Tsuji



The Akari series is a long-term study of Japanese cities, culture, and people told through a multimedia project. Volume two was released at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown and builds on the first volume by offering a short music film, a limited-edition CD, and a poster. Several artists and vendors throughout Japan were also interviewed about various topics, from city life to their hobbies, jobs, and experiences. As of September 2024, the album has gained over 400,000 digital streams and is sold in shops worldwide.


Volume three is currently in production for a late 2024 release and will expand on the series with updated interviews, insights, and interactive campaigns. From Tokyo to Ehime, we will travel to Japan for this study to observe and discuss the social landscape since COVID-19, the impact of tech on communities, and get a pulse check on Japan's creative subculture since 2022. Through the Akari series, we hope to create an educational, rich archive documenting the evolution of art, media, and culture of Japan.













 



INTERVIEWS:





My name is Asami Tono, and it's an honor to participate in the "Akari" project. Thank you very much.


I was born and raised in a small seaside town, surrounded by both the sea and mountains, where I used to ride my bicycle until dusk every day. When composing music, the first thing that comes to mind is the sea of my hometown.


From a young age, I had the opportunity to learn piano. Being good at playing by ear, I often played popular songs for my friends and even my piano teacher, who, upon hearing the pieces I composed for homework, encouraged me to pursue a career in music. Music was not only a source of joy but also gave me a sense of self-affirmation. Joining the string ensemble that was formed in elementary school and experiencing the beauty of quartets was also a fundamental experience for me.


I can't go a day without listening to music. I find inspiration in my daily routine of listening to favorite tunes or discovering new music. Inspiration also comes from books, movies, and art exhibitions.


Like other countries, Japan has experienced significant changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with adults working remotely, children unable to attend school, people losing jobs, small businesses closing down, and friends unable to meet as freely. I believe the impact of this period will linger for children, who are going through a sensitive phase, and even if the pandemic subsides, things won't return to how they were before for adults either. Whether these changes are for better or worse will probably be understood much later.


I work in an office, and music is purely a hobby for me. Claiming to be an artist feels presumptuous, but I believe having a different job allows for unique expressions. I particularly enjoy expressions that are not client-driven or monetarily motivated. It's a wonderful era where anyone, regardless of age, appearance, or language, can publish their works from home through the internet.


Though there are many hardships and frustrations, I believe in healing myself by creating music and stacking harmonies I want to hear. It would truly be a pleasure if someone, somewhere, listens to my music.


Lastly, my wish for Japan is for its culture and society to mature. Reading foreign news and interviews with people from other countries makes me feel embarrassed by the immaturity of Japanese, including myself. For the world, though it may sound cliché, I hope for peace. A video of musicians playing string instruments in a subway where Ukrainians were taking refuge, and the captivated audience, deeply moved me. If music, which can transcend language barriers, could contribute to world peace and maturity, I would be delighted.


Thank you very much.





 




Hello, I'm Refeeld, and I'm active in music, focusing on lofi-hiphop. I've been given the opportunity to do an interview with Tsunami Sounds, so I'd like to answer their questions.


1 - Where were you born and raised? What was your life like in your town during your childhood and early teenage years?


I was born in 2002 in Akishima, Tokyo, and I still live in the same place. During my early teens, I didn't go to school much and spent my days at home playing PC games, and experimenting with music using the guitar and bass I got, as well as DAW software. Back then, I wasn't exposed to calm music like lo-fi hiphop; I was all about EDM. Basically, it was a life of staying at home every day.


2 - What inspired you to start making music, and who or what inspires your music?


Originally, my parents studied music-related subjects in college, so music was always around me from a young age, with a piano at home and lessons to attend. It was a household filled with music. Growing up in such an environment, I had the chance to try different instruments like guitar, bass, and drums. I realized that playing any of these instruments alone wouldn't complete a song. That's when I started making music on a computer. I first touched a DAW, FL Studio Mobile for Windows, when I was 12. At that time, I was into The Beatles and remember remaking "Paperback Writer" with a DAW. A year later, at 13, I got FL Studio 12 and was making a lot of EDM. For EDM, I'm inspired by Mike Williams, RetroVision, Throttle, Osrin, Aeden. For lo-fi hiphop, I draw inspiration from Sleepy Fish, Middle School, Another Silent Weekend, Aviino, Swørn. Besides artists, nature outdoors, like rivers, ponds, greens, and the sky, not only inspires me but also motivates me musically.


3 - Is Lo-fi hiphop popular in Japan? What's the beat music scene like in your area?


It's not as hugely popular as overseas, but it seems to have become more popular in Japan since everyone started staying home due to the coronavirus. I like going to cafes, and I often hear lofi hip-hop playing, sometimes even tracks I recognize.


4 - How has your childhood influenced the music you create now?


Up until I was 16, I was heavily into and made a lot of EDM, but there were times I wanted to listen to calmer music. That's when I stumbled upon Lo-fi hiphop on YouTube by chance, and since then, I've been immersed in it. Looking back, the sound I create now seems to stem from the piano lessons I attended as a child, the jazz my parents often listened to, and the EDM I consumed a lot.


5 - How do you think the coronavirus has affected Japan and the lives of Japanese people?

I believe it has had an impact.


Not limited to Japan, the coronavirus has cut off people's real connections. When it first spread, I was still 18 and attending high school, but the pandemic led to school closures and remote learning from home. On the other hand, it also meant I had more time to be alone, so I spent my free time making music and thinking about my future. The coronavirus has indeed created many difficult situations, but on the flip side, I think it has given me time to reflect on myself and polish my own abilities.


6 - Currently, do you have any part-time jobs besides music? What are your thoughts on being an "artist"?


Right after graduating high school, I taught music using computers at the same school I attended, but now I live solely on my work as an artist. Being an artist means having another persona that is different from my true self, I believe. An artist is an avatar in the world of music, communicating through the language of sound.







 




1 - Where were you born and raised? What was your life like in your town during your childhood and early teenage years?


I spent my teenage years and early twenties in a rural area in the mountains on the outskirts of Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture. As a teenager, I was physically smaller than my peers, which contributed to feelings of inferiority, and I found it hard to fit in with the popular games and activities. Instead, I found solace in spending my time at the library reading books or listening to music on my Walkman, which, in retrospect, was a release from various frustrations and negative feelings. The most enjoyable time during those years was starting a rock band with friends I met in high school, gathering equipment in a friend’s house warehouse to play together.


2 - What inspired you to start making music, and who or what inspires your music?


The trigger for starting to make music seriously was when I began creating original songs for a post-rock band I was part of at the time. The need to convey ensemble and arrangement ideas led me to start making demo tracks for the band using GarageBand, which was my first exposure to DTM (Desktop Music). I've always felt more comfortable with clean, delicate music rather than distorted, loud sounds. I admire the Chicago sound scene, including artists like American Football, Owen, Joan of Arc, Sea and Cake, and Gastr del Sol, who blend live instruments with electronics. In terms of electronica, I was a big fan of the early releases from the Schole label and enjoyed works from Morr Music and UK-based artists like The Boats and The Remote Viewer.


3 - Is Lo-fi hiphop popular in Japan? What's the beat music scene like in your area?


While lo-fi/chillhop has become popular in Japan, I don't specifically listen to lo-fi hiphop. However, I appreciate the production style and beat elements of lo-fi hiphop and enjoy artists who skillfully merge it with other musical styles. I personally like Sleepyfish and Afternoon Bike Ride for their glimpses of US indie elements. In Japan, I admire artists like Yutaka Hirasaka and Paniyolo, who blend lo-fi hiphop beats with clean and acoustic guitar sounds.


4 - What do you do besides music? (part-time job, etc). What do you believe it means to be an “artist”?


Music is more of a sideline for me as I work full-time. Being an artist, in my view, means being someone who can naturally control their output, continuously producing music or any creative work without pretending or boasting. It's about maintaining one's identity and producing work that is true to oneself, regardless of the scale of activity.


5 - How do you think the coronavirus has affected Japan and the lives of Japanese people?


The coronavirus has prompted a reevaluation of the typically frantic work ethic driven by mass production and consumption in Japan. It has become an opportunity to reconsider what is truly necessary and important in our lives, encouraging a more natural and simpler lifestyle for oneself and one's family.


6 - What do you want the world to know about Japan, Japanese lifestyle or culture?


Japanese people possess a unique sense of beauty that appreciates the ambiguous and the nuanced, even if it may seem vague or half-finished to others. For example, Japan has a rich vocabulary for describing subtle shades of color that might not have specific names elsewhere. This aesthetic sense towards ambiguity is fascinating and distinctly Japanese.







 




1 - Where were you born and raised? What was your life like in your town during your childhood and early teenage years?


I was born in Funabashi City, Chiba Prefecture. During my childhood, I preferred playing games at home to playing outside. In high school, I started making music after being inspired by artists like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Daft Punk, and Beck. The only equipment I had was an electric guitar, a Yamaha-RY8 drum machine, and a boombox, which I used to create my songs.


2 - Is Lo-fi hiphop popular in Japan? What's the beat music scene like in your area?


I think lo-fi hiphop is popular in Japan, but there aren't many people who actively follow specific labels or artists. I don't visit local clubs or live houses, so I'm not familiar with the local music scene. My childhood preference for staying indoors and playing video games has greatly influenced my music, as has the program "Minna no Uta" from the educational TV channel, which I really enjoyed.


3 - How do you think the coronavirus has affected Japan and the lives of Japanese people?


The coronavirus pandemic has led to the adoption of remote work in schools and companies. Japanese people typically resist changes to the status quo, so remote work would not have advanced as much without the pandemic.


4 - What do you do besides music? (part-time job, etc). What do you believe it means to be an “artist”?


Currently, I work in an office from morning till night and create music in the limited time I have at home. The biggest challenge as an artist is the lack of time, but I find that inspiration often comes from time spent outside of music production, which I value.


4 - What do you want the world to know about Japan, Japanese lifestyle or culture?


Regarding Japanese culture, ninjas and geisha girls, as portrayed in foreign movies, do not wander the streets in real life. What I desire most now is peace. Achieving this requires learning from history and fostering imagination.







 



//END


This article will update with time as we receive relevant information on this research. Thanks for reading; subscribe to our journalism newsletter below for fascinating glimpses into Japan's city life.

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