Violinist shirks off her tragic image

by May Masangkay

Kyodo News

Diana Yukawa first grabbed the limelight in Japan as a 14-year-old playing the violin at a memorial service, struggling with the loss of her father in the 1985 Japan Airlines crash that killed 520 people onboard.

Now, nine years after her debut on the music scene in 2000, the Tokyo-born Yukawa is reinventing her image from a child prodigy with a tragic past to a 23-year-old contemporary violinist.

“I wanted to really try and show that the violin is not just a classical instrument,” she said. Now based in London, Yukawa describes her musical mission as sending “the message that being a violinist, you can perform any kind of music and you don’t need to be just one category, it can be across the board.”

Her third album, “The Butterfly Effect,” which will be released by the BMG Japan label Oct. 21, reflects her transition from a strictly classical music violinist, with two classical albums under her belt, to a violinist bold enough to experiment with fusion between other genres.

Often, though, her identity as a violinist is overshadowed by her other, more powerful image as a relative of one of the 520 victims killed in the Aug. 12, 1985, JAL jumbo jet crash in Gunma Prefecture, the worst single-aircraft accident in aviation history.

“It’s something that obviously I can never change because it’s my history and that’s what happened and that’s what I was born into,” she said, recounting the tragedy that killed her father, Akihisa Yukawa, an executive of a Sumitomo Bank affiliate, weeks before her birth.

After her father’s death, she and her older sister, Cassie, both born to their unmarried parents, Akihisa and British ballet dancer Susanne Bayly, had to struggle not only with the emotional pain of losing their father but the ordeal of being denied the right for compensation from JAL since the statute of limitations expired.

In 2001, JAL compensated the sisters, both British citizens, in an out-of-court settlement, and this year, the father’s name was added to the younger Yukawa’s birth certificate.

“It was not long before we came to Japan that we received the updated copy of my birth certificate with his name on so it really is like being reborn this year in a way,” said Yukawa, who climbed to the Osutaka Ridge crash site again this year and performed an original song, “Sail Into The Sunset,” for her father.

What inspired her to focus on her music was the pressure of being portrayed by the public as a child prodigy with a tragic past.