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Ryotaro Aoki
For Ryotaro Aoki's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
LIFE / Language / BILINGUAL
Aug 7, 2017
J-pop duo Scott & Rivers on writing Japanese lyrics
When American musician Scott Murphy first came to Japan in 2001, he could only say a few phrases in Japanese.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 26, 2017
Figuring out who to watch at this year's Fuji Rock Festival
The 2017 edition of Fuji Rock Festival boasts one of the more eclectic lineups the long-running gathering has had in recent years. The headliners tell the tale: Cartoon rockers Gorillaz share the same font size as electronic pop star Bjork and dance music weirdo Aphex Twin. Dig deeper and you'll find everything from big-stage EDM to Japanese "group sounds" legends. To help you navigate three days up in Naeba, here are some of The Japan Times' music writers' insights into this year's Fuji Rock.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 25, 2017
For Uhnellys, surviving Tokyo's live-scene circuit has been an exercise in perseverance
When you're an independent rock band, maintaining a do-it-yourself ethic long-term can be difficult. Many acts eventually have to scale back, and dreams of a musical career turn into the reality of having a really cool hobby. Uhnellys, however, have kept up the fight.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 11, 2017
Rock act Boris marks 25 years with an album inspired by fans
Halfway through my conversation with Atsuo, drummer and spokesman for drone metal trio Boris, I bring out an original CD copy of the group's 1996 release, "Absolutego."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 21, 2017
Review: After Hours provides powerful rock and a strong statement of intent
"Standing against those that ruin art," was the tagline for the After Hours festival, which took place across four venues in Shibuya on April 9. The sponsor-free event, curated by the bands Mono, Downy and Envy, featured more than 30 artists from a wide range of backgrounds and genres, coming together to provide an antithesis to the stagnant and corporate domestic festival scene.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Apr 18, 2017
Dustin Wong is open to opinion on his latest album with Takako Minekawa
Musician Dustin Wong returned to Japan five years ago and, despite having grown up here, he encountered a few cultural differences after coming back.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Apr 4, 2017
Envy, Mono and Downy devise a dream lineup for After Hours music festival
It's no secret that the Japanese music industry has a hollowing-out problem; you are either a pop act on a major label with high levels of exposure or an obscure underground act for whom not losing money on a show is a major success. Guitarist Nobukata Kawai of hardcore band Envy knows the latter reality well.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Mar 12, 2017
Noise outfit Endon takes a hard look at itself in the mirror
The term "noise music" has come to define a variety of artists and sounds, from guitar feedback to drones to white noise. Japan is certainly no stranger to the concept, birthing formidable pioneers of the genre such as Merzbow, Hijokaidan and Incapacitants over the years. However, singer Taichi Nagura of self-described "noise band" Endon has a slightly different take on the idea.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Mar 5, 2017
Yoshiki: 'We had to make our own world'
Yoshiki Hayashi hardly sleeps. The drummer, pianist, songwriter and leader of rock band X Japan has been in and out of the country constantly these past few months, promoting his band's new documentary film, "We Are X." At the same time he has been performing solo concerts, recording and squeezing in all the things the rest of us simply recognize as everyday life.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Feb 26, 2017
What's in a name? Just ask Cairophenomenons
When a band changes its name, it sometimes signifies a switch in artistic direction. For indie band Cairophenomenons — previously known as Cairo — the decision was far more practical, even if the new moniker is a bit of a mouthful.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Dec 9, 2016
Review: Yoshiki at Tokyo International Forum
Despite being billed as a solo tour, X Japan's Yoshiki Hayashi's "Yoshiki Classical" tour is undoubtedly deeply rooted in the lore of one of the biggest rock acts of the country.
Japan Times
CULTURE
Dec 1, 2016
Tokyo Comic Con calls on Hollywood's big guns for star power
As we sit down for an interview, Tokyo Comic Convention Committee Chairman Mitsuaki Munegumi casually points to a glass case in the center of the room.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Nov 20, 2016
Ogre You Asshole flirts with tension on latest album
The members of Ogre You Asshole are bracing for something. At least, that's what the title of their seventh album, "Handoru o Hanasu Mae Ni" ("Before Letting Go of the Handle") suggests. (The album's official English title is the less tense "Everythingsomethingnothing.")
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Nov 17, 2016
Yoshiki prepares for classical tour amid a new appreciation for his legacy
Not many musicians are able to say that they've taken the stage at both New York City's Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall, two of the most prestigious venues in rock and classical music, respectively. Drummer, pianist and songwriter Yoshiki Hayashi, however, is stepping up to take claim of that title.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Oct 9, 2016
Crypt City turns into the alt-rock supergroup we didn't see coming
Despite what his mammoth bass guitar sound may suggest, rock band Crypt City bassist Kentaro Nakao is comically self-deprecating at times.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 25, 2016
Will Hikaru Utada's new album 'Fantome' change the rules of modern J-pop?
'As trends fade into the cultural rearview mirror, Hikaru Utada is a prime candidate to bring back what J-pop has lost in her absence: relatability.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Sep 18, 2016
The Novembers have an 11th-hour (or 11th-year) rock epiphany
Yusuke Kobayashi, singer and guitarist of rock band The Novembers, is wearing a black Pink Floyd T-shirt and sipping a tea as I sit down to chat with him in a cafe in Tokyo's Ebisu neighborhood.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 10, 2016
Bo Ningen: 'We're Japanese, but a London band'
Though seasoned music festival veterans overseas, the four members of British rock band Bo Ningen had never been to a Japanese event until Fuji Rock in 2013.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jul 3, 2016
Muddy Apes' style of rock knows no borders
When looking at the pedigree of rock quartet Muddy Apes, it's hard not to mention the term "supergroup." After all, the band's members — which consist of bassist Taka Hirose of British rock act Feeder, guitarist Kiyonobu "Inoran" Inoue of Japanese arena-rock band Luna Sea, vocalist Masaki "Maeson" Maenosono of Japanese rock group 8otto, and Feeder supporting guitarist Dean Tidey — are all established and successful musicians, albeit in different scenes, genres and countries. But for the musicians themselves, it's just about getting together with a couple of friends and making music.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Jun 15, 2016
Review: Sugizo and Inoran at Zepp DiverCity
From superheroes to presidential elections, 2016 seems to be a year of infighting and rivalries. It has even trickled down into Japanese rock, as Sugizo and Inoran, the two guitarists from renowned rock act Luna Sea, went toe to toe with their respective solo bands in their first double headliner show together on June 9 at Zepp DiverCity in Tokyo.

Longform

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin,” once the victim of high waves that dragged it into the sea, sits at the end of a pier on the south side of Naoshima.
Why is the most exciting art in Japan so hard to get to?