People | 20 QUESTIONS

Ayako Minase can put a song in your heart

by Mio Yamada

Staff Writer

Name: Ayako Minase
Age: 38
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Singer-songwriter
Likes: Handicrafts, e.g. making earrings; food samples; shrimp
Dislikes: Aquariums, mayonnaise, hangovers


1. Can you describe the kind of song that you perform in just three words? Mature pop music, or maybe grown-up pop music?

2. If you could put one song on every single person’s iPhone or Android playlist, what would it be? “Wasuretainoni” (“I Wish I Could Forget You”). I was inspired to write this song when I was by Meguro River surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms in April. I was in a crowd of groups of friends and couples, and yet I was really alone. If I shared this with millions of people — I wouldn’t be alone anymore.

3. You often sing with The Charades, who are based in Helsinki. What’s your connection with Finland? In 2007, The Charades visited Japan, just after I had released a cover CD written by The Ventures. The Charades really admire The Ventures, so we found we had a lot in common, and we’ve had gigs both in Finland and Japan ever since.

4. When did your interest in 1950s-’60s music start? At the age of 9, I got the opportunity to sing and act in the role of legendary singer Hibari Misora for a biographic TV drama. Her songs gave people hope during hard times after the war and shared a dream for a better future in the development of Japan. It’s been 30 years since she passed away, but she’s still a superstar who has moved us since she was a little girl. All the old songs I learned, including hers, guided me to the musical world.

5. Are the Japanese versions of foreign songs that you sing very different to their originals? I actually treat them as different songs. Individual approaches are needed because there are big differences in the way you stress words on notes, and that affects the whole song.

6. What inspires your own songs? Writing songs is my lifework — the main source of inspiration is a combination of my experiences and imagination.

7. Where do you get your retro-influenced stage outfits from and do you have a favorite? They are from a virtual mini factory on my desk! I design and make them myself from scratch. My favorite is a long blue dress with silver colored decoration around its neck. Everything goes well whenever I wear it.

8. If you were a regional mascot, what kind of creature would you be? Maybe I’d be an Osaka-style takoyaki (octopus dumpling) — representing an Osaka-born Tokyoite, who misses the taste of its birthplace.

9. What’s the toughest thing about your profession? Knowing everything is my choice, but there are still moments when it makes me cry.

10. If someone were to write a biography about you, what would the title be? “The Night Before Dots Turn Into a Line.” Hoping for a sequel to it would also encourage me to face the next step in life.

11. Can you tell us something unusual about yourself that you think few people know? I was a little obsessed with painting when I was 3 or 4 years old, but most of my pictures turned out to be very sensual nudes of women!

12. When was the last time you got really excited? Right now! I never thought I would have an interview in English.

13. The world would be a better place without what? Too many people who judge a book by its cover. We all have complicated backgrounds and personalities — categorizing people is so limiting.

14. What else gets your goat? People who don’t move, even just a tiny bit, in front of a train door while it’s open.

15. Are you a cat or dog person? Cat. I feel like we understand each other when they react to my meowing.

15. What is your secret superpower? Mimicking a rooster’s “cock-a-doodle-doo.” I really can make my friends believe it’s real.

17. Who is your real-life hero or heroine? My mother. She used to have a cram school and taught subjects like mathematics, English. She helped a large number of students learn to love studying, and she’s been a role model ever since I had saw her genuine enthusiasm to help them face life with confidence.

18. What was the last book that you read? “Saru no Koshikake” (“Monkey Seat,” a book of essays by the manga artist Momoko Sakura (known for Chibi Maruko-chan). Her demise this year was a shock for me, too.

19. What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you on stage? Enthusiastically singing … with my fly down.

20. What advice would you give a kid who says she wants to be just like you? Always be honest to what your heart desires.

For more information on Ayako Minase, visit ameblo.jp/ayako-minase.