Last March, right before I officially moved to the United States, I woke up at home in the Netherlands and was smiling out from ear to ear when I discovered that I had received an email from Japanese record label "Village Again". I just couldn't believe it when I read that they had found me on youtube and now wanted to release my debut album "Fickle Island" in Japan. I've always been intrigued by the Japanese music culture, there's just something about it that I wanted to experience with my own eyes. Some of my singer-songwriter friends would wear shirts that say "Big in Japan" and I finally got the chance to get one for myself :)
Four months later, in July after my Nicaragua trip with Free People, I found myself on a plane from San Francisco to Tokyo traveling a continent I'd never visited before (deep in my heart I always thought Indonesia would be the first country I would visit in Asia, but everything happens for a reason and I know that day will eventually come as well). It felt like I landed on a different planet when I arrived in Tokyo. It was so exciting not being able to understand Japanese language and read Japanese - its what makes it an adventure if you ask me. My brother Roman also flew in from Amsterdam to support me during my tour and we reunited at the Hatchi statue in Shibuya. Thankfully, Toshi (my promotor) was there the whole time to lead us the way and to make sure we could order food from the menu (it was all so yummy btw, especially the raw chicken sashimi..)
Nine shows in seven days. We were on fire! It was mostly radio promo and we covered the major radio stations in Tokyo (Tokyo FM, JWave, InterFM etc). From traveling to radio gigs by subway to meeting radio DJs, the whole experience was awesome and was maybe the best way to fall in love with Japan. The culture, the fast pace, the organised chaos (standing in straight line before the escalator) saying goodbye to new friends by bowing until the door closes, the "business card presenting" ritual and the handwritten notes I received after my gig at Tower Records - I loved it all so much! Just thinking of it and writing it down here makes me wanna go back and do it again.
Lovely Ako at Jwave - she was the first radio DJ in Japan to play my songs on the radio.
During some of the interviews I was asked if there's a place in Japan that I really wanted to discover and see... I told them all: the Hokokuji temple in Kamakura. They all replied to my answer with the same epic enthusiastic sound (which I cannot translate into blog words, if you've been in Japan you know what I mean "eeeheee"). In Kamakura, there is forest all around, ancient temples and a magical place where you can drink matcha green tea in a lush bamboo forest - Hokokuji temple. After being in Tokyo for a couple of days, I was ready to see the ancient beauty of Japan.
From the train station we shared a bus to Hokokuji with the locals - an old lady pointed and smiled at my ukulele that I always carry with me when I travel. Good vibes all around. And then that moment you see that magical bamboo...you just stand still, watch, observe and be thankful by the fact that you've come this far. Right outside the temple we found the most lush alleyway I've ever seen, I immediately took out my uke and thought of recording a live session of "Your Name, My Name". Toshi told me this was one of the ancient (500 year old) paths that connect the temples in Kamakura. No one else to be found, only a local man who told us it would take an hour to hike to see the most amazing view down the path...(saving that hike for another trip for sure)
After I googled "Tokyo bohemian neigborhood" at home in San Francisco, I found out that Shimokitazawa was the place to go. Although it was one train stop located from Shibuya, it took us nearly an hour to finally find the train track...we gave Toshi an afternoon off ;) I hand drawn a map which didn't make sense to us when we got there lol... But I soon found out that Shimokitazawa is one of those places where you kind of HAVE to get lost. I especially enjoyed creepin' into the little alleyways and streets and trigger that #house-envy.
At one point it started raining really bad and we needed shelter, so we walked into a store called Darwin Room - little did I know this is the most perfect store for explorers...my bro had to drag me outta there after I purchased a leaf holder and some notebooks. Also loved vintage store Salad Bowl where I got a pair of traditional Hakama pants and vintage shibori.
a peak into the cutest hair salon
About a year ago, I went to see a show of my ukulele idol Jake Shimabukuro. One of the songs he played was called "Ichigo Ichie" - he told us that the song is about touring and meeting all these different people and places - not knowing if you will ever see them again or travel back to this place. Ichigo Ichie literally means "one time, one meeting". How crazy is it that now a year later I can sense where his inspiration came from. It was a perfect week of touring, making new friends while being in a country I'd never visited before. I'm so glad I got to share this with my brother, my travel buddy (last year we went to Greece) for us it was once in a lifetime trip which we'll reminisce forever. Just like something you probably also have experienced this summer. Let's cherish it to the fullest and acknowledge the fact that maybe some things and gatherings are only meant to happen once.
Nevertheless, I hope to return to Japan in the future with new music and fall in love all over again.
Arigato matane daisuki
at Tower Records Tokyo