Even by itself, my recent trip to Japan had a very special meaning to me. But there were also several crucial objectives planned way beforehand to be ticked off from the bucket list – some were related to cuisine, others to culture, history, nature or entertainment. However, one of the places I visited had also spiritual significance of sorts. While the stopover there lasted maybe 20 minutes, it was a very emotional moment, and it left a powerful impression on me. Located relatively close to Shibuya Station, I paid a visit to a memorial plate of Yutaka Ozaki, late rebellious singer of the 1980s, whose music and charisma actually hugely contributed to my interest in Japan, and he was among the main reasons for my travel there.
I like to think that Ozaki was to Japanese rock music whom Cobain was to American grunge – a hugely tragic figure, suffering from addictions and all kinds of inner demons haunting him, whose death was probably as saddening and senseless as those of John Lennon or Freddie Mercury. His songs moved hearts of the nation back in the 1980s, and they sure moved the heart of this blogger. 15の夜, FREEZE MOON, 卒業, 街路樹 are only a few of his tracks which constantly pop up on my playlist.
The singer didn’t get a full monument or a bust, but this bronze (???) plate with the carving of his face and the lyrics to one of his hit songs, SEVENTEEN’S MAP, written next to it. Lots of fans left some messages on the plate and the bricks next to it, however I did not have any pen or a marker – I didn’t think it was necessary either. I took some pictures and few selfies which are more than enough. What’s most important is that being there has been engraved in my mind and memory.
The next music milestone for me will probably be seeing Shiina Ringo live. Normally I would have said that it’s never going to happen, but my journey to Japan proved that never shouldn’t be used too lightly.
(So I will just say it’s highly unlikely that I will get to see her singing from up close).
During my short stay in Japan I did learn that Yutaka Ozaki still lives in the awareness of many Japanese people – in those I have met, at the very least. When I was preparing myself linguistically for Japan (Japanese speakers of English are scarce, and even though I was expecting communication difficulties, it’s worse than I had expected), as in trying to learn as many Nihon-go words and phrases as possible, I had few Japanese lessons through italki website with Japanese natives. When I mentioned my admiration for Japanese rock and Yutaka Ozaki in particular, one of the girls recommended using that fact as the icebreaker or a conversation starter.
It worked great! Considering my extremely limited and broken Japanese learned mostly through songs, anime and TV, I managed to hold several conversations thanks to Ozaki. I admit some of those did not feel completely genuine (probably because of the language barrier and cultural differences). Yet for instance in Tokyo, while I was having mouthwatering beef at this yakiniku place in Asakusa, I started to talk with the family from the neighboring table. The other time, in Niigata, I ended up drinking in a smoky izakaya with a bunch of tipsy salarymen whom I accidentally met. They were amazed to meet a dude from Poland and almost-talk with a foreigner who knows of Ozaki, Shiina Ringo or Akina Nakamori. Their boss who actually invited me to join them (while I was searching for a different bar) and a dude called Kobayashi-san constantly badly mispronounced my name, but they were so hilarious I didn’t even mind. Perhaps my favorite and the most memorable night I spent at a bar in Sendai, talking with the funny barman owner, two waitresses and few of his regular visitors.
Somehow it was very amusing for them that a random 28-year-old Polish tourist even knows Ozaki considering many 20-something Japanese youths never heard of him (they later talked about the singer themselves a bit as well, though I did not get everything they said – in order to talk with me they were switching to very basic Japanese :D). And once I mentioned Ringo the barman pointed out that one of the waitresses looked a bit like her, so we started calling her Ringo-chan.
… and oddly and excitingly enough, after a pretty long period of no news, Shiina Ringo is releasing a live DVD on May 31!