Japanese musician abandoned his NHK career to pursue his dream in Taiwan | Taiwan News


TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Japanese musician Koji Sakurai set foot in Taiwan 25 years ago and is now the Music Director of Ju Percussion Group’s upcoming year-end concert “Long For”.

Koji came to Taiwan at the age of 25 and has done wonderful works in the music industry. With his humorous and calm personality, he made a lot of friends.

Before coming to Taiwan, he graduated from Berkley College of Music in America, then accepted a position as music director at the Japanese network NHK.


Director of Ju Percussion Group (left) and Koji (right) promoting the “Long For” year-end event. (Photo by the group Ju Percussion)

However, he always dreamed of producing music rather than just editing. So when his friends invited him to come to Taiwan, he decided to quit NHK work without hesitation in order to pursue his dream as a musician.

Moreover, at that time, the music industry in Taiwan was flourishing and that was why it was a great destination for Koji to develop his career. He didn’t know he would end up staying for more than two decades.

Comparing life in Taiwan and Japan, Koji expressed his preference to stay in Taiwan because of freedom.

“In Japan, there are a lot of rules and restrictions. In Taiwan, on the contrary, I feel less repressed and instead have a freer life, ”Koji said.

When Koji first arrived in Taiwan, he didn’t speak Mandarin at all, so he enrolled in language classes and started learning the traditional phonetic writing system.

However, he gave up in two weeks because it was too complicated for him. Obviously, the phonetic characters of bo po mo fo (ㄅ ㄆ ㄇ ㄈ) do not resemble the musical notes “do re mi” at all.

After 25 years, Koji Sakurai’s Mandarin is not very common, but it is much better than before. This is due to the hard work of his current wife Shan-Shan and their Taiwanese friends.

Koji and Tom

Japanese musician gave up NHK career to pursue dream in Taiwan
Koji (left) and Tom (right). (Photo by Tom Chang’s fan club)

Of all his friends, his most remarkable friendship has been with popular singer Tom Chang (張雨生). Together they have produced many hit songs.

With their love and passion for music, they produced famous songs such as “I Look Forward”, “Karaoke, Taipei, Me”. Moreover, they also cooperated with popular singers, such as Tao Ching-Ying (陶晶瑩), A-Mei Chung (張惠妹) and Wang Lee-Hong (王力宏).

Their contribution to the Taiwanese industry has been significant, with the unforgettable musical called “Kiss Me, Nana” which continues to be very popular with audiences.

Interestingly, neither of them had ever watched a musical before, but they were able to write this blockbuster work together. According to Koji, they spent an enormous amount of time researching.

Tom was the songwriter and Koji was the composer. They promised each other that after the show they would go to New York together and enjoy musicals.

“It takes a creative mind to know and cherish another,” this explains the friendship they had until Tom died in 1997 in a car accident.

“I wish we had a fight during the performance of ‘Kiss Me, Nana’ and we did not kiss at the end of the show. Now I will never have the chance to tell him how much I treasure him. as a friend, ”Koji said.

Japanese musician gave up NHK career to pursue dream in Taiwan
Koji (left) and his wife Shan Shan (right). (Photo by Taiwan News)

Surprisingly, “Kiss Me, Nana” turned into “Kiss me Shan Shan”. Koji and his wife Shan Shan met while working in the Godot Theater Company (果 陀 劇場).

Now, Shan Shan is also the manager of Koji Sakurai. In addition, she helped Koji get a teaching position at a university so that he had a stable income.

Percussion group Koji & Ju

Japanese musician gave up NHK career to pursue dream in Taiwan
Koji and Ju Percussion Group after the end of year concert “Long For”. (Photo by the group Ju Percussion)

After living in Taiwan for 10 years, Koji met a xylophone player, Wu Pei-Jing, who worked in the Ju Percussion Group. She asked the talented musician to write a song for her to play.

It was the first time Koji wrote a song for the xylophone. It was the start of a journey and the creative relationship between Koji and the Ju Percussion Group.

Musicians from the Ju Percussion Group quickly sympathized with Koji due to their common interests in music and alcohol. Together with the beer company, together they came up with creative ideas and turned them into amazing pieces of music.

The Ju Percussion Group presents several musical events each year, and Koji has been attending these events occasionally since 2007. But now he never misses the group’s big concerts.

In contrast, the majority of Koji’s works are now produced for the Ju Percussion Group. This year, Koji not only wrote and edited songs, but also became the Music Director of Ju Percussion Group’s important concert “Longing For” (有 一種 嚮往).

Ju Percussion Group organizes an end-of-year concert every year. This is an opportunity for the group to share their gratitude and expectations for the next year with their loyal fans.

As a music director, the responsibility is heavier than just being a songwriter. “I have to focus on the overall organization of the concert, beyond just editing a single song. It’s very stressful, which often caused me to have bad dreams. I even dreamed of a xylophone turning into a barbecue stand and all I could think of was how to play it, ”Koji said.

The end of year concert “Long For” was a huge success with some of the inspiration for the songs coming from Japanese myths or stories. There were six reissued songs in total, including the classic Titanic Suite, the Night Train to the Star, and the Legend of 1990 Suite.

“I wanted the concert to give the audience a sense of life so that they could experience the ups and downs of music. Also, this is a reunion with friends, so it will be happy and relaxing, ”Koji said.

The “Long For” concert was held at the Taipei National Concert Hall (台北 國家 音樂廳) on December 1st and the next show will be at the Taichung National Opera House (台中 國家 歌劇院) on December 8th. the venue will be at Jhihde Hall (至德堂) of the Kaohsiung Arts and Cultural Center (高雄市 文化 中心) on December 15th. For more information, please visit the Ju Percussion Group Facebook page or purchase tickets here.


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