I was watching television here in Japan the other day when something caught my eye. A TV program was featuring a beautiful young white girl with adorable curly blonde hair singing in fluent Japanese.
This in itself is nothing special: Japanese people love seeing foreigners who can speak their language, and variety shows here make stories out of them all the time. What dropped my jaw, though, is when I looked closer and realized that this beautiful young girl is actually a boy.
His name is YOHIO, a 16-year-old boy from Sweden who is now the lead guitarist and songwriter of the visual kei band Seremedy. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese subculture, visual kei refers to a type of heavy metal-esque rock music marked by the musician’s flamboyant and often androgynous use of make-up, hairstyles and costumes while on stage.
According to his profile, YOHIO was born to a musical family in Sweden and from an early age he showed he shared his family’s affinity for music, taking up piano and even writing songs starting at the age of 6.
He picked up his first guitar when he was 11 and became captivated with the instrument, receiving basic lessons from his father who is a guitarist in a rock band.
In the summer of 2009, 14-year-old YOSHIO formed Seremedy and began composing songs based on the band’s concept of “Beauty & Madness,” focusing on creating a sound of traditional heavy metal infused with elements of pop.
After having trouble finding members, Seremedy’s line up was complete by early 2010 and they played their first few concerts in April, including UppCon, Sacandanavia’s largest Japanese pop-culture convention.
The band continued to grow in popularity until they were signed to Universal Music Japan last March, releasing their first single, “Bulletproof Roulette,” on the 11th and going on a Japan-wide tour the following month.
Now it seems there is no stopping the Swedish invasion: in October 2011, Seremedy was asked to open at Japan’s premier visual kei festival, V-Rock Fest II, after which the band embarked on their Japanese second tour, with YOSHIO providing lead vocals on several songs.
As I mentioned above, Japanese people love a foreigner who can speak their language and this likely has something to do with the group’s success: YOSHIO began teaching himself Japanese from about 4 years ago and now writes most songs in a mixture of English and Japanese. He even started a Japanese blog in 2009 and now writes to his fans using a mix of emoticons and glitzy icons spot on enough to fool you into thinking he was a Japanese school girl.
So what’s next for this Swedish prince-turned-Japanese princess? After Seremedy released their debut album “REACH the SKY” to a crowd of 6000 fans at a Shinjuku event on April 28, YOSHIO announced he will also make his solo debut later this year. While this latest TV appearance was reportedly his first, there’s no doubt that it won’t be his last.
Author: Sonoko Ikeda
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[ Read in Japanese ]