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Thread: Japanese Bluegrass

  1. #1

    Default Japanese Bluegrass

    Has anyone ever noticed just how many Japanese bluegrass bands and musicians happen to be on youtube and have web presences?

    I mean not just fans, like really good players:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDfiY...layer_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfGtT...eature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r4fs...eature=related

    I mean, not to sound naive, but this is just so incredible to me, that a music people could so easily pigeonhole as American has such an international appeal I never knew about. There's obviously a serious Japanese bluegrass scene. Amazing!

    Any cafe members from Japan or can comment on this?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Starting out with the most excellent band called The Bluegrass 45 over 4 decades ago, there have been many Japanese bluegrass bands down through the years. Notables are The Japanese Bluegrass Band, mandolin picker extraordinaire Kaz Miyazaki, and many others. Not surprising that YT has a bunch of related videos, bluegrass music is indeed worldwide.

    My friend Akira sometimes graces this board, maybe he can weigh in.

  3. #3
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    My favorite is the second link there. THe background of their stage set is wonderful.

    The Japanese have a huge enthusiasm for the mandolin in other genres as well, like bowlbacks playing western classical music.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  4. #4

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Thank you, Alan. I'll try to put some grace notes:-)

    A lot of Japanese people have been listening to bluegrass since 50's and few people picked up instruments in early 60's. Mid to late sixties, it gained more popularity during the folk boom and 70’s was probably the most exciting time for Japanese bluegrass fans and musicians with many American artists visiting there including Ralph Stanley, Country Gentlemen, Bill Monroe, JD Crowe, Newgrass Revival, Jim and Jesse, etc. The number of fans has decreased since but their instrumental skill has been improving so much last 20 years or so.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    During the summer you can find a bluegrass festival held somewhere in Japan every weekend. Toshio and Saburo Watanabe (bass and banjo player respectively in the Bluegrass 45) celebrated their 40th anniversary of their Takarazuka Bluegrass Festival last Aug. I believe last 25 years or so, they have been featuring over 100 bands on the main stage with 10 min set on Sat. Also there are numerous restaurants or bars like Rocky Top in Tokyo, Another Dream in Osaka where they feature live bluegrass bands.

    The Bluegrass 45 was form in 1967 and we’ll be celebrating our 45th year next year. We’ll be appearing at the Wintergrass in Seattle next Feb and if you like to see a little preview, check us out on Youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF-1P6N74Wo

    Thanks,
    Akira

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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Back in Texas I played casually for awhile with a guy named Juta who went back to Japan and ended up with a group called The Lost City Mad Dogs. I always loved that name - and I still hope to find out more about them someday.
    You can't see your future in a rear view mirror.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Juta Sugai who plays guitar?

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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Exactly!! And I heard a rumor that he was a rep for Martin guitars over there.
    You can't see your future in a rear view mirror.

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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    The second video is pretty funny with the cowboy hats, US flag and Confederate flag in the background. It's definitely a complement and tribute to our culture. The more people that can keep bluegrass alive, the better.
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Bluegrass music is huge in Japan, and has been for a while. Recently there was a bluegrass mandolin player in town who is part of a fairly well known Nashville outfit (whose name escaped me at the moment). The band was just invited to go to Japan to re-cut one of their albums, with all new Japanese lyrics. Now that's something else..

    It's a true testament to the Bluegrass genre, and mandolin music in general, that it attracts followers and admirers world wide regardless of language, and national boundaries.

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    Registered User Earl Gamage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    I know a Korean war mandolin picking veteran that says he and some others started teaching the Japanese bluegrass in the early '50's. Makes sense that that is how it started. There are some great pickers there.

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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Quote Originally Posted by johnny5 View Post
    Has anyone ever noticed just how many Japanese bluegrass bands and musicians happen to be on youtube and have web presences?

    I mean not just fans, like really good players:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDfiY...layer_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfGtT...eature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r4fs...eature=related

    I mean, not to sound naive, but this is just so incredible to me, that a music people could so easily pigeonhole as American has such an international appeal I never knew about. There's obviously a serious Japanese bluegrass scene. Amazing!

    Any cafe members from Japan or can comment on this?
    Hello,johnny5
    I'm a member of mando. cafe living in Japan. There are many a listener and players of the bluegrass music in Japan, and the music circles of the university are active, too.
    There is the player with the feeling not to be defeated by a native among them.
    I introduce my band which a fan contributed in YouTube.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZD1k4t-6rJY&NR=1

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    Registered User jmalmsteen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    We went to see Lost and Found tonight and they had a guest mandolinist play a song with them. He was a surgeon from Japan who was an excellent musician. Maybe they appreciate the talent. Back in the day and even today, the '80's shred guitarists like Paul Gilbert and Yngwie Malmsteen always did well because of their virtuoso talent.
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    Registered User MiG-19's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Just wish we could get some of them down in Okinawa! Last night my wife and I went to a Hawaiian music festival (our second one of the summer) and I really enjoyed it, but I sat through it thinking how great it would be to have a bluegrass festival on the island. I think it would draw a good crowd.
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  17. #15

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Wesley,
    I forwarded your email to Juta. I'll let you know when I hear back.

    jmalmsteen
    His name is Hiro Oda and yes, he is a surgeon and a very good mandolin player.

  18. #16

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    This might have been posted here before, but in the event it hasn't,
    here is the link to part 1 of 4 videos on John Duffy's mandolins which
    are now owned by Akira Otsuka. Akira in addition to descriping the
    mandolins and how he met Duffy and the Seldom Scene, describes
    some of the Scene's tours in Japan and the local bluegrass scene in Japan.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWlqt2n86tA

  19. #17
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Quote Originally Posted by masa618 View Post
    Hello,johnny5
    I'm a member of mando. cafe living in Japan.
    You are a pretty amazing player! Sounds wonderful.
    Indulge responsibly!

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  20. #18

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    In 2006 I travelled to Japan from SF, CA with my wife for our 10th Wedding Anniversary. Via CoMando I was connected with a skilled Fiddler and Mandolin player named Kasei Ninomiya (Nino) who is a banker in Japan. He was on Wall Street during 9/11 and is very educated and good with the English language. Turned out our hotel for one leg of our travels was in a Tokyo neighborhood called Ikebakuro where Nino and Friends had a music Club called the Sunnyside. He graciously picked us up at our hotel and brought us to this subterranean space under some massive highrises.

    The walls were lined with dozens of famous Country and Bluegrass LPs and hanging all over the room were many killer vintage American Made Guitars, Basses and Mandolins.

    I wound up playing two sets with Nino's Bluegrass band for an audience of about 50 people. The first set on mandolin and the 2nd on bass. Nino and all his pals were very skilled but only Nino spoke English fluently, which amazed me since the others sang Bill Monroe and other BG standards as if they lived in Kentucky. Turns out they were so devoted this music they learned the lyrics phonetically. Nino and his pals had all gone to College in Japan in the 70s and Bluegrass was their collective interest and it seemed like a thriving thing when we visited.

    There were many other very skilled musicians there including some real mandolin gunslingers. I wrote about this on a blog but I recently failed to renew my website so I think the archive vanished.

    A little more info about Nino is here:
    http://www.blogger.com/profile/08778045341026205050

    Treblemaker

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    Registered User mommythrice's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    I just returned from the Bill Monroe's Centennial Celebration in Owensboro, where the Bluegrass Museum recognized the Ozaki Brothers (Hishashi and Yashushi Ozaki) as pioneers in bluegrass. They are the nicest people and were the life of the party in Kentucky! I believe they were the first bluegrass band in Japan - before Bluegrass 45, but I did have a little trouble understanding everything they said! They gave me a demo of their new CD which is due out soon, so they are still playing and recording in Japan.

    I asked how on earth bluegrass started in Japan. They said their father was in America before the war broke out. He brought home an American recording of "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain." That got them hooked on American folk music and it brought them around to bluegrass after the war. I heard a similar story from Rolf Sieker (of the Siekers - from Germany). He said German folk music was very out of vogue in the late 40's & early 50's. Apparently, American music was all the rage around the globe after the war.

  22. #20
    Registered User masa618's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    You are a pretty amazing player! Sounds wonderful.
    Hello, JeffD.
    Thank you for having you evaluate my performance!

  23. #21

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    Masa, your band is awesome, and you are quite a mandolin picker, well done!

    Wild stuff, thanks for all the info all.

  24. #22

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    My wife is Japanese, and I know a slew of Japanese. For a few years in a row, it was Japanese who won 1st and other top places in international flamenco guitar competitions. They're also big into Hawaiian, Dixieland, and C&W. The Japanese interest & excellence in bluegrass no longer surprises me.

    We're visiting Japan Sept 5-19. Grandma's 86 (doing fine, thanks). We'll stay in Saitama (Kawagoe; Tokyo area). I'd love to meet some musicians, maybe jam with them. I've been playing mandolin since '63, usually with a bluegrass band. Currently I lead the Fair Market Band (www.fairmarketband.com & Facebook). I'll bring a mandolin and, if I have space, a fiddle.

    Anybody with Japanese contacts that might be a likely connection?

    I know about Moonstomp & Rocky Top (bluegrass clubs in Tokyo). I emailed a Japanese blogger and bluegrass magazine. Moonstomp has an open jam...I'll call first.

    Bill McClellan bill.mcclellan1@verizon.net


    Quote Originally Posted by johnny5 View Post
    Has anyone ever noticed just how many Japanese bluegrass bands and musicians happen to be on youtube and have web presences?

    I mean not just fans, like really good players:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDfiY...layer_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfGtT...eature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r4fs...eature=related

    I mean, not to sound naive, but this is just so incredible to me, that a music people could so easily pigeonhole as American has such an international appeal I never knew about. There's obviously a serious Japanese bluegrass scene. Amazing!

    Any cafe members from Japan or can comment on this?

  25. #23

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

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    Maro Kawabata was from Japan. He was a well known guitarist and singer playing in the states up until earlier in 2013 when he passed away. He was a great friend of mine. He picked with Alison Brown, Terry Baucom, Don Rigsby, to name a few. He did quite a few Japanese tours. I miss him a lot.

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  27. #24

    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    I used to play in a band in Japan....there are many talented musicians there in a variety of genres. Interestingly, if you attend a festival you might see Rock, Bluegrass, top 40 and indigenous types of stringed instruments and drum groups etc all in the same day.

  28. #25
    Registered User bjewell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Japanese Bluegrass

    I lived in Tokyo for 20 years returning to California five years ago. Wasn't in the military, taught at Tokyo Joshidai -- a top woman's university -- and was an announcer on NHK television where my main task was presenting Sumo in English. I can tell you this about the Japanese: whatever they decide to take up they really go at it. Bluegrass is no more popular there than here. There are also C&W bands, flamenco, ukulele is huge as well as Hawaiian music. Golf is number one as far as hobbies.

    I was a Sumo "otaku" (means I was a madman for the sport). There are Bluegrass "otaku" who probably know more about the music than 99.9 percent of casual American fans. And there are some great pickers there. The Tokyo scene revolve around Dickey Kitano's small shop near Tokyo Dome. He's a great picker and always has some good instruments there as well as CDs, accessories and etc.

    I still miss Japan ever day...

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