THE NOVEMBER SUNA novel about music, love, and social media                (Unedited)        Written by Sebastiano Mereu
Copyright © Sebastiano Mereu, 2011                 All rights reserved.No part of this novel might be used or reproduced i...
The story behind this novelIt was August 2005 when I went to Japan for the firsttime in my life. I didnʼt know what to exp...
language. France and Italy were my first choices all ofa sudden. Why is that? Well, I had a culture shock. MyJapanese was ...
Itʼs an essential tool, especially for students. Also,everyone has the possibility to use social media toconnect with frie...
Dedicated to Aya, Lina & Vittorio Mereu-La Rosa,and Harumi & Kunihiro Noguchi.
Episode 1     A beautiful Monday morning in HirakataIt’s a beautiful Monday morning in Hirakata, a citywith a population o...
“This heat makes me want to drink a lot. But then Ihave to pee. I don’t like that.” Yuki is standing next toher bike and t...
club and has the authority to make almost any kind ofdecision.Music studios in Japan are places where musicians canrent a ...
While all rooms are occupied by bands from the musicclub, a dozen of other students are hanging out infront of the studio ...
Episode 2                  The first rehearsal“Obviously, you need a bass player for your upcominglive gigs and I’m lookin...
rehearse today and I’ll join you in the studio already?That will surely save us time.” Hiko looks surprised.He agrees. “Wh...
an 8x10 inch cabinet and slaps a funky line on herbass. She gets the attention of Junji and Hiko rightaway. Hiko shouts, “...
The song seems to never end. The trio goes off onsharing solos and jammin’ to leads. It seems as if theyhave been playing ...
you’re willing to work as a team to make this bandyour top priority—after your university studies, ofcourse—then you can b...
Episode 3         To commit or not ‘not-to’ commit♪♫ Words in my mouth, someone told me to say. They gounspoken ♪♫ Mr. Big...
“We were all in a very good mood yesterday andfound the right song to start with. Still, we have a lotof work in front of ...
allover Yutaro, I would definitely try my moves onyou.” Yuki’s eyes jump wide-open. “Ah, shut up youcrazy closet otaku!” T...
guitar player for his band, the Genji Hatoyama Band, andthat means Hiko has to fulfill the agreement that if theGenji Hato...
for a commitment, which he himself can’t bring to theband?                         14
Episode 4                     Hiko’s songBesides having a Youtube channel, a Twitter feed, aFacebook page, a Mixi account,...
a love hotel in Osaka for a couple of hours when theywant to be intimate with each other.In Kyoto—The train stops at Sanjo...
He usually brings all his recording equipment along torehearsals. It’s not that heavy, and he is often mostcreative after ...
anything 24/7 anywhere in the world. Hiko understandsthat, and despite the fact that he enjoys engaging inconversations wi...
meet for practice.” Yuki is lost in her thoughts, when atext message interrupts her dreaming. It’s Hiko. Hesent the messag...
Episode 5                  Hirakata at 4 AMPeepeepeepeepeep—It’s 4 AM. Yuki’s Hello Kitty alarmclock goes off. Like almost...
that it was worth going all the way without giving up.Once you commit to something or someone, believein it and learn your...
Yuki checks her cell phone for messages: 3 missedcalls from Maki. “Why did she try to call me in themiddle of the night? I...
She’s all over Hiko anyway.” Yutaro leaves the houseand Maki keeps sleeping his in futon.                        23
Episode 6          The Yutaro/Hiko-Collaboration                     Part 1“Yuki, I’m here!” Maki shouts across the classr...
In a different classroom—Yutaro is scribbling in anotebook, when someone pats him on the back.“Class didn’t start yet. Don...
which I still claim was unjust.” The WMG incidentobviously still upsets Hiko a lot.Yutaro turns his usually serious face i...
enjoy and learn those lines from you. That way, youmight get new fans from my channel and some ofyour subscribers might fi...
channels, linking the videos with our song on iTunes,so that people can find it there and hopefully buy it, aswell as Inak...
Episode 7          The Yutaro/Hiko-Collaboration                     Part 2Yutaro just finished recording the last line fo...
not a bass player. It would be too much of a hustle tostart over again and try to position myself as a bassist.Still, I li...
off the light with a remote control and startsunbuttoning Yutaro’s shirt.Hiko just downloaded the Garageband file that Yut...
“I had no idea that Yutaro could play bass like this. Ithought he was just a guitar player.” Yuki is stillamazed by Yutaro...
Yuki, and Hiko hits the recording button to record thefirst track for the Yutaro/Hiko-collab.                         33
Episode 8           Still rehearsing for the first gigIt’s a beautiful mid-October day in Hirakata. Leavesare slowly turni...
and a computer in our right, we create art with every single byte.♫ “Yes, that’s exactly what this song should soundlike!”...
rehearsal in Kyoto,” Hiko replies and suppresses hisdisappointment. Mr. Hatoyama hangs up.“What’s wrong?” Yuki asks. Hiko ...
sorry to cause you all this trouble, but please, if youwant to blame this on anyone, blame it on me. I didn’tthink about w...
dedication motivates Junji. “You said it best, sis’…Ichi, ni, san, shi!” And they rock the groove.                        38
Episode 9                 You canʼt have both“Rena, are you okay?” Hiko asks his girlfriend. Rena isstanding outside the s...
experience to make it in the music business. Playingwith an established act will teach you the mean side ofthe music biz, ...
it gathers all the salty water to a single teardrop andslowly falls to the ground.“Big fight?” Junji’s voice reverberates ...
that Rena and her dad are out of Hiko’s life, he can setthe focus on this band and spend more time with us,as he asked me ...
“We are friends—the three of us—and we need thatfriendship to lead our way. I’m begging you. Don’tthink only about yoursel...
Episode 10                Friends with benefitsAfter the emotional rehearsal, when Rena broke upwith Hiko, and Hiko decide...
will want to see some royalties from that,” Maki sayswith an acted Diva-like attitude.“I don’t want to sound too cocky, bu...
“Bravo!” a male voice responds mockingly. Yuki andMaki turn around and see Yutaro approaching with asmile.“Don’t make fun ...
Yutaro is still upset over his bloopers with Maki.“Something bugging you?” Hiko asks his friend. “Makitold Yuki that we sl...
your relationship safe from any emotional hazard.”Hiko leans back in his chair. “Believe me when I tellyou that it is incr...
Episode 11     The Kansai Gaidai International Festival                     Part 1Today is the first day of the Kansai Gai...
“Are you ready, Yuki?” Hiko asks her with a smile.“I’m very nervous. What was that change we made inthe third verse of Ina...
he presides. Junji shouts, “Hell yeah! Let’s rock thiscrowd.” He storms out of the room and jumps onstage. Yutaro, Yuki, a...
gig that there were about 100 people in the room, butthe audience is larger than that and it sure feels likethousands came...
Backstage, Yutaro is watching his friends planting thefirst seed for their career as an active live band. “Areyou the mana...
Episode 12     The Kansai Gaidai International Festival                    Part 2A visibly nervous Yutaro asks Mr. Hatoyam...
code of conduct made by the music club, encores arenot permitted, since every band only plays 20 minutesand has to give 10...
But when we parted, all of that was gone. It wasalready hard not having you with us anymore, as amember of the family, sin...
good, and I don’t want to have you out of my life.Hiko, you are like the son I never had. Rena is a goodgirl, but she is s...
shouts. His heart stops. “Hello Hiko.” Rena’s reply israther snippy. She commends, “Let’s go, daddy. I wantto go home.” “W...
“What are you guys doing out here, where no one canfind you? Are you hiding from anyone?” Maki puts arock in front of the ...
Episode 13                 A new band is bornThe Kansai Gaidai International Festival is over and itwas a great success fo...
Yuki confesses, “I know, I know. I guess, sometimesI’m just jealous of Yutaro.” Yuki plucks the stringsharder now. Maki fr...
it has been about the two of them, not their respectivebands. And if they can’t see it, we have to make themrealize what’s...
section. Many sing along and the clerk catches thewhole thing on Yuki’s iPhone.A customer approaches the store manager, wh...
them very humbly. “You girls were amazing. Are you aband?” Maki and Yuki look at each other and nod atthe same time. “Yes,...
and they all bow. After exchanging their cell phoneemail addresses, Maki and Yuki leave Miki Gakki.“What do you think, are...
Episode 14         We Are THE NOVEMBER SUNIn a studio in Amerikamura, a retail and entertainmentarea in the Minami distric...
“We are The November Sun —Woohoo!!!” The three girlsscream from the top of their lungs and they startjamming to what is go...
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media
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THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media

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The November Sun revolves around the lives and romances amongst a group of university students at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan that love music and social media. The novel focuses on four main characters: Hiko, Maki, Yuki, and Yutaro. The story follows them through their daily lives at the university and describes how they proceed in making their music popular through social media.

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THE NOVEMBER SUN: A novel about music, love, and social media

  1. 1. THE NOVEMBER SUNA novel about music, love, and social media (Unedited) Written by Sebastiano Mereu
  2. 2. Copyright © Sebastiano Mereu, 2011 All rights reserved.No part of this novel might be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the author. Google the author for contact information.This is a fiction novel. The main characters and their names were created for The November Sun. Othermentioned characters are public figures. The schoolsand some businesses mentioned in the novel do exist, but their actions and attitudes, as described in the novel, are purely fictional. This edition of the novel is unedited.
  3. 3. The story behind this novelIt was August 2005 when I went to Japan for the firsttime in my life. I didnʼt know what to expect. I hadnever been further east than Eastern Europe up untilthat point. My travels and studies had primarily takenme to Western Europe and to the USA. But somehow,it just felt right to spend some time in Japan.My International Management studies at theUniversity of Applied Sciences NorthwesternSwitzerland (FHNW), required me to study abroad, soI thought, if I have to go abroad, I want to study in acountry I donʼt know much about. East Asia was myfirst, and honestly, only choice. I knew Japan would bethe country I want to go to, but since our schoolwould only send two students to Japan, I had toconsider other countries as well. The next choiceswere South Korea and China.After a couple of weeks, FHNW sent me a notificationsaying that they would send me to Kansai GaidaiUniversity. I was ecstatic. I had googled the universitybefore and felt it was the most appropriate fit for me.I took Japanese language classes to prepare myself formy year in Japan, even before I knew that I could go.After eight months of preparing myself for twosemesters at Kansai Gaidai University, I was finallyable to leave for the land of the rising sun. I have toadmit that the first couple weeks were hard. I eventhought about quitting and spending my semesterabroad in a country where I would already speak the
  4. 4. language. France and Italy were my first choices all ofa sudden. Why is that? Well, I had a culture shock. MyJapanese was way worse than I thought it was, Icouldnt understand why Japanese are the way theyare, and the teaching style was very different fromwhat I was used to.Fortunately, I met wonderful people, who helped meunderstand the Japanese culture, and eventually, Iovercame my culture shock. It also helped that I fell inlove with a Japanese girl. That girl became my wife afew years later.Another couple of people, who made me feel at homein Japan, were my friends from the GMS Blues Band,Jiri and Garr. Both had been living in Japan for manyyears and knew very well what Japan had to offer.Both were very successful at what they did, and theystill are.Besides playing with Garr and Jiri, I also played with aJapanese rock band, where I was the only foreigner.Since my bandmates didnʼt speak very well Englishand my Japanese wasnʼt very good either,communication was rather difficult. However, it waslots of fun and I learned a great deal just by hangingout with them.This novel is based on true stories from bands I playedin before, during, and after my year in Japan. I tried toshow how young bands can work on a possible careertoday using technology that is right at their fingertips.A computer can be found in basically every household.
  5. 5. Itʼs an essential tool, especially for students. Also,everyone has the possibility to use social media toconnect with friends or people who share the samepassion, such as music, in the case of Yuki and herfriends.When I decided to write a book on social media, I toldmyself, ʻSebi, there are many great books and blogs onsocial media already. No one needs another book onsocial media.ʼ Luckily, I had just read The Music Lessonby Victor Wooten, a fantastic bassist and author, whobasically explained music theory in a fiction book. Iembraced his approach with social media and music,and added some drama to it.At this point Iʼd like to express my gratitude toeveryone who has ever inspired me in one way oranother and to everyone who found the time to pickup this novel. Thank you.Sebi March 2011
  6. 6. Dedicated to Aya, Lina & Vittorio Mereu-La Rosa,and Harumi & Kunihiro Noguchi.
  7. 7. Episode 1 A beautiful Monday morning in HirakataIt’s a beautiful Monday morning in Hirakata, a citywith a population of about 400,000, located halfwaybetween Osaka and Kyoto, in the heart of the Kansairegion. The August sun looks like a delicious orangefloating in the Japanese sky, and many claim she isresponsible for a high percentage of humidity in theLand of the Rising Sun, at least in the summer.Salarymen wipe off sweat from their faces after everymove they make, but do not consider taking off theirjackets. They are very committed to their dress codeand don’t show any sign of overheating in their suits,except the accumulated sweat on their noses. Well-dressed Japanese ladies, biking down to the city center,wear gloves that cover their entire arms. For them it’sa necessary precaution to avoid sunburn or simplygetting taint. And, of course, wearing a boushi(translation: hat) is a must for all ladies.“Attsuuuu! I don’t like this heat. Summertime in Japanis terrible,” Yuki tells her friend and classmate Maki.“You’re never happy. Wintertime is too cold andsummertime is too hot for you. At least now you canwear that cute summer dress you found atShimamura.” Maki looks at Yuki and smiles with hereyes shut. Yuki stops at a vending machine and getsherself a bottle of Pocari Sweat. “A revitalizing drink isthe right choice for this kind of weather,” she thinks. 1
  8. 8. “This heat makes me want to drink a lot. But then Ihave to pee. I don’t like that.” Yuki is standing next toher bike and takes one little sip at a time.Maki’s phone rings. She doesn’t pick it up right away.For whatever reason, incomprehensible to Yuki, Makialways needs to sing along with her ringtone. It’s KenHirai’s 2006 hit-song, POP STAR. Maki sings ♫ Iwanna be a pop star, kimi wo motto ♫ when Yuki grabsher phone and picks up with an annoyed voice,“Moshi moshi.”It’s Yutaro, Maki’s bandmate from their universitymusic club. “Where are you guys? Everybody is at thestudio in Korien getting ready for rehearsal.” Yutarodoesn’t sound annoyed at all, but most probably he is.Like most Japanese guys, Yutaro is always in controland tries not to show any kind of emotions. “We’ll bethere soon.” Yuki hangs up and puts the phone backinto Maki’s pocket. “Maki, let’s hurry. They’re alreadyin the studio.”In Korien—Yuki and Maki finally arrive in Korien, alittle town three stops from Hirakata station, thirtyminutes late, but that’s okay. All members from adifferent band were hanging out at the studio beforetheir actual rehearsal slot and didn’t mind to fill theslot Maki’s band was supposed to take. In order forMaki’s band not to waste money on the studio rent forthirty minutes not used, Yutaro decided to give theslot to the other band. He is allowed to do that,because he is the president of the university music 2
  9. 9. club and has the authority to make almost any kind ofdecision.Music studios in Japan are places where musicians canrent a room on an hourly basis. These music spacesare fully equipped with everything a band needs for arehearsal. The music studio in Korien has a handful ofrooms with drums, bass and guitar amplifiers,microphones and a PA. Musicians only need to bringtheir individual instruments, such as guitars, basses, orkeyboards, and of course cables.Maki and Yuki enter the premises and greet theirpeers, “Ohayo!” A choral Ohayo! echoes back. Yutaroapproaches the girls and tells them that another bandtook Maki’s band slot. “Thank you very much fororganizing that.” Maki bows. “No problem. But pleasemake sure this doesn’t happen again. We are alluniversity students and don’t have money to waste.”Yutaro stops and looks at Yuki.“Did you decide what instrument you will play and inwhich band?” Yuki nods. “I’ll play bass and will singlead in Hiko’s band.” Yutaro smiles and replies, “Soyou want to be Nana and Billy Sheehan in oneperson?” Yuki tries to suppress a laugh, but thenadmits smiling, “That’s my aim.” “Then prove it.But… did you talk to Hiko about this?” Yutaro pointsoutside the studio where Hiko is shredding on hisguitar to warm up for rehearsal. “No, but he will wantme. They have no bass player and no singer. What canthey do with only guitar and drums?” 3
  10. 10. While all rooms are occupied by bands from the musicclub, a dozen of other students are hanging out infront of the studio entrance gossiping and warming upon their guitars and basses or drumming with a coupleof sticks on anything that makes noise when hit. Yukiapproaches Hiko holding her second-hand Music-Manbass on its neck.“Hiko, can I join your band?” Hiko looks at her andkeeps playing warm-up lines up and down the neck ofhis guitar without saying a word. Even though hisbeautiful polished Yamaha guitar is not plugged in,Yuki can hear the perfection of Hiko’s technique.Every note sings and his timing is impressive.Yuki has wanted to play with Hiko ever since sheheard him playing with a few friends in downtownOsaka. They had organized a showcase on Osaka’slargest walkway, where many bands try to getdiscovered or sell their self-produced CDs. That day,Maki had dragged Yuki along and Yuki understoodthat she had to put in some extra effort to improve herskills, if she wanted to play with prodigies such asHiko. When Yuki heard that Hiko’s bass player lefttheir university music club band, she was too shy toask if she could fill in. At the time, she felt she wasn’tgood enough to play with Hiko.Hiko stops his warm-up exercise. “Hm. Why do youwant to join our band?” he asks. 4
  11. 11. Episode 2 The first rehearsal“Obviously, you need a bass player for your upcominglive gigs and I’m looking for a band I can go on stagewith,” Yuki tells Hiko. “Have you ever played anylives? We are planning to play live a lot.” Hiko’s wordsdon’t impress Yuki. She stays cool. “Huh. But how areyou going to play live without a bass player? You are avirtuoso guitar player, and when you shred on yourguitar, your drummer seems quite lost without abassline. And if I recall right, you have no singereither. Or are you going to be playing guitar, bass, andsing all at the same time?”Yuki gives Hiko time to respond, but he doesn’t. Shecontinues, “Well, that’d be a truly remarkable thing todo. Nonetheless, a great guitar player like you shouldfocus on playing guitar on stage. I think that’s whatyour fans want to see. So, why don’t you do that andlet me play bass and sing?” Yuki’s words put a smileon Hiko’s face. She goes on, “And, I think that a girllike me in your band is good for the band’smarketing.” Hiko can’t stop laughing.“Okay, I will send you MP3s and lyrics of all the songswe’re planning to play live. You will have to learnthem until next week and you will audition for us.After that, we’ll decide if you’re as good as you believeyou are.” Yuki puts on a serious face. “Why don’t youjust tell me now which songs you were going to 5
  12. 12. rehearse today and I’ll join you in the studio already?That will surely save us time.” Hiko looks surprised.He agrees. “What’s your email address? I’ll send youour set list and some chord changes for our originals,and we’ll see you in studio 3 in about fifty minutes.Okay?” Yuki nods.Fifty minutes later, it’s time for Yuki to join Hiko andhis drummer in studio 3 for their first rehearsaltogether that will determine if Yuki will become amember of the band or if she has to look for adifferent group. She spent the last 50 minutes listeningto songs from their set list on her cell phone.Nowadays, basically all cell phones have Internetconnection and it’s easy to find any song on Youtubeor on another video and music platform online.Fortunately, Yuki already knew all the songs on theband’s set list, even their original songs. Hiko uploadsall his demos onto Youtube and adds links to freedownloads of MP3s and iPod videos in the info box.That way, people download his productions andspread them through Mixi, Facebook, Twitter andother blogs. That’s how Yuki got a hold of them. Andsince Hiko added chords to the videos, she could playalong and learn the songs in no time.“Yuki, meet Junji, our drummer.” Yuki bows andintroduces herself, “Hajimemashite. Yuki desu. Douzoyoroshiku.” Junji nods while juggling with hisdrumsticks behind the drums. “We can talk later. Let’suse our time wisely and start playing right away,” Hikosuggests. Yuki plugs her bass into an Ampeg amp with 6
  13. 13. an 8x10 inch cabinet and slaps a funky line on herbass. She gets the attention of Junji and Hiko rightaway. Hiko shouts, “Okay! Let’s play ‘Fallinʼ in love onFacebook’. Junji, count it in!” “Ichi, ni, san, shi!” Andthe trio rocks hard and loud in studio 3.Yuki has never played with such a dynamic andprofessional band before. Her eyes light up with thefirst note they hit together. She can’t believe how greatit feels to lay down the bass line for such a giftedguitar player as Hiko. And locking-in with a drummeras tight as Junji makes her sound even more confident.Even though they only play in a trio setting, it soundsas if more musicians are rockin’ along. The energy isimmense, and when they get to the chorus, Hiko andJunji add harmonies to Yuki’s lead and the magic isperfect. The song has never sounded better in Yuki’sears.She knows the song from Hiko’s Youtube channel,but she doesn’t remember it being so much fun toplay. Outside studio 3, other music club members startgathering to get a glimpse inside the room and watchthe three of them rockin’ out.“Wow, who would have thought that Yuki could rocklike that?” Maki asks Yutaro. “Hm. As she said herself,her aim is to be Nana and Billy Sheehan in one person,and to me it seems as if she’s on the right track.”Yutaro can’t stop watching Yuki running her airyfingers across the fingerboard. 7
  14. 14. The song seems to never end. The trio goes off onsharing solos and jammin’ to leads. It seems as if theyhave been playing together for a long time. Thechemistry among Yuki, Hiko and Junji is incredible.They are listening to each other and engaging in amusical dialogue.“Why didn’t I push her to play bass in my band?”Yutaro keeps asking himself, when Maki interrupts histhoughts, “Oh man, I should have told her to join ourband as a bass player. That Swiss exchange student,who is playing with us, is so unreliable.” Yutaro tellsMaki, “I agree. Have you checked his Twitterchannel?” “No, why?” “He told us that he had to godown to the city hall for his alien registration, but he istweeting pictures from an amusement park.” Makican’t believe it. “What’s his Twitter name?” Yutaroreplies, “@samsteiner” and Maki shouts, “Ussoooo!!”Yutaro calms her down, “But he is a very nice guy anda tremendous bass player nonetheless.”After the one-hour session, Yuki asks Hiko, “Are youhappy with how we sounded?” Hiko looks over toJunji, who is wiping off sweat from his face, and askshim, “What do you think? Shall we give her a chance?”“If she can handle hard practice, frequent rehearsalsessions, and making weekly videos for Youtube, I’dbe willing to let her join us,” Junji replies with a bigsmile on his face. Yuki smiles back.“Yuki, let’s see where this trio can go. We have a clearvision of our future and music plays the main role init. If you can commit to what Junji just said and if 8
  15. 15. you’re willing to work as a team to make this bandyour top priority—after your university studies, ofcourse—then you can be one of us.” Yuki’s eyes areshining like a supernova. “After all, as you mentionedbefore the rehearsal, having a girl like you in our bandis good marketing.” Hiko winks at Yuki and the threeof them laugh.The door opens and a girl that could have jumped outof a Japanese fashion magazine enters studio 3. “Hiko,you sounded amazing even from outside this room.My dad is a lucky man to have you as his guitarist. Butwhy do you waste your time playing with theseamateurs when you can practice with realprofessionals?” She puts her arms around Hiko’s neckand ignores Junji and Yuki. He introduces the girl,“Yuki, Junji, this is my girlfriend Rena.”All of a sudden Yuki’s great mood is gone. She feelsjealous of Rena. 9
  16. 16. Episode 3 To commit or not ‘not-to’ commit♪♫ Words in my mouth, someone told me to say. They gounspoken ♪♫ Mr. Big’s 1996 hit-song Take Cover isblasting through Yuki’s stereo in her 1-bedroomapartment in Hirakata. She grabs her bass and playsalong. After the song is over, the next one starts with alonely distorted guitar playing eight straight down-strokes on one chord, and a female voice enters withthe words ♫♪ akehanashita mado ni mawaru ranbu noDEEP SKY, ah aoide (translation: I throw open thewindow and turn to the stormy deep sky, ah and Ilook up) ♫ It’s the song GLAMOROUS SKY byNANA starring Mika Nakashima, the soundtrack froma Japanese shojo manga series, which was later madeinto a live-action movie.Yuki sings along and smiles. “Yutaro is right. I reallywant to be Nana and Billy Sheehan in one person.”She puts down her bass. “Yuki, Yuki!” Maki isknocking on Yuki’s door. “Come in.” Maki takes offher shoes and enters with her guitar bag in her handand kneels down next to Yuki. “Hey, you guys reallyrocked that studio yesterday! Everyone was reallyimpressed with what you got out of your instrumentsas a trio.” Maki keeps talking and manifesting herexcitement. 10
  17. 17. “We were all in a very good mood yesterday andfound the right song to start with. Still, we have a lotof work in front of us, if we really want to make thisband work. I’m not sure this is really going to work,though.” Yuki bites into her breakfast onigiri, a whiterice ball formed into a triangle and wrapped with nori.Maki looks at her with a questioning gaze.“What are you saying? You guys rocked that studiolike no one else did yesterday. I mean, you could justtake Hiko’s songs, rent a recording studio for a fewdays, record those songs, and self-publish them ontoiTunes, Napster, Amazon or any other digital musicstore for the world to enjoy them. I don’t understandwhy you’re so negative.” Yuki puts down her onigiri. “Ihave a feeling that Hiko’s girlfriend won’t be happywith him playing in a band other than her dad’spopular band, and sooner or later he will beconfronted with that.”♫ Kowareru hodo aishitemo, sanbun no ichi mo tsutawaranai(translation: Even if my love reaches the breakingpoint, 1/3 of it won’t reach) ♪♪ The song 1/3 PureEmotions by SIAM SHADE is playing on Yuki’s stereoand both girls sing along. They look at each other,calm down and laugh. “Yuki, don’t worry. I’ve metHiko’s girlfriend and I know she can be a bitch,” Makitells Yuki with a mellow voice. Then she goes on,“Sure, her dad is a pop star and they have money, andshe gets to travel a lot. But what does she have onyou? Nothing. You are a great and creative musician, agreat friend, and a plain hot girl! If I wouldn’t be 11
  18. 18. allover Yutaro, I would definitely try my moves onyou.” Yuki’s eyes jump wide-open. “Ah, shut up youcrazy closet otaku!” The girls hustle a bit and enjoy theheartily laughs before getting ready to leave forkaraoke in Osaka.At Hirakata station—Yutaro is waiting for his Keihantrain connection to Osaka. He is on his way to a live-music bar to discuss a possible gig for his band. Then,Hiko runs into him in front of the lift that goes to thetrain tracks.“Hey, Yutaro. Where are you heading to?” “Osaka.You?” Yutaro shows no enthusiasm. “I’m heading to arehearsal with Rena’s dad’s band in Kyoto. We have tomeet in Kyoto, because Rena’s dad just got in byShinkansen from Tokyo and will have to leave tonightagain for an acoustic outdoor gig in Hiroshima withour other guitar player,” Hiko explains.“By the way, what do you think of our new trio withJunji on drums and Yuki playing bass and singing?”Yutaro pauses the music on his cell phone and putshis earplugs in his pocket. “I think your trio soundedgood. Junji is a terrific drummer and Yuki is a fantasticbass player and a very charismatic singer. You are avery lucky guy. You finally found the missing part toyour music puzzle. I hope you will cherish what youhave now. Just don’t drop it like a hot potato whenyou find something you think is better.”Hiko’s smile vanishes. He understands the pointYutaro is trying to make. Rena’s dad signed Hiko as a 12
  19. 19. guitar player for his band, the Genji Hatoyama Band, andthat means Hiko has to fulfill the agreement that if theGenji Hatoyama Band gets booked for a concert, Hikohas to call off other obligations, even if it meanspaying a penalty. Because of that, all Genji HatoyamaBand members refrain from playing with other bands.They just teach on the side when they are not touring.But Hiko wants to try and have his own band on theside.Hiko knows it is going to be hard to study foruniversity, tour with Rena’s dad this coming autumn,and work on a set with Yuki and Junji. “Listen,Yutaro. I know what you mean, and I appreciate yourconcern for my band. But we will be able to managethis. I have finally found two great musicians that canhelp me develop my music and bring it onto a stage,and I won’t jeopardize that.”The Keihan Sub-Express train bound for Yodoyabashijust got in. Yutaro checks the time on his cell phone.“Then, don’t jeopardize it. Gotta go. See ya.” Yutaroruns upstairs to catch the train to Osaka and leavesHiko behind. Now Hiko is caught up in thoughtsabout the conversation they just had and how tohandle the situation.Obviously, playing for Genji Hatoyama is his ticket forbecoming a professional musician. But will Hiko beable to focus on his own music and work on it withYuki and Junji? And what if the trio has a gig on thesame day as the Genji Hatoyama Band? How will hebring such news to Yuki and Junji when he asks them 13
  20. 20. for a commitment, which he himself can’t bring to theband? 14
  21. 21. Episode 4 Hiko’s songBesides having a Youtube channel, a Twitter feed, aFacebook page, a Mixi account, and a bunch of othersocial media tools, Hiko likes writing blog posts on hiscell phone when he’s riding the train and publishingthem right away. Sharing his thoughts with the worldmakes him feel good. He likes to quote CharlesLeadbeater, the author of We-Think, especially the veryfirst sentence in the book: You are what you share.That might be the reason why Hiko is so keen onsharing all his music online. That is who he is and theonly thing he wants to be.While on the Keihan train from Hirakata to Kyoto,Hiko types a new post for his Japanese blog on his cellphone. He usually writes on the train or in the subway.For him it’s great how advanced technology isnowadays. He doesn’t need to wait until he’s at home,sitting in front of his computer. When he’s gotsomething to say to the world, no matter where he is,he simply grabs his cell phone and shouts it out in bitsand bytes.Hiko spends hardly any time in his small 1-bedroomapartment. If he’s not rehearsing in a practice studio,he’s usually studying at the library or out with friendsat a live gig. His small apartment is solely used forsleeping. He doesn’t even like having his girlfriendRena over. The two of them frequently take a room at 15
  22. 22. a love hotel in Osaka for a couple of hours when theywant to be intimate with each other.In Kyoto—The train stops at Sanjo, a district ofKyoto. Hiko gets off the train and his cell phone rings.“Moshi moshi.” “Hiko, it’s Genji. I’m sorry but wehave to reschedule today’s rehearsal.” Hiko stops at atraffic light. “Hatoyama-san, sure no problem.” “I willhave my assistant contact you as soon as possible toschedule a new date. I have to go now. Bye.” Mr.Hatoyama hangs up.Hiko thinks, “At least now I have time to work on myown music. I had the whole day reserved forrehearsing with them. Good thing Hatoyama-sancalled it off.” He smiles. “Since they called off thesession, the studio space will be available.” Hikodecides to go to the music studio, where he wassupposed to meet with the Genji Hatoyama Band, andrent the room for a couple of hours and work on hislatest song.At the studio, Hiko asks for the room that wassupposed to be taken by the Genji Hatoyama Band.The clerk at the front desk points him to the studio allto the back. It’s the largest and best-equipped room.“Wow! I don’t think I can afford that room all bymyself. Do you happen to have a smaller roomavailable?” The clerk checks the list. “Yes, we have apractice room for guitarists for 800 yen per houravailable for the next three hours.” “Great. I’ll take itfor 3 hours.” Hiko enters the room and getseverything ready for recording. 16
  23. 23. He usually brings all his recording equipment along torehearsals. It’s not that heavy, and he is often mostcreative after practice sessions. Hiko’s portablerecording studio consists of a MacBook Pro, anexternal USB audio interface, an EV Cardinalcondenser microphone and a portable preamp. Thecombination of his EV Cardinal mic and a portabletube preamp makes the sound of his guitar and hisvocals wider and fuller for his recordings, evenwithout using high-end recording software.Ever since he bought his first Mac, he’s been usingGarageband, a free music recording software thatenables Hiko to record and edit multiple tracks. Andwith iMovie and Final Cut Express, he creates videosfor Youtube, where hundreds of thousands of peoplehave been enjoying his music all over the world for thepast two years.Hiko believes in a new economic order, as discussedby Chris Anderson in the 2005 book The Long Tail.The Long Tail gives people the possibility to findniches they are interested in and allows them to befound by others, who share the same interests. Forthose like Hiko, who want to be found, Seth Godinexplains in his 2010 release Linchpin that artists cannow own the means of production for their work withonly a couple of thousand dollars and produce andpublish content for anyone across the globe to find,enjoy, share, and buy.The Internet has practically no restrictions, and withthe rise of social media, people are talking about 17
  24. 24. anything 24/7 anywhere in the world. Hiko understandsthat, and despite the fact that he enjoys engaging inconversations with other musicians and other peoplewho enjoy his music online, he sees great potential tohave his work spread through the Internet.“All set. Okay. I still like the drum programming I didlast week and the bass line I came up with. All I needto do is to record the vocals and a couple of guitarlines.” He tells himself, “Let’s rock this song—now!”Hiko pushes record … ♪♫ Totemo sabishii, anata ni aitai… ♪♫ Two hours later Hiko’s song is ready formixing and three hours later he’s already sent his songto an online mastering studio that will have InakuteSabishii ready for upload to iTunes and other onlinedigital music stores within 24 hours.“I can’t wait to play it with Junji and Yuki.” Hikowrites a short blog post from his cell phone andembeds the new song.Ping—Yuki gets a push notification on her iPhone. “Anew blog post from Hiko.” She starts Hiko’sapplication, puts on her earplugs and listens to his newsong. Yuki has been a fan of Hiko’s music since shefirst saw him playing live, and after subscribing to hisYoutube, she just fell in love with his music.“Are these drums programmed or did he play themhimself? Can’t really figure it out. And what a greatbass sound. That low C note has so much low-end!Oh, Hiko, how much would I love to play this songwith you and Junji. I hope we can play it next time we 18
  25. 25. meet for practice.” Yuki is lost in her thoughts, when atext message interrupts her dreaming. It’s Hiko. Hesent the message to both Yuki and Junji.Hiko’s text says, “Hey guys, I just posted a new songon my Youtube channel. If you like it we could play itnext time we get together for rehearsing.” The textmessage application closes and Yuki falls back intodreaming with Hiko’s soundtrack. 19
  26. 26. Episode 5 Hirakata at 4 AMPeepeepeepeepeep—It’s 4 AM. Yuki’s Hello Kitty alarmclock goes off. Like almost everyone in Japan, Yukisleeps on a futon on a tatami floor. In order for her notto be late for work or for classes, she always puts heralarm clock up high on a shelf, so that she actually hasto stand up and reach for the alarm clock on the shelf.Especially, now that she’s got a part-time job whereshe has to start working at 5 AM, being late oroversleeping is absolutely no option.Classes started last week and it has already been hardfor her to work almost every morning from 5 AM to 9AM and then bike to the university to attend classes.But that’s how she chose it to be. At the end of herlast year of high school, Yuki thought that just lettingher family finance her university studies or living offstudent loans wasn’t the right thing to do.Shortly before moving to Hirakata, she figured thatkeeping herself busy and committed to a part-time jobwould be like working out. She got that idea from ayoung businessman, who spoke at her high schoolgraduation ceremony.He said, “Sooner or later, all of you will have to workhard on something that does not seem easy and thatdoes not reward you as much as you think it shouldreward you, but if you stick to it you will recognize 20
  27. 27. that it was worth going all the way without giving up.Once you commit to something or someone, believein it and learn your lessons while you go along. Youwill grow with your commitment. And, the harder youstick to your commitment, the stronger you willgrow.”That’s why Yuki sticks to a job that makes her get upat 4 AM and pays her much less than what she couldearn while working evenings in a fancy cloths store.She knows it’s not a permanent situation, but she hasto pay her dues and learn what it means to start fromscratch. Nevertheless, working early in the morningwill give her more time to practice by herself or withbands in the afternoon and evening.Yuki manages to finally get up and to turn off thealarm clock. Her first thoughts today are, “Why thehell do I have to get up this early? I’m a musician andthey don’t get up before noon. This part-time job atGusto is just terrible. I should write a song about mylife right now. I’m sure many people could relate tothis situation. Good thing I don’t have any interestingclasses today. I guess it’s gonna be okay to take a napafter work in class.”Yuki sees the Seth Godin book Linchpin next to herfuton and thinks, “Hm. I know I can choose to be theperson ‘writing the manual’, Seth, but until I get somemore sleep, I choose to be the person that ‘follows themanual’. Only until I get some sleep.” 21
  28. 28. Yuki checks her cell phone for messages: 3 missedcalls from Maki. “Why did she try to call me in themiddle of the night? I wonder what’s the news.” Yukismiles and writes her back: I’ll be at work before class.Tell me everything afterwards. See you at 9:10 in class.Yuki picks up her bass, plays Hiko’s new song on hercell phone, and plays along. Another smile appears onher face. “I hope he didn’t write these lyrics whilethinking of Rena. She definitely doesn’t deserve it.”After a couple of runs Yuki gets ready and leaves forwork on her bicycle, while listening to Inakute Sabishiion her iPhone.Peepeepeepeepeep—It’s 4:30 AM at Yutaro’s place inMakino, a small suburb of Hirakata. “Turn it off. It’sstill dark outside,” says a female voice coming fromthe same futon. Yutaro answers, “I always go joggingvery early in the morning. That puts me in the rightmood for practice before classes.” “What? You’recrazy. Please let me sleep. Yuki always says that realmusicians do not get up before noon, and I would liketo achieve that.”“For that you have to work a bit harder on your guitarskills,” Yutaro jokes and covers her with a lightblanket. “I’ll try not to wake you up when I come backfrom jogging. Sleep now.” She breathes deep and fallsback asleep. Yutaro gets ready for jogging, but onethought bugs him, “I hope Yuki doesn’t mind mesleeping with her best friend. But why should she? 22
  29. 29. She’s all over Hiko anyway.” Yutaro leaves the houseand Maki keeps sleeping his in futon. 23
  30. 30. Episode 6 The Yutaro/Hiko-Collaboration Part 1“Yuki, I’m here!” Maki shouts across the classroom.Yuki walks all the way to the back of the room and sitsdown next to Maki. “I’m glad you chose to sit in thevery last row. That way, I don’t need to feel bad if Ifall asleep. Kotaro-sensei won’t catch me sleeping backhere.” Yuki gets a notebook and a Hello Kitty pencilfrom her bag.“So, you had to work before class this morning?” Makiasks. “Yap. I work five mornings a week,” Yukireplies. “I figured that if I work early hours, I get paida bit more and I’ll have time for practice after classes.”“But isn’t it hard to get up that early, work, and thencome to class?” Maki’s look reveals that she wouldn’tlike to do that. Yuki looks at Maki and puts on ajoking diva-like attitude, “A real rock star has to payher dues in order to prove her awesomeness to theworld.” Maki shouts, “You’re such a bitch! I want toprove my awesomeness by rockin’ out on stage andsleeping until noon.”Professor Kotaro enters the room and asks for silence.Yuki whispers, “By the way, did you listen to Hiko’snew song? He posted it on his Youtube yesterday.”Maki leans closer to Yuki and whispers back, “Sure Idid. It really rocks. Inakute Sabishii, I wonder if hewrote the song for Rena?” Yuki feels jealous—again. 24
  31. 31. In a different classroom—Yutaro is scribbling in anotebook, when someone pats him on the back.“Class didn’t start yet. Don’t pretend to be all into thisinternational marketing stuff they teach us here.”Yutaro looks up to Hiko, who has a grin on his face.He takes a seat next to Yutaro. Yutaro replies, “I’mactually very interested in marketing, since any kind ofindustry is going through a fundamental change andcreative people can and should market their craftthrough social media.” Yutaro doesn’t get why Hikostill has a grin on his face.“What are you so happy about?” Yutaro asks. Hikotells him, “Well, since you’re a social media changeagent, you might want to use my Youtube channel fora case study. My new song on Youtube got more than10,000 views overnight and was not even featured onthe Youtube homepage. I guess some people reallymust have liked it and spread it around.” Yutaro doesnot seem impressed.“Huh. This isn’t the first time you got this many viewsovernight, right? I remember, I checked out yourchannel a while ago and saw that you had reached halfa million views on Youtube. I mean, you’ve beenconnecting with all your subscribers and fans on aregular basis for what now, a year?” Hiko rectifies,“Actually, with this new channel, only for about threemonths. But I was very lucky that about 30 percent ofmy old subbers joined my new channel after theWarner Music Group had my old Youtube channelsuspended, because of a copyright infringement claim, 25
  32. 32. which I still claim was unjust.” The WMG incidentobviously still upsets Hiko a lot.Yutaro turns his usually serious face into a moreserene look. “Anyway. I listened to your new song andI have to admit that I really like it. You might be ontosomething here. I posted it on my Mixi and Facebookpages and my friends seem to like it as well. Are yougoing to sell it online?” Hiko nods. “I’ll have itmastered by tonight and will upload it right away. Butit will still take three weeks until it’s approved byiTunes.” “Just keep your fans updated with news andmaybe publish another song on Youtube, which willbe on the single. Something like a B-side, as they usedto call it when vinyl was still the standard,” Yutarosuggests.“Thanks for the input, but unfortunately, I don’t haveanother song ready yet that could match with InakuteSabishii.” Then Hiko has an idea. He asks Yutaro,“Why don’t I cover one of your songs?” But Yutarohas a better idea. “Or, why don’t we work on a newsong together? I have a bunch of songs that are readyto be finalized.” Hiko seems sincerely excited aboutYutaro’s idea. Yutaro continues with the descriptionof this possible collaboration.“We can make two different multi-window videos forthe song. One video features my parts in a largerwindow, so that my subscribers can learn my parts ontheir instruments—we’ll upload that video onto myYoutube channel—and the other video features yourguitar work in a larger window for your subscribers to 26
  33. 33. enjoy and learn those lines from you. That way, youmight get new fans from my channel and some ofyour subscribers might find their way onto mychannel. It’s a win-win situation, if we do it right.”Yutaro and Hiko are both visibly excited about theidea.Yutaro asks Hiko, “Do you have time to work on thesong tonight? We can produce it as a remotecollaboration.” Hiko asks, “Why don’t we just go to astudio together and record it there?” “Because I gotother things to take care of tonight, and I trust yourmusicianship to make the song great even without mehaving to teach you the song or oversee your work.”Yutaro smiles. Hiko smiles back.Yutaro goes on, “Great! I’m glad we’re doing this,Hiko. I will have time this afternoon, after classes, tofinalize my parts and send you the link to theGarageband file. I will upload it onto Mediafire. Iguess the size will be around 200 megabytes.” “And Iwill then record my parts onto the same file and dothe mixing. It would be great if you could cut thevideos, though. Your video editing skills are just soadvanced and every video you make has that greatartistic touch,” Hiko adds. “Absolutely. As I said, Iwon’t be around tonight, but I’ll get up very earlytomorrow morning and will finish the videos beforethe 9 o’clock class. Okay?” Hiko replies, “No hurrywith the videos. First we have to have our songapproved by iTunes. After it’s in the iTunes store, wewill publish our videos on our respective Youtube 27
  34. 34. channels, linking the videos with our song on iTunes,so that people can find it there and hopefully buy it, aswell as Inakute Sabishii, since they’ll be on the samesingle.” “I see. We’ll wait for the right moment torelease the second song on Youtube. Sure. This isgoing to be good,” Yutaro concludes.The professor greets the class with a loud, “Goodmorning class!” His thick American accent attractseveryone’s attention. “Welcome to InternationalMarketing 201. Today, we will talk about ‘SocialMedia’. Who can tell us what that is?” The professorlooks around. Hiko raises his hand. “Yes, please.” Theprofessor points to him.Hiko clears his throut. “Social media is a virtualmeeting place, where everyone and everything can findand be found, teach and learn, see and show, buy andsell, speak and listen. Some claim it’s just a fad, manyothers know it’s a new way of dialoguing withoutboundaries—and it is here to stay.” Yutaro adds,“Wikipedia and Youtube are best examples for howthe Wisdom of the Crowd works and for how importantsocial media has become for public relations andmarketing.”The professor smiles and replies, “Glad to learn thatthere are some Net Geners that do not only use socialmedia for entertainment, but also understand what itactually is for.” 28
  35. 35. Episode 7 The Yutaro/Hiko-Collaboration Part 2Yutaro just finished recording the last line for thecollaboration song with Hiko. “This is going to begood,” he tells himself. “Let’s get this file uploaded.”Yutaro uploads the file to Mediafire and sends Hikothe link via email. Hiko can download the musicproject file by clicking on the link and keep workingon the song at his place.Toktoktok—“Heeeeey there!” The door to Yutaro’s 1-bedroom apartment opens. Maki slingshots her shoesin a corner of the genkan, a little entryway everyJapanese house has. In Japan, it is custom to take offone’s shoes before entering a house or an apartment.“What are you doing?” Maki asks and jump-hugsYutaro from behind. “I just finished my parts for acollab with Hiko. It’s going to be something like theB-side of his new single.” Yutaro clicks play. Athunderous slap bass makes his speakers jump. Maki isimpressed. “Araaa! Is that you playing the bass or is ita Garageband loop?” Yutaro reacts with a smile.“Seriously? When did you learn to play bass like that?Why don’t you play bass in a band? Your skills arecrazy!”Yutaro finally answers, “I have always played guitar inbands and people know me for being a guitar player, 29
  36. 36. not a bass player. It would be too much of a hustle tostart over again and try to position myself as a bassist.Still, I like playing bass, and on this recording no onewill ask about the bass player, because it’s aboutHiko’s guitar playing.”Maki counters, “Please don’t get me wrong, but Ithink your bass playing—at least on this song—is wayawesomer than your guitar work. You shoulddefinitely make a tutorial video for this bass line onyour Youtube channel. I’m sure many viewers willwant to learn this line.” Yutaro starts realizing hispotential. “You think I’ll have a chance as a bassplayer? But there are so many incredible bass playersout there, like Yuki.”Yutaro shows his concerns about his bass playing, butMaki reassures him, “You’re right. There are manygreat bass players in the Kansai region, especially inOsaka. Nevertheless, after listening to this raw mix, I’dtotally see you becoming one of the popular bassistsaround here. And I’m not saying that just because Isleep with you.” Maki shoots her typical closed-eyessmile to cheer up Yutaro, which affects his mood andmakes him smile.Yutaro takes her gently in his arms, while she sits onhis lap. “You are great, Maki. Can I hire you as mymotivational trainer and personal branding manager?”“I’m not sure you can afford me,” Maki teases Yutaro.“Why don’t I start by paying you like this…” Yutarokisses Maki, lifts her from his lap and lays her on thetatami floor. “I like this kind of payment.” Maki turns 30
  37. 37. off the light with a remote control and startsunbuttoning Yutaro’s shirt.Hiko just downloaded the Garageband file that Yutarosent him via Mediafire and is amazed by the quality ofthe production. “Wow, that bass line is crazy!” he tellshimself. Bzzzzz. Hiko checks the door.“Yuki? What a nice surprise.” Yuki is clearly nervous.“Sorry for stopping by unannounced. I just wanted toask you a few things about the songs for our nextrehearsal.” She’s just making it up. Hiko replies, “I’mactually starting a recording session right now, which Ireally have to complete today. Hm. Listen, I usuallydon’t like having people here, since my place is rathersmall, but if you’d like to help me out with theproduction…” “I’d love to!” Yuki interrupts Hiko’ssentence energetically.She knows that Hiko doesn’t like having anyone over,and because of that, she wants to get in before hechanges his mind. “Good. Come in.” Hiko is all set tostart recording. His guitars are tuned, his effect pedalsare plugged in, and the microphone is set to the rightheight.Yuki observes, “So, this is where the magic happens.”Hiko smiles. “That’s what we want to find out, right?Just grab those headphones and make yourselfcomfortable.” Both have their headphones on. Hikopushes play on Garageband. “What an amazing bassline,” Yuki shouts. Hiko nods. “It’s Yutaro’s bassline.” He explains their collaboration. 31
  38. 38. “I had no idea that Yutaro could play bass like this. Ithought he was just a guitar player.” Yuki is stillamazed by Yutaro’s production. Hiko explains, “Weused to play in a band together. That’s when he firstpicked up the bass. Our bass player left because he gotsigned by a touring band and we didn’t want to losetime looking for a bassist. Hence, Yutaro decided toplay bass in our band. Unfortunately, we never had thechance to play live, since I left the band as well shortlyafter that. Then they blamed me for their split-up. Ithought Yutaro was still mad at me for that, butapparently he’s over it, since he offered to collab withme.” Hiko is immersed in thoughts.Yuki asks, “Do you want to play this song with ourband, too?” “Sure! It has so much drive.” Hecontinues, “Honestly, I feel it’s going to be even morepopular than my last song.” A smile on Yuki’s facemakes Hiko smile as well. “What?” he asks. “InakuteSabishii is a truly beautiful song. It will be hard for youguys to top its popularity.” Yuki really means it.“Well, I try to top every song I make. And withYutaro contributing such great ideas, I’m veryconfident that this could become a new milestone forme. Also, tastes are different and what one personlikes, another person might not like, and that’s okay.But it sure means a lot to me that you like my latestsong.” Yuki and Hiko look at each other for a fewmoments.“Okay, let’s do this!” Hiko interrupts the silence. Theyput their headphones back on. One last smile towards 32
  39. 39. Yuki, and Hiko hits the recording button to record thefirst track for the Yutaro/Hiko-collab. 33
  40. 40. Episode 8 Still rehearsing for the first gigIt’s a beautiful mid-October day in Hirakata. Leavesare slowly turning red and the temperature is gettingmilder day by day. Yuki, Hiko, and Junji have beenplaying for two months as a band now and they grewcloser as a team. Their first official public performanceis scheduled for the Kansai Gaidai InternationalFestival, which will be held in the first week ofNovember, around the Bunka no Hi holiday, which isknown as Culture Day in English.As the president of the music club, Yutaro organizedthree performances for Hiko’s trio during the 4-dayfestival. The band will be playing two 20-minuteshows in a university lounge that can hold an audienceof about 100 people. Every music club band is entitledto play there twice. Additionally, Hiko, Junji, and Yukiwill have the opportunity to perform on an outdoorstage, where all festival visitors can see and hear themplay. Not every band gets to do that.Yuki is very excited about that. She hasn’t had thechance to gather much live experience, especially infront of large audiences. And playing on the outdoorstage will give the band great exposure.Back in the studio in Korien the trio is practicing. ♫Youtubers unite against unholy obedience, we ain’t just thecrowd we are considerable deviance. With an iPod in our left 34
  41. 41. and a computer in our right, we create art with every single byte.♫ “Yes, that’s exactly what this song should soundlike!” Junji dries the sweat from his face and adds frombehind the drum set, “Hiko, are we going to play theYutaro/Hiko-collab song at the festival?” Hiko replies,“Sure. The single should be approved by iTunes anyday now. And besides playing for the love of music, Iwould also like to use these festival gigs as a marketingplatform to promote the songs, if that’s okay with youguys.” Yuki and Junji smile and nod.Hiko’s cell phone rings. “Oh, I have to take this. Moshimoshi?” “Hiko, it’s Genji Hatoyama. Am I interruptinganything?” Hiko replies in a very humble voice,“Hatoyama-san, no, no. I have time.” Mr. Hatoyamagoes on, “As you know from our concert schedule, wewill be playing a special performance at the Park HyattHotel in Tokyo on Monday after the Bunka no Hiholiday, the second week of November. But becauseour performances in the Kansai area have been verysuccessful in the past couple of months, a few otherplaces want to book the Genji Hatoyama Band forFriday, Saturday and Sunday, before the Monday gig.Just make sure you’ll be ready to leave for Tokyo oneday before the first performance. That means,Thursday. Yokoyama-san will call you later to discussthe details.”Hiko realizes this means that he would miss theInternational Festival and therefore, would have tocancel the gigs with Yuki and Junji. “Sure. Thank youfor the information. I’ll see you next week for 35
  42. 42. rehearsal in Kyoto,” Hiko replies and suppresses hisdisappointment. Mr. Hatoyama hangs up.“What’s wrong?” Yuki asks. Hiko explains thesituation to his band and adds, “I don’t know if I evertold you about my adhesion contract with the GenjiHatoyama Band.” Junji nods, but Yuki looks puzzled.“Basically, if they get booked and I cannot make it,they look for another guitar player to replace me rightaway and kick me out of the band. And since Osaka isfilled with great and available guitarists looking for agood gig, they always find someone in no time.”“What?” Yuki shouts. “Can they do that? Well,obviously they can do whatever they want! Man, I’mso upset.” Yuki is obviously distressed and in rageabout the situation. “Because of greedy businessmenlike them, youngsters like us can’t get anywhere!”Rena enters the practice space and asks, “Hey guys,how’s rehearsal going?” “YOU!!!” Yuki points to Renawith a very upset look and approaches her showingher clenched fist. Junji realizes that Yuki’s temper isboiling over and rushes from behind his drums to holdher back before she lays hands on Rena, who has noclue what just happened. “It’s all your fault!!! We won’tget to perform at the International Festival, becauseHiko has to play in Tokyo with your dad’s band.” Yukiscreams at Rena.“I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”Rena runs out of the studio crying. Hiko puts downhis guitar and apologizes to his bandmates. “Guys, I’m 36
  43. 43. sorry to cause you all this trouble, but please, if youwant to blame this on anyone, blame it on me. I didn’tthink about what it meant to sign a contract with theGenji Hatoyama Band. It’s solely my fault for notthinking further than my wallet. I know, sometimesRena might seem arrogant, spoiled, self-centered, andvery proud of being the daughter of a celebrity, butshe is my girlfriend and we belong together.” Yuki isstill furious and Junji is still holding her.“If you excuse me, I have to go after her.” Hiko walksto the door and concludes, “By the way, I will leavethe band…” Yuki and Junji are baffled. “I mean, theGenji Hatoyama Band.” Their gazes relax. “Thismeans, you guys better keep working on that rhythmsection, if we want to impress any potential bookers orlabel guys at the Kansai Gaidai International Festival.”Hiko winks and runs after Rena.“Man, my heart almost stopped when he said that hewould leave the band. For a second I thought hewanted to leave this band, his own band.” Junji showshis relief and sits down on the studio floor. Yuki is in arollercoaster of emotions. She doesn’t know if sheshould be happy about the fact that Hiko is leaving theGenji Hatoyama Band or if she should be upset thathe doesn’t see how bad Rena is for him.“Okay. Junji, pick up your sticks and let’s try thatcollab song again—just drums and bass. Now thatHiko has only this band that can make him a star, wehave to support him as much as we can.” Yuki’s 37
  44. 44. dedication motivates Junji. “You said it best, sis’…Ichi, ni, san, shi!” And they rock the groove. 38
  45. 45. Episode 9 You canʼt have both“Rena, are you okay?” Hiko asks his girlfriend. Rena isstanding outside the studio premises in Korien, crying.“Why don’t your friends like me? Am I such a badperson? I really tried to be nice to them, ever since youstarted playing with them.” Hiko looks surprised.“You haven’t really been nice to them. I remember, thefirst time Junji, Yuki, and I jammed in this very studio,you asked me why I would waste my time playing withsuch amateurs, when I could practice with realprofessionals such as your dad’s musicians. Thatwasn’t very nice, but still, they never said anythingabout you coming to all our rehearsals.”Rena sighs. “Whatever. This band is over anyway.Please let’s get your stuff and let’s leave.” Rena grabsHiko’s hand. He pulls her back and says in a harshvoice, “Are you completely insane? This is my chanceto make it in this business. Junji and Yuki are such afantastic and dedicated rhythm section, and theysupport me with all their passion. They believe thatour trio has what it takes to make it in Japan. Whatwill I have if I play with your dad? Some money fromthe gigs, where my name is nowhere to be seen. Plus,that music doesn’t push me to the limit. Strumming afew chords isn’t what I aim for these days.”Rena counters aggressively, “You know, you’re only 19years old and you have absolutely not enough 39
  46. 46. experience to make it in the music business. Playingwith an established act will teach you the mean side ofthe music biz, while being in a safe position. Ifanything goes wrong for whatever reason, it’s not yourbrand on stake, but the one from the guy that offersyou the job. Too many times, I’ve seen my dad beingdepressed and taking hits from journalists andpromoters, because the concert hall was half-empty, orbecause the event organizers simply thought the showwasn’t good enough for the amount of money theypaid to the Genji Hatoyama Band. And my dad tookall the blame—not his musicians.” Tears fall fromRena’s eyes.“Rena, I’m sorry. I decided to do it my way and willtherefore leave your dad’s band. I mean, the contractstates that if I can’t make a concert, the managementwill search for a replacement and I’m out. And I’mfine with that. I want to make my own mistakes andbuilt my own brand, like your father did.” Rena’s tearsoverflow her cute Japanese face.“Congratulations!” Rena affirms, “You just made thefirst major mistake in your rather short career as amusician. You quit a great and secure job that couldhave led the way to your very own record deal.” Renagets snappy. “Have a great life, Hiko. I’ll send youyour stuff by mail.” Rena turns around and walksaway. Hiko stands motionless in front of the studiountil Rena is out of sight. Then, one tear runs from hisright eye down his cheek all the way to his chin, where 40
  47. 47. it gathers all the salty water to a single teardrop andslowly falls to the ground.“Big fight?” Junji’s voice reverberates from the studiohallway. Junji and Yuki are walking towards Hiko. Henods his head. “It looks as if it’s over. Rena, the GanjiHatoyama Band… everything’s over. But that’s good,right?” Hiko’s voice is initially trembling but gets verysolid with the next sentence. Sigh. “I guess it’s asRocky said, ‘It ain’t about how hard you hit, it is abouthow hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.’”Hiko smiles while quoting that line from SylvesterStallone in Rocky 6. Junji laughs very loud. He puts hisarms around Hiko’s neck and drags him back to studio3.“Hahaha! Glad to see you haven’t lost your sense ofhumor yet, even though I have no clue why you wouldquote Rocky. Anyway, let’s go back in and rock thehell out of our instruments. Now that we are your onlyband, we gotta work even harder, if we want to crackthe jackpot.”Hiko and Yuki pick up their instruments. Junji takes aseat behind the drum set and asks Yuki, “Miss Bass-star, would you like to give us the honor and slap thehell out of your bass for the intro of the collab song?”Yuki hits the strings as hard as she can and the energyswaps over to Junji and Hiko, who enter the song withgreat oomph.During the song, Yuki’s thoughts are completelydedicated to the future of the band. She thinks, “Now 41
  48. 48. that Rena and her dad are out of Hiko’s life, he can setthe focus on this band and spend more time with us,as he asked me to do when I joined. Fortunately,everything turned out the way it was supposed to.”After practice, Hiko congratulates his bandmates to avery lively, even though emotional, rehearsal. “See youtomorrow in class, Junji. I gotta go home and callHatoyama-san to tell him about my decision to leavehis band.” Junji replies, “You do that, and don’t forgetyour Rocky-quote.” The three of them expressamusement. Hiko turns to Yuki, “Lunch at shokudou(translation: cafeteria) tomorrow?” Yuki’s eyesbrighten up. She nods vividly. Hiko waves and leavesshouting, Jaa!Junji approaches Yuki and tells her in a rather fatherlytone, “Listen, Yuki. I know you like Hiko. And if Hikoand Rena really split up, I’m sure he will want to bewith you as well. Unfortunately, love relationships inbands always end badly for everyone involved, and thatincludes bandmates that are simply extras in the story,like I am. As much as I want you guys to be happytogether as a couple, I see a huge potential for ourband here and I don’t want anyone and anything tojeopardize that. Do you understand?”Yuki gets nervous and wants to object, “But…” “No,But!” Junji interrupts her and persists, “I am askingyou as a friend and for the sake of what we canachieve with this band. This can only work, if we stickto professionalism and don’t let intimate relationshipsscrew up our plans.” He gently holds Yuki’s shoulders. 42
  49. 49. “We are friends—the three of us—and we need thatfriendship to lead our way. I’m begging you. Don’tthink only about yourself, but about all of us.” Yukihugs Junji and whispers while her head is resting onhis shoulder, “I promise, Junji. I won’t jeopardize whatwe have. But please, keep reminding me.” 43
  50. 50. Episode 10 Friends with benefitsAfter the emotional rehearsal, when Rena broke upwith Hiko, and Hiko decided to leave the GenjiHatoyama Band to focus on his own band with Yukiand Junji, the trio devoted many hours of practice increating the best possible set for their performance atthe Kansai Gaidai International Festival. Junji workedon more detailed arrangements, Yuki and Maki tookcare of word-of-mouth marketing, handing out flyersto students and to people at live music houses inOsaka, and Hiko published Youtube videos everyother day with subliminal messages to promote theirforthcoming gigs in Hirakata to his subscribers.«Come and rock out with us at Kansai Gaidai InternationalFestival in Hirakata», a video coming from Maki’siPhone says. “My friend Yuki will be playing a featuredgig on the outdoor stage on Saturday. You shoulddefinitely not miss this. And while you’re at it, go tothis website and download their music. Believe me,they’re awesome! I got all their music on my iPod.”Maki hands a flyer to a bunch of students that areforming a circle around her. “See you there!” Shesmiles at them and leaves.“How is my #1 promotion manager doing?” Yuki asksMaki approaching her from the side. Maki turnsaround with a grin, “If Yutaro and Hiko sell athousand MP3s online, it’s all because of me, and I 44
  51. 51. will want to see some royalties from that,” Maki sayswith an acted Diva-like attitude.“I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I think I’ll applyfor a promotion manager position at one of the majorrecord companies in Tokyo after I graduate fromhere.” She sounds very confident and serious aboutthat. “What happened to becoming a rockstar? Didyou change your plans?” Yuki asks with a wink. “No,that is still on the list. I will just take care of both,music and promotion. I mean, isn’t that why we havesocial media now, to take care of marketing ourselves?Yutaro and Hiko are on track to prove that it canwork for unsigned artists to make it without a majorlabel.” Yuki asks Maki, “Why do you want to work fora major label then, if you’d be able to make it to thetop without one?” Maki pauses for a few moments.“Good question. I guess, because it will sound good inmy biography one day.” She starts a narrative of herown biography:«Before making it big, Makiko paid her dues in the hard realityof the music business, working as a promotion manager for amajor record label. Her road was paved with many ups anddowns, but after realizing that she could make better decisionsthan her boss, she left the company to take care of businessherself. And thats when she brought her band to their firstnumber one hit on the Oricon charts in Japan with no majorlabel backing her.» 45
  52. 52. “Bravo!” a male voice responds mockingly. Yuki andMaki turn around and see Yutaro approaching with asmile.“Don’t make fun of me, mister!” Maki punchesYutaro in the stomach. “Ouch! That hurt.” Yutaro isstill teasing her. Maki pretends to get mad. “Stop it,Yutaro, or no sex for you tonight!” Yutaro blushes.The ambience changes instantly. “What?” Yuki asks,not believing what she just heard. “You’re joking,right?” “I’m obviously joking.” Maki’s voice istrembling. She is extremely nervous.“You’re lying, Maki. I know you are.” Yuki gazes atthem and they both blush even more. It is nowobvious to Yuki that Maki and Yutaro have anintimate relationship with each other. “So. Are youguys a couple or are you just sleeping together?”Yutaro turns to Maki and whispers, “Glad wediscussed this scenario.” Yutaro’s statement isevidently ironic. Maki apologizes to Yutaro alsowhispering, “I’m sorry! It just slipped out.” Yuki putson a smile.“So, which one is it? A couple or just friends withbenefits?” Yuki can’t hold back her grin. Maki andYutaro decide to enter mute-mode and leave fast indifferent directions. “Gotta go! See ya later, Yuki.”Maki waves and walks away, fast.Five minutes later, Yutaro enters the classroom andtakes a seat next to Hiko. “Hey Yutaro, ready for theupcoming gigs at the festival?” Hiko asks. “I hope so.” 46
  53. 53. Yutaro is still upset over his bloopers with Maki.“Something bugging you?” Hiko asks his friend. “Makitold Yuki that we sleep together,” Yutaro replies. “Youguys are a couple?” Hiko shouts. “Shhhhh! Yes. No!Maybe. Ah. I don’t know. When we decided to play inthe same band, everything became a bit morecomplicated. We agreed that as long as we’rebandmates, it would be better not to appear as acouple. Our bandmates and other music clubmembers might get the wrong idea.”“Hold on a sec. Does that mean you guys have been acouple for a while already?” Hiko still looks verysurprised. “It doesn’t matter. Fact is that I like Maki,but I’m not sure if engaging in an exclusive romanticrelationship with her would be good the future of ourband. First of all, our band is really picking up andchances are that we can perform at some cool festivalsnext spring. But if we fight, our band will suffer fromit. That’s why I’d rather be friends with benefits withher and not a couple.” Yutaro leans back in his chairand sighs.“Do you really think that being friends with benefitswill keep your emotions checkmate? If else, it willmake you go even crazier. What if Maki goes out withsomeone else, because you don’t want to beexclusively hers?” Hiko shows concern for his friends.Yutaro checks his phone to see if Maki sent him amessage.“I envy you and Yuki. So much attraction from one tothe other and you keep being only friends and keep 47
  54. 54. your relationship safe from any emotional hazard.”Hiko leans back in his chair. “Believe me when I tellyou that it is incredibly hard. Every time we gettogether for rehearsal, to go to a gig, have lunch,dinner, whatsoever, I always fight with myself. I’m in aconstant dilemma. I want to take her in my arms andgive her all the love she deserves. But then somethinginside of me tells me that it would be wrong now. Ourband is on the way to create something great andemotional distress would tear it apart. I’m not surehow Yuki feels about me, but I hope she doesn’t wantto be with me, because if I knew that she likes me asmuch as I like her, I wouldn’t be able to resist.”Yutaro pulls himself together and pats Hiko on theback. “Listen my friend. If we ever fall into absolutedespair, we will just leave our respective bands andcreate a band with you on guitar, me on bass, and Junjion drums, and the girls can do the same with a femaledrummer of their choice. That way, we can all betogether with whom we please and we won’t have tocare about emotional distress. What do you think?”Yutaro’s face finally lightens up, but Hiko isn’t sure ifYutaro really means what he just said or if he is merelyjoking.“I think time will tell how we’ll have to handle thesethings.” Hiko’s phone lights up. It’s Yuki texting him,Hey rockstar, don’t forget that we moved ourrehearsal from tomorrow to tonight. Can’t wait torock the studio with you tonight! Hiko smiles from earto ear. 48
  55. 55. Episode 11 The Kansai Gaidai International Festival Part 1Today is the first day of the Kansai GaidaiInternational Festival, which will be held for the nextfour days on the campus of the Kansai GaidaiUniversity in Hirakata. People from close and farattend the festival. The festival aims to bring foreigncultures, as well as Japanese culture, closer to itsvisitors with dishes and cultural performances fromdifferent countries by Japanese and Internationalstudents. The festival aims to bring Japanese andforeign cultures closer to their visitors. Outdoor standssell anything from onigiri to tempura, from tacos toSpaghetti Bolognese, or from American hotdogs toCevapcici. Indoors, classrooms got remodeled tostages, where students can either perform a dance or aplay from a specific country, or simply present theircountries and languages to interested visitors. Thefestival takes place every year and is always a bigsuccess.“Guys, I think there are about 100 people crammedinto that small lounge, and they are waiting for us toget on stage and rock!” Junji is jumping up and down.He is visibly excited. Hiko and Yuki are tuning theirinstruments in a classroom on the other side of thehallway from the lounge, where they will beperforming in less than ten minutes. 49
  56. 56. “Are you ready, Yuki?” Hiko asks her with a smile.“I’m very nervous. What was that change we made inthe third verse of Inakute Sabishii?” Yuki looks stressedout. Hiko puts his hand on her shoulder. “Just forgetabout that. Let’s go out there and just have fun. Ouraudience came to have fun with us, not to judge if weplay well or if we suck. This is our very first gig infront of a paying crowd. I consider this a warm-up gig,which it is, considering the circumstances and thepreparation for the open-air gig on Saturday.”Junji adds, “Forget about perfection and it willhappen. Simply be aware of our music as a team, andfeel the energy we transmit to each other. If youhappen to lose the groove, just listen to what I playand you will find it in no time. And if you get lost in allthose notes you play, listen to Hiko and you’ll be backon the right track.”Then he gets philosophical, “As legendary bassistVictor Wooten always says, music is a language, and ifyou want to join a conversation, the first thing youhave to do is to listen and then you contribute yourmessage.” Junji stops for a few moments. “Well, heputs it more eloquently, but you get my point.” Yukismiles and feels more comfortable now thanks to thewords of her bandmates.Yutaro enters the backstage room. “Are you guysready to prove to your fans that you’re worth the 300yen they paid to see you rock?” Yutaro can’t hide thefact that he’s proud of having Yuki, Junji, and Hikoopening the concert series of the university music club 50
  57. 57. he presides. Junji shouts, “Hell yeah! Let’s rock thiscrowd.” He storms out of the room and jumps onstage. Yutaro, Yuki, and Hiko can hear the crowdscreaming and clapping their hands.“What a crazy guy,” Yutaro says with a smile. He turnsto the rest of the band. “Are you going to be playingthe collab-song as well?” Yutaro asks Hiko. “No, nottoday. We’ll play it on the open-air stage on Saturday.”Yutaro is disappointed, but doesn’t show it. “Noproblem. I’m looking forward to hearing your versionin a couple of days then. You guys better go on stagenow, before Junji gets all the audience on his side andleaves no fans for you.”Hiko and Yuki nod and leave the backstage room.Hiko makes his first step on stage and all hell breaksloose. It sounds as if thousands of people would cheerfor a rockstar. Like when Ozzy enters the Budokanstage on his Live at Budokan album. Shortly beforemaking her appearance on stage, Yuki takes one deepbreath and tells herself, “This is it. Nana, BillySheehan, you know how Goku and Vegeta becameunbeatable in Dragonball. Let’s try that as well.Fuuuuuusion!” And she enters the stage.Hiko and Junji are ready and set to play the very firstnote. The crowd has calmed down a bit by now, butsuspense is still building up. No one says a word.Every one in the room is looking at Yuki setting upher effect pedals and tuning her bass one last time.The stage lights shine very bright and Yuki can’t reallysee the audience. Junji told his bandmates before the 51
  58. 58. gig that there were about 100 people in the room, butthe audience is larger than that and it sure feels likethousands came.The energy is pumping up Yuki to an extent she hasnever felt before. Finally. She is ready. Trivial thoughtscross Yuki’s mind, “What do I have to do now? Do Ihave to say anything, or, shall I count in? Man, thesestupid lights are way to bright.” Then, she remembersthe music video for Pearl Jam’s Even Flow song, whereEddie Vedder yells at the light guy, because the lightsare too bright. She smiles and shouts to the light guysin the back of the room with her loudest and rockiestvoice through her microphone, “Akira, Ken, turndown these lights. This is not a TV studio, this is arock concert!” The lights dim right away. Yuki adds,“Junji, count it in.” And Junji picks it up. 1, 2, 3, 4!A bombastic and loud sound shoots from the PA. Thetrio plays the intro to their first song and the crowd ischeering and dancing. Yuki is doing exactly what Hikoand Junji told her to do before the gig. Everythinghappens naturally. Yuki is not thinking, she is justenjoying and going with the flow. It has never feltbetter and more natural. The audience is jumping upand down with the beat of the song. Some even knowthe lyrics and sing along with the band. These must beHiko’s Youtube fans. The trio gets more and moreconfident with every note they play, and the crowdgets more and more into it with every beat the bandplays. 52
  59. 59. Backstage, Yutaro is watching his friends planting thefirst seed for their career as an active live band. “Areyou the manager of this band?” A man in an expensivesuit approaches Yutaro from the backstage room.Yutaro replies, “No. Well, kind of. I’m the presidentof the music club they belong to.” He is ratherconfused and changes the subject quickly. “I’m sorry.This room is reserved for the bands that perform heretoday. I have to kindly ask you to leave.”The man looks like a businessman and his attitude isvery professional. “I apologize for the intrusion. Allowme to introduce myself. My name is Genji Hatoyamaand I am interested in singing the band that is playingon your stage. Can I please have a word with you?”Yutaro is completely confused and can’t believe whatjust happened. “This is weird,” he thinks for himself.Yutaro knows who Genji Hatoyama is and knows allthe details about Hiko’s fight with Rena and thecontract he had signed with the Genji HatoyamaBand, but obviously Mr. Hatoyama doesn’t know whoYutaro is. Many questions are spinning inside Yutaro’shead. Why did Genji Hatoyama come to see Hiko’sband perform. Why is he offering a deal to the band?And more important, what kind of deal? And, wasn’tthe Genji Hatoyama Band supposed to play in Tokyothis weekend? 53
  60. 60. Episode 12 The Kansai Gaidai International Festival Part 2A visibly nervous Yutaro asks Mr. Hatoyama, “Whydo you want to sign Hiko and his band, when you justfired him from your band?” Loud music is blastingfrom the lounge, where Junji is just about to give adrum solo accompanied with bass and guitarharmonies. “I couldn’t bear to see Hiko leaving theband…” Yutaro interjects, “With all due respect,Hatoyama-san, Hiko left because of your unfaircontract.” Mr. Hatoyama picks up where he gotinterrupted. “As I was saying, I couldn’t bear to seeHiko leaving the band. He is a great musician with lotsof potential to make it in this hard industry, and eventhough he is not playing for me anymore, I’d like tosupport him and his band financially, and by pullingsome strings.”Yutaro realizes that he is talking to a music businessveteran that has been through highs and lows in hismusic career and the trio could definitely benefit fromMr. Hatoyama’s experience—and of course from hisbusiness contacts. They both hear Hiko shoutingthrough the PA, “Hirakata, see you Saturday on theopen-air stage. Jaaa!” And the trio closes with a hugethunder.Junji, Yuki, and Hiko rush offstage, while the audienceis still applauding and screaming. According to the 54
  61. 61. code of conduct made by the music club, encores arenot permitted, since every band only plays 20 minutesand has to give 10 minutes set-up time to the nextband. Junji and Yuki pass by Yutaro and Mr.Hatoyama and go to the backstage room with a verygenuine smile on their faces. Hiko is the last one tocome offstage and remains petrified by the look of thelast person he expects to meet there, his ex-boss andex-future-father-in-law.“Hiko, that was a great show. I’m very proud of you.”Mr. Hatoyama compliments Hiko and his band with astrong voice for anyone lurking around the backstageroom to hear. “Hatoyama-san, thank you very much. Iappreciate your kind words. May I ask what you aredoing here? Aren’t you supposed to be performing inTokyo this weekend?” Hiko is not pleased. Yutaropoints to a little garden outside the premise. He leadsthe way and opens the door for Mr. Hatoyama andHiko. The two of them continue their conversation inthe garden, where no one can hear what they aretalking about.“Hiko, when you left our band…” Hiko corrects, “Ididn’t leave. You and your management fired me,because of that infamous clause in your musician’scontract.” Hiko’s temper starts boiling. Mr. Hatoyamatries to calm him down with a heartily smile. “Hiko, Ialways saw you as the next big guitarist in Japan. And Ieven considered sending you to a music college abroadfor a couple of years, before producing a record underyour brand followed by a tour with your own band. 55
  62. 62. But when we parted, all of that was gone. It wasalready hard not having you with us anymore, as amember of the family, since you and Rena also splitup. I lost you completely. For that reason, I cancelledthe Tokyo gigs. I even had to pay a penalty fee to oneof the organizers, because I wanted to come and seehow you are doing and how far your band is. And I’mreally impressed by what I saw today.”Hiko adds, “Just wait until Saturday. We’ll blow youaway.” Mr. Hatoyama laughs and claps his hands once.“I am sure you will. Hahaha! Listen, I was talking toyour manager, or, president of this music club,”“Yutaro? He is actually more something like my musicproduction partner. We’ve been producing songs forYoutube together.” Hiko turns in a good mood whenthinking about his collaborations with Yutaro.“Yes, that guy.” Mr. Hatoyama takes back theconversation. “So, I was talking to Yutaro aboutoffering you and your band a management deal withmy agency. My people and I will take care ofpromotion, booking, touring, and financing studiotime. All we want from you guys is commitment androyalties.” Hiko laughs in disbelieve. “Why does italways sound like you want to screw me over when wetalk about business?” Hiko gets offensive.Mr. Hatoyama tries to stay calm and continues, “Well,you know, in business communication classes theyteach that communication happens on the receiver’sside. That means you might have perceived mymessage in a way that I didn’t mean. I only mean 56
  63. 63. good, and I don’t want to have you out of my life.Hiko, you are like the son I never had. Rena is a goodgirl, but she is spoiled and will never be a musician.And who knows what kind of guy she will end up withone day. With you, I know what I got. Please, signwith my agency and let me be your manager.”Hiko is touched by the fact that Mr. Hatoyama isliterally begging him to sign a deal, but Hiko doesn’tshow it. Au contraire, Hiko says in a cold Wall Street-like attitude, “Hatoyama-san, I have to decline youroffer.” Mr. Hatoyama’s eyes jump wide-open. “If youreally consider me as a part of your family and don’twant to be cut out of my life, I am willing to be yourfriend and meet up with you, jam, talk about the musicbusiness, politics, or other things, but we don’t need tobe connected through business. Who knows, maybesomeday we’ll collaborate on a song? Honestly, I wantto make it with my band without having to involve alabel, outside financing, or whatsoever. We got theInternet and things look very promising right now.Yutaro is a great marketer and producer and we got allthe equipment we need to produce songs for onlinemusic stores. We are quite confident that we can makeit our way. Actually, if you want, I can teach you howto use social media to connect with your fans andpublish your music without having to give royalties toa record company.” Mr. Hatoyama smiles, then thedoor opens.“Dad, I was looking for you everywhere,” a youngfemale voice says with an attitude. “Rena!” Hiko 57
  64. 64. shouts. His heart stops. “Hello Hiko.” Rena’s reply israther snippy. She commends, “Let’s go, daddy. I wantto go home.” “We’ll stay in touch, Hiko.” Mr.Hatoyama puts his hand onto Hiko’s shoulder. “Seeyou this Saturday at the outdoor concert?” Hiko asks.“Only if I can buy you a drink after your gig and youtell me more about this online marketing stuff.” Mr.Hatoyama walks after Rena.“You did the right thing.” Yutaro’s voice sounds fromthe other side of the garden. “How the hell did you getup there?” Hiko asks. Yutaro jumps from a rock thatis almost two meters high. “I was waiting for you tocome back inside when I saw an open window thatbrought me on top of this huge rock. And since insome ways your future concerns me as well, I thoughtit would be good to listen to your conversation.” “Yousneaky son of a gun,” Hiko jokes.“As I said, you did the right thing,” Yutaro affirms,again. “If Hatoyama-san wants to be your friend andhelp you succeed in the music biz, he can. You lefthim that door open.” Hiko picks up, “And we don’tneed no manager. We got you. A great producer, eventorganizer, and friend.” “But don’t get too used to that.Sooner or later I won’t have time to do this for bothyour band and my band.” Yutaro smiles. Hiko smilesback. “Then we’ll leave our respective bands and startour own band, where it’s only about us boys.” Theyboth laugh out loud. “I see, you really listen to me.”Yutaro is surprised that Hiko still remembers hisstatement from last week in class. 58
  65. 65. “What are you guys doing out here, where no one canfind you? Are you hiding from anyone?” Maki puts arock in front of the door to keep it open. “Kick-assperformance, Hiko. You can really shred, but youknow that. Are you coming to watch us rock the stagetomorrow?” Hiko nods. “You guys take care. I gottalook after my band. Want to congratulate them.” Hikowaves and leaves.“What was that about?” Maki asks Yutaro. “Nothing.We were just talking, and Rena’s dad offered them amanagement deal or something like that, but Hikodeclined.” Maki shouts, “What? Why does that neverhappen to me?” Yutaro comforts her, “You don’tneed that. Wait for your brand to grow and then you’llbe able to have the contract on your terms. But untilthen, you gotta work with social media and the powerof the Internet. Just trust me on this one.” Maki smilesand hugs Yutaro saying, “You really make it hard forme not to like you as much as I would like to.” Andthey kiss. 59
  66. 66. Episode 13 A new band is bornThe Kansai Gaidai International Festival is over and itwas a great success for Yutaro’s music club, especiallybecause of Hiko, Yuki, and Junji’s performances in thelounge and on the open-air stage. Sales for theHiko/Yutaro-collab on iTunes have surged since thetrio’s performance at the festival. Hundreds of peopledownloaded the song onto their cell phones right awayduring the concert and tweeted pictures and videos forthousands of interneters, who could not attend, to enjoy.Hiko’s and Yutaro’s Youtube channels registeredhundreds of new subscribers in the week after thefestival, and many asked for more Hiko/Yutaro-collabs.At the Miki Gakki music store in Shinsaibashi, one ofthe shopping districts of Osaka, Yuki and Maki aretrying out some new guitars and basses. “You know,I’m really happy for Hiko and Yutaro that their musicis generating all this buzz, but sometimes I wish theywould include us more into their songwriting. I feel asif the two of them are a band and we are justsupplements.” Yuki is walking her way through a 5-string bass neck. “I know what you mean,” Makiacknowledges. “But they are a great team, and even ifboth our bands end up playing pretty much the samesongs, those songs are great and people like them alot.” 60
  67. 67. Yuki confesses, “I know, I know. I guess, sometimesI’m just jealous of Yutaro.” Yuki plucks the stringsharder now. Maki frowns, “Why are you jealous ofYutaro? If, then you should be jealous of Hiko, or amI missing something here?” Yuki explains, “I’m jealousof Yutaro because he gets to spend so much time withHiko and they share ideas, credits, and fans. I am justHiko’s bass player and singer. Something like asidekick.” That obviously bothers Yuki.“Why don’t they just start their own band and let usbe. At least if it was like that, I could tell him howmuch I long for him, and this whole band thing wouldnot stand in our way.” Maki puts down the guitar she’sbeen holding in her hands for 20 minutes and sitsdown next to Yuki. “Yuki-chan, I know exactly howyou feel. Do you think it’s easy for me to play in aband with Yutaro and not being able to show him mylove when others are around? I hate that, but that’show it has to be for now. The day will come whenYutaro will leave our band and Hiko will leave yourband to team up and start ‘their’ band. And then wewill be able to be with them, for good. Unfortunately,we will then not be part of a great band and we willhave to start over.” Maki’s eyes start getting glassy.Yuki engages in a hard one-bar T.M. Stevens-like slap-attack and tells Maki, “I’m sick and tired of this! Maki,let’s leave our bands and start our own band.” Makican’t believe Yuki’s words. “Are you out of yourmind?” she asks Yuki. “Not at all. Can’t you see it?Ever since they published their first collab on Youtube 61
  68. 68. it has been about the two of them, not their respectivebands. And if they can’t see it, we have to make themrealize what’s happening here. What’s the worst thatcould happen? That they won’t get along? They arealready a band on the Internet, and sooner or laterthey will form a band offline as well. We are juststanding in their way. Hiko plays guitar, Yutaro playsbass, and Junji plays the drums. And all of them cansing. Problem solved.” Yuki has figured it all out.“And what about us?” Maki asks. “We start our owntrio. We take everything we’ve learned from the guysand make it better.” Yuki winks. “But we have nodrummer.” Maki walks to the classified ads on the wallof the music store. “Don’t worry about that. We’ll finda drummer in no time.” Maki turns to Yuki. “Okay,Yuki-chan. I’m in. How shall we tell the boys withoutmaking them mad?” Yuki puts on a mean smile.“Maki-chan, do you feel like jamming and recordingsomething right here, right now? We could then post itright away onto my Youtube channel—which, btw, isin desperate need of a new video!” Maki startsjumping on the spot and shouts, “That’s going to befun!”Yuki asks one of the clerks if she could film them withher iPhone, while jamming. They grab a couple ofinstruments and start playing a 90’s rock tune. ♫ I wishthat I could fly, into the sky, so very high, just like a dragonfly… I want to get away, I want to fly away! ♫ The jamattracts basically every customer that is in the guitar 62
  69. 69. section. Many sing along and the clerk catches thewhole thing on Yuki’s iPhone.A customer approaches the store manager, who isenjoying this unexpected customer-generated showfrom the back of the room, “Those two girls arefantastic. Do they work for you?” The store mangerreplies, “Unfortunately not. But they are our loyalcustomers.” The customer suggests, “You should havethem perform here with their band.” “I will definitelytalk to them about that.”The girls are creating a great atmosphere at Miki Gakkiand the store manager is very impressed. Morecustomers are entering the store to take a glimpse andenjoy the positive atmosphere. The jam comes to anend and the customers applaud the duo. Maki andYuki look around and can’t believe what justhappened. “Arigatou gozaimasu!” Yuki turns to Makiand whispers, “See? I told you we could pull this off.”The clerk approaches Yuki and gives her back theiPhone she used to tape the performance. “Youshould publish this onto Youtube,” she suggests. “Iwill,” Yuki replies and edits the video with iMovieright on the spot. Then, she uploads it directly ontoher Youtube channel. After a few minutes it’s up andshe’s spreading it through different social networkingwebsites and asks her friends on Mixi and Facebook todo the same.“Ready to hit the road?” Yuki asks Maki, when theclerk that taped the video stops them and approaches 63
  70. 70. them very humbly. “You girls were amazing. Are you aband?” Maki and Yuki look at each other and nod atthe same time. “Yes, we are!” The clerk continues,“Do you have gigs planned or a website where I canlisten to more of your music?” Yuki replies, “Actually,we just started playing together. We just split from ourbands and are now looking for a drummer.”“Seriously? Coz you sounded as if you’ve been playingtogether forever. And, by the way, I’m a drummer insearch for a band.”Yuki asks the girl, “How long have you been playingthe drums?” The girl answers, “I’ve been playing sinceI was 8 years old.” “And do you have live experience?”“My mom was a professional musician and always letme fool around on her drumset when I was little. Iplayed many concerts through junior high and highschool, but when I started university last year Istopped playing and focused on my studies. Butwatching you girls playing and spreading all thatpositive energy rocked my internal groove. I’d love toaudition for you.”Maki looks at Yuki. “Then we need to set up anaudition. And since we have no time to lose, we’d liketo meet you as soon as possible. How’s tomorrow foryou?” Maki asks. “I’m free tomorrow afternoon,” theclerk answers. “We’ll organize the studio inAmerikamura and will let you know exactly where andwhen to meet, okay?” Maki sounds very professional.“By the way, my name is Yumi.” Yumi bows. “I’mMaki, and this is Yuki.” They all shout, Hajimemashite! 64
  71. 71. and they all bow. After exchanging their cell phoneemail addresses, Maki and Yuki leave Miki Gakki.“What do you think, are we making a mistake?” Makiasks Yuki. “Not at all. I’ve got a good feeling thatYumi is the perfect match for our band.” Makiaffirms, “I feel the same way. I sure hope Yutaro,Hiko, and Junji won’t be too mad at us.Yutaro and Hiko are taking a break from working ondifferent remote collaborations. “Check this out!”Yutaro tells Hiko over Skype and sends him a link to aYoutube video. “That’s Maki and Yuki jamming.”Hiko replies and recognizes that they sound greattogether.“Did you read the description of the video?” Yutaropoints out. Hiko starts reading aloud; «Our firstunrehearsed and unofficial band performance. More girl rockmusic coming soon.» Then he gets loud “Are you kiddingme, they started their own band?” Yutaro calms himdown, “Hey, take it easy. You had a second band aswell in the beginning. And if it weren’t for Hatoyama-san’s grotesque contracts you would still have twobands. And FYI, we are a band as well.” “But only inthe virtual world. We don’t spend time rehearsing andplaying gigs,” Hiko justifies their band status. “Maybewe should, though.” Yutaro means it. 65
  72. 72. Episode 14 We Are THE NOVEMBER SUNIn a studio in Amerikamura, a retail and entertainmentarea in the Minami district of Osaka, Yuki and Makiare auditioning Yumi, a drummer whom they met theday before at Miki Gakki, a music shop in Osaka. Theyare overwhelmed with Yumi’s drumming and singingskills. The trio is rocking songs by Lenny Kravitz,Ayumi Hamasaki, Radwimps, and other artists.“Yumi, how come no professional band has signedyou yet?” Maki asks. Yumi blushes and answers shyly.“I don’t know. Maybe because they didn’t think I wascool enough for them?” “Seriously, I think you are ʻcoolenoughʼ and a great musician, and I would like you tojoin our band. What do you say?” Yuki asks with aserious face. Yumi nods fast. “Sure! I like the samemusic you like to play and I feel very comfortablearound you girls.” Maki and Yuki look at each other,smile, and scream, “We found ourselves a drummer!!”Yumi laughs and claps her sticks.“Do you have a name for the band?” The girls arecaught off guard. “Not really,” Maki admits. Yumisuggests, “What about The November Sun? It’sNovember, the sun is shining outside and I think itmatches the mood of your music.” The three of themhold on still for a few moments. “We are The NovemberSun.” Maki mumbles softly. Yuki smiles and shouts, 66
  73. 73. “We are The November Sun —Woohoo!!!” The three girlsscream from the top of their lungs and they startjamming to what is going to be their first original songas The November Sun.After the jam, Yumi and Maki have to go to theirrespective part-time jobs and Yuki gets on the Keihantrain to Hirakata, when she runs into Hiko atYodoyabashi station.“Hey Yuki! Good to see you. Haven’t seen you at allthis week.” Hiko is visibly happy to see Yuki, but hecan feel that she is a bit tense and somehow distant.“Hi Hiko. Yeah, I was busy these past few days. Iapologize for not having had much time to talk or chatonline.” “Yeah, I saw your video with Maki at MikiGakki.” He smiles. “That looked like big fun.” Yuki isembarrassed. “Yeah, it was fun.”“So, did you girls start a band?” Hiko asks. Yukidoesn’t know what to answer. After a few momentsshe gathers all her courage and tells Hiko exactly howshe feels about the entire situation. “Hiko, I’m sorry ifthis comes unexpected, but I think I have to leaveyour band.” The conversation mutes. After a whileYuki continues, “I know it’s not fair from my part,especially since you could have gotten any bass playerand singer you wanted for your band. And after ourgreat gigs at the Kansai Gaidai International Festivalwe got so many contacts and opportunities to play liveclubs and summer festivals and now you’ll have to 67

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