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 ...

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

    • 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 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.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • 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
    • 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 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
    • “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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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, 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • 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 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • “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
    • audition a new bassist and teach him or her all details.”Hiko’s face shows no emotions.Yuki goes on with her explanation, “Please, don’t getme wrong. It’s not that I don’t like to play with youand Junji. Actually, it’s very much the opposite. I’dlove you to include me more into songwriting,marketing, and band life in general. You spend all yourfree time with Yutaro producing songs and I feel youguys are the band and I’m just a sidekick.” Tears fallfrom Yuki’s eyes.“Yuki, I’m sorry you feel that way. But I don’t thinkI’m doing anything wrong here. You participate in thearrangements, you give your own touch to the songs,and without you our band is not the same. You are anindispensable part of the band.” Yuki dries her tearswith her sleeves. “I know you’re not doing anythingwrong. You are doing the right thing for the band.Yutaro and you together can write the greatest songsand view-counts on your individual Youtube channelsare proof enough.”Yuki sighs. “Maybe the problem is that I’m in lovewith you.” There, she said it.The Keihan train enters the station. Passengers get offand it gets busy on the tracks. Yuki’s words still buzzin Hiko’s ears. ‘Maybe the problem is that Iʼm in love withyou.ʼ “How can that be a problem?” Hiko asks himselfand gets the answer from Yuki.“When we play music and you smile at me, when Ising a line and you add a harmony to it, or when you 68
    • send me a message and tell me that you’re lookingforward to seeing me at practice, in class, or at the bar,all I can think of is that it is not right for us to betogether, because it would jeopardize the future of ourband. I hate that bittersweet emotion. I want to bewith you. And if it means that I have to leave theband, so be it. You and Yutaro are a band in any case.People ask for your music, not ours. I guess that is theonly right thing to do then.”The train for Hirakata leaves without them. Hiko isspeechless. Nobody is around anymore. They standnext to each other facing the same direction. Hikoturns to Yuki and moves closer to her. He wipes hertears with a soft handkerchief, caresses her left cheekwith his thumb… and kisses her. Time stands still. Atleast that’s what it feels like for Yuki. As unexpected asher leaving the band might have been for Hiko, thiskiss is for her.The next Keihan train for Hirakata is arriving atYodoyabashi station. “Shall we get onto this one?”Hiko asks with a very soft and caring voice. Yukismiles and they get on the train. Yuki and Hiko sitnext to each other and Yuki puts her head on Hiko’sshoulder. The doors close and the train leaves forHirakata. 69
    • Episode 15 Makiʼs songPeepeepeepeepeep. It’s 4:12 AM and Yuki’s alarm clock ispeeping her way to Yuki’s ears. It takes Yuki only fourpeeps to get off her futon and turn off the alarm. Sheis smiling and the day has not even started yet. Afteryesterday’s encounter with Hiko at Yodoyabashistation, she spent the hours walking around Hirakataand the Katahoko Library with him talking about theirfeelings and how to deal with the band split-up andtheir romantic situation. They decided to grow into thesituation together without rushing anything. The nextimportant step would be for Hiko to talk to Yutaroabout joining forces and finally start playing liveconcerts with their Youtube band.Yuki checks her iPhone for messages. «Told Yutaro thatI’m leaving the band and he didn’t take it very well. Please textme when you’re off work», Maki texted her. “That doesn’tsound good,” Yuki thinks aloud and starts typing onher phone.For the next four hours at Gusto, Yuki serves coffee,tea, and cake to business people, taxi drivers andothers that get up early for work or are on their wayhome from a night shift. She usually doesn’t like herjob, because most people don’t treat her with respectand are not thankful for being served, but today it’sdifferent. Yuki’s smile is able to touch most of hercustomers. They smile back at her and thank Yuki for 70
    • her kindness. “What happened to you? You seemextremely fulfilled and happy,” a colleague asks Yuki.She shrugs. “I guess that’s what they call love.”Knock knock knock. “Yutaro! Are you up?” Maki knockson Yutaro’s door at 5 AM. Nobody is there. “He mustbe jogging,” she assumes and sits down on a benchnext to a rice field in front of the apartment house.One hour passes and still no trace of Yutaro. Makiknocks on his door again, calls his cell phone, textshim, but no response. “Was I really that wrong toleave the band? All I want is for him to succeed and tobe with him, even if it means to sacrifice our band.”Maki’s thoughts bring tears to her eyes. She sits backon the bench and starts writing from her cell phoneonto her blog…Sugoku suki(I’m crazy about you)Anata no koto zembu shiritai(I want to know all about you)Atashi wa anata no, anata wa atashi no mono(I’m yours, you’re mine)Kissu shite mo ii, hazukashi garanaide(May I kiss you? Don’t be shy)Me wo tojite, shimpai shinaide(Close your eyes and don’t worry)xox.…and texts Yutaro the link adding, I’m too shy to tellyou this that is why I will post it on my blog. Hit ormiss, I just want to tell you this. Please comment mypost and tell me what you like the most. I really mean 71
    • everything I said and wrote. Forever yours. Maki packsher stuff and leaves with tears in her eyes.“Hey, Yutaro. Wake up. We gotta get ready for class.”Hiko says in a loud voice to Yutaro, who fell asleep onthe floor at Hiko’s place. “How do you feel thismorning,” Hiko asks his still-sleepy guest. Yutaro rubshis eyes and answers, “Not sure yet.” “Are you goingto talk to Maki again today?” Hiko seems concernedabout his two friends. Yutaro checks his cell phoneand finds Maki’s note and blog post. He smiles. “Ithink I’ll have to clear things up with her.” Then heslightly changes the subject. “You know, I wasn’tplanning on joining your band, Hiko. Working onYoutube is one thing, but starting a band for gigs andstuff is a whole other dimension.” Hiko nods a coupleof times. “I know. But you have to admit, that wetalked about this a few times. And, you came up withthe idea before anyone else. So, I ask you, Don’t youthink this was supposed to happen sooner or later?”Yutaro gets off the floor and stretches his body.“Yeah, you’re probably right. The more I think aboutit, the more the girls are right. But how can two alphamales like us work together in an actual band setting?”Hiko puts his bass in Yutaro’s hands, reaches for hisguitar. “As we’ve been doing for the past couple ofmonths. Like this.” He pushes play on his drummachine, hits the strings and invites Yutaro to joinhim for an early-morning jam.Later in the afternoon Yuki, Yumi, and Maki meet fora spontaneous practice in the same studio they met the 72
    • day before in Amerikamura. “Maki-chan, why haven’tyou returned any of my calls today?” a worried Yukiasks. “I’m really sorry, Yuki, but I just didn’t feel liketalking to anyone and felt more comfortable textingyou. Hope you’re not too mad.” “I understand that.Sometimes I’m too shy to talk on the phone andrather send an email,” Yumi adds. Yuki seems a bitannoyed. “So, why did you want to get together forpractice today? We didn’t prepare much sinceyesterday. And by the way, you still didn’t tell us whatexactly happened with Yutaro yesterday. Hiko just toldme that you fought that they didn’t decide if theywanted to work together as a live band or just keep itas an online project.”Maki bows and apologizes, “First things first.” Makireaches for her phone and plays a demo of a song.“Wow, that is beautiful and rough at the same time.”Yumi’s body starts whipping to the beat. “Maki-chan,I didnt know you knew how to produce songs.”Maki’s new found talent surprises Yuki. “I didn’t knowmyself. After I couldn’t find Yutaro at his place thismorning, I decided to skip classes and write this song.Fortunately, there are thousands of How-To websitesand Youtube videos that teach how to produce songson Garageband. So I made this and would like yougirls to add your parts to it. Now that we are a band, Iwould like to act as a band and create music with you.Let’s not make the same mistake as Yutaro and Hiko.”“I’m in!” Yumi shouts. “Sure as hell that I want to addmy lines to your song.” Yuki gets her Electro Voice 73
    • Raven microphone from her bag. Maki is moved andscreams, “Let’s get this party started!” and the trio ispumped to create their first original song as TheNovember Sun.Because Maki didn’t return Yutaro’s calls, he decidedto go after her. Fortunately, he detected some tweetsand foursquare posts that pointed to the right musicstudio in Amerikamura.At the studio Yutaro approaches the clerk at the frontdesk, “I’m supposed to meet my friends here, a bandwith a girl on guitar and girl on bass, but I don’t knowin which studio.” The clerk tells him to check studioD. Yutaro walks up to studio D and has no idea whatto say to Maki. Then, he hears a beautiful and roughsong blasting from the PA inside the studio. Herecognizes the lyrics right away. It’s the words Makiwrote on her blog for Yutaro embellished with music.He looks through the little window in the door andsees three girls jumping and dancing around to thesong that is playing from Maki’s MacBook throughlarge speakers. Yutaro smiles. “Hm. This is how it’ssupposed to be,” Yutaro realizes. 74
    • Episode 16 Maki & YutaroIt’s the last week of November and stores in Japan arestarting to put up Christmas decorations. Maki, Yuki,and Yumi are rushing through the new music releasessection at Tsutaya in Namba after practice, when Makiasks her friends, “Why does every popular artist haveto release a Christmas song or even an album?” Yukianswers while checking out the new Ayumi Hamasakialbum, “You gotta monetize where you can and takeadvantage of holiday seasons. I mean, why doAmerican film studios bring out Christmas movies onChristmas, or Valentine’s Day movies on Valentine’sDay?”Yumi jumps in before Yuki can answer her ownquestion, “Because it wouldn’t make sense to release aChristmas movie in July.” Yuki goes on, “Thank you,Yumi. They want to make the most out of theemotions that are floating around during that exacttime. And, if you take a look at American sitcoms orsoap operas you’ll realize that they do the same withbasically every holiday. Christmas, Valentine’s Day,Halloween, that turkey holiday…” “You mean,Thanksgiving,” Maki corrects. “Yes, Thanksgiving.Thank you, Maki.” Yuki laughs at her own faux pas.Yumi adds, “I guess we should also play someChristmas songs then.” Maki and Yuki look at her indisbelieve. 75
    • “What did I say wrong?” Yumi asks with anembarrassed look on her face. “We’ve only publishedone original song on Youtube and have notestablished our band as a rock band yet. I don’t thinkthat releasing Christmas songs before releasing anactually album, or at least an EP, with originals wouldhelp our brand.” Yuki seems gridlocked in heropinion.Maki contributes, “But maybe we could just grab ouracoustic instruments and play a few Christmas songsat Hirakata station, in Umeda, and at Gaidai. Just sopeople know that we actually exist as a band. And wecan hand out flyers to promote our Youtube channel.”Yuki agrees and adds. “If we play our own songs—and we don’t have many of them—people might notstop on the street and listen to us. But if we playChristmas songs now, it is more likely that they stopand check us out. And if we can make a couple ofgood videos from our performances and publish themonto Youtube, we might even attract people thatwouldn’t find our channel in the first place.”Yuki reflects for a few moments. “You girls discussedthis behind my back, didn’t you? Ah. You know what?It doesn’t even matter, because you’re right and Iactually like the idea. We should do that. But you girlsbetter get me an acoustic bass for those performance.”Maki is visibly excited. “Don’t worry, I already puttogether a great set list and worked out the perfectarrangements for the songs.” Yumi smiles from ear toear and claps her hands in a typical Japanese way. 76
    • It’s past 9 AM and the first classes of the day at KansaiGaidai University already started. Maki is rushing tothe wrong classroom. “Ain’t you supposed to go tobuilding 2 for your class?” a male voice asks Maki. Sheturns around and recognizes Yutaro sitting at a table inthe hallway of building 1. “I’m not sure.” Yutaro surfshis iPad to check today’s class schedules. “You gotInternational Logistics now, right? Room 212. Thatmeans, building 2, first floor.” “Thank you.” She walkstowards Yutaro and sits down next to him.“Yutaro, I’m sorry I didn’t return any of your calls thispast week. And I’m sorry I didn’t want to see you. Iwas just very hurt because of your reaction after I toldyou I would leave the band.” Silence fills the hallway.After a while, Yutaro replies in a very calm voice,“And I apologize for having reacted like that. It felt asif you didn’t want to be with me anymore, eventhough we were never officially a couple. It felt as if Iwas losing you.” Tear fall from Maki’s eyes. “I know,Yutaro. Hiko told me everything.”Yutaro confesses, “And when I saw you girls dancingand singing to your new song at the studio inAmerikamura last week, I knew I was wrong.” Heasks, “By the way, how do you like my cover of yoursong?” Maki smiles and wipes her tears. “I like it a lot.Thank you very much, and thank you for asking thatukulele player to make a ukulele cover of the song. Wegot quite some traffic on our Youtube channel thanksto you guys.” They both smile and Yutaro puts his left 77
    • arm around Maki. She rests her head on his shoulderfor a minute, which feels like forever.“Why don’t you go to class now and meet me afterschool, so you can tell me everything I missed out onthis past week?” Yutaro suggests. Students start to fillthe hallway before the bell for the next class rings. “I’dreally like that.” Maki gets up and looks around. Manyof her friends and members from the music club arearound. She bents towards Yutaro and leaves a kiss onhis right cheek. “I’ll see you later.” Maki smiles. Yutaroholds her back and kisses Maki on her lips. “Lookingforward to it.” Maki and Yutaro know that everythingwill be okay, at least for the moment. 78
    • Episode 17 Rockinʼ around the Christmas tree with a ukulele“What’s that red hat you’re wearing?” Yuki asks Yumiin a rather harsh tone, while waiting for Maki in thelounge of Kansai Gaidai’s gym. “Well, since today isDecember 6, I decided to wear this to celebrate SantaClause Day,” Yumi answers. “Santa Claus Day? Areyou just making it up or is there really a Santa ClausDay?” Yuki looks doubtful. Yumi smiles and teachesYuki after starting a browser on her cell phone, “Letme see. Ah, here we have it. According to Wikipedia,«Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas and abunch of other names, is a figure who, in manyWestern cultures, brings gifts to the homes of thegood children during the late evening and overnighthours of Christmas Eve, December 24 or on his FeastDay, December 6.» And that is Saint Nicholas Day.See?” Yuki nods. “I see.” “And that’s why I amwearing this hat today. Besides, it’s nice to spread thespirit of Christmas also visually.”Yumi seems excited about this Christmas season.“Yeah, yeah. I’m not really into Christmas. You girlsseemed so excited about playing these Christmas gigsthat I didn’t want to spoil your enthusiasm.” Yuki issetting up her Ampeg micro stack and Maki’s Marshallmini stack to practice their Christmas set, which theywill premier on the circle stage at Kansai Gaidai 79
    • tonight. “Yumi, that is a great hat!” Maki complimentsher friend. Her energized mood spills over to Yumi,whose hands start clapping and feet start jumping.“Here you are your acoustic bass for the Christmasgigs.” Maki hands over a small and light case to Yuki.The case looks as if it would only fit a violin in it,certainly no bass guitar. Yuki frowns, “Is this a bassassembly kit? Where the hell is my acoustic bass?”Yumi and Maki laugh. “Open it!” Yumi orders. Yukiputs the little case on a table. She opens it and finds abaritone ukulele equipped with extremely thick gummychords. “You gotta be kidding me!” Yuki is notpleased with what she sees. She takes the ukulele/bassout of the case and tries to play it.“This is no bass. It’s acoustic but definitely no bass.”Yumi teaches Yuki about the UBass, “It’s a fretlessKala UBass. It’s a very short-scale bass in a baritoneukulele mahogany body with black polyurethanestrings. The tension is very low, I have to admit, butonce you plug it in and find out how best to play it,you’ll love it—I promise. There are different artists onYoutube promoting the UBass with acoustic music, soMaki and I thought, it would be great for you to try itduring these Christmas concerts. Please, just give it ashot, okay?”Yuki sighs. She picks up a cable and sits down on astool next to her micro cabinet. She plugs in the UBassand turns up the volume to 5. Pluck. Mmmwoaw~~~.The Ubass sings like a bird! Yuki is amazed by the 80
    • colorful sound she is bringing out of her tiny acousticbass.“Oh my God, this instrument is amazing!” she admits.Yumi and Maki watch Yuki playing fantastic fretless-style bass lines on her newfound love and hurry to getready to jump in and jam with her. They jam to allChristmas songs they will be playing later on tonight,just to get a feel for the arrangements and for the miniinstruments they will be using for the set.“So, will you be playing that ukulele tonight as well?”Yuki asks Maki. “Oh yes. I’m very much lookingforward to it.” “But tell me something. What’s the dealwith this ukulele or small instruments hype anyway?Did the recession hit musicians so hard that they can’tafford real instruments anymore?” Yuki asks with asmile.Yumi explains, “That is one possible answer. I thinkthat in the past few years—especially thanks toYoutube—a bunch of very creative musicians broughtthe ukulele closer to the masses and it finally found itsway to popular music. For instance, the hit song Hey,Soul Sister by Train features a ukulele, and Brother Iz’scover of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is played onukulele as well, just to mention a couple. And thenthere’s a huge and thriving ukulele community calledUkulele Underground with many, many members thatspread ukulele music all across the net and reachpeople all over the world. Not to forget JakeShimabukuro and Aldrine Guerrero as the ukulelesuperstars.” 81
    • Maki adds, “And when I play my ukulele, I feel likeholding a baby in my arms. And that makes me veryhappy.” The three of them laugh and Yuki responds,“Just don’t tell Yutaro, otherwise he might try to makeyou a gift that ships in nine month.” Now they laugheven louder.Hiko, Yutaro, and Junji are rehearsing their set in themusic studio in Korien. “Sounded good, guys. HeyHiko, do you think you can try a less distorted soundnext time?” Junji asks. “I will. I found it to hard aswell. I’ll work on it at home.”Yutaro changes the topic, “Guys, I got contacted by abooker in Tokyo, who asked if we want to play acouple of gigs in the week between Christmas andNew Year’s Eve in Tokyo and Yokohama, and if ourperformances are convincing, he might be able toarrange a few talks with some other bookers from hisagency.”Junji jumps at Yutaro. “That’s awesome!” But Hikobrings down the excitement, “I’m very much up forthe gigs, and I think it’s always good to talk to peoplefrom the business, especially if they approach us.Nonetheless, I would like for us not to rush anything.We are building a strong and solid brand and I don’twant any agency or company to jump in, benefit fromthe work we’ve done so far, and take over ourbusiness.”“What are you talking about? A booking agency won’ttell us what to do. They will just look for gigs and take 82
    • their 20 percent, or whatever share they want, andsend us off to rock some stages.” Junji is still pumpedby the opportunity.“Can’t we do that ourselves or by bringing someonewe know on board?” Hiko asks. Junji doesn’tunderstand Hiko’s concerns. “Why should we do that,if professionals are interested in us? I don’t know whatyou’re afraid of.” Yutaro tries to calm down hisbandmates, “Guys, take it easy. I think the both of youare right and that we need to explore both options.First of all, we have no idea if they really want to sign abooking deal with us and what kind of deal that wouldbe. And, on the other hand, why not think aboutworking with someone we know that has knowledgeof the music business in Japan and is a good salesperson.”Yutaro’s words cool down the atmosphere. He asksHiko, “Were you thinking of someone in particular?”“Hatoyama-san.” Hiko’s answer confuses Yutaro andJunji. 83
    • Episode 18 Rockinʼ around the Christmas tree on Circle Stage“Are you out of your mind?” Junji questions Hiko’sability to think straight. “Common Junji, no need to berude,” Yutaro keeps his cool and turns to Hiko. “Iunderstand that Hatoyama-san is a big shot in themusic business and that he could pull some strings forus and make things happen in a rather traditional way.But his mindset is still very old school and he has noidea how the new marketing works. For him a bandneeds to book a studio, hire a recording engineer andan established producer to create an album, printmusic on physical mediums, and spend a ton ofmoney for promotion. And that is definitely not whatwe have in mind and how we do things.”Hiko replies, “I don’t know why, but since wediscussed matters after our warm-up concert at theKansai Gaidai International Festival, I feel that I cantrust him. And let’s be honest, if we set up a contractwe all can sign without nothing to worry, it doesn’tmatter if it’s Hatoyama-san or someone else.”Junji’s temper is still boiling. “Dude, we almostdisbanded, because of that Hatoyama guy, andhonestly, I still don’t trust him. I don’t know him, andI don’t like him. And have you thought about Yuki?How is she going to take the news that your ex-girlfriend’s dad will be our booker and might come to 84
    • our gigs with his daughter, or better, your ex-girlfriend?” “Junji has a very valid point there,” Yutaroadds. Hiko knows that his friends are right, but hecan’t help it. He simply wants to work with Mr.Hatoyama.Meanwhile at Kansai Gaidai, Maki, Yuki, and Yumi aresetting up their backline on the circle stage betweenthe cafeteria and McDonald’s for their first publicperformance ever as a trio. Since many Internationalstudents are already done with their final exams andare just sticking around until the very end of thesemester to return to their respective countries, ahandful of them are helping the girls to set up the PAand lights and many others are simply waiting for thetrio to start playing.“I’m still not sure this was a good idea,” Yukicomplains to her bandmates. “Awww, is little Yuki-chan getting nervous?” Maki teases her. “If we screwup I’ll blame the whole thing on you and will set theUBass on fire.” Yuki’s statement sounds very serious.“Yeah, yeah, yeah. And if it’s a success I’ll have toshare the compliments with you girls—obviously.”Maki smiles at Yuki while tuning her Kala concertukulele.“Are you girls ready to rock the Christmas spirit intoour lost souls with your tiny instruments?” Yutaroapproaches the stage with a big grin on his face.“You’ll be surprised how hard we will rock you withour mini instruments!” Yumi shoots a threatening, yet 85
    • ironic look at Yutaro. Maki jumps offstage and meetsYutaro halfway.“How was practice?” she asks and gives him a kiss.Yutaro answers, “Practice was good, but afterwards,when we started discussing the possibility of signingwith a professional booking agency, Hiko drifted intoa weird mood. He said he wants to have Hatoyama-san as our booker.” Maki frowns in disbelieve.“What? That’s weird. Why would he want that?” “Ihave absolutely no idea. He said he trusts him.” Yukiapproaches and Yutaro switches to a different topic.“So, Yuki, how do you like your ukulelebass?” Yukianswers, “If I could play some slap bass on it, I’d loveit. In the meantime, I just like it.” “That’s goodenough,” Junji replies from behind the stage. Hiko andJunji greet some friends that are sitting on theplatform in front of the circle stage.“Hey rockstar, how was your day so far?” Yuki smilesat Hiko and puts her arms around his neck. “It wasokay, but I’m confident that it will be better soon.”Hiko kisses his girlfriend. “Really? What will makeyour day better than it has been up until now?” Yukismiles and Hiko answers, “Well, first, you and yourladies will give us a taste of uke rock music withChristmas songs, and second, we will have to celebrateyour successful first acoustic gig.” “I’m not surethere’ll be anything to celebrate. These tinyinstruments are a lot of fun, but I’m not very positivethat people will like this.” Hiko assures Yuki, “Don’tworry. You’ll be fine. Plus, everyone likes little 86
    • instruments. They’re cute and yours even sound good.Just show us how much fun you have on that stage.Like when we played the open-air stage at theInternational Festival.” Hiko’s words make Yuki veryhappy. “You’re the best!” She hugs him.“Yuki-chan, it’s time!” Maki shouts from the stage.“Off you go.” Hiko lets his girlfriend go. Yuki runs tothe stage and tunes her UBass one last time, whileHiko sits down.“May I sit next to you?” an older man asks. Hiko looksup. “Ah! Hatoyama-san. Sure!” Hiko is surprised tosee him. “I was giving a presentation and overheard agroup of students talking about an all-girl band playingan acoustic set out here after classes, so I thought todrop by and see if there were other great musicians atGaidai besides you.” They both smile.“Isn’t the girl playing that UBass your bass player?”Mr. Hatoyama asks Hiko. He answers, “She used tobe. We basically restructured two bands. She joinedanother guitar player, whose bass player then joinedmy band.” “I guess that’s the guy you produce songswith online, right?” “You’re well-informed, Hatoyama-san.” “I read your blog and follow everything you do,”Mr. Hatoyama admits. Today’s discussion aboutsigning with a booking agency still bothers Hiko andhe just has to ask Mr. Hatoyama, “Hatoyama-san, canI ask you for advice on something music related?” Henods. 87
    • Hiko continues, “Bookers and promoters have beenapproaching us and we’ve been talking about signing adeal, but I’m not quite sure if that’s a good idea. Wedon’t know them and I’m afraid they don’t understandwhat we are aiming for. That’s why I wanted to askyou, if you’d want to be our booker.” Mr. Hatoyamareplies, “I’m flattered, Hiko, but do you rememberthat I offered you my help in a professional contractand you didn’t want to take it because you didn’t trustme?” “Yes, I remember.” “And do you remember thatwe agreed on being friends, no strings attached, youteach me about this new social media business thingand I help you guys out as far as I can?” “Yes, weagreed on that,” Hiko replies.“Then, why don’t we just leave it to that? I’m sureyou’ll do fine. Also, it’s good to do business withpeople you don’t know. Thomas Jefferson once said,‘Merchants have no country.’ In my understanding hemeant that if people that don’t know each other dobusiness together, emotions wouldn’t affect theirdecision-making. Therefore, I advice you to look for abooker that has no personal connection to your band,and business will be strictly professional.” “But what ifI can’t trust that booker?” “I think you’re having sometrust issues here. Don’t you, Hiko? In any case, youshould get to know that booker and set up a contractthat has been approved by a lawyer. And if you can’tafford a lawyer, I can go over it, if you’d like me to. Ithink, I have enough knowledge of the business to 88
    • assist you and your band in this matter—still, strictlyas a friend, without touching any money.”A loud voice shoots from the PA and interrupts theirdiscussion, “Minna-san, we are very pleased you alljoined us for this special outdoor Christmas concertfeaturing this newly-formed band. Please give it up forMaki, Yuki, and Yumi: The November Sun!” The triostarts playing Rockinʼ Around The Christmas Tree in anacoustic uke rock version and brings a big smile to theentire audience, also to Mr. Hatoyama. He tells Hiko,“They sound great. I’m impressed. And the girl singingand playing bass has so much charisma. She must be avery special person.” Hiko can’t stop smiling. “Shedefinitely is.” “Do you know her well?” Hiko answers,“Yes… She is my girlfriend.”Mr. Hatoyama is pleased. “Keep her tight. She mightbe the muse the musician in you has been lookingfor,” he concludes and leans back to enjoy the show. 89
    • Episode 19 Santa, his wife, and a couple of sexy elvesThe acoustic Christmas concerts at Gaidai, Hirakatastation and in downtown Osaka were successful andYumi, Yuki, and Maki have learned a valuable lesson:It doesn’t matter how you present your art, as long asyou do it in an innovative, creative, and authentic way.Even if Yuki wasn’t convinced at first, she grew intoher role and became one with it after realizing howmuch fun it was to play that UBass in an all-tiny-instruments band with Maki and Yumi.Yumi, Yuki, and Maki are having desert after anintensive afternoon karaoke party in Namba. “I hadgreat fun playing these acoustic concerts, but I missedmany hours of work and need a second part-time jobfor over these Christmas holidays. Do you know anystore that has open positions in Osaka?” Yumi asksher friends. “Wait a sec…” Maki pulls a newspaperout of her bag.“Check this out. This store in Amerikamura is lookingfor four people who’d have to dress up as Santa Claus,his wife, and two elves on the 24th of December andplay with customers and their kids.” Yumi is notconvinced. “I don’t think they want a female Santa.”Yuki joins the conversation, “We could ask Yutaro,Hiko, or Junji to play Santa and you could play sexyMrs. Santa.” “And we could play two sexy elves,”Maki adds. Yumi likes the idea. “Plus, they pay very 90
    • well. ¥2,000 an hour and 10 hours of work. Thatmakes ¥20,000 (approx. $200).”Yumi and Yuki are excited about the possibility. “Let’scall up this store to see if they’re still looking forpeople and message one of the boys afterwards,” Yukisuggests. Maki grabs her cell phone and steps outsidethe coffee place to call the store. Three minutes latershe comes back in with exciting news. “They said allpositions are still open and we should go talk to themas soon as possible.” Yumi suggests, “Let’s go now!”She is desperate to get the one-day Mrs. Santa job.Yuki gets her phone out of her pocket and dials Junji’snumber. “Let me check if Junji is available right now.”“Don’t you want to ask Hiko first?” Maki asks Yuki.“I think, Hiko and Yutaro rather work on their musicthan play Santa,” she answers and continues, “and ifthey want to come hang out with us, while we talk andplay with children, they can still do that.” Junji picksup the phone and agrees to meet the three girls inAmerikamura in 20 minutes.When the girls arrive at the apparel store inAmerikamura twenty-five minutes later, Junji is alreadydiscussing the positions with the manager of the storeand greets his future team, while shaking hands withthe hiring manager, “And this is my team. Nakashima-san, may I introduce you to Yumi, Maki, and Yuki,also known as The November Sun.” The girls shout inunison, “Hajimemashite!” and bow. The manager bowsand introduces himself, then seals the deal with Junji 91
    • and wishes them a nice day. The four of them leavethe store.“What happened?” Yumi asks Junji with a big smile onher face. “I was here a bit early and thought I shouldstart dealing with the hiring manager right awayinstead of waiting for you. And since you girls ain’t thebest when it comes to sell yourself for this kind ofthings, you sure don’t mind, right? Anyway. We gotthe job and I was even able to persuade him to pay us¥2,500 an hour…” The girls shout and do the typicalJapanese jump-dance. “BUT,” Junji adds, “you’ll haveto play three Christmas songs every hour on yourukulele.” The girls know that it is good promotion fortheir band, and thank Junji by group-hugging him.At Hard Rock Café in Hommachi, close toAmerikamura, Yutaro and Hiko are discussing seriousmatters over a couple of drinks. “I talked toHatoyama-san about being our booker,” Hikoconfesses to Yutaro. “And what did he say?” Yutarodoesn’t seem nervous at all. “He doesn’t want to beour booker or agent or anything like that. But heoffered his help as a friend, if we need anything likelegal advice.” Hiko stops and takes a sip from hisOzzmosis drink.Yutaro asks him, “And that is okay with you?” Hikonods, “Yes, it is. I don’t know what was going oninside of me. Somehow I felt, and sometimes still feel,that everything is becoming bigger than I can handle.”Hiko’s honest words sound heavy. 92
    • “Don’t worry, buddy. You’re not alone. You and meare partners in crime and Junji is our pumping V8engine. Look at it that way, our situation can becompared to the Dragonball story, when Goku andKuririn work out for their first tournament: Our bandis Kame House, you are Goku, I’m Yamucha, andJunji is Kuririn. We work out together and create artto make our master proud with a great product. Andfinally, we will prove our strength at the tournament,which in our world would be the stages in Tokyo andYokohama—at least for now.” Yutaro’s metaphormakes Hiko laugh.“Yeah, you’re right. And I appreciate that you guysmake this band your number one priority.” Hikothanks Yutaro by raising his glass. “So, shall we driveto Tokyo or shall we go by night bus?” Hiko finisheshis drink, when Yutaro pulls out an envelope. “Well,the organizers of the two gigs thought they’d pay fortransportation. And since we should travelcomfortable, they booked ’executive class overnight bustickets’ from Osaka to Tokyo, roundtrip!!”Yutaro and Hiko get all excited, when Junji comesthrough the front door. He sits down in the booth,orders a Sex on the Beach, and finds the executiveclass overnight bus tickets on the table. “No way?! Thisis too good to be true. And we’re not even rockstarsyet.” Junji is still amazed by the treatment they’rereceiving. Yutaro brings his friend down to his feet,“Well, if we were rockstars, we’d get our private jet 93
    • flying us from Osaka to Tokyo. But this is prettyawesome already.”“Let’s celebrate.” Hiko suggests and all of them raisetheir classes. “To a rockin’ time in Tokyo!” Hiko,Junji, and Yutaro have never felt this connected as aband before. 94
    • Episode 20 Have yourself a merry little Christmas in AmerikamuraIt’s the 24th of December. Junji, Maki, Yumi, and Yukiare dressed up in their respective costumes and areready to pick up their one-day job in Amerikamura.Junji, dressed up as Santa Claus, sits in a big red andgolden chair that looks like a throne. He is waiting forthe first customers to bring in their children and putthem onto Santa’s lap for a picture and a wish. Thisisn’t a typical Japanese tradition, but thanks toAmerican TV shows, younger Japanese generationsknow what the festivity is about and enjoy thecharacter of Santa.From his chair, Junji can see across the street to a café,where a young mother is feeding a physically andmentally disabled child in a wheelchair. Junji assumesit’s her child. The disabled girl, about 14 years of age,isn’t able to eat the sweet bun by herself. Her motherfeeds it to her, and since there’s a lot of cream in it, amess on the table and the young girl’s cloths is toexpect. Nonetheless, the mother keeps her genuinesmile and is visibly fulfilled by the look of her childenjoying the sweet.“When do you see these beautiful things here inJapan?” Junji asks his friends, standing next to hischair. They were watching the scene as well. “That’sheartbreaking. I admire people like that. They must be 95
    • amazing human beings with an incredible amount oflove to share with the world.” Maki’s eyes get watery.“What about we stand in front of that café and play afew Christmas songs, just for them?” Maki’s ideaquickens the group. They grab a couple of ukulelesthat are standing behind Santa’s chair and moveoutside, right in front of the young woman and herchild. Maki looks at her friends, “I play, you guyssing.”She starts strumming and they sing… Have yourself amerry little Christmas…♪ 96
    • Episode 21 After Tokyo is simply after TokyoYuki is riding the very first Keihan train to Osaka topick up Hiko from his trip to Tokyo with the band.She is very excited to have him back after one week,and she wants to hear all about their gigs and the talkswith the bookers from that agency that wants to signthem. They didn’t have much time to talk on thephone this past week. Yuki had to work a lot and Hikowas always invited to networking meetings with peoplefrom the music business. Networking is a must andYuki knows that.“Perfect timing.” Yuki gets to the bus stop right whenthe bus arrives. She has never had the chance to ride inan Executive Class overnight bus, but she is confidentthat someday she will be able to do that.“Hiko!” Yuki waves and shouts when she sees himgetting off the bus. “Yuki!” Hiko’s face lightens up.Yuki pushes a kiss onto his lips and asks, “How wasyour trip?” Hiko points to the bus, “What do youthink? Believe me, once you travel Executive Class youdon’t want to travel economy anymore.” “Whateveryou say, you rockstar!” Yutaro jokes and pushes Hikoto the side, while handling their guitar cases.“Hi Yuki. Did you come with Maki?” He asks. “Shewanted to come, but she had to work early at the cakeshop.” Yutaro is a bit disappointed. “Yukiiii!!!” a well- 97
    • rested Junji shouts in the coolest way possible askingfor a high-five. “I guess you enjoyed Tokyo?” Yukiasks. Junji takes up a Julius Caesar-like position andsays in a theatrical voice, “We went, we saw, and werocked!” They all laugh.In a Starbucks nearby, Hiko tells Yuki all about theconcerts and the meetings they had in Tokyo andYokohama in the week between Christmas and NewYear’s.“It was such a great experience. When we first got toTokyo, early in the morning, the booker thatorganized the trip picked us up with his assistant andthey brought us to the hotel to take a nap and freshenup. The hotel was in Shinjuku and had everything youcould have asked for.” Yuki affirms, “I can imagine. Isaw your tweets and the pictures on Facebook.” Hikocontinues, “Then they introduced us to the CEO ofthe booking agency, who I already knew from myYoutube channel. He often comments on my videosand apparently he also follows me on Twitter. Isn’tthat great?” His own story gets him all excited.“Tell me about the concerts!” Yuki wants to know.Hiko moves closer to Yuki.“As you might have seen on the pictures I postedonline, there were about 500 people in the audience inTokyo as well as in Yokohama. The guys from theband we opened for, Floor9—they just got signed by amajor label and will be breaking through soon,according to their manager—were really nice and told 98
    • us a lot about how they got where they are now. Butthere is a way easier way than how they decided to doit. They did it the traditional way with going to astudio, producing physical CDs, and everything thatcomes with that, whereas today bands like us have thepossibility to spread music through social media.Anyway, the gigs were a blast! Many of the people inthe audience wore the shirts we sell online throughSpreadshirt and knew the words to Inakute Sabishii,Youtubers Unite! and even to Makiʼs Song. They sangwith us. That was simply amazing!” Hiko can’t hide hisenthusiasm, and Yuki shows her happiness for themby pressing his hand and smiling.“So, what’s going to happen now?” Yuki is eager toknow what’s going to come next for Hiko, Yutaro,and Junji. Hiko leans back.“Not much—at least for the next six months. We justproceed with producing songs for Youtube andiTunes, play some gigs on weekends—preferablylocal—and we keep going to Gaidai to get ourbachelor degree.” Yuki is baffled.“I don’t get it. They didn’t want to sign you? But itsounded as if everything was great.” Hiko smiles. “No,no. They wanted to sign us already and they would stillgive us a great deal, but Hiko, Junji, and I realized thatwe’re just not ready for such a commitment yet. Ourset list is very good, but not remarkable. And as SethGodin says, Very good is bad. You gotta be remarkable.” 99
    • Yuki laughs heartily. “You really like quoting SethGodin, don’t you?”“I’m just afraid that we sign one deal, then we’ll signanother deal, and sooner or later we’re too deep into awhole mess that doesn’t reflect what we want toreflect and maybe even has control over our ownmusic.” Hiko gets more thoughtful, when Yuki askshim, “Do you know what you exactly want?” “Yes. Iwant to play music I like, with people I like, for peoplethat like it, plus, whenever I like to.” Hiko’s wordstouch Yuki.He adds, “The exclusiveness of these deals alwaysbothers me. I think the incident with the GenjiHatoyama Band taught me well. Why should I give upmy freedom and control, when I’m always connectedto people that like my music and spread the word?One executive we met in Tokyo told us that we’d haveto give up control over all our social media sites andlet them do it.” “Yeah, I read that on your Facebook,but I don’t think it’s always like that.” Yuki takes a sipfrom her Matcha tea.“Anyway. We told the booking agency that if theywant to book us for gigs on weekends in Osaka, theyare more than welcome to do so, but we won’t sign adeal or go on tour. And they agreed on that.” Hikoseems happy with that agreement. “But we told themthat if transportation and hotel is covered, we mightconsider playing other cities as well. And comes thesummer, we will consider playing festivals. However,much will happen until then and we have no clue 100
    • where we will be with our lives.” Yuki moves ontoHiko’s lap and they cuddle. 101
    • Episode 22 All these glitters are pure goldToday is Seijin no Hi in Japan, or in English, Coming ofAge Day. On this national holiday, January 10, allyoung people who turn twenty this year are celebrated.They can be seen wandering around the streets ofJapan in large groups, but Maki, Yuki, and Yumidecide to celebrate just in their little party of three.The trio was out all night celebrating their massivesurge of online fans. Since Hiko, Junji, and Yutaroplayed in Tokyo in the last week of December,hundreds of people subscribed to the The November SunYoutube channel and more subscribers join on a dailybasis. Maybe it’s because they played Maki’s song andlinked their channel and other pages to the girls’channel. Maki, Yuki, and Yumi still don’t know anddon’t care. All they care about is that their musicreaches people who enjoy it.“What time is it?” a tipsy Yuki asks her companionswhile walking down Midosuji Dori in Shinsaibashi.“5:55,” Maki answers. “Look at those beautifulgirls…” Yumi points to a dozen of beautifully dressedgirls taking one little step at the time in their Kimonos.“Ain’t your parents mad at you for choosing not tocelebrate Seijin no Hi with them?” Maki asks with aconcerned look.Yumi replies with a smile, “No, they understood whenI told them that I wanted to celebrate with you girls. 102
    • Besides, I’ll be celebrating over a nice dinner withthem tonight.”Maki’s phone rings. She still has Ken Hirai’s 2006 hit-song, POP STAR as her default ringtone. ♫ I wanna bea pop star, kimi wo motto ♫ and as she always does, shedances along, which drives Yuki crazy. “Girl, youreally gotta change that ringtone. It’s soooooannoying!”Maki picks up, “Moshi moshi.” It’s Yutaro telling hersomething that makes Maki’s jar fall open. “Didsomething bad happen?” “What happened? Tell us!”Yumi and Yuki are worried. “Okay, see you later!”Maki hangs up… silence… Maki browses through hercell phone, searching for something, when shesuddenly screams from the top of her lungs. Yumi andYuki shout in unison, “What?” “Our video for Maki’sSong is featured on Perez Hilton’s blog and we gotmore than 100,000 views overnight!” The girls areecstatic.After calming down, Yuki asks, “How could that havehappened? What did we do?” Yumi shrugs. “I’m notsure. I think it was just good to upload all those videoswe took while rehearsing and the videos from theChristmas concerts. It’s obvious that the more videoswe have on our channel, the more different people wecan attract. And sooner or later someone influentialwill get across one of our videos, which he likes andlinks it on her blog.” 103
    • Yuki adds, “And sharing our Youtube videos on allthe other social media platforms we use acceleratesthat process. Glad a couple of our songs are alreadyapproved and ready to be bought on iTunes and theother online music stores. I wonder if we sell anyMP3s, since we also give them away for free on oursite?” The girls look at each other with big smiles andlet another shout of triumph run free.Maki admits, “I don’t care if anyone buys our MP3s.I’m happy as long as people visit us online and enjoywhat they see and hear and share it with their friends.”Then, Yumi comes up with an idea, “Why don’t werecord a song right now, live and raw, to thankeveryone for having subscribed?” “How shall we dothat?” Maki asks.Yumi explains, “We all have cell phones with videocameras. Let’s ask Yutaro, Junji, and Hiko, if theywould film us while we play and then we’ll cut ittogether as a multi-window video, like that ukulele guyYutaro likes to get ideas from, and for the audio, wejust use the best one.” “Awesome idea. Let’s do that!”Yuki says with excitement. Maki nods. Yuki texts theirfriends to meet in a couple of hours in the musicstudio in Korien and they all text back agreeing tohelp.Hiko, Junji, and Yutaro meet up at Korien station.When they get to the studio, they see a crowd standingin front of one of the studio rooms, in which a band isrocking out. Everybody is visibly excited. Yutaro tellshis friends, “I got a deja-vu. This is like the time when 104
    • Yuki auditioned for you guys, and the entire musicclub wanted to get a glimpse of your studioatmosphere.”Junji replies, “And I wouldn’t be surprised if thatcrowd is cramming in front of the window to see Yukiand her girls.” The music in that said room stops and afew moments later, Maki steps outside wearing abeautiful kimono. She fights her way through thecrowd until she stands in front of her three friends,who are speechless. “Glad you guys could make it.Thank you so much!” Maki bows.Finally, Junji gets his speech back, “You looktremendously awesome!” Yutaro doesn’t know whatto say, so he just adds, “You’re beautiful!” Maki smilesand blushes. A girl’s voice shouts from inside theroom, “Hey, let’s get going. We’re paying money forthis.”Yumi and Yuki give the guys a big smile when theyenter the room and ask, “Do you like it?” Theirquestion is related to their fashion. Hiko notices,“You’re all wearing a kimono.” And Junji asks, “Doesit have anything to do with the fact that today is Seijinno Hi?” Yumi explains, “Actually, yes. We thought,since it’s Seijin no Hi, and we just got featured ondifferent blogs, we should make a Thank You videofor all fans and supporters in a kimono.” Yuki adds,“And without sounding too smugly, we simply lookfabulous in our kimonos, don’t we?” Everybodylaughs with joy. 105
    • “This is how we’ll do it:” Yumi starts explaining howshe’d like to have it, “Hiko, Junji, Yutaro, each of youtake one of our cell phones and film us while we play acouple of tunes. You stand in different angles and filmanother band member. Say, Hiko takes Yuki’s cellphone and films her, Yutaro films Maki with her cellphone, and Junji, you’ll take my cell phone and filmme playing the drums. After that, you’ll send me yourfiles and I’ll cut the video on Final Cut Express.Alright?” They proceed as explained by Yumi.“What songs are you going to play now?” Hiko asks.The girls grin and Yumi answers, "First we want to sayThank you to all our subscribers with a cover ofYoutubers Unite!, and then, we thought we shouldreturn the favor, since you guys promoted our channela lot in the past, and cover one of your songs. So, hitthe record button now! Here we go…Ichi, ni, san, shi!” 106
    • Episode 23 The World is not flat enoughIt’s a cold but serene January evening in Hirakata.Yuki and Maki are spending the evening with muffinsand Matcha drinks at a Starbucks, close to HirakataKeihan Station.“It was a great idea making those ‘Thank you’ videosin our kimonos.” Yuki is browsing through the massof comments that piled up ever since they uploadedthe videos, when all of a sudden she sighs. She putsdown her cell phone and throws a glove to the otherside of the table, where Maki is sitting in a comfortablegreen armchair with a cup in her hands.“What was that for?” Maki shouts. “I’ve beenanswering all comments for the past week and I’mgetting tired of it. Can’t you take over?” Yuki isannoyed and puts on a sad face. Maki starts laughing.“Common, you baby. You volunteered. You musthave seen it coming.” “No, I didn’t! I thought peopledon’t comment much online. And replying to 30 or socomments in total is no big thing. But we get 30comments every day and that is just too much for me tohandle!”Yuki is clearly stressed out about it. Maki grabs Yuki’scell phone and suggests, “Okay, let me handle thereplies for the next couple of days, so you can relaxand spend your free time writing songs and think 107
    • about how we can best produce songs as remotecollaborations.”Yuki leans back and takes a big bite from herblueberry muffin. She asks with a mouth full of muffincrumbles, “Why do we need to make remote collabs?We live so close from each other and we always recordin a studio anyways. That’s how we do things.” Makikeeps her eyes on the screen and answers, “But thingschange.” Yuki isn’t getting Maki’s point and has tofollow up, “What do you mean by that?” Maki sighsand puts down the cell phone.“Yuki, do you remember that I always wanted to studymusic in the US and that I was checking out all thosecolleges of music?” Yuki nods. Maki continues, “Well,I kept following a handful of US music colleges onTwitter and Facebook, just to receive news from them,and since I’m convinced that what they do is great, Ialso retweeted and shared some material with myfriends online. Because of that, a handful of thesecolleges kept in touch with me and followed me back.”Pause. “Still not getting your point.” Yuki lookspuzzled. Maki takes a deep breath and cuts to thepoint, “I’ll be leaving for the US next week, to studymusic at McNally Smith College of Music.” Maki isvisibly tense and Yuki is in shock.“I’m sorry I couldnt tell you sooner, but I had no cluethat my parents would actually let me go. Plus, thecollege is giving me a scholarship!” Maki can’t hide herexcitement. Yuki is still perplexed. 108
    • “I don’t know what to say… How long will you begone?” Yuki asks in a very sad voice. “Im not sure. Atleast one year.” Maki can feel Yuki’s disappointmentand tries to hide her excitement now.“When my parents told me that I need to get aneducation in Japan before going abroad and that theywouldn’t spend all that tuition money on musicstudies, I just gave up. Then, when our music gotpopular online and some music colleges startedshowing interest in me I thought, why not just to tryagain. And then, I got the offer. Ain’t you happy forme, Yuki-chan?"The news of Maki leaving comes very unexpected forYuki. Her perception of the situation up until now wasthat they were on the right track to create a remarkableset and play great gigs during the summer. Who wouldhave thought that one of her band members would getsuch an offer and move away?Maki explains, “You know, me leaving the country tostudy doesn’t mean that I have to leave the band. Idon’t want to leave the band at all. Fact is that wedon’t have a set yet to play live shows. Because of that,we need to work on originals and cool cover songs,and we can do that over the Internet and present ourresults to our following to entertain them. And thatwill result in promotion and brand-building for TheNovember Sun.” Maki smiles.Yuki can’t lay down her disappointed face. “I know,and by the way, I am thrilled for you. You’ll get to 109
    • study music in the US. Wow! You’ll be playing musiceveryday, all day long, and you’ll be studyingeverything you need to know to become a professionalmusician. I’m so proud of you!” Yuki gets up and hugsMaki. They are both moved.Yuki calmed down now and brings the conversation toa less emotional level, “How come do your parentsallow you to leave Gaidai?” “I got more than enoughcredits to get a 2-year college degree from Gaidai. It’snot a bachelor, but I can always continue and get mybachelor when I come back from the US, which I willmost likely do.” Maki smiles at Yuki, who replies,“You better do come back and play with Yumi andme. I believe in us and I can’t imagine rockin’ out withanyone else other than you and Yumi.” Yuki tries tocontrol her tears, but Maki’s eyes are getting wateryand a couple of tears find their way down her cheeks.Yuki gets emotional, “I am really going to miss you,Maki-chan.” Her voice starts shaking. Maki losescontrol over her tears and cries with a smile on herface. Maki tries to get a grip, “Common, we got Skype,Mixi, Facebook and all those other communicationpossibilities. And we’ll be making tons of remotecollabs for our band.” Yuki adds, “And I’ll come visityou during our breaks, and you’ll have to come visitme during your beaks. I guess the scholarship you getcan cover all that traveling.” The girls laugh with tearsin their eyes.“Did you tell Yutaro yet?” Yuki asks. Maki dries hertears with a napkin. “No, I only told you and the dean. 110
    • I hope he won’t take it too hard.” Yuki smiles at Makiand consoles her, “If he loves you as much as I loveyou, he will wait for you and simply be happy foryou.” Maki looks a bit worried. “I hope so.” They leanback in the same armchair. 111
    • Episode 24 Time to say goodbyeMaki and Yutaro are cuddling and dwelling inmelancholy on a bench in the park behind theKatahoko Library in Hirakata. They know these willbe the last moments they might spend alone togetherfor at least four months. Ever since Maki told Yutarothat she will be studying in the US, he decided to freehis schedule and spend every second possible withMaki. Yutaro wasn’t disappointed when Maki told himabout her going abroad. He was very proud. Ofcourse, Yutaro would rather have her in Hirakata,where they can be together every day. But things arethe way they are and Maki has received a greatopportunity and simply has to make good use of it andstudy abroad. Thanks to Skype, Yutaro and Maki willbe able to talk and see each other on a daily basis forfree. It makes being apart a bit easier.“Your parents called me today and asked me if I’mstill bringing you to the airport tomorrow. They wantto make sure you really miss me once you’re gone.”Yutaro smiles and Maki hits him on the chest. “You’remean! I will miss Japan every day, and you most.”“Nevertheless, try to enjoy your time at McNally-Smith as much as possible. You’re going there toimprove your skills and hopefully find friends withwhom you’ll get to apply the stuff they teach you inclass in the studio and on stage. And never forget to 112
    • work on material for The November Sun. This is mostlyhappening because the three of you created aremarkable brand with great potential to succeed. Myvision is to see your following grow thanks to remotecollaborations during the year you’ll be spendingabroad, and when you come back, you girls willperform live and rock your Japanese fans.” Yutaromakes Maki dream.“What did I do to serve you?” Maki asks and kissesYutaro. “Guess what. You will deserve me even more,if you keep in touch and simply come back to me.”They kiss and don’t let anything disturb their romanticmoment.After a whole week of moving some of her belongingsto Yutaro’s place, sending some other things to herparents’ house, and looking for a student to take overher apartment, it’s finally time to take a deep breathand dare to get on the plane; the plane that will bringher to a new place filled with music; the plane that willmake remote collaborations truly remote.It’s 5:45 AM and the taxi is waiting in front ofYutaro’s apartment to pick them up and bring them tothe long-distance bus stop in downtown Hirakata.They get there on time to catch the bus that will bringthem directly to Kansai International Airport. Yukiand Hiko are already at the bus stop waiting for Makiand Yutaro.Yuki shouts, “Ohayou!!!” and hugs Maki. It’s the sort ofhug that shows how much she doesn’t want Maki to 113
    • leave. Yuki asks, “Did you have a good night sleep?”Hiko intrudes, “A good night sleep? We were out allnight long partying at that karaoke place. How muchcould they have slept?” Yuki leans closer to Maki andwhispers, “I hope you had some time to at least ‘saygoodbye’ to Yutaro.” Maki blushes.Yutaro asks Yuki, “Do you know if Yumi made ithome alright last night?” She answers, “Yes, she did.She texted me. And she’ll be at the airport around 8:30she said.” The bus driver asks all the passengers toshow their tickets and to get on the bus.During the almost 2-hour bus drive from Hirakata tothe airport, Maki sleeps leaning her head on Yuki’sshoulder. Yuki can’t stop thinking about her bestfriend leaving her. “It seems as if you didn’t haveenough time to prepare yourself for this either,”Yutaro whispers to Yuki across the aisle. “No, Idefinitely didn’t have enough time.” Yuki is visibly sad.“But if this is what she wants and needs to do, she hasall our support, right?” Her words sound like acommand, not like a question.” Yutaro smiles andnods. “Always.”The bus driver announces the last stop, Kansai KokusaiKuukou.“Maki, wake up. We’re at the airport.” Yuki caressesMaki’s face. The four of them get of the bus. Yutaroand Hiko get Maki’s suitcases, when Yumi approachesthe group. “Maki-chan!” Yumi gives Maki a hug andshakes her from one foot to the other, before the 114
    • three girls move inside, while the guys carry Maki’sbelongings.“I usually like coming here, because I get to leave. Butthis time I’m not sure how happy I can be.” Yuki getsvery emotional and turns away from her friends tohide her tears. “Hey rockstar!” a young man shoutsfrom behind a group of travelers. “Junji-kun!" Makinotes with a big smile. “Did you think I would let youleave without saying goodbye?” Maki replies, “Surenot.”After Maki checked-in it’s time to face reality and tosay goodbye.Maki stands in front her five friends that are lined upin a half-circle, behind her, the security-check area,where only passengers with a valid boarding pass areallowed in.“I guess this is it,” Maki starts with tears in her eyes. “Idon’t know what to say, other than, thank you all somuch for having been there for me during these pastmonths, and some of you for the past years. As Yutaropointed out to me, the reason why we’re here today isbecause you guys made it possible for me to become abetter musician, and above all, to grow as a person. IfI hadn’t fallen in love with Yutaro, I would never haveleft that band. And if Yuki hadn’t had such greatbandmates like Hiko and Junji teaching her everythingshe needs to know to be a bandleader, The NovemberSun would never have been founded. And Yumi, your 115
    • great personality and butt-kicking drumming broughtour music to a new, more professional level.”Makis words stop, because her tears absorb all hervoice. She puts her hands in front of her face. Yutarotakes her in his arms.“And you were always the sunshine of our posse andyou will always be that sunshine, even if you’rethousands of miles away. Remember when you wantedto be a professional music promoter, because youwere so good at attracting people to our gigs at theKansai Gaidai International Festival?” Everyonesmiles. Junji steps in, “Or when you made that youngmother who was taking care of her disabled child inAmerikamura last Christmas cry of joy.” “Or whenyou gave that drummer girl a place in your band,”Yumi says trying to stop her tears at the same time.Maki can’t fight her tears anymore. She just let’s themrun. But no matter how sad this moment is, she smilesof joy and happiness. She knows that her friends willbe there for her even if they don’t live in the sametime zone. And they will still be there when she comesback.Yuki approaches Maki and gives her a hug. “Maki-chan, I don’t know if you ever realized that, but Iconsider you my best friend. You are the reason why Iam who I am. You always inspire me and you makeme wish to be more like you.” “Ah, stop it, Yuki. Iwish I were more like you.” The girls smile at eachother. 116
    • “I only let you leave under one condition,” Yuki holdsMaki’s hands, “you have to promise that you will comeback to me.” She presses a soft kiss onto Maki’s lipsand smiles at her. Maki smiles back. “You guys are the best,” Maki tells her friends. “Anddon’t forget these words: Every time you look up tothe sky, I will be looking at the same sky. That’s howclose we are to each other.” She grabs her guitar andher backpack and joins the line to get into the security-check area. The line is very short and it doesn’t takelong for Maki to get through the security-check point.After she gathers her belongings from the baskets, shelooks back to her friends and waves one last time.Yutaro, Hiko, Junji, Yumi, and Yuki wave back. Makismiles and proceeds to the gate. 117
    • Further resourcesYou can find songs by The Hiko/Yutaro-Collaboration and The November Sun performed byme at YouTube.com/ACellphoneNovel.If you’d like to get in touch with me, follow myTwitter at twitter.com/sebinomics and tweet me. I’llreply as soon as possible.
    • Thank you!