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After my first Japan tour in 4 years 4年ぶりの日本ツアーを終えて 

My first Japan tour in 4 years was a success last month, despite that the pandemic shook the whole world for a few years. I was reunited with old friends and also made many new friends and fans.



One of the notable changes was the rise of female musicians in Japan. Out of my 10 guest/support musicians, 3 of them were females this time. This trend will surely continue. Obviously there is no such thing as gender boundary in music. For my next tour, I have booked four female players to perform.



Also noteworthy was my performance of lefty guitar upside down for the first time in Japan. The reverse string play provides me with deep bending of high notes by pulling down the strings. It was well received by the audience. To learn how to play the guitar in this very unique way, all it took me was my commitment and conviction.



The only difficulty I had was to carry both right and left handed guitars while I was traveling. They were bulky and heavy. However, after I came back home, I have found that dual guitar bags specifically designed for travel were available in the market. Where there is a will, there is a way.



I am looking forward to going back to Japan again next Spring.


My first Japan tour in 4 years (2 of 2) 4年ぶりの日本ツアー (その2) 

After living in the U.S. for more than half of my life, I still value humility as a virtue of Japanese culture. However, as my first Japan tour in 4 years is about to start this week, I would like to mention some of the things I have done to come this far.

僕はアメリカで人生の半分以上を過ごした今も、謙遜 (けんそんを美徳とする日本人だ。しかし今週4年ぶりに日本ツアーに行くこともあり、ここに敢えて書くことにする。


In recent years, I had an opportunity to live in Chicago for 3 years. During that time, I performed 200 shows around the city’s blues clubs. Prior to making such a move by myself alone, I had no connections to anyone in Chicago. All I had was my aspiration to make my dream come true to play the blues where “the rubber meets the road”. It was probably similar to Japanese baseball players coming to the Major League Baseball in the U.S.



Since I came to the U.S. a few decades ago. I had been playing music as a part time musician. One day, however, I came to realize that part time commitment would only end up in part time results, which prompted me to leave my day job 10 years ago.



Since then, I have been leading my own blues band in California and performed 60 to 70 shows a year in average (except those few years affected by the global pandemic). I always chose independently only the gigs that I wanted to play.

それ以来カリフォルニアで自分のブルースバンドを率いて、年に平均すると6,70本のライブをずっとパフォームして来た (パンデミックの数年間は干上がっていたが)。それは誰にも縛られずに自由に自分のやりたい仕事だけを選んで。


In my humble opinion, there have been not many Japanese musicians who stand on the ground by their feet and dig the blues deep in this country. It would be even rarer when it comes to singing in English, not only playing instruments. The traditional Chicago Blues that I have been playing for decades is not “retro” that goes back against the time. I have been doing so from the very beginning when I started playing music.

ここまでブルースにハマり、それをアメリカで地に足をつけて深く掘り下げた日本人のミュージシャンは、あまり多くは無いだろう。楽器の演奏だけでなく、ボーカルもとなると尚更だ。自分が好きで演って来た往年のシカゴブルースは、レトロ” などではなく、昔、音楽をやり始めた最初からそうだっただけなのだ。


Fame and fortune have always been distant to me so far, and they will be as well. However, after playing the blues with my determination and commitment for a decade, I feel I have reached the point to move to the next phase. My effort to focus on the Japan market from now on may be my homing instinct to go back to where I was born and raised. I feel like giving back what I have accumulated in me for all these years. Perhaps, it is a calling from above.



In memory of Mr. JW Williams  JW ウィリアムス氏への追悼の意を込めて 

Today I received the sad news about my former boss, Mr. JW Williams’s passing in Chicago.

今日、僕が以前にシカゴでギターを弾いていたバンドのリーダーであったJW ウィリアムス氏の訃報が届いた。 

From 2017 for nearly 3 years, I was living in Chicago. During my residency, I had the pleasure of playing behind Mr JW Williams, the former bass player for the legendary Buddy Guy.


I was very fortunate to be hired by Mr. JW. For the first 6 months after I moved to Chicago, I was networking with the local blues musicians in town every night. One night, Mr JW asked me for my phone number.

僕が JW氏の目に留まったのは幸運だった。シカゴに引っ越してから最初の半年の間、僕は毎晩のように地元のミュージシャンとのコネ作りに励んでいたが、ある夜、JW氏が僕の電話番号を聞いてきた。

The next morning he called me and said “I do not care whether you are green, yellow, or red, as long as your guitar sounds good. My light bulb was lit.” At that moment, I was not quite sure exactly what he meant, but it sounded like a job offer to me!


The rest is a history. I ended up playing with his Chi-Town Hustlers 5 to 10 shows a month for 2 years, including at the premier blues clubs like Blue Chicago, B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted, and Kingston Mines. I was also leading my own band in parallel as well.  It was truly my dream come true.

それからの2年間は彼の チャイタウン・ハスラーズ のギタリストとして月に5本から10本のショーをこなした。シカゴの有名クラブ、ブルーシカゴ、B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted、キングストン・マインズなどにレギュラー出演できたのだ。それと並行して自分のリーダーバンドでも活動できた。まさに夢が叶ったのだ。

Although Mr. JW was not a traditional Chicago Blues player, I still consider it the end of his era. His strong vocals on top of his groovy baseline were out of this world.


Rest In Peace, Mr. JW Williams. I am forever grateful to you for taking me in.

JW ウィリアムス氏のご冥福を心よりお祈り申しあげます。僕に貴重なチャンスを与えてくれてどうもありがとう。

In retrospect of the past decade (2 of 2) この10年を振り返って(後編) 

(Continued) (前編からの続き)


The core members of my band were myself, a bass and drums. I enjoyed the trio setting because there was plenty of space to fill in by improvisation.



Through several evolutions in my band members, I have recently reached my goal to integrate my band sound. But there still is room to further bring it to a higher level. Pursuit of perfection never ends.



For now, this concludes the decade of my performance, including 3 years of my residency in Chicago, which was my dream come true. 2 years of drought due to the global pandemic inevitably changed the landscape in the music business.



Playing the blues to me has never been only the means to make a living. I may be one of the very fortunate to be able to continue what I love to do without worrying about the food to eat tomorrow. It is not because I am rich, but because I am rich in mind that I can extract happiness out of the frugal life that I am living.



My next phase is to shift my effort more to the Japan market, and also to work on my new recording which has been long overdue.

My soul searching continues.


In retrospect of the past decade (1 of 2) この10年を振り返って(前編) 

This Sunday my weekly show at The Note Lounge in Milpitas, California is coming to an end. I had a great run for 2 years at this venue since the COVID restrictions were lifted in 2021.

この日曜日で2年間続いた毎週のブルースライブ・ショーが終幕となる。2021年にCOVID の制限が解かれて以来、北カリフォルニアのThe Note Loungeで演奏することをエンジョイ出来た。


This venue is the last hold-out of blues clubs in the South Bay. It is sad to see it facing a crisis of closure. Combining my previous 3 year tenure with this venue, I delivered nearly 300 weekly shows there in more than 5 years in total.



Having regular shows weekly as the house band saved me time and effort to book gigs at other places. However making my performance different every week took serious dedication.



I now have more than 150 songs in my repertoire. The lyrics of those songs would make one book if all combined. I learned each word and phrase by heart.



It was my desire to integrate all I have gained in me over the past several decades of digging deep into blues music.



To be continued (続く)

My Japan Tour (1 of 2) 4年ぶりの日本ツアー (その1) 

This Fall I am going to Japan for the first time in 4 years. Before the pandemic hit the globe, I used to do my Japan tour annually. The world is finally getting back to normalcy.



As before I will only bring myself and assemble my band with local musicians from town to town. Many of the support musicians and guest players are well known in the area. I am very fortunate to have such a network because they are always dedicated to deliver top notch shows.



From 2017 to 2020 while I was living in Chicago, I was hired by JW Williams, the former bass player for Buddy Guy. With JW’s band called Chi-Town Hustlers, I was regularly playing around Chicago’s premier blues clubs such as Kingston Mines, Blue Chicago, and B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted.

僕は2017年から2020年までシカゴに住んでいる間にJW ウィリアムズ氏のバンドにギタリストとして雇われた。JW氏は元バディ・ガイのベース・プレーヤーとして知られる。そのバンドでシカゴのキングストン・マインズ、ブルー・シカゴ、B.L.U.E.S. などの有名クラブにレギュラー出演できた。


While in Chicago, I played numerous shows in including my own. It was my dream come true because Chicago is where the electrified band style of blues was developed decades ago. I had to make my pilgrimage to the home of the blues.



Since I came back to the San Francisco Bay Area, my effort has been focused on integrating all I have accumulated in me as a blues musician. The current band members I play with weekly helped me to achieve my goal. I hope some of those who came to my Sunday show in the past 2 years witnessed the fruit of it.



From this point on, my future effort will be directed to reverse import my music to the Japan market. All in all, finally I have reached the point to return all I have gained to my home country, after spending more than half of my life in the US.


FAQ (よく聞かれる質問) 

One of the frequently asked questions to me is why sometimes I also play a left handed guitar upside down while I am right handed (as in the picture below).

ライブでよく聞かれる質問の一つは、僕は右利きなのに時々どうして左利き用のギターを逆に持ち替えて弾くのかだ (写真にあるように)

The purpose of flipping a lefty guitar upside down is by having the strings in the reverse order, namely higher strings are closer to my chest, I can pull down the high strings deeper than pushing them up on the regular setting.



Albert King and Otis Rush, who were left-handed, used right handed guitars upside down without re-stringing the strings, namely with the strings in the reverse order. Their unique sounds are often attributed to this bending style. In those days, probably left-handed guitars were not easily available.



Meanwhile, Jimi Hendrix who was left-handed, flipped right handed guitars but re-strung the strings in the regular order. So the effect is only for his visual to the audience.



There are some guitarists who play in the reversed string style. Most of them are left handed. But, to the best of my knowledge, very few guitar players can do both - strings in both the regular and the reversed orders. That seems to be a somewhat insane act to most audiences.


About professional musicianship  プロフェッショナルなミュージシャン・シップについて  


My blues band started performing weekly at a blues club in Milpitas CA last summer when the state reopened for business. It is great to have regular gigs because I do not have to spend my energy on booking gigs. I am very grateful for the support from the venue. 



After several evolutions in my band members since then, I have recently landed on the configuration that I feel most comfortable with in terms of the style of music I want to play. That is the traditional blues and early Rhythm & Blues. 



When I choose musicians to work with, my criteria are simple. If the technical skills are met, the next critical consideration is whether the musician desires to work with me. No ego issues. Not to mention, punctuality and preparation for work are two fundamentals. 



I recently had an opportunity to invite someone as a guest player whom I consider one of the top musicians in the area. In response to my thank you note for the performance after the show, this is the exact quote of this person: 



“Yes, it was great fun. I’m good with whatever you choose to do and thank you for having me.” That night we had the most crowd and the quality of the show was one of the best I have ever had. 



What great musicianship and professionalism! It felt like a cool breeze to me in hot Summer. This person knew well that I was the owner of the show and my reputation, if any, would be on the line if something would have gone wrong. 



This gave me some hope for me to continue playing the blues in public. 


Next phase in life 次にやることは? 


Since the reopening of business in California last Summer, fortunately I have had performance of my own twice a week on average. I realized that adding more would leave me no time to do anything else. 



From 2017 for nearly 3 years I was living in Chicago, the blues capital of the world. Playing around the blues clubs there was my dream come true. Anything beyond that has been a bonus to me. 

僕は2017年からほぼ3年シカゴに住んだ間に、その街のブルース・クラブで多くのライブをこなした。シカゴはブルース音楽では世界の首都だから、長年の夢が叶ったのだ。 それ以降の活動はすべて、自分にとってはボーナスだ。


The music I dig most is the late greats Otis Rush / Magic Sam styles of electrified guitar blues. For decades, I had been trying to emulate them. Based on that foundation, I have been able to build my own form of playing the blues. 



However, it is becoming more and more clear in my mind that there is not much of a market for such traditional blues nowadays. Even in Chicago, the good old school Chicago Blues sound that I dug so deep is rare, if not extinct. 



Looking ahead, remaining on my to do list are to record a new album and hopefully reactivate my annual Japan tour. 



After that, I will be likely in a transition to the next phase in life whatever that might be. Perhaps with gradually reduced frequency or mostly in closer locations to perform in public.



Because I have achieved most everything I wanted to and could achieve thus far since I came to this country 35 years ago. 



Leading my band 自分のバンドを率いるということ 


Three months have passed since the reopening of California State in June this year. I am now actively performing at a rate of 100 shows a year with my band plus including some of my solo shows “unplugged”. 



As an independent musician I do all the booking by myself. Therefore, I can choose only the gigs that I want to do. In between playing music, I play golf to maintain good health. This is the life style I dreamed of many years ago. 



Leading my own band is like owning a small business. I spend more time on maintaining and promoting the band while staying on top of my game as a musician. Herding strong individuals takes good interpersonal skills and patience. 



Probably these are the reasons why many musicians would rather focus on only playing music as a supporting musician rather than a band leader. 



Owing small business is often compared to a "dog-sled". Unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes. With the resurgence of the COVID variant, uncertainty still lies ahead. I might as well enjoy the changing views while I have the opportunities to do so. 

小規模のビジネスを仕切ることは、”犬ゾリ” にたとえられることがある。つまり、先頭の犬でなければ景色の変化が見えないのだ。コロナ・ウィルスの変異種が再びはびこる昨今、先の見通しはまだまだ不確かだ。が、移り変わる景色は楽しめる間に楽しんでおこう。