Merry Xmas, Mister Sakamoto.

December 25th, 2013
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Manuscript to the score of "Furyo" by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Photography René Habermacher.

It doesn’t quite add up.

There are the many facets of Ryuichi Sakamoto, but putting them together, you still wouldn’t get a sense of who the man is.

He is both an icon of Japan’s 1980’s Bubble Era, and the one who moved beyond Japan and away from the spotlight, a consistent experimentalist and accidental sex-symbol.

Founding member of the influential band Yellow Magic Orchestra, Japan’s answer to Kraftwerk.

Musical innovator for over 30 years, mixing synthpop, Okinawan traditions, sampling, bossa nova….

Screen-mate of David Bowie in the cult film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” / “Furyo.”

Film composer for Almodovar, Oshima, Bertolucci, Oliver Stone and Brian de Palma.

Collaborating with David Byrne, Brian Wilson, Youssou N’Dour and the Dalai Lama.
Appearing in Madonna’s “Rain” music video.
Sampled by Afrika Bambaataa…and Mariah Carey.

And last but not least, well before the Fukushima accident, a prominent activist in Japan’s anti-nuclear effort.

It doesn’t quite add up, and that’s really for the best, as we found out after spending an afternoon with him in New York City

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Left: inspiration board. Right: Ryuichi Sakamoto. Photography by René Habermacher.

The Stimuleye: When did you first feel personally concerned with the nuclear issue?

Ryuchi Sakamoto: Probably I started feeling anxious about it around the time of Chernobyl. Then I encountered the facts about the nuclear reprocessing plant in the northern part of Japan called Rokkasho. It was 7 years ago, pretty recent.

It’s not a usual nuclear plant, it’s to re-use, re-process used radioactive wastes. Through the processing, you emit hundreds of time more radioactive materials than the usual nuclear plant does. You get 365 nuclear plants in 1 village. Very dangerous.

So I started a web campaign, called Stop Rokkasho, I asked Kraftwerk to give us a sound logo, and they did actually ! The pretty famous graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook had his assistant design the webpage, which was very neat.

As a web campaign it succeeded, my friends – photographers, musicians, stylists, creative people got to know about this plant. We decided to make a Stop Rokkasho tshirt, we asked more than 50 designers to make a tshirt. They needed phrases, so I gave them “No Nukes. More Trees.”
Everybody loved it, especially the second line.
It’s very easy to understand, and no one can resist.

So, I decided to form a company called “More Trees”, it’s been 6 years, and we’ve been doing mainly conservation of Japanese forests. We have now 11 forests in Japan and 1 in Philippines.
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