My Friends

[March 2000 Junko Kudo]

Q: First of all, could we have your date of birth, your sign of Zodiac, and your blood type? (we'll let you skip this question if you like. But please try to answer as honestly as possible)

Junko Kudo (hereafter, JK) : Date of birth : I was born on the year...(cough, cough) ahem, January 20th. (Hey, that means I'm only a day older than Mr. Mitsuda!) Sign of Zodiac : I'm right at the borderline between Capricorn and Aquarius, so I'm not quite sure which is my sign, but when it comes to horoscopes, I tend to believe the better of the two. Blood type : type AB

Q: When and how did you become friends with Yasunori Mitsuda?

JK: Through my office, when I recieved the request to write the lyrics for "CREID". If I recall correctly, the first meeting took place in a coffee shop located inside the Meguro-Gajyoen Garden, right next to SQUARE's company headquarters. (the company that Mr. Mitsuda used to work for, and Mr. Sakuma was so easily rejected from.)

Q: And what were your impressions of him back then?

JK: It was my very first visit to the Meguro-Gajyo Garden, and I remember that I was guided inside by my beautiful manager, Ms. "S". The moment I stepped foot into this gorgeous garden, I suddenly felt as if I had been transported to a totally different world... and I thought to myself, "Wh, where am I!?" My head still spinning, I continued to make my way down the long long corridor... walking, and walking, and walking... until I finally reached my destination. And as I entered this little coffee shop, I was greeted politely by three kind gentlemen, Mr. Mitsuda, Mr. KALTA, and Mr. Funayama. After getting a glance of their very distinct, non-Japanese-like faces, yet again I was thrown into a state of confusion and again, a slight dizziness came over my head... "Wh,... where AM I?"

Having no experience in playing video games and also having no clue of what this "Xenogears" was, I asked Mr. Mitsuda rather nonchalantly, "could I take a look at the story, please," not knowing how difficult this request actually was. But even still, the very next day, Mr. Mitsuda printed out the ENTIRE "Xenogears" script from beginning to end and had them delivered to me directly. The stack of papers was so great that I could barely hold them in my two little hands. WHEW! Needless to say, I was impressed by how very honest Mr. Mitsuda was and also by the amount of work and effort he put into his works (never accepting anything less than the best).

I also recall that during the recording session of "CREID", I tried passing out the flyers for Mr. Sakuma's first art exhibition to all the artists and musicians. Although mostly everybody took the flyer and said, "I'll make my best efforts to attend," the only person who actually showed up at the exhibition was the person who seemed to be the busiest man at that time - Mr. Mitsuda. Again, I was deeply moved by how true this man was to his words.

Q: After getting to know him better, how does he seem to you now? Have your impressions of him changed at all?

JK: My impressions haven't changed one bit. He's still the same splendid young man that he's always been. But lately, I've began to notice that he's got a bit of that natural characteristic; where he's kinda' "naturally - out of it", which makes him all the cuter and even more irresistable.

Q: And how do you think he feels about you?

JK: Man, what a wierd ole' lady.

Q: If you would, please tell us some of Yasunori Mitsuda's good characteristics (if there are any... that is!) and also some of his bad characteristics (as many as you would like to mention!).

JK: His good points: As you can tell by the way that he turned down such a splendid company like SQUARE (the company which Mr. Sakuma wanted to get into, but couldn't!.. I think I've stressed this point enough already...), he leads an extremely bold and manly lifestyle (without flexing his muscles TOO much, that is). Also, he's also got these sharp, beautiful cuspids (canine teeth) that sort of remind you of those handsome Draculas' that come out in old comic books. It's quite charming, I must say.

His bad points: Please stop letting my poor little Pekeko (Ms. Kudo's Post Pet kitty) get lost! Also, whenever you meet any of my male friends, please don't go off thinking that they're all my boyfriends and say things like, "it's a good thing to be loved by so many people... keep up the good work."

Q: If you were to work with Mitsuda again in the future, what kind of projects would you like to take on next?

JK: Well, to tell you the truth... I'm... uhh... oh, I can't say this yet!

Q: From here on, I'd like to ask some personal questions about you. How old were you when you first began writing lyrics, and also what was the title of your debut song?

JK: Do you mean, as a professional? Well, it's not until recently that I've been able to build up enough confidence to tell people that I work professionally as a lyricist. The first song that I ever wrote the lyrics for was back when I entered Virgo Music. The people at Virgo handed me a song that was sung simply in "la-la-la~" and I had to compose the lyrics for that. Eventually, it was sung by the singer/songwriter Ms. Yusa Mimori, and If I remember correctly, I think the title of this song was "Sakura". If you consider this to be my debut as a professional lyricist, then it would be over ten years ago. How old was I at the time, you ask? ... umm... HEY! Wait a sec! ... Hehe, you almost caught me there!

Q: Of all the lyrics that you've written so far, which ones would you pick as your TOP 3 favorite lyrics? And also, if you could, please tell us who you wrote them for, and also the title of the works.

JK: I CAN'T pick just three. Or to re-phrase it, I DON'T WANT TO pick out just three. I have this feeling inside that I shouldn't select one work over another... It just wouldn't be right. And even if I COULD choose three... I'm sorry, but I can't say which ones.

Q: Is there ever a time when you get tired of writing lyrics? If so, when?

JK: Hmm. I'd have to say, "never". I enjoy every single minute of it. Umm... wait a minute... Well, there IS one thing that I've been concerned about recently. It's been written in Mr. Mitsuda's BBS before too, but whenever people write things like, "Mr. Mitsuda's songs are great! but the lyrics sorta' get in the way of the songs" it just leaves me nowhere to stand. But on the other hand, I think that this statement has a very good point. Words have to travel through the mind before it ever reaches the heart, so compared to things such as melodies and pictures (which tend to take a more direct route to people's hearts), lyrics don't really stand a chance. Also, compared to melodies, words and lyrics restrict the scenes and the atmosphere that they depict and the emotions that they convey, so often times if this doesn't suit the listeners' tastes, it just ends up getting in their way. I'm a very picky person myself, so I don't have too many lyrics that I like listening to either. In fact, the songs that I listen to the most are instrumentals also (Hehe, talk about contradiction...).

Q: While taking on your job as a lyricist, when do you feel the happiest?

JK: (Of course, this includes Mr. Mitsuda also, but) I think it's when I have the opportunity of meeting other talented musicians and receiving inspiration from such people. It's funny, but all I ever did was I kept pursuing my dreams and doing what I liked doing the most; and before I knew it, I was surrounded by all these wonderful people... I don't think that I could be any happier.

Q: Are there any other lyricists that you've been putting a close eye on (as a rival, or as a mentor)?

JK: Long, long time ago, back when I was still an amateur, one of my great mentors, Ms. Osami Okamoto gave me some very valuable advice that I will never forget. The first advice was: when writing lyrics to a song, try cutting down on the number of words. And the second advice: forget about being grammatically correct when writing lyrics. These 2 simple advices have really been helpful to me in my career. Also, when it comes to other lyricists, I love the works of people such as Ms. Masumi Hara, Mr. Jun Togawa, Mr. Genzou Saeki, the Moonriders, and also some of the earlier works by Zelda. But most recently, the song that really brought tears to my eyes was the single by Mr. Wataru Takada, titled "Sabishii to ima". It's simply amazing.

I really love lyrics that depict an image within the listeners' mind, and whenever I write lyrics, I also try to "paint pictures" with my words. My goal is to provide listeners with a canvas so that each listener can create their own scenes within their minds, using their own brushes, palettes and strokes.

Q: What do you think you would have been doing if you hadn't become a lyricist? Or to put it in another way, if you were to quit your job as a lyricist, what would you like to become?

JK: Well, first of all, I'm a very sickly person, and I'm not really good at holding deep personal relationships with other people. I can never wake myself up in the mornings. I'm a dropout who couldn't even find a job during job hunting season, and I haven't (this is "haven't", not "couldn't"... OK!?) even been married yet... For a person like me, the only decent road left to take in life was "music". No matter how narrow and twisted, or how steep and rugged this road may be, what other road is there for me to take?

Q: What are some of the good things that have happened in your life recently? Also, what are some of the bad things that have happened, or things that have really irritated you recently?

JK: Good things that have happened : There's this little tea shop where Miss Noriko Mitose is in charge of the interior decorations, and the owner of this shop is pretty big fan of my work. Just the other day, he and Miss Mitose closed the entire shop just for me, and we had a private little tea party with some delicious tea and also some wonderful homemade cakes. After a while, Mr. Sakuma joined us, and we ordered some curry from the Indian restaurant next door. Having that curry while listening to the song, "Tonari no Indo-jin (the Indian next door)" was just sensational.

Things that have upset me, saddened me : The poor little tiger at the Animal Production was put to sleep. Why!?

Q: Anything that you've really fallen in love with, recently? (movies, books, CD's, artwork, people, animals, a certain place... anything that you'd like to mention)

JK: I'm really hooked on this album called "The Instant Fisherman" by Fisherman Tit Tot (the musical unit formed by Ms. Mari Fukuhara and Mr. Masao Nakahara). And believe it or not, I succeeded in getting Mr. Mitsuda hooked on it too! Oh, I'm so HAPPY! ... Yes? What's that you say?... You (Ms. Tensaku) like the album as well? Oh, how WONDERFUL! Mr. Sakuma also loved their music and even put it on during one of his exhibitions. This album is SO great. Although it IS a bit maniac-sounding (that's probably the reason why I like it so much). Mr. Mitsuda seems to like the first two tracks but I like the third and the fifth tracks as well.

Q: Could you tell us who your three favorite artists are? (This doesn't have to do anything with your job. It doesn't necessarily have to be a musician either.)

JK : Mr. Kazuo Oono (professional dancer, born in 1906) Contrary to the ballet dancers, who try to extend their body towards the heavens, his dances tend to go more towards the Earth, deep into the body, and into the past. The atmosphere that he creates with his pale-white, frilled dress and those trembling fingertips is simply amazing. He reveals unto the audience, exactly what they want to see, and also exactly what they NEED to see. His work in "Watashi no Okaasann (My Mother)" was the most beautiful, the most sorrowful, and also the most heart-warming piece that I've ever seen.

Mr. Chikako Kumata (biological artist, born in 1911) This man never captures his specimens, so he literally gets down on his all fours to study these bugs and insects. Apparently, many people have seen this man "in action" and have mistaken him for an old man who had fallen and couldn't get up. He also despises the art of "ken-ka (the art of cutting flowers)" and prefers to call it "sacrifice". Someday, I'm hoping to get a glance of his infamous "konchu-ki (insect report)" in which he is said to have spent over a week, just studying a single flower petal.

Mrs. Fujiko Hemming (pianist) An extremely sentimental person who even feels sympathies for a hungry little kitten, or even a tiny little bug squashed between the pages of a book. She's an extraordinary lady who has the ability of expressing the deepest sorrows. Her "Campanera" is a tremendous masterpiece. I couldn't hold back my tears after hearing that work.

All these artists may be very old of age, but within their works of art, you can really feel their love, their sorrow, their kindness and gratitude towards all the lives that passed away around them. Living such a long life must mean that they have experienced a countless number of farewells as well. Whenever I touch upon these people's artworks, it makes me realize how precious it is - this time that I spend with the people I love.

Q: Is there an artist for whom you would like to try writing lyrics for someday? Also, what kind of lyrics would you like to write for this artist?

JK: Doesn't Mr. Mitsuda ever want to sing? I would love to write something really really maniac-sounding for him.

Q: It's been known to many of your close associates (?) that you are extremely fond of cats, but why do you love them so much? (since when did you start to fall in love with these feline fellows?)

JK: Are you sure that you want to get me going on this topic? I could talk for ages about this, you know. Long long time ago during the Dark Ages (also known as my junior high school years), I used to lead a very physically and mentally strenuous life. And it was during one of these days, that I found this little black kitten crying out from within the rice paddies near my home back in Ooita. I found out later, after taking him home and washing him thoroughly, that he actually had yellow and white fur, but this poor little kitten was so filthy and scraggy looking, that my parents decided to name him "Peketa" (so now you know that I named my Post Pet kitty, Pekeko after my dear, beloved kitty... Mr. Mitsuda!). Peketa's all grown up now, and he's become a nicely plump and well-groomed little boy.

Thinking back to those times, I think it was Peketa who taught me that "School life and personal relationships aren't the only important things in life." Beyond his little kitty eyes, spread before him the deep grassy fields, and the great blue open skies. Oh, the beauty of the sunlight that fell upon his fur. The sadness and also the nobleness of life, as the strong hunt the weak, and the less fortunate ones become nourishment for the stronger, more fit animals. Oh, how vast and enormous this world is... such depth and beauty! If school life and personal relationships were REALLY the only things in life, I would have most likely been suffocated by all these social pressures around me. I may have never even had the opportunity of becoming a lyricist, and nor would I have ever had the chance of meeting all you people. I think it's an understatement to say that I owe my life to music and cats.

Since then, I've picked up so many dogs and birds and insects, that I've lost count of the number of pets I have. Even today, "the little bird that just happened to fly into our dining room table" and "little Shiro (cat) that just happened to be lying underneath the persimmon tree in our backyard one day" are getting along just fine over in my parents' place back home. After finally making it through the Dark Ages, and after turning into a totally carefree ole' lady, there's only one reason why I love cats so much. And that is... "Because they're so-- so--- cute!! Aaaawww!" (ahem... pardon me.)

Q: Your friend, Mr. Sakuma called you an "Ojaru-maru" (please refer to last month's My Friends column), but what are your reactions upon that? Do you have anything against that statement!?

JK: I know I definitely have all the necessary qualifications to enter the "Chicchai-mono" Club. My bangs are all lined up square. My pupils are always wide-open (Mr. Mitsuda also gets red-eyes on photos too, so I guess we're buddies!). I'm also very easy going, lackadaisical, full of curiosity, but too lazy to move about by myself (Mr. Mitsuda won't give me a boost on his back, but he gives me a ride in his beloved car anytime...) ... Oh, I admit. Yes, I do look like lil' Ojaru-maru. But when you think about it, until then I used to be called things like, "that old grandma from the Haunted Kindergarten" so, compared to THAT, I mean...

Q: Also, there are some rumors that say that you and Mitsuda are brothers and sisters (?... you two do look alike), but what are your feelings upon that? Any complaints?

JK: Long long time ago, a handsome Celtic-Italian (?) instrumentalist was on a live tour and traveling through Japan. And during his stay here, he fell in love with the only daughter of an old Japanese hotel owner, and so through their love was born little Yasunori. (afterwards, taken in by a close relative in the Mitsuda family.) But little did anyone know that a few years before that, this same young girl had fallen in love with another Indian piper journeying through Japan, and the two of them had a little girl named Junko. Many years later, lil' Yasunori and lil' Junko, both carrying the similar DNA of a gifted musician, meet each other in the same music business, but both of them fail to recognize the other - for young Yasunori's facial features were leaned more towards that of a European man, whereas Junko carried a rather distinct Asian characteristic. (note : this story is 110% fiction)

So... I never realized until now. Mr. Sakuma was the first one to point that out to me, but even then, I was like "huh?". But later on, Mr. Mitsuda too told me that I "looked just like his older sister", and that convinced me. Amazing, isn't it!? I guess you just can't fool the keen and cunning eyes of an artist. Being raised as the only child in my family, I sometimes get this sort of warm fuzzy feeling inside that just makes me want to pat his lil' head and say, "Ahhhhh... My darling little brother! How cu--te!" (Hey! Come back here!)

I guess this means that I have to provide some photos of evidence for all you Yasunori Mitsuda fans out there. Everyone just kept referring to me as the "beautiful lyricist" in the previous "My Friends" column, and I kept thinking to myself, "No problem... these people are never going to see a picture of me anyway", but uh-oh... Bi---g trouble... (Oh, please forgive me! I really don't look anything like him!)

Q: And now, could you please leave a short message for Mitsuda (any advice for his future activities)?

JK: Mr. Mitsuda, you're just fine the way you are. I think I'm the one that really needs consultation about my future.

Q: Finally, please feel free to PR yourself and your activities here! (your latest works, what you're presently working on, or anything! Non-work related things are OK too!) And also, if you would, please leave a word out to all the readers of this column.

JK: My first work for the year 2000 was sort of a feint towards everybody. I took part in the translation of Mrs. Namie Amuro's lyrics. I think that through this work, I was able to show off my skills and elaborate craftsmanship (?) in the field of lyric translation.

On my second work this year, I decided to turn things completely upside down. I participated as a lyricist in Mrs. Kaori Yae's, "Toki-Meki Memorial 2 Vocal Tracks". I was hoping that I could somehow display my elegant actress-like spirit (?) in this work.

And my third piece of work... Being an Ojaru-maru, I can't really say "when" for sure... but sometime during this year, with Mr. Mitsuda... OH! I just can't say it!! ... not yet... I don't have the confidence to say it... I'm sorry...

And now... to all you readers of this column, if you are in the dark ages of your life right now (like I used to be)... My advice to you is to just listen to your favorite Yasunori Mitsuda album, while petting your cuddly little kitty, and wait patiently until you see the light at the end of the tunnel. And just a little bit at a time, learn to become a more shameless, carefree old lady (or old man) and everything will turn out just fine. I truly hope that each and every one of you are enjoying your wonderful springtime. Thank you so much for your time today!

Thank you very much, Ms. Kudo! Personally, I myself have always been very fascinated by the lyrics that you write (or would it be more proper to say "paint"?). Sometimes, when I am listening to the lyrics of a song, I find a lyric that I really like, and I think to myself, "Oh, what beautiful lyrics! I wonder who wrote it," and most times, I end up finding out that these wonderful verses were written by you. This occurs very very often - in an extremely high percentage, but I really don't think that it's a matter of percentages. The lyrics that you write touch so deeply upon the hearts of listeners, that people can tell right off whenever they hear your lines. I, personally, have a countless number of your lyrics that I love so dearly that I would like to keep them locked up in a treasure box for safe-keeping. ...Well, all this was my comment as a single "fan" of your work. I truly hope that you will continue to write more wonderful lyrics in the years to come, and I also hope that you and Mitsuda together (as brother and sister!) will be able to create more beautiful pieces of work for the entire world to enjoy. And now to close, a message from Yasunori!

Mitsuda: I never dreamed that I would one day be reunited like this with my long-lost sister; working in the same music business - of all the places. I don't think that I could possibly be any happier. I remember, the first time that I ever heard your lyrics was in Ms. Yusa Mimori's song, "Destination" in her debut album, "Hitomi-suishou". Your lyrics seemed to have a distinct "fragrance" that kind of reminded me of my place back home, and it was the first time ever that a lyric to a song brought so much tears to my eyes. Ever since then, I've been a huge fan of your work, but I never thought that this lady would also turn out to be my long-lost sister... Well, fate is indeed a very strange and mysterious thing. Since it must have been some sort of destiny for us to come together like this, let's try putting up some pictures of us two on this page!

So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. We've provided you with the evidence, so now we'd like for you to give the verdict (laughs). Switching subjects here for a second, but I'd like to get back to the point about me saying to you "it's a very good thing to be loved by so many people... keep up the good work"... I don't want you to get me wrong here, so allow me to explain myself. First, I want you to understand that I didn't mean this in any wierd way, but I just thought it was a commonly known fact that women in love tend to stay beautiful for a longer period of time. As a younger brother, I would really like for my sister to keep her beautiful looks as long as possible.

Also, as my sister, I'm expecting her to continue creating many more marvelous lyrics in the future, and also at the same time, I expect her to take care of her darling little brother; please continue to love and cherish him for many many more years to come.

your little brother

...otherwise known as the "photos of evidence."
Comments by Junko Kudo

"The Serious Brother and Sister"
photographer : Makoto Sakuma
stylist : Noriko Mitose
director : Tensaku
"The Delighted Brother and Sister"
photographer : Makoto Sakuma
stylist : Noriko Mitose
director : Tensaku
"The Silvery Four"
From Right to Left : The one who composed "Ginn Iro no Leica",
the one who drew the picture, the one who wrote the lyrics,
and the one who sang the song.
"My Lovely Kitties"
The kitty on the right is Hina,
and the black kitty on the left is Shiro.