3. Saishuupatsu o Chikatta Okinawa Gasshuku
[Pledging a New Beginning at the Okinawa Training Camp]
The summer of the year I went solo, I went with all the members of my band to Okinawa. Because I wasn't very healthy, we stayed at a training camp in Okinawa for a long four and a half months to heal my body and my heart.
It was a physical training type boarding camp. In a place where there wasn't much of anything, we would wake up at 8 or 9 in the morning, go running till we got to the beach, train, and then go back.
Then we would write songs, and once it became evening, we'd go running again, eat dinner, take a break and talk, and then write songs till morning. We did this day after day every day.
The owner of one of the small restaurants we frequented always would smile at us and tell us "Ganbatteru ka~!" To me, he would say "Practice hard!"
For some reason, he seemed to think that we were part of a karate team from Tokyo.
When we trained, we didn't just go running, but we also punched sandbags, and with protective equipment, we practiced hand-to-hand combat. All my band members learned the basics of martial arts. Because of this, their fists were always extremely tired.
Seeing this was why the restaurant owner thought we were members of a karate team.
All of the band members are tall. My three bodyguards that I brought along were all 185 to 190 centimeters tall. Compared to them, at my 180 centimeters, I was shorter and slimmer.
Because of this, the owner thought I was a stand-in member on the team.
"Ganbare, karate team! I hope you soon become a regular member!"
Whenever he said this to me, I always remembered to keep calm.
One of my objectives in going to Okinawa was to write my album, but also the band members and I wanted to make ourselves stronger and tougher.
The first half of the year that I went solo was definitely not a smooth road. I had been under so much overwork and stress that I had been suffering from insomnia. The other members were also exhausted from stress.
So when the members, including me, felt it was time to heal ourselves, my relatives in Okinawa cooperated with us.
Until then, I hadn't been back to Okinawa in ten years. A part of me inside had always been keeping Okinawa at a distance.
There was a part of me that denied my heritage, but there is also a part of me that wanted to protect that heritage too. I was proud to be an Okinawan and of the Ryukyu race. On the other hand, a part of me was ashamed of that.
I have a lot of respect for my great-grandfather. Of course, I've never met him, but people have told me that he revitalized the town and that he was the founding father of my family. Ancestor worship still goes on in Okinawa, and to my family, my great-grandfather is like our "god."
Though everyone in my family looks different, one thing they all say is that I look exactly like my great-grandfather. They say that all the spiritual phenomenon that happens to me also happened often to my great-grandfather.
There is a word "kamidari" in the Okinawan language. In Okinawa, the ones who call up spirits and hear the words of the gods are mainly women and are called "shiro," "noro," or "yuta." It is very rare for a man to be born with these abilities.
My grandfather was one of those men who often experienced these "kamidari" abilities. So he would be able to see things before they happened.
This was told to me when I was a child, and though I respected my great-grandfather, originally I didn't like the thought of gods and ghosts.
There were times when I would forcefully do things out of my own pride. In times like those, I most likely pushed Okinawa further away from me.
The Okinawan training camp had just started when this happened:
In my family, in the group of the "shiro" that we had, the one with the most power was my grandmother, and she came to the camp. So she told me this.
"You've finally come home. Go to your great-grandfather's grave. Then, do what you believe is right. Because you don't need to worry. Instead, when people need your strength, then obediently lend it to them. Once in a while, come home, visit your great-grandfather's grave and let him see your smiling face. This is what you should do."
These words were difficult for me to understand. I didn't believe in spiritual things, so what was she talking about? There were also other related things. Gathering up my souls…things like that.
She said that I had confronted death on a constant basis because I hadn't been taking care of my souls. People all have many souls, and when you lose all of them, that is when you die. However, when a shock actually happens, without thinking about it, you leave a soul behind at whatever place it happened at. My grandmother told me this.
When I was seven years old, I drowned in the Yanbaru sea. Because I surely left one of my souls behind there, she said I was going to go get it back.
Yes…that was the first time I'd ever heard about something like losing a soul. I felt like saying to her, "How many years have passed since I was seven? Just hurry up and talk faster."
All the ceremonies and rituals didn't mean anything to me. "Am I supposed to pick this up?" I thought to myself.
I had always been in denial of all things such as sorcery or witchcraft. That's not to say that I believe in any of that now, either. It's just that I don't deny it all anymore. I have come to realize that if I sort through the things that were said by my grandmother and my great-grandfather and the senior members of my family, there is definitely meaning in them.
The things that I experienced as a child don't bring me any pleasant memories. They're very painful. So because of that, I came to have a part of myself deny all of it.
However, at this Okinawan training camp, being one of the descendents of those members of my family, I felt that I had found an accepting attitude towards my culture.
I think it is because of that. I become able to look myself in the eye in the mirror. My smile in the mirror became happy. Until then, I hadn't wanted to see myself, but I finally became able to. Should I say that I've become able to accept myself as I really am….?
Now every year during my yearly visit to my great-grandfather's grave, I return to Okinawa to let my family see me.
If I think back on it, since I've gone to Tokyo, I always restrained myself wherever I went and continued to endure everything patiently. I convinced myself that I had to do this.
However, when I went to Okinawa, my grandmother told me, "You were called and you came home. Now once more, start again from here." When she said that, my heart became joyful again.
With that, I can finally fight. It felt like a huge burden had been lifted. Instead of suppressing myself altogether due to the surrounding circumstances, fighting back and making progress forward is much more suited to my character.
Back then at that time, I decided to be the leader to my band members, to fight, to keep running straight ahead with my vision of my solo career.
4. Saigo no Soumatou
[The Last Revolving Lantern]
We stayed in the Okinawa boarding house for about 3 months.
If you drove out about 3 or 4 minutes from the headquarters by car, you would reach an island. Then, further off from that island, you could see another island. Though usually you would get to that island by boat, I started wondering if I could try and swim there.
Since I almost drowned as a child, I had always been terrified of the ocean. That didn't mean I didn't swim. At this boarding house, I got the idea that I was going to conquer my fear of the ocean.
I swam halfway there and then swam back. I would do that every day, and then I said, "Today I'm definitely going to swim out there to that island!"
I went out swimming with the keyboardist of my band.
That day, the tides were farther out than usual, and the waves were higher.
When I looked over, he wasn't there anymore. We had gotten separated.
Had he already gone ahead? Did he go back? Did he get here and then turn around?
Floating in the choppy water, I anguished about this for a while, but because I'd promised that I would swim to the island, I once again aimed myself towards it.
I just barely managed to make it to the island. My keyboardist wasn't there. I walked around for a little while looking for him, but I couldn't find him. All the while I was thinking that he must have turned around and gone back earlier, but anxiety flitted through my mind. Was he safe?
I immediately did a U-turn.
The trip back was very intense. The tides were even stronger, and I realized that I would quickly be swept out to the open sea. As I was swimming back, with all my might, I was thrown under by the waves.
"Ah, I'm going to die."
In my own mind, that revolving lantern began to spin. Bits and fragments of memories from my childhood until that moment began to surface one after the other. Along with those fragments, the faces of different adults floated up. Friends, fans who had cheered for me, staff, my family…
"I'm so sorry. I'm sorry for dying like this."
I apologized to everyone. As I fell, I began to lose consciousness…and then, suddenly, the revolving lantern stopped.
"Everything before this…when did it happen?"
As I was conscious of my death, the thought of sex suddenly floated up into my head.
For three months since we had been in Okinawa, I hadn't had any. I was always training and songwriting. I hadn't been connected with a woman.
"Can I really die like this?"
The instinct inside me was whispering.
"If you die, it will be after you've done it."
At that moment, my consciousness became clear, and within a dream, I began to swim. I didn't even know which way was up, but I kept swimming. At the moment that I reached the surface of the ocean, I vomited out all the ocean water that I had drunk. With that, I came to my senses again.
"I have to rescue him!"
Already forgetting that I had just almost drowned, the only thing in my mind was the guy who I had gotten separated from.
I arrived back on the beach, and when I finally got there, the sun was beginning to set. Because we'd started out to the island at noon, I realized that we had been drifting out there for a long time. I was exhausted from using all my strength, but I started running. It was a long way where I was to the point where we first started out.
Finally I reached our starting point, but the keyboardist hadn't returned. I even thought about preparing to send a search boat out for him.
While I was doing all this, he returned by himself. It was about an hour after I landed on the beach.
He hadn't gotten to the island after all, but midway he had made a U-turn and had been pulled under by the waves. No matter how hard he paddled, he couldn't make any progress, seeming to be swimming towards a tanker he had seen from far away. He drifted to shore about three kilometers near it, and walking back had cost him time.
Anyway, we were both glad we were safe. We were told by the other members things like, "That was stupid," "At any rate, you came back," and "Don't be so reckless!"
That night, as the two of us were reflecting on what had happened, we watched "Titanic."
The scene in which DiCaprio sank into the icy ocean coincided perfectly with what had happened to me.
In that instant for the first time, I felt true fear. From the next day on, I wouldn't go near the ocean, and I discontinued my swimming training. Though I had believed I would conquer the ocean, now I was even more afraid of it. It was a mess.
That time, I thought, "I can't die before I have sex again." If I had had sex the day before, then as I was seeing the revolving lantern at the last moment, I would have died.
However, even as I thought "I'll probably die," my body responded, "Damn it, I can't die like this! I can't die without leaving any descendents!" And at the last minute, I switched.
For the first time, I understood the reason that often, a boxer will abstain from sex the night before a match.
That was the last time I ever saw the revolving lantern. It's been 3 or 4 years since then. In order to recognize my own limits, thinking about when I pushed myself to the brink of death and saw the revolving lantern, I changed myself.
When I was a child, I thought I wanted to become a terrorist. I was going to completely destroy human life. I wanted to erase everything. People were the guns of the world. They were the most useless thing on the face of the earth.
If you ask me today if I have changed my mind, I didn't change it because of what happened. If the existence of humans makes them into the guns of the world, even now, I still believe a part of that.
However, is that all?
Denying that would be easy. Thinking about it, denying it, becoming nothing. It doesn't take a great effort to do that. There would be no meaning in living. Certainly, humans may be the guns of the world. If that's true, in order to become something else, won't we have to struggle harder? Not only thinking about it, acting it out, experiencing it, we begin to see the things that are wrong. Isn't that the meaning of being born on this earth?
Believing that, that is the kind of person I am now.
When I wanted to become a terrorist, I was struggling. In the Okinawa ocean, I switched my view on life. Still, I have to continue to struggle. I can't just sink. I have to keep on floating.
When I was floating on my own, then I thought of my friends. There was a time too when I was hungering for friendship. I felt inferior, and it was a time when I didn't trust in anyone or anything. However, I still struggled during that time, fighting with loneliness and myself.
After returning to Tokyo, I met with the most trusted person on my staff, who was like my right arm. I talked with him and told him this:
At first when I returned from Okinawa, I was like broken, fragile glass. It was almost as if I was afraid even to speak. I was always in a frenzy. It so bad that it was like I projected an aura of "if you touch me, I will kill you."
Though it was just me alone, I was fighting till the end. I was full of spirit and energy.
That spirit inspired the staff member I was talking to.
"If it's him, isn't he doing something for me? If it's me, then isn't there something that I can do for him?" he started to think.
Because of my struggle, I made a friend. Now, he is the most important member of my family.
Little by little, I started to change the people around me. Maybe on that day, I took another step across what it means to be human.
5. Madagascar no Kettou
[Duel in Madagascar]
Three years ago, I went to Madagascar. A small island country on the east side of the African continent, its area is 1.6 times the size of Japan and it has a population of about 1,600,000.
I went to do some work for NHK. When they told me about it, I thought that I could do some soul-searching there. At that time, I was really in need of that.
It was my second year going solo. While I was continuing with my musical activities, I was searching for how I could aim for what I wanted in my own style.
We went to villages where things like "Madagascar Wrestling" and "Madagascar Boxing" were popular.
Truthfully, it was amazing. When we arrived at the village, the villagers were all high from smoking marijuana [#1
]. And yet, because each and every day they would walk many kilometers, draw water, till the soil on their land, such a lifestyle molded their bodies into something resembling sculptures.
These guys get into really spirited fights without using boxing gloves.
It must be instinct.
People form a ring around these fighting guys, and the women and children of the village watch the fight. It's actually like a fight between two male lions to see who gets the female lion. It was also a place to test the strength of the men.
Naturally, there were also people who went in there who were insignificant. That was really frightening. Just by watching it, I was also feeling very afraid. The muscular strength of the fighting men. All the African people had muscles of steel.
At first, I was just watching. Then, the director started asking me.
"Gackt-san, do you want to go in?"
"When you say 'do you want to go', are you going to make me go?"
At that time, someone finished their match, and I decided to go. I wanted to fight a Madagascar person!
About 100 people, adults and children, gathered around, forming a giant circle around me.
It was the first time this had ever happened. In that fashion, in the midst of people I didn't know, I was standing alone, surrounded.
Being the underdog like this was also a first for me. From the bottom of my heart, I was insignificant. However, at the same time, my heart was pounding. In this event, there was no place I could run to, and in this kind of dangerous situation, I was really excited and nervous.
I was standing in the center of a ring of sand, which made for a lousy foothold, and right in front of me I could see 4 or 5 energetic African guys.
On that side, in a reckless, wild tone, a guy who seemed like a coach was stirring up people. In the native language, he would say things like "You can pick anyone you like."
I was a competent fighter. Was I going to become stupid? We exchanged words. I glared at the man and said:
"Can't you fight me? I want to fight you."
In that instant, all the villagers around me burst out in a loud roar.
"Coach, you can do it!"
Their eyes gleamed with excitement.
Seeing their facial expressions, the man unfastened his garment and took it off. Under it appeared pure black skin without a trace of fat. He was definitely a suitable opponent!
It was no wonder that the villagers cheered loudly. No, no, he had one of those unbelievable physiques. I couldn't compare him to any other opponent.
However, I didn't draw back. Above the crowd of villagers that was being stirred up, I felt a strange tension rising.
I didn't really know the rules. It was no good to punch or kick, and it was explained to me that the only way to win was to make the person's face or shoulder hit the ground.
It was a very primitive sort of explanation. However, it was enough for me. If I tried it, then I would know if I could do it or not, and with that, I challenged him to a match.
However, the second the match started, I was punched.
"Hey, you just said that I couldn't hit you!"
And then, a change came over me. The battle that had been sleeping inside me awakened.
In that instant, I thought that I was going to kill my opponent. It was an awareness of my own self that I had forgotten, and I was prepared to break his neck. His neck was just below me, twitching. All the villagers and the referee came running in a panic, taking my hand and stopping me.
Then, the match was ended. Though they had promised me three fights, it was stopped only after one.
My opponent was also very agitated and excited. After he got back up, he was saying "Let's go another round!"
"What are you saying? You almost died!"
I would watch the footage of that time over and over after that.
My eyes were very dangerous. The staff in the office said severely, "We can't let the fans see that!"
However, I had already clearly confirmed it. This was my true nature.
I thought that that part of me had been buried deep inside me from a long time before. With this foundation in place, it didn't mean that I was a violent person, but that more and more, I had to liberate this spiritual side of me.
At that time, not being able to pursue the things that I felt, the things that I fought for, and also the works that I wanted to produce was no good. More and more, it was no good if the weak parts of myself and the dangerous parts of myself couldn't come together.
When I was ten years old, I was a dangerous cluster of things.
However, before I knew it, I had completely suppressed the dangerous parts of myself.
I was bound up by rules, and it was like I had been imprisoned inside of a jail cell of myself. Whenever the wild part of myself would appear, I concealed it, and at that time, I really felt that I had curbed that part of me.
After the match, the village chief came out and said:
"In this far land, in the midst of hostile soil and many spectators, you put forth strength, took a step forward, and fought this battle. This strength is now sent out to all the young people who were watching you fight. Thank you."
That was what he thought.
I said, "What I was meant to do, the way that I was meant to fight, the way that I was meant to be…it was this way."
After I came back from Madagascar, I wondered if I had changed a great deal. I became sociable. It was strange to be sociable with others. I became more conscious of the other people around me.
One explanation is that whenever I thought the situation was becoming dangerous, I would ask myself if I should start become active or not, and I would always act more actively than I had in the past. Regarding who I used this on, I would fight anyone, even if they were a friend. However, if that was the case, I began thinking about that recently.
More than just curbing my lifestyle, I was killing myself by not being able to put essential parts and dirty parts into the same person. That applies both to my activities and the things I produced. I became more aggressive than I had been before.
The people around me also began to change. After I came back from Madagascar, until then I had by a mysterious twist of fate, been meeting many different people. Now, around me are people who I call my "family" and are bound to me through mutual relationships.
I think that this thing called "fate" is something that comes forth from each individual person, and it carries us along.
My inner self changed, so did my fate change as well?
When the power of thoughts meets the power of action, a result is born. That is what I think.
6. Boku no Family no Tanjou
[The Birth of My Family]
I would die for my family.
The thing I call "family" is not my actual family. It consists of friends who I have a mutual understanding with.
At present, my family consists of, at most, around 10 to 15 people. They have various jobs, and there are both men and women. The circumstances of our meetings were also varied.
It's strange, but until I went to Madagascar, I hadn't met most of them yet. At any rate, I feel like I have a great group.
Out of these 15 people, most of them can be called "owners." They are the ones who remain at the top of any family. There are also some that are involved in politics.
If I include everyone up and down the line, I will end up with quite a lot of people in the group. It's not a matter of 1+1=2. If everyone in a family meets everyone else face to face, the numbers will increase all at once. Though we call this "the rule of family," it's a very mysterious increase.
However, that's not the reason we come together.
The top people who have always been by my side have mostly fought their battles in loneliness. It's not just that the people under me cannot show the weaker parts of themselves. It was also that they had a responsibility to stand up on their own, and no matter how you look at it, being burdened with the lives of others made them very mature [lit: have an exact understanding].
Since I went solo, I've become self-aware and have gained a viewpoint of associating with other people who are self-aware. We run towards the front. There's no excuse, and we can't escape it. If I stop running towards what lies ahead, then they will also feel like stopping. In the past, I always thought that.
It's said that fighting through life [lit: tatakau=to fight a battle] alone is the easiest thing to do.
However, in recent times, I've thought about this very keenly. Certainly, fighting through life alone may be the easiest thing. Still, those who fight while believing in something are certainly strong!
In the past, until I joined Malice Mizer, because I was a fighting man, I didn't care if I fought to the point of collapse. And when I collapsed, I would only think that at least I'd thought that would happen before it did.
Now, however, I don't do that anymore. Because I don't fight my battles just alone anymore. Now I have a family. I have people at my back supporting me.
Though there were times that I thought that I was supporting them, truthfully, I began to feel like I was being supported by them. They are the people who watch my back. So, if they hold me firmly, I will never fall.
I think, now, that people's hearts have the ability to become just as strong as if they were wearing a protective amulet.
The top people in my family also feel this way.
While they individually were struggling through in loneliness, being all together in the consciousness called family gave them the feeling that they would not be beaten by anyone. There is family and there are rivals, and we can provoke each other or we could have a good relationship.
The number one reason why I believe in them is that they are not people who only are concerned with simple and easy things. At stories of positive things, they smile from the bottoms of their hearts. At stories of bad things, negative things, they know that it's not definite.
In general, why is it necessary to tell stories of worrisome and painful things? It's because telling them will ease the pain, right?
If you lick the wounds that you carry, then certainly they will become a little less painful. However, if you stop licking them, the pain will begin again.
So even though it hurts, you should stich up your wounds quickly. It will really hurt while they're sewn up, but after it's over, you'll be on your way to being healed. In other words, it's a relationship between our hearts.
Talking about things that are painful to each of us and licking each others' wounds is something that other people besides us can do as well. Whenever someone is carrying a heavy burden, what's important is how much we can help that person stitch up those wounds.
Sewing the wounds up will be extremely painful. There isn't any anesthesia, not in the words that we use. But after it's over, we heal without having even a trace of the scar left [lit: not knowing where the wound is]. That is how things are.
For example, the business that one of the people in my family was running was in trouble. He couldn't really tell anyone else about this. By himself, not talking to anyone about it, he could have dealt with it.
However, he told us this news. Because he told us in person, we realized how grave the problem was. So, not working with anyone else, we all individually wondered how we should help him. No one said "Let's all work together and help him out." So our help progressed very slowly.
Helping someone isn't just "one way." You have to choose which is the best way to do it, and it's hard work. In his case, that was necessary.
Of course, can we all continue to succeed all the time? No one knows that. But when we have to ask ourselves that, we don't just sit there and say "poor guy." That's just rude. Saying "poor guy" to people who are fighting hard isn't just showing compassion. It can be said that people get weak to the point where they don't have any more strength left [lit: cannot put out power], and they fall. For this reason, I think, we don't lick each others' wounds, and no matter what is going on, we all must walk forward.
Though there are misunderstandings, we're not a family because we each succeed on our own. That's not a requirement for a family. The important thing is that whenever something comes up, we can have a truthful [lit: without getting lost] mutual understanding with each other, and that we can have fun together. However, if we don't believe in one another, we can't act.
In my family, whenever someone is hurting, I don't sit by that person and say to them, "Oh, that's too bad that you're hurting," but rather, I take the position of saying, "you can do it!" In order to do this, I should become stronger.
It's good for all of us to live as if we have an amulet protecting us.
When someone was doing something and ran into a problem, when they looked into their own pocket, they pulled out the amulet…
I think we should all live like that