Yoshiki’s Journey through Music; from Japan to U.S, from X Japan to Hollywood

Kayo Goto / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yoshiki speaks during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in September.

LOS ANGELES — Yoshiki, the leader of rock band X Japan, took his place among about 300 legendary stars including Marilyn Monroe, when he became the first Japanese person to have his hand- and footprints cemented in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif. However, during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in September, Yoshiki said, “It took me some time to become aware of the gravity of the situation.”

Yoshiki said in English at the ceremony in September that he wanted to prove that a person from Asia, a person from Japan, who didn’t speak English, could still pursue the American Dream, could still pursue the Hollywood dream, regardless of race, regardless of who they are. He also expressed gratitude for his mother who passed away last year.

Yoshiki started playing the piano at age 4 and devoted himself to classical music. He got caught up in rock music after listening to a record by the American rock band Kiss, which his mother had bought for him. “I wanted to buy a record by Beethoven but I ended up picking up a record with a cover of people putting on extreme makeup,” he said, recalling his unforgettable encounter.

His father killed himself when he was 10 years old, and that experience also led Yoshiki deeper into the world of rock music.

“When I thought, ‘Why did my beloved father die?,’ I felt not only sadness but also anger,” he recalled.

Not content with just striking the keys of the piano, he used his feelings to learn the drums and developed professional techniques without even noticing.

He formed the band X and achieved great success in Japan. Then, Yoshiki moved his base of activities to Los Angeles in 1992. “I did not want to be an American artist, but I came here as a Japanese artist,” he said. He did not think that music popular in Japan would be accepted in the United States as it was. He not only studied English but also learned about American culture, religion and politics and incorporated that knowledge into his music. He gained a good reputation for his work ethic and he has composed soundtracks for Hollywood films and wrote the official theme song for the 69th Golden Globe Awards.

Yoshiki is also active as a representative of Japan as he serves as an advisor to Japan House, established by the Japanese Foreign Ministry to foster awareness of Japanese culture, in Hollywood. In October, Yoshiki held a world tour with an orchestra, performing concerts in Tokyo as well as the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles and the Carnegie Hall in New York.

He is so devoted to practice that he even wants to bring a piano on the plane with him while traveling.

“I have continued to play in a rock band because of my feelings. I don’t feel I have done anything special,” he said.