Japan Sound Portrait

The Japan Sound Portrait podcast is a regular series by Nick Luscombe and Neil Cantwell dedicated to the sharing of the many and varied sounds from Japan - from field recordings of the countryside and the city, to music and interviews from well-known and emerging Japanese artists, as well as international artists with an interest in the subject. For more info about Japan Sound Portrait please visit
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Jul 15, 2021
We are pleased to temporarily return from hiatus to bring you this podcast marking the recent release of a trailer for the Sound of Kyoto project, by Marios Joannou Elia.

Sharing Marios' intrigue with the question "Does each city have its own sound?", it was a pleasure to be able to talk to him about how he has sought to 'musicalise' the city of Kyoto, interspersed with sections of music that will make up part of the final composition.

The final film will blend performances from over 560 musicians, set in dozens of indoor and outdoor locations across the city, and including Japanese traditional instruments, an electronic matryomin ensemble, choirs, symphonic and mandolin orchestras.
Following on from the “Sound of Vladivostok”, Sound of Kyoto promises to be a unique conceptual and musical interpretation of the city. Please enjoy the trailer and this podcast as a precursor to the release of the full film later in the year.

During the ongoing Japan Sound Portrait podcast hiatus, you can catch up with some of Nick's broadcasts from Tokyo for CIC-Live

or keep up to date with the activities of MSCTY.SPACE.

Production has also recently completed on the film Ghost Amber, co-produced by Neil, with further details of screenings due later in the year.


Mar 12, 2019

Concluding our series of podcasts focusing on Akinobu Tatsumi's visit to the UK, we are happy to bring you a section from his performance at The Rose Hill in Brighton on Sunday 24th February - it's a rather special journey through a range of both traditional and modern sounds. Please enjoy!

And with many thanks to Yolanda Liou for the picture, which was taken on the very first day of Tatsumi's visit.


Feb 17, 2019

Although beginning and ending somewhere in the vicinity of Japan, this podcast travels beyond our normal geographical boundaries in order to preview some of the artists who'll be performing alongside TA2MI on his forthcoming UK tour.

The mix is inspired sequentially from the line-up for our Sound Portraits event at The Rose Hill in Brighton on Sunday 24th February

thereby featuring:

Nick Luscombe/Japan Sound Portrait - Monomachi Theme
Simon James - OCT Meditation Bonus D/L track from Musicity 003 Shenzhen/Shanghai
Moulay Ahmed Elhassani - Mi Hanna Dada, from Atlas Electric, forthcoming on Hivemind Records
F.Ampism - Om Shandy
khimera - Rise and Fall
Sophie Brown - Live at The Bleeding Hearts Club All-Dayer
You&TH - Te Voglio Bene Assaije
Unknown, from Chii Poppins Nihon mix
TA2MI - Mysterious Hi-Tempo
amoeba - KanZeOn Xap Mo Xnok Dub

before then previewing a little of our 'Thus Have I Heard: Sound and Japanese Buddhism' event at SOAS, on Saturday 2nd March

which will include Clive Bell talking about Buddhist aspects of the shakuhachi, as he does here.

Feb 1, 2019

We are delighted to confirm the full details for Akinobu Tatsumi / TA2MI's forthcoming visit to the UK, which will include:

Wednesday 20th February
The Arts Institute, Plymouth - KanZeOn screening, Q&A, DJ set

Friday 22nd February
Falmouth Academy of Music and Theatre Arts - Live Performance, Q&A

Sunday 24th February
Sound Portraits at The Rose Hill, Brighton - Live Performance/DJ set

Saturday 2nd March
Thus Have I Heard: Sound and Japanese Buddhism event at SOAS, London - Live Performance/Presentation

Please tell any friends you may know in any of those vicinities!


We will be releasing a collection of 3 CDs of TA2MI's music that will be available at these events - his first two albums, Travel Through Worlds and TA2MIST, plus a Japan Sound Portrait compilation of his single releases to date. This podcast is a preview mix of tracks from that compilation - all are available to listen to in full at


Dec 14, 2018

Also celebrating Tatsumi's forthcoming visit to the UK, we are making the film KanZeOn available to watch online for free for the first time - Tatsumi is one of three main characters in the film, which is part documentary and part a sensory exploration of sound, so anyone wanting to find out more about his fascinating double-life as a Buddhist priest and DJ/producer can do so via the following link.

This podcast provides an introduction to the sonic character of the film, consisting of selections from remixes of the film's soundtrack by the following artists:

dj tatsuki

as part of KanZeOn ReIndications, which is available via the following link.


Dec 14, 2018

Following the announcement of our forthcoming event 'Thus Have I Heard: Sound and Buddhism in Japan'

which features the Buddhist priest and producer/DJ Akinobu Tatsumi, this podcast features a selection of Tatsumi's music. Two selections are taken from this mix of some of his more dancefloor oriented tracks by Yoshie Takahashi

interspersed with an experimental entirely new track called 'Contact is Universe'.

Further details will be announced shortly for other events that Tatsumi will be doing whilst he's in the UK






Oct 24, 2018

In this podcast we are happy to share some of the great music that we've been sent/given during the year...

- starting with a remix by our friend Koichi Yuasa/japanetehq of a Japan Sound Portrait track made with Takeshi Nishimoto at last year's nowJapan Festival.

- followed by a track called City (Lm version) by GOOD LUCK HEIWA, from their album Lm released at the end of 2017.

GOOD LUCK HEIWA are Takuji Nomura on Keyboards and Daichi Ito on Drums and Whistling, and they are also part of Haruomi Hosono's touring band - we were grateful to receive their CD as everyone was saying their goodbyes following their concert at The Old Market in Brighton earlier in the year.

- next is the track Doujiri by Ken Sugai.

The image accompanying this podcast is of Ken-san, and is a fantastic modern re-creation of an important religious statue of the itinerant monk Kuya.

Where in the original image/statue there are six small statues of the Buddhist deity Amida coming from Kuya's mouth, representing the power of devotionally chanting the syllables 'na-mu-a-mi-da-butsu', Ken-san has replaced these figures with diodes, perhaps playfully suggesting the revelatory potency of experimental electronic music. 

- this is followed by a track called Otomi, by Chihiro Ono. This was drawn to our attention by Neil Luck as part of a release called New Vocal Solutions on his label squib-box

a compilation of experimental music artists working with Vocaloid technology (most famous for powering digital avatar popstar Hatsune Miku). This track hinges around a field recording of the fermentation process of  ko-ji - a natural fungus used in the process of making Sake, Miso and Soy sauce.

- and finally we have some selections from a new collection of tracks we have received from TA2MI,

made in collaboration with ZUMBO. We are also delighted to announce that TA2MI will be visiting the UK for a series of performances/events in late February/early March 2019, so please watch this space for further announcements...

Sep 20, 2018

Nick meets DJ Sinta and UKD from the Tokyo Grime production duo Double Clapperz, and ONJUICY, a Grime MC also from Tokyo, during their visit to London earlier this summer.

We already started to explore the story of Grime music in Japan in a previous interview with Elijah, Director of the UK label Butterz

and 6 weeks from now sees what promises to be a landmark event taking place in Tokyo, where Butterz will celebrate their 8th birthday alongside an Allstar line-up of artists from the Japanese grime scene and beyond

Featured tracks:

Double Clapperz - Sha Ni Kamaeru - Obscure VIP - 02 Obscure (EGL VIP)

Sha Ni Kamaeru - Obscure VIP - 01 EGL - Sha Ni Kamaeru feat. Ralph (Double Clapperz VIP)

Thanks to Hayato Takahashi for help with arranging the interview and translation.



Aug 16, 2018

Nick meets Tomoko Hojo and Rahel Kraft - two sound artists who are exploring intimate, hidden sounds in different regions through a joint project. During their two months residency at Nairs in 2017, they investigated the specific acoustics of the Lower Engadine, in collaboration with the local community with special regard to the interaction of 'inner sounds' between people, language, space and nature. Their previous work Reborn Homes Through My Voice, seven site-specific sound works in a traditional Japanese house with performances and events, was exhibited at the Denchu Hiraksuhi House, Tokyo, 2017. Currently a German edition of this work is exhibited in the group show SPOT ON, Nairs.

Jul 29, 2018

We are delighted to interview Kiku Day, ( one of the organisers of the World Shakuhachi Festival, which is taking place this week in London. Following discussion of the festival, Kiku-san gives some in-depth background about the history of the instrument, and discloses elements of the experience of playing the instrument, whereby the techniques of breathing and improvisation can make for a transformative meditation.


More information about the World Shakuhachi Festival 2018 in London.

As you can read on the website it is the 7th time a WSF is held. It is the first time in Europe. 


Dates and times:


30.07: There will be an academic conference just on the subject of the shakuhachi. Scholars from various fields such as ethnomusicology, Japanology, history, sociology, art history, science of acoustics will present their research.


31.07, 20:00: Opening Gala Concert mix programme - Union Chapel


1 - 4 August at Goldsmiths, University of London (either in Deptford Town Hall or Great Hall) 2 concerts at 13:00, 1 concert at 17:00 and 20:00. All mixed programmes. 

More information on each concert on the website.

There are also lectures on shakuhachi and japanese music in general that are open for the general public at 13:00 and 17:00.


Featured music:

- Vintertraner is a piece called Night Flying Winter Cranes composed for Kiku Day by Danish composer Mogens Christensen. Shakuhachi and electronics.

- Tamuke is played by Kiku Day's teacher Okuda Atsuya, who is coming to London. This is a honkyoku (pieces played by komuso monks during the Edo period)

You can read about Okuda here:
- Shizuka ni naru toki is played by Tanabe Shozan (who is coming to London)
You can read about him here:

- Three Treasures: Columns and Webs III (1996) for shakuhachi with live electronics, 4 kotos, and percussion (studio recording, all instruments: Jim Franklin, a co-organiser of the festival)


Jun 28, 2018

Nick discusses the film CODA with its subject Ryuichi Sakamoto and its Director Stephen Nomura Schible.


One of the most important artists of our era, Ryuichi Sakamoto has had a prolific career spanning over four decades, from techno-pop stardom to Oscar-winning film composer. The evolution of his music has coincided with his life journeys. Following Fukushima, Sakamoto became an iconic figure in Japan’s social movement against nuclear power. As Sakamoto returns to music following cancer, his haunting awareness of life crises leads to a resounding new masterpiece. RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA is an intimate portrait of both the artist and the man.

CODA had its world premiere at the Venice Film Film Festival, Out of Competition, and is set for a worldwide theatrical release during 2018 - in the UK from June 29th.

May 29, 2018

Nick meets Haruomi Hosono ahead of his forthcoming UK performances in London

and Brighton

to discuss the release of The Haruomi Hosono Archival Series by Light In The Attic Records

and a few other things...

Translation and interpretation by Ken Nishikawa.


One of the most revered figures within Japanese popular music, Hosono-san has played a key role in not one but two of the most influential bands the country has ever produced. Debuting as part of Apryl Fool in 1969, he went on to form Happy End in 1970 - notable for being one of the first Japanese rock bands to sing in their own language. This was followed by establishing the electronic music trio Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO) with Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Nakamoto in 1978. 

In addition to achieving Beatles-esque levels of success within Japan, YMO were a pioneering influence on the development of electronic music genres such as hip-hop and techno around the world. This hallmark of innovation continued within Hosono-san’s solo career, where he became a pioneer in the development of game music and the genre of ambient music. 


Featured music:

Fuku ha Uchi Oni ha Soto, from the album Hosono House
Madam Consul General Of Madras, from the album Cochin Moon
LIVING-DINING-KITCHEN, from the album Philharmony
Aiaigasa, from the album Hosono House
In Limbo, from the album Philharmony



Apr 18, 2018

Here is a special edition of the Japan Sound Portrait podcast to celebrate a special week-long season on BBC Radio 3 called Night Blossoms, which will explore the mysterious, counter-cultural and unexpected side of Japanese music and arts across the station’s evening programmes, running from 21st to the 27th April.

The season will start on Saturday with a special edition of Between the Ears in which Nick will explore the essay In Praise of Shadows - a classic in the field of Japanese aesthetics by Junichiro Tanizaki.

This podcast collects together some echoes from Japan Sound Portrait to accompany some sound-related quotes from the essay, fuller versions of which are available below.

Featured music:

Nick Luscombe: Monomachi Theme
amoeba: Kanzeon Xap Mo Xnok Dub
Nick Luscombe & Robin The Fog: Monomachi Theme Remix
shinekosei: No

Many thanks to the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for supporting research into this project.

Elsewhere in the Night Blossoms Season, Nick will be busy on Late Junction, with the week's programmes dedicated entirely to music from Japan, coupled with Nick's immersive recordings of the diverse and often unexpected soundscapes of Tokyo late at night. Our recent event at Spiritland will be broadcast on the Exposure programme on Thursday 26th April, and there will be special Japanese editions of all other evening programming throughout the week.


Sound-related extracts from Junichi Tanizaki's In Praise of Shadows:

“……in a Nara or Kyoto temple…as I have said there are certain prerequisites: a degree of dimness, absolute cleanliness, and quiet so complete one can hear the hum of a mosquito. I love to listen from such a toilet to the sound of softly falling rain, especially if it is a toilet of the Kanto region, with its long, narrow windows at floor level; there one can listen with such a sense of intimacy to the raindrops falling from the eaves and the trees, seeping into the earth as they wash over the base of a stone lantern and freshen the moss about the stepping stones. And the toilet is the perfect place to listen to the chirping of insects or the song of the birds, to view the moon, or to enjoy any of those poignant moments that mark the change of the seasons. Here, I suspect, is where haiku poets over the ages have come by a great many of their ideas.


“…had we invented the phonograph and the radio, how much more faithfully they would reproduce the special character of our voices and our music. Japanese music is above all a music of reticence, of atmosphere. When recorded, or amplified by a loudspeaker, the greater part of its charm is lost. In conversation, too, we prefer the soft voice, the understatement. Most important of all are the pauses. Yet the phonograph and radio render these moments of silence utterly lifeless. And so we distort the arts themselves to curry favour for them with the machines. “


“Western paper turns away the light, while our paper seems to take it in, to envelop it gently, like the soft surface of a first snowfall. It gives off no sound when it is crumpled or folded, it is quiet and pliant to the touch as the leaf of a tree.”


“Whenever I sit with a bowl of soup before me, listening to the murmur that penetrates like the far-off shrill of an insect, lost in contemplation of flavours to come, I feel as if I were being drawn into a trance. The experience must be something like that of the tea master who, at the sound of the kettle, is taken from himself as if upon the sigh of the wind in the legendary pines of Onoe (Hirakawa, Aomori).”

“The mysterious Orient of which Westerners speak probably refers to the uncanny silence of these dark places.”


Podcast image from Wikimedia Commons: ストリングのれん by Takashi Tomooka

Apr 4, 2018

Ahead of next week's BBC Radio 3 Exposure / Japan Sound Portrait event at Spiritland

we have a special podcast including interviews with two of the featured artists who will be performing - Hatis Noit and Midori Hirano/MimiCof.

Hatis Noit is a vocal performer inspired by Japanese classical music, opera, chanting and avant-garde and pop vocalists. Her debut EP is released on Erased Tapes on March 23rd.

Midori Hirano is a Berlin-based musician, composer and producer. She started learning the piano as a child, and this triggered what was to later see her study classical piano at university. Therefore her productions are based on the use of acoustic instruments such as the piano, strings or guitars, but yet experimental and an eclectic mixture of modern digital sounds with subtle electronic processing and field recordings.

Featured music:

Hatis Noit - Illogical Lullaby
MimiCof - N57_A2_Burning Lights

Our previous podcast with the other artist who will be performing at this event, Tomoko Sauvage, is available here





Feb 21, 2018

Another Kyushu Special, featuring field recordings by Thomas Martin Nutt


- New Years Day prayers at Yasaka Shrine in Kokura.
- A summer meadow in Mt. Kujyu.
- Part of the Tagawa River Festival.
- Frogs in some rice paddies around Nogata.

plus two tracks from TA2MI's recently released new HeadCleaner album

from over in Yatsushiro

and then also a remix by japanetehq in Saga

of a previously podcast Japan Sound Portrait track made with Takeshi Nishimoto, who is from Fukuoka...

Jan 25, 2018

Nick interviews Masaaki Yoshida, otherwise known as Anchorsong, talking about the development of his music, how he creates his unique live show, and his plans for a new record in 2018.


Nov 25, 2017

An interview with Takeshi Nishimoto, combined with recordings from a recent improvised live collaborative Japan Sound Portrait performance at the nowJapan Festival in Vlinus, Lithuania.

Born in Fukuoka, Takeshi is a classically trained guitarist and composer who is conversant with European, Northern Indian, and American jazz classical traditions. In addition to collaborations with diverse artists , from sitar master Rahul Sakyaputra to I'm Not a Gun associate John Tejada, Nishimoto has also performed extensively as a solo artist.

In this interview, Takeshi talks about his development as a musician, how to approach using tools for creating electronic music (informed by his position as a specialist adviser to Ableton) and the process of discovering what you want to hear.


Oct 24, 2017

Tomoko Sauvage, Japanese musician and artist active since mid 2000’s, investigates the sculpturality of sound and improvisation in relation to the environment. Mainly known for a musical / visual research about ‘natural synthesizer’ of her invention, composed with diverse fluid, bowls, ceramic, light and underwater amplification, Sauvage’s approach is attached to questions of alchemy, meditation and balance between hazard and mastery. Under the form of performances, installations and musical compositions, her work is regularly presented in Europe, Asia and America.


Sep 21, 2017

“to me the world is sound.

Sound penetrates me,

linking me to the world.

I give sounds active meaning.

By doing this I am assured of being in the sounds,

becoming one with them.

To me this is the greatest reality.

It is not that I shape anything,

but rather that I desire to merge with the world.”

Toru Takemitsu, Confronting Silence, p.13

Jun 27, 2017

We leave you with the rhythmical motions and gently deep popping that is the sound of green tea leaves being dried in a large metal bowl over a fire. This traditional technique was recorded at a co-operative drying house in a valley of the tea-growing region of Ureshino in Kyushu - apparently one of the few left still using the technique, and the Emperor and Empress were due to visit the following week for a very special cup of tea. Big thanks to Koichi Yuasa for arranging what was a very special visit.

The Japan Sound Portrait Podcast will be back in September, as long as there aren't any especially urgent sounds we need to share in the meantime. Thanks for listening and check out our Kyushu Sound Map webpage if you'd like to be creating your own podcasts while we're away...



Jun 17, 2017

A first selection from recent sound gatherings in Kyushu, featuring:

- a quartet of Tatami mat weaving machines, made from the igusa grass that is a speciality of the Yatsushiro region.

- a performance of Hidakagawa-Iriai-Zakura at the Seiwa Bunrakukan Puppetry Theatre

- an extract from TA2MI's forthcoming 'Dragon Water' release, which will be on vinyl with a woven tatami record sleeve.

Jun 8, 2017
Nick Luscombe speaks to Midori Komachi live at the Japanese Playback event in Spiritland. 

You'll hear excerpts from Midori's performance on the night. Her new album, Warp and Weft, is out now on EM Records.
Jun 3, 2017

Neil talks to kidkanevil about 'nemui pj' - a new duo he's made with Japanese musician Noah. Named after the group's mutual appreciation for making music in pyjamas, they have a debut pumpkin ep out on flau records from July

Other Featured music: doll (kidkanevil remix) from Flaw by Noah

Also check out kidkanevil's new Otaku event

coming to London from July 15th.

May 26, 2017

A bank holiday special of material from our recent Japanese Playback event held at Spiritland in London, featuring the one and only Clive Bell.


CLIVE BELL is a musician, composer and writer with a specialist interest in the shakuhachi, khene and other Far Eastern wind instruments. He has travelled extensively in Japan (where he studied the shakuhachi ­ or Japanese flute with the master Kohachiro Miyata), Thailand, Laos and Bali, researching music and meeting local practitioners. In 2011 he played with Jah Wobble at Ronnie Scott’s and the Glastonbury Festival, and toured the UK with Mugenkyo Taiko drummers (contemporary Japanese drumming). Clive is the shakuhachi player on Karl Jenkins’s album Requiem on EMI Classics, and the final two Harry Potter movies. His shakuhachi playing was featured in a live solo session on Radio 3’s Late Junction, and in 2013 on Radio 3’s In Tune. A musician who regularly joins David Ross, Sylvia Hallett and Peter Cusack in improvisation duos and trios, Clive Bell has a substantial recording history as both a solo artist (his solo album, Shakuhachi: The Japanese Flute was reissued in 2005 by ARC Records) and as a composer for film, TV and theatrical productions (Complicite, IOU, Whalley Range Allstars). Kazuko Hohki, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit, Harry Beckett, Robert Lippok, David Sylvian, David Toop, Jochen Irmler of Faust, Paul Schütze and Bill Laswell number among Clive Bell’s collaborators. As a record producer, his latest release is Taeko Kunishima’s Late Autumn on 33Jazz (2011). Based in London, he writes regularly for the music monthly The Wire.

May 20, 2017

This episode focuses on some recent developments in the field of electronic music in Japan, through hearing about the Japanese encounters of Elijah, Director of the UK Grime record label Butterz.

Starting with first online contacts whilst DJing on Rinse FM, his interest was further sparked by the Japanese War Dubs Tournament

(available to listen to here,

before then visiting to play his own first show there in 2014.

Suddenly Grime was bIG iN jAPAN, but perhaps it is also just the latest interesting example of how electronic music genres move around the world. By the time of Elijah's return to the country in 2016, Japan had it's own grime style, perhaps not surprising given the depth of influence all grime producers share from Japanese computer game soundtrack composers.

The interview is interspersed with new music from Japan Sound Portrait supporter TA2MI

- a great example of how Japanese electronic music producers move across different styles and genres, as has happened again in the case of Japanese Grime.

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