We’ve had a visitor. Yuko is Lieve’s friend, they have known each other for twenty eight years. We see Yuko every year or so, she’s Japanese, and in addition to being soft spoken she doesn’t speak English very well. She’s always been intriguing to me, and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yuko I know, and I have to use that qualification because I don’t know her well, is a music Fan. Capital F. She lives in Japan, but comes to America to see concerts. Little concerts. The last time she visited was to see The Cure, this time, she’s seeing Monochrome Set three times, first in Philly, then in New York, and then in Bordentown NJ (we went with her to the show in Bordentown). I asked her why she would fly halfway around the world to see bands in tiny little venues, and she told me that’s just something she does on vacation. The real purpose of the vacation is to “get away”.

I thought that was the purpose of a vacation for anyone, but she explained further. She likes to travel to America and England (France and Spain as well) because they don’t speak Japanese. She can be in the center of a crowd, and not pick up bits and pieces of conversations. “I don’t have to hear about someone’s mother” she said. What an interesting concept. When I asked what she does to get away at home, she said “I don’t do anything special to accomplish that. I switch on the TV and have foreign dramas or films running when I’m at home. In a crowded train, I try to be lost in thought/reading/listening/reverie in my own world.”


When we were walking in Philly I could see the release, the freedom she felt. As we were leaving the Reading Terminal Market, there were a couple of guys playing guitar, and they started “Blitzkrieg Bop”.  Her arm went up in the air and she danced the rest of the way to the car.


Yuko met Lieve in 1985, when Lieve worked for Crepuscule Records in Brussels, and was traveling with the label’s tour in Japan. After the third night,  the tour group realized that the same young woman was always waiting around after the shows, talking to the bands. They adopted her as a translator and worked out arrangements for her to have a place to stay with them. Later, when Lieve developed a sore throat, Yuko took her to the hospital, and translated for her. I asked her how she can just start up conversations with bands, being such a demure individual. She said “I’m kind of shy, I would like to talk to bands but I don’t know what I talk about. So I usually don’t. I don’t approach bands aggressively, I talk to them the same as other fans after concerts. I would be happy if they could understand how much I like their music. When I was young, I think I was quite cheeky.( still now?!). I want others to see me as a compassionate / friendly person.”

BrightonYuko in Brighton 1986

When I asked Yuko what her favorite type of music, she said “I have a wide taste in music. When I listen to music, I don’t think of which type of music they are. I just feel that I like the song. It just happens that Alternative/classic/heavy metal/hard rock/Progressive/Punk/post-rock/jazz/Pop/New wave/dance…. (remember what I’ve said about labels?) When I was in primary school, I listened to The Monkees, The Partridge Family,The Carpenters and Bay City Rollers. Especially, I was interested in all musicians when I was a junior high-school student. As I could be possible, I listened to any type of music and went to see concerts (Kiss, Japan, Eric Clapton, Lee Ritenour, Rod Stewart,The Runaways, Rainbow, The Stranglers….)”


Not that I’m jealous or anything, she just managed to see most of the greatest bands ever. Her answer to “What are your favorite bands” sounds a lot like me, were I able to devote my life to following bands. She said “I have a lot of favourite bands. Too many…The Cure, The Monochrome Set, The Clash, Big Audio Dynamaite, Cosmic Rough Riders, Thin Lizzy, TOOL, Tortoise ,SigurRos, The Durutti Colmun, JosefK, Belle&Sebastian, Orange Jucie, Stump, Lou Barlow, Cheap Trick, The Bluebells, Kiss, The Shins, Neil Young, Ocean Colour Scene, Mogwai, Super Furry Animals, JasonFalkner, YoLaTengo, arco, the Sparks, Madness, Joy Division, New Order, Mice Parade, At The DriveIn, The June Brides, The Undertones, The Smiths, Eyeless In Gaza, AC/DC, Ben Folds Five, Jellyfish, Pernice Brothers, The Milk&Honey Band, Echo&The Bunnymen, Daniel Johnston, Oranger, The Sea&Cake, Sebadoh, 1000Violins, Carbon/Silicon, OKGO, The Flaming Lips, Stiff Little Fingers, The Ramons, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Gomez, The Decemberists, The LA’s, Jose Gonzalez, Nick Drake, The Vaselines, Arab Strap, The Monkees, The Partridge Family (David Cassidy)…….I can’t finish!”. Kind of like my “Whatever is playing now…”


She says there was a period when she lost interest in music, “Suddenly, I was not interested in music. I was away from music in the 90s. Sometimes, I listened to classic music. I hardly went to see concerts, maybe a few ones in 10 years.(expect The Cure) Instead of music, I was into a play and Kabuki (Japanese traditional play). I go to the theatre a few times every month now. Again, I started to listen to music in 2000, and I listened to a lot of bands for filling the hole in 10 years.( like I was a junior high-school student)”


Yuko visited Lieve through the years during her vacations in England and France, visiting her home in Belgium and later in Manchester. Yuko never married, and still lives with her parents. I asked her about that, as Americans seem to be getting back to multi generational homes. She said “It is common for adults to live with their parents in Japan. Most of people will move out when they get married, work at another place, go to university. But they think a responsibility to take care of their parents, so some of them move back home later. It’s also common that the son (mostly the eldest one) take care of his parents. He lives with them even if he get married or when his parents get old, they live together. It depends, anyway.” She says that she is happy living with her parents, they are getting older year by year and she can monitor that. She says that she doesn’t feel that living with her parents has hindered her life choices.


She appears to be fascinated by everything. She’s one of those people who takes pictures of her food, and when we got ice cream she composed the photograph of her cone with the store’s sign, shaped like an ice cream cone, in the background. She laughs easily, and, maybe due to her size, has a child like aura about her. When I asked what kinds of art she enjoys she said “I like Modern Art and Pop art. I like Francis Bacon, Marc Chagall, Andy Wahol, Joost Swarte (cartoonist) and Nick Park (Stop Motion Animator).


By all appearances she is a well rounded, happy person. When I asked What she would do if she could change anything in the world, she said “Plenty of smiles and full of laughter. Because positive vibrations is essential in life.”

Just being around Yuko brings all those things. She is a wonderful ambassador for herself. As she would say “笑って元気”, smiling, energetic.



3 comments on “笑って元気

  1. Alice Sanders says:

    As you describe Yuko, one feels that she is a very well-rounded lady, interested in the fine arts. Though her musical taste seem a generation away from me (a generation can be from 18-25 years) she knows what she is interested in, and lives her life to the full. What a wonderful, young lady!


  2. Circe says:

    She sounds wonderful, and very like Lieve in some ways. I am thinking of her tendency to downplay her abilities, while she secretly has strength in reserve.
    Yuko certainly does have diverse taste in music! What a wonderful visitor!


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