Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kenji Sawada celebrates turning 60 with 6 and a half hour concert

by Chris MaGee

Most North American Japanese film fans will know Kenji Sawada from his roles in such films as Takashi Miike's "The Happniness of the Katakuris", Seijun Suzuki's "Yumeji" and Paul Schrader's "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters", but one thing we don't appreciate about Sawada here is that he is also one of Japan's biggest music stars. Starting with fronting the 1960s "Group Sounds" band The Tigers and then continuing with a successful solo career as the gender-bending Julie (check out one of his Julie-era videos in my post about singers turned actors from back in September). We're talking 15 million albums successful here, a bonafide superstar.

This year Sawada turns 60 and to celebrate he started a nationwide Japanese tour in June which culminated in a 6 and a half hour concert (!!!) of his hits at the Tokyo Dome yesterday. Things kicked off at 3:00 pm with over 32,000 fans in attendance including Sawada's wife, Yuko Tanaka, and Sawada's former Tigers bandmate actor Ittoku Kishibe, and just in the first 3 hours he featured 42 songs, mostly from the 60s and 70s. According to Japan Today after the 26th song Sawada broke down in tears and thanked the audience, telling them how much he appreciated "...people coming down to see my performance, strange as it may be, especially on a weekday…taking time off work and so forth.”

Of course this being Kenji Sawada/ Julie there were some pretty flamboyant costumes on display including the all white suit and Native American headdress (above) that he wore to open the show. In accordance with the Japanese traditions of kanreki, the celebration of a person's 60th birthday, Sawada came out in an identical outfit but all in red for the second half of the concert to symbolize the end of the first cycle in life and starting over again.

Thanks to Japan Zone for the additional details on this monumental concert.

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