Here's something most of you probably don't know unless you've lived in Japan: in Japan, September 1st is "celebrated" as "Disaster Prevention Day" (though we personally like to call it "Safety Day"). The yearly event was launched to commemorate the anniversary of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that hit Tokyo and surrounding areas and sparked massive fires throughout the city that claimed the lives of at least 105,000 people (that's nearly as many people as were killed in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima). Tokyo at the time was mostly made of wood-and-paper buildings, so you can only imagine how deadly the firestorm must have been... oh wait, you don't have to imagine, we're getting Firestorm Redux all over the world now, everywhere from Maui to Athens to Alberta.
Mm... and September 1st, 1939, was the day Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII (yeah this is Cayce here sitting on our ass in Tokyo watching Barbenheimer instead of going to Nagoya. If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky that would be like the splendor of "Taiyou ni Korosareta." But we digress.)
In an eerie sort of time-loop effect, today, September 1st, 2023, marks the 100-year anniversary of the Kanto Earthquake disaster, which remains the deadliest natural disaster in Japan's history to date. For comparison: it is estimated that slightly fewer than 20,000 people died in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, 2011. Disaster Prevention Day isn't a national holiday - people go to school and work as usual, but what's special about this day is that schools and workplaces around the country hold disaster safety workshops for students and employees, who are encouraged if not required to attend. Safety workshops include presentations on practical tips to survive a major earthquake, post-quake protocols, and hands-on training such as visiting and interacting with emergency supplies, or even obstacle courses where participants put on masks and learn how to crawl through burning buildings while avoiding smoke, etc. (Fun fact: as a young office drone in Tokyo, Cayce got to attend a very intense version of one of these trainings, complete with fake dry-ice smoke. It was a lot more fun than working in the office!)
How ironic, then, that Buck-Tick's Izora Tour Nagoya show, initially scheduled for June 3rd, 2023 (which was incidentally the night of the full moon, also known as the Strawberry Moon) was rescheduled due to heavy rains and flooding from a massive typhoon that hit central Japan on June 2nd, and not only that, it was rescheduled for September 1st, 2023 (which is incidentally the day after the last Blue Supermoon for the next decade and a bit - Supermoon element relevant in that Supermoons, or perigee full moons, are commonly associated with high seismic activity and fun fact the Great East Japan Earthquake also happened on a Supermoon known as the Death Moon because go figure Death Moon is the traditional name of the March full moon in Virgo fun fact Mr. Sakurai's birthday was also the full moon or Death Moon of March 1966, but we digress) - that is to say, the Izora tour Nagoya show was rescheduled for today, Disaster Prevention Day/Safety Day. The show was rescheduled because the trucks with all the stage sets and sound gear and such have to depart a day in advance of the show when the band are on tour, to ensure that everything can be set up in time, but there was no way any of the tour trucks could have hit the highway in that weather. So the band's management went and rescheduled the show for Safety Day. Maybe they thought it was auspicious, but...
...yesterday evening, it was announced on the Buck-Tick official website that the Izora Nagoya show was being postponed yet again. The official reason? Mr. Sakurai felt sick and tested positive for Covid-19 AGAIN. Here's where it gets weirder, though: last year, as some of you may remember, the band arrived in Nagoya on the evening of August 3rd in preparation for their Fish Tank x Love & Media Portable Members Only 2022 show at Zepp Nagoya, only for Mr. Sakurai to start feeling ill, take a Covid test, and test positive. The August 4th, 2022 show in Nagoya was postponed, along with the August 14th, 2022 show in Fukuoka, and the Fish Tanker's Only 2022 show that had been scheduled for August 11th, 2022 at Toyosu PIT in Tokyo. Mr. Sakurai later reported in FT and on the Buck-Tick official website that he felt extremely ill and had been required to quarantine at a Nagoya hotel for ten days, because due to Covid protocols at the time, he wasn't allowed to return home to convalesce. Later, at the rescheduled Fish Tanker's Only show in Toyosu (which was held on Yutaka's birthday, January 24th, 2023), Sakurai stated "I really thought I was going to die back there."
However, we all know he's a much tougher bastard than that - in fact, less than a week out of quarantine, he took to the stage at Club Citta' Kawasaki to perform with Buck-Tick at Toll's 60th birthday extravaganza. This was a big deal for a number of reasons. First, the 60th birthday is considered a very important milestone in Japanese culture. A person turning 60 has lived through a full rotation of the Chinese Zodiac: five turns of the twelve zodiac animals (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar), with one year with each animal in each of the traditional Chinese elements (air, water, fire, wood, and metal). Therefore, the 60th birthday is called 還暦 ("kanreki," or "complete rotation"), and age 60 is seen as a "return to childhood" or "second childhood" in which the person is able to start fresh with a youthful heart in older age. Historically, living to age 60 was considered a great achievement, because in pre-modern times, many people died young of disease, accidents, violence, etc. The 60th birthday is traditionally celebrated with all kinds of festive customs, including eating lucky red rice and dressing the birthday boy/girl in a bright red coat called a "chan-chanko." The color red is used widely because (as adopted from Chinese traditions) it symbolizes good luck, longevity, prosperity, and vitality. In short: there is no way Mr. Sakurai was going to miss performing on Toll's big day! Later, in FT, Mr. Sakurai confessed that he wasn't quite sure he would be up to performing, he didn't feel his performance was up to his usual standards, and he felt very exhausted after the show, but of course, he did it anyway, because he's a tough guy, with a lot of pride, and a great sense of loyalty to the other band members.
Not only that, but one of the many illustrious guests who performed at this show was none other than Issay, vocalist of the band Der Zibet and "very close special friend" of Mr. Sakurai since their indie days late 80's Tokyo. During his later career, Issay was a member of a regular rotating group of musicians in the Tokyo underground/goth scene who often made guest appearances at each other's shows or played jam sessions at events featuring multiple bands. Toll was another high-profile member of this group, and the two had a longstanding working relationship entirely outside of Sakurai and Issay's notorious "friendship," but nonetheless, Issay had never performed as a guest musician at one of Toll's birthday shows since Toll's much-discussed bombshell 50th birthday show (held on August 19th, 2012, also at Club Citta' Kawasaki) that featured a guest live set by Der Zibet in which Issay and Mr. Sakurai performed a reprise of their 1991 duet "Masquerade" (originally released on Der Zibet's album Shishunki II: Downer Side), involving possibly the single most sexually explicit stage routine either of them has ever performed, strip teases included (and we say this in full knowledge and direct personal experience of just how sexual those two can get on stage even when they're up there solo without the benefit of a
special friend to get off play off. Also anyone who tries to claim that Mr. Sakurai hasn't ever done a proper strip tease clearly wasn't present at the November 23rd 2011 Utakata no Razzle Dazzle show at Akasaka Blitz, also incidentally a show that was rescheduled due to the Great East Japan Earthquake.)
However, on August 19th, 2022, Issay took to the Club Citta' Stage again with Mr. Sakurai to perform guest vocals on Buck-Tick's "Itoshi no Rock Star" for the first time in... god only knows how many years. The original Six/Nine studio recording of "Itoshi no Rock Star" (released in 1995) featured Issay singing guest vocals (show of hands: how many of you didn't even realize it because Issay's voice sounds so similar to Sakurai's on this track?). Sakurai later reported that he had written the lyrics of "Itoshi no Rock Star" in Issay's image, just as Issay reported that he had written the lyrics to "Masquerade" in Sakurai's honor years earlier. Issay also appeared as a guest on several dates of the Six/Nine tour, with photographic evidence pointing to a similarly steamy and salacious pas de deux, but no videos of the tour were ever released (even though we know they exist in a secret vault somewhere), so the history of "Itoshi no Rock Star" largely fell through the cracks of the Archives of Buck-Tickistan. While by all accounts, the 2022 reprise of "Itoshi no Rock Star" was a great deal less sexual than the "Masquerade" performance of ten years earlier, it was still a unique moment in Buck-Tick's history, a shivering presentiment of tragedy hidden in the killing effulgence of the August sun:"If I turned into a pig, you'd laugh
If I turned into a bug, you'd laugh
If I turned into an ape, you'd laugh
If I turned into a star, you'd laugh"