Asobi Seksu embraces Japan

When ethereal New York outfit Asobi Seksu was offered one single-day session at London’s legendary Beatles/Stones haunt Olympic Studios before it closed a year ago, the musicians pounced. The core duo of guitarist James Hanna and singer/keyboardist Yuki Chikudate made the most of their 10 hours, re-imagining several of their catalog classics — plus a cover of Hope Sandoval’s somber “Suzanne” — for their stripped-down CD, “Rewolf.” Chikudate — who performs acoustically with Hanna in The City on Sunday — spoke about her art and Japanese ancestry.

So you went to a special Japanese school in America as a kid? I did. Two different kinds, and it started in first grade and I went until fifth grade. The first one was more for Niseis, Japanese-American kids. But the second one was for Japanese students who were returning to Japan, and they used the actual curriculum and textbooks from Japan. And I was miserable. And we had to do homework every day, even though the school was just on Saturdays.

Other kids treated you strangely? I just didn’t know about Japanese pop culture at all, so yeah, they thought I was weird. There were these huge Japanese heartthrobs, lead singers of boy bands, and I didn’t know a thing about ’em. And my Japanese wasn’t perfect, so I was one of the worst students in class.

How did you finally find your own identity? I definitely was a self-hating Japanese person for awhile. Anyone who would talk to me about Japanese culture? I ignored it and said that I knew nothing. But in my early 20s, I started to surrender a little bit, like, “It’s not so bad that I’m Japanese!”

And now you sing some lyrics in Japanese, which creates a Liz Frazier/Lisa Gerrard 4AD effect. To this day, when I hear Liz Frazier sing, I’m speechless. I’ll take a break from listening to the Cocteau Twins, then I’ll put ’em on again. And every time, her voice makes me want to cry — it’s just so beautiful and spellbinding.

Has Asobi Seksu visited Japan yet? Yes. We went twice. The first time to perform some shows, the second time for a press run. And it was rigorous. They expect you to work 24/7, and if you don’t conform to that, it’s seen as disrespect. So I did my best to make our handlers happy there, but they were very disappointed — I was five to 10 minutes late for everything!



Asobi Seksu

Where: Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., San Francisco

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15