BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023- Concert Report

JVC Music
5 January 2024

Text = Okubo Yuka
Photos = Seitaro Tanaka


BUCK-TICK “BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023-” (BUCK-TICK Phenomenon 2023 / バクチク現象-2023-)
2023.12.29 at the Nippon Budokan



Come, let’s get started──

When 29 December’s BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023- at the Nippon Budokan was announced with those words, it felt as if they lifted our gaze which had been downcast for so long. This was three weeks after the news came on 24 October that their vocalist, Sakurai Atsushi had passed on.

This was a period when everyone quietly watched and waited to see what BUCK-TICK would do going forward after being hit by the greatest sadness in their history. Honestly speaking, that announcement was such a bright light that I subconsciously wanted to look away. Given that no details were announced about the show itself, I believe there were many who felt worried too about how it would turn out.

But it’s easy for us to imagine the extraordinary determination the band members had put into this show title. BUCK-TICK Genshou (BUCK-TICK Phenomenon / バクチク現象) is a title that they also used in 1987 for gigs they played around the time of their major debut, and for the first show they played after a six-month hiatus on 29 December 1989 at the Tokyo Dome. In other words, this term represents turning points for them.

Imai Hisashi (guitarist) appeared on the BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023- stage with the same bright red hair he had 34 years ago at their show in Tokyo Dome. The moment I saw him, my anxieties were blown away despite tears welling up in my eyes.

As the hall turned dark, powerful clapping sounded in time to the SE which played; THEME OF B-T. Higuchi Yutaka (bassist), Yagami Toll (drummer), Hoshino Hidehiko (gutarist), and Imai Hisashi came on stage in that order. After the words reading “バクチク現象 (BUCK-TICK Genshou)” came up on the crimson red screen, Sakurai’s silhouette appeared on the centre platform where he always stood.

“Come let’s get started, we’re BUCK-TICK!” With Imai’s shout, the first song started; Shippuu no Blade Runner. Instead of a mic stand in the centre of the stage, a few spotlights came together to shine down. Perhaps it’s because there’s no mic there, but it felt as if Sakurai’s singing came down upon us from the skies above.

Like a ray of light in the midst of despair, the glittering rock melody sings, “Tonight  (I) bring to you  a treasure  a promise (今夜 お前に届けよう 宝物だ 約束だ)”; a perfect description of this show. It felt as if they handed “hope” to us in the palm of their hands. A string of up-beat songs were played Dokudanjo Beauty-R.I.P.-, Go-Go B-T TRAIN, GUSTAVE, telling the audience to raise their heads and look up even if they are tearful.

Both Imai and Hoshino fired up the stage with more aggressive performances than usual. The energy in the hall went up every time Imai said a few words, like “Don’t miss the ride!” during Go-Go B-T TRAIN, and “Miaows. Hope you all have a good time today.” during GUSTAVE. During FUTURE SONG -Mirai ga Tooru- which features Sakurai and Imai’s duet, Higuchi tried imitating Sakurai’s movements, and Hoshino also sang, overlapping with Sakurai’s voice.

Most unexpected of all was when I realised during Boogie Woogie and Yagami’s powerful up-beat drumming that at some point my tears had rescinded and I was genuinely enjoying the show. I have nothing but admiration for the band and their ability to fire up the audience like this even though they all must have been in deep sadness at the beginning of the show.

The atmosphere took a turn in the mid-section of the show, reflecting vividly and sadly Sakurai’s absence by beginning with Itoshi no Rock Star where he sang alongside ISSAY (DER ZIBET) who passed away last August. During Itoshi no Rock Star, unbearable sobbing in the audience grew louder as we watched concert footage of the two of them on that day on screen.

Next was Sakura which started with an oriental-sounding instrumental by Imai. In this song, the screen and even the ceiling of the Budokan was filled with cherry blossoms dancing in the air; a sight so beautiful yet it added to the sadness. Adding on, Lullaby-Ⅲ and ROMANCE came after that like a sort of funeral march, letting us listen to the songs which strongly accentuated Sakurai’s aesthetic perspective one after another.

This show did not feature Sakurai’s footage throughout. Rather, there were a few songs where we could only feel Sakurai’s presence with his voice. Especially towards the end when they put together songs during which you could almost see him singing right in front of you.

Like the Latin-style dance track Django!!! -Genwaku no Django-, Taiyou to Icarus where he flies freely through the sky with arms spread wide, and during Memento mori where the audience actually had lights shining on them as if in sync with Sakurai’s movements in the video footage.

Smoke carpeted the stage floor in Muma -The Nightmare and the audience raised their arms into the air as if he reigned before our eyes, while during DIABOLO, the four members of the band looked like a circus troupe elevating Sakurai as the ringmaster. It was a moment when they distinctly carved out his profile as a vocalist precisely because he’s not around.

The encore started with Yagami’s drum solo and after the first song, STEPPERS -PARADE- was played, the band members who have yet to make any public statement thus far began to talk about their present feelings one by one.

Choking on his tears, Higuchi said, “BUCK-TICK is a live band so I believe we grew through our live shows. And it’s also something that’s created together with everyone. Although Acchan has gone to heaven, BUCK-TICK will always be five. I don’t know what kind of future it will be, but one thing I know for sure is that we’ll continue as BUCK-TICK with everyone.”

Yagami eased the air when he commented, “I never thought my delinquent younger brother would say such admirable things.” Then, he added, “You could say it’s unprecedented, the situation it’s turned out to be. Should we continue, or is it better to stop? We gave it a lot of thought. But given that we have all of you fans like this… we would like to keep going as BUCK-TICK.”

“We managed to take a new step forward today. My sincere thanks to all of you for making your way to the Budokan despite the uncertainty. You were worried, weren’t you? Everyone was worried. But the Parade will still continue from here on out. I’ll say again:

The Parade goes on,” said Hoshino.

After him was Imai. “Life sure is unforgiving, huh? So dramatic it’s almost hilarious. But it isn’t funny. Hell, you really died. Huh? It’s okay, because we can go on. We’ll go together,” he said to a loud round of applause. “Acchan’s died but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a fact of life. So we may be sad, we may cry, but don’t agonise over it. Rather than focus on his death, that he’s not here anymore, instead cherish the fact that he lived, that he existed with us in the same space,” he went on. “Next year, BUCK-TICK will make new music, and a new album. It’ll be the newest, bestest BUCK-TICK so please look forward to it. But please be prepared. Next, we’ll be three. But even then, the Parade continues. Then it’ll be two, then one, I think I’ll probably be the last one standing. And even then, we can keep going, so I want to take everyone along,” finished Imai with this powerful statement.

After that, they moved on to flying the words “LOVE” and “PEACE” high in Eureka before going into LOVE ME which began with Sakurai’s MC where he said, “Everyone, let’s love ourselves.” It was here when a hiccup happened for the first time where Sakurai’s singing and the video footage differed from the four members’ live playing. The band looked determined to find some way to turn this around. It was the most human expression I had ever seen on them.

Coincidentally, Sakurai in the video also seemed to have a bit of a bitter smile on his face. Even though anxious, the audience also tried their best to help by singing the chorus with all their strength. When the singing ended, the playing did too in perfect timing, and we saw Sakurai off the stage as he waved, saying, “See you soon. We’ll meet again. For sure.”

The last two songs were COSMOS and Na mo Naki Watashi; what seemed to be a deliberate choice of two songs which massively filled the hall with messages from Sakurai. And the second encore, started with Sakurai’s words of “Let’s go! Into the future!” as the band leapt into New World. The light from countless mirror balls spread throughout the venue and the powerful light of the five’s performance brightly illuminated a future yet to be seen.

After the show, past music videos were shown on the screen, followed by an announcement that they will be holding a concert at the Nippon Budokan on Sunday, 29 December 2024. I believe every single promise like this one would become the hope which leads into the future going forward. BUCK-TICK has walked into unprecedented territory. I hope to continue enjoying the Parade led by this band who has decided to continue forward as five. Because it’s always BUCK-TICK who stirs our hearts with surprise and emotion.

Although we can wipe away the tears
we will never be able to wipe away the loneliness, so
let’s go and see BUCK-TICK again
in a place where we can share our sorrows and joys
let’s go and see BUCK-TICK again


BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023-
Date/Time: Friday, 29 December 2023  Doors open 17:30, show starts 18:30
Venue: Nippon Budokan



1. Shippuu no Blade Runner
2. Dokudanjou Beauty-R.I.P.-
3. Go-Go B-T TRAIN
5. FUTURE SONG – Mirai ga tooru
6. Boogie Woogie
7. Itoshi no Rock Star
8. Sakura
9. Lullaby-III
11. Django!!! – Genwaku no Django
12. Taiyou to Icarus
13. Memento mori
14. Muma -The Nightmare


2. Eureka
5. Na mo Naki Watashi


1. New World





Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: JVC Music


 “BUCK-TICK will always be we five.”
A Declaration of the Parade’s Continuance

Ongaku to Hito
5 January 2024

Text = Ishii Eriko
Photos = Seitaro Tanaka


BUCK-TICK “BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023-” (BUCK-TICK Phenomenon 2023 / バクチク現象-2023-)
2023.12.29 at the Nippon Budokan



“My sincere thanks to all of you for making your way to the Budokan despite the uncertainty. …… You were worried, weren’t you?”

These words which came from Hoshino Hidehiko during the encore resonated tremendously with me. Ah, I see. We’ve all been worried up until this day.

The annual year-end Nippon Budokan show THE DAY IN QUESTION 2023 was suspended and in its place, the concert BUCK-TICK Genshou -2023- was announced. The strong words “Come, let’s get started一一 (さあ、始めよう一一)” danced on the event’s dedicated website but it wasn’t clear exactly what on earth was starting. Do we really want to see a BUCK-TICK with no Sakurai Atsushi? Is it better for things to end like this? Or would someone stand on stage as another vocalist? Questions which no one can say a definitive “yes” to constitute this worry.

An unprecedented concert. At first, everything felt rigid. Cheers didn’t sound when the lights turned down. Instead, breathless voices could be heard all throughout the venue. Even when Imai Hisashi hollered, “Come let’s get started, we’re BUCK-TICK!”, it was clear to me that he was tense and a little over-anxious. Sakurai’s singing echoed in synchrony with the live music. Much of it was live singing including MCs and hyping the audience up. The screen showed footage of only Sakurai in past concerts in colour, and at the same time, the current stage was shown in monochrome; a contrast between the flamboyant demon king and reality in mourning. In all honesty, I don’t know whether I should be enjoying myself. Was that the purpose of this day?

It was in the fifth song, FUTURE SONG -未来が通る- when I noticed something different. It starts with Imai’s part, then during Sakurai’s part, Hoshino joins in too. Sakurai’s footage doesn’t appear in this song where the two guitarists sing, “Don’t be hold back, do not fear Forward! It’s the future (hiku na hirumu na susume mirai da / 引くな怯むな 進め 未来だ)”. For a moment, I thought they might be headed in a direction similar to how the remaining members of Joy Division regrouped as New Order following the death of Ian Curtis. But again, that doesn’t seem to be the main subject of the day.

Suddenly, an old music video from the time when they styled their hair standing up came up towards the middle of the show. It was Itoshi on Rockstar. It’s hard to imagine why the band selected this 1995 song which was sung alongside DER ZIBET’s ISSAY. Just before Sakurai left us, almost as if to follow ISSAY who also suddenly passed last summer, I wanted to ask him if he looked back fondly on this song which he once sang so self-deprecatingly. Of course, that is now a question we’ll never get the answer to.

Instead, what we have is an extensive record. Just what we needed was footage from Yagami Toll’s 60th birthday celebration event. I couldn’t help but laugh dryly at how in love they were as I watched Sakurai exchange mushy gazes with ISSAY while they performed that song together for the first time in 27 years. Everyone loved the way their two souls resonated with each other. Even if the both of them have coincidentally gone to heaven together, it’s oddly touching. As those thoughts crossed my mind, I suddenly caught on that we should hold a proper farewell. There was a memorial event for Sakurai himself, but I wondered how many times could we hold appreciation events for our favourite “beloved rockstar (Itoshi no Rockstar)” with all the videos and lights and music? I suppose the very first of these is happening right here, now.

The lead into the next song, Sakura was perfect too. The song which Sakurai dedicated to his dearest mother is now being dedicated to Sakurai by the band. The performance was as elegant as it could’ve been. The light cherry blossoms framing the monochrome screen, the pale pink colour of the Budokan’s white ceiling, and the image of the moon slowly filling up as the song progressed to become a gentle full moon at the end; all of it illustrated the depth of love in the production. Adding on, during Imai’s improv, Sakurai’s often-used candelabra was lit before they continued into Lullaby-III, followed by an exquisite transition into ROMANCE.

ROMANCE; a popular song which BUCK-TICK had often performed since it’s release in 2005, is one of the songs in their discography which BUCK-TICK most strongly demonstrates “the alluring colours of Sakurai”. The perfection in this song lies in the blend of goth and romance. Holding a candelabra in one hand while dancing with flickering flames in the tantalising dream that is performance footage from over a decade ago. Watching it again in the Budokan gives me the feeling that his existence is probably not the be-all and end-all. Because we have something so beautiful that has been left behind for us [to enjoy] even now. Isn’t this miracle alone sufficient?

The split second in the brilliantly-lit Taiyou to Icarus video which showed Sakurai’s silhouette with his arms spread wide was as vibrant as the 異空-IZORA- tour; so dazzling that you could’ve thought it was a “festival”. In addition, Memento Mori with flames bursting out always sounds like blood-pumping festival music. The screen is divided into three sections, with past footage of Sakurai in the centre and real-time footage of the four members of the band on either side. But the difference between presence and absence, which was initially divided between monochrome and colour, is no longer there at this point. The refrain of “Life is love and death (jinsei wa ai to shi / 人生は愛と死)” strikes our hearts deep now. If these are our only options, we’ll take them both. Before I knew it, I even started to feel a desire to laugh out loud in defiance.

The band spoke about how they currently felt during the encore. While each of their words were different, the summary of it was that BUCK-TICK will always be five people even if Sakurai is no longer physically around, that they wanted to keep going as long as there are fans around, and that although they don’t know how it’ll turn out, next year, they will start recording something new as the second phase of B-T. Hoshino even twice declared, “The Parade goes on.” And even as Imai bit back curses with words like, he said, “We may be sad, we may cry, but don’t agonise over it.” I hadn’t thought about it, but maybe that’s what I wanted to hear the most. He’s always been the person who throws one-liners like these out of nowhere. On a whim, I recalled something Sakurai once said with a straight face: “It’s possible because Imai’s like that.”

If Imai-san says so, then it will go on. BUCK-TICK will go on with Sakurai’s afterimage. This was a night that convinced me that’s fine and good. The announcement that came at the very end was good tidings for the future. On 29 December 2024, a BUCK-TICK concert at the Nippon Budokan will happen一一



1. Shippuu no Blade Runner
2. Dokudanjou Beauty-R.I.P.-
3. Go-Go B-T TRAIN
5. FUTURE SONG – Mirai ga tooru
6. Boogie Woogie
7. Itoshi no Rock Star
8. Sakura
9. Lullaby-III
11. Django!!! – Genwaku no Django
12. Taiyou to Icarus
13. Memento mori
14. Muma -The Nightmare


2. Eureka
5. Na mo Naki Watashi


1. New World


Sunday, 29 December 2024 Nippon Budokan
Doors open 17:00 / Show starts18:00
Designated seating: ¥11,000 (w/ tax)
(Inquiries) SOGO TOKYO 03-3405-9999

〈Advance Ticketing Information〉
■W-members advance ticketing applications
Application period: 22:00, Friday, 29 December 2023 ~ 14:00, Monday, 22 January 2024
※Applicants must be registered as a member of both the official fan club [FISH TANK] and the official mobile website [LOVE & MEDIA PORTABLE].
※Registering companions must also be W-members

■Fan club members advance ticketing applications
Application period: 12:00, Monday, 29 January 2024 ~ 14:00, Tuesday, 13 February 2024
※Registering companions do not need to be members

■Mobile members advance ticketing applications
Application period: 12:00, Monday, 19 February 2024 ~ 14:00, Tuesday, 5 March 2024
※Registering companions do not need to be members


Event Website
BUCK-TICK Official Website



Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: Ongaku to Hito Online


BUCK-TICK “will always be five”

Sports Hochi
29 December 2023

text by Kamo Shintaro

first live show since Sakurai Atsushi’s sudden death
10,000 people crying at the annual Budokan show


Rock band BUCK-TICK whose vocalist, Sakurai Atsushi (aged 57) passed away from a brainstem haemorrhage on 19 October held their first show, also their annual year-end solo concert at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on the 29th. They performed 21 songs “in memoriam” during the two and a half hour show.

71 days after his sudden passing, scenes from days when Sakurai was around were put up on the big screen. A spotlight lit up his “usual spot” in the centre of the stage as Imai Hisashi, Hoshino Hidehiko, Higuchi Yutaka, and Yagami Toll played the melodies while feeling the presence of their friend with each memory.

After the death of Sakurai-san, all their scheduled concerts were cancelled but after much consultation between the staff and the members of the band, it was decided in November that they will hold only one show at the Nippon Budokan. The concert name was changed from the traditional THE DAY IN QUESTION to BUCK-TICK Gensho (バクチク現象 / BUCK-TICK Phenomenon), a name which is usually used to mark a turning point for the band.

“Come, let’s get started. We’re BUCK-TICK!” The show kicked off with a declaration from Imai. They used live footage from past shows for the singing. A wide variety of 21 songs spanning tracks from their early days like LOVE ME and Sakura to tracks from their those album like Taiyou to Icarus and Na mo Naki Watashi was performed. All the tickets, including standing spaces, were completely sold out.

After the encore, the four members spoke about how they were feeling. Imai said, “Rather than focus on his death, that he’s not here anymore, instead cherish the fact that he lived, that he existed with us in the same space.” And Higuchi promised, “Although Acchan has gone to heaven, BUCK-TICK will always be five.”

When the concert ended, they announced that they would hold a show on 29 December next year at the Nippon Budokan. They will certainly continue in Sakurai-san’s spirit and keep moving forward. (Kamo Shintaro)


【Comments from the members after the encore】

Higuchi Yutaka, bassist:
Thank you for gathering here today in such large numbers. Thank you to all our fans from around the country who couldn’t make it today. Thank you to all the staff who made such a (wonderful) show possible despite the limited time. After making our debut, we managed to tour and enjoy concerts with many of you. BUCK-TICK is a live band so I believe we grew through our live shows. And it’s also something that’s created together with everyone of you. Although Acchan has gone to heave, BUCK-TICK will always be five. I don’t know what kind of future it will be, but one thing I know for sure is that we’ll continue as BUCK-TICK with everyone. Going forward, let’s continue to build upon the BUCK-TICK that everyone has always cherished throughout this time together… We’re counting on you.

Yagami Toll, drummer:
You could say it’s unprecedented, the situation it’s turned out to be. Should we continue, or is it better to stop? We gave it a lot of thought. Given that we have all of you fans like this… we would like to keep going. There’s no telling how things will turn out, but I believe we’ll start recording a new album next year. I think there are still thousands of melodies and ideas sleeping in the brains of Imai and Hoshino HIdehiko. Please look forward to it. From here on, we’ll continue to rely on your support for this second phase of BUCK-TICK.

Hoshino Hidehiko, guitarist:
We managed to take a new step forward today. My sincere thanks to all of you for making your way to the Budokan despite the uncertainty. You were worried, weren’t you? Everyone was worried. But I’ll say again: the Parade (i.e. concerts) will still continue from here on out. The Parade goes on.

Imai Hisashi, guitarist:
Life sure is unforgiving, huh? So dramatic it’s almost hilarious. But it isn’t funny. It’s death, after all. It’s okay. Because (the band) can go on, right? We’ll go together. Acchan’s died but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a fact of life. So we may be sad, we may cry, but don’t agonise over it. Rather than focus on his death, that he’s not here anymore, instead cheris the fact that he lived, that he existed with us in the same space. Acchan hasn’t yet gone to heaven. He’s still here. I believe he’ll always be together with us. Next year, BUCK-TICK will make new music, and a new album. It’ll be the newest, bestest BUCK-TICK so please look forward to it. (In future, even if our numbers dwindle) the Parade can keep going. I’ll probably be the last one standing. And even then, we can keep going, so I want to take everyone along. The 29th of December is a special day for BUCK-TICK. It’s a day to toast to. Shall we have a toast? Cheers! Thank you. Everyone, have a toast on your way home too and talk about BUCK-TICK, about Acchan.



Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: Sports Hochi


2023.07.15 Takasaki City Theatre

Ongaku to Hito
September 2023

text by Kanemitsu Hirofumi
photographs by MASA

Your distortion; my love

Their national album tour has ended for now. In this tour, we got to see the band find themselves again and their revitalisation along with the perfection of their live concert. The final part examines what 異空-IZORA- was about from a live performance in their hometown, Takasaki.



On that stage was the immensity of Sakurai as a performer, the conviction of the true-to-life message
and a band who has recovered what’s precious to them

“My name is Hizumi
It’s Hizumi
All I do is wear my favourite clothes put on my favourite makeup
But everyone laughs at me Even though I’m just living my life
Father, mother I love you
Thank you I love you Goodbye”

Hizumi; you could say it’s the highlight of the concert. The excitement sparked by MISTY ZONE was cooled in an instant by Kogoeru before leading into this song. Then, the world was overcast by Izora (異空). 

Possessed by “Hizumi-chan”, Sakurai began his monologue which sounded like words from a suicide note. And after a moment of silence, the song would start but on this day, the silence went on for a particularly long time. A minute, or no, an even longer stretch of stillness dominated the hall. It was only later that I found out that the delay was caused by equipment issues, but for those few minutes of silence, the audience waited with bated breath, without even the slightest of stirrings. At the same time, the motionless, crouched over Hizumi and the four other members of the band waited statue-like for their chance to start the song.

Those few minutes felt like an eternity. Therein lay the immensity of Sakurai as a performer, and the conviction of the true-to-life message. And also, a band who has recovered what’s precious to them in this tour.

BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- started on 19 April. Their first show at Hachioji was stunning. In an interview, Imai said, “I composed QUANTUM Ⅰ because I thought  it’d be a good idea to start the concert with it.” This alone told me that they already had a solid vision since the beginning of the album’s production, and that the concert was bound to be something highly conceptual. 

The set up which spearheaded this did indeed begin with the curtains raising to QUANTUM Ⅰ and after the encore, the curtains were drawn to QUANTUM Ⅱ. And although there was a simple member introduction segment, there was as good as no MC. There wasn’t even a drum solo by Yagami on this day. This is a band I have watched live for many years, but this is the very first time they’re putting on a show in this style.

In an interview, Sakurai also revealed the existence of the protagonist known as “Hizumi-chan”, but whether it’s because it was the first day of the tour or because his intention was not quite clearly conveyed, there were members of the audience who even laughed. However, this conversely amplifies the loneliness of Hizumi, who has nowhere to belong, and comes across as a more realistic expression. It was a masterpiece. And since the whole thing is still disjointed, the impression each song leaves is even stronger.

Among those was die. Released 30 years ago, the inclusion of this track in the Izora tour as the last song of the main show connects it to all that BUCK-TICK has done thus far. It is proof that they have always been true to themselves on stage. I had nothing but great anticipation for how Izora would be performed and how it would grow in this tour.

So, the first half of the tour. They appeared to try out a format which had the drum solo followed by member introductions in their second show at Utsunomiya, but the show I caught in Kyoto only had a drum solo. Member introductions had been removed. The MC was also kept to a minimum. I suppose they took the approach of removing even the parts of the show that were typical of a concert in order to delve deep into the world of Izora.

Neither the setlist nor the pace changed. The only change which occurred was MISTY ZONE being replaced by ONCE UPON A TIME in the encore of the shows they played during their two days in Osaka, one day in Tokyo, and at Nagano and Hiroshima.

The choice of songs around Icarus was a stroke of genius. Also, the words, “I wonder what it was we were looking for/at the end of it all,” really hit home; they felt like an answer from Imai to the song Boogie Woogie, which looks back at the days when they used to tour from  one unfamiliar city to the next in a broken down vehicle. No matter how old they turn, or how much fewer words they exchange, their collective direction remains the same.

It’s obvious that a major theme of this tour was for the young girl living in a war from Sayonara Shelter and the despair that the LGBT community experiences à la Hizumi to overlap with Sakurai’s own inescapable emotional torment, and for it all to be presented on the stage that is Izora

Yet, at the same time, I got the feeling that with how the COVID-19 pandemic halted tours and even after tours came back, activities could not resume as smoothly as they should have due to restricted vocalisation, and also how the five members of the band couldn’t spend as much time together and were unable to do things the way they usual would during that period, it was important for the band to get back into their usual daily routine. It was a despair akin to that of the resignation in SCARECROW which sings about having nowhere to run; similar to how they were all stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Making us, as those living in the present, look to the future
By connecting this era of deprivation with the darkness in Sakurai’s heart
That’s the kind of album 異空 -IZORA- was

Perhaps it was this distant feeling that gave the Izora album its tension and fresh presentation. But also, perhaps, somewhere in there, they were looking for hope, for the band to come back together.

That’s exactly what defined the song Boogie Woogie, and I believe that Yagami’s decision to decorate his concert outfit with old, personal photos of the band members and their carefree smiles was also a sign of these feelings.

When Yagami stepped on stage for the encore on this day, he turned around and struck a pose with his back to the audience to show them the back of his shirt. As if to say that he carried the band’s feelings on his back. Just the five of them spending time together while touring around the country like they used to probably got him feeling that way.

Also, playing a show in their hometown of Takasaki might’ve also brought up all kinds of memories for them. After their Tokyo shows, they announced that they will be playing two shows at Gunma Music Centre to close off their 35th debut anniversary year. But although the audience capacity isn’t all that large, they probably chose this not-very-well-equipped-venue to close off their anniversary year, which started at Yokohama Arena last year, because it brings up memories of the band’s beginnings and their bond. That’s what I think.

And the inescapable despair of Hizumi versus the hope of Na mo Naki Watashi. A hope, no, perhaps a future. That’s right. Once again, like I wrote earlier, it made me feel that this Izora album makes us, as those living in the present, look to the future through connecting and channelling this era’s reality of deprivation with the darkness in Sakurai’s heart which was represented by Sayonara Shelter and Hizumi, as well as SCARECROW in this album.

By being in this band, he could find light in the darkness. That is exactly what he showed us in Taiyou to Icarus and CLIMAX TOGETHER. And this is a sight that we could’ve never seen if they didn’t go on tour. I believe the ones who probably feel this most strongly are the members of the band. Without a doubt.


I saw the band’s future. That’s the kind of show it was.



Translation: Yoshiyuki
Images: Yoshiyuki


【Concert Report】
the Opening Day of BUCK-TICK’s latest album’s National Tour

24 April 2023

text by Okubo Yuka
photos by Seitaro Tanaka


BUCK-TICK held a concert at J:COM Hall Hachioji in Tokyo, kicking off the national tour BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- for their latest album on 19 April. Here’s what happened.



On 12 April, when the flowers were in full bloom, BUCK-TICK released their new album 異空 -IZORA- which thrilled fans as their “latest and best” update. With this latest release, their nation-wide tour BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- started on 19 April, at J:COM Hall Hachioji in Tokyo.

As the lights turned down and the first instrumental track of the album QUANTUM played, drummer Yagami Toll, bassist Higuchi Yutaka, guitarist Hoshino Hidehiko and guitarist Imai Hisashi came on stage one by one to the cheers and applause of the audience. Although the audience remained masked, this was to be the first tour in about 3 years and 4 months where the ban on audience vocalisations was lifted. When vocalist Sakurai Atsushi appeared centrestage, completing the band, the cheers grew ever louder. This is the moment everyone had been waiting for.

Showered in claps and cheers, the band performed freely like fish to water. With their white costumes and matching equipment, guitarists Imai and Hoshino who usually create a beautiful symmetry on stage looked like a pair of wings. Their two guitars would intertwine to sound one single heavy riff, or take light steps in pleasant unison. On the other hand, the  rhythm team of Yagami and Higuchi were dressed in black as they accompanied the songs with both soft, warm bass notes and emotional heavy rhythms.

And there was Sakurai who took many forms whenever he spread his arms; a scarecrow; an angel; an aircraft. What is it he wishes for with open arms? Is it forgiveness for holding a beloved child in gun-toting hands? Is it the acceptance of diversity? Is it LOVE&PEACE? All the protagonists depicted in 異空 -IZORA-’s songs are so intense that they take hold of Sakurai the moment the song’s intro begins. Every gesture and movement is filled with the power of each character’s emotions in each song; so beautiful, so raw.

This performance consisted mainly of songs from the 異空 -IZORA- album like Sayonara Shelter destroy and regenerate-Mix which had warmth added to it with the gorgeously articulated violin, Mugen LOOP -LEAP- which had an intro which sounded like a gathering of beautiful fragile bubbles of sound, and Boogie Woogie which Sakurai introduced as  “a story from over 35 years ago recreated using the latest technology”. 

As earlier described, all the songs were intense. I was curious to find out what older songs would be incorporated in here, and the final result was beyond anything I could’ve imagined. They create indescribable stories by fleshing out the 異空 -IZORA- songs and adding backstories to them. It was especially so after Taiyou to Icarus; a painful, tragic, gentle, yet beautiful world which seemed to encompass everything awaited.

As I watched the show, Sakura, a poem by Ibaraki Noriko, a poet who lived during the war suddenly came to mind. It describes the fragility and preciousness of human life by comparing it to that of a flower. BUCK-TICK sings: Together with life, “Now bloom in exuberance”. As I held dear this moment where I am enjoying their show, I wonder how many more times can I watch a BUCK-TICK concert, like how the poem asks how many times can we see cherry blossoms bloom in one lifetime.

The tour has just begun. How will the songs of 異空 -IZORA- grow in depth as this tour goes on from late spring to early and eventually mid-summer? And what kind of sky will each and every audience member find in their hearts by the time the final performance arrives on 23 July? This is a show that draws people to watch it again and again to find out how the story of this production will change. I hope to enjoy these shifting skies to the fullest.




Concert/Event Information

Wednesday, 19 April 2023 — Tokyo: J:COM Hall Hachioji
Sunday, 23 April 2023 — Tochigi: Utsunomiya City Cultural Center, Large Hall
Saturday, 13 May 2023 — Kagawa: High Staff Hall, large hall (Kanonji City Meeting Hall)
Sunday, 14 May 2023 — Okayama: Kurashiki City Auditorium
Saturday, 20 May 2023 — Kyoto: ROHM Theatre Kyoto, main hall
Sunday, 21 May 2023 — Hyogo: Kobe Kokusai Kaikan Kokusai Hall
Saturday, 27 May 2023 — Kanagawa: Pacifico Yokohama National Convention Hall
Saturday, 3 June 2023 — Aichi: Japan Special Ceramic Industry Civic Center, Forest Hall (ex. Nagoya Civic Hall)
Saturday, 10 June 2023 — Ishikawa: Hondanomori Hall
Sunday, 11 June 2023 — Nagano: Nagano City Arts Center, main hall
Saturday, 17 June 2023 — Osaka: Orix Theater (ex. Osaka Welfare Pension Hall)
Sunday, 18 June 2023 — Osaka: Orix Theater (ex. Osaka Welfare Pension Hall)
Saturday, 24 June 2023 — Hiroshima: Ueno Gakuen Hall (Hiroshima Prefectural Culture and Arts Hall)
Sunday, 25 June 2023 — Fukuoka: Fukuoka Sunpalace Hotel & Hall
Saturday, 1 July 2023 — Hokkaido: Sapporo Kanamoto Hall (Sapporo Civic Hall)
Sunday, 9 July 2023 — Miyagi: Sendai Sun Plaza Hall
Saturday, 15 July 2023 — Gunma: Takasaki City Theatre, large theatre
Monday (holiday), 17 July 2023 — Shizuoka: Shizuoka City Culture Hall, large hall
Saturday, 22 July 2023 — Tokyo: Tokyo Garden Theatre
Sunday, 23 July 2023 — Tokyo: Tokyo Garden Theatre

Early bird tickets: 9,900 yen (w/ tax)
Tickets currently on sale

For more information, please visit the dedicated website:





Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: BARKS


BUCK-TICK’s 異空 -IZORA- Tour Final,
a magnificent show complete

Ongaku to Hito
23 July 2023

text by Ishii Eriko
photos by Seitaro Tanaka


2023.7.23 at Tokyo Garden Theatre



I watched the closing show of the masterpiece tour, BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-. The previous time I saw them was on 19 April, at their Hachioji show so in short, of this19-show tour which visits a total of 17 locations, I’m only watching the first and last concert dates. I don’t know what happened along the way, what trials and errors and adjustments they made. But what I know for sure is that the first show and the last looked very different from each other. And that’s despite no changes with the videos and graphics projected on the screen, and the set list being more or less the same.

If I had to say, it’s so different that it’s as good as “a concert unveiling of a new show” versus “a theatre show”. If the purpose of a tour is to play their new songs live, then I think that’s something they have perfectly executed since day one. The 14-track long 異空 -IZORA- album underwent a reinterpretation in the two-hour-long concert.

They connected new songs to old; lining up the intense Showa-era flavoured song, THE SEASIDE STORY next to the distinctive city-pop song Mugen LOOP -LEAP-, and bringing in Jonathan Jet-Coaster right before the highlight of the main show Taiyou to Icarus with both songs sharing a similar theme. As written in my report of the first day, the band is capable of showcasing their work in this format precisely because they’ve kept going for 35 years and innovating throughout this time.

On top of that, what else changed to turn a “concert” into “theatre”? The issue of familiarity is of course one; the five members breathing as one, their bodies gradually growing more and more accustomed to the new songs. But what stood out above all of that was Sakurai Atsushi’s power of expression and performance.

Like Sayonara Shelter in the first half. This song was born from the imaginings of present-day Ukraine, and with each iteration on this tour, the performance of it turned into theatre. Sakurai cradles a small child, escapes to a safe place, dodging bullets as they fly past before returning fire himself with a gun in hand; these scenes captivate the audience as he sings.

Unlike a choreographed performance, he had, in short, fully immersed himself in it. The fear that one day the mic stand he holds at the end would look like an actual rifle seeps in. With the way the performance is executed, the pale moonlight shining from the screen in the back becomes more than a mere visual effect and somehow turns into an essential backdrop. Therein lies the difference between a simple performance and a dramatisation.

The next song which followed was Campanella  Hanataba wo Kimi ni, and coming right before it was a short monologue where he said, “Father, mother, it’s going to rain tonight again. Sparkly gold rain is……” His words bring forth the image of bombs flying between Ukraine and Russia. Would the audience have been just as taken aback and drawn to the scenes on stage if he instead said, “With love from the far east, please listen to this song.”? 

He performs wholeheartedly, turning one reality into a beautiful dream, swallowing both fact and fiction to turn them into one story. The singer who has surpassed the song ruled over the stage.

And there was Boogie Woogie in the midst of it all. On the first day of the tour, in the MC right before the song which sums up their pre-debut life, Sakurai said they’re “recreating a story from 35 years ago”. But now, on this final day of their tour, he changed his words to the following.

“How long can we keep going…… I wonder, how long can we keep going? Until death? No, even after death. We will do this even when we turn into ghosts. They are waiting! They are waiting!”

That was the moment a nostalgic song of the past became a song of the neverending future. Because no matter how far they run, no matter the city they head for, we (= they) who eagerly await them will never disappear. “Boogie woogie! Shoo-be-doo-ba!” These symbolic lyrics resound like an important chant.

This irreplaceable worldview will remain and persist even after the physical body has disappeared and turned into a soul. A man, who in an interview immediately after the album’s completion, said that he was still struggling, that it was hard to live, and that he was as depressed as ever, was the one to make such a powerful declaration.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that this tour is what made Sakurai talk about the future. There were a number of instances when I wondered whether the album, 異空 -IZORA- was really that positive a creation to begin with. Even though there are songs about loneliness and war, the beauty and sacredness of what they have accomplished are carried forth through his sombre and earnest performances. I believe catharsis would also come about amidst this.

The highlight of the main show was Taiyou to Icarus, where the protagonist rushes through to face death head-on. During this performance, Sakurai faced the radiant screen with outstretched arms. The sanctity of his silhouette remains unforgettable even now.

Four songs were played in the encore with old songs interspersed, once again leading us into the world of 異空 -IZORA-. Even though he’s only putting on makeup and dressing the way he likes, the faceless people all around are laughing. Even if such is the confession of the protagonist Hizumi who has no way out, it all slowly gets cleansed away at the end with Na mo Naki Watashi.

A single stalk of a white flower on screen. Midway through, it quietly starts to sway. The moment Sakurai pulls his outfit across his shoulder with a big swish, a blizzard of brightly coloured flowers rained down on the stage. Come to think of it, this move was not present in the first show. With this so-called visual effect showing perfect synchrony with the performer’s gestures, the magnificent show was made complete. It’s so beautiful that it left me speechless. This is the difference between the start and the goal. The difference between a “concert” and a “show”.

And just like this, they continued their way through their 35th anniversary year. The closing day is finally approaching. According to the extra news pamphlet which was distributed after the concert, BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- FINALO will be held at Gunma Music Centre on 17 and 18 September.

The world of their new album evolved so much in the course of just one tour. While BUCK-TICK still continues to evolve on stage even now. I can only wonder what their final form will look like.




2023.04.12 RELEASE

■ Limited Edition Version A / B (Blu-ray / DVD)
■ Regular Edition
■ Limited Edition LP Version
■ Limited Edition Cassette Tape

Album cover of 異空 -IZORA-, BUCK-TICK
異空 -IZORA- | Album

〈CD〉※Same for both Limited and Regular editions
03 Warukyuure no Kikou
04 Sayonara Shelter ー destroy and regenerate-Mix
05 Ai no Harem
06 Campanella  Hanataba wo Kimi ni
08 Taiyou to Icarus
09 Boogie Woogie
10 Mugen LOOP -IZORA-
11 Noraneko Blue
12 Hizumi
13 Na mo Naki Watashi

〈Blu-ray/DVD〉 ※Limited edition only
Taiyou to Icarus MUSIC VIDEO




Friday, 1 September 2023 — Nippon Tokushu Tougyou Shimin Kaikan, Forest Hall (ex. Nagoya Civil Hall) ※Substitute



Sunday, 17 September 2023 — Gunma Music Center
Monday (holiday), 18 September 2023 — Gunma Music Center



Friday, 20 October 2023 — KT Zepp Yokohama
Thursday, 26 October 2023 — Zepp Nagoya
Saturday, 28 October 2023 — Zepp Fukuoka
Saturday, 4 November 2023 — Zepp Osaka Bayside
Sunday, 12 November 2023 — Zepp Sapporo
Sunday, 19 November 2023 — ToyosuPIT
Saturday, 2 December 2023 — Sendai GIGS
Saturday, 9 December 2023 — Zepp Haneda


BUCK-TICK Official Website




Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: Ongaku to Hito


BUCK-TICK’s 異空-IZORA- Album Tour Begins
An optimistic vitality on opening day

Ongaku to Hito
25 April 2023

text by Ishii Eriko
photos by Seitaro Tanaka


2023.04.19 at J:COM Hall Hachioji




“BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-”. I got to watch the first day of this simply titled journey. From start to the very end, it truly was the world of 異空 -IZORA-.

It might be obvious. For 35 years, the band has continued to enchant us with a worldview based off their latest album whenever they release one. It’s not unusual that they would perform all of their new songs, including the instrumental pieces. But I was shocked to find that they stick to the typical style of doing all of that in the main part of the show and then bring on a bit of a festive mood with some past favourites in the encore. It was the world of 異空 -IZORA- through and through, from start to end. I was once again reminded of their confidence and commitment to this masterpiece.

It would be misleading to simply describe it as “dark” but 異空 -IZORA- is an album made heavy by reality. That’s mainly due to Sakurai Atsushi’s mental state which gets redirected into a variety of stories telling of narratives like war, children being sacrificed, even the band’s personal presentiment of an end looming over them, the feeling of being trapped with nowhere to run, and other similar themes. When these are the things that get verbalised in all the songs, it is probably inevitable that [the album would] steadily grow heavier, more serious. But despite this, the concert depicting the world of 異空 -IZORA- was definitely not a sombre one at all.

I have to refrain from naming specific songs, but new songs were connected to old songs to bring out a different nuance from the album. The magic of such song selection was truly magnificent. Their single, Mugen LOOP -LEAP- was paired with a fantastical love song from recent years to create the atmosphere of popular Showa-era songs which transcends time and space. Similarly, their other single, Taiyou to Icarus was sandwiched between a rock’n’roll track we haven’t heard in a while and a nostalgic song that was released in the 90s, starting up yet another different story to tell. Singing of imminent death in Taiyou to Icarus, Sakurai does not break that storyline but instead continues it by depicting the healing, comforting, and salvation of souls in the afterward.

Past experiences complement the present; I believe Boogie Woogie makes for the best example of that. This rock song which Sakurai describes as “a story from over 35 years ago recreated using the latest technology” takes us on a journey looking back at BUCK-TICK’s history of moving from city to city and stepping up on stage once night fell.

The five members of the band are usually all over the place [in terms of dressing], but on this day, Imai Hisashi and Hoshino Hidehiko wore somewhat similar outfits, creating a kind of symmetry with Sakurai in the middle which looked great. The brothers Yagami & Higuchi standing firm in the back, the two guitarists with different music styles, and the charismatic vocalist. It’s late for me to realise now, but this is what harmony looks like.

Imai now stands on stage without the need of a cane, kicking his legs everywhere without restraint. As we headed towards the end, what I really wanted to remember and take note of was the glory of Sakurai’s story-telling ability as he blooms madly in profusion alongside Imai’s guitar solo warping space and time.

This is the power of a band who has kept going and renewing themselves throughout this time. The same members have the same shared times together and kept creating with a trajectory towards the latest album. The overall structure remains intact even when songs from 30 years ago are lined up alongside their latest tracks. Or rather, whatever they’ve done thus far appears to complement the present, so much so that it makes me feel as if the old songs might’ve been put there to make the new songs shine even brighter.

There is no doubt that the heaviness in 異空 -IZORA- is definitely something that came about from facing reality, but thanks to past songs and their level of experience, they managed to maintain the balance even now, without letting things get too serious. There were a number of instances where it looked as if the members of the band themselves were aware of this too.

What made such a show even more exciting was the voice of the audience. Masks are still mandatory. But cheering is now allowed and we could see from the member’s expressions how much morale it gives them. Thunderous applause, everyone singing along to the melody of the chorus, the various calls of “Accha~n!” “Imai-sa~n!” that could be heard between songs. In the past, this could’ve been thought of as something that would ruin their pitch-black world, but hearing this for the first time in three years, I now realise that it is really a reassuring courage, or rather, nothing but a show of support for the band.

I believe the reason why they are capable of so unapologetically releasing an album like 異空 -IZORA- is because of their past of continuity, and in a similar sense, because they have so many fans. War, death, trauma, distortions…… With these words, it sounds like an album close to despair, but these were turned into works of art, stories that could only become a form of entertainment because they have fans who are capable of digesting it. Maybe that is something they came to realise because COVID-19 happened. Even as we tremble at the prospect of an imminent end, nevertheless, BUCK-TICK continues on with certainty. An optimistic, forward-looking vitality. This was the only thing I felt with the start of this tour.





Saturday, 13 May 2023 — High Staff Hall, large hall (Kanonji City Meeting Hall)

Sunday, 14 May 2023 — Kurashiki City Auditorium

Saturday, 20 May 2023 — ROHM Theatre Kyoto, main hall

Sunday, 21 May 2023 — Kobe Kokusai Kaikan Kokusai Hall

Saturday, 27 May 2023 — Pacifico Yokohama National Convention Hall

Saturday, 3 June 2023 — Japan Special Ceramic Industry Civic Center, Forest Hall (ex. Nagoya Civic Hall)

Saturday, 10 June 2023 — Hondanomori Hall

Sunday, 11 June 2023 — Nagano City Arts Center, main hall

Saturday, 17 June 2023 — Orix Theater (ex. Osaka Welfare Pension Hall)

Sunday, 18 June 2023 — Orix Theater (ex. Osaka Welfare Pension Hall)

Saturday, 24 June 2023 — Ueno Gakuen Hall (Hiroshima Prefectural Culture and Arts Hall)

Sunday, 25 June 2023 — Fukuoka Sunpalace Hotel & Hall

Saturday, 1 July 2023 — Sapporo Kanamoto Hall (Sapporo Civic Hall)

Sunday, 9 July 2023 — Sendai Sun Plaza Hall

Saturday, 15 July 2023 — Takasaki City Theatre, large theatre

Monday (holiday), 17 July 2023 — Shizuoka City Culture Hall, large hall

Saturday, 22 July 2023 — Tokyo Garden Theatre

Sunday, 23 July 2023 — Tokyo Garden Theatre


BUCK-TICK Official Website




Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: Ongaku to Hito


In Memoriam BUCK-TICK’s Sakurai Atsushi

An unparalleled vocalist who pushed through with his one-of-a-kind performances, and a gentle heart

Real Sound
26 October 2023

Text = Imai Tomoko


My mind has been in a whirl since learning of the sudden passing of BUCK-TICK’s vocalist, Sakurai Atsushi. I was supposed to go watch BUCK-TICK’s performance on the 20th, one day after he fell. The cancellation of the concerts and the announcement of his passing were so sudden that even now, I cannot accept it. Just as shaken up are their fans who are enduring this grief as their thoughts and feelings continue flooding social media.

With a voice and looks both lustrous and beautiful, his tall slender frame was perfect for the stage. He was an unparalleled vocalist who wrote lyrics that were both aesthetic yet aggressive, and put on performances which were both theatrical and dramatic while he sang.

I have always thought that the overpowering presence he exuded on stage was almost deific, unapproachable. I believe that there are many who feel the same way, but I was reminded of this feeling when I watched the final concert of the BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- at Ariake Garden Theatre on 23 July.

Album cover of 異空 -IZORA-, BUCK-TICK
異空 -IZORA- | Album

Songs overflowing with exquisite expressions in every nook and cranny in a large 8000-capacity hall; the limber movements with which he performs the songs using his whole body holds his audience rapt. As the singing performer, it would seem that Sakurai had broken new ground and with the great strides he was making with his songs, it felt as if his fellow band members had also scaled up their playing.

As they celebrated their 35th debut anniversary, what BUCK-TICK had been cultivating through the years felt like it was just about to ripen and it was plain to see from all the elaborate CGI and lighting which decorated the stage, all for Sakurai’s songs. I shared these thoughts with Sakurai after the show and he was really happy about it.

About two months after that, I got to watch the additional performances (BUCK-TICK TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- FINALO) which were to be held at Gunma Music Center, in their hometown of Gunma. In a uniquely designed hall, the band appeared to have enjoyed performing there given the fact that they had played here countless times ever since they first debuted. The way Sakurai danced, flapping his arms like wings as he sang made me wonder whether he was referencing the Jomo Karuta card “Gunma Prefecture, shaped like a crane in flight” (つる舞う形の群馬県 / tsuru mau katachi no gunma-ken). I wanted to ask him about it the next time we met, but that chance was never to be.

Sakurai’s live performances were special. Singing with a clear voice, he conveys the worlds of his songs using a variety of props. An ostrich feather stole or a sheer shawl, or an elegant hat and walking stick, or masks that look like they’re for a Venetian party or an artsy candelabrum; these are just some of the things he uses depending on the song. For example, a single stole can be draped over the shoulders or worn over the head, creating a completely different scene with a little ingenuity.

He further captures the imaginations of the audience with a little inventiveness in his outfits which brings different characters to life. One moment, you wonder whether he just showed us a glimpse of his legs in kneehigh stockings and the next moment, he’s dancing gracefully in a black crested kimono. His physical expressions which even involve the slightest movements of his fingertips more effectively enhanced their songs than any stage set could.

The one who influenced Sakurai to no small extent with such performances was Der Zibet’s ISSAY (vocalist) who suddenly passed away in August. Not only were they fellow vocalists, the two of them had similar tastes in music and art, and had been long-time friends and mutual inspirations to each other. Their relations led to Der Zibet and BUCK-TICK participating in each other’s albums, and even guest appearances at their respective concerts.

On the topic of performing together, ISSAY said, “When it comes to Atsushi-kun, he’s a person who has a unique energy when he’s on stage so that clash between both our energies feels wonderful, truly.” While Sakurai had this to say: “I had to respond to his serious challenges in each moment so I really enjoyed it.” (※1)




Once Sakurai leaves the stage, he becomes an unassuming person of few words, but he’s always gentle, treating everyone kindly and as equals, with the natural disposition to pay attention to detail. 

Many musicians and close friends would always gather for BUCK-TICK’s annual year-end performance the Nippon Budokan, and then join the afterparty which goes on until morning. He had said before that he actually likes to drink alone but he would share a toast with each and every person there.

Of course, it was not only Sakurai but every member of BUCK-TICK who cherished their connections with people, and maintained good relations with many. I believe the outpouring of grief for Sakurai on social media is a clear indicator of the strong interpersonal relationships BUCK-TICK has forged. It also goes without saying that his sincerity, kindness, and generosity have been conveyed to and charmed countless fans through his songs and live performances.

BUCK-TICK started out with Sakurai, and fellow schoolmates Imai Hisashi (guitarist), Hoshino Hidehiko (guitarist), Higuchi Yutaka (bassist). At first, Sakurai was the drummer but switched to being the vocalist when he proposed, “I want to sing.”  Higuchi’s older brother, Yagami Toll (drummer) then joined them and the band started taking their activities more seriously. After that, the band released their first single, TO-SEARCH in 1986 under indie record label Taiyo Records (太陽レコード).

The next year, they released their first indies album HURRY UP MODE and soon after made their major label debut with Victor Entertainment with a concert video, BUCK-TICK Phenomenon at LIVE INN (バクチク現象 at LIVE INN). At the time, it was unusual to start a music career with a film release, and when asked about the reason behind this decision, even now I can still remember Yagami’s reply, “Because we focus on visuals (ビジュアル重視 / bijuaru juushi).” These words come before the term “visual-kei” was coined.

Back then, you would typically see “member recruitment” flyers pasted on the walls of livehouses where those who stuck them up would detail their music preferences and list their favourite bands. At some point, the term “ビジュアル重視” became a common sight on these flyers. This is because in the dawn of the band boom, people came to believe that looks are also an important deciding factor for whether you’ll be featured on TV or in magazines. 

I believe BUCK-TICK at the time focused on punkish sprayed-up hair and new-wave styled outfits instead of Sakurai’s attractive facial features, but Sakurai’s presence was more than enough to draw attention. I heard that MAGUMI (vocalist/trumpeter) from LÄ-PPISCH, another band who also debuted through Victor Invitation (Invitation) said, “Acchan’s (Sakurai) beauty is near divine.” There’s no denying that hearing this changed the way I saw BUCK-TICK.




The band has done countless interviews since their debut, but their earliest interviews were an uphill battle for this reticent group. As their popularity grew, magazines also began to dedicate more and more pages to them. They started conducting solo interviews where the members of the band gradually opened up; Sakurai started giving his insights on lyrics that were being read into, while Imai began to talk about his intent behind the sound constructs. 

With Sakurai, I also got to talk to him about his favourite artists and songs, as well as books and films and many more topics, all of which could be inferred from his music. Like how he often listened to popular songs from the Showa Era as a result of his mother’s influence, his love of Alain Delon and Sawada Kenji, his being influenced by Miwa Akihiro and Edith Piaf. The topics were endless.


BUCK-TICK / Aku no Hana Music Video


In the early days of BUCK-TICK, Imai also wrote the song lyrics but later on, Sakurai began composing them. Ever since the beginning, the lyrics which Sakurai wrote were never simple love songs; they were love songs which were also aesthetically lonesome.

He said before that he wanted to depict “post-sex depression”, but I believe that was gradually channelled towards digging deep into exploring the human psyche. Immersing oneself in an aesthetic of decadence is a result of coming into contact with the dark side of humanity where pain, loneliness and cruelty which lurks in that darkness comes to the fore of human nature.

Woven into the songs in his own words were his explorations into the complexities of gender, differing religious views, and the changing values of society through history. Recorded in the album entitled Six/Nine which they released in 1995 was the song, Rakuen (Inori  Negai) [楽園 (祈り 希い)]」and in it was a line which goes “Garden of Love where the children of god kill each other”. It still hits me straight in the heart even now, and leaves me in admiration of his keen insight.


BUCK-TICK「Rakuen(Inori Negai)」


Speaking of “aesthetically pleasing yet decadent”, Sakurai may give the impression that he sings about things that are detached from reality, but he was in fact an artist who kept a close eye on reality. This was one side of him that really showed in the band’s latest release, 異空 -IZORA- (2023). Recording commenced before the Ukraine invasion which began in February 2022, but there are a few songs in the album which seemed to predict it.

From the start with SCARECROW’s first line, “Can’t run away There’s nowhere for me anymore”, to  Sayonara Shelter which seemed to depict a post-nuclear war world, to  Campanella  Hanataba wo Kimi ni where he gently sings, ‘Mr. Soldier Machine gun  Missile “Flower bouquet”Children Father   Mother “Flower Bouquet”. As he sings this song, Sakurai mimed holding a baby before turning small and cowering on stage in the end.

Also, Hizumi, which he begins in concert with a monologue that starts with “My name is Hizumi,” is a song that expresses the bitterness of a person who struggles with gender issues. Na mo Naki Watashi (名も無きわたし) follows right after that and it comes across as a song about everyone existing as equals regardless of name or nationality or gender.

I believe that Sakurai could be so daring to pick difficult themes like these only because of Imai and Hoshino’s incredible pop-sensibilites and aggressive arrangements. But is there any other artist who could take such heavy themes and sing them in such a beautiful and easily understood manner? I cannot think of any.


BUCK-TICK「Campanella  Hanataba wo Kimi ni」


Looking back, there’s an endless amount of things to talk but most of all, Sakurai Atsushi was an outstanding vocalist, a virtuoso of weaving words together to bring across a song. In addition to that, no amount of words can describe how brilliant he was at expressing himself on stage. When I think about how he probably still wanted to go on singing, I cannot imagine how vexed he was to have fallen on stage.

It’s not difficult to foresee how much more accomplished a singer he could’ve become if he continued to sing, and there’s no doubt that he would also add another layer of depth to his lyrics.

On his personal Instragram, Imai wrote, “I wanted to play guitar by Acchan’s side forever.  But, well. We’ll keep going, alright?” (※2) The four members of BUCK-TICK are probably the saddest of us all at the loss of Sakurai, but I hope that they will continue for us as per Imai’s words.There is no end to my grief, but I believe that Sakurai would want us to continue listening to the songs he has left behind for us.


May Sakurai Atsushi’s soul rest in peace.






※1: From the November 2010 edition of PHY (Ongaku to Hito)




Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: Real Sound

BUCK-TICK leads into the future
at their concert in hometown, Gunma

Ongaku to Hito
22 September 2023

text by Ishii Eriko
photos by Yamauchi Hiroe, Aoki Sayaka


2023.09.17 at Gunma Music Center




The closing of their 35th anniversary year. Held in a retro two thousand people-capacity hall at the Gunma Music Center in Takasaki with a relatively small stage and sound system that one could hardly call the best. This is also a venue that BUCK-TICK hasn’t utilised in a  while.

I recall the gathering of twelve thousand people in Yokohama Arena one year ago where state-of-the-art LED screens were used. That marked the start of their momentous 35th anniversary of the band’s debut. In terms of the scale of the fireworks launched, it was by far the most spectacular and flamboyant stage. The weight of what they carry was also another factor which added to it. In the year since then, I’ve constantly felt like something was weighing me down

Frankly speaking, it’s the pandemic and the war. We have entered a time where things which we’ve always had without question, like good health and peace and children’s laughter are increasingly under threat. No in-person concerts could be held for their previous album, ABRACADABRA and the subsequent tours which came about afterwards had shows that they had no choice but to forgo due to members of the band getting injured or catching COVID-19.

Perhaps they could’ve made the choice to use this opportunity to take a break, but with the thought of their remaining time counting down in the back of their heads, none of the members of the band bring themselves to do so. There is no time to waste. Anniversary campaigns came one after another, a new album which they originally wanted to release as two CDs, a tour schedule that had already been set……

The words we hear right at the start of 異空 -IZORA-, “Can’t run away There’s nowhere for me anymore”, sounded as if they could’ve been Sakurai Atsushi’s true feelings just before the celebration of their 35th anniversary year; beyond grateful that they can celebrate with everyone. But at the time, the audience weren’t allowed to make even a sound. We couldn’t follow their lead to celebrate at all. Watching their performance of Aikawarazu no Are~ on that stage left such an impression on me that it felt like a horror movie I could never forget, and the one and only new song they performed, Sayonara Shelter, brought the reality of Ukraine in front of our eyes. The celebratory mood was nowhere to be found.

The number of war-related songs only increased in their new album. Like Campanella  Hanataba wo Kimi ni (花束を君に / A Bouquet for You) and Taiyou to Icarus (太陽とイカロス / The Sun and Icarus). Furthermore, the despair of no escape evolved through concrete characters in Warukyuure no Kikou (ワルキューレの騎行 / Ride of the Valkyries) and Hizumi (ヒズミ). What I saw during TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA- which ran from April to July was Sakurai’s incredible performance with the way he wholeheartedly engulfs himself in the narratives. The band, pressed by an imminent reality, is applying this to the stage, showing us how they turn it into entertainment through radical performances. I believe that it is in this foundation where the anxiety of “Can’t run away There’s nowhere for me anymore” exists as a constant.

The final chapter and, at the same time, the end of their 35th anniversary year. A concert which marks two ends is a little different than the usual. The selection of songs did take into consideration the flow of the tour, but with the inclusion of songs like ICONOCLASM and Ningyo -mermaid-, which were not in the original lineup added to the momentum and added a festive joy back into the show. Even more striking was the removal of Jonathan Jet-Coaster, a song thematically similar to Taiyou to Icarus from the setlist. In short, the sense of confrontation against war had been eased just a little bit.

They’re not telling us to forget all the bad things. They’re also not a band who’s all-smiles, always saying that things are alright. But with the weight of reality carved into a number of songs which they perform in earnest on a near daily basis, perhaps the stage is where they can find a break from reality. The band continues even after the anniversary year concludes. In that case, what will the five of them start going forward? Unlike Takasaki City Theatre, unlike Takasaki Arena, it is the cosy Gunma Music Center that is the closest possible stage to the band’s starting point.

The first time BUCK-TICK took the stage here was in 1988 for their SEVENTH HEAVEN tour. The very next year, they suspended activities due to Imai’s scandal and it was on this very stage that they made their come-back. For all their tours up until 1993, they held the final two days of concerts at this venue so there’s no doubt that this is a closing location filled with precious memories. Digressing, during the encore, Imai took a 360-degree video of the audience floor and the stage with his smartphone. That video also includes a heartwarming scene of Yuta dashing in to try and get in the shot. Whether it was during their performance, in their expressions, or for the MC, the five members of the band seemed comfortable and relaxed.

The encore. Sakurai begins his self-introduction as the transgender lady, Hizumi-chan. Beginning with the words, “Father, mother, I love you, good bye……”, the way we all got sucked deep into the bog of Hizumi is the greatest masterpiece, the nightmarish highlight that grew out of TOUR 2023 異空-IZORA-. Singing the words, “The traffic lights turn red” “If it’s going to be this way”, what she has her eyes stuck on is a reality where it’s all too late. Merciless is the pen of lyric composer Sakurai where “rampaging” takes the place of “approaching” in the final line of the song; alluding that the future which should’ve continued as planned is about to get a sudden shake up and lose all equilibrium. I would even say that it is too cruel, too disturbing to write something like this.

But Hizumi-chan has grown through the tour and now, she refuses to sing that aloud. After singing “The next train is…”, Sakurai goes silent and at the end of the chorus sings, “Ah〜”. But it is intentional enough as it is. Just like that, the curtains close with Na mo Naki Watashi (名も無きわたし / I, Nameless) and the show ends with QUANTUM II. Thus far, everything goes on as per normal, but on this day, the band heads backstage. And then, the second encore starts again.

Sakurai sounded happy delivering his MC. With a “Thank You!”, New World’s sparkly melody which made it feel like we could just about see the little droplets of sound began. This radiance was a true lifesaver. That something which had hung on since their Yokohama Arena show. That rainy gloom which never seemed to clear. Of course, neither COVID-19 nor the war has gone away. Even so, BUCK-TICK heads into a new world. The memories of one year ago which felt like an unforgettable horror dissipated in the white light. “Cut through this infinite darkness”. After a long time, we could finally catch a glimpse of BUCK-TICK inviting us into the future.



2. Warukyuure no Kikou (Ride of the Valkyries)
4. Zangai (残骸)
5. Ai no Harem (Harem of Love)
6. Sayonara Shelter destroy and regenerate-Mix
7. Campanella  Hanataba wo Kimi ni (A Bouquet For You)
9. 人魚 -mermaid-
10. Mugen LOOP -LEAP-
11. Boogie Woogie
12. Noraneko Blue (Stray Cat Blue)
14. Tenshi wa Dare da (天使は誰だ)
15. Taiyou to Icarus (The Sun and Icarus)
16. die


18. Cuba Libre
19. Coyote
20. Hizumi (ヒズミ)
21. Na mo Naki Watashi (名も無きわたし)


22. New World


【Concert archive information】

18 September 2023 (Mon/Holiday), Gunma Music Center

For more details on the performance or archived streaming, please visit


LIVE Blu-ray & DVD
『TOUR THE BEST 35th anniv. FINALO in Budokan』
2023.12.13 RELEASE

■Limited Edition Blu-ray(BD+2SHM-CD+PHOTOBOOK)
■Standard Edition Blu-ray(BD)
■Standard Edition DVD(DVD)

01. Go-Go B-T TRAIN
02. Alice in Wonder Underground
04. FUTURE SONG -未来が通る-
05. Moon Sayonara wo Oshiete
06. Melancholia -ELECTRIA–
07. Villain
08. Maimu Mime
10. Dance Tengoku
11. Eureka
12. Sayonara Shelter
13. RAIN
15. Muma -The Nightmare
18. Memento mori
19. Dokudanjo Beauty -R.I.P.-
21. Yume Miru Uchuu (夢見る宇宙)
22. Kodou (2022MIX)

[Limited Edition bonus (applicable to both Blu-ray and DVD versions)]
・LIVE CD [x2 ] included
・64-page photobook included
・Comes in special packaging

Order from Amazon Japan


Order from HMV



Friday, 29 December 2023 at Nippon Budokan, Tokyo
Doors open 17:30, show starts 18:30
Designated seating; ¥11,000 (w/ tax)

Special Website

BUCK-TICK Official Website




Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: Ongaku to Hito


 “Farewell Sakurai Atsushi”
― Ichikawa Testsushi

24 October 2023



Today, it was announced that Sakurai Atsushi, the vocalist of the rock band BUCK-TICK has passed away on 19 October from brain stem haemorrhage. Music critic Ichikawa Tetsushi, who “spent a lot of enriching times with him through my work for Rockin’on Japan and Ongaku to Hito” during the 1980s and 90s, mourns his death.



Despite the fact that BUCK-TICK has consistently been playing peculiar rock music for the past 36 years as Japan’s most avant-garde band who are dark and experimental and not the most appealing to the masses, they are still Japan’s biggest pop-sounding rock band. And their frontman, Sakurai Atsushi was the embodiment of their extraordinary presence and worldview; the rare “pessimistic entertainer”.

The Sakurai Atsushi I know was a person who seemed to have been born to sing in a rock band. He was the “handsome” older brother both inside and out. The young man who stood before a conveyor belt in a factory back before he was formally associated with the band, wondering, “Why am I doing this stuff?” came into contact with music, particularly dark heavy rock music and found what would awaken him to his style of expression; a form which looked both fragile yet promising.

In the last century, I conducted countless interviews with him and I can’t even begin to fathom how many hundreds of hours I spent drinking with him. Despite the smile on his face, on the inside, he was always self-deprecating, asking himself over and over, “What am I?” Even so, he continued to toss and turn in agony as he attempted to express himself as the boy from the blind alley. But because he’s the person he was, he created the unheard-of genre of “stylish pessimistic rock”.

Needless to say, a worldview so unique to him is what gathered sympathisers from far and wide, regardless of nationality or age. Also, when we listen to BUCK-TICK’s music from this past decade or so, we get the message that Sakurai himself revelled greatly in his innate “tiresomely sensitive” disposition.

It is truly a shame [that this has happened] because I was glad to see a Japanese musician ageing as well as Sakurai Atsushi, still going strong 35 years since the erstwhile band boom. This obituary which comes only two and a half months after the passing of DER ZIBET’s ISSAY who he admired so greatly, the other half the duo I call the “Decadent Mentor-Mentee Duo”, is simply heartbreaking.

My sincere condolences to one and all. Ahh.


Ichikawa Tetsushi
Music critic. Author of numerous liner notes and books like BT8992―Buck-Tick’s metamorphosis1989-1992, a collection of BUCK-TICK interviews published by Rockin’On.




Translation: Yoshiyuki
Source: “Farewell Sakurai Atsushi” ― Ichikawa Testsushi