“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