Joe Hisaishi: The Japanese John Williams


Born as Mamoru Fujisawa on December 6, 1950 in Nakano, Nagano, Japan, Joe Hisaishi discovered his passion for music at the early age of 5 when he began playing the violin. This passion has driven Hisaishi to become the preeminent musical director and composer of Japan and perhaps the world. With over 100 film scores and solo works dating back to 1981, Hisaishi displays meticulous dedication to his art common only among masters.

Hisaishi is most famous for the work he has done with the animated films of renowned film director, animator, producer, and screenwriter, Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli. In almost every sense, the two masters started their careers together with 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and have continued collaborating together on such masterpieces as Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away. It’s unfortunate (I’m tearing my hair out) that Miyazaki has announced his retirement with the recent release of The Wind Rises – we can only wait and wish that he gets bored and starts up another project with Hisaishi.

Hisaishi’s music is atmospheric, flowing, freeing. It materialises a world, and pulls the listener into that world – the very landscape Hisaishi intends to invoke.  A world you can feel in every sense except physically. A world you can actually see as through the lens of your imagination or as illustrated by the esteemed Hayao Miyazaki.

Whether lilting or fading, violent or dreamy, dark or light; in the end, Hisaishi stirs the heart in a way that cannot be understood through words. Music that speaks a language of melody and emotion. I implore you to watch one of the aforementioned films to get the full experience. Until then, listen to the pieces below and let us know what you think.

Travis Welwood

(Full concert)

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