Wednesday 21 February 2018

Yasui Kazumi (安井かずみ) - 空にいちばん近い悲しみ -1971- (LP, Philips), Japan

*Archaic Inventions 5 years anniversary post!*

Yasui Kazumi (安井かずみ) aka ZUZU was a known Japanese essayist, fashion model and poetess from Yokohama. At a young age she started to translate and write poetry, learn French and write many songs. In 1970 and 1971 she released two records through Polydor and Philips. Her first album "ZUZU" was named after her own nickname and was a classic japanese female pop, bossa nova, enka album that was quite chic but still also quite traditional. One of those tracks got compiled on the excellent Nippon Girls compilation series.

In 1971 she released the album 空にいちばん近い悲しみ (Sora Ni Ichiban Chikai Kanashimi) meaning something like The sadness closest to the sky. This album featured an overview of her poetic work on top of a variety of musical theme's: from a French chanson style to hippie-esque fuzz jams. Even though I cannot understand Japanese, it's clear how she gives an insight in her mind through poetry while being indulged in a life of decadent travels, fashion, hippies, melancholy and isolation. Sora Ni Ichiban Chikai Kanashimi was also published as a book aimed at girls and apparently she decided to adopt it in a musical format the same year.

The book was illustrated by the famous Japanese graphic artist Aquirax Uno who was also related to the psychedelic and tripped out theater group Tenjo Sajiki. He was known for his utterly psychedelic erotic and surrealistic drawings that are to be found all over Japan's hippie scene from the early seventies as a visual trademark. He also did many posters for experimental film. 

By the late sixties Kazumi had married a businessman in Rome and divorced a year later in New York. Just a few years later she found herself already in Paris and returned to Japan in 1971. On the album it's clear that she was travelling a lot and lived a cosmopolitan life. There is the Arc de Triomphe on the inner sleeve and many musical signs of Paris. Other places that are mentioned are India, California and New York where she probably was also finding her way into hippie scenes as well as celebrity insanity. Check out a translation of the tracklist:

The sadness closest to the sky
Voice comfort
Seaside dialogue
Young people's notes
For example, likes and dislikes
Five people in one person
Love in a beautiful city · · · white water drops in the morning
Returning from India - New York 29, April - Light of St. Moritz - Spring in California
Deauville's determination

Still you can find a lot of melancholy on this album that she displays poetically in her fragility and theme's. Kazumi died in 1994 after becoming quite famous in Japan. Most interesting is this part of her music and life when she was merging a decadent life with a hippie mind and created this beautiful concept album that catches a certain time, lifestyle and the feeling of being far from home coming from another culture. Even though I don't speak Japanese I can still kind of appreciate it. Sometimes she namedrops something from popular culture like Rosemary's Baby. It gives me a bit of a Gainsbourg and Jane Birking feeling, but also hints towards other Japanese singers or music like Harumi

Anyone that knows Japanese or more about ZUZU should feel free to add some information in the comments. Also I have an original book copy of The sadness closest to the sky for sale, since most of it is just Japanese verse with a few Aquirax Uno drawings and I cannot read it. I included all the interesting scans and pictures in the file and video below. Write me in the comments if you would like to get the book. The rip is from a 90's CD, although it was originally released on vinyl in 1971. Here's a nice crooked poetry translation excerpt to end this with: 

I am getting tired of being deeply rooted now, trying to think that I am improving after thinking about everything and thinking that it is wonderful.

I do not have the time to think about someone who I do not know, I feel so tired anyway.

It's really sad, the more I want to have fun, the more sad the depression is.

I wonder if that is the closest thing to the sky

Get it HERE


  1. I know this is post old, but I would love to buy the copy of Sora Ni Ichiban Chikai Kanashimi if you still have it! And thank you so much for this amazing post, I couldn't find much about Zuzu in English so this was incredibly helpful :)

  2. I have all was like Japanese music and art, so this is really intriguing to read. That last poem is really well melancholy , it speaks in a way which is a talent of few people.