100% Pure Osaka Street Funk


True funk in front of Osaka’s largest train station

Bookmark and Share

It is Sunday in front of Osaka Station. On top of a pedestrian overpass a bunch of orange-clad musicians are playing music as if their lives depend on it.

People on the streets below, stop and start to listen. Many change their original plans, climb the stairs and spend the next hour or so laughing, clapping and dancing.

UH garden is one of the thousands of Japanese bands and musicians that have taken to the streets. For the past few years Japanese streets have been hot. And UH Garden is one of the bands that make them hot.


UH Garden personifies Osaka, a city with inhabitants who have always been famous for their humor and fast speech. UH Garden plays Funk. But not your average straight from the USA Funk. This is Funk with strong Osaka seasoning. Original 100% pure Osaka Street Funk. The lyrics are hilarious, the singing is goofy, and the performance is plain fun. The jovial horseplay recalls the Blues Brothers. Just as irreverent , outrageous and entertaining. No jokes you need to think about. No music you need to think about. Guitarist KUSAKA Yasunari, better known as Yas*san (the asterisk is mandatory) explains their reason for being in simple words: “We started to play music because we like it.” Simple and to the point. Just like their music.

Strong Bond

Although UH Garden plays mainly on the streets, it has a large following of fans. They are in constant contact with their favorite band members through the band’s official official Website. Each band member has his or her own message board and fans leave messages daily. They are answered almost immediately. This strong bond with the audience can be felt during their street performances. Quite a few listeners clearly know the band.

The band has been around long enough to build this bond. UH Garden was started in 1994. For the first few years they played just about everything. Their focus on funk was sheer serendipity. One day the band decided to create original material. Bass guitarist SHIMIZU Keiji (KG) was given the honors to come up with something. As it happened KG was a great fan of Larry Graham and absolutely crazy about Funk. Their first song, born in 1999, was Funk and everything that followed remained Funk. “Funk has great rhythm,” explains Yas*san. “It allows us to dance, and at the same time makes the audience dance.”

Update July 2007: YouTube clip of UH Garden street live


KG may be a big fan of Graham and other Funk Greats, UH Garden insists on being original. “We try hard not to do what others do,” explains bandleader NAKANISHI Seiji (Seizy). “What others do is like forbidden,” adds Yas*san. This pride to be original and their focus on 70’s Funk makes that UH Garden is unlike any other J-Pop band. There is clearly no comparison.

“We are not cool and fashionable,” explains Seizy. “We wear orange clothes and do lots of embarrassing stuff. Things that people who are on TV wouldn’t even dream of doing in their worst nightmares, we happily do.” “Because Osaka,” explains Yas*san, “is a city of laughter.”

So what can an audience expect? “We have all kinds of gags that we perform while playing music,” says Seizy. “Typical things that famous Osaka comedians also do. SHIMAKI George of Yoshimoto Kogyo (Japan’s largest agency for comedians, based in Osaka) has this famous gesture for example. He hits his head while shouting ‘poko poko head, pachi pachi punch’. It is meaningless but hilarious when done well. We use it a lot. Actually we even wrote a song using his name, ‘George Shock’.” (Download mp3 music file)

“We also use a gesture made famous by Beat Takeshi (KITANO Takeshi), ‘Komanechi’. It is based on the performance of a famous Olympic gymnast of the 80’s. Each time Takeshi performed it, people recalled the gymnast’s tight leotard. Takeshi still regularly uses this gesture in his TV shows. Even though it is quite old. When we use it while playing, people can’t stop laughing.”

Happy Japan

What are UH Garden’s goals? “Of course we are all dreaming of a big break,” says leader Seizy right away. “But,” he adds softly, “we are not really trying very hard to make that happen…” “We are shy boys,” explains Yas*san with a huge grin. “Actually,” Seizy continues more seriously, “what we really want is to brighten up a Japan which has been really depressed since the economic bubble burst. That is why we play on the street. That way people who never heard of us get to see us too.” “Even people who’d normally not listen to music, stop in their tracks to listen us,” says Yas*san. “From kids to grannies.”

Any message to the world? Both Seizy and Yas*san start to think. But before they can answer, manager OHATA Emma who has been quiet all the time, blurts out: “It would make us really happy if people abroad would become interested in Japan by listening to our music.” Then she immediately puts two UH Garden CD’s on the table.

Download UH Garden (mp3) music samples:
1. All Funky Kyojin
2. Too Black
3. Beer
4. George Shock

Band members:
UH Garden

Left Row (top to bottom)
Vocalist: Hiroaki Kakusei (Kaku)
Guitarist: Yasunari Kusaka (Yas*san)
Alt Sax: Takashi Amano (Takashi)
Middle Row
Trumpet: Reiko Fujimoto (Rei)
Baritone Sax: Hitomi Mori (Hitomix)
Drums: Toshihiro Furue (Furue 100%)
Tenor Sax: Satoshi Kawanishi (Pote)
Trombone: Hiroki Imai (DaiDaiTeki)
Right Row
Lead Vocalist: Seiji Nakanishi (Seizy)
Keyboards: Tooru Akashi (Bla9)
Bass Guitar: Keiji Shimizu (KG)

Official site

Kjeld Duits About the Author

Inspired by the stunningly creative street fashion that exploded on the streets of Tokyo and Osaka in the late 1990’s, photo-journalist Kjeld Duits launched JAPANESE STREETS in 2002. This makes JS one of the first fashion blogs on the net, and the very first to cover Japanese street fashion.

Recent articles by Kjeld Duits:

Comment (日本語もOK)

Leave a Comment • コメントをしましょう!


Guidelines for adding photos to comments: Width: 630 pixels | Orientation: Horizontal (Landscape).

We reserve the right to remove posts that do not follow these basic guidelines: comments must be relevant to the topic of the post; may not include profanity, personal attacks or hate speech; may not promote a business or raise money; may not be spam.

Related Posts with Thumbnails