Monday, July 28, 2014

To Hiroshima

Speeding through tunnels, catching glimpses of landscape between the hills, shades of green, a small river reflecting the dusk....sipping on cold, canned plum wine from the mini mart on the train platform after a long day of travel and promotion.  Tiny lights twinkle and we have arrived in Hiroshima.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

NEW Best Of Album in Japan

My NEW Best Of album has just been released in Japan today!  It includes some of my favorite songs released exclusively here in Japan.  Here's the track listing:

1.  Best I Can
2.  Dream
3.  Yasashisa ni Tsutsumaretanara
4.  I Don't Have Time To Be In Love
5.  I'll Be Here
6.  In A Tree
7.  Kaze
8.  Leave The Light On
9.  Remember How I Broke Your Heart
10.  When You Grow Up
11.  Take Me Home, Country Road (Acoustic)
12.  Stop, Look, Lie
13.  Sayonara COLOR ~ English Version
14.  Wallflower
15.  Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa
16.  Best I Can ~ Acoustic Version

This album is special because it's bookended by the new theme song I co-wrote with Wendy Wang (The Sweet Hurt), for Season 2 of the drama Soko wo Nantoka.

Please check it out if you can!  Thank you!!

p. a.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fine On The Outside + Movie Release!!!

This past week has been a touch on the busy side.... traveling to Fukuoka, Osaka, and Nagoya, gearing up for the movie's release date TOMORROW!  I am soooooooooooooooo excited about this!!!

This film, "When Marnie Was There", is definitely one of my new favorite Ghibli films, and not just because my song is in it.  Don't get me wrong.... I love ALL Ghibli movies, but this one is in the tops.  It truly is a film about love.  Not the romantic kind.  But the pure kind, that we are all born with.  That lives inside of us, even when we forget.  The Director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, said in his Director's memo that he's not trying to change the world with this film, or top any other Ghibli movie before it.  He simply hopes this movie can be a friend to the young person who may be going through what Anna and Marnie go through.  And when we are at our loneliest, may this movie be a reminder of the love we have inside and all around us.  I love this message.  And I feel like he could go one step further by saying this film could be a friend to anyone of any age.  This is how I truly feel.  I've seen grown men cry after watching this movie.

As someone who grew up quite lonely at times, I personally looked to books, or movies, or music to be my "friend" through those times.  I also looked to my guitar, and the moon, which is what lead me to write the song "Fine On The Outside", 9 years ago.  I was thinking about my time as a teenager, and how lonely and difficult it was at times.  I would literally sit on my bed and look out the window at night at the moon, and wonder if I was loved... if anyone would miss me if I was gone.  Somewhere in my heart I knew the answer... but sometimes I really needed this reminder.  "Fine On The Outside" is tremendously personal to me, and the lyrics are quite vulnerable and open... so I was actually afraid to put it on any album.  I didn't want to have to change it in any way to make it "fit" on any of my previous albums.  When I read the book, "When Marnie Was There" by Joan G. Robinson (I love this book!), I immediately saw myself in Anna, and thought of this old song I wrote.  Of course I tried writing new theme songs for the movie... but still I kept thinking of this song.  Finally I gathered the courage to submit this song.  I was immediately messaged via Line, by the Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura of how much he loved this song.  After much thought amongst the Ghibli team, this song was chosen.  I could not have imagined a better way for it to be debuted to the world.

So... I hope when you see the film, you can watch it with an open heart.  And when you hear the song, I hope both the film and the song can be a friend to you too... I feel like they go hand-in-hand.

All this being said, the movie comes out tomorrow (actually today by the time I post this) in Japan.  And then coming to Korea and elsewhere in the Fall, with more countries around the world following suit.  My Song Book album, "Just Know That I Love You" ("Anata no koto ga daisuki") is now available on iTunes in 113 countries!  The actual physical album can be purchased in record stores in Japan.  The songs on this album are all written for and inspired by the film.  I hope you like them!

With so much love,
p. a.

P.S.  To get more updates on my campaign tour in Japanese and English, please go Here.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I had so much fun today!  After starting my day off with a walk/run/mostly-walk around the city in the morning... scoping out batting cages and tennis courts for future exercise dates, I showered and hopped on the shinkansen to Shizuoka.  

After the typhoon, it was a clear (and super hot) day.   We could see Mt. Fuji so clearly in the not-so-distant distance.

First stop was Shizuoka Johoku High school, to meet the students in the "International Club".  This was my first ever experience in a Japanese high school, and I was really looking forward to it!  First thing I learned at the entrance, was that everyone takes their shoes OFF!  :-O  You have no idea how happy this made me!  I'm a big advocate for removing shoes before entering homes, or even work places.  It's so much more comfortable (and clean) to me.  So, this was pretty amazing.  This school was spotless by the way.

As we walked to the classroom, we admired the stunning calligraphy and artwork hanging on the walls.

The students welcomed us (US, being Takatsugu Muramatsu (film composer extraordanaire, who scored "When Marnie Was There") in English and Japanese, and then 3 students did a beautiful demonstration of writing 3 things in calligraphy for us.  It was soooo cool!  One of them even wrote my name in Kanji!  I was asked not to post any photos that included the children's faces, and I feel wrong blotting their faces out.... so unfortunately I can't include the calligraphy photos here.  But they're truly amazing!

The class then sang us their school song, which was wonderful!

Then Muramatsu-san and I performed our songs together and separately.  It was such a treat to hear Muramatsu-san play one of his own compositions from the film on the piano, solo.  I'm a big fan!

Afterwards, the girls (90% of the class was girls) hung out and asked me questions.  This was so much fun for me ~ they were all so sweet and so kawaii ~ I wish we could have had more time to hang out together.  They all spoke great English, and I could tell they were all so talented in their own way!  This definitely seemed like a one-of-a-kind, special school.

Muramatsu-san and I, posing after an interview.

Then we raced off to the Cinema for another pre-screening of the film, where we did a Q&A, and I performed my theme song.

Then off to the train station to head back to Tokyo.

Bon appetit!

p. a.


Niigata is yet another beautiful new place we visited yesterday, famous for their delicious tasting rice and sake!

Rice Fields

We started the day at the Cave D'Occi winery, which is an absolutely gorgeous place.  I felt like I was in Napa Valley.

The air smelled of lavender.  I bent down low to take a photo and discovered a few of these pretty guys hanging out in there.  They were about 3/4 of the size of an iphone (legs included).  They were a pretty shocking discovery.

 We did a TV interview inside a chapel on the winery grounds.
Here are the adorable Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Director) and Sara Takatsuki (Voice of Anna).

Ajisai Season ~~ these were especially beautiful.

I had 1.5 hour break (!!!), so naturally I partook of a wine tasting.
I found a few bottles of white to take home with me!

My dressing room (!!!)

Drawing and painting with my new "Marnie" themed watercolor pencils.
I'm sure you'll be able to find these at the Ghibli Museum soon.

Misty mountains and vineyards

It was a misty, rainy, grey day, but with so much beauty all around.

p. a.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

TOHO Studio

I didn't realize what I was in for today.  I knew we were going to a place called TOHO Studios to record a video of me singing "Fine On The Outside" in a set from "When Marnie Was There".  But...I just didn't quite get it.

Until I got it.

My first hint was this...

Then this...

Then THIS.

You know you're a badass when the entrance to your company is a humongous mural from "Seven Samurai"

And then...

...enter Marnie's world.

The set was an exact replica of the Marsh House dock

and the inside of Marnie's cozy bedroom.

Here, I got to sit and sing in Marnie's chair.  This set will be on exhibit at the Yohei Taneda exhibition later this month.  It is truly a 3-D, real life replica of Marnie's world.  I can't wait to see it again!  I didn't want to leave.  I felt like I was living in a story book.  

The AMAZING team who put this all together and made this music video, which will air on NHK, on July 28th.

My first 2 weeks here have blown by so fast!  I just have a little over 4 more weeks left...I'm trying to relish every second of all these incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences so I can remember them forever and never take them for granted!  

p. a.

P.S. Here is the link to my new Japanese blog, updated by my friend and colleague who's on the Campaign Tour with me.  There are lots more dates and details here!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


If I had to choose between living by mountains or by the sea... I think I would choose the mountains.  Traveling, again by bullet train, my heart rang out whenever I got a view of the beautiful mountain line around us. 

When we arrived in Nagano, it seemed the whole city was surrounded by them, and it made me so happy.

The first thing we did here was eat a big, beautiful vegetarian meal, in true Buddhist style.
Every dish was beautifully prepared, and each included a locally grown ingredient.

 Next we walked up to Zenkō-ji Temple.

 During one of our breaks, we were treated to some Oyaki. 
It was soooooo good!

 We did a live TV program.  Their mascot is so adorable ~ Mai-chan!

The sweet Sara Takatsuki (voice actress of Anna) and I posed as Anna and Marnie!
She really looks like Anna! 

30 minutes later, we were back on the train, Tokyo bound.

p. a.

"When Marnie Was There" - Post 5


First bullet train of the trip (but not the last)

 Doing most of my interviews with the Producer of the film, Yoshiaki Nishimura.
As you can tell, we're working really really hard!  ;)

A warm welcome by the Cinema Theater where we held the Premier for "When Marnie Was There".  Very sweet messages!

Ended the day with a Zunda Shake!  Basically, a sweet, creamy, edamame milkshake.

It was the first time for me to visit Sendai.  For those of you who don't know, this area was catastrophically affected by the tsunami in 2011.  It broke my heart to hear that there are still many people and families living in temporary housing due to the aftermath.  Every time someone mentioned something related to this, I had to take a deep breath.  For what it's worth, I'm sending my love and heart out to everyone in this area who suffered great loss, and are still rebuilding their lives.  

p. a. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

"When Marnie Was There" - Post 4

Sapporo - Otaru

I've always wanted to visit Hokkaido, and since the film takes place there, I finally got a chance to visit!  It is so different from anywhere I'd been in Japan.  It felt open, and vast, surrounded by layers upon layers of beautiful mountains.  Lots of green foliage and trees.

 Me and my Yamaha pal, all strapped in and ready to fly!

I had 10 minutes of free time in Sapporo to visit this old clock tower!
I'm smiling so big because it's a beautiful day outside, and I was able to enjoy the fresh air, and sport my new Steven Alan jumper.  

Sapporo Tower

After our 1st day on the campaign trail, we were treated one of the tastiest meals I've ever had!  I was told to be careful though, because Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the Director of "When Marnie Was There", gained 5 kilos on the last campaign tour for "Arrietty".  

Fresh sashimi plate included the most melt-in-your-mouth Toro sashimi I've ever experienced in my life.  It was butter;  a mound of sweet uni, sweet shrimp, abalone, octopus, and more!

We all dug into this hairy crab like it was going out of style.  Thank you Crab-san!

Later that night, my friend Lined me that "Princess Mononoke" was on TV.  I tuned in and watched it while I was getting ready for bed.  When the credits rolled, a banner popped up promoting "思い出のマーニー".  Soon after it was followed by a commercial that has a tie-in with the film, which is playing my theme song...followed by a trailer for the film, also playing my song.  At that point I just stopped in my tracks and was like, 'What is happening?'  I still feel like this is all just too amazing to be true.  

My beautiful view of Sapporo from my hotel room.

The next day I performed in Sapporo Station -- which is featured in the film.  Another crazy experience for me!

Thank you to everyone who came out and stopped to listen!
{"Jake the Freak" -- if you're reading this -- thank you for your CD!  I'm listening to it right now! :) }

After the Mini Concert, I had a sign session at Paseo Gyokkodo.  Thank you to everyone who bought and reserved CD's!  And this little girl truly brightened up my day!  

Next I had the honor of signing some promotion boards for my new album "あなたのことが大すき" {"Anata no koto ga daisuki"} at the HMV Sapporo...

And then the Tower Records...

We had a few hours left in the day of free time, so we drove out to Otaru, about 1 hour from Sapporo.  Nearing the tiny city, the ocean was on our right, and beautiful green mountains on our left.  It was a breathtaking drive.

First thing on our list in Otaru :  eat the freshest, milkiest soft cream ever!  This soft cream tasted exactly like someone milked a cow and made it into ice cream 10 minutes later.

We took a leisurely, fresh air walk along the canal.

My amaaaaaaazing team -- taking such good care of me!!!
I'm so lucky!

Le Tao cheesecake.  This was the best cheese cake I've ever had.  I realize I keep saying everything's 'the best'.  I usually don't believe people when they tout that around so casually... but I really don't tout it around casually.  These things were really some of the best tastes I've ever experienced, ok???

This place sold about 500 different kinds of music boxes -- a specialty of Otaru.

We ended the night with a super yummy sushi dinner (another specialty of Otaru).

This was a water vegetable that grows in a lake.  I loved its texture and taste!


 Hokkaido, in short.... was quite fresh.

p. a.