If you’re familiar with the world of Japanese mythology, you might have heard the name “エコツミ (Ekotumi)” before, but in case you haven’t…
エコツミ (Ekotumi) is a Japanese singer, songwriter, performer, artist and novelist. And the subject for her works is, you’ve probably guessed this already, Japanese mythology.
As an artist her primary focus is her music, but her goal is to make the world of Japanese mythology accessible to a larger audience. Not just in Japan, but all over the world. Her works have brought her to different places across the globe, among which Europe and even Dubai, where she performed as the opening act to the World Art Dubai event.
Through her “New Translation Kojiki” series she introduces the audience through the stories of “Izanami” and “Amaterasu” through theatrical performances as well.
A long story short: エコツミ (Ekotumi)’s works have a lot to offer!
But there of course is a second reason to this interview as well.
Aside from the subject of her project being one that personally interests me, she’s currently in Europe for a couple of shows. And I’m sure that after the difficult time with the COVID-19 pandemic you can use some time outside of the house as well. I will go into more details about her current (but short) schedule here in Europe in the interview already, but I also really want to introduce you to her works. Perhaps you’ll find something that interests you even if you can’t make it to one of her appearances this round.
So let’s not waste any more time and…
Let’s get started with the most basic, but yet very important question: Can you please introduce yourself in your own words so the readers know who you are?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): I am エコツミ (Ekotumi), I’m a singer, songwriter, performer, artist and novelist of Japanese mythology. I create my performance by singing and dancing, but also through the story!
You’re a singer, songwriter, performer and novelist, and you’ve chosen Japanese mythology and folklore as the starting point for your works. But what sparked your interest in Japanese mythology?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): You might not know about Japanese mythology, but don’t worry. It’s not a popular subject for most people, but it’s still very much alive in Japan. In the shrine we believe there are many gods and goddesses, and each of them have their own personality just like us, the living. Sometimes they get angry, or jealous. They cry and love just like we do.
Please imagine with me: in ancient times they fought with their families just like you, they felt jealous just like you and loved just like you. They’re still there, beside you. It’s never ending. The story spans from ancient times to the current time, and includes us as well.
I believe Japanese mythology tells us we are not alone, we are one in the big flow together. And we are all different. That’s why we’re here.
One of the goals of your work is to bring Japanese mythology to an audience located all over the world, but how did the audience in Japan respond to your works? Are they interested in learning more about the mythology of their own country, or not at all?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): According to some people Japanese mythology was one of the reasons for World War II. When I first started people constantly attacked me about it. It’s a big nationalism, even though I sing mythology as stories. The situation appears to be changing recently though. People need something as a basis, or a root. So recently there are more and more books about Japanese mythology, and I personally think this is a good thing! I hope everyone all over the world will be interested in it!
Izanagi, Izanami, Amaterasu & other gods and goddesses
You divide your works into “Japanese Myth”, “Performing Arts” and “Novel”, but what was the starting point of your project? Did you always intend for your work to have multiple categories, or did this start to form over time?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): I am a singer, but I also really love the stories. My roots are in singing, and the second step is writing. After I wrote many lyrics and collaborated with a lot of composers I started to compose by myself.
My very first lyrics are about the origin of Japanese words, since there are so many stories behind each word. I really love to feel someone’s emotion during their old age, because it makes me feel like we are connected when I understand those emotions. So I like to create my works with both my voice and my words, not just with one of them.
Speaking of your words, one of your major achievements is the organization, performance and scenario-writing of the play “Izanagi, Izanami” at the Tokyo Daijingû shrine (a Shinto-altar which is located in Chiyoda city in Tokyo, who also supported this performance). Did you ever expect you would be doing something like this, and would you like to do it again in the future?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): I actually have a lot of stages like “IZANAMI”. I’ve created the “New Translation Kojiki” series, which is yes, a series! It is a Japanese-style contemporary opera with an original interpretation of Japanese mythology through songs and dances.
So there isn’t just “IZANAMI”, there’s also “Amaterasu” (the god of the sun), “Tsukuyomi” (the god of the night) and so on.
I’ve performed “IZANAMI” in Lithuania during a solo concert in 2019, and I will be singing it in London during this tour as well. This performance is scheduled for the 13th of October at the Lexington in London (United Kingdom), and this time it’s supported by the KANSAI OSAKA 21st Century Association!
I personally am somewhat familiar with the story of Izanagi and Izanami, but I don’t think I can explain it as well as you can. The same goes for the story of Amaterasu. Can you please give a short version of these stories to help the readers understand your works surrounding them a little better?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): There are a lot of gods and goddesses in Japanese mythology, and some of them are in very particular situations and places like the god of the Sakura cherry blossoms and the god of the flow parting in the river and the god of the middle place in the flow of the river…
But Izanami and Izanagi’s existence is to give birth to many other gods after they got married. They are sort of like the parents to the other gods. Amaterasu is one of their children. However, Izanami had to die when she gave birth to the god of fire. After you learn about the story of her death you should come listen to me!
Made In Asia & other appearances in Europe this October
Made In Asia is going to be your first physical performance after the COVID-19 pandemic, isn’t it? But the most important question in this situation probably is why people should come see your performance at the convention… What can they expect?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): Yes, this is the very first performance after 18 months for me, so I really want to say thank you to Made In Asia for inviting me!
But I want you, the audience, to feel the world of Japanese mythology as if it was real. You know how wonderful something is in reality, so I want you to feel that through my works.
I’m performing at Made In Asia every day of the event, and the shows will be almost the same every single day. But one unique feature is that there will be subtitles in both French and Dutch during each performance, to help you understand my words in Japanese more easily. So even if you don’t speak Japanese, you can still follow the story I’m telling you on stage.
I hope I will be able to make you feel the world of Japanese mythology that lives inside of YOU through my show!
Are you only doing a show at Made In Asia, or will people be able to see more of you during the event as well? Since Japanese mythology is a very wide subject, and there are so many ways in which you can tell your stories…
エコツミ (Ekotumi): Next to my performance you can see my hologram in the “Little Asia” area. I would recommend you to go and see the hologram first before you come to my physical show, and return to the hologram to view it one more time after the show! I will sing the same song with the hologram, but it might be a very interesting experience for you.
But there’s also the merchandise table. I have various CDs with me that are available for purchase, but my personal recommendation would be the CD book of Izanami! There’s also a black kawaii mask, a tengui (hand towel) mask and antiseptic spray. So please come and check out my works at the merchandise table as well.
I was actually planning to ask about your hologram later, but you have actually created this in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic to both protect yourself and others during this time, but also to provide entertainment in a world where this was nearly impossible. Can you tell me a little more about it? And will this be your only hologram? As this was a very unique and creative solution!
エコツミ (Ekotumi): Again, it would make me really happy if you’d visit my hologram at the “Little Asia” area in Made In Asia during the event, so you can see it for yourself rather than just reading about it. But you might notice that there are male voices behind mine. And even if you understand Japanese you probably won’t understand the lyrics, since they are in an older version of the Japanese language. This also makes them almost impossible to understand, even for native Japanese speakers.
The spoken lyrics are about the story of one little god: Sukunabikona. He supported the creation of the country with Okuninushi, who continued to govern the country after Sukunabikona’s death by bullying. Sukunabikona came from the sea, and wore the butterfly’s wings.
I feel this project has a meaning, because the performance is about this little god. So at this point in time I have no intention of creating another hologram for the story of another god.
Like we already said, you’re going to be performing at the Made In Asia event in Brussels (Belgium) from October 8 to October 10 in the Brussels Expo, but are these and your appearance at the Lexington in London your only performances in Europe for now?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): Next to these appearances I’m also planning to sing in the South of France from October 15 to 17. So if you or your friends are there, please spread the word!
A Wingless Country – A soundscapes art project during lockdown
We of course can’t forget about your most recent work “A Wingless Country”! You’ve premiered this video on YouTube only a week ago at the moment of writing, but this was a very unique project based on the concept of “soundscapes”. In the video we can hear 205 sounds from 88 areas all over Japan. But what was your inspiration for this project? Please tell me a little more about it!
エコツミ (Ekotumi): When we heard about COVID-19 we all panicked, and everyone was shocked when we saw our empty town. But we may forget this image sooner or later. I wanted to record the memory by mixing in the music. So I’ve asked many people to record sound around them from March to May of 2020, while the world was in lockdown. I even asked people in Belgium. In the end I collected 295 sounds from 128 areas (in which I have calculated all sounds from Tokyo as one single area). I will release these on a streaming service like Spotify soon, so don’t miss it!
In this new single “A Wingless Country” you can hear sounds from all over Japan. Listen carefully to the sounds of the waves at the end of the song, since these parts have been recorded in several places in Hokkaido, the farthest north area of Japan, all the way to Okinawa, the farthest south area of Japan. Imagine Japan!
I’ve created both a Japanese version and an English version for this song, and you can enjoy them both on streaming services as well. So if you haven’t, please check out the video for this new song as well!
(You can stream this song through streaming services as well!: English | Japanese)
Aside from everything you’ve already achieved in music and performance, your short movie “Descend to earth” was selected by the WomenCinemakers organization in Berlin (Germany) as well! Did you expect something like this to come from this performance video? And would you like to do something like this again in the future?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): Honestly, when I heard about being selected by this organization it came as a big surprise for me, but I am so glad about it still.
I don’t actually want to create a movie by myself in the future, but I would like to collaborate with someone by adding my music, voice, dance or acting to their movie! I absolutely love the “story” aspect in general.
For example: I’ve tried to create a music video under the restrictions of COVID-19 through the phones of a few staff members. It’s also a story-style video, about Yamata no Orochi. He was a big snake monster with eight heads who ate girls and eventually attacked the god Susano.
(You can view the video for this project on YouTube through this link. Otherwise it gets so stuffed and crowded in this article…)
Before we round up this interview, I only have one more question on my list, at least for this round. Are you already working on something new that not only fans, but also people who developed an interest in your work through this interview?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): I plan to release a lot of music on streaming services, so please listen to those when they come out because there are so many backstories to every single one of these songs. I’d like to tell you more about them and make you feel the world of Japanese mythology.
I will have some new recordings next year, not just with the “soundscape” songs, but also with the Japanese mythology songs. Please stay in touch with me through social media! (You can find the links at the bottom of this interview in the “Follow” section!)
And to actually round up for now, do you have a message for everyone who has been reading today’s interview?
エコツミ (Ekotumi): Thank you so much for reading my interview today. I really hope I can bring the world of Japanese mythology to you through my work, and that it will become something that interests you! I hope to see you during my live shows, so you can really feel the world of Japanese mythology inside of your heart!
Like mentioned earlier, エコツミ (Ekotumi) is currently in Europe for a few shows in Belgium, the UK and the south of France.
You can visit her and experience her work in person here in Europe this October:
October 8 – Made In Asia – Tsubaki Stage, Hall 7 at 15:30
October 9 – Made In Asia – Tsubaki Stage, Hall 7 at 16:30
October 10 – Made In Asia – Tsubaki Stage, Hall 7 at 17:15
Made In Asia is held at the Brussels Expo in Brussels, Belgium.
Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday days of the event are unfortunately sold out at the moment this interview was published.
October 13 – Lexington (London, United Kingdom) at 20:00
(Tickets are still available on the website of the Lexington, here.)
October 15 – South France
October 16 – South France
October 17 – South France
(Information is currently unknown at the moment of publishing, so follow her Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates!)
Phew, this was quite the interview once again! But there were a lot of different subjects and I wanted to make sure I touched on all of them to introduce you to エコツミ (Ekotumi)’s unique project. Especially since it’s something different (but very interesting none the less) that doesn’t exactly fit in the world of artists that are normally covered by Arlequin Magazine.
So really, if you can catch her work during her short time in Europe, I can absolutely recommend you to check it out and give her a chance, because her stage performance will captivate you, for sure!