What can be learnt about Social Contribution from an Artist at the Forefront of the Music Scene?
On Monday, January 29, 2018, the College of Social Sciences held a special lecture entitled “What can be learnt about social contribution from an artist at the forefront of the music scene?” at Kinugasa Campus in Kyoto. Coordinating the lecture was Ms. Mai Kuraki, singer and Visiting Associate Professor at the College of Social Sciences, Ritsumeikan University (graduate of same college, 2005).
In a musical career spanning close to 20 years, despite being still only 35 years old, with seven No.1 albums, two number one singles and numerous awards and gold discs to her name – including winner of China’s Fresh Asia Chart Award for ‘Most Influential Japanese Singer in Asia (2016)’ – Ms. Kuraki was certainly well qualified to lead the session.
Readers may be familiar with the smooth, lyrical tones of her voice from the hugely popular anime series ‘Detective Conan’ (also known as ‘Case Closed’), for which to date she has contributed a record breaking 21 songs.
The lecture formed part of Ms. Kuraki’s responsibilities as a Visiting Associate Professor and covered a detailed explication of how she was able to develop activities relating to social contribution in parallel with her glittering musical career. Thirty-five students attended, learning in depth about Ms. Kuraki’s social contribution as an artist, as well as her future activities.
In sharing vivid memories of her campus life and subsequent work, in which she described her encounter with the Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai as ‘impossible to miss out’, she spoke of her support for reconstruction from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the music lessons and terakoya project she has implemented for child education in Cambodia, as well as her activities to convey the appeal of the city she first encountered as a young high school student: Kyoto.
The room was gripped as she spoke of how she regards some situations as impossible to genuinely understand without direct involvement (that news is no substitute for on the ground lived experience), before moving on to give an insight into what it is to be an artist, active in the public limelight.
Having been appointed Kyoto Travel Ambassador in 2017 by Kyoto City’s Tourism Council, Ms. Kuraki next took the opportunity to challenge the students in groups to come up with new, innovative ideas for promoting the charm and delight of Kyoto based upon the themes: ‘Mai Kuraki’, ‘Music’, and ‘Kyoto’. Ideas from students included: holding a pilgrimage event to visit the locations of scenes from the Japanese manga/TV animation series Detective Conan (also known as Case Closed); broadcasting material aimed at young people on a ‘Mai Kuraki’ YouTube channel, sharing trends from Kyoto based upon Ms. Kuraki’s wealth of experience as an artist and social contributor; and the production of a promotion video introducing a number of must-see sights in Kyoto.
As the session drew to a close, Ms. Kuraki thanked the students, enthusing:
"Your ideas were all fantastic! Now it’s up to me to bring them all together into a concrete form. Today really has been a very special and unique experience for us all to be treasured. And for me on a personal level, it has been time very well spent! It’s in the hope of helping to realize a better world for all that I intend to continue my career in music, which, at the same time, will help to further my social contribution activities too."
She added one final expectation:
"After you graduate and start to work in the world at large, having to decide on an idea or theme and give it expression is something you will find you encounter frequently, and so I hope today has been a catalyst for thinking about the importance of putting your ideas into a comprehensible form."
*(The name of an actual bridge in Kyoto, Arashiyama)