Chapter Eight — Malaysia

I’ve moved house five times in total since I began living in Malaysia. I decided part-way through that my lifestyle doesn’t require me to live in a crowded part of the city. I thought that living in a quiet suburb with clean air would be nice and moved out of the city center to a suburb. That said, it’s only 20 minutes by car to the city center. It feels like going from Roppongi to arrive in Hachioji in 20 minutes¹. There are a lot of things I found out after I moved there. The number of highways is the most in Asia. It’s even close to the top globally. I use the highways any time I go anywhere. At first it was a mystery to me why they developed so many highways. There are even many places where three or four highways cross over each other. It looks like an amusement park sometimes. I worried, “Is it okay to have this many highways on top of each other?” and looked it up to find that Malaysia is one of the most natural disaster-free countries in the world. There are no earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, tsunamis, or cold snaps, and it doesn’t ever dry out from the heat either. While there has been some flooding in distant basins in the past few years, it’s had no effect on people living on slightly higher ground.

The Risk Of Flat Land

Most areas in Malaysia are hilly, and wide areas of flat land are not common in most areas. People want to live in flat places, but they have been taught since long ago that “living on flat land is risky”. First, it’s hot. It’s because the heat gets trapped. There isn’t enough breeze passing through. The hills have more of a breeze. It’s pleasant. Malaysia has summer all year round. But that “summer” is like early summer in Japan, and hovers around 26~30 degrees Celsius. The risks are greatest on flat land near rivers. There is the danger of flooding if the river overflows. Therefore, I prefer slightly higher and cooler ground in the forest.

Japanese roads have two lanes, but it’s common for roads in Malaysia to have four to six. There are also a surprising number of places that are not yet developed. I have a budding sense of anticipation, “What will this country become from now on?” Once when I looked at the view from the roof of my condominium, I counted the number of construction cranes in a 360 degree view around me. There were over 500 just within the area that I could see. I felt, “There’s no other city like this!” In most countries in Asia, including Japan, the cities themselves are expanding but it’s not a planned expansion, so highways aren’t being built. It ends up with congestion and traffic jams. When they construct the highways after the city, then there’s a limit to how many they can build. Even if they do try and build them, it takes a considerable amount of time to get from planning to completion.

In Malaysia, they build the highways first. And then they build the towns one by one around them. Afterward, they make entries and exits to the highways and connect them to the towns. I’ve been living in Malaysia for 11 years, and the increase in the number of highways has been out of the ordinary. Of course, there are none in the center of cities. When you enter a city, it feels like a miniature version of the world. And so, there are traffic jams. But you can get to the city center even from out in the suburbs in 20 minutes.

80 Countries And 360 Cities Around The World

I had already searched 80 countries and 360 cities around the world for a place to live for the rest of my life. I visited most countries in Europe and searched around them. The ones that I didn’t go to were ones that were still experiencing conflict. Malaysia is around six and a half hours from Japan. The time difference is one hour. It’s a country rich in nature, with many trees, overflowing with animals and blanketed in green. The infrastructure is solid, including the highways. You could call it a paradise for people who love driving.

Prices are a little cheaper than Japan is currently. If you searched the world for a country as developed as Japan but with cheaper prices, Malaysia would be the only one. It’s too late to question my decision, but I’m confident that it was the right choice. I’ve spotted articles that said things like, “GACKT is a beginner expat who lives in a country that is friendly to beginner expats,” but that’s totally fine with me. I don’t want to work hard on immigrating. I don’t feel any sense of pride that would come from showing off by living somewhere that makes me forget the reason I immigrated there in the first place.

I had houses in the Philippines and Hong Kong. That was until the pandemic prevented me from going there. In the Philippines I lived in the second most major city, Cebu, and the third, Davao. It’s the hometown of former president Duterte. I decided the most major city, Manila, was not feasible due to the poor public order and traffic. I lived in Cebu for two months. When I was going around looking at properties in Cebu, I happened to get to know someone living in Davao, and decided to try visiting there. I liked it because the beach was as beautiful as the northern part of Okinawa, or even more so, and the time in the city passed at a slow pace. And though it was hard to believe that such a city existed in the Philippines, I was most surprised by the fact that it’s the city in the world with the least crime. I liked it and immediately decided to try living in Davao as well. I began a lifestyle of coming and going from Malaysia, Davao and Japan. When I felt like seeing the ocean, I’d go and relax in Davao, while being based in Malaysia. And Japan was just where I went for work.

I visited European cities, thinking if I was going to live overseas I’d live in Europe too. Europe is easy to live in in the high season, but too harsh in seasons when the weather is bad. There are many people who dream of living in Europe, but the best conditions of the high season are only all there for one or two months, and it’s harsh living there in the difficult seasons. During the pandemic, in the time before I returned to Malaysia, I lived in six cities around Spain, but as I expected, I couldn’t endure the cold and the dry air.

Europe In The Coldest Season

When I go to stay somewhere in Europe and investigate, I make sure to go in the coldest and harshest season. If I can’t live there during the cold season, then there’s no point. Because the purpose is not to travel, but to find a place I want to live for the rest of my life. I think that Europe is great for people who love absolute freezing cold and extremely dry air, but for me, someone who goes for a walk outside every day, it doesn’t match the pace of my lifestyle. And no matter how I compare the food, Malaysia is better. European food didn’t fit my tastes. There are good restaurants, but the cost performance doesn’t suit me at all. It’s lethally expensive. I think people who live in Europe and eat out every day are amazing. I’ve been in the habit of eating out every day for a long time, but if I wanted to go to a good restaurant, I could expect it to be three to four times more expensive than in Japan. Even if I felt that it was as good as the restaurants in Japan, thinking about paying three to four times what it would cost in Tokyo for the foreseeable future caused me nothing but stress.

I began living in Malta as soon as the pandemic started. I passed through several European countries, ending with Spain, and then came back to Malaysia. In those two years, I witnessed many realities of life in Europe. The good seasons are great. The cold seasons are harsh and suck. I went around searching for a European country that I could live in during the cold season, and came up empty. My staff also stayed in Malta for a month and a half, but they weren’t able to stand how cold it was. I’d been told that Malta had a warm Mediterranean climate but it was like that. I don’t usually experience a temperature of minus 50 degrees. Their sense of cold and ability to resist it, as well as the strength of their skin, is something else. There are more than a few countries in Europe that experience that kind of winter. I decided that it’s not possible for me.

Buying A Castle 

I lived in six cities in Spain. In any case, I worked hard to find a good place. To me, it was freezing cold. At night, the people in the city were shivering in deathly cold while drinking outside. When I asked the agent, “It’s hard for me to believe this… Why are people here drinking outside even though it’s so cold?” he said, “Cause it’s even colder in their houses.” The bars have heaters placed outside. So if you sit by the heater and drink, you’ll be cold but there’s alcohol and other people there. When I heard that they go home and wrap themselves in blankets to somehow sleep, I thought I was in hell.

Houses in Europe are clearly divided into those with good heating and those with bad. Fancy apartments have good heating, but the ceilings are low and they’re cramped. The electricity bills are also extraordinarily expensive. This doesn’t apply to super high-class condominiums or mansions, but in even slightly-aged buildings, the ones that have space are freezing cold. You walk around the house in winter clothing. I always wear t-shirts at home and don’t put on more than two layers, but in Malta I was wearing four. It caused me nothing but stress wondering why I had to wear so many layers of clothing in the house.

The last house that I lived in in Malta was a mansion with high ceilings. It was an awesome property, with three floors above ground and a basement floor, had a pool in the yard, and you could get a panoramic view of the scenery from the hill it was on. In the good season, I thought it was such a wonderful place. It was so wonderful that I thought that it couldn’t get better, but I absolutely couldn’t live there in winter. It transformed into an environment that I can’t express with the word “harsh”. I had to put extra space heaters in the house or the heating and fireplace couldn’t keep up. I put four gas-powered heaters in there and had gas cylinders delivered every day. A gas cylinder would be used up in one day. I spent my days hauling heavy gas cylinders around every morning. I felt like, “What the hell am I doing?” It was so cold that I put three heaters in my living room and that was the only warm place. No, it was only warm in front of the heaters, and when I stood up from my chair, I’d shiver from the cold so much that I hated it. I looked at more than 200 properties in Europe and all of them had excessively low ceilings. To start with, only one in fifty properties had a ceiling height above three meters. Condominiums with ceiling heights above four meters were practically extinct. They existed in stand-alone designer homes, but in winter they become extraordinarily cold. The heat all escapes upward. When I was looking for properties, I told them, “I don’t like low ceilings because they feel oppressive,” but I was bluntly informed that the ceilings have to be low or the house can’t be heated. The house in Malta also had an open space that extended from the bottom floor to the third floor ceiling so it wouldn’t warm up at all. Only the upstairs corridors were warm. It made no sense at all.

Many years ago, I dreamed of living in a castle, so there was a time when I searched for one to buy. I once stayed for two weeks in a castle in Germany owned by an acquaintance of mine. I tried spending time there, but with the incomprehensible cold, awful plumbing, horrid drafts and countless instances of never-ending repair work, my days living there were like ascetic training. In my Malice Mizer days, I once stayed in northern France for one month to film a music video. One of the places where we filmed was a castle, and I befriended the people who lived there and spoke with them about lots of things. It was April, and spring had begun in northern France. I thought it was weird that they kept putting firewood in the fire even though it was spring. I wondered why they needed the fireplace. I realized why when I stayed at the castle in Germany. A fireplace is essential in a building constructed like that. Anyway it’s cold as hell. I asked the castle owner, “Why do you live in a castle even though it’s such a harsh environment?” His answer was one word, “Status.” The instant I heard that reply, living in a castle vanished from my dream list. I’m not enough of a status-seeker to endure living in that environment just because it looks cool. Rather than a castle, I prefer a house with high ceilings.

My Priority Is Ceiling Height

European houses with void spaces spanning multiple floors looked good, but they were too cold for me to be able to live in one. Even in Japan, a house with a void space six to seven meters high is cold in winter. I have a fixation on high ceilings. It might be difficult to understand, but it’s related to ideological issues. My current house in Malaysia has ceilings seven meters high. When I go to see a real estate agent, the thing I care about most is ceiling height. I take a glance at the inside of a property, and if the ceilings are low, I reject it immediately. 

When I began living in Malta, there were many times when I saw unbelievable sights. Early in the mornings in February, when it was still deadly cold to me, I would wake early in the cold, and shivering, go out onto the terrace. The view of the ocean that I could see from a room on the top floor was beautiful, and I had decided that no matter how cold it was, I would go out on the terrace every morning and drink tea or coffee. I wore layered down jackets, and while shivering, drank hot coffee and looked at the view. I was astonished by “a certain sight” that I saw from that terrace. There was someone sleeping naked on the top floor terrace of a nearby apartment building. When I saw that, I realized, “They’re fundamentally different to me…” and began investigating. Europeans and Japanese people have different base body temperatures in the first place. They’re quite a bit hotter than us. And they have far fewer pain points2. Perhaps it’s because they’re people who are originally from a cold country that they have responded to it over their long history. People who have been living in a cold country for thousands of years grow taller to absorb more ultraviolet light too. They lose their pain points. Essentially, they evolved.

In October, I moved to Spain, and in January the next year I was walking along the beach. I was wearing a down jacket because it was windy at the beach and way too cold, but there were an extraordinary number of people on the shore wearing only a swimsuit and playing in the water. I was dumbfounded to see them. “What the hell…? Why are they swimming in the freezing ocean? Are they stupid? Have they gone mad?” It was such an unfathomable sight that I approached a couple who were sleeping naked and questioned them. “Hey, aren’t you cold…?” “It’s better than our home country,” they replied. I asked them, “Where are you from?” and they said, “Germany.” The north of Germany is freezing cold. I suppose it felt warm compared to their hometown. “Hmm, I see, well that in that case I… STILL CAN’T UNDERSTAND!” I let out a scream in my heart. Perhaps it’s similar to how if a person from Hokkaido goes to Kagoshima in the winter it will feel warm to them, but even so, if you ask me if people from Hokkaido go swimming in Kagoshima in January, I’ve never seen a sight like that in my life. And there were a ton of people swimming in the still-abnormally-cold beach in February in Malta too. The coasts were full of people. “Do these people not have senses…?” I wondered. There are often unbelievable sights in Europe. The air was terribly dry and my face was chapped, and on top of that the food didn’t suit me. The whole time I was thinking that I wanted to get back to Malaysia. The day after I found out that Malaysia had opened its borders, I got all my luggage together, and a week later I flew back to Malaysia. When I arrived at my house for the first time in two years, I scolded myself. “I was living in such a wonderful country the whole time, then!? Why didn’t I put more effort into understanding that!?” I had thought that there must be places that were more wonderful, but in the end, there were not.

Blueprints For My Own Creation

It will soon be 11 years that I’ve been living in Malaysia, but including the area around Kuala Lumpur, there is no other country that fulfills this many conditions. The highways and infrastructure are in place. It’s a little inconvenient for people who like trains, but I never used them even in Tokyo. And even though people from different backgrounds all over the world are gathered here, they don’t clash with each other. There’s mutual respect. English is the main language. I haven’t had any problems at all with Malaysian people since I moved here. It’s a multicultural country, but there are no big problems between cultures, and I feel the power of the society formed. You often hear of cases where big clashes develop from trivial things like people being from different cultures or having different colored skin. The US is a textbook example of that. There’s none of that in Malaysia.

Dry air is bad for the voice and skin. Even though I don’t have air conditioners in my house in Malaysia, it’s 26 to 28 degrees Celsius. I think there’s a lot of people in Japan who have come up with the idea that Malaysia is hot and humid, but what it feels like is if early summer in Japan went on forever. On the other hand, summer in Japan is so hot it’s unendurable. In Malaysia, where the temperature and humidity stay the same all year round, it’s easy to manage my physical condition too.

I’m in the middle of building a new house in Malaysia now. It will probably take two to three years to finish. Construction proceeds quickly in the dry season, but it takes a long time in the rainy season. I kept wandering all around the world thinking there had to be other good countries besides Malaysia, but when I returned to Malaysia, I immediately and completely understood, “This is the only one.” I drew the plans for my new house.

During my rehabilitation period, I was doing voice training and I was working, but I had time on my hands. At first I just tried drawing a house on a whim. I tried showing it to my staff and saying, “I’m thinking of building a house like this, what do you think?” They asked, “What does it look like from the other side?” so I got another sheet of paper and kept drawing. I’d take a day to sketch it. Then I’d get more questions and repeat the process. In the middle, I began to think, “I could kill a lot of days worth of time if this keeps up,” and wondered what to do. It was also a big hassle when I showed what I’d drawn to an architectural designer. I began to study the CAD software (2D and 3D blueprinting software) that architectural designers learn.

The Cars I Spend Time With

There are several reasons I decided to design the house myself. Up until now, when I built a house, I had meetings with the designer and just gave them directions, but of course it was never completely the house that I wished for. Even if they addressed the main things, the details didn’t turn out how I imagined. I made up my mind to do it all myself. I decided that I would design it in detail, and then hand it over to a designer and have them clean it up. I don’t know what building materials will actually be used, but I decided to make the plans full-sized to a certain extent. CAD is not only used for architecture, but also for designing products. You can make plans for anything that has a shape. It was a good opportunity to study it.

What I’m focusing on for this house is being able to spend time with my cars. My cars are divided into types, “Cars that are just for getting around” and “Cars I fixate on and think of as precious”. Cars are a heartbreaking kind of vehicle, no matter how cool you think they look when you buy them, when you’re the one driving them, you can’t directly see how you look driving it from the outside. Cars are, by rights, a precise luxury made of that alone. And therefore, I think it would be good if they became the centerpiece of my house.

Excitement That Comes When I’m Not Driving

Cars are the greatest decoration. I have no interest in lining my collection up in my garage. I used to do that a long time ago, but now I just want to have my favorite one. There’s an excitement you can only get when you’re not driving, and it feels lonely to be at home and not see my car. More than driving, I want to drink alcohol while gazing at my car. I’d like it to be a house where at night, my friends who like cars can get together and drink around it. I need a place where I can get my friends together and relax.

In the past, I owned a lot of cars, but now my approach has changed entirely and I’ve become even more particular, owning only one beloved car that I’m fixated on. It changed when I encountered Lamborghini. I liked the design of Lamborghinis from the start. I’d wanted to buy one someday since long ago, but I kept missing the timing. Plans were made for me to do a photoshoot with a Lamborghini, and a purple Murcielago was prepared in the studio. I absolutely fell in love with it at first sight. When the photoshoot was over, I asked, “How much is this? If I can buy it, I’ll take it home,” and ended up buying it on the spot. From then on, I lost all interest in other cars, and came to feel that I didn’t need any car other than that one. It was something that would have been unthinkable for me up until then. I didn’t think I’d become a version of myself with that kind of feeling. That’s how much of a wonderful thing encounters are. Even with girlfriends, if I had that kind of encounter with someone, I’d say this line— “There will be no other women in my life after you.”

What You Need To Give People Dreams

In Malaysia, I use my Lamborghini on regular roads. What made me feel “I chose the right car,” was when I was entrusting my car to a (jockey?) at the restaurant of a certain hotel. A mother and her two children were standing in the entrance. When I stopped my car there and opened the door, the children were looking at me with great interest, “Wow!” When I asked them, “Want to get in?” they got excited, and said, “Yes, yes!” I put the kids in the driver’s seat and the passenger seat, while the mother watched on. When the mother said, “Wasn’t that nice?” I watched the children’s excitement as they said, “When I grow up, I’m going to buy one!” and realized, “This is the reason…”

Cars have the most beautiful-looking moments when you can affect other people with them. That’s not when you’re driving. It’s that very moment when the car stops, the door opens and a person steps out. What’s most important is the kind of person who steps out when the door opens. There’s no dreams or hope if a fat old man who doesn’t care about his appearance steps out. That’s the reason I’ve decided to, and work so hard to cultivate a look and atmosphere that can grant people dreams. It’s because I learned that it happens most in the moments when I am able to have an effect on children.

Of course, I don’t know if those children will be motivated to achieve something because of that. But at least it was a moment in which I was able to give them a push forward. I feel that it’s our role as adults. If we don’t be adults who can give dreams to the next generation, young people will think that becoming an adult and getting older are bad things, unpleasant things. Or rather, I expect there are a lot of people who think that now. It’s because, out of the older people that are around them, there’s no-one who they can want to be like, and no cool adults. If there are many people around them who manage to age in a cool way, then we can have them think “Aging isn’t a bad thing,” and “I want to be that kind of old guy.” That’s our mission as adults.

Places You Can Absorb Energy

The directionality of energy differs between my work as a musical artist, and my work as an actor. My job is to give off energy from upon the stage. When I act, my job is to draw energy toward me. The direction of the energy is completely different.

Of course, in order to give off energy from the stage, I need to charge myself with energy from somewhere. There are no places like that in Japan any more. Everyone around me has gotten older as well. It’s a well-known truth that Japan has become, in substance, the most elderly country in the world. That’s one of the major reasons I decided to live in Malaysia.

In Malaysia, the streets are overflowing with the energy of young people. It’s a young country. There’s great energy and power there, at any rate. The friends I hang out with locally are a bunch overflowing with the energy of people from 18 to their mid-30s. They’re all buzzing with power. I’ll be 50 this year. It goes without saying, but my old friends have gotten old. If I spend all my time with friends who are older like me, somehow the speed at which I age accelerates. There are actually a lot of people who don’t notice that the speed at which you age accelerates. People age the same number of years as people around them, but they don’t notice that the speed at which people grow old is not the same.

It’s because I’m always hanging out with young people in Malaysia that I’m constantly able to absorb a lot of energy. I get a lot of stimulation. An environment is something that you make yourself. I have to train my body so that I don’t lose to them, and without physical strength, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them when we’re having fun. In the city, I receive and absorb a lot of energy, and I release it toward my fans when I’m on stage at a show.

I can say for sure that Malaysia is the best country to live in. It fits all my requirements. Of course, people have preferences, so I don’t know if it’s the best country for everyone, but at the very least, I can say that it’s the best country for people who are looking for these requirements. “I like cars,” “I eat out a lot,” “I go into town,” “I like nature,” “Living in a place with clean air,” “The stimulation of being in a city,” “I want to feel energy,” “I hate pressure to conform,” “I like warm and humid seasons.” If five or more of those fit, then Malaysia is the best. Japan is a country where the pressure to conform is extremely strong, but Malaysia has diverse cultures and religions, and they don’t push their way of thinking on each other. It’s because they know that it causes friction. I like that aspect a lot as well. But, when I say this, many of my friends say they’ll come and go sightseeing, and unfortunately Malaysia isn’t the right country for that. You can’t understand the greatness of the country just from staying a few days for sightseeing. This country is the best to live in, and if you want to go sightseeing, then you’d be much better off going to Europe in a good season.

  1. Roppongi is an area in downtown Tokyo known for its nightlife, while Hachioji is a suburb on the very outskirts of western Tokyo, roughly an hour by car, though that could vary widely depending on traffic.[]
  2. Tsuuten literally translates as “pain point” but seems to be a Japanese concept without an exact equivalent in English. It means sensory points dispersed through the body where you can feel pain, but appears to be a less scientific and more vague idea than “nerve endings”.[]