Chapter One — Hiatus

Until now, the image that I had of age 50 was “the end of your life”. At some point, I had become aware of Oda Nobunaga’s words— “Life is 50 years”. But now I’m aware that it doesn’t mean that you can only live for 50 years, but rather, “How much did you manage to do before age 50?” It goes without saying that you can’t return to your 30s or 40s. What’s most important in life is how much you are able to run at full speed up until then.

In the past, I had the feeling that I’d do all the things I should do by age 30, and anything after that would be borrowed time. Because of that, what comes to mind now is a sense of “I wonder why I’m still alive? I’ve survived much longer than I thought…”

When I look back on my recent period of convalescence, it was the first time I’d taken more than a year off since my debut. Before I moved to Malaysia, my schedule was jam-packed, and there were countless times when I worked without rest for two days in a feverish state.

It’s what you might call a chronic illness of mine— about once every ten years it worsens and I collapse and have an ongoing high fever, which has happened several times in the past. Usually I go to hospital for a month before emerging, but at those times, I’ve never announced it. By chance, it hasn’t happened when I’ve been recording or had public appearances, and when I collapsed during the photoshoot for an album cover and was hospitalized, the release date of the album was postponed by two months… That’s how I’ve handled it. I didn’t announce it because of the policy of my agency at the time, but it wasn’t that I wanted to reveal the facts either, so I decided it didn’t need to be made public.

The silver lining to this cloud was that this time, the first symptoms appeared when I was returning to Japan from Malta to work. The outcome was that after I regained consciousness, I developed a problem with voice production, and not being able to produce a sound was, psychologically, the first major damage I suffered. In particular, I decided that it would be tough to begin filming for “Fly Me To The Saitama”, so I put all my activities on hiatus. My body was in a bad state by then. After I decided to go overseas for medical treatment and returned to Malta, as soon as I had a good day and thought, “My voice has come back a little,” the next day it’d be worse again. This repeated over and over.

When it was really bad, my voice didn’t work at all. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t pronounce things clearly, I struggled to get the words out. I couldn’t express what I was thinking in words very well. It was a phonation disorder that included those symptoms. It would have been different if I had just lost my voice, but there was also the frustration of not being able to put the thoughts that came into my mind into words, and it caused me irritation. I underwent a detailed neurological examination, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, and the result of the testing was, “It’ll probably come back if you give it some time…” I questioned, “How long will it take?” When the doctor in charge answered, “If it comes back quickly, three months. If not…” and then trailed off, I looked up at the ceiling and thought, “Guess I’m screwed…” On the other hand, I also felt a sense of resignation. It was like God was telling me to rest. I waited a while, and rather than get better, my skin also became alarmingly bad and I became completely unable to leave the house.

A short time after that, the hair loss began. A tremendous amount of my hair fell out. I noticed it when I was in the middle of a shower. When I looked down at my hands, there was a terrifying amount of hair between my fingers. At first I didn’t realize it was my own hair, and started looking toward the ceiling for the cause, like, “It’s raining hair from the ceiling!” I washed the hair off my hands and when I ran my fingers through my hair a second time, a lot of it fell out in the same way. Psychologically, that was the second major damage I suffered.

It’s All Your Own Responsibility

I was thinking, “My voice will come back some day,” “I’ll eventually get better,” “If I work hard, things will work out.” But I was building up stress at the fact that my voice was still gone. When I shook my head a little, a bunch of my hair would fall out onto the floor. When I saw that, I felt despair— “I guess this is it.” As I was in the middle of thinking, “At this rate, I won’t be able to work in public again,” next the symptoms began appearing on the skin all over my body, deteriorating before my own eyes. Cracks appeared like an elephant’s skin, and my whole body was red and chapped.

In the end, with the main reason being that my immunity was unusually low, it only accelerated and got worse when I went overseas for medical treatment.

I didn’t discuss going on hiatus with anyone. I’m not the type to discuss things with others. I always decide for myself. I don’t think that the answer that comes from a discussion is correct just because you discussed it with someone. In the end, it’s not personal to others, and all they can do is just imagine it from the outside and give advice. There are a lot of people in the world who want to discuss things with others, but it’s not that they want an answer, it’s just that they have the desire to discuss it. It’s simply that they want someone to listen to them. I don’t have that kind of personality. I don’t want to talk to people about stuff, and I’m not the type who wants someone to listen to my complaints either.

In the past, when I had various problems, or was caught up in some kind of trouble, or when I was attacked for something that had nothing to do with me, or when I ended up with different results to what I wanted, or when I suffered a major loss due to my own inadequacy, no matter what, I never discussed it with others. I have long held the stance that, “Nothing can be solved by discussing it with others.” Everything is your own responsibility.

Last Testament

Many people think if you rest, you’ll recover. I did too. But this time it only got worse after I rested. In the middle of it, I had accepted that I would die. I began to think, “What manner of dying would be most like myself?”

As far as mentally preparing for death, I had done it long ago. But this was the first time that I wrote a will. I’m originally not the type of person to do such a thing, but I have friends, including those I work with, who have followed me. I thought, “I have to write down something to leave to them…” and began writing letters. I wrote about money as well. If I suddenly passed away, they’d need help getting by. I wrote down, “Divide it like this.” And while I was doing that, I became able to laugh at myself. “Well, I did live this long.” “It’s a good age.” “Now then, how shall I let the curtain fall…?”

I wrote 20 wills. They included detailed instructions— “Divide my fortune like this, liquidate my cars…” I also wrote instructions for my dogs to be entrusted to my older sister, and certain things to be given to my staff, so that no one had to wonder. I thought about the time I had left and after spending some of it in Malta and Spain, I returned to Malaysia and resumed living there.

It was around that time when I began the stem cell treatment. I started it after a friend in Dubai recommended it to me. Once a month, I returned to Japan and underwent treatment. In about the third month, little by little, I began to see improvement. I noticed that it had begun to have an effect in my bathroom in Malaysia after I got out of the shower. I felt that the appearance of my skin in the mirror had improved, and saw a light at the end of the tunnel— “This isn’t just wishful thinking. I might actually get better.”

The support of my friends in Malaysia was also a big help. I trained in my home gym with friends I hadn’t seen for a long time after spending two years in Europe. They noticed that I’d lost physical and muscular strength. Seeing me out of breath for the first time, they understood that I still was a long way from recovered, and gave me courage— “G, let’s go train and do our best together!” At the beginning, when I picked up the weights, I was thinking, “I can’t even lift something this light.”

My weight dropped from 73 kilos to 62 kilos, and I had no body fat at all. I must have looked like a boxer before a weigh-in. With my body in that state, I didn’t want to meet anyone. When it was extremely bad, I felt deeply grateful that I was in Europe. In the two to three months from when I began the stem cell treatment and the effects began to show, my ruined skin came back to life. It hadn’t completely disappeared, but I felt a little better each day.

This was during the coronavirus pandemic, so Malta went into lockdown and for two months, there were several times when it was completely forbidden to eat and drink in restaurants. The people in the city unexpectedly found their own ways to enjoy it. I also went for walks alone, drank tea in the park, and occasionally tried getting takeout from a restaurant and having something like a picnic. It had been a long time since I had gazed at the scenery from a hill for several hours, alone and with no particular goal in mind, like that. 

Hot Water Shampoo

The shock of my hair suddenly starting to fall out from alopecia, on top of losing my voice, was a shock too big to express in words. I felt that I understood to some extent the feelings of people undergoing cancer treatment or suffering from leukemia. At the time, I was using a process of trial and error to restore my scalp. After the stem cell treatment, my hair gradually began to come back, but it was in patches and there were still some completely bald spots. I began to feel that those bald spots had clearly improved about one month after beginning the “hot water shampoo” method, of not using shampoo at all, in parallel with the stem cell treatment. This was true of myself as well, but most people in the world have scalps that are too stiff.

At first, I massaged my scalp with my fingers for 30 minutes a day for ten days. I started by washing it with hot water. This made my scalp hurt on top of being really exhausting. It was a superficial pain caused by my scalp being stiff. It was somewhat similar to sore muscles. I massaged the skin underneath my hair with my fingers, and when I felt the oils from my scalp on the pads of my fingers, I washed it off with hot water and then massaged my scalp again, repeating the process.

Most people in the world who are used to shampoo are washing too much of the oils off their hair. They’re just scrubbing the surface of their scalp with shampoo and hardly moving the scalp itself at all. When you remove too much of the oil with detergent, your body tries to maintain the amount of oil. So it produces more oil. It’s a cycle.

The condition of my scalp gradually improved. After I started to see results, I stopped using facial cleansers as well. I haven’t used soap or cleansing foam on my face for over a year. I just wash my face with cold water. After I wash my face, I only use light products with no chemicals to keep the skin moist, and I dry my hair with cold air only while rubbing it with a towel. When I dry my hair, I take my time and press it down to the skin underneath. That way, the oil from my scalp gets spread to my hair, and the hair regains strength and gradually returns to a healthy and strong state. I was surprised to find that the pores on my face also rapidly became less visible.

There are many people who object to this habit of washing hair with hot water only and not using detergents. That’s only natural. Everyone hates it when someone goes against an obvious thing that they have thought to be correct since they were born. But I’m not against these things that are thought to be obvious, my stance is just that you should take it as a choice. There are probably many people like me who are looking for a solution and can’t find one. People who have done what the doctor told them to do and seen no improvement should take it as one point of reference.

People who work with water will understand this, but when you do a job that involves water with your bare hands, the skin dries out. If it’s hot water, then it becomes even easier for dry skin to occur. And if you use detergents on it, it will immediately become rough. I think many people have experienced this, but even water on its own can easily remove oils from the skin on your hands. When you lose that oil, it causes extreme dryness, because it can no longer preserve the moisture in your skin.

You can say the same for your scalp and face. If you use cleansers, even if they’re gentle on the skin, it’ll remove the oil. And then to make up for the oil that was removed, you put artificial oils on your skin. Artificial oils oxidize quickly. So you mix in antioxidants on top of that in a game of cat and mouse. Of course, it’s important to ward off dryness rather than leave your skin in a dry state, but what I am presently doing comes from the idea of not removing too much oil so it doesn’t dry out in the first place. And even many women around the world are working hard to prevent dry skin on their face, but haven’t given a thought to the dryness of their scalp. Because, with the aim of removing dirt from the roots of their hair, they are removing too much of the necessary oils, and repeating the cycle of their scalp getting dry and their body releasing oil to make up for it. Therefore, I arrived at the conclusion that it’s more natural to wash away only the oxidized oil on the surface, and leave the necessary oils in the pores at the roots of your hair, and when I did that long-term, one result was that the condition of my skin dramatically improved.

Of course, I’m not going to say, “You have to do this too!” nor do I think that. All I’m doing is just stating my own thoughts and experience. To be frank, what other people do has no bearing on my life. I’m just saying that people who have trouble with their own hair and skin should take this as a point of reference. Whether you act on it or not is something you should decide for yourself, because it’s all your own life.

By the way, I came to this conclusion and method via an interesting route. I have five dogs at home. I had them on my lap, and suddenly thought, “Why is their fur so abundantly thick…?” Wondering, I touched their scalps and found them to be so soft that mine couldn’t even compare. Then I touched my own scalp, then the dogs’ again. And that’s where the idea that, “Perhaps the scalp is meant to be this soft?” was born.

Around this time, I noticed that one of the dogs had red, inflamed and rough skin. I took her to the vet and showed them. The vet asked a question, “You’re not using human shampoo on the dog, are you?” I said, “We use dog shampoo, but why do you ask?” and she¹ replied, “Shampoo for humans is stronger than shampoo for dogs, so it ruins the necessary oils and causes irritation.” She continued, “How many times a week are you washing her?” and when I said, “Three,” she told me, “Don’t do that! You’re washing her too often. If you notice that she smells, then just wash her with cool or warm water. If you wash her that many times a week with shampoo, it will cause skin irritation.” So then I asked, “Uhm, what about humans then? Don’t humans get rough skin on their scalp?” and she replied, “It happens to humans too.” “I knew it…” I thought. That was when I decided to try washing with just hot water. Now I wash my hair and my scalp and my face with cold water only. At first I wasn’t used to it, but after one month I became able to bear cold showers even though I was so sensitive to the cold before. I originally had a low body temperature, but consequently my base body temperature also rose by one degree.

I used to have gray hairs as well. Since I started doing this, my hair began to grow back black from the roots again. My scalp has become quite soft and I can pinch it between my fingers. It took four months for me to be able to pinch my scalp between my fingers. This is the result of doing a single thing. I don’t think that this will suit everyone. There are other reasons why someone might have poor circulation in their scalp. People who eat carbohydrates and sugar without thinking twice never look at the reality that it’s a major cause of these things, and without even attempting to change their lifestyle, they slather themselves in medicated products and howl, “This isn’t working!” I’m just saying that once you’ve fixed the things you should fix, reviewed your lifestyle and improved it, and consistently taken action, then you should take this as a point of reference. If nothing else, I can honestly say that I’m just happy that the action that I took this time had great results, and when those close to me come to me for advice, I’m just going to tell them, “How about trying this?” Everyone’s body is different and has its own unique balance. The speed of digestion, respiration and regeneration are different, so what they eat on a daily basis will also be different. You have to find the best method on your own.

Recently, when I look at people, my eyes immediately go to their scalp. I’ve begun to find myself observing people who are bald or losing their hair. Most people who are bald or have thin hair have unusually red and inflamed scalps. A healthy scalp should be pale. You can think of the scalp as a field of crops. If the soil is bad, then the crops will wither. So whenever I see those people with their red, inflamed scalps, I can’t help but think, “Your crops are going to wither…”

I don’t have any remaining photos from when my skin was at its worst, but I started taking photos as its condition gradually improved and I began to think, “This might actually get better…” I have a bunch of those photos. Of the backs of my knees and my elbows, from when I had what looked like bruises all over my body.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I’m completely healed. My physical condition is at 100%, and my musculature is at 90%. When I look back now, I feel, “I’ve done well to get back here.” There are probably a lot of people in the world with similar worries. I understand that after it gets bad, they want to take medicine to do something about it, but isn’t that a little simplistic? These days I strongly feel that what we need in modern times is the decision and action of subtracting something from our daily habits, rather than always adding things.

  1. The vet’s gender is actually not mentioned but I thought this paragraph would be easier to read if I picked either “he” or “she”. [^]