Chapter Seven— The East Japan Great Earthquake And My Search For A Home

Since 2006, I’ve been holding graduation performances across Japan. Every year in March, I make a surprise appearance at the graduation ceremony of a junior or senior high school to wish them best of luck, with the feeling, “I want to be able to give even a little push forward to the students who will begin walking towards their dreams.” 

There are probably people around me who think that I’m very easily heading to a graduation ceremony and singing, but it’s really a pain to put these events together. Firstly, there are a great number of requests in my DMs from students saying, “I want you to do it”. Sometimes I pick one and forward it to my management, other times I respond myself. In particular, I often reply to students in my DMs and say, “You know, just because I want to do it doesn’t mean I can. First, I can’t do it unless you speak to your homeroom teacher and principal and get the OK from them. If you want to do it, if you want me to do it, then you have to talk to the principal, homeroom teacher, and teacher in charge of your grade. If the conversation moves forward from there at all, then I’ll take action.” Most students can’t do this. They all just message, “I want you to do it.” They say, “I want you to come,” “I want you to sing,” “I want you to congratulate us,” but they don’t make a move themselves, so it ends at the “I want” stage.

Out of those, I make a final selection from the few schools where the student or applicant was able to act and move forward themselves. Of course, sometimes it’s the teacher that makes the request. The conversation is more likely to move forward in that case. An adult tries to get the adults together. But there are a lot of cases where it still doesn’t work out. There are times when we have to talk to the PTA as well as the teachers. There are teachers who stumble at that point. Judging from the schools I’ve performed at in the past, it doesn’t matter that much if it’s a student or a teacher, or a public or private school, it’s that someone with passion worked on it without giving up until the very end and made it happen. There have also been times when I worked on the school and persuaded them.

The first time, it started with an email from a student at a high school in Kobe that was sent to a radio show I was on. When my people talked to the teachers, they said, “Sure!” so we were able to move forward smoothly. There were actually only 300 students involved in the graduation performance. If you include the parents as well, then there would have been 500~600 people. The circumstances of the 2023 performance were also posted to YouTube and TikTok. You can tell from the comments, but there has also been criticism from some people who were not involved. Things like, “You should let the students enjoy their graduation ceremony in peace!” That’s how the peanut gallery is.

The March 2023 graduation performance was at a junior high school in Tochigi Prefecture. It began with a letter from the principal. After the graduation performance, I received many DMs from the students and parents of the junior high school where I held the event. The content of the messages was like, “I’m the parent of a graduating student. Thank you. It was a wonderful graduation ceremony!” Looking at the messages from people who actually experienced the performance, the negative opinions from outsiders are only a tiny fraction, and they are buried under words of gratitude. The most important thing is, “What do the people who participated in the graduation ceremony think?” Of course, if I get a message saying, “Please don’t come,” then I should reconsider it. I’ve been doing it since 2006 and each year when it ends and I get many messages, I sincerely feel glad that I did it.

Giving A Push Forward

After a few years of graduation events, there were several times when I met by coincidence one of the graduating students. When I attended a gathering for a new company I had established, I was certainly happy to be told, “Since GACKT came to my high school graduation, I thought I’d do my best no matter what, and managed to work hard until I got this far!” I met one at a radio station as well. A company president who had come to appear as a guest on the radio program delivered this message to me, “Actually, I was there as a student. You gave me courage back then!” My opportunity to give them a push forward might have been a small thing, but they moved forward and achieved a result. It gives me renewed awareness that there was meaning in it. That truly makes me happy, that they worked hard.

I like teaching children things, because they are full of unlimited possibilities. In particular, small children aren’t afraid of anything. Adults come to know reality, and most of them get scared. But there are many children who are still brand new and fearless. I feel that there is great meaning in giving a push forward to children who are still unmolded and feel no uncertainty toward the future. Once, I spoke in front of upper elementary students on the theme of “What is living?” “What do you all want to be?” “What path will you take to get there?” “The most important thing in life is your way of thinking.”

Losing All My Work

Graduation performances are something I do because I want to. After the East Japan Great Earthquake in 2011, my way of thinking about something changed. I was brutally attacked by some gossip magazines for volunteering, and in the end I was even accused of stealing the money that I collected. The next year, the agency that I was signed to at the time was investigated by the tax office. At the time, their contract with me had already expired, but “GACKT’s Tax Evasion” appeared in the headlines of the newspapers and weekly magazines at the time. Of course, the tax evasion had nothing to do with me. But, they conducted a search of my house as part of an investigation into that company’s third-party associations. I told them, “If you want to investigate, then go ahead and investigate everything. If you need any documents, I’ll show you all of them,” and cooperated. But I let them know, “I can’t have a certain portion of the gossip magazines in the world writing about ‘GACKT’s Tax Evasion’.” I said I wanted to post a blog entry about the current situation, but they said I couldn’t because that would be obstruction of the investigation.

The truth is that because of this incident, I lost everything, from a Hollywood movie that it had already been decided that I would appear in, to commercials I was in talks over. I seriously wanted them to let up on me. And it wasn’t even my current agency, but my former one. But the gossip magazines wrote, “GACKT’s Tax Evasion” all over the place because it was more interesting. They ended up writing, “He embezzled the money from the donations when he was volunteering!” But I had never touched the money in the first place, so there wasn’t any way I could have embezzled it. The money that I collected was never touched by me, and a separate communications company took charge of temporarily holding it. But then they ended up writing that, “He redirected the money to a suspicious Korean-affiliated business!” That business was LINE. The company operating LINE, which most Japanese people use. There’s a point where you’ve gone too far even for bashing material.

Back then, one of my friends told me something.  “People in the world with free time complain about how others shed their sweat. They don’t do a single thing themselves, just complain about other people’s actions and how they shed sweat.” 

“I get it now…” I understood, but those words were not enough to sweep away all that had happened.


After that, I continued to visit various places in the disaster area periodically to see how they were going. I periodically visited the disaster area and connected with a friend from Niigata who had done fundraising and support activities with me. He had also been continuing his activities in the disaster area whenever he found time. I spoke with him about this, “We individually spent a lot of money to transport a large amount of goods to the disaster area. Why is it that we’re able to continue our volunteer activities even though we were so thoroughly bashed for it?”

This person refers to me as “brother”. He answered, “Brother, I do it because I want to. I’m not doing it because I want someone to praise me. I think I’m cool for doing it. Sometimes outsiders who are all talk and no action make ridiculous complaints about me, but I do it because I think of myself as cool when I do.” That hit me like a sledgehammer— “He’s right, I did it because I wanted to…” I am able to give praise to myself for taking action, and there are people who were helped by that. “I did it because I wanted to, that’s enough. I don’t need any words other than that.”

Since then, I’ve always only had one thing to say about the things I’ve done. The media always wants a pretty story. They want me to talk passionately. But I’ve stopped giving them the sob stories they love so much about “I want to help people.” I understand that the world needs pretty words, but now I don’t talk about those reasons passionately at all, I just say, “I do it for my own ego,” and “I do it cause I want to.” I also have many reasons for doing the graduation performances, but these days I just tell the world simply, “I do it because I want to,” and, “I do it out of my own ego.”

In 2011, I formed a band called YFCz (YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz) and was in the middle of a world tour. I spoke with the other band members about my volunteer activities once in a cafe in France. Of course, they knew that I had been bashed all over the place by the gossip magazines. They asked me questions about it. “Isn’t it hard for you? Isn’t it rough? Don’t you get angry and feel pain?”

I had already managed to resolve those troubles within myself. So I asked them a question in return, “If you were driving a car and there was a middle-aged woman unable to change lanes driving along, what would you do?” They all said, “Slow down and let her in.” When I asked why, they said, “Out of goodwill,” “I’d feel sorry for her.” I continued, “But if you let in someone who can’t change lanes in front of you, then an accident might happen. Say that she braked immediately after you let her in, and your car hit hers. If she came to yell at you, ‘Watch where you’re going!’ would you regret letting her in?”


“Hmm,” they all started thinking. “Goodwill isn’t just in the moment, it’s being prepared for the risks that occur after that. It only truly becomes goodwill when you accept those risks as well. That’s how volunteering is. When you volunteer, those in the world who don’t care and do nothing will say all kinds of things about you, and there are times when you won’t be understood. They won’t make a single move themselves, and it’s clear that only those who are completely uninvolved complain about how others shed sweat. If you get mad at those kinds of people in the world, then you should stop doing things out of goodwill.” They all shut their mouths.

The word “goodwill” is an extremely difficult word. If you do something out of goodwill, then you have to accept all the risks that come with it. Of course, I’m not opposed to goodwill. You have to be aware that due to the development of social media, the world has become a place where something done out of goodwill will be corrupted by a mob of people who don’t show their faces. That’s the world that we live in. That’s why I answer, “I do it because I want to,” and “I’m doing it out of my own ego.”

When the East Japan Great Earthquake occurred, I was in the back seat of a limousine. The earthquake struck when we were waiting at a traffic light. The car began to sway. At first I thought that the driver was rocking it. I couldn’t see the front of the limousine because of the shades, so I said on the intercom, “Why are you rocking the car?” He said, “I’m not rocking it! The road is shaking!” When I opened the car window, all the telephone poles were swaying so much I thought they were going to break.

The earthquake occurred when I was heading towards a clinic owned by an acquaintance. In the end, we decided to keep going for ten minutes until we got there. When we arrived at the clinic in Shinjuku, it was a mess with fallen objects all over the floor. The other tenants in the building were also in a terrible state. One of the nurses said to me, “Everyone is trying to go home!” I quickly gave them advice, “No, wait a minute. Calm down and think clearly. Don’t move until you know what’s going on. Even if you go out and try to catch a train right now, they definitely won’t be running in this situation. There are probably also a lot of people in the station panicking right now. You might end up in a secondary disaster if you get caught up in it. This clinic has drinks and there’s a convenience store downstairs as well. You should calm down first and go buy what you need, and then leave after checking if you can get home.” I tried to persuade them to refrain from hasty action, but most people lose the ability to make clear-headed decisions when they’re panicked. None of them listened, and in the end most of the staff left the clinic to return home. I found this out later, but they didn’t get home until 12 hours later at the earliest, and 18 hours later in the worst cases.

What I Had To Do

That night, I called Kawasaki Mayo, who is my friend and sempai. I told him, “Mayo, if we don’t do what we can right now, the people in the disaster area are going to suffer. Several of my friends died in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Back then, I couldn’t do anything. At the time, no cars could get in from Kyoto, and all transportation was stopped, so it was impossible for me to go there. I could only get in two weeks later. But I think there were things I could have done back then. It’s not about what we can do in the disaster area, let’s prioritize what the people in the disaster area need and do it here. They don’t have anything to eat, or anything to sleep on, and in that situation, they’re shivering from the cold. So what we have to do now, first and foremost, is send blankets and food.” He answered, “Sure, let’s do it!” We got moving right away. Mayo called out to his friends in the entertainment industry, and I called out to my acquaintances in the region, and we began taking steps to send food and blankets as soon as possible.

We said that, but we faced an overwhelming number of problems. All the highways were closed. Only the police and the Self-Defense Force could use them. The regular roads were clogged with traffic and overflowing with abandoned cars. It was impossible to get there by local streets. All the gas stations were closed too. You couldn’t even get gas at gas stations in Tokyo. So I asked my friends and got hold of the emergency vehicle process. It was more than 100 tons of goods. We scraped together things like gasoline, blankets and food supplies from other regions. Then we faced another big problem. We wanted to send it to all areas affected by the disaster, but, to put it bluntly, the work done by the city office at the time was shit. We were moving forward with the steps to send goods to the disaster area, and we spoke to them in order to complete the emergency vehicle process. They said, “Emergency vehicles can’t use the highways unless you confirm that the destination area will accept them.” And, “Please send the confirmation to us by fax.” “Fax? There aren’t even any phone lines connected to the area at the moment,” I countered. “You want a fax when we can’t even make direct contact with people in the area by cell phone? Are you mad? Do you not know the situation? What you’re saying is impossible!” But they wouldn’t bend on it.

Tagajō City

One of my friends in Tagajō City, Miyagi Prefecture, was affected by the disaster. He was an old friend of mine who was also a manager of the Paralympic judo team. And coincidentally, he was in the same place as the mayor during the disaster. I told him, “Can you put the mayor on the phone? We want to send goods but we can’t without permission,” and the mayor said, “I’ll take the responsibility of giving permission. Please put me on a call with the city office.” The reason that we were able to send goods to Tagajō first was because of that coincidence.

In any case, Japan is a slow-moving country. No matter which city office we were working with, even in an emergency situation they wanted us to follow the procedures and plans. It’s because they didn’t want to increase their responsibility for what happened after the fact. The response was hopelessly awful even from the city halls that were actually in the disaster area. This happened when we transported the goods and delivered blankets to a shelter. There were 500 victims there. We had 300 blankets. When we asked a staff member to distribute them, he refused, saying, “We can’t hand them out.” He said that with 500 people there, they couldn’t distribute the blankets if there were only 300 of them. He refused, saying that they couldn’t hand them out until they had enough for everyone. Have you ever heard such a stupid thing? He said that with victims shivering from the cold in front of his very eyes. The friends who accompanied me to the location were too astounded by this response to speak. And apparently they were told to take responsibility for handing them out themselves. In other words, he flatly refused despite being a member of the staff, because even in that situation he didn’t want to bear the responsibility. They did ask him, “Are you serious, at a time like this?” but he refused to accept them and threw it back to us. Things like this happened frequently in the disaster area.

When people lose things in a disaster, as happened in the Great Hanshin Earthquake, there is an outbreak of secondary, man-made disasters. Some people were attacked. Some people fought over goods because of hunger. That’s why we had to deliver food supplies, water and blankets most of all. In two weeks, the Self Defense Force would be dispatched and goods and water would be supplied. After that, what would be needed was money to reorganize. Therefore, as a volunteer, I collected money, and felt that I had to share the sense of crisis with as many Japanese people and as many people in the world as possible. At the end of March, we held fundraising events simultaneously all over Japan, and we decided to have the Red Cross deliver that money to the disaster area.

“Just Don’t Get Involved”

In the first place, I had discussed this with my agency at the time and what they asked of me was, “Just don’t get involved. Donate some money and don’t do anything else.” When I expressed my opinion, “I’m going to gather things and send them to the disaster area as soon as possible. There are people in trouble there,” they were of the complete opposite opinion, “If you do that, you’ll definitely be bashed for it later. So just donate like other celebrities, and observe quietly from then on.” 

“What the people in the disaster area need now isn’t money. It’s other things. They don’t have anything to eat, and are freezing in the cold. Money can come later. That’s not what we should be doing right now!”

The conversation continued along parallel lines that would never cross. At the time, immediately after the earthquake, stories were rapidly emerging of famous people saying, “I donated this much!” I’m not saying that’s bad. I’m saying that money isn’t what was needed at the time. In the end, the discussion with my agency remained with us on two opposing sides, and I began sending goods like how I thought. My agency took a stance of complete non-participation. Here, too, were adults who didn’t want to take responsibility. Even though they knew that there was an utter lack of manpower. I gave up on them completely, borrowed warehouses in Yokohama and Ariake, and with two assistants, sorted the goods and began stacking them one by one. My friends who were unable to stand by and watch, came one by one and did the work of putting things into boxes, then loading them into trucks for as long as time permitted.

My agency wasn’t wrong when they said I’d definitely be bashed. But I was prepared to take that risk. Later, when the gossip magazines started bashing me, the people at my agency said, “See! Told you you’d get bashed!” but taking action for the sake of others, not watching quietly out of self-preservation, was the appropriate thing for me to do.

Ignoring It For Three Hours

A lot of things came to a head around that time. I didn’t mind them having different thoughts on work. But I wondered, was this how the agency that would make things with me, that would create GACKT’s works, should be? No, it couldn’t be. I can’t work with the people at this agency any more. We should go our separate ways. You see how people really are when these big events happen. Of course we have different opinions at times. But if the things we hold to be most important in life are fundamentally different, then I can’t walk the path with you. I informed the people around me that I was going to terminate my contract and leave, but everyone who worked with me held me back, saying, “Wait a minute! Rethink this!” In the end, I got them to agree to ending it when the contract expired. This decision was fundamentally wrong.

In August 2012, my contract ended, and I didn’t renew it. At the end of that month, the tax office investigated the agency. It was the worst timing possible. Although the tax office would have investigated them regardless of whether I did volunteer activities or not.

On the morning that they searched my home, the intercom rang over and over. When I checked the security camera, there were a bunch of immediately suspicious looking guys dressed head-to-toe in black standing there. I thought that reporters from Bunshun or Gendai were crowding around so I completely ignored them. The intercom kept ringing for three hours straight. They were so persistent that I began to think they were some gang or scary organization. Of course, I called my business partner but he didn’t respond. I thought, “What the hell is going on? Has he been kidnapped?” Three hours later, he finally contacted me, “I was worried about you! I couldn’t get hold of you. You haven’t been kidnapped, have you?” I asked, and he replied, “I’m fine. First, you need to open the door.”

“What?” I said, “How do you know about them? They’re too suspicious to be reporters, don’t you think? Are they yakuza from somewhere?”

“No, they’re from the tax office. Apparently they searched your former agency. Anyway, open the door.”

When I opened the door, the men in black said to me, “Come on, give us a break!” I said, “No, no, that’s my line! What am I supposed to think? Opening the door to people dressed in such a suspicious manner ringing the intercom over and over would have been a much greater violation of common sense, and what kind of person with zero self-preservation would open the door in that scenario?” And with that, they began to check every nook and cranny of each room in my house for documents.

While they were working, one of the tax office employees came to talk to me, “I watch Kakuzuke every year. What’s it like in real life?”

“No, just do your work and go home please. What are you on about?”

There were about 10 people who came to my house. I heard that in the end, they searched about 200 people in total from companies associated with my former agency. 

Within less than a month of the tax office search, all the offers that had come to me evaporated. A major Hollywood production at the time, and television commercials, all of them. A major role that I had won by auditioning in the US, wanting to compete in Hollywood, and offers from other productions all vanished in that month. My path to Hollywood was cut off there. When I heard about it later, of course it had been because “GACKT Tax Evasion” spreading around the internet had fallen afoul of corporate risk-aversion¹. I told them, “No, please don’t take information from gossip magazines as truth,” but in the end, it didn’t change anything. Even though I hadn’t committed tax evasion at all.

Life Is Surfing

Through this incident, I keenly felt that I should let people go if they drift away. There have been many people in the past who have drifted away because of fights or troubles. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. From a business’s point of view, they probably have no choice but to decide that. Life is like surfing. There are big waves and small waves. But if you want to surf a big wave, you can’t wait on the shore. You have to get in the water and wait for a wave to come. There will be times when you can easily ride a small wave, and times when you fall while riding a tiny wave. Repeating that process will allow you to quickly start riding a big wave when the moment comes. If you wait on the shore, no matter how fast you run when a big wave comes, you won’t make it. You have to be in the water waiting at all times. But the majority of people in the world just watch on from the shore and critique, “His paddling is all wrong,” “He’s bad at riding waves.” Those people can go ahead and live their lives like that.

The several months of my schedule I planned to spend in Hollywood became empty. Around that time, I was feeling that it would be stupid to keep living in Tokyo. From then on, I was always thinking about moving. I searched many cities around the world and couldn’t find a place I liked, and there was no country that I felt I wanted to live in. I searched within Japan at the same time. I looked at quite a large number of properties, thinking maybe I would live in Echigo-Yuzawa or Kanazawa. It happened during that time. A switch suddenly flipped, “Alright, let’s move overseas!” It’s not my style to let worthless people mess up my mental state, or to remain quiet and watch.

Coincidentally, around that time I was contacted by a friend. “I know a wealthy person from Malaysia who is coming to Japan, do you want to meet him?” It was one of my entrepreneur friends. I hadn’t even thought of finding out about Malaysia at the time. I’d never been there, and had no interest to start with.

The image I had of Malaysia up until then was terrible and tremendously mistaken. Even now when I talk with my friends there about the image of Malaysia that I had, they all laugh hard. This was my image of it. The population of Malaysia was divided cleanly in two. Half of them spent their lives in boats on the river and sea, wearing straw hats and selling fruit and vegetables, and the other half lived in the jungle fighting tigers all the time. It was terrible… I’m embarrassed at myself now for being beyond the limits of ignorance. What the man from Malaysia said was deeply interesting. At the end, he said to me, “Malaysia is really a great place, so why don’t you come and see it with your own eyes for once?” so I set off for Malaysia the next day to see for myself. When I arrived at the airport, I saw a large grove of palm trees spreading out below me. When I saw that, I was seriously thinking, “I wasn’t wrong. The image I had of the jungle was right. I’m sure they’re going about their lives fighting tigers in there right now.” From the airport, it took 40 minutes by car to enter the city. I was surprised. “The city is this well-developed…?” It was completely different to the image that I’d had. To the point where I couldn’t leave it at, “I didn’t know that.” The energy didn’t stop even at night. I walked around the streets until late at night, thinking, “What an amazing country,” and feeling excited. I had already fallen in love with Malaysia. The next day I went to look around a real estate agent’s properties, and, surprised at the size and quality of each one, immediately decided to live there. This was in 2012.

Working With All Your Weight On Someone Else

A lot sure happened that year. There are what they call “critical periods” in life. When I told my agency I was going to live overseas, they said, “What about your work!? How will you attend meetings!? You’re not going to be here when we need you!” but I ended it with one sentence. “You guys come here.”

Now I only stay in Japan for one week per month at most. I gave directions, “Don’t accept unnecessary offers of work. Don’t accept any old job, investigate them thoroughly.” I had been telling the people at my agency the whole time, “I’m going to work overseas in the future. At the very least, you should all learn English to prepare. If you wait until you need English to start learning it, none of you will be around anymore.”

But most people have no sense of urgency. No matter how many times I say it, in the end they don’t do it. If I tell them to negotiate with the people on location, none of them can do it. And then the staff that can’t do it drop like flies. Those who were aware that they couldn’t be of use quit. And so they should. Quit jobs where you’re working by hanging all your weight on someone else. Each one of them gained a different awareness when I moved overseas. We settled on this workflow— “Arrange the work so it can be done in the week GACKT is in Japan. Only choose the high-priority work. Don’t send GACKT to meetings, instead summarize all the contents of the meetings, and if necessary, do them online. And if they really have to meet GACKT in person, send them to Malaysia. If they say it’s necessary to speak in person, but it turns out Malaysia is too far for them… then it wasn’t that important.” My agency’s policies changed a great deal. It was a relief to lose the people at the agency I didn’t need.

Awesome Malaysia

The first property I saw in Malaysia was beyond what I had imagined. It was a high-rise condominium in the center of the city. When I entered on the ground floor, that entire floor was a swimming pool. I let out a breath, “Are you kidding?” The place had the same feeling as Daikanyama or Aoyama in Tokyo. All of the condominiums had strict security and only the residents could enter. It wasn’t commonplace security like auto-locking doors, there were security gates and appointed security guards patrolling. And on top of the thorough security, there were facilities too. Every one of the condominiums had a pool, gym, meeting room, barbecue area, community area, and a parking lot. Many of them even had basketball and tennis courts, bars, restaurants, cafes, karaoke rooms and saunas. I was amazed by the size of the apartments. 500 square meters, and each one had a private pool. And I loved that they weren’t just big, the way that the space was partitioned was luxurious too. Only a living room, a master bedroom, and two studio rooms. In other words, most of it was living space. And on top of that, there was a private elevator— you boarded the elevator in the parking lot, and when the doors opened, it was in your apartment. “Are there buildings like this all over the place? What a country this is!” I couldn’t stop shaking from the awesomeness. The rent was 500,000 yen per month. I was completely bowled over. “I underestimated Malaysia… This is the place! I finally found it!” And I started living there immediately.

  1. The word “compliance”, borrowed from English, is used in Japan not just to indicate corporate compliance with laws and regulations, but also self-censorship and voluntary avoidance of things that could cause legal trouble or bad publicity. For example, “compliance” is often used to refer to the bleeping or scrambling of brand names, trademarks and the names of real people in Japanese media.[]