Alison Noonan
Alison Noonan
Photo by Stuart Randle

Cellist, vocalist, pianist
Time in Japan:
Two and a half years

Where are you from?

What do you do?
I' a freelance performance artist. I do a lot of live music work at weddings, events and parties. I also act anything from TV extra work to modeling and narrating for promotion videos.

What kind of places do you play?
I've played cello at a variety of hotels, department stores and embassies. The work varies from background music at parties and fashion shows to stage performances. I often work with other classical musicians for string duo and quartet performances. Recently I played in a forest near Mount Fuji for a music video for Nakanishi Keizo. Last year I accompanied Yoshida Miwa of Dreams Come True on piano on SMAPxSMAP. I got to share a piano stool with Kimutaku!

When you first came to Japan were you working as a musician?
No, I was taking a year out after graduating and planning to return to the UK to do further study in cello performance. But when I realized the work potential in Japan I decided to stay. With the help of Tokyo Classified and some foreign associations, I was able to build up a network of musicians and things started from there.

How do you market yourself?
A lot of my work comes through music agencies, model agencies and bridal companies. I also network a lot so I get called directly for some jobs. Other musicians call when they hear of suitable work.

Do you think that it's an advantage being a foreign cellist in Japan?
For some of the jobs, I would have to say yes. If people call me to organize group bookings, I sometimes have the choice of booking foreign or Japanese players, but often the clients have requests. If an international company wants to promote its foreign image, understandably, it will want foreign musicians. Japanese clients sometimes choose to book foreigners just because it's a bit different or kakkoii (cool) to have a group of young foreign girls playing. At the end of the day, the client makes the decisions. This is the service industry!

Do you have any advice for other musicians who want to come to Japan and work?
Email me! Network. Get out and meet a lot of people and be prepared with business cards. Send profiles and demos to agencies and be professional in all your business dealings.

How do you find these agencies?
Network with other musicians. Sometimes I get agencies calling me because someone I've met told them I play cello. If you get your name out there, doors start to open up.

What was the weirdest job or experience you've had?
I had a weird audition for a rock group's music video. When I got into the audition room I was asked to crawl around the room like a sexy tiger!

What do you like about Japan?
My work, the relative safety, the politeness and tuna mayonnaise onigiri. I guess being a foreigner here is challenging but rewarding.

What's one thing a person should see before leaving Japan forever?
The fashions of Shibuya and Harajuku, especially on Sunday afternoons around Yoyogi Park.

What's your recipe for a happy life in Japan?
Don't get caught up in the stress. Work hard, but party harder. Take time out every now and then and keep a firm grip on reality.

Contact Alison at

Alison Noonan spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

Check out Rainbow Japan's website at

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