Jonathan Katz


Jonathan Katz
Photo by Marco Mancini

Jazz musician and composer

Time in Japan:
Eight years and nine months

Where are you from?

Long Island, New York.

What brought you to Japan?
Music. I first came 13 years ago with a college band for a two-week tour, playing the French horn. Before that I had no interest in Japan. The reason why I came to Japan is the sense of order that exists here.

What is it like to play with Japanese musicians?
They have great musicians here, and every individual has his or her own personality. It' very interesting. The more people I meet, the more I learn, the more experience I have.

What are your musical plans in Japan?
I want to work on my own compositions, my own musical style, and to package it - to sell it. That's the hardest thing for me to do, and I'm not a businessman. Also, I want to play as much as possible outside of Tokyo. Next month I will go on a very short money-losing trip to Kansai. I will be in Osaka for one day and Kobe for one day. I will try to make contacts. There are a lot of interesting things outside of Tokyo, and there are big audiences for jazz, and I want to go find these audiences. The further you go away from Tokyo, the less saturated they are with music and culture, because they don't get many opportunities. Tokyo has too much of everything. The reaction out of Tokyo is bigger - it's an ego massage! It's relaxing to get out of Tokyo.

Is it easy to make a living as a musician in Japan?
Well, I am not a businessman, I mean I am more like an artist than a businessman. I know many musicians make more money than me because they play at weddings, department stores, and I don't play that much, I play my own gigs maybe twice a month.

What do you like best about Japan?
It's safe. You can walk around wherever you are, if there are no bosozoku, of course. Also I like the Japanese order, shitsujo, like a new world order. You could easily live here comfortably, but I always ask myself if I'm growing - am I going to the next level?

What's your weirdest experience here?
Some I can't tell you. But when I first came to Japan, my language abilities weren't that good and I asked for directions, but the Japanese people didn't understand me. But now I understand that no matter how good your Japanese is, some people still don't understand you.

How can one have a happy life in Japan?
I think you need to have a clear idea about what you are doing here, learn how to compromise, because there is a very different culture here. And always remember it's your choice to be here.

Jonathan Katz spoke to Marco Mancini.

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