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LIFE IN JAPAN
Chris Chavez


Chris Chavez

Courtesy of Chris Chavez

Occupation:
Dancer /
Singer


Time in Japan:

11 years



Where are you from?
Los Angeles.

What brought you to Japan?
I worked for Tokyo Disneyland. I came the second week after it opened. What do you do now? I teach tap, jazz and musical theater.

You also sing enka songs, right?
Yes, I came for Tokyo Disneyland, went back to LA, then came back 11 years ago for the Yokohama Expo in ' where I heard Misora Hibari's music and fell in love with her, became a fan...remade her music. I sing all her songs in Japanese.

What do you like about her?
I don't know, I just heard her singing that one song, "Minato Machi 13 Branchi." It happened on the day that she died. I heard her on TV and I thought, "Oh my God, that's the song I've been hearing during my costume change, every day, two shows per day... So the melody was so in my mind that when I heard it on TV, I looked over and I was like, "That's the song. Who's that singer?" NHK had been doing a special because she had just died. So I heard about her one day too late.

So after that you tried to find out about her?
After that, I got her first video; I couldn't speak or read Japanese so I did everything by romaji and learned all her songs. I did karaoke like three times and then, from there, some agent found me and I started working. But it took me four years to get into her fan club because they didn't think I really knew her, I was the only American... But they saw me on TV for so long that they finally said, "Okay, she's a fan."

How long have you been working?
About two years. But I've been up and singing. I have my own show, a thirty minute show where I do her songs all over Japan - and I've been doing that for seven years. But then recently, someone approached me and said, "You're the only American who can do this. You've got to do this in English now." But I can't sing in English. My vocal chords are trained to sing in Japanese imitation. And then they changed everything to pop. So all I'd sung was enka for 11 years and suddenly I had to sing pop in English. But the CD came out really good.

Do you like enka in general or just her?
Just her. But I like Japanese music. That's how I started. After hearing Misora Hibari I can't compare it to anything, not even in America.

So what are the main differences between singing Japanese and American songs?
I can't really say. Because it's her songs and I translated them all into English, it's still a connection with her so it's fine, I'm just redoing her songs. But if I had to sing another English song, there's nothing. I just don't feel that feeling that I have when I sing her songs in Japanese. There's no heart there. I don't have it. I should have it, I'm from LA... But there's just something that I can't explain, that if you're Japanese you understand.

What's the one Japanese thing you can't live without?
Obviously Misora Hibari and umeboshi.

What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Leave the country at least once a year and get a pet to calm you down.

Contact Chris at chris-felix-hibari@pdx.ne.jp

Chris Chavez spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

Do you know someone who has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at maki@tokyoclassified.com

LIFE IN JAPAN:
360: Gustavo Marchesi
Professional tango dancer
355: Alec McAulay
Filmmaker
352/3: Mary Frenzel
Professional singer / songwriter, bandleader & voice instructor
350: Kate Smurthwaite
Bond analyst and aspiring novelist
349: Tim Spangler
Recreational Equipment, Inc.
348: Robin Rozzell
Tribal Nation Security
347: Marco Invernizzi
Bonsai artist
346: Charles E McJilton
Advocate
345: Chris Chavez
Dancer/Singer
344: Donna Burke
Singer and narrator
343: Dennis Sun
Artist, freelance graphic design and illustrator
342: Martin Hope Berry
Natural food shop owner
341: Donald James Berry
Technical Adviser
340: Amy Jorrisch
Tokyo International Players
339: Anthony Al-Jamie Ph.D.
Education consultant and journalist
338: Joel Silverstein
President of Outback Steakhouse Japan
337: Neal Dauber
Termite and Pest Control Operator
336: Marcus Spurrell
CEO of No Mass Media, Internet Co.
335: Stefan Fanselow
Flight Instructor
334: Colleen Lanki
Theater Artist
333: Ben Leibson
Scuba Diver
332: Bernard Yu
Executive Director of TELL
331: Hayden "Hay-chan" Majajas
Informations Systems Manager
330: Alistair McLachlan
BootsMC Finance manager
329: Ronald Lee Davis
Missionary / Teacher
328: Ed Durbrow
Musician
327: Isabelle Maranda
Marketing Coordinator
326: Brian Marcus
Food & Beverage Director at Tokyo American Club
325: David Baran
Managing Partner, Compass Partners
324: Murali Kupusami
Furla Tea & Coffee Owner/Model
323: Angela Jones
Fire Dancer
322: Tim Tsang
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)
321: Chris Monnier
Drummer
320: David Snyder
President of Rising Crane Sports Consultants, Inc.
319: Juliet Hindell
BBC's Tokyo Correspondent
318: Sid Lloyd
Football team captain
317: Niels Frederik Walther
Chef for the Danish Ambassador
316: Jonathan Katz
Jazz musician and composer
315: Yoichi Hayase
President, True Travel, K.K.
314: Ira Bolden
Program Manager
313: Benjamin Gurnsey
Corporate Communications at Sony Computer
312: Dr Jonna D. Douglass, PhD
Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist
311: Roy Kilner
Izakaya Manager
310: Neil Day
Senior Software Research Engineer
309: Stuart Ablett
Sakaya Operator
308: Maggie Tai Tucker
Animal Trainer
307: Carmine Cozzoline
Restaurant Owner/Chef
306: Alison Noonan
Cellist
305: Kevin Meyerson
Rainbow Japan Inc. President
304: Randy McGraw
DirecTV Marketing Manager
303: Roy Ron
Researcher
302: Antonio Plozay-Liberatore
Economist/TV Talent
300: Miguel Angel
Bartender

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