Joe Hisaishi

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Joe Hisaishi
久石 譲
Hisaishi in Paris in 2011
Hisaishi in Paris in 2011
Background information
Birth nameMamoru Fujisawa
Born (1950-12-06) December 6, 1950 (age 70)
Nakano, Nagano, Japan
  • Composer
  • conductor
  • arranger
Years active1974–present

Mamoru Fujisawa (藤澤 守, Fujisawa Mamoru, born December 6, 1950), known professionally as Joe Hisaishi (久石 譲, Hisaishi Jō), is a Japanese composer and musical director known for over 100 film scores and solo albums dating back to 1981.[1] Hisaishi is also known for his piano scores.[2][better source needed]

While possessing a stylistically distinct sound, Hisaishi's music has been known to explore and incorporate different genres, including minimalist, experimental electronic, European classical, and Japanese classical. Lesser known are the other musical roles he plays; he is also a typesetter, author, arranger, and conductor.

He has been associated with animator Hayao Miyazaki since 1984, having composed scores for all but one of his films. He is also recognized for the soundtracks he has provided for filmmaker 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano, including A Scene at the Sea (1991), Sonatine (1993), Kids Return (1996), Hana-bi (1997), Kikujiro (1999), Brother and Dolls (2002), as well as for the video game series Ni no Kuni. He was a student of anime composer Takeo Watanabe.[citation needed]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Hisaishi was born in Nakano, Nagano, Japan, as Mamoru Fujisawa (藤澤 守, Fujisawa Mamoru). When he started learning violin in the Violin School Suzuki Shinichi at the age of four, he found his passion in music. At the same age, he also began watching 300 movies a year with his father, which influenced his career.[3] Realizing his love, he attended the Kunitachi College of Music in 1969 to major in music composition. Hisaishi collaborated with minimalist artists as a typesetter, furthering his experience in the musical world.

He enjoyed his first success of the business in 1974 when he composed music for the anime series called Gyatoruzu. This and other early works were created under his given name. During this period, he composed for Sasuga no Sarutobi (Academy of Ninja) and Futari Daka (A Full Throttle).

In the 1970s, Japanese popular music, electronic music, and new-age music flourished; those genres, as well as the Yellow Magic Orchestra (a Japanese electronic band in 1978–1983), influenced Hisaishi's compositions. He developed his music from minimalist ideas and expanded toward orchestral work. Around 1975, Hisaishi presented his first public performance, spreading his name around his community. Also, from 1978, he had worked for Brass Compositions for a long time. His first album, MKWAJU, was released in 1981, with Information being released a year later. His first major anime scores were Hajime Ningen Gyatoruz (1974) and Robokko Beeton (1976).

As his works were becoming well known, Hisaishi formulated an alias inspired by Quincy Jones, an American musician and producer. Retranscribed in Japanese, "Quincy Jones" became "Joe Hisaishi". ("Quincy", pronounced "Kuinshī” in Japanese, can be written using the same kanji in "Hisaishi"; "Joe" comes from "Jones".)[4]

1981–98: Anime film industry[edit]

In 1981 Hisaishi, with his new name, released his first album of art music, MKWAJU, and in 1982 the electropop-minimalist album Information. Then, in 1983, Hisaishi was recommended by Tokuma, who had published Information, to create an image album for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Hisaishi and the director of the animated film, Hayao Miyazaki, became great friends and would work together on many future projects. Their collaboration has invited comparisons to the collaborations of Steven Spielberg and John Williams.[5]

In 1985, he founded his own recording studio, Wonder Station.[6] This big break led to Hisaishi's overwhelming success as a composer of film scores. In 1986, Laputa: Castle in the Sky would be the first feature to appear under the Studio Ghibli banner, and its gentle, faintly melancholic tone would become a familiar trademark of much of the studio's later output.[7] And later, in the 1990s, Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke were released. As Hisaishi strengthened his reputation as one of the budding anime industry's top musical contributors, his compositions (including eight theatrical films and one OVA) would proceed to become some of the very hallmarks of early anime in the 1980s and 1990s. Hisaishi also composed for such TV and movie hits as Sasuga no Sarutobi, Two Down Full Base, Tonde Mon Pe and the anime Tekuno porisu 21C (all 1982), Oz no mahôtsukai (1982), Sasuraiger (1983), Futari Taka (1984), and Honō no Alpen Rose (1985). He also scored the sci-fi adventure series Mospeada (1983), which was later reworked (without his music) into the third segment of Carl Macek's compilation, Robotech. Other films he scored included Mobile Suit Gundam Movie II: Soldiers of Sorrow (1981), Mobile Suit Gundam Movie III: Encounters in Space, (1982), Birth (Bâsu) (1984), Arion (1986), Robot Carnival (1987), Totoro (1988), Crest of the Royal Family and Maison Ikkoku – Apartment Fantasy (both 1988), Venus Wars (1989), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Porco Rosso (1992) and Ocean Heaven (2010). He also did theme song arrangements and composed other anime opening, closing, and insert title theme songs such as Mahō Shōjo Lalabel (1980), Hello! Sandybell (1981), Meiken Jolie (1981), Voltron (1981), Ai Shite Knight (1983), Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel: Curtain Call (1986), and Kimagure Orange Road: The Movie (1988).[8]

As more exposure was given to Hisaishi and the anime industry, his career grew. He initiated a solo career, began to produce music, and created his own label (Wonder Land Inc.) in 1988. A year later, Hisaishi released his solo album Pretender as the first album under the new label.

1998–2004: Worldwide success[edit]

In 1998, Hisaishi provided the soundtrack to the 1998 Winter Paralympics. The following year, he composed the music for the third installment in a series of popular computer-animated educational films about the human body. Again in 1999, he composed the score for the Takeshi Kitano film Kikujiro, whose title track Summer went on to become one of Hisaishi's most recognizable compositions.

In 2001, Hisaishi produced music for another Kitano film, Brother, and Hayao Miyazaki's animated film, Spirited Away. The opening theme to this film, One Summer's Day, went on to become Hisaishi's most famous composition,[9] with over 19 million Spotify streams as of November 2021.[10] He also served as executive producer of the Night Fantasia 4 Movement at the Japan Expo in Fukushima 2001. On October 6, Hisaishi made his debut as a film director in Quartet, having also written both its music and script. The film received excellent reviews at the Montreal Film Festival, but has become relatively obscure and forgotten in recent years. His first soundtrack for a foreign film, Le Petit Poucet, was released in the same year.

Hisaishi in Kraków, 2011

Another Miyazaki film, Howl's Moving Castle, for which Hisaishi composed the score, was released on November 20, 2004, in Japan. From November 3 to 29, 2004, Hisaishi embarked on his "Joe Hisaishi Freedom – Piano Stories 2004" tour with Canadian musicians. In 2005, he composed the soundtrack for the Korean film, Welcome to Dongmakgol (웰컴 투 동막골). He also partook in Korea's historically landmarked big budget drama series production by composing the soundtrack for Korea's MBC drama series, The Legend (태왕사신기 "The Story of the First King's Four Gods"), which released in 2007. Hisaishi has a large fan base in Korea due to the popularity of Miyazaki films.


In 2006, Hisaishi released a studio album, Asian X.T.C.,[11] the compositions of which demonstrated a significantly eclectic and contemporary Eastern style. The erhu player of the Chinese band 12 Girls Band Zhan Li Jun played in a live concert featuring music from that album. The following year, he composed and recorded the soundtrack for Frederic Lepage's film, Sunny and the Elephant and the Miyazaki film, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, both released in 2008, as well as the score for Jiang Wen's film, The Sun Also Rises (太阳照常升起).[12]

In 2008, Hisaishi composed soundtracks for Academy Award-winning film Departures[13] as well as for I'd Rather Be a Shellfish (私は貝になりたい, Watashi wa Kai ni Naritai), a post-World War II war crimes trial drama which is based on the 1959 Tetsutaro Kato novel and film currently being remade and directed by Katsuo Fukuzawa, starring Masahiro Nakai and Yukie Nakama.

In August 2008 he arranged and performed in a concert conducting the World Dream Symphony Orchestra,[14] and playing the piano on the occasion of his having worked for 25 years with the Animations of Hayao Miyazaki.[15] This concert featured over 1200 musicians and sold out the world-famous Budokan.[16]

Hisaishi also released a solo album in early 2009 featuring tracks from Shellfish and Departures.

In 2010, he became an invited professor for Japanese National College of Music.[17]

In 2013, Hisaishi composed the score for the NHK wildlife documentary Legends of the Deep: Giant Squid (世界初撮影! 深海の超巨大イカ),[18][19] featuring the first-ever filming of this reclusive creature (narrated by David Attenborough for BBC's Natural World special Giant Squid: Filming the Impossible).[20]

On June 28, 2013, Hisaishi was among those invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This honor is extended to those "who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures."[21]


In 2016, he was inaugurated as art director of Nagano City Art Museum.[22]

In 2017 he performed three concerts in Paris based on his setup for the 25-year Ghibli collaboration anniversary concert, performed in Palais des Congrès de Paris.[23]

In May 2018, Hisaishi performed five sold-out concerts in his North American debut in California, USA at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts with Symphony Silicon Valley.[24]

He also composed the soundtrack for the TBS Nichiyō Gekijō drama In This Corner of the World.[25]


On February 21, 2020, Dream Songs: The Essential Joe Hisaishi was released through Decca Gold.[26][27] The album includes 28 compositions released over the course of his career.

On February 19, 2021, Red Fox Scholar (Original Soundtrack) was released digitally. The album contains 34 compositions with the shortest being 25 seconds, while the longest is 4 minutes and 47 seconds.

Awards and recognition[edit]

As a result of his work throughout the years, Hisaishi has won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Music seven times—in 1992,[28] 1993,[29] 1994,[30] 1999,[31] 2000,[32] 2009,[33] and 2011.[34] He also received the 48th Newcomer Award in 1997 from the Ministry of Education (Public Entertainment Section) among numerous other awards, being recognized as an influential figure in the Japanese film industry. In 1998 he won the Art Choice Award for New Artist (Popular Performing Arts Division). In 2005, he won the 31st Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Music Prize at "Howl's Moving Castle". In 2008, he received the 10th International Film Music Critics Association Award for Television Division Best Original Score Award in the music of Korean drama Queen Shikigami.

In November 2009, he was awarded with a Medal of Honour with purple ribbon by the Government of Japan.[35][36]



  1. ^ Joe Hisaishi film score concerts – People's Daily Online Archived 6 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine. (23 July 2013). Retrieved on 12 May 2014.
  2. ^ Bosier, Jen. "Joe Hisaishi Discusses Soundtrack for 'Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch'". Forbes. Archived from the original on 12 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  3. ^ Japanese, Love (2018-08-12). "Joe Hisaishi - The Composer Behind Studio Ghibli Songs & Music". Love Japanese - Japanese Language & Culture Blog. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  4. ^ Joe Hisaishi// Who's Who // Archived November 28, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2015-08-18.
  5. ^ Kiu Qingru (June 15, 2021). "The Failure of Studio Ghibli's First 3-D Animated Film Reminds Us of What Makes Our Favourite Ghibli Movies So Magical". Sinema. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  6. ^ "Wonder Station". VGMdb. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  7. ^ "Looking back at Laputa: Castle In The Sky". Den of Geek. Archived from the original on March 12, 2018. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  8. ^ "Joe Hisaishi". IMDb. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
  9. ^ "The John Williams of Japan: Joe Hisaishi in 9 Songs". Pitchfork. 10 January 2017.
  10. ^ "Joe Hisaishi". Spotify.
  11. ^ "UPCI-1051 | Asian X.T.C. / Joe Hisaishi - VGMdb". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  12. ^ "A Flight Through the Music of Joe Hisaishi". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  13. ^ "Joe Hisaishi Announces Dream Songs: The Essential Joe Hisaishi (Feb 21, Decca Gold)". Shore Fire Media. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  14. ^ "World Dream Orchestra". New Japan Philharmonic. New Japan Philharmonic. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Joe Hisaishi Special Gala Concert". The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema. Centro Espressioni Cinematografiche. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Joe Hisaishi". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  17. ^ "Joe Hisaishi's Music Future - Programs | National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts (Weiwuying)". Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  18. ^ "The Giant Squid, Captured on Camera in its Natural Habitat for the First Time Ever!" (PDF). NHK. 9 January 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  19. ^ 幻の深海巨大生物. NHK (in Japanese). NHK. Archived from the original on 9 January 2013. 音楽・久石譲 演奏・東京ニューシティ管弦楽団。
  20. ^ BBC Two – Natural World, 2013–2014, Giant Squid: Filming the Impossible – Natural World Special Archived 27 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine. (23 March 2014). Retrieved on 12 May 2014.
  21. ^ Academy Invites 276 to Membership Archived 1 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 12 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Studio Ghibli Concert Program". Issuu. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  23. ^ "Joe Hisaishi Symphonic Concert". Overlook Events. Archived from the original on 18 June 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  24. ^ "Joe Hisaishi Symphonic Concert - Music from the Studio Ghibli Films of Hayao Miyazaki - San Jose Theaters". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  25. ^ "In This Corner of the World Gets Live Action Series". MANGA.TOKYO. 8 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  26. ^ Twitter, Gary Graff ggraff@medianewsgroup com; @GraffonMusic on. "New Music: Royce 5'9", Ozzy Osbourne, Chainsmokers, Grimes and more..." The Oakland Press. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  27. ^ "Joe Hisaishi Announces Dream Songs: The Essential Joe Hisaishi (Feb 21, Decca Gold)". Shore Fire Media. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  28. ^ 第15回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  29. ^ 第16回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  30. ^ 第17回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on February 22, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  31. ^ 第22回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  32. ^ 第23回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on October 31, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  33. ^ 第32回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
  34. ^ 第34回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品 (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Archived from the original on May 15, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
  35. ^ "678 individuals, 24 groups awarded Medals of Honor". Mainichi Shimbun. 3 November 2009. Archived from the original on 3 November 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  36. ^ "Ghibli Composer Joe Hisaishi Awarded Medal of Honour". Anime News Network. 3 November 2009. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2015.

External links[edit]