Yoko’s life is as eclectic as her music. By day, she’s a business consultant for a Tokyo-based IT firm. On the side, she’s launching an imported-kimono fashion line. And at night, she’s “a party animal” appearing at house and techno events around town as DJ Yokosun. “Friends always ask me: ‘Yoko, when do you sleep?’ but even when I’m tired music has this power to lift me up…and wake me up,” she tells us.
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Yoko first came to Saigon in early 2019 to visit friends, the artist couple Yohei Yama and Karine Guillermin and their son. She stayed for one week. Around the end of the trip she asked Yohei if it was weird if she just upped and moved to Saigon too (like the artist and his family had done a year or two earlier). “He said, ‘yes it’s weird – but life should be full of fun and experiences…’” she remembers. And so it was decided – she would move to Saigon too.
“That 2-minute conversation changed my life,” Yoko says wide-eyed. She went back to Japan, had a heart-to-heart conversation with her CEO, and he agreed she could move here and work remotely. Less than a year later she had packed her bags and returned. “That’s all because of a conversation based on a whim I had,” Yoko shrugs, “and it’s been as fun, and as weird, and as full of exciting new experiences as I dreamed it would be.”
So when did Yoko become Yokosun?
By October 2020, I’d discovered my scene. I was going to parties, just dancing and listening to music. I guess I’d always wanted to DJ myself too having watched so many friends play in bars and clubs. So, when I finally got to touch a pair of CDJs it felt so good and so natural. WAM were doing an open-mic kind of DJ night where anyone could play. I grabbed the early slot, between 6 and 7pm every week, and began to practice in front of a small audience.
Soon after, The Observatory and The Lighthouse began to book me as a DJ. Naturally, I needed a DJ name. When you write my name using Chinese characters, 陽子, it means sun child. So, I became Yokosun. I still remember the excitement of seeing my DJ name on a poster for the first time.
What has been the best night of your life behind the decks so far?
There was one particular night, I remember it well. It was March 20th, 2021. I still have videos of that night and I smile every time I watch them. I played B2B with An Vy, resident DJ at The Observatory. We started at 3am and finished at 8am. By the end there must have been fewer than ten people left. But they were all dancing with so much energy and abandon, and me too. Whenever I think about music, and why I love it, I’m always reminded of that moment. It’s not where you are, or how many people there are, or even how good you are. It’s that indescribable moment when the music playing touches your heart.
Coming through, and out of lockdown, what do you feel the current state of clubbing and music is here?
That lockdown was long, long, long. It was especially hard for the three venues I love the most here, The Observatory, The Lighthouse, and WAM Saigon. I’m most happy for them. And for us all to have the chance to dance together once more. And when we do, it feels like there’s all this pent up energy being released.
Which Japanese tourist attraction would you say your music and style most sound and feel like?
Tokyo Disneyland! It’s a neon-lit electric paradise. Me and my family go every year, traveling from our home town of Aomori to Tokyo, sometimes bringing a friend or two along with us. We always feel a buzz of excitement before the Disneyland parade. And when it begins we’re transported to this dreamland, a similar feeling I get now when I play music.
Can you take us on a musical Shinkansen ride through your home country?
Well, it would happen in winter. I hate the cold. But I love that season in Japan. It has this smell that reminds me of my hometown. And every winter I take the Shinkansen to my hometown to visit. When the snow falls there, it creates this silence. But I swear I can hear the snow singing…
And which station, besides your hometown, should we watch out for?
The stop before Aomori is Hirosaki. Because the snow doesn’t settle in Tokyo, as the Shinkansen takes you north, with each stop the scenery changes, and it becomes colder each time. Always, by the time we reach Hirosaki, I’m welling up with emotion. It’s a quiet town. The snow has fallen heavily. And an awed hush falls across everyone on the train.
If you could add one stop to the Shinkansen line, what would you add?
I know it’s impractical, but Ho Chi Minh City! I want to hop off and party with everyone any time I like.
What kind of music perfectly matches your usual trips on the Shinkansen?
Lots of Japanese pop music. As I ride, I’m always doing karaoke in my head, singing along to tunes that are locked away there, thinking about the lyrics. It would start out poppy and energized and slowly drift to more tranquil and relaxing music as we pull into Aomori.
Tell us about this mix you’ve made for our magical, imaginary ride…
This mix in The Dot Magazine’s series is not really my DJ style. It’s a mix made for this journey. It’s full of songs I really like, and I hope it gives you lots of unexpected Japanese songs…and feelings too.
First is Gen Hoshino’s ‘Sun’. It’s a song for sunny days. Or when you need to feel positive vibes and good energy. The perfect start to the ride as we climb into our seat. Then there’s Ego-Wrapping’s ‘Love Scene’ and Wandervogel’s ‘Quruli’. Then, as the journey goes on, we get a little more esoteric with Noriyuki Makihara’s ‘Donnatokimo”. If I don’t share this song here, you’d never get to hear it, and you’d miss out on the joy it contains.
Now we’re really picking up speed. Cue ‘Traveling’ by Hikaru Utada. It’s the perfect theme song for this Shinkansen ride! And after that is a new discovery of mine, PING! PONG! feat YMCK with ‘Chai’. I only recently discovered this track and it fits perfectly here. After that, I’ve chosen ‘Dew’ by Nightime. As a child, I played piano, and the piano refrain at the start of this song takes me back. It’s an old-style song, but every single part of it is amazing.
After that, ‘4:00am’ by Taeko Onuki. A track to doze off to along the journey. Reawakening, feeling dreamy, we have Yumi Arai’s ‘Yasashisani’. The first lines are so innocent: ‘When I was little, there was a God who made my dream come true…” For me, God was my parents, the people who made all my dreams come true, and the people this train ride is taking us towards.
And as more emotions well up, as we reach the end of our journey, an old song by Adele, ‘Daydreamer’. She made this when she was 19 years old. And then, as we pull into Aomori Station, Sade’s ‘Kiss Of Life’. And the Shinkansen ride is over. And I’m crying tears of happiness and I guess you are too…