I am also planning to go to graduate school!
I have three tutors. I asked a current student at Waseda University to help me overcome my weakness in mathematics and obtain a high school equivalency diploma. I still vividly remember the moment I saw my acceptance letter.”
That is how singer Nanase Aikawa, 48, recalls the moment of her acceptance or rejection. In 1995, she made her debut with “Yumemiru shojo ja ja nai wa itai (I can’t stay a dreaming girl),” and her album “Red,” released the following year, was a big hit, selling more than 2 million copies. She went on to produce many hit songs, including “Koishin” and “Trouble Maker.
Her next challenge was to pursue her studies.
She said, “I had wanted to get a high school diploma since I was in my 20s, and that didn’t change when I was in my 30s and even in my 40s. But I always lacked the trigger, the timing, the courage, or the …… one thing that kept me from taking the plunge.”
What encouraged Aikawa was the existence of “akamai,” an ancient type of rice he encountered in Tsushima (Nagasaki Prefecture) during a live performance 12 years ago, which boasts a history of more than 1,000 years and is designated as a national intangible folk cultural asset, as it is used in Shinto rituals. On the other hand, there is only one producer of red rice in Japan, and the industry is suffering from a serious shortage of successors.
After seeing the Akamai ritual in action, I felt that there must be a better way to develop the ritual. While I wanted to help as much as I could, I realized that I did not have enough knowledge. I thought, ‘I must first learn the basics at a university,’ so I decided to get a high school diploma and go on to college. The truth is, there are many universities where you can go on to higher education without obtaining a high school equivalency diploma, but I didn’t want to regret it because of my personality. …… I wanted to go through the process, so I started from scratch.”
For Aikawa, who dropped out of high school to concentrate on her singing career, it had been 30 years since she had faced a reference book. He recalls that his reunion with his studies was not an easy one.
He recalls, “There were limits to what I could do on my own for the high school equivalency exam, so I asked a tutor to help me. I especially struggled with trigonometric ratios. I was especially tormented by trigonometric ratios, because have you ever used sine, cosine, and tangent in your life? (laughs) I studied them patiently, with my teacher explaining to me the origins of the mathematical formulas.
In her private life, Aikawa is a mother of three children. When she began her studies, her view of the world changed dramatically.
I realized how hard it is to have children,” she said. They have to take a lot of tests and even have quizzes. My oldest and youngest sons and I console each other by saying, ‘Why can’t people just get the hang of things in advance?
First Campus Life at Age 45
In ’18, he passed the high school equivalency examination. To learn about the connection between Shinto rituals and the local community, he studied for the exam for about two years, and in ’20, at the age of 45, he entered the Faculty of Shinto Culture at Kokugakuin University.
When I first entered the school, there were many online classes at COVID-19 crisis, so I couldn’t make friends unless I approached them through the screen. I thought it would be a waste of my time, so I asked some of my classmates if they wanted to exchange lines. I still make a group line and exchange information with them.
Even now, we have a group line and exchange information. Later, I found out that Nanase Aikawa was actually the talk of the town among my classmates. In particular, I heard that their parents asked, “Aren’t you in the same class as Aikawa-san? (laugh).
When face-to-face classes resumed, the desire to learn exploded.
He said, “In the classroom, I always sit in the front row. If you compare it to a live concert, the front row is a special seat in the arena! In terms of pressure on myself, I basically want to be first in line for seminar presentations. One of my most impressive classes was “Shinto and the Environment,” in which agronomist Dr. Juichi Shibusawa discussed environmental issues from a folkloristic perspective. When I listened to the lecture, the class touched my heart so much that I even cried while taking notes.”
As a result of his extraordinary efforts, he found himself in the top ranks of the 200 students in the faculty in the 2021 academic year. He was even given the opportunity to receive an award.
At first, I saw the number 1/200 and mistakenly thought my score was 1 point,” he said. When I rushed to the academic affairs office, I was told that ‘that is not a score, but a rank. I was in a state of disbelief.
Aikawa, who wears two hats as an active university student and an artist, released his new album “ROCK MONSTER” on November 8. To celebrate the release, he plans to hold a live concert on the same day. He also told us about the “changes” that have occurred in his music since he entered university.
I feel that the album “Nakaima” released in January and the song “Eien no Ito (Eternal Thread)” express exactly what I learned in college. Nanase Aikawa is known for her rock music, but this one has a quieter tone.I would be happy if the powerful message hidden in the ” Japanese language,” which has been cherished since ancient times, is conveyed.
She plans to enter graduate school next spring. The girl who once dreamed of becoming a singer is now running toward a new dream.
From the November 10 and 17 , 2023 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Takehiko Kohiyama