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Nerima, Tōkyō, Japan | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Nerima, Tōkyō, Japan | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Duo World Jazz


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Asia Tour Review"

AKI and Kuniko! Beautiful! Kirei! Amazing! Subarashii! Great! Sugoi!

The fusion of the koto and the acoustic guitar by artists Kuniko and Aki is a wonderful treat! It reminds you of the records released by Windham Hill way back in the 1990s when new age music was quite popular. The fusion music from our Japanese friends at the University of the Cordilleras Theatre was refreshing, daring, haunting, enthralling, enchanting, eerie, marching, modern, and nature-like. It was NEARLY a perfect acoustic concert. I say nearly because it really boggles the mind how a show advertised to start at five in the afternoon gets DELAYED by an HOUR!!! This is not very Japanese. Heck, their trains leave to the minute. Late by a minute minute and you miss your train. You’d end up needing to purchase another ticket. That was the VERY SOUR NOTE to the event – STARTING AN HOUR LATE! Very un-Japanese and very unexpected as the venue was even in a theatre! The local performing arts scene has to be at par with international standards. The nation’s very own productions at the Cultural Center of the Philippines start ON TIME!

After agonizingly waiting and wondering if one should instead leave the University of the Cordilleras theatre because the show has still not started after waiting for thirty minutes, I just told myself to wait it out and leave if the first number was awful. I’m glad I had enough patience to wait for an ARDUOUS 60 minutes.

The first number, Over the Top, started off with so much energy. It was a fusion of the old and the new. The end result was modern. New age. From an energetic peak, it mellowed down and became eerie (in a good way). Forest in Love was haunting. It had a bit of a Spanish flavor and made me imagine a matador, which would be quite unique for an East Asian instrument to evoke such an emotion and imagery.

The seventh piece in the repertoire, Capital of the County of the Gods, had sections where you could hear streams of water from the Koto. You imagined yourself as a young traveler marching off for an adventure. It was a good mix of modern and nearly electronica, and the expected use of nature’s sounds. It continues on the tradition of new age music such as those composed by Yanni, Liz Story and Will Ackerman.

As the acoustic surprise continued towards its end, it also had a touch of jazz that reminded you of the Jazz duo Tuck and Patti. Aki and Kuniko, creating a good blend of the acoustic guitar and the koto, continued to evoke memories of past new age artists into their repertoire. The show brought us to highs and lows, to frenetic energetic moments that makes you wonder if this is how individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder feel, to contemplative instants, to an adventurous march, to a lively dance, and to a silent tick of meditation. From an energetic start, they had an explosive ending with Trust. Though their recording are quite few and far between, with only two – the first coming out a decade ago and the second one half a decade past, we TRUST that new age music, though not that popular anymore, would continue to have a niche audience in every corner of the globe.

That last piece was so powerful that they came out for an encore and they did not disappoint. The encore was as commanding as all their pieces! It was a wonderful experience, save for the sore hour-long wait. - Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 19, 2012

"Japanese Duo Aki and Kuniko: Unique Musical Combination"

Call it a strange combination of music—an acoustic guitar and koto, a traditional Japanese instru­ment. But the outcome is simply captivat­ing. Even the artists themselves, Aki and Kuniko couldn’t believe that this com­bination would click to music lovers, at least to “people who are in the know”.

Known for their originality and musical sophistication, the duo—Aki and Kuniko—have performed in Germany, the Caribbean and Central America as well as in New York and Chicago, courtesy of Japan Foundation. In their recent tour, the duo first went to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam before doing their last stop in Manila, Cebu and Baguio.

While the duo may not have a superstar status, they have maintained a loyal following. Aki is a composer, guitarist and producer in Japan who also owns his own recording label. Kuniko, who is based in Tokyo, is an expert in koto instrument.

Through an interpreter, Aki expressed satisfaction with their career. “We had no idea how we sounded like in a concert. During our first concert, we were like competing. I gave her a hard time. But she came up with her own splendid performance herself,” he laughs.

Since then the two clicked, they are quite popular but not the commercially popular sort-of-way, in Japan and even in places where they perform. Their music partnership is now 10 years old.

“People who are in the know would know us,” Aki said. To which Kuniko adds, “our style of music is not forced. We are true to what we feel. We’re not trying to blend to one another, it just comes out,” they told Expat.

For those who are familiar with the sound, the duo’s performance is phenomenal. This duo of acoustic guitar and koto, a traditional Japanese instrument, was formed in 2002. Their unique world of sound was highly praised by music reviewer Reiko Yukawa.

In 2003, with the release of their first CD Ha-Aki & Kuniko on the German label Acous­tic Music Records, they toured to Germany and to the Caribbean and Central America (sponsored by The Japan Foundation). In 2006, they performed in New York and Chi­cago, and released their second CD, Over the Top. In September of that year, they were in­vited to perform on the main stage of Open Strings, the world’s largest acoustic music fes­tival held in Germany.

“The music produced by the duo has had unmatched impact, whisking the listener seamlessly into an extraordinary world,” says a statement from Japan Foundation.

The two string instruments play against each other furiously in one moment, and change to delicate heartrending murmurs in the next. Their melody reminds listen­ers of what modern man has begun to forget. For those who are uninitiated, the sound of acoustic guitar and koto is likened by the Fili­pino interpreter into the blending of music of kulintang (a traditional Filipino wing instru­ment) and the piano. The outcome is a unique blend of sounds. A Filipino fan puts it, “there’s something mysterious about it. But it’s good, unique.”

Aki seems unperturbed with the combina­tion and grateful that a number of music lovers admire their music. They performed to an au­dience of students of Music and music enthu­siasts in Manila.

Passionate about their unique sound, Kuniko says she wants to impart to music-lov­ing people the traditional sound of koto which she hopes would be enjoyed by generations to come.

Yukie Mitomi, assistant director of Japan Foundation, told Expat that they received a good feedback from Filipino listeners about the duo’s performance in 2011.

“They emailed us telling us how they en­joyed the show. That’s why we featured them again this year,” Mitomi said.

Reaffirming that music is indeed universal, the duo exclaimed that they want to express their love to Filipino audience in a way they know best.

Kuniko shares: “I want to communicate to people through my sound. For the students, I want to stimulate their senses, teaching them the value of music through the traditional koto.” - Expat Newspaper



Acoustic Music
Records (Germany) 2003

"Over The Top"
Acoustic Music Records (Germany) 2005

NO TRESPASSING" Harvest Moon Record (Japan) 2010


"Masters of
Finger picking"Rittor
Music, Inc 2006

"Japanese music
today : performed on traditional Japanese instruments"Japan
Foundation 2010



biography (100 words), including instrumentation

Formed in 2002, AKI & KUNIKO (Hiroaki Sasaki on acoustic guitar and Kuniko Obina on 13-string koto) skilfully blends the notes from their two unmatched string instruments, seamlessly going from forceful to delicate. AKI & KUNIKO have taken the audiences around the globe, from South East Asia , Central America to Europe, into an extraordinary musical world. Highly acclaimed by music critics, they have described to create a surprising and innovative musical partnership and to have original, genre defying work.

Band Members