Aki and Kuniko

Back in 2012, I was approached by the Japan Foundation Manila to create a number of materials for the Philippine-Japan Friendship Month, one of which was a poster for a musical performance by Aki and Kuniko.

Aki in blue, Kuniko in green.

Aki and Kuniko are a guitar and koto duo from Japan – Aki, the guy who plays the guitar, and Kuniko, on the koto, which is a 13-stringed traditional Japanese instrument (it’s actually quite large at nearly 6 feet).

I knew that I wanted the musicians to be part of the illustration, but the challenge was that there weren’t a lot of images I could use for reference online. Despite this, I think the illustration came out quite well. And the best part? I got to meet Aki and Kuniko in person!

Accompanied by one of the organisers, I was brought back stage before their performance at the University of the Philippines College of Music. I had already rehearsed what I would say in english, but I forgot all about that and was completely stunned when I finally shook hands with them and realised they were talking to me in Japanese! I was totally unprepared for that. I kept a constant smile, but in my head, I was laughing at myself.

Kuniko’s signature has a smiling character with two little feet 🙂

Fortunately, they had a translator with them. After collecting myself, I was able blurt out some gibberish, where I think I said thank you and other words, then I handed them a little gift: a signed and limited print of the illustration for each of them. I also had one for myself, which they were more than willing to sign.

However brief, it was a memorable experience, and their performance afterwards was just spectacular. A standing ovation!

Signed! It was a bit dark backstage, but the camera phone was up to task.

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