Childhood & Early Years
Miyavi was born as Takamasa Ishihara on September 14, 1981 in the Nishikujō district of Konohana-ku ward, Osaka. His father, whose name is not known, is a second generation Zainichi Korean from the island of Jeju. His original surname was Lee. His mother is from Japan.
Miyavi has a sister named, Yoshie. The exact number of his siblings is not known. His family lived in Nishikujō until Miyavi was nine years old. It was there that he began his formal education at a local elementary school.
When he was in the first grade of his elementary school, his parents divorced and Miyavi moved with his mother to Kawanishi in Hyōgo Prefecture where they set up their new home. It was near his maternal grandparents’ residence. Miyavi often went to their home to play, each time receiving 100 yens in gift.
He was a good student, who also loved to play soccer, participating in the junior team of J-League team, Cerezo Osaka. He dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player, but a knee injury in the second year of his junior high school dashed his hopes.
When Miyavi was depressed over his injury, one of his friends came to pay him a visit, carrying a guitar. He introduced 15 years old Miyavi to the world of music by playing songs of Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Bauhaus, David Bowie, Prince, The Police and Nirvana. Eventually, Miyavi also bought a guitar.
In an interview, Miyavi later said, “I don’t know why, but when I touched the guitar for the first time, I was really confident. I could picture myself playing in front of a huge crowd on stage under the spotlight. Music saved me.”
Practicing hard, he soon began covering the works of Ray Charles Robison. He was also fond of visual kei acts, such as X Japan and Luna Sea, and listened to the blues, hard rock and industrial music.
When he was in the third year of his junior school, he joined his first band, ‘Loop’. By then, he and his friend, who introduced him to music, had become almost like brothers. Therefore, when he passed away in the following year, Miyavi felt that he could no longer live in Hyōgo.
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In 1999, 17 years old Miyavi moved to Tokyo where he began his music career by playing the guitar at clubs. To sustain himself in the city, he also took up modeling assignments. Very soon, he made a lot of friends and became known for his talent.
He got his first break on June 29, 1999, when he joined the musical band ‘Dué le Quartz’, replacing its guitarist co-founder, Ken. Till then known as Takamasa, he now adopted the stage name, ‘Miyabi’.
In ‘Dué le Quartz’, Miyabi not only played the guitar, but also performed as the backing vocal. By and by, he started writing lyrics, composing and arranging them. Very soon, he became the band’s chief songwriter.
Not long after Miyavi’s entry, Dué le Quartz made it big, releasing their first album, ‘Mikansei no Jekyll to Hyde’ on November 21, 1999. Their first demo tape, 'Ame to Muchi wo' was released on July 19, 2000; and on August 21, 2000, they held their first one-man live at Shibuya.
On May 16, 2001, Dué le Quartz began their first full one-man tour. Thereafter, they released one more demo tape, ‘Rob Song’ (May 18, 2001) and two albums, ‘Jisatsu Ganbou’ (May 28, 2000) and 'Rodeo' (May 12, 2002).
They held their last live concert on September 22, 2002 at Akasaka Blitz. After that, Kikasa, who played the bass, announced his withdrawal and with that, the group disbanded. By then, Miyavi was ready for his solo career.
In 2002, soon after Dué le Quartz was disbanded, Miyavi signed a contract with the independent record label PS Company and changed his name from ‘Miyabi’ to ‘Miyavi’. On October 31 of the same year, he released his debut solo album, ‘Gagaku’, containing 10 tracks, all written by him.
By the end of 2002, he released three more singles, ‘Shindemo Boogie-Woogie’, ‘Pop is dead’ and ‘Jingle Bell’, out of which ‘Jingle Bell’ entered the top 40 on the Oricon Singles Charts. Also, in the same year, he appeared in his first film, ‘Ryomano Tsumato Sono Ottoto Aijin’.
On April 23, 2003, he held his first solo concert. Later, on December 2, he released his second solo studio album, ‘Galyuu’, which charted at 44th on the Oricon Albums Chart. All of the 14 songs in the album were written by him.
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in 2003, he released three singles, ‘Jibun Kakumei’, ‘Tariraritarara’, and ‘Coo quack cluck -Ku. Ku. Ru’. In the same years, he also appeared in his second film, ‘Oresama’, playing himself in it. The film was released on February 25, 2004, and did reasonably well at the box office.
In February 2004, Miyavi went on his first solo tour, ‘Tokyo Dassou,’ giving performance in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In October, he signed a contract with Universal Music Group, while remaining under part control of PS Company. Around this time, he released his first major single, ‘Rock no Gyakushuu’.
On June 1, 2005, he released his third solo album, ‘Miyavizm’, which charted at 10th place on Oricon. ‘Kekkon Shiki Uta’, one of his best charting singles was also released in the same year.
Towards the end of 2005, he moved to an acoustic/pop style of music, which was reflected in his next album, ‘MYV Pops’. Released on August 2, 2006, it charted at 15th place on Oricon. On September 13, 2006, he released his fifth studio album, ‘Miyaviuta -Dokusou-’, which reached 25th position.
Because of his change of style, Miyavi lost many of his old fans in 2005-2006, but gained many more. His 25 Shūnen Kinen Koen concert was held at Tokyo Geijutsu Gekijo in September 2006, in which he showcased his new style of music and earned great applause for it.
By 2006, Miyavi had realized that if he wanted to reach out to a larger audience, he must sing in English in addition to Japanese. Therefore, towards the end of the year, he traveled to the USA to learn English. He also took dance classes there and gave street performances.
He remained in the USA for six months, giving his first solo concert there on February 17, 2007. On his return, he went on a nationwide tour in Japan, starting on July 16. Later, he also performed in Bonn, Germany, and Seoul, South Korea. Concurrently, he continued releasing hit singles.
His sixth studio album ‘This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock’ was released on March 19, 2008. It was followed by his very first worldwide tour, ‘This Iz The Japanese Kabuki Rock Tour 2008’, which covered 14 countries and 33 concerts. Later in September, he performed in China.
As Record Producer
In April 5, 2009, Miyavi left PS Company and launched his own label, J-Glam Inc. On April 22, his company released its first album, 'Victory Road to the King of Neo Visual Rock'. It is a compilation album, containing Miyavi’s best singles since 2004.
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On September 19, 2009, Miyavi went on his second worldwide tour, ‘Neo Tokyo Samurai Black 2009/2010’. Starting from Moscow, he covered Austria, Hungary, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico. In the same year, his international fan club was formed.
On December 31, 2009, Miyavi signed a new contract with EMI Music Japan, which released his single ‘Survive’ on March 10, 2010. Concurrently, he continued touring, performing in Australia for the first time in October 2010. In the same month, his seventh studio album ‘What’s My Name?’ was released.
In March 2011, he began his next world tour, ‘What’s My Name?’, covering Europe and Japan. He released the live recording of London concert ‘Live in London, 2011’ in May. In October, he released a major single, ‘Strong’, before continuing the North and South American legs of his world tour.
His eighth studio album ‘Miyavi’ was released in Japan on June 19, 2013. In 2013, it was announced that he would make his international film debut with Angelina Jolie’s second directorial venture, ‘Unbroken’.
On February 22, 2014, he embarked upon his fourth world tour, ‘Slap the World’. Starting from Malaysia, he also toured Europe, where the album ‘Miyavi’ was released in March. From there, he went to the USA and Mexico. In the USA, the album was released in April.
‘Unbroken’ was released in December 2014. In this film, he distinguished himself for his acting skills, appearing in the role of Imperial Japanese Army sergeant Mutsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed ‘The Bird’. Sometime around this time, he settled down in California, USA; but continued to return to Japan.
In April 2015, Miyavi released his ninth studio album, ‘The Others’, with the message of accepting those who are different. It came from his own experiences of being pressured to accept the norm, especially after he moved to the USA.
On August 31, 2016, he released his 10th album, ‘Fire Bird’. Thereafter, he went on a nationwide tour across Japan, called ‘MIYAVI Japan Tour 2016 NEW BEAT, NEW FUTURE’. His last performance, held at Makuhari Messe, was broadcast live on television, with more than 100,000 viewers tuning it to watch it.
His 11th and his last album so far, ‘Samurai Session Vol 2,’ was released on November 8, 2017. Previously, he had released two Samurai EPs, ‘7 Samurai Sessions -We're Kavki Boiz-’ (2007) and ‘Samurai Sessions vol.1’ (2012).
During 2017 and 2018, he appeared in four films; as Gunpei Ikari in ‘Kong: Skull Island’, as Jin in ‘Stray’, as Byakuya Kuchiki in ‘Bleach’ and as Adachi in ‘Gangoose’. Concurrently in 2017, he embarked on two major tours, 'Live Nation's Asia On Tour' and ‘Fire Bird World Tour'.
Family & Personal Life
On March 14, 2009, Miyavi married Melody Miyuki Ishikawa, an American-born Japanese fashion designer. She is a former singer and television host. The couple has two daughters; Lovelie (Airi) Miyavi, born on July 29, 2009 and Jewelie Aoi, born on October 21, 2010.
The family originally lived in Japan. In 2014, they moved to the USA and settled down in Los Angeles, California. However, Miyavi continues to travel between Tokyo and Los Angeles.
Since 2013, Miyavi is a volunteer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and has visited refugee camps around the world. In November 2017, he was appointed an official Goodwill Ambassador of the UNHCR.