Denny Sinnoh's "Akihabara Starlight"

jurina 1

AKB48/SKE48 member Jurina Matsui as the young woman.


As AKB48 music videos go, this one is fairly long.  The music itself does not start until six minutes in.  It is one of my favorite AKB songs, and one of the best music videos ever.  There is a long drama, that sets up the song.  I found it to be very sweet, a little sad, but thoroughly enjoyable.  I could not find the full version on Youtube.  Also, I could not find an English subbed version.  Don’t worry, even with my limited understanding of Japanese language and culture, I will interpret for you.  I hope I get it right : )

If you just want to listen to the song right now, here is a link but it is not the AKB48 video.

The links to the video are at the end of this post.

In this music video/film drama, Jurina Matsui portrays a high school girl who was tragically killed on her graduation day.  Her spirit is connected to a cherry tree (in Japanese: “Sakura”) which grows in the schoolyard. The video begins in a Japanese graveyard, several years after her (Jurina’s character) death.  Five friends of the departed Jurina are played by:  Atsuko Maeda (as Jurina’s best friend, and now an office worker), Yuko Oshima (portraying a single-mother), Tomomi Itano (is a restaurant worker), also Haruna Kojima and Minami Takahashi (are college students).   They have returned to their hometown, and are visiting the grave of their deceased friend. They burn incense and bring fresh flowers to the grave stone marker which contains Jurina’s cremated remains.   It will be seen later that Jurina’s spirit has been watching  over,  and influencing  each of  her friends.

One sees some aspects of Buddhist/Japanese culture here.   Burning incense is a tribute to the dead.  You also see the long wooden sticks compiled near the gravestones.  These sticks contain markings for the deceased written in Kanji script.  They function as “antennae” which draw the visiting spirits of ancestors to the gravesite.   A typical Japanese grave is usually a family grave consisting of a stone monument with a place for flowers, a place for incense, water in front of the monument, and a chamber for the ashes.  At the start of the video, Yuko is pouring water.  She is also talking on a cell-phone.  That is not disrespectful, as far as I know.  The girls do seem troubled.  It is Atsuko who is the saddest.  You would have to look closely, but some grave stones have multiple names on them.  They were carved all at once on the stone, and the names of those still living are colored red. The red is then removed when that person dies.  It would be a very sad thing indeed if a child’s name is uncovered first.

The girls are back in their home town, to visit Jurina’s grave and to visit her parents, and their old school.    Atsuko is still in a funk, missing her best friend.  This is not a happy trip for her.  They visit Jurina’s parents, and have a good visit, recalling happier times .  Everyone is all smiles and happy at first, despite the sad circumstances (“Hey Koji-chan, good luck with those exams” and  “Ac-chan, how’s that new job working out?”)  The girls walk away – bowing and smiling (these are a very polite and respectful people), and promising to visit again.  Whenever the parents see the group of friends, it is like they are also seeing their daughter.  As the girls walk away, the parents see/remember their daughter and reflect on the day she died.   They recall how she looked as she ran off to school – the last time that they saw her alive. To me, the most poignant moment happens after the girls walk away.  The ghost of Jurina puts her father’s hand on her mother’s shoulder.  Jurina’s spirit is inferring that “I’m gone … but I still want you two to keep loving each other”.  For whenever an only child dies, what reason is there for a couple to stay together?

The girls walk along through their old neighborhood, and pass a busy street with a tight corner.  Is this where the accident happened?  There are memorial flowers marking a spot where someone was hit.  A bent-over old woman crosses the street with a cart of groceries.  Her items fall and roll away.  The other girls quickly help out and pick up the old woman’s groceries.   IS THAT HOW IT HAPPENED?  Did Jurina die trying to help someone across the busy street?

{It might not be part of the video, but I had a moment of clarity watching this part.  There is a story where the young Prince Siddhartha (The Buddha) had an epiphany when he observed a young man, an old man, and a dead man. Here you see the old, nearly incapacitated old woman, hobbling across the street — juxtaposed with the youthful beauty of the AKB48 girls.  This is what we are.  This is our existence.  This is our fate.}

Watching this you see the cars whip around the blind curve in the road.  (Also they drive on the “wrong side of the road” in that country!)   I was watching this thinking — Look out Tomo-chin!!!  That’s a dangerous curve!!!  She nearly walks into one – the silly girl.

The five friends decide to visit their old high school.  They reminisce with their old teachers, talk, laugh and look at photographs of when they are younger.  They are looking at the yearbook, everything is fine, until the page is turned and they  see a picture of the deceased girl.  Everyone gets silent.   As they leave the school, they see a group of high school students in their pink uniforms under the cherry blossom tree at the front of their school.  They look sad, thinking that was them — just a few a years ago.  (It flashes by too quickly – was Jurina one of the school girls under the tree?)

As they travel back home on the bus, the sun comes out and the girls look at the ocean.   Atsuko sits back on the bus and imagines that Jurina would have liked the view.  This was the graduation trip she never got to take. At this point, the music for the video finally starts, we hear Atsuko Maeda’s voice .  We see Atsuko imagining cherry blossom petals falling (yes,  falling at a rate of  5 cm per second), and memories start to come back of her dear friend, and how they would lie under the cherry blossom tree.  (Special effects magic: For this flashback they make the “teenage” Atsuko even cuter – is such a thing possible???)

Several “flashbacks” are then seen, which show how Jurina’s spirit has been watching over and influencing the girls lives.Haruna Kojima is in a college classroom taking an exam.  We see the spirit of Jurina, sit next to Koji-Haru, and help her with her test.  While she was alive, Jurina must have been a good tutor for Haruna.  (Incidentally, Haruna’s academic skills were sometimes the topic of humor on AKB48’s reality program “AKBINGO”, where in one skit they made fun of her in a bit called  “Koji-Math”.  Not that Ms. Kojima will ever have to “solve-for-X” in her career, I’ve seen her modeling photos.)

In a crowded college cafeteria, Minami sees a guy that she has a crush on.   The young man is looking for an empty seat.  Taka-Mina quickly clears a space for him.  He sees another empty seat, but then the  Matsui-ghost fills it in — and glares, so that he has to sit next to Minami.  They meet, and  converse, despite the way this dude eats.  Maybe that silly boy will finally start paying some attention to little Mina.  (Cultural observation: As demonstrated here by Takahashi-san,  Japanese women cover their mouths when they smile , the same way Americans might cover a cough.  Perhaps this is unfortunate, as Minami’s smile would light up a room. )

Yuko is an overwhelmed single mother, taking her little girl to a park.  It was Jurina who convinced Yuko to keep her child.  Times would be tough, there would be difficulties.  Yuko looks on from a bench.  The little girl, alone on the swing set calls out: “Push me Mommy”. Jurina’s ghost stands behind the child, and although physically not able to push, she mouths “yeah, push me”.  Yuko comes through for her daughter.  Jurina looks down upon the toddler girl playing on the swing-set, and she definitely APPROVES.

Tomomi is some type of slacker-youth I guess.   She is not a hopeless NEET, or an otaku, but it does seem that she is just biding her time, working in a restaurant …  waiting for real life to start.  I’m not really sure exactly how Jurina influences Tomo-chin here.  Jurina taps her on the shoulder – I guess to get her head out of the clouds for when the big opportunity arrives?

Atsuko has a job in an office.  Unfortunately, her work is not too exciting, and she seems disappointed.    She is just an “office girl”.  Her job is to fetch teas and hold these little company parties every afternoon.  (It is always someone’s birthday or retirement.)   She takes a break and sadly drinks a strawberry milk (a very popular canned beverage in Japan), while a rooftop badminton game goes on.  (Another efficient Japanese use of recreational space atop an office building!)  Atsuko misses her closest friend.  She and Jurina had big plans in high school – they were going to conquer the world together.   Now Atsuko is alone and stuck in this dull job.  The spirit of Jurina looks on.  Ready to leave this existence, she leaves one more part of her essence behind.  A cherry blossom petal.  Atsuko is distracted by the cherry blossom petal, retrieves the stray shuttlecock, and now she, and Jurina, know what to do.

contemplating this existence

… contemplating this existence …

Returning to the present, the five friends end their visit at the cherry tree outside the school.  The girls know that Jurina’s spirit is there.  They reach out to touch her.  From the body language of the moment, it is as if they are saying, “It is OK … we love you .. you can pass on now …”

“Sakura no Ki ni Narou” is one of the most beautiful songs that Mr. Akimoto has ever written for AKB48.  As I paraphrase the lyrics from Japanese, the young woman’s spirit is now part of the sakura tree, and  hopes that the girls will return to her “whenever they need to feel loved” … “ even if her petals will fall, my branches will be extending out like arms” … “ no matter what happens, if one is trouble, the eternal cherry blossom tree will always be there”.   Jurina has finally “graduated” her former life … The last scene is of the friends walking away, back to their own lives.

Trying very hard not to cry .. can’t hold it back …

This is the suggested link:  It is good quality, and is from a Vietnamese entertainment website., although sometimes it might not load very fast.

This is a lower quality, but maybe easier to play version.

Note that you do NOT have to be a member of Facebook to see the video.  This is fairly low quality however.

Saying goodbye to Jurina

the send off

Return here if you want to fel love

Return here when you want to feel love …


Comments on: "Sakura no Ki ni Narou: “I Will Become A Cherry Tree. (A Graduation Song)”" (7)

  1. Sorry to report that all the content was removed from the Zing site. Something about record industry weasels?


  2. […] My original review/description of the music video is linked here. […]


  3. […] “Sakura no ki ni narou – I will become a cherry tree (a graduation song)”  linked here. I had to start a blog, because whenever I tried to talk about it with my friends, they would […]


  4. The short version is linked here. IT IS A TRAVESTY!!!

    AKB management put the ENTIRE VIDEO up please.


  5. The AKS company really does not want you to see this one. Who know s why.

    Maybe this would work:


  6. Why they do not want one of the greatest music videos of all time to be seen, I have no idea.


  7. Very touching. Very beautiful. Thank you for linking me to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

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