Virtuoso guitarist Goh Kurosawa has traveled the world equipped with original songs and stunning arrangements of universally beloved melodies.

“Keep it simple, believe, and live every day,” says Kurosawa, who hails from Japan and has come to be known as a “musical wakonyosai,” or bi-cultural musical samurai. Ever humble, Kurosawa views himself as a world citizen who currently lives in Highland Park.

Throughout his life, Kurosawa has been sharing stories and life expressions though his music, which is possibly best described as a one-man show, using his guitar, also known as Honey Beast, and voice accompanied by traditional techniques and modern electric pedals — broadcast to audiences from a self-contained battery-powered studio-quality public address system (powerful enough for a 2,000 square feet space in both outdoor and indoor settings). It’s quite original; a combination of electronica, world jazz, classical, reggae, and rock.

The sound is so intriguing that following a recent performance at a local farmers’ market, audience members couldn’t help talking about the music, mostly trying to define it.

When asked what type of music Kurosawa was playing, listeners replied with a number of different answers;  acoustic, rock, jazz, dance, sit-down, tap-slap, Brazilian bossa nova, Spanish flamenco, hip-hop beats, Latin grooves, Balkan rhythms, electronica-sound-effects, prog-rock, metal, experimental, classical, and “Yamato soul,” the ancient name for his homeland.

Kurosawa himself calls it simply acoustic rock jazz.

Born in Maebashi, Japan, Kurosawa traveled to St. Louis at an early age to live for a few years. Though he attended several music schools, Goh says “Much of my music is inspired by traveling through countries and cultures. There is no better teacher than experience though real life world education; meeting and living with the people is the best.”

With such a broad perspective it’s no wonder his musical favorites include a diverse range of artists that includes Johann Sebastian Bach (classical), Astor Piazzolla (new tango), Paco De Lucia (flamenco), Miles Davis (jazz), Jeff Buckley (mostly known for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”), Eva Cassidy (known for “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”), Brazilian music, and Balkan music. He also includes Bruce Lee as one of his influences. But, he says, “Life’s journey is the biggest influence. Live and enjoy each moment.”

Kurosawa is currently on a mission to play in one new country every year for the next three years.

“I performed Myanmar in 2017 for a village school,” he says. “I was in Cuba in 2018, helped by the Japanese embassy in Havana, and in Okinawa in 2019. Awareness is everything, and flexibility and mobility is key. I realize that country borderlines were created by people mostly before our time, so my goal should be a fun and flexible one. Next year, I have plans to go to Hungary to play for the Japanese ambassador (during) the cherry blossom festival. It may or may not happen… as long as the big picture is clear, anything goes and I am happy.”

Watching Kurosawa perform, you will see him embrace a single guitar to create an orchestra with drum beats, percussive grooves, bass lines, and memorable melodies. As an electric “pedalist,” he tweaks, bends and twists soundscapes. He puts on high-energy modern rock performances along with traditional elegantly powerful acoustic and classical chamber gestures. He is both quiet and loud, and everyone seems to experience his performance in different ways, with each new sound evoking a new mood.

His sets can include Bob Marley’s “No Women No Cry,” My Family My Friends” (original), a Japanese folk song, Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (which he sings) and other original compositions and arrangements. Though Kurosawa attended several music schools, he states that “Much of my music is inspired from traveling through countries and cultures. There is no better teacher than experience though real life world education; meeting and living with the people is the best.”

Christopher Nyerges is the author of many books, including “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” “Foraging California,” and “How to Survive Anywhere.” He leads regular field trips to learn about natural flora. He can be reached a

Photo credits:

Kai Kurosawa (cover photo)
Jun Hiraoka (white shirt photo)
Goryo Kuwano (red bg photo)