Marty Friedman’s Japan Heritage Official Theme Song will make you want to visit Japan – and practice the guitar more

Marty Friedman
(Image credit: Susumu Miyawaki)

Marty Friedman has shared the video for a new instrumental track that celebrates Japanese history and culture, and of course furthers the idea that the electric guitar can work in any context.  

Japan Heritage Official Theme Song features the former Cacophony and Megadeth guitarist collaborating with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and percussionist Shonosuke Okura, on an arrangement composed by Akira Sasaki. And the video finds him plonked on a tatami mat with his Jackson MF-1 signature guitar in hand, doling out casual virtuosity as we are offered a picture tour of Japan. 

The track is as far away from Tornado of Souls as you will get, but the playing is unmistakably Friedman, his unanchored picking hand hovering closer to the neck pickup on those cleaner passages, the intonation and dynamics 100 percent on point when it’s time to go big with the track’s signature melodies. 

Writing on Instagram, Friedman encouraged more people to dig deeper into Japanese culture, and for visiting bands to look beyond the big cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. 

“Many people outside of Japan relegate their image of Japan to anime/cosplay conventions, Harajuku fashion, futuristic neon signs and Samurai warriors,” he wrote. “This is an incredible shame because as uniquely Japanese as all those things are, that isn't even the tip of the tip of the iceberg. I always wanted to do a spectacular video showing the rich yet completely understated beauty of Japan, to show people a side of the country rarely seen outside of Japan.”

Friedman has lived in Tokyo since 2003. He is a regular guest on Japanese TV, and we’re not just talking guitar shows. He has appeared in sitcoms and on cookery programs. Friedman’s consumption of snacks from the local konbini and then translating this taste into a guitar part for the edification of us good folks on the internet is just proof that his sensibility is totally in tune with his adopted country. He has even performed for marathon runners.

“Most bands from overseas come to Japan and play in three cities – Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya,” he continued. “If they are lucky, they come again and add Sendai, Fukuoka, maybe Kyoto. Since I was constantly touring all over Japan, I was fortunate to play also in Akita, Nobeoka, Hiroshima, Tottori, Kagawa, Sapporo, Kobe, Nagaoka, Kanazawa, Yokohama, Yonago, Okinawa, Nagasaki and so many other wonderful places. 

“I wanted to make a video to show these rarely seen locations and unique artistic customs, and just share some of the wonder that I was lucky to experience over the time I lived in Japan.”

Ultimately, Friedman wants to take us along and make Japanophiles of us all, and we are totally here for that. If you have ever visited a gear shop in Tokyo, you’ll understand why any guitarist would want to live there. 

Even if you haven’t, you know the rule: Japan gets all the cool stuff. Right? Just look at those Fender Japan exclusives. Anyway, Friedman’s advice? Come on over. And who knows, maybe Jackson could look at updating the options on the MF-1. It would sure look the part with Shibori-inspired color design, or a Tenmoku-style glaze finish.

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Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to publications including Guitar World, MusicRadar and Total Guitar. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.