Former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman, who has been living and recording music in Japan since 2003, recently took part in the fourth event in Cardiff University's Cardiff-Japanese Lecture Series where he spoke about how the mastery of the Japanese language unlocked opportunities for his life and career. You can now watch the question-and-answer session below.
Asked if he experiences culture shock when he returns to his former home country of America, Marty said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "When I moved to Japan, I completely was encompassed by Japanese culture. No one I worked with spoke English. No one around me spoke English. The only time I spoke English was when I was doing international promotion or international tours or international interviews. So 24/7, it was all Japanese. And when that goes on for years and years, you start to dream in Japanese. My wife's Japanese, and we speak only Japanese. So, cultural things also become a part of you, because when you live somewhere, you become a part of the culture. And the things that matter in Japan are not the things that matter in America. Or the things that matter in Europe are not the things that matter in South America. So things that matter on a day-to-day basis are different. So culture 'shock' is kind of a shocking word, so I don't really feel shocked. But I feel like I'm very blessed, because when I go to America, I'm an American, so I can feel all the great things about being American. But I've lived in Japan for almost 20 years, and before I came here, I've been in so many Japanese situations that there's a definite part of me that is really a part of the Japanese culture so I can really feel both of them.
"You should never think that you're trying to belong," he continued. "Because it doesn't matter how perfect my Japanese is — and it's not perfect — but I'm never, ever gonna be Japanese. I feel a part of me is definitely influenced by Japan very much, but if your goal is to belong in another society, I think you're gonna be let down very, very much. Because as hard as you try, Japan is a one-race society and you just look different and you're born in a different place and you have different things in you. So the goal is not belonging; the goal is to add what you have to Japan. If you're trying to belong to something like that, I think you're gonna be let down. But it's not a letdown. You only really belong to yourself. And belonging to something is overrated. So I think you'll enjoy your Japan experience a whole lot more if you celebrate your differences while understanding Japan and enjoying the great things that you're able to enjoy about Japan. And don't be let down when sometimes people are not necessarily so friendly to foreigners. This happens to every country. You just have to let it be; it's just the way it is, especially with older generations. They're, like, 'Oh, the world is changing. Now there's English in the taxicabs. Oh my God.' People fear change. But you can't let that bother you. It's never bothered me once. I'm completely fine being a gaijin [a Japanese word for foreigners and non-Japanese citizens in Japan, specifically non-East Asian foreigners such as white and black people]; it hasn't stopped me from anything. So culture shock, it's not really as bad as people think it is. I enjoy being in America, and I enjoy being in Japan because both things have given me a lot of great things in my life. So learning English — English is the language of the world, so that's helped me everywhere. But in Japan, it's the opposite — in Japan, Japanese is the language, so it's a must. So culture shock is not really that big of a thing."
Marty's latest album, "Tokyo Jukebox 3", received a North American release in April via The Players Club/Mascot Label Group. The record, which was made available in Japan in October 2020, is the third in a series that began with "Tokyo Jukebox" in 2009, and then "Tokyo Jukebox 2" following in 2011. The trilogy presents Friedman's inspired performances to Japanese repertoire he's chosen to cover.
Marty has spent the last few years working on a documentary called "Spacefox". The film, which is being directed by Jeremy Frindel, the founder of Substratum Films, follows Friedman's reinvention from lead guitarist in MEGADETH to one of the most famous TV personalities in Japan.