Why Visual Kei Musicians Dying Young in Japan? Anything to do with 3Bs in Japan? An Analysis


Why Visual Kei Musicians Dying Young in Japan? Anything to do with 3Bs in Japan? An Analysis

we lost too many recently...

whats 3B in JApan?

We as a big fan of X Japan were shocked by the news of Heath passing recently.


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In the vibrant yet demanding world of Visual Kei, a unique Japanese music genre that combines rock music with elaborate visuals, the untimely deaths of its musicians have become a concerning trend. This article delves into the reasons behind this phenomenon, using the recent deaths of Atsushi Sakurai from BUCK-TICK, REITA from the GazettE, and HEATH from X JAPAN as case studies. Additionally, we will examine other notable losses in the broader Japanese rock scene, such as Yuusuke Chiba from THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT, to provide a comprehensive understanding of the pressures faced by these musicians.


Recent Losses in Visual Kei


We witnessed many deaths of musicians in the past several years. We feel more than ever.


Atsushi Sakurai (BUCK-TICK):

Atsushi Sakurai, the charismatic vocalist of BUCK-TICK, passed away on October 19, 2023, at the age of 57 due to a brainstem hemorrhage which occurred on the live stage.

Sakurai's career, spanning over three decades, was marked by his profound influence on the Visual Kei scene, especially in the 1990s. BUCK-TICK's dark, fast-paced music, coupled with Sakurai's distinctive voice and striking looks, captivated audiences. His death occurred shortly after he fell ill during a concert in Yokohama, highlighting the intense demands of live performances on musicians' health.


REITA (the GazettE):

On April 15, 2024, REITA, the bassist of the GazettE, died unexpectedly. The announcement on the band's official site expressed the shock and grief felt by his bandmates and fans. REITA had been with the GazettE since its inception in 2002, and his death at a young age has left the Visual Kei community in mourning. The band's history is filled with iconic performances and a dedicated fanbase, making REITA's sudden passing even more poignant.



HEATH, the bassist for X JAPAN, succumbed to colon cancer on October 29, 2023, at 55. HEATH joined X JAPAN in 1992, contributing to the band's rise during its peak years. His passing follows the deaths of other X JAPAN members, including guitarist HIDE in 1998 and former bassist TAIJI in 2011. X JAPAN has been a cornerstone of the Visual Kei movement, and HEATH's death marks another significant loss for the genre.


Yahiro Takanashi (nurie):

Yahiro Takanashi, bassist of the Visual Kei band nurie, tragically died in a traffic accident on December 7, 2023. The accident involved a multi-vehicle collision on the Shin-Tomei Expressway, where the band’s vehicle was struck by a truck. Takanashi's death was a severe blow to the band and their fans, highlighting the unexpected dangers that musicians can face.


Yune (逆しまな歯車を仮面が嗤う。"Sakashimana Haguruma wo Kamen ga Warau"):

Yune, drummer for the Visual Kei band passed away suddenly due to illness on December 28, 2022. The news of his death shocked fans and the music community, who mourned the loss of another talented musician in the Visual Kei scene.


Another sad loss in Japanese Rock


While THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT is not a Visual Kei band, the death of its member Yuusuke Chiba also reflects the broader challenges faced by Japanese rock musicians. 




Yuusuke Chiba, a member of the now-disbanded rock band THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT, passed away on November 26, 2023, due to esophageal cancer. Chiba had publicly announced his diagnosis in April 2022 and was undergoing treatment, but unfortunately, he succumbed to the disease. THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT was known for its energetic performances and raw sound, significantly influencing Japanese rock in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Kuu (NEE):


Kuu, the guitarist and vocalist for the rock band NEE, died on May 12, 2024, at the young age of 25. His death was announced on the band's official website on May 20, 2024. Kuu had been struggling with health issues for some time, which had previously led to the cancellation of a festival appearance in March 2024 due to his poor health. His final social media post on May 9, 2024, expressed joy over the sold-out tickets for an upcoming concert at Hibiya Park, Tokyo. The band and fans alike were devastated by the loss of such a young talent.


Source: Daily news, Nikkan sports, Sports Hochi, TBS news, Natalie news, TV Asahi


The Pressures of Visual Kei


Why visual key people die younger. Of course this may apply to many other types of musicians and artists in general but the premature deaths of Visual Kei musicians can be attributed to several factors:


1. Intense Lifestyle:

   The rigorous demands of constant touring, late-night performances, and the pressure to maintain an elaborate visual appearance can take a severe toll on physical and mental health. Musicians often face exhausting schedules, leading to chronic stress and health issues.


2. Substance Abuse:

   The entertainment industry, including Visual Kei, has a history of substance abuse. Musicians may turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for the pressures of fame, which can lead to severe health complications and early death. You see many musicians getting arrested for substance use in Japan.


3. Mental Health Struggles:

   The pressure to constantly innovate and remain relevant can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The stigma surrounding mental health in Japan can prevent musicians from seeking the help they need, exacerbating their struggles.


4. Fan Expectations and Privacy Loss:

   The intense fan culture surrounding Visual Kei can lead to musicians sacrificing their personal lives. The pressure to maintain a certain image and the lack of privacy can contribute to mental and emotional strain.


5. Unstable Lifestyles:

   Ever heard of 3Bs in Japan?

The term "3B" in Japan refers to professions considered risky for romantic involvement: Bartenders, Beauticians (we say "Biyoushi"), and Band members. Band members, particularly in the Visual Kei scene, often face financial instability, relentless work schedules, and the constant presence of adoring fans. This instability can exacerbate stress and contribute to physical and mental health decline.


The Emotional Toll on Fans


The deaths of Atsushi Sakurai, REITA, HEATH, Yuusuke Chiba, Yahiro Takanashi, and Yune have not only affected their families and bandmates but have also had a profound impact on their fans. Online, many have expressed their grief and shock at the frequent losses within the Visual Kei and broader rock communities. Comments such as "This is too much to bear," "So many band members passing away is heartbreaking," and "Rest in peace, you will be missed" are common, reflecting the deep emotional connections fans have with these musicians.


The tragic pattern of early deaths among Visual Kei musicians underscores the unique pressures and challenges of the genre. While their legacies highlight the beauty and intensity of Visual Kei, it is crucial to address the health and well-being of these artists to prevent further losses.

We know it is extremely tough though, the music industry must develop better support systems for musicians, including mental health resources and measures to mitigate the physical demands of performing and touring. Only then can we hope to preserve the incredible talent and creativity that defines Visual Kei and ensure a healthier future for its artists.


The below is "Jupiter" by Buck-tick which Sakurai wrote for his mother who passed away. A great and sad song.


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There are many concerts in April hard to get! All right reserved Onegai kaeru
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