As a young man in Tokyo, guitar master Yuji Tojo’s life was filled with non-stop touring and too many Japanese talk show appearances to count. “Everything became too much,” says Tojo. So, he went to India on a spiritual journey. Upon his return, the musician began playing in a new way. Tojo describes his newfound spiritual sound as, “a really magical thing. It can have a healing energy too. I always write or play with energy and love and peace. I try to make people happy—it’s my destination.” It seems he’s finally reached that destination in our beach town, where he moved in the late ’70s. Playing bi-weekly at The Crow’s Nest and monthly at Paradise Beach Grille, the self-proclaimed “Nice Guy from the East” is content to groove with the locals. Performing covers of artists like Ben Harper in his own style, jamming to reggae and flamenco guitar, Tojo’s music is ever-evolving. “I have a lot of influences from traditional Japanese music, to Indian music, European music and American music,” he says. During his live shows, his eccentric guitar work—tapping, slapping, harmonics, and somersaults on the guitar (he often plays behind his back and upside down)—adds to the fun, and contrasts with looped rhythmical patterns.
“People like that kind of excitement,” he says of his unique blend. “I used to do a little bit of classic stuff and jazz, and I also listened to a lot of rock stuff at the same time—then they all mixed together.” Accompanied only by a drummer, Tojo’s improvisations can go in any direction. He never loses his control of the instrument, though. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the first part of his name, Yu, means “grace.” Asked about his inspiration, Tojo says, “Whatever, you know, comes to mind, I just go with it.” | TREVOR STONEHOUSE
INFO: Yuji Tojo regularly performs at local venues, including Paradise Beach Grille, and The Crow’s Nest on the first and third Wednesday of every month.