Happy 2018!

明けましておめでとう!Happy New Year!

“One of the greatest moments in your life is realising that, a year ago, you couldn’t do what you can do now.”
Mo Seetubim, founder of the Happiness Planner

26510442_10157017740918327_205654138_oI can’t remember a time when I wasn’t out doing something on New Year’s Eve. Even last year when I was really quite sick, I went to a house party (though I did fall asleep on the sofa at 1am…). This year my boyfriend and I cleaned our flat, wrote down our goals and New Year’s resolutions and drunk whiskey at home to welcome in 2018. I can tend towards over indulgence and hedonism so stepping back and not going out was… kind of liberating. I try to live life to the fullest, which most of the time is a good quality. However it can be a flaw when it leads me to feel that I have to be doing something because that’s what young, hip and alive people do on New Year’s Eve. It’s nice to go out when I want to go out, stay in when I want to stay in, regardless of an arbitrary day in the calendar. If I don’t party this one day I will not turn middle aged overnight and lament wasting my golden 20s. It’s all good.

26237858_10157017763463327_591999289_oThis morning we walked half an hour in beautiful sunshine to do 初詣 (hatsumōde, the first shrine visit of the year) at the same shrine as New Year’s two years ago. It’s nice to build our own traditions, even when we’re far from home. My fortune this year was really favourable and, though I don’t take these things too seriously, I do think good things are around the corner for me. I’m hoping that the seeds I sowed in 2017 will bear fruit.



2017 has been a year of excitement, doubt, self-discovery, some of the biggest challenges and most satisfying successes I have ever experienced. I wouldn’t say I have 100% got where I hoped I would be, but perhaps for the first time since childhood, I feel in touch with my authentic self and I am moving forward in the direction I want. There are many, many things I couldn’t have done at the start of 2017 that I can do now. And that is something.
Oh and I am now on my second Happiness Planner, something you might not expect given my entire personality. I recommend it so much to disorganised workaholics like myself who need to to write shit down and be reminded to chill out.

Glamping in Hakone

Autumn is coming to an end now but, as everyone knows, autumn in Japan is beautiful. This year I was crazy busy and didn’t fit in as many leaf viewing adventures as I would have liked but I did manage to find the time to accept an invitation to a weekend away in Hakone, a famously beautiful natural area 100km from Tokyo.

We were a big group, eight Japanese people, two Laotians, one German, one half-Japanese half-British person (hint it’s my boyfriend) and little old me. Seeing as everyone else either was Japanese or spoke it fluently, we spoke in Japanese all weekend which was a challenge for me, but a fun one. Intermediate language learners will know that, while you might be able to sound good one to one, group conversations are THE HARDEST. Luckily when we got drinking everything magically became easier…

Four of us rented a car and drove from our place, blasting cheesy music all the way

road trip Japan autumn

Our glamping campsite! Honestly we could have just stayed there the whole time and soaked in sufficient amounts of Japan autumnal beauty. The huts were basic but nice. They also had radiators. After friends and family, properly heated buildings are #3 on the list of things I miss most from the UK. I’m not joking. You can’t imagine how happy the radiators in our glamping huts made me.

glamping hakone japan autumn

This being Japan, every glamping hut had a built in BBQ and you could order a load of meat at the campsite office. Seeing as we were the drivers we were tasked with going to the shops to buy necessary non dead animal ingredients. When we got back we got set on eating, drinking and making merry!

Japan BBQ Japanese barbecue

Some of us nursing hangovers, the next day we went out for some leisurely walking! A highlight were these beautiful fields of ススキ (Miscanthus sinensis, Japanese pampas grass). 

2017-11-04 14.49.58

Before leaving, we stopped at Hakone’s Little Prince Museum. A tribute to the life and work of  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the museum attempts to transport you to early 20th century France. It fails, in a charming, touching, tenderly Japanese way.

Hakone Little Prince Museum

And then we started the drive back to Tokyo! As my friends are mostly hard-working Japanese salary people instead of awful hipsters like me, it was a short trip but a fun one.


Creative collaborations

A few days ago my nakama Megan Valentine released her debut EP Wrong Side of the  Road! It’s fantastic. You should click on that link and listen to it now, especially if you like anime, pop, punk or anime pop punk (which is what it is). Seeing as Meg is one of the main people I collab with, I thought I would discuss the importance of creative collaborations.

Julia Mascetti Megan Valentine
Me and Megan Valentine in London

For the first 20 years of my life I was terrified of showing people my songs. Too personal, too weird, not good enough. I also don’t think I had met the right people to work with yet. When I did start creating with other people, it changed my life. I think art is (almost always) meant to be social. Stories round the campfire and all that jazz. So without further ado, here is why you should do creative collaborations:

1) You get shit finished
So many artists are chronic un-finishers. Perfectionism, procrastination, fear of not being good enough… Honestly I think doing a collab with a friend is the best way to get out of the ‘I can’t finish a song’ rut. Because the fear of letting your friend down because you haven’t written your part on time outweighs the fear of never starting because you are scared you will be shit. Once you’re done, you will be braver about sharing you collaborative work then anything you made on your own because your confidence in your friend becomes confidence in yourself. Neat huh?

2) You grow musically
Although I had got my ABRSM Grade 8 and a place on a BA Music course, until I was 18 I had no idea how to count or play in time. Violinists grow up in out of tune youth orchestras, guitarists in bands but harpists… honestly before I left home I could probably count the times I had performed with actual other people on one hand. There was not a Youth Orchestra that was big enough to want a pedal harp in my neighbourhood. When I got to university I made principal harpist in the uni orchestra because the audition was, again, solo. When I started playing in orchestras I got a rude awakening. Turns out technical ability wasn’t much use without the knack of actually playing in time. It was a steep learning curve but but after two years of being looked at weirdly when I came in 8 bars early and one year of slowly starting to get it, I was five times the musician I was before. I will never say timing is my strong point but at least now I can count rests and play to a click track. Even when I play by myself, everything sounds so much tighter and slicker. I could never have got this ability alone in a practice room.

3) You support each other
If you are a soloist, creating can be very lonely. Sometimes you really just need to talk to someone who gets it, bounce off ideas, get feed back on a draft, share your insecurities and get some sympathy and encouragement. From a practical point of view you can also gain exposure through each other; your collaborator’s fans can become your fans, they can introduce you to venues, people and experiences you wouldn’t get otherwise.

4) You get inspired
In general I like to be around awesome people who do awesome things. Though I am proud of my friends who are a great data analysts, unfortunately you can’t put their work up in a gallery. Two of my besties work for the British military. An exhibition of their work would compromise national security. No such problem with my artist friends! Not only can I feel proud of them and warm and fuzzy, they hold awesome events for their work where I can go home feeling inspired and moved.

5) They make your art better
I am just so hugely lucky to know Isabel Galwey and Oliver Wood. Whenever someone gets a physical copy of my EP they always comment on how beautiful the artwork is. It’s the first thing people see, it’s what they remember and what they hold in their hands to take home once they put their money down. And without Olly, well it would be me recording with a USB mic in my drafty flat. There would be no high quality harp tracks, no beautiful string arrangements, no flutes, no violins… well no EP at all. Both of them not only did what I needed them to do, they understood my creative vision entirely and finished my thoughts, creating something bigger than just me.
Two (or more) heads are usually better than one. 

If you’re an artist go and find your people. You with enrich each other’s art and each other’s lives and have a blast doing it!

Playing the harp standing up

2017 has been the year where I entered the wonderful world of playing the harp standing up!

One of the reasons I decided to take my little purple harp to Tokyo was because I wanted to play standing up. Before coming to Tokyo, I had owned my little harpsicle harp for a couple of years and it had been great to take with me to low key gigs, but I hadn’t been brave enough to perform standing with it yet. But if I was going to go through the trouble of bringing a harp to Tokyo I was going to bloody well learn!

Julia Mascetti metal harp
with my band Gjoll at Shinjuku Antiknock

After all metal is more effective when you can jump around a bit…














I bought a guitar strap from the Yamaha shop in Ginza and started experimenting. The main problem I had was one of angle – I like to have to the straps tight-ish so the harp close to my body and I don’t have to lean down, but I’ve found that if I get it into optimum position, the strings are out of eye-line? This is fine for simple songs I know well, but I can’t imagine sight reading standing up or attempting pieces with a lot of lever changes for this reason. I’m still working on this issue and if there are any veteran standing harpists out there I would love to hear your tips! Nevertheless, as I play standing mostly when I’m accompanying myself singing it hasn’t been a big problem. I’m just sticking to basic arrangements and gradually gaining confidence as I perform standing more and more.

For my recent EP release party and other ‘big important gigs,’ as well as events I’m booked for, I still go for the bigger celtic harp but I am enjoying the freedom of being able to play standing up when I want to. I find I can connect with the audience in different ways when I can walk and move more and I can breathe really well and project my singing voice. I’m always using for ways to break new ground and expand my musicality, and this has been an enjoyable one!

If you have tried playing your instrument in a different way, please let me know how it went!

Julia Mascetti harp Cheshmeh

Studying for JLPT N3

So I’m taking JLPT N3 the day after tomorrow and I’m pretty nervous.

For the unenlightened, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test is a standardized Japanese test with five levels: N1 is the highest and tricky even for native speakers, N5 is the lowest. I will be taking N3 on Sunday, meaning if I pass I will officially have intermediate Japanese.

I know that according to Japanese language majors, N3 is pointless. ‘Employers only want N2 and above’ they say. Frankly I don’t particularly care as I’m doing the exam for myself. I’m trash so if I don’t have a benchmark and the incentive of a shiny gold star, I probably won’t study.  Also, even if the exam has no ‘worth’ employers, it’s proof that I have evolved since coming here and haven’t spent all of my free time in cake shops and bars (well I have, but I bring a textbook with me sometimes).

These are the resources I’ve been using to study. If you live in Tokyo you can get all of these books in Kinokuya book shop in Shinjuku, otherwise they should be available online.

Kanji/Vocab: Worked through the Kanji Master N3 book from Arc Academy. This is basically just a list of kanji with the readings, stroke order, compounds etc. I go through it and add vocab I think will be useful to my own deck of anki flash cards on my phone and try to go through the app every day. I also have been working through Kanzen Master Kanji  (different brand but everyone is still a master), which is basically a whole book of kanji related exercises, grouped by topic. I like it because it has pictures and I am a child.
Grammar: Grammar is definitely my weakest area. I hate it. It’s boring, I have to use my brain and it seems like I forget new grammar ten minutes after I’ve learned it. I’ve been using Kanzen Master Grammar.
To be honest I’ve mostly been ignoring this one. I’ve been told it’s the easiest section, especially if you live in Japan. I’m going to do some practice tests tomorrow and then wing it.

You can probably tell I’m not exactly the diligent student. Luckily, two of my friends are taking N3 at the same time and we have been meeting every week for study group. This has been really helpful, particularly for making grammar less painful. We go through the points together and make stupid example sentences. A lot of the N3 grammar points seem to be for gossip and passive aggression so my friend has made this character Sakura chan, an idol who gets into a different scandal each week, depending on what grammar we are doing.

My boyfriend passed N1 this year so he’s a lot better than us. He sits in the corner during our sessions and makes suggestions (some of them useful, some less so). I think the power has got to his head though because the other day he gave me detention for looking at facebook in class.

Japanese study n3 detention
I don’t know which is worse, my Japanese handwriting or my boyfriend’s English handwriting…

To be perfectly honest, as regular readers may have noticed, the last few months have been pretty busy for me. I know I haven’t studied a lot and I’m not at all sure I’m going to pass. But I’m still super proud of what my friends and I have achieved. We’ve really come together and worked hard and got to know each other better too. I feel that, pass or fail, this test has forced me to take my Japanese to the next level so even if the results don’t go so well, I won’t regret taking it.

Are you doing the JLPT on Sunday? Have you done it in the past and how was it? Let me know!

頑張ろう everyone!

Julia Mascetti to play at the Great British Weekend

Happy to announce that I’m performing at a really fun event on 9/10 December 2017 – The Great British Weekend, a celebration of all things British featuring British music, sport, travel, fashion, food and drink.

I’ll be doing a harp and voice performance of British music featuring covers of folk, pop and Christmas songs.

If you fancy coming down, I will be playing on both the Saturday and Sunday at Roppongi Hills. Please see the Great British Weekend full schedule.

I was super excited to hear that indie band The Watanabes will also be playing. Founded by two lads from Norfolk, The Watanabes are a Tokyo based indie band with members from the UK and Japan. They take their name from the main character of the novel Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami, which is also the title of a Beatles song. I think this fusing of British and Japanese references is pretty neat on their part.

To be honest, I was never too fussed about the Beatles but I loved the Murakami novel and that made me come to appreciate the song. From there I slowly started to get into more of their music. So to honor British Japanese relations, I thought I would cover Norwegian Wood.

When you’re doing a British event in Tokyo, it’s pretty much compulsory to play the song which is both a Beatles classic and a world famous Japanese novel.

Hope to see you there!

Thank you

In June 2016, I became more unwell than I had ever been in my life.

My story of chronic illness in Japan  has been told elsewhere but essentially after 8 months of pain, doubt and sickness I quit Japan and moved back in with my parents in Essex. For 2 months I temped in a call center and blew my savings visiting a swanky Harley Street doctor in the hope that he could fix me.

These two months could have been really shit but during this period I had the chance to reconnected with wonderful UK friends. Thanks to these people, I feel I recovered spiritually as well as physically.

One of them was Oliver Wood, a wonderfully talented musician and producer that I know from my time in the Essex Youth Orchestra. During my exile to the home counties, we recorded my EP In Distance, Everything is Poetry together. It was the kind of recording experience I’ve always craved, relaxed but bursting with creativity. Olly drew my best playing out of me and we had a lot of fun getting the tracks done. His string arrangements and post production are stunning and I feel he’s really brought my songs to life.

In May 2017 I made the decision to return to Japan, this time not with the protection of a steady job, but as a freelancer. Perhaps a crazy choice given I was recently ‘recovered’ (what I have doesn’t usually go away completely but I’m 90%) and broke thanks to the swanky doctor. But illness sometimes brings into perspective what is really important to you. When I was faced with the prospect of possibly never being able to work full time again I realised that I had spent my entire life doing things I was never really that into.

I don’t mean I’ve lived an unhappy life, far from it. Most of the things I’ve done with it – uni, music PR, teaching – have been worthwhile, good things that I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot from them. I mean that, to be honest, I was never super passionate about any of them them, even if I told myself I was. Illness taught me that life can take time and opportunities away when you least expect it. I had spent my first 23 years hitting targets and doing the things I was supposed to do. Now it was time to chase what I actually wanted.

The last 6 months have been the most exciting of my life but also some of the most challenging. For the first time I feel like I’m spending most of my time pursuing things I actually, really care about. It is tough as hell but also hugely fulfilling.

On Friday I released the EP and yesterday I held a release party at the Cheshmeh in Sasazuka, Tokyo. The venue was packed; I felt bad because a lot of people had to stand or sit on the floor, but we opened up half of the stage for extra seating space. Two wonderful female artist friends opened for me. I enjoyed this performance more than I have in ages and I will always remember looking out into the crowd, unable to believe that I had this – a release party in a beautiful venue packed with people of a variety of ages and nationalities but united in their warmth and love of art.

There are so many people in my life I have to be grateful for. The musicians I perform with and the venue owners who book me. My wonderful producer Oliver Wood and Isabel Galwey who made the beautiful album art. Everyone who bought a CD, came to a gig or shared my work. I have found Tokyo to be a wonderful place where so many people are enthusiastic about music and supportive of musicians. It’s the kind of artistic community I’ve been looking for all of my life to be honest.

What I have to be grateful for goes beyond my art. Every friend who listened to me when I was sick, my parents who let their daughter in her mid 20s move back in and eat their food, my long suffering boyfriend who has supported me through thick and thin. Everyone, thank you so much.

I’m collapsed in a bit of a pile right now. Over the last couple of months I have performed my original material more intensively than ever before. Putting on shows is a lot of fun but it is exhausting, physically, emotionally and socially. Actually the social one is a biggie – I think one of the main reasons I didn’t get seriously into performing original material before graduating is because I hadn’t got enough experience points to level up to the required social level back then. You need to make friends with musicians, make friends with venue owners, invite everyone to your events, hustle on social media, and talk to everyone competently after the performance. Yesterday, people asked me to sign CDs. I mean, me. Signing CDs. I can’t get over it.

So yeah, I’m on my sofa in a pile eating takeaway sushi, catching up on Netflix. I usually work out twice or three times a week but I have been so busy I haven’t in almost three weeks. Maybe I’ll catch up on that too.

The world won’t stop for me. I actually have a huge writing deadline tomorrow. My next solo show is on Friday, then another on Sunday then I need to get to work on learning a tonne of material for a corporate event in December.

But for the next couple of hours, rest, relaxation and gratitude. Thank you, everyone. Thank you so much.

My wonderful support acts ❤ 

Marie Dangerfield and her beautiful Amy Winehouse style voice
Marie Dangerfield

The trilingual electropop stylings of Juliette Jemm
Juliette Jemm