O!susume – Nakashima Mika

Broadcast 32: Nakashima Mika

Nakashima Mika is an actress and singer who rose to fame at the age of 17 in 2001 when she played the main character in the drama “Tainted Love Song” and sang the theme song “Stars” which subsequently landed her first album at number 1 on the Oricon charts. I’ve always thought of her as having some of the most beautiful ballads that I’ve ever heard, and she sings in a lovely jazz style that has a special place in my heart. It’s possible that Nakashima Mika can be considered one of my very earliest queer crushes, and I remember choosing the name “Mika” in my Japanese class when prompted to pick a Japanese name to use on all of my homework, so with that in mind, here’s my introduction!


Years Active:  2001 – 2010; 2012 – Present (2023)

Point of Origin: Kagoshima


Who is Nakashima Mika?

Nakashima was born in a small town in 1983 in Hioki in Kagoshima Prefecture, and has always lived by intuition, following her own path. While in Hioki, she learned classical Japanese dance, listened to enka singer Eiko Segawa, and wanted to work for fashion magazines. After junior high school, she moved to a share-house in Fukuoka, and finally made a break with her main role in the drama “Tainted Love Song,” singing the theme song. Skyrocketing into fame and originally singing mostly ballads, Nakashima has always tried new things throughout her career: singing in English and spending time in New York, playing as the rock star Nana in a drama, writing and composing her own music, as well as experimenting with her style and getting tattoos.

In 2010 Nakashima had to take a break from singing because of medical complications with her hearing, and thankfully she’s been able to continue her beautiful singing career as of 2012, working on theme songs for major projects like Resident Evil: Retribution, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014 FIFA World Cup, as well as working as a voice actress in Despicable Me 2. I’m excited to see where her intuition takes her next in her career!


Yuki No Hana

雪の華 (“Yuki no Hana” – “Snow Flower”) was Nakashima’s 10th single, releasing in 2003, and is still one of her most well known songs, as well as the most sung karaoke song in Japan in 2004. This song has been covered many times in many different languages, including in Korean for the drama “I’m Sorry, I Love You,” and by JISOO from Blackpink, by Japanese artist ToshI from X-Japan, as well as Gackt, in English by American singer Eric Martin, and an instrumental version from Megadeth’s guitarist Marty Friedman, as well as countless others. While there are some truly lovely covers, I love Nakashima’s THE FIRST TAKE version from 2021, as there’s definitely something special about Nakashima’s emotional performance that still shines 20 years later. This version has a beautiful piano piece, and Nakashima’s voice has a nice smooth and deep quality to it that goes nicely with the bass accompaniment that pulls together the jazz style wonderfully.


Boku Ga Shinou To Omottanowa

Here’s another intensely beautiful song that will make you want to cry called “僕が死のうと思ったのは” (“Boku Ga Shinou To Omottanowa” – “Things that make me want to die”). This song came out in 2013, after Nakashima took time off because of patulous Eustachian tubes in both of her ears, causing her to not be able to hear anything besides the echo of her own voice. This song was written by Hiromu Akita from amazarashi, and the lyrics as well as the interpretation are clearly both enhanced by the level of personal emotion behind them. I’m recommending THE FIRST TAKE’s version because it has English closed captions available, and Nakashima’s performance is impeccable.


Glamorous Sky

While Nakashima has an overwhelming penchant for jazzy ballads, her voice also translates well into a more edgy rock style, which leads me to one of my most listened to songs ever: “Glamorous Sky.” This song was the main theme of the live-action movie “Nana” based on the manga by Ai Yazawa, in which Nakashima plays the lead rockstar, Nana. Ai Yazawa wrote the lyrics for “Glamorous Sky” and the song was composed by L’Arc-en-Ciel’s vocalist Hyde (check out his version here). Nakashima’s role as Nana solidified in my mind that Nakashima is one of the coolest people around and I was really inspired by her style around this time, which makes sense because she originally wanted to work in the fashion industry. I was also obsessed with the entire Nana album from Nakashima (THE END, 2006), so if you want to get a taste for some of my personal nostalgia, check it out!


We are all stars

I’ve always loved Nakashima’s fresh take on different genres of music, and here is her latest EDM dance single “We are all stars” co-written with Hashimoto Kota in tribute to RuPaul’s Drag Race and living with pride in who you are. Here we get another great fashion moment from Nakashima with her pink hair and full glam, contrasted with her equally stylish backstage presence in the video. This song is catchy in the same way that her recent releases have been, including some of my favorites such as Justice, So What and HELLO. Her voice has a delicate vibrato that is as cool and elegant as she is, and I hope she keeps experimenting and having fun with her music for years to come.



Website: https://www.mikanakashima.com/







This Broadcast was written by Erin; you can find them on instagram at @thekniterin.