Tears rolled down Nanae Munemasa’s face in a studio full of people, but not the type of tears she’s used to crying. These were tears of joy, disbelief, and a little bit of sadness that time was almost up on a dream that recently became, briefly, her reality.
In September, 17-year-old Munemasa spoke to CNN about being bullied in her home country of Japan. It was so severe that she contemplated taking her own life. Munemasa is not alone: Japan’s suicide prevention office observed, over more than 40 years, that more Japanese youth commit suicide on September 1 than on any other date. “When summer ends, you have to go back (to school). And once you start worrying about getting bullied, committing suicide might be possible,” Munemasa said.
She was able to get through those darkest times by blogging and playing music with her brother in a local pop band, Nanakato. “I would love to go to a foreign country at least once to sing,” Munemasa told CNN.
Little did Munemasa know, Mark Foster from indie-pop band Foster The People had come across her story on CNN and wanted to make a difference. “When I read the story it took me right back to the place when I was her age in school,” Foster said. “Music for me at that moment was kind of my outlet.” That night, a plan was underway.
Foster set up an Indiegogo account to raise money for Munemasa to come to Los Angeles and record an original song with the band. Foster The People also teamed up with Kind Campaign to raise awareness and to try to end bullying in Japan. A week before Christmas, Munemasa was getting on a plane for the adventure of a lifetime. “I just thought that was so cool to show her that the world can be a little more gracious than the walls of high school,” Foster said.
Don’t be fooled by his stardom. Foster remembers his days of being bullied all too well. From eighth to ninth grade, Foster switched schools four different times. “There were times when I was terrified to go to school because it felt like a jail sentence.” He empathizes with kids experiencing bullying because they are so impressionable. “It breaks my heart,” Foster said.
In the studio, Munemasa wiped her tears and giggled on her last day recording with the band. “When she first got here, I had no idea what to expect and I’ve never written a song through a translator before,” Foster said. “She was like, ‘Well I brought these lyrics.’ ” Foster said he was impressed with her talent and with the depth of her lyrics. The song is autobiographical, Munemasa said. It’s about losing hope, but deciding to keep going, deciding to live.
Three days later, after hearing one of the final versions of “Hide and Seek,” which Munemasa sings in Japanese, it was time to head back to Japan. “I’m just filled with so much emotion, it’s hard to explain,” Munemasa told CNN.
Foster The People doesn’t plan on stopping here. Additional money raised will go towards sending Kind Campaign co-founders Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson to Japan to spread awareness and create change. “We love being a part of this this story and this amazing experience in creating awareness all over the world and specifically in Japan,” Thompson said.
As for Foster, he won’t forget this journey or its impact on Munemasa. “For me to be able to play music, have the blessing of being able to make music as a living, it’s really cool to be able to find a young talent like this and be able to give her a voice.”