Koichi Sugiyama

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Koichi Sugiyama
すぎやま こういち
Sugiyama in 2011
Sugiyama in 2011
Background information
Birth name椙山 浩一
Born(1931-04-11)April 11, 1931
Tokyo, Japan
DiedSeptember 30, 2021(2021-09-30) (aged 90)
Tokyo, Japan
  • Composer
  • conductor
  • orchestrator
Years active1968–2021
LabelsSUGI Label

Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやま こういち, Sugiyama Kōichi, April 11, 1931 – September 30, 2021) was a Japanese composer, conductor, and orchestrator. He was best known for composing the music for the Dragon Quest franchise, along with several other video games, anime, film, and television shows. Classically trained, Sugiyama was considered a major inspiration for other Japanese game music composers and was active from the 1960s until his death from septic shock in 2021.

Sugiyama was also a council member of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (JASRAC), board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and honorary chairman of the Japanese Backgammon Society. Prior to his death, he was given the Order of the Rising Sun and was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government. He also engaged in politics and activism, such as the promotion of Japanese nationalism and the denial of Japanese war crimes.


Early life and television career[edit]

Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan, on April 11, 1931.[1] While growing up, Sugiyama's home was filled with music, which ultimately inspired his passion. In high school, he began to write various small musical works.[2] He attended the University of Tokyo and graduated with full honors in 1958. He then went into the reporting and entertainment sections of Nippon Cultural Broadcasting.[2] He also joined Fuji TV as a director that same year.[2] He left the station in 1965 to become a freelance director but had begun concentrating solely on musical composition and orchestration by 1968.[2]

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sugiyama composed for several musicals, commercials, pop artists, animated movies, and television shows, such as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie, The Sea Prince and the Fire Child, and Cyborg 009. He also assisted Riichiro Manabe with the composition for Godzilla vs. Hedorah, composing the record single of the soundtrack and conducting for some of the tracks.[3]

Dragon Quest and other video games[edit]

Sugiyama's first contact with Enix was by a fan letter he wrote them regarding a PC shogi game in the early 1980s. After Enix's staff overcame the shock of receiving a handwritten postcard from a celebrity of Sugiyama's stature, they were so impressed by his depth of knowledge and appreciation of games that they decided to ask Sugiyama to create music for their games. Sugiyama started composing for the PC-8801, and was working for Enix at the time. His first project with the company was the 1985 game World Golf. In 1986, he composed for his first major project, Dragon Quest.[4] His classical score for the game was considered revolutionary for console video game music.[5]

Sugiyama was the one of the first video game composers to record with a live orchestra. In 1986, the CD, Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite, was released, utilizing the London Philharmonic Orchestra to interpret Sugiyama's melodies. The soundtrack's eight melodies (Opening, Castle, Town, Field, Dungeon, Battle, Final Battle, and Ending) set the template for most role-playing video game soundtracks released since then, many of which have been organized in a similar manner.[6]

In 1987, he composed for Dragon Quest II. Music from the first two Dragon Quest games was performed by one of first game music concerts, "Family Classic Concert". It was arranged and conducted by Sugiyama himself and was performed by the Tokyo String Music Combination Playing Group on August 20, 1987, at Suntory Hall in Tokyo. "Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite" and "Dragon Quest II Symphonic Suite" were performed.[7] He subsequently held eighteen of them all across Japan.[8]

From 1987 to 1990, Sugiyama continued to compose for various other Enix games. In 1991, he introduced a series of video game music concerts, five in all, called the Orchestral Game Concerts, which were performed by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.[9] The performances included over eighteen different video game composers, such as Koji Kondo, Yoko Kanno, Nobuo Uematsu, Keiichi Suzuki, as well as Sugiyama himself. These concerts were held from 1991 to 1996; during this time, Sugiyama composed for other video games and arranged for some of them to be performed in the Orchestral Game Concerts.

In September 1995, Sugiyama composed the Dragon Quest Ballet. It premiered in 1996, and returned in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2002.[2] During those years, he also released several Dragon Quest Symphonic Suites. In late 2004, he finished and released the Dragon Quest VIII soundtrack. In 2005, Sugiyama was holding a series of concerts in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra with music from Dragon Quest VIII, as well as his classic compositions from the past.[10] In August 2005, his music from Dragon Quest was performed live at the European Symphonic Game Music Concert, marking the first time that his music was performed by a live symphonic concert outside of Japan.[11] Sugiyama also composed the score for Dragon Quest X[12] and its expansions, as well as Dragon Quest XI.[13]

Throughout his work Sugiyama repeatedly used motifs to maintain a consistency and nostalgic quality in the different installments. Each of the Dragon Quest games that he worked on included a nearly identical, upbeat theme track titled "Overture". Sugiyama's style of composition has been compared to late Baroque and early Classical period styles.[14]

Sugiyama's non-work related hobbies included photography, traveling, building model ships, collecting old cameras, and reading.[15] He has opened a camera section on his website,[16] and also founded his own record label, SUGI Label, in June 2004.[17] Sugiyama also composed the fanfares for the opening and closing of the gates at the Tokyo and Nakayama Racecourses. He was given the Order of the Rising Sun, 4th Class, by the Japanese government in 2018 before also being named a Person of Cultural Merit by them two years later.[18][19] Sugiyama died from septic shock at the age of 90 on September 30, 2021.[20] A television drama played by actor Ken Yasuda detailing Sugiyama's involvement with Dragon Quest aired on Nippon TV on August 27, 2022.[21]

Political activities and beliefs[edit]

Sugiyama was a Nanjing Massacre denialist, stating that the facts regarding it are "selective in nature". He was one of the signatories on "The Facts", a full-page ad published by The Washington Post on June 14, 2007, which was written by a number of Japanese politicians and academics in response to the passing of United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121, which sought an official apology from the Government of Japan regarding their involvement of using "comfort women", which were women who were used as sexual slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II.[22][23][24] Sugiyama was also a board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.[25]

In 2012, Sugiyama wrote an editorial saying that he thought Japan was in a state of "civil war between Japanese and anti-Japanese". Giving examples, he argued that the Japanese media portrayed acts of patriotism negatively, such as performing the National Anthem of Japan or raising the Japanese flag. In addition, he thought that the demands of the Japanese anti-nuclear movement, which grew following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, to immediately dismantle all nuclear energy facilities without offering any alternative solutions damaged the country's ability to defend itself.[26]

In 2015, Sugiyama made an appearance on the Japanese Culture Channel Sakura television program Hi Izuru Kuni Yori where he was shown agreeing with views shared by Japanese politician Mio Sugita who said there was no need for LGBT education in Japanese schools, as well as dismissing concerns about high suicide rates among the community. Sugiyama added that the lack of children born from LGBT couples was an important topic to discuss, also suggesting that Japan was more empowering to women than South Korea.[27][28] He later recanted his statement by saying that LGBT couples have existed throughout human history and he supported the use of governments to occasionally help them.[29]


Video games[edit]

Year Title Ref.
1985 World Golf [30]
1986 Wingman 2 [4]
Dragon Quest [4]
1987 Dragon Quest II [31]
Jesus [32]
Gandhara: Buddha no Seisen [32]
Animal Land Satsujin Jiken [33]
World Golf II [33]
Wingman Special: Saraba Yume Senshi [33]
1988 Dragon Quest III [31]
1989 Angelus: The Gospel on Evil [32]
Star Command: Kurayami no Shinryakusha [32]
1990 Dragon Quest IV [34]
46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron [35]
World Golf III [33]
1991 Akagawa Jirou no Yuurei Ressha [32]
Jesus 2 [32]
Tetris 2 & BomBliss [32]
1992 Dragon Quest V [31]
Hanjyuku Hero: Aah Sekai yo Hanjuku Nare [32]
E.V.O.: Search for Eden [32]
1993 Monopoly [32]
Torneko's Great Adventure: Mystery Dungeon [32]
1995 Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer [32]
Dragon Quest VI [31]
1996 Shiren the Wanderer GB [32]
1998 Dragon Quest Monsters [33]
1999 Torneko: The Last Hope [32]
2000 Dragon Quest VII [36]
Shiren the Wanderer 2 [32]
2001 Dragon Quest Monsters 2 [33]
2002 Torneko's Great Adventure 3 [33]
2003 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest [33]
Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart [33]
2004 Dragon Quest VIII [37]
2005 Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime [33]
2006 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker [33]
2009 Dragon Quest IX [38]
2010 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 [39]
2011 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3
2012 Dragon Quest X [12]
2015 Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below [40]
2016 Dragon Quest Builders [41]
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 [42]
Dragon Quest Heroes II [43]
2017 Dragon Quest XI [13]
2018 Dragon Quest Builders 2 [44]
2022 Dragon Quest Treasures [45]

Film and television[edit]

Year Title Ref.
1959 The Hit Parade[a] [32]
1967 Skyers 5[a] [32]
1971 Return of Ultraman[a] [32]
1975 Kum-Kum[b] [32]
1976 Machine Hayabusa[b] [32]
Manga Sekai Mukashi Banashi[c] [46]
1978 Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie [32]
Gatchaman II[d] [47]
1979 Cyborg 009 [32]
Jigoku no Mushi [48]
1980 Space Runaway Ideon [32]
Manga Kotowaza Jiten[b] [49]
Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy [50]
1981 The Sea Prince and the Fire Child [32]
1982 The Ideon: A Contact [32]
The Ideon: Be Invoked [32]
1983 The Yearling [32]
1989 Godzilla vs. Biollante [32]
1991 The Voyage of Little Sindbad [51]
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai [32]
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - The Great Adventure of Dai [52]
1992 Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - Avan's Disciples [52]
Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai - Six Great Generals [52]
2019 Dragon Quest: Your Story [53]


  1. ^ a b c Opening theme only
  2. ^ a b c Opening theme and ending theme
  3. ^ Second opening theme and second ending theme
  4. ^ Opening theme, ending theme, and insert songs
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