Koichi Sugiyama

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Koichi Sugiyama
Kohichi Sugiyama 2011-06-30.jpg
Background information
Native name
すぎやま こういち
Birth name椙山 浩一
Born (1931-04-11) April 11, 1931 (age 88)
Tokyo, Japan
  • Composer
  • arranger
  • conductor
  • orchestrator
Years active1958–present
Associated actsHayato Matsuo

Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやま こういち, Sugiyama Kōichi, born April 11, 1931) is a Japanese composer, conductor, and orchestrator. He is 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. Sugiyama is best known for composing the music for the Dragon Quest video game series, which is published by Square Enix, along with several other Japanese anime, film, and television shows. A classically trained conductor, Sugiyama is considered a major inspiration for other Japanese game music composers, such as Nobuo Uematsu, who cited him as the "big boss of game music".[1] Sugiyama has also been involved in political activism, where his views on topics such as the Nanjing Massacre, Japanese nationalism, and the LGBT community, have been seen as controversial.


Early life and television career[edit]

Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan. While growing up, Sugiyama's home was filled with music, which ultimately inspired his passion. In high school, he began to recognize his passion, and wrote various small musical works.[2]

After graduating from the University of Tokyo with full honours in 1958, he went into the reporting and entertainment sections of cultural broadcasting.[2] In addition, he joined the Fuji Telecasting Co. as a director. In 1965, he left the telecasting company as a freelance director, and in 1968, he quit directing and concentrated solely on musical composition and orchestration.[2]

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sugiyama composed for musicals, commercials, pop artists, and for 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.

Video games and Dragon Quest[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 Enix was the 1985 game World Golf. In 1986, he composed for his first major project, Dragon Quest, for the Famicom. Dragon Quest would become the series he was most known for. Sugiyama says it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme.[3] His classical score for the game was considered revolutionary for console video game music.[4]

Sugiyama was the first video game composer to record his video game music 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, hundreds of which have been organized in a similar manner.[5]

In 1987, he composed for Dragon Quest II, and then held the very first video game music concert in history. "Family Classic Concert" was arranged and conducted by Sugiyama himself. It was performed by the Tokyo String Music Combination Playing Group on August 20, 1987 at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan. "Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite" and "Dragon Quest II Symphonic Suite" were performed.[6] The "Family Classic Concerts" have always had excellent turn outs; since then, Sugiyama has held over eighteen of them all across Japan.[7]

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.[8] 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 the Symphonic Suites for the Dragon Quest games he had worked on thus far. In late 2004, he finished and released the Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King soundtrack, and conducted the Dragon Quest VIII Symphonic Suite in 2005.

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.[9] In August 2005, his music from Dragon Quest was performed live at the European Symphonic Game Music Concert. There, for the first time, his music was presented in a live symphonic concert outside Japan.[10] Sugiyama returned once again to compose the music for Dragon Quest X, and its expansions Nemureru Yuusha to Michibiki no Meiyuu Online and Inishie no Ryuu no Denshou Online.

Sugiyama's non-work related hobbies include photography, traveling, building model ships,[11] collecting old cameras, and reading. He has opened a camera section on his website,[12] and he also has his own record label "SUGI Label" which he started on June 23, 2004.[13] Sugiyama also has completed other projects, such as the fanfares for the opening and closing of the gates in the Tokyo Race Track and the Nakayama Race Track.


Throughout Sugiyama's works, motifs repeat themselves to maintain a consistency and nostalgic quality in the different installments. This is especially true for the Dragon Quest series. Each of the games include a nearly identical, upbeat theme song titled "Overture." In addition, Dragon Quest III-IX include a simple, casual tune on the saved game selection screen titled "Intermezzo."

Sugiyama's style of composition has been compared to late Baroque and early Classical period styles. Composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Mahler, and George Frideric Handel are some of his inspirations, along with the type of melodic styles heard during the mid-20th century of American cinema. The influence of Arnold Schoenberg can also be heard in some of his more experimental compositions, notably starting from Dragon Quest IV.

Political activities and controversy[edit]

Sugiyama is 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.[14][15][16]

In 2012, Sugiyama wrote an editorial where he thought that 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.[17]

In 2015, Sugiyama made an appearance on the Japanese Culture Channel Sakura television program Hi Izuru Kuni Yori in which he was shown agreeing with views shared by Japanese politician Mio Sugita who claimed 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 homosexual couples was an important topic to discuss, also suggesting that Japan was more empowering to women than South Korea.[18][19]


Film and television[edit]

Year Title
1967 Skyers 5[a]
1971 The Return for Ultraman[a]
1976 Machine Hayabusa[a]
1978 Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie
1979 Cyborg 009
Jigoku no Mushi
1980 Space Runaway Ideon
Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy
1981 The Sea Prince and the Fire Child
1983 The Yearling
1989 Godzilla vs. Biollante
1991 Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai
1992 Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken Tachiagare!! Aban no Shito
Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken Buchiya bure!! Shinsei Rokudai Shoguo
2019 Dragon Quest: Your Story[20]

Video games[edit]

Year Title
1985 World Golf
1986 Wingman 2
Dragon Quest
1987 Dragon Quest II
Jesus: Kyōfu no Bio Monster
Gandhara: Buddha no Seisen
Animal Land Satsujin Jiken
World Golf II
Wingman Special: Saraba Yume Senshi
1988 Dragon Quest III
1989 Angelus: The Gospel on Evil
Star Command: Kurayami no Shinryakusha
1990 Dragon Quest IV
46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron
World Golf III
1991 Akagawa Jirou no Yuurei Ressha
Jesus 2
Tetris 2 & BomBliss
1992 Dragon Quest V
Hanjyuku Hero: Aah Sekai yo Hanjuku Nare
E.V.O.: Search for Eden
1993 Monopoly
Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon
1995 Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
Dragon Quest VI
1998 Dragon Quest Monsters
1999 Torneko: The Last Hope
2000 Dragon Quest VII
2001 Dragon Quest Monsters 2
Derby Stallion 64
Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibouken 2 Advance
2002 Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibouken 3
2003 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest
Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart
2004 Dragon Quest VIII
2005 Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
2006 Dragon Quest: Shounen Yangus to Fushigi no Dungeon[b]
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker
2009 Dragon Quest Wars
Dragon Quest IX
2010 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
2011 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3
2012 Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland 3D
Dragon Quest X
2014 Dragon Quest Monsters 2: Iru and Luca's Marvelous Mysterious Key
2015 Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below
2016 Dragon Quest Builders
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3
Dragon Quest Heroes II
2017 Dragon Quest XI
2018 Dragon Quest Builders 2



  1. ^ a b c Opening theme only
  2. ^ Co-composed with Hayato Matsuo


  1. ^ Eric Steffens (February 1999). "Nobuo Uematsu interview". Archived from the original on April 24, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Profile". Archived from the original on May 16, 2011.
  3. ^ Gifford, Kevin (February 24, 2010). "Dragon Quest Composer Reflects on 24 Years of Games: Kouichi Sugiyama on Japan's most recognized game music". 1up. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  4. ^ Gifford, Kevin. "The Essential 50 Part 20 – Dragon Warrior". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on January 2, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  5. ^ Patrick Gann. "The "Eight Melodies" Template: How Sugiyama Shaped RPG Soundtracks". RPGFan. Archived from the original on October 16, 2011. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
  6. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Concert index". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  7. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Family Classic Concerts Listing". Archived from the original on November 25, 2016.
  8. ^ "Unofficial Koichi Sugiyama Biography". Archived from the original on October 27, 2009.
  9. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official Concert announcement page". Archived from the original on September 20, 2006.
  10. ^ "Symphonic Game Music Concert Official website". Archived from the original on February 14, 2005.
  11. ^ Nich Maragos (July 20, 2005). "Gaming's Rhapsody: First Movement". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on March 29, 2006.
  12. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official camera page". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  13. ^ "Koichi Sugiyama's Official SUGI Label page". Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  14. ^ "Signatories to the June 14th Washington Post "The Facts" Advertisement – Politicians, Professors, and Journalists" (PDF). July 25, 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 9, 2008.
  15. ^ "ワシントン・ポスト紙に「慰安婦意見広告」― その経緯と波紋 / SAFETY JAPAN [花岡 信昭氏] / 日経BP社". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011.
  16. ^ "The Complex Question". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on August 26, 2009.
  17. ^ Nakamura, Toshi. "This Aged Right-Wing Japanese Composer Is Betting On The Internet Generation". Kotaku. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Loveridge, Lynzee; Sherman, Jennifer. "Square Enix Responds to Dragon Quest Composer's 2015 Anti-LGBTQ Statements". AnimeNewsNetwork. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  19. ^ Hart, Aimee. "Anti-LGBT Dragon Quest Composer Spurs Square Enix Response". Game Revolution. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  20. ^ Antonio Pineda, Rafael. "Dragon Quest: Your Story CG Anime Film Reveals 5 Character Roles". Anime News Network. Retrieved July 28, 2019.

External links[edit]