Koichi Sugiyama

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Koichi Sugiyama
すぎやま こういち
Kohichi Sugiyama 2011-06-30.jpg
Background information
Birth name椙山 浩一
Born (1931-04-11) April 11, 1931 (age 89)
Tokyo, Japan
  • Composer
  • conductor
  • orchestrator
Years active1958–present
LabelsSUGI Label
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. Sugiyama is known for composing the music for the Dragon Quest video game series, along with several other games, anime, film, and television shows. Classically trained, Sugiyama is considered a major inspiration for other Japanese game music composers.[1]

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. In 2020, he was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government. Sugiyama is also a political activist whose nationalistic views have been met with criticism.


Early life and television career[edit]

Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan on April 11, 1931. 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]

He attended the University of Tokyo and graduated with full honours 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 and had quit directing and concentrated 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.

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.[3] His classical score for the game was considered revolutionary for console video game music.[4]

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, hundreds of which have been organized in a similar manner.[5]

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.[6] Sugiyama has since held 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 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.[9] 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.[10] Sugiyama also composed the score for Dragon Quest X and its expansions, as well as Dragon Quest XI.

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. In 2020, he was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government.[14]

Musical style[edit]

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.

Political activities and beliefs[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.[15][16][17]

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 alternate solutions damaged the country's ability to defend itself.[18]

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 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 LGBT couples was an important topic to discuss, also suggesting that Japan was more empowering to women than South Korea.[19][20] He later recanted his statement by saying that LGBT couples have existed throughout human history and he supports the use of governments to occasionally help them.[21]

He is also a board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.[22]


Video games[edit]

Year Title Ref.
1985 World Golf [23]
1986 Wingman 2 [3]
Dragon Quest [3]
1987 Dragon Quest II [24]
Jesus [25]
Gandhara: Buddha no Seisen [25]
Animal Land Satsujin Jiken [26]
World Golf II [26]
Wingman Special: Saraba Yume Senshi [26]
1988 Dragon Quest III [24]
1989 Angelus: The Gospel on Evil [25]
Star Command: Kurayami no Shinryakusha [25]
1990 Dragon Quest IV [27]
46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron [28]
World Golf III [26]
1991 Akagawa Jirou no Yuurei Ressha [25]
Jesus 2 [25]
Tetris 2 & BomBliss [25]
1992 Dragon Quest V [24]
Hanjyuku Hero: Aah Sekai yo Hanjuku Nare [25]
E.V.O.: Search for Eden [25]
1993 Monopoly [25]
Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon [25]
1995 Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer [25]
Dragon Quest VI [24]
1998 Dragon Quest Monsters [26]
1999 Torneko: The Last Hope [25]
2000 Dragon Quest VII [29]
Shiren the Wanderer 2 [25]
2001 Dragon Quest Monsters 2 [26]
Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibouken 2 Advance [26]
2002 Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko no Daibouken 3 [26]
2003 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest [26]
Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart [26]
2004 Dragon Quest VIII [30]
2005 Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime [26]
2006 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker [26]
2009 Dragon Quest Wars [31]
Dragon Quest IX [32]
2010 Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
2011 Slime Mori Mori Dragon Quest 3
2012 Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry's Wonderland 3D
Dragon Quest X [33]
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 [34]
2016 Dragon Quest Builders [35]
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 [36]
Dragon Quest Heroes II [37]
2017 Dragon Quest XI [38]
2018 Dragon Quest Builders 2 [39]
2020 Dragon Quest Tact [40]

Film and television[edit]

Year Title Ref.
1967 Skyers 5[a] [25]
1971 The Return for Ultraman[a] [25]
1976 Machine Hayabusa[a] [25]
1978 Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie [25]
1979 Cyborg 009 [25]
Jigoku no Mushi [41]
1980 Space Runaway Ideon [25]
Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy [42]
1981 The Sea Prince and the Fire Child [25]
1983 The Yearling [25]
1989 Godzilla vs. Biollante [25]
1991 Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai [25]
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 [43]



  1. ^ a b c Opening theme only


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