at 0:56 the bells are playing the main melody.

I hear this type of bell a lot in Japanese songs.

What is this instrument called ?

  • Although not Japanese, it sounds like gamelan to me. – user48353 Feb 17 '19 at 4:14

I'm Japanese and I don't think this sound "Japanese bell", at least it's not a Japanese traditional instruments.

Some articles regarding Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence or YMO says that the sound is made from sampled wine glass sound from E-mu Emulator. E-mu Emulator was released in 1981, and the film, 1983. It's reasonable that he used one of his newest synth.

(Here's the article, although written in Japanese : https://www.miroc.co.jp/antenna/antenna-headline/takeshi_fujii/ )

He says that he want the song to belong to nowhere, neither Europe, nor Asia. That would be why he used the sampler instead of any traditional instrument.

  • this sounds pretty convincing to me. – Albrecht Hügli Sep 22 '19 at 8:33

I've found some information about Sakomoto, that says that he came from electro-pop and tells about his co-operation with David Bowie:

Sakamoto began his career while at university in the 1970s as a session musician, producer, and arranger. His first major success came in 1978 as co-founder of YMO. He concurrently pursued a solo career, releasing the experimental electronic fusion album Thousand Knives in 1978. Two years later, he released the album B-2 Unit. It included the track "Riot in Lagos", which was significant in the development of electro and hip hop music.[2][3][4] He went on to produce more solo records, and collaborate with many international artists, David Sylvian, Carsten Nicolai, Youssou N'Dour, and Fennesz among them. Sakamoto composed music for the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and his composition "Energy Flow" (1999) was the first instrumental number-one single in Japan's Oricon charts history.[5]

As a film-score composer, Sakamoto has won an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and 2 Golden Globe Awards.[6] Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) marked his debut as both an actor and a film-score composer; its main theme was adapted into the single "Forbidden Colours" which became an international hit. His most successful work as a film composer was The Last Emperor (1987),[7] after which he continued earning accolades composing for films such as The Sheltering Sky (1990), Little Buddha (1993), and The Revenant (2015). On occasion, Sakamoto has also worked as a composer and a scenario writer on anime and video games. In 2009, he was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Ministry of Culture of France for his contributions to music.[8]


I had in the 80ies also diverses synthesizers with samplings and the arguments of Yuta are quite convincing to me!

watch and listen: Min 2'

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