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Members of Japanese rock band URBANGARDE accepted the invitation of a Nagano hospital to perform for patients in the psychiatric ward and nursing home on August 21. Vocalist Yoko Hamasaki and keyboardist Kei Ohkubo performed songs requested by the patients plus some of URBANGARDE’s original songs.

One of the doctors explained, “The world of URBANGARDE is closely related to the field of psychiatry.” URBANGARDE eagerly accepted the invitation, but it was the first time the members had actually visited the institution, so both the doctors and performers were eager to see the result. “Normally, only families of the patients could visit the closed ward,” the doctor continued, “so this was a special opportunity to inspire creativity.”

Performing for over 100 patients and staff, Yoko and Kei received a warm response from the audience, many suffering from severe mental disorders and severe dementia. The visit was featured in the local newspaper Nagano Nippou.

Yoko commented, “I used to do volunteer visits to hospitals and nursing homes with my chanson teacher before I joined URBANGARDE, so this visit felt like an opportunity to go back to my original point. It was my first time to go into a closed psychiatric ward, and I was a little nervous about the patients’ reaction. Once I started singing, everyone was so focused and gave lots of applause so I was very moved. The doctors and nurses told me that it was their first time seeing the patients concentrate that much and it was impressive, and that some were crying. The people at the nursing home knew some of the songs, and they enjoyed the music as singing along and clapping their hands. I was happy that they welcomed us.

“Many of URBANGARDE’s lyrics are related to psychiatry,” said Kei, “but personally I had never had a chance to interact with patients with severe cases. During this visit, I heard about many things like current treatments and I actually interacted with the patients. It made me realize that psychiatry is not understood correctly by the general crowd. I’d like to help if there is something I can do in the future.”

The doctors expressed their gratitude to the band members after the concert. “I’m very thankful that they visited the hospital and nursing home. Seeing the patients who can never sit still because of their conditions not move at all for 40 minutes while smiling and listening to music was a very emotional sight for the medical staff. I’m sure that this was a rare, precious, important experience for them as well. It made me realize the power of music.”

Yoko added a final thought. “I appreciated this opportunity to visit here as a member of URBANGARDE, and I hope to continue this type of activity. To everyone at the psychiatric hospital in Nagano, thank you for giving us this opportunity and this precious experience.”

URBANGARDE recently made their American concert debut at this past June at A-Kon 2015 in Dallas, Texas, following the release of their disturbing single, Coin Locker Babies. URBANGARDE present UTSU FES (“Depression Festival”) 2015 in September 4 and 5 at Tsutaya O-East in Tokyo, featuring guests PASSPO☆ and NO GOD.

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