The Mysterious Demise Of Taiji
THE MYSTERIOUS DEMISE OF TAIJI
By Frederick J. Mayer
and Byron Thigpen
On July 15, 2011, at 11 AM, the influential Japanese bass player and songwriter Sawada Taiji (better known simply as “Taiji”) died within the Intensive Care Unit of the Commonwealth Health Center from complications caused by an alleged attempted suicide in the United States Commonwealth of Saipan. The front man of the famed X-Japan (the band in which Taiji first gained major notoriety) Yoshiki said upon hearing the news, “The news of Taiji’s death has left me speechless. I don’t know how to cope with the loss yet."
Originally, the loss of Taiji was greeted as just another tragic end to a talented, outrageous, free-wheeling, out-of-control rock star who took his own life in the same manner as one of his former X-Japan band mates, the gifted and extremely popular lead guitarist Hideto “Hide” Matsumoto, who hanged himself. However, as more details come to light, the story of Taiji and his demise turns out not to be so simplistic.
Sawada Taiji was born in Japan on July 12, 1966 and, by 1982, he was a high school dropout. The ever rebellious musical prodigy soon after created his first band Trash.
At the end of 1986, Taiji became an official member of X (by 2008, renamed X-Japan). In 1992, He left the band
because, according to the official press release, he had “musical differences” with the group. However, in Taiji’s autobiography Uchuu o Kakeru Tomo e: Densetsu no Bando X no Sei to Shi he says that, in truth, he was asked to leave because he confronted Yoshiki about the substantial income gap between Yoshiki and the other band members..
In 1994, Taiji formed D.T.R. (“Dirty Trash Road”), but, in 1995, the band was put on hold as he went through “personal problems” including getting divorced from his wife, who he married in 1989. At this time, he became homeless. Financial problems would be a constant companion throughout his life. The group became active again in 2006 with a slightly different line-up.
Taiji’s Blog’s staff announced in December, 2008, that since September of that year, his epilepsy and chronic strokes had worsen.
Taiji was officially welcomed back to X-Japan in August, 2010, with the former bad blood between them gone. And, Taiji happily had a fiancé. He was well on his way to a fabulous comeback. Then, that November, the “mysterious’ KT entered the picture.
KT eventually convinces Taiji to have her as his exclusive manager/agent. It is never really clear to anyone how KT was able to so completely take over Taiji and his activities. She is the head of You’nz Productions and represents the Mariana Film Studio in Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan. KT’s husband holds the management rights to the Mariana Film Studio and he is currently the president of Mariana Resort and Spa Hotel which is one of the largest hotels in Saipan. KT has been consistently suspected of having, but never legally proven, ties with the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia).
By 2011, KT had total control over Taiji’s affairs and had successfully isolated him
from his past associates. She maintained his cell phone because it allowed her to screen any negative contacts from him; this is not an unusual action performed by an artist’s manager. She had booked him into performing in a small izakaya pub in Saipan, where he played solo on an acoustic guitar. He received no pay for four months and, with a credit card given him by KT, Taiji becomes deeply in debt. By July he and his fiancé are bankrupt.
On July 11, Taiji reluctantly returns to Saipan. He strongly resists returning and becomes quite unhappy with KT. This is when Shinsho steps into the scene. Shinsho is a type of guru, “Life consultant”, who claims to be able to heal large numbers of people without even touching them. He has a large worldwide cult following and he often appears on Taiji’s Blog. Shinsho convinces Taiji to go back to Saipan.
The now deeply in debt and reduced to playing in a small Saipan dive, Taiji is in a very unpleasant state of mind as he embarks on Delta Air Lines flight 298. As the flight is about to descend, a crew member in the commercial class hears a loud argument going on in the business class. Upon entering, she finds Taiji arguing with KT. Suddenly, Taiji starts behaving irrationally and physical, interfering with the crew member’s work. There is a female passenger who has wrapped her arms about Taiji, but he continues to violently kick and scream. After awhile, the captain of the flight is called in and Taiji has to be forcefully restrained. When the plane finally lands, Taiji is arrested and put into detention. The general details about what happened were later confirmed by the arresting FBI agent Mary Goff. Taiji, when he exits the aircraft, never gives an explanation for his behavior. According to some physicians, this kind of behavior is very similar to someone experiencing a minor epileptic fit.
Taiji did, earlier, call his fiancé and told her that he loved her and that he was going to quit working in Saipan and working for KT. He would go to work in her father’s music production company. Federal Prosecutor James Benedetto moved for a detention hearing and the court set the bail amount at $2,500, as well as, appointing Mark Hanson as his defense attorney. KT refused to pay the bail for Taiji. It is interesting to note that at this particular time KT deleted Taiji’s Blog site.
On July 12, Taiji’s birthday, it is reported that he was found hanging by his bed sheet in his cell. Police Commissioner Ramon Mafnas stated that Taiji was taken to the Commonwealth Heath Center’s intensive care unit, but he declined to provide any other details. Taiji was alive, but brain dead and in a coma. Interesting that KT, who had seen Taiji in the holding cell, used his cell phone at this time to send messages and mail to others in such a manner that it made seem that he was conscious and healthy.
Between July 13-14, Shinsho seemed to attempt to play down the whole incident by calling Taiji’s fiancé and suggested that they tell the press that Taiji was taking sleeping pills and alcohol to deal with his depression and that, in turn, caused his wild behavior and got him arrested. The fiancé had no idea that Taiji was depressed and felt that he was happy and looking forward to the future.
On July 15, Taiji’s fiancé and his long estranged parents arrived in Saipan. KT and Shinsho arrange it so that they stayed in different hotels and they didn’t meet each other until they both arrived at the hospital. All the information concerning Taiji is conveyed to them by KT. At long last, the mother and fiancé decide to end Taiji’s life support system. The body, or what’s left of it, has yet to be sent back to Japan. It has been cremated, by whose instructions it isn’t clear yet, only that it wasn’t the parents or his fiancé.
As this is written, there has been no definitive account of what happened to Taiji in his holding cell. Taiji’s defense lawyer Hanson said, in the documents he filed in the Northern Marianas District Court, that Taiji was “upset with himself” over his behavior. Ironically, Taiji’s death was announced to the court by U.S. Attorney Alicia A.G. Limtiaco, who had originally gone there to file a request for the dismissal of all Federal charges against Sawada Taiji.
In the end, it is no longer a clear case of a wild, uncontrollable rocker doing himself in because of some perverse passion or desire. The true How or Why of the epileptic Taiji’s demise is still in question. May the eventual truth be not speechless.