Mr. Jimmy @ SXSW – 24 Beats per Minute Section

It has long been held that music has the power to move, excite, advocate, relate, and empower people like no other art form. There is something about the powerful combination of the human voice and musical instruments which contains a power like no other. Think about it…we can all come up with people we know who don’t like art or theatre or film or dance, but everyone likes music.

Music and a deep love it is the jumping off point for this documentary directed by Peter Michael Dowd (The Beautiful Life). Mr. Jimmy is about Akio Sakurai and his love for Led Zeppelin’s guitarist, Jimmy Page. Love might even be too tame a word. Devotion. Obsession. These might more aptly describe Akio’s relationship with the iconic guitarist.

How else would you describe a man who has spent three decades of his life emulating the way his rock hero plays, looks, dresses, and even his hairstyle? Note-for-not Akio has recreated vintage Led Zeppelin concerts under the name Mr. Jimmy.

Living in Tokamachi, Japan options to entertain yourself in the snowy town were limited. As a teenager Aiko would spend hours in his room. It was there he would escape his boring life by putting on headphones and disappearing into music. When he heard Led Zeppelin it was over. They became all to him.

After moving to Tokyo, he worked in a kimono shop by day and at night he became Mr. Jimmy. Taking on the playing style and persona of Jimmy Page. Graduating to playing in small clubs he gained quite a following. As the years advanced he did not lose his passion for his guitar hero. Aiko got married and his wife supported his second career.

Not only emulating his playing style and movements on stage, Aiko even had exact replicas of what Page wore on stage. The exact outfits he wore during particular shows. Whatever shows Aiko and his bandmates were playing note for note on that night. He also bought the exact same guitars and amplifies as Page. Any money he earned went to pay for all this.

It was 2012 when Jimmy Page himself came to watch Aiko play one night when things changed. His wife told him it was time for him to take the leap and move to the United States. So Aiko packed up and moved to Los Angeles. He goes without his wife, who stays behind in Japan.

Culture shock was what greeted him. He did not speak English very well, so there was also a language barrier. In Japan his obsession is understood, but it is completely different in the U.S. No one in his new country seemed to understand why they should play exact replicas of entire shows Led Zepplin had played as much as 40 years ago.

He joins a band called Zepagain. Did not last too long and two years later he quits due to “artistic differences”. Meaning they would not play entire Zeppelin and argued that playing the hits would bring them more gigs and money. He then went on to play in another short lived band. Finally, he became a member of Jason Bonham’s, the son of Zeppelin’s original drummer, band and began touring with them. Aiko also continues to perform as Mr. Jimmy as he did in Tokyo.

Besides giving the viewer a window into Aiko’s devotion it also idicates the differences in culture between the U.S. and Japan. Japanese people see nothing strange or out of the ordinary about Aiko’s behaviour. They are a very detail oriented people, so the exacting nature of Aiko’s act does not seem odd to them. Some even see Aiko as the rebirth of the original.

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