Matthew Kiichi Heafy of Ibaraki and Trivium fame has teamed up with Z2 Comics and illustrator Half Sumo for a new book called Ibaraki & Friends. The book is a rhyming picture book that explores Japanese folktales and mythologies that inspired Heafy as a child.
"Ibaraki & Friends is a book full of the stories that I grew up with. That Japanese folklore lies at the very root of so many of the amazing stories we have today, whether they're in video games, anime, movies, or songs," said Heafy.
Ibaraki & Friends was designed by Ashley Heafy and tells the tales of such classical Japanese stories as the monkey/man/bird hybrid, Tengu; the eight-headed beast, Yamata no Orochi; and a nine-tailed celestial fox.
"For years, I've researched as many Japanese stories as possible—gotten several of them tattooed on my body—and explored their themes in the songs of Trivium, Ibaraki, and now in Ibaraki & Friends," said Heafy. "It's our hope that in exploring these wonderful stories, that the readers will want to learn more about Japanese culture—then more cultures of the surrounding Asian countries, then spread that willingness to learn about stories from all over the world, inspiring curiosity in the many cultures we share around the planet."
Alongside Ibaraki & Friends comes the Ibaraki & Friends Lullaby CD, a musical compliment of the book that provides soothing, acoustic songs written and performed by Heafy. Both the book and the CD will be out this June, with pre-orders being available here.
For those unfamiliar, Ibaraki is the new band featuring Heafy and Ihsahn, whose debut album Rashomon will be out on May 6. In a recent interview, Heafy revealed that it was Ihsahn's idea for Heafy to tap into his Japanese heritage for the lyrics.
"As we finish all the music, and we started in 2010 and now it's 2022 when we're finally about to release it, I couldn't figure out what the heck to do for the lyrics and I remember saying to Ihsahn one day, I was like 'man, I wish I were Nordic so I could write about Thor and Jormungand,' and he's like 'Matt that's been done,' he's like 'and you have it. Tap into your Japanese side.' It just all opened in my mind. I wrote the lyrics of the entire record within like, two or three days. Wrote it all in the stories of you know, I just referenced Thor and Jormungand. The story of that in Japan is Susanoo fighting Yamata no Orochi, [who's] this eight-headed serpent in the sea. Susanoo is the storm god, essentially the Thor of Japan, and that's already tattooed on my back. I was like 'oh, there's the story. I know this story.'
"So we started writing about that, changed the band name to Ibaraki and made it all about Japanese stories, which then influenced the idea of… I was doing some stuff for AAPI month, Asian American Pacific Islander month for Twitch which is really cool because I was like 'Wow. I've never had Asian peers in metal.' Like, maybe like one or two people, or like Eddie Van Halen was one of the few heroes – him and [Metallica's Kirk Hammett are] like, the half Asians that I knew that I looked up to and I was like, 'I want to make a book that can like show the Asian stories all to everyone and kind of show everybody a little bit about my culture.'
"Because I've always felt weird being like I'm half Japanese, 37 percent Irish, and like a bunch of other mixed stuff, so I never really felt like I fit in somewhere and then to start seeing like 'well I can show them, I can show people the stories of my culture' and hopefully influence others to go 'wow that's where Matt's stories come from. I wonder what this person's stories come from. I don't know what this country has to say about these legends or these lessons in life' and it was this really cool thing that was all from that conversation.
"I remember sitting on the side of my kid's sandbox when Ihsahn said that to me on Facetime he's like 'tap into your Japanese side' and it opened up from there. Now we talk about what he's been up to and I talk about [another Ibaraki record] and talk about what he's been up to. It's all exciting. It's really fun stuff."
Ibaraki will release Rashomon on May 6. Pre-orders are available here, and you can check out their music below.