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Casiopea/Casiopea 3rd
OriginTokyo, Japan
GenresJazz fusion
Years active1976–1988, 1990-2006, 2012–present
Associated actsJimsaku, Ottottrio, T-Square
MembersIssei Noro
Kiyomi Otaka
Yoshihiro Naruse
Akira Jimbo
Past membersHidehiko Koike
Tohru Suzuki
Minoru Mukaiya
Tetsuo Sakurai
Takashi Sasaki
Masaaki Hiyama
Noriaki Kumagai

Casiopea, also known as Casiopea 3rd (カシオペア, Kashiopea, derived from the name of the constellation Cassiopeia), is a Japanese jazz fusion band formed in 1976 by guitarist Issei Noro, bassist Tetsuo Sakurai, drummer Tohru Suzuki, and pianist Hidehiko Koike. In 1977, keyboardist Minoru Mukaiya and drummer Takashi Sasaki joined, replacing Koike and Suzuki. They recorded their debut album Casiopea (1979) with guest appearances by American jazz musicians Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, and David Sanborn. In 1980, Sasaki was replaced by Akira Jimbo. Casiopea has released over 30 albums in Japan and around the world.


Pre-Casiopea & Casiopea 1st (1976–1989)[edit]

The band's earliest appearance was at the "YAMAHA EastWest '76" concert, featuring Issei Noro, Tetsuo Sakurai, Hidehiko Koike, and Tohru Suzuki. The band received its first official formation when Takashi Sasaki replaced Suzuki on Drums and Minoru Mukaiya replaced Koike on Keyboards in 1977. They would re-appear in the "YAMAHA EastWest '77" concert at this time. The first label to sign them was Alfa Records, which released their album Casiopea, which was recorded from late 1978 to early 1979. They would also release the album Super Flight later that same year. Akira Jimbo joined the band in early 1980, replacing Sasaki on Drums and marking the first long-term (and most famous) line-up of Casiopea. "Galactic Funk" appeared on their 1981 album Cross Point (1981) with ten different versions recorded both live and in studio. The album Eyes of the Mind was released in the United States in 1981. They then released Mint Jams (1982), followed during the same year by 4x4, which was recorded with Lee Ritenour, Harvey Mason, Nathan East, and Don Grusin. The band's first overseas concert was in the United Kingdom in 1983. The band has toured Europe, South America, Australia, and Southeast Asia. In 1987, Casiopea signed to Polydor. In later 1989, Akira Jimbo and Tetsuo Sakurai, who played drums and bass, respectively, as part of the first "Classic Lineup" of Casiopea, left the band after years of musical differences. They formed the duo Jimsaku in 1990.

Casiopea 2nd (1990–2006)[edit]

With only Issei Noro and Minoru Mukaiya remaining from the original Casiopea lineup, bassist Yoshihiro Naruse and drummer Masaaki Hiyama joined the band, replacing Tetsuo Sakurai and Akira Jimbo. Casiopea then signed to Pioneer. In 1993, Noriaki Kumagai replaced Hiyama, and a year later the band returned to the Alfa label, then to Pony Canyon. In 1997, Jimbo returned as a part-time member, recording more albums and writing compositions.

In 2000, the band again signed to Pioneer, who would release their 20th Anniversary album (featuring Noro, Mukaiya, Jimbo and Naruse, with returning members consisting of Kumagai, Koike, and Sakurai). Four years later Pioneer changed its name to Geneon Entertainment. On August 1, 2006, Issei Noro, the group's leader, decided to freeze all activities of the band until further notice.[1] In 2007, Noro and Jimbo formed the fusion band Inspirit.

In January 2009, Casiopea participated in the album Tetsudou Seminar Ongakuhen, based on Minoru Mukaiya's Train Simulator video games.

On May 27, 2009, a limited-edition box set, Legend of Casiopea, was released to commemorate the band's thirtieth anniversary.

Casiopea 3rd (2012–present)[edit]

On April 20, 2012, it was announced that Casiopea would return with Kiyomi Otaka on keyboards, replacing Minoru Mukaiya, who led his own music production team Mukaiya Club.

During the 2010 decade Casiopea 3rd resumed album releases, and both Casiopea 3rd and Inspirits held a joint concert as a result of having a common bandleader in Issei Noro.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Issei Noro released a song thanking all those on the frontlines.

Signature songs[edit]


In Japanese, "Asayake" means "Morning Glow". The song was first recorded for their second album, Super Flight (1979), then re-released on their fourth album, Eyes of the Mind in 1981, and live for Mint Jams in 1982. The "Mint Jams" version is a regular favorite, and is often played as an encore number or last number. With the bridge of the song having long notes, the lead guitarist (Issei Noro) has a free hand, to pump his fist for the next 1 and a half-measure of the song. The intro of this song consists often of a Rhythm-Guitar Riff. The 1995 J-Pop/Rap song, "Asayake" by Yuki Mori and MC Gaku samples the Intro Guitar riff from Casiopea's "Asayake" extensively.

Domino Line[edit]

The first recording of "Domino Line" was in Cross Point from 1981. Then it was performed for Mint Jams in a different arrangement. The Mint Jams version includes a part where each instrument plays a note or chord, then is followed by another in the next 16th Note, usually in this order: Drums, guitar, bass, keyboard. On Mint Jams, this builds up to a technical and relatively long bass solo, followed by a drum solo. On the Asian Dreamer version from 1994, this break is modified to be played in different chords, times, tempos, etc. On Tetsuo Sakurai's arrangement from "My Dear Musiclife", the song is further modified, adding a Saxophone solo.

Galactic Funk[edit]

Like "Domino Line," the first recording of "Galactic Funk" was also in Cross Point, featuring solos from guitarist Issei Noro and keyboardist Minoru Mukaiya, then bassist Tetsuo Sakurai and drummer Akira Jimbo trading solos. The song was recorded again with guitarist Lee Ritenour, pianist Dave Grusin, drummer Harvey Mason and bassist Nathan East for the 1982 album 4x4 (Four by Four), with both guitarists trading solos, both keyboardists trading solos, and a trade between the bassists and drummers collectively.

Space Road[edit]

This song was first recorded on Casiopea's debut Self-Titled Album, Casiopea (1979). This song is known for its Main Theme, which is repeated 4 times but modulated to an upper Minor-3rd each time. This song is usually played at the Early-to-Middle of their Live Concerts. The Live versions often include a break in which the Guitarist, Keyboardist, and Bassist play the same solo over the Chords from the Intro.

Black Joke[edit]

Like "Space Road", this song was included in Casiopea. Intro and ending of this song includes a lot of 16th-note-triplets in impressive unison phrases, and song to symbolize their technical aspects.

Eyes of the Mind[edit]

The first version of this song was included in Make Up City as "Eyes of Mind". Then, the song was re-released on its own album, Eyes of the Mind.

Offshoot bands[edit]


In 1987, T-Square members Masahiro Andoh (guitarist) and Hiroyuki Noritake (drummer), Issei Noro and current KORENOS guitarist Hirokuni Korekata created a supergroup called Ottottrio. With a backing band composed by keyboardists Chizuko Yoshihiro and Shotoku Sasaji, and bassist Chiharu Mikuzuki, the group released 3 albums, 2 in 1988 and one called "Triptych" in 1998. In 1989, Ottottrio performed on the joint event "The Super Fusion", with all members of T-Square and Casiopea respectively, as well as Ottottrio's backing players.

Casiopea vs. The Square[edit]

After Ottottrio, the relationship between Casiopea and T-Square continued in 1993, when former T-Square percussionist Kiyohiko Senba played on one of the songs from Casiopea's album "Dramatic", and, a year later, the bands played together an arrangement of The Beatles "Get Back" on a Japanese Broadcast. In 1997, Casiopea, T-Square and Jimsaku played at Tokyo Jam, and in 2003 both groups played (with some of the players replaced), at the event Casiopea vs. The Square itself. More recently they still have somewhat of an alliance, seeing as Casiopea's former drummer Noriaki Kumagai and T-Square's former bassist Mitsuru Sutoh both in group TRIX, and T-Square Sax/EWI player Takeshi Itoh performance with Casiopea's former keyboardist Minoru Mukaiya in 2006.

Synchronized DNA[edit]

In 2005, Akira Jimbo and Hiroyuki Noritake created a Drum Duo called Synchronized DNA, who played in a tour with Casiopea, released as "Casiopea + Sync DNA: 5 Stars Live", and in their last album before hiatus, "Signal".


In 2008, Issei Noro created the band Issei Noro Inspirits, with Akira Jimbo, pianist Kent Ohgiya, keyboardist Ryo Hayashi and bassist Yuji Yajima as members. As of September 8, 2018, they have released five studio albums, one live album, and one live DVD.


In 2009, a director from Tetsuo Sakurai's record company suggested him to make an album for the 30th anniversary of his career, released as My Dear Musiclife. Sakurai accepted his idea but the director asked him to record "Domino Line" in it, as he played that song as Casiopea's Bassist (throughout 1979 to 1990). Sakurai asked the writer of that song, Issei Noro, for permission. Noro answered OK but he said he wouldn't take part in recording. Instead, Noro and Sakurai recorded a new song in Acoustic Arrangement, called "Mirage".

After that, Noro and Sakurai went on a domestic club tour as an acoustic guitar duo, called Pegasus.



  • Issei Noro (1976–2006, 2012–present)
    • The leader of Casiopea and "Issei Noro Inspirits". He has also been part of "Pegasus" with fellow ex-Casiopea bassist Tetsuo Sakurai.


  • Hidehiko Koike (1976–1977)
    • Played with Casiopea in their first small-time gigs, but left the group after Casiopea played in Yamaha's music contest "EastWest '76" due to already being active in other bands. He didn't record an album with Casiopea until his appearance in their 20th Anniversary concert in 1999.
  • Minoru Mukaiya (1977–2006)
    • Although Mukaiya was the replacement of Hidehiko Koike, he is considered Casiopea's original keyboardist, since Koike never recorded an album with the band. Since 1985, Minoru Mukaiya has been the Chief Executive Officer of Ongakukan, a company which was originally for recording equipment, but now makes Videogames (Mostly Train-Simulators). In 1993, A Japanese Macintosh game was released and made by Ongakukan, called "Touch the Music with Casiopea". Most likely, the sound director and music sequencer was Minoru Mukaiya himself. He is currently the producer and founder of Mukaiya Club.
  • Kiyomi Otaka (2012–present)
    • Kiyomi Otaka is the newest, and only female, member of Casiopea, and is one of the two members that had a well-established solo career before joining the group (she's been a solo recording artist since 1998). Unlike Minoru Mukaiya, she originally started as an Organ Player, rather than using Synthesizer Keyboards.


  • Tetsuo Sakurai (1976–1989)
    • Casiopea's original Bassist. He and Akira Jimbo left in 1989 to form the Drum/Bass duo known as Jimsaku (the name is a combination of both member's names, as in "Jimbo and Sakurai".) Also, Tetsuo Sakurai is one-half of the Acoustic Guitar and Bass duo, "Pegasus", alongside guitarist Issei Noro.
  • Yoshihiro Naruse (1990–2006, 2012–present)
    • Known to his fans as "Narucho", he is the other member that have an established solo career before joining the band. There's a story going around that when the first formation of Casiopea (Noro, Sakurai, Mukaiya and Sasaki) showed up to EastWest '77 Naruse was one of the judges at the event. He called for an encore, but the group didn't have another song to play. One of his first solo albums, "Bass Bawl", features Tetsuo Sakurai on a song called "Captain Chaos".


  • Tohru Suzuki (1976-1977)
    • Played during their small-time gigs in Yamaha's "EastWest '76" concert. He left afterwards to record with the band Prism (Japanese band) and was replaced by Takashi Sasaki in 1977, meaning he never recorded an album with the band.
  • Takashi Sasaki (1977–1979)
    • Casiopea's second drummer, though he is considered to be the band's original drummer. He left the group because he was used to playing complicated rhythms, and Casiopea's sound was too smooth for his style.
  • Akira Jimbo (1980–1989, 1997–2006, 2012–present (as Special Support))
    • Casiopea's best known drummer, he was a full-time member from 1980 to 1989, when he and Tetsuo Sakurai left the group to form Jimsaku. He returned in 1997 and stayed almost a decade in Casiopea. Since 2012, he is a special support drummer for the band. Apart from Casiopea, he also plays drums for Issei Noro's backing band Inspirits and for the Nettai Tropical Jazz Big Band.
  • Masaaki Hiyama (1990–1992)
    • Joined the group and replaced Akira Jimbo. He left the band because of medical problems.
  • Noriaki Kumagai (1993–1996)
    • Replaced Masaaki Hiyama and played as a Casiopea member until Akira Jimbo returned to the group. In 2004, he became the drummer for Jazz-Fusion Supergroup TRIX, which features bassist Mitsuru Sutoh (from T-Square), Session Musicians Hiroshi Kubota on keyboard and Takeshi Hirai on Guitar (replaced by electone/piano prodigy Ayaki Saito and guitarist Yuya Komoguchi respectively).
  • Hiroyuki Noritake
    • Support drummer between 2005 and 2006, Noritake was T-Square's first long-term drummer (1986–2005). He and Jimbo met during the event called "Casiopea vs. T-Square" in 2003. They played as "Synchronized DNA" on Casiopea's last album before their 2006-12 Hiatus, Signal.




  1. ^ "Casiopea Web News". CASIOPEA Official Web. August 1, 2006.

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