Oubaitori Life · Pop Culture and Japan

Oubaitori Life: Johnny Silverhand

Learning about Japanese philosophy is a great way to discover new life lessons and apply them to daily routines. Oubaitori Life examines the Japanese concepts that fictional characters apply to their routines and an interesting character to focus on is Johnny Silverhand from the Cyberpunk franchise.

A soldier turned anti-establishment rockstar and freedom fighter, Silverhand surrounded himself with Japanese concepts on a regular basis. 


As the lead singer of the band Samurai, Johnny spewed rebellious lyrics to as many people as he could find to listen to him. His message was about exposing the corruption and greed of megacorporations like Arasaka. Samurai’s sound was gritty, unrefined, raw and authentic. 

This authenticity is reflected in the concept of shizen. Translating to ‘nature,’ shizen encompasses human nature and the connection that people have to the wilderness. It’s about being natural in every situation and Johnny never had a problem with wearing his heart on his sleeve. He was real through and through.


Fukinsei refers to the act of irregularity and asymmetry. It’s the idea of controlling balance in the composition of art and music. 

Silverhand certainly applied fukinsei to his music, delivering songs that were filled with passion and an unfiltered love of life. An example is the song ‘Never Fade Away’, which refers to an intense relationship filled with contradictions and a tragic ending. 

Samurai also had plenty of irregularity in their performances, but the band always delivered on what they said they were going to do.


After going to war and seeing everyday people crushed beneath corporate greed, Silverhand vowed to live a lifestyle outside of normal conventions. He preached a ‘down with the machine’ message and embodied it in his aesthetic. From his clothes to the way he walked, everything about the rockerboy’s appearance represented a fuck you to the establishment.

This way of living meets the tenants of datsuzoku. This concept represents freedom from habit or formula. It’s escaping from ordinary routine, being spontaneous and transcending normality. 


For all of his swagger and violence, Silverhand would have moments where he needed to step away from Samurai and the image he’d created for himself. He’d need to say goodbye to Johnny Silverhand for a while and become Robert John Linder again.

Seijaku is a concept that would help him do this. Described as an energised calm, it’s finding tranquillity in a certain place or moment. While seijaku is traditionally associated with silence, Johnny would find his own meaning. 

It might involve him spending time alone strumming his guitar or smoking a cigarette on a rooftop and simply taking in the sight of Night City. 

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