19-year-old Chennai girl Neerajakshi chats about winning Nodojiman – The World, a music competition held in Japan for non-native singers

She’s called Neerajakshi by family and friends. In the online world though, she prefers the name ‘Yami’.

It’s the name she used when she attempted voice-overs for an online Japanese voice-acting group. That was in 2015, a little after she discovered a passion for the Japanese language. Today, Neerajakshi Sunder Rajan — a 19-year-old who is currently undergoing articleship at a chartered accountancy firm — is the first Indian to have won top honours at Nodojiman – The World, a competition in which contestants from various countries are invited to sing Japanese pop songs.

It’s show time

Her first tryst with the Japanese world started when she was very young, when she used to follow anime (a style of film and television animation). “Initially, my sister and I used to watch them just for fun,” recalls Neerajakshi, “They were quite entertaining.” Slowly, the siblings got obsessed with the themes and characters in the shows. “Naruto and Cardcaptor Sakura were two of my favourites,” she smiles.

It soon became dinner-time discussion for Neeraja and her sister Sindhuja. They even started picking up bits and pieces of the language. “We loved interacting in Japanese… from whatever we picked up from these shows,” she recalls, “Of course, back then, we didn’t know if we were speaking it the right way.”

Tune in

It was early this year, after she’d completed her CA inter, that she came across an online post about a Japanese singing competition called Nodojiman – The World. A trained Carnatic musician herself (her father, Delhi P Sunder Rajan, is a renowned violinist), she checked out a few pop songs and picked them up surprisingly well. “I submitted three songs as audio files and forgot all about it,” she says. But an e-mail came soon, requesting her to send videos of her singing. “I then came to know the magnitude of this competition and that there were more than 20,000 applicants from all over the world.”

In a few weeks came another mail from the organisers, that took Neerajakshi by surprise. She was not only chosen for the competition — which meant an all-paid trip to Japan — but was also the only Indian in the event that had contestants from USA, Belgium, Norway and the Philippines, among others.



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