The Red & White Idol Show
One of the groups that helped dissipate the winter blues at the last Hyper Japan event (see J-Pop Go’s review) was BANZAI JAPAN. This idol outfit are focussed on promoting the culture of Japan as a concept – or as their mission statement declares: “Share the world the appeal and power of Japan”. Their long-term goal is to assemble enough members to represent the 47 prefectures of Japan. In fact, each member is known as an ‘evangelist’, responsible for promoting both Japan and their particular prefecture.
Of their current line-up, seven members made the trip to the UK. All had a very engaging quality about them, keen to speak to people as they wandered the floor at Olympia handing out flyers for their performances. Once they hit the stage, clad in striking colourful kimonos, they presented a combination of energetic idol pop and dizzying choreography.
Taking tunes from their 2017 album Ichi Fuji Ni Taka San Banzai, compositions such as ‘Coordinate To Future’ and ‘Nanairo Parasoru’ present a dynamic quality, while also tossing in some traditional Japanese instrumentation into the mix. At times, Banzai Japan’s material throws a nod to the underground idol scene and there’s something about their approach that seems fresh and more than a little intriguing.
Between performances, the members took time out to chat to J-Pop Go about life in Banzai Japan.
This marks the first visit to the UK for Banzai Japan, how excited are you to be here? Are there particular things about the UK you like?
Julia: Vivienne Westwood!
Mei: This is actually our second time overseas. We went to France in July for the Japan Expo. When we realised that we could come to London, we got very excited! So, we’re very happy to see everybody, especially the people who went to the Paris Expo, to see them here as well. We’re also happy to introduce the beauty of Japan here too.
Fumi:We were overwhelmed by the power of social networking. Because when we were in Paris, we were very surprised by the fact that everyone was tweeting about us! Also if we talked about the culture of France, then the fans starting to retweet us. So this time we try to reach the fans, using the power of social networking.
What is the concept of Banzai Japan?
Shiori: The concept of Banzai Japan is that we are introducing the beauty of Japan through entertainment that we call omotenashi (‘omo’ means hospitality). We like to actually show the good feelings and culture of Japan everywhere in the world.
What, for you as an idol group, is the appeal of idol pop?
Fumi: Banzai Japan’s concept is unique. We want to go beyond the concept of ‘idol group’ with videos and broadcasts or music like rock-style or head-banging or idol. So our music style varies from very idol cute songs to heavy rock.
Banzai Japan started by singing cover versions, but now obviously you do original songs in your lives. Which of these original songs would you recommend to someone who has never heard Banzai Japan before?
Fumi: All of them!
Shiori: ‘Banzai Japan’! Because the lyrics contain a lot of the dialect of the prefectures. Also, the lyrics explain the prefecture culture as well. So this is why ‘Banzai Japan’ Is like the signature song of the group.
What’s the significance of the colours with Banzai Japan?
Sasa: The red and white stripes represent good fortune in Japan. So, on New Year’s Day or a Graduation ceremony or maybe a wedding ceremony, we use the red and white colours to show happiness or good fortune. The kimono is a very Japanese style. If you look at the sleeves of our costumes, they look the same, but they have different patterns. So, the decoration or the accessories have originality you don’t notice at once.
So, this year Banzai Japan won Tokyo Candoll at Japan Expo – and got to the final of Idol Matsuri. You’ve been abroad twice already, what are your objectives for next year?
Hirotaka Abiko (Banzai Japan producer): Definitely next year we’ll try visiting overseas, but we’d love to go to other Asian countries as well, like Singapore and Taipei plus festivals like Idol Matsuri. Being on a European stage is harder because it’s further away. This year we had a chance to visit Singapore, but on that day, we had an audition final. We haven’t decided yet, but we do want to come to Europe again.
How busy is your domestic routine for lives?
Hirotaka Abiko: Almost every day. A very tight schedule, nearly three times a day. Also, we travel a lot.
What is everyone’s favourite thing from their prefecture?
Ayumi: Totoro’s forest! [Saitama]
Julia: Tokyo Disneyland in Chiba!
Maria: Bokujo! [a famous farm in Chiba]
Sasa: I’m from Niigata, so it’s famous for rice!
Mei: I’m from Ishikawa and Kanazawa Station there is listed as one of the best architectural designs in the world. There is also a Ninja Village nearby!
Fumi: My sister Shiori and I are from Yamaguchi, so Hagi Castle is a famous place. Also, the first prime minister of Japan was from this prefecture.
Julia: I like Tsunoshima Island, because the ocean is very clear and there’s many TV shows shot there!
Finally, what is everyone’s favourite idol group?
Ayumi: Shiritsu Ebisu Chugaku!
Julia: Hello! Project!
Sasa: Banzai Japan! (laughs)
Mei: Morning Musume!
J-Pop Go extends its warmest thanks to Hirotaka Abiko, the Cospanic team and the members of Banzai Japan. Thanks also to Shellingford and Kelly-Mae Matt for assistance and additional questions.
Special thanks to Nao.