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櫻井孝昌(Takamasa Sakurai) のJAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN!

#80 Dots, Lines and Shapes! From Amami Songstress to Today’s Leading Idols – Japan Pop Culture Carnival – Part 2

On November 4th 2013, a live event called the “Japan Pop Culture Carnival in Matsudo 2013” (herein JPCC) was held at Mori no Hall 21, in Matsudo, Japan. Following on from last week, I will continue with some of the episodes that took place during this event, which I produced.
For me, 2013 was another year in which I made frequent visits overseas for my work in cultural diplomacy, but this year, I did a lot of travelling up and down Japan as well. Actually, it was probably a year that I spent focusing a lot of my attention on Japan. And one of the most significant events throughout the year would have to be meeting Amami-born singer, Kizuki Minami.

#77 The Potential and Diversity of Japan Resonates Through Amami

One of the main objectives of the Japan Pop Culture Carnival was a live event that represented all of Japan, and for me, as producer of the event, Kizuki Minami’s participation in the event was a must.
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Kizuki Minami.
Kizuki Minami: “When it was my turn to perform, the audience all started slowly waving their blue-colored glow sticks, just like it was the ocean of Amami. It was really touching! I was happy that they were all listening so intently when I played the piano and sang “Aitsumugi” too. I also got to perform with JOYZ, and together, with me singing and playing shamisen, we created an elctro-pop-meets-Amami-sound version of “Ibitsu Warutsu.” (In Amami dialect) I’m really grateful! Even with all the various artists from different genres, performing at an event with such an at-home atmosphere, with such a feeling of unity among the artists and the audience was a first for me! And I feel that this event was able to achieve this because everyone there loved all these different aspects of “Japan pop culture” and they were all there to enjoy the “carnival” spirit.

My roots and the island songs of Amami are important to me, and I want to make new music that represents who I am and share that with the world. At this event I got to experience so many wonderful aspects of Japan pop culture first hand and it renewed in me an appreciation of Japan and all its potential. For me it was an inspiring day and one big step forward.”
Kizuki’s voice is remarkable and I’m sure everyone who heard her sing “Aitsumugi” to her own accompaniment on the piano feels the same. But I didn’t want it to just end there, so that’s why I paid a visit to Amami two months prior to the event. Making new music – ever since meeting Kizuki Minami this is what we’ve always been talking about and the first step in making that happen was a collaboration with electro/acoustic group, JOYZ.

After she saw JOYZ perform with UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI (in what was their third collaboration together) at a live house in Shibuya, Kizuki too proclaimed her eagerness to work with the group. One of JOYZ hit songs is “Ibitsu Warutsu.” It’s a song that really gets the crowd going when performed live and that’s the song that we all, JOYZ, Kizuki and myself, decided to go with for the joint performance. As the producer, I knew that Kizuki’s voice and shamisen fused with this song would produce a big chemical reaction. And after the performance, the reaction from the crowd reverberated through Twitter. I watched the performance from the side of the stage and it was a really pleasing moment.
城南海×JOYZの初コラボ.jpg
Kizuki Minami's first collaboration with JOYZ.
Bellow are the messages that I received from the members of JOYZ after the concert.

Keyossie
“I will never forget the Japanese pop culture festivals that I experienced in the past in America and Europe, but I never thought my dream of actually participating in one would come true and take place here in Japan.
Starting out in Matsudo and slowly making progress each year until one day we’re touring the world – that’s my next dream.”

Hoshino Gainen
“I live and grew up in Japan, but on November 4th 2013, I witessed “the fun and the kawaii side of Japan that other countries see” for the very first time. I don’t know of any other festivals that give you that same perspective. If we continue to build on this it will surely reach people beyond our seas.”
Through this event a line was created joining UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI, JOYZ, and Kizuki Minami. Important dots join together to make important lines. You can then foster those lines to take the form of important shapes. This was also one of things I wanted to achieve as producer of the JPCC. The members of UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI spoke about it in their comments in my article last week, but in trying to realize this goal, during the emcee time as the instruments on stage were being readied in between acts, I had Kizuki Minami join them for a session of “utaashibi.” Utaashibi is a traditional Amami song game, whereby the people involved take turns to sing their own impromptu lyrics in tune to the melody of a shamisen.

#79 Voices of the Idols Fighting on the Frontlines! - Japan Pop Carnival – Part 1
城南海の三味線でアップアップガールズ(仮)が奄美のウタアシビ.jpg
UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI take part in the Amami "utaashibi" with Kizuki Minami on shamisen.
One of the most significant characteristics of Japan in its “diversity.” So we took one aspect of Japan’s fascinating and diverse culture and shared it with UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI, who were basically representatives of the entire audience. I firmly believe that through the mutual keyword “Nippon” (Japan), the line connecting UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI, JOYZ and Kizuki Minami, took the form of an important shape during this event.
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THE Possible.
The JPCC continued and the next to take the stage were UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI’s fellow idols on the frontlines, THE Possible. Of the artists performing in this event, THE Possible were the group I’ve met most recently. Lately I’ve become quite interested in music and I saw them perform in a gig that also featured UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI, but at that time I just remember thinking, ‘I wish I could’ve seen them up close!’ But that’s how I got to meet them and despite the hurried request to perform at the JPCC, THE Possible quite willingly agreed and the crowd loved them.
They played two songs: “Otome! Be Ambitious!” and “Eien Fireball!” THE Possible played on their own this time around, but after witnessing their fiery performance from off-stage, I would love to work with them and create something new in the future too.

Below are the comments I received from the members of THE Possible.
Morozuka Kanami: ‏“I was so happy that the audience and all the artists were brought together as one through song. From here on I want to continue to create songs that become the energy that gets people through to tomorrow.”

Okada Robin Shoko: “I’m thrilled that I got to participate in such an amazing event. We want to reach as many people as possible with our songs and I will continue to strive to do just that!”
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Morozuka Kanami.
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Okada Robin Shoko.
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Akiyama Yurika.
Akiyama Yurika: “I’m so happy that I got to perform on such an amazing stage; it was a real learning experience! Languages might be different but music is universal, so I want to work harder on my singing abilities and try to reach even more people with my music!”

Goto Yuki: “Turning Japanese music into world music!!
Just like with this event, I want to raise people’s awareness of the still little-known Japanese music and continue with my singing so that one-day Japanese music may become desired by people throughout the world!”
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Goto Yuki.
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Hashimoto Mana.
Hosimoto Mana: “I’m so happy that I got to be surrounded by such an array of talented artists and all the different musical genres and perform on such a powerful stage. I hope that music that we make can bring power to people to see them through to tomorrow and into the future!!”
Both UP UP GIRLS kakko KARI and THE Possible are former members of Hello!Pro Egg. In April 2010 I saw ℃-ute perform live, and then in July I was bowled over by Morning Musume in Paris. Until that point, I had considered idols to be of no relation to my work whatsoever. Now, I consider them as allies, helping to spread Japanese culture throughout the world. I often speak of the Japanese idol as a form of traditional performance art, but as I’m reminded of the encounters that have brought me this far, I’m happy with the realizations I have made.
Photographer Mariko Matsubayashi
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A new article every Wednesday!
Next time: Japan Pop Culture Carnival – Part 3: Uesaka Sumire’s collaboration with Urbangarde, and Sapporo’s loco-dols.
JAPAN! JAPAN! JAPAN! - Back Number

Columnist: Sakurai Takamasa

櫻井孝昌.jpgContents Media Producer, author, journalist, managing director of Contents Street Inc. Chief Editor of iPhone magazine “Tokyo Kawaii Magazine” (ASCII Media Works), World Cosplay Summit Executive Advisor, Chief Researcher at Kodansha/Kodansha BC China Management Laboratory.
Cultural diplomat producing events in 103 cities in 24 countries. Books include “Galapagos-ka no susume”(Kodansha), “’Suteru’ de shigoto wa umakuiku”(Diamond-sha), “Nihon wa anime de saiko suru ”(ASCII Shinsho), “Sekai no kawaii kakumei ” (PHP Shinsho), and “Anime bunka gaiko ”(Chikuma Shinsho). Writes regular columns in the weekly magazine “ASCII” and Yomiuri Shimbun.

●twitter http://twitter.com/sakuraitakamasa/

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