YANAKIKU Interview @ J-POP Summit 2014
Upcoming J-POP duo YANAKIKU recently had a chance to come to San Francisco during the J-POP Summit Festival 2014 as a musical Guest of Honor. Known for their hits, "Pakupaku Kingyo" and "FUJIYAMA△DISCO," the high-energy duet has won the hearts of their fans worldwide through their amazing performance and extravagant kimono cosplay attire. Find out what the pair had to say as we sit down with them for a sit down interview and learn about their unique blend of cosplay fashion and music.
T-ONO: Please introduce yourselves to our readers, and if you could be any animal what would you choose and why?
YANAKIKU: Animal? Hmmmm, wait one moment! Hmmmmm....
Kiku: Okay! My name is Kiku and I grew up in Kagawa prefecture that is famous for sanuki udon. It is very good, and I wish that everyone in the world could try it! Let's see, if I had a chance to become an animal I would become a parrot with cute cheeks.
The reason would be that if anyone was sad and lonely, they could talk to the bird and it would say, "Kiku-chan! Kiku-chan! Kiku-chan!" So that is why I would want to become a parrot.
Yana: Hello, my name is Yana! I was born and grew up in San Francisco's sister city Osaka. If I could choose, I would be not an animal, but a fish if I could! It's because I really like the sea and to swim!
Kiku: Why didn't you pick a dolphin then?
Yana: Okay, okay! I'll pick dolphin!
Kiku: That's "Little" YANAKIKU. Well, she's a bit of a country girl, and in our videos we have a character named Machi Musume which translates to "town girl" or "country girl" that supports YANAKIKU's activities during live shows or when recording music videos. There's a lot of Machi Musume and she's the smallest.
If you watch our YouTube video for "Pakupaku Kingyo," you can see another Machi Musume.
T-ONO: Yesterday was your first time performing in America. What kind of impressions were you hoping to leave with your fans?
YANAKIKU: Yaaaah. Before we came to America, we were honestly really worried about the script and whether or not we would be able to remember the [English] MC because the pronunciation was very hard and we weren't sure if we would be able to do it right but then we got the feeling.
Not only the MC, but we also make the music, the songs and lyrics. We were impressed with the fans when they joined us in doing our movements with us in addition to singing some of the songs. We were originally really worried about singing the songs in Japanese, but were very happy by the end of the day.
Kiku: We may have all been born and live in different places, and it may be hard to communicate with each other, but we can all get together through music.
T-ONO: Have you had a chance to go sightseeing during your time in San Francisco?
Yana: Mmm! We've had a chance to go and have a photoshoot at the Golden Gate Bridge! We also went to Union Square as well as Haight-Ashbury.
T-ONO: What's been the most surprising thing to you about the United States and San Francisco?
YANAKIKU: We were on the subway, which is a normal thing in Japan, but we were really nervous about where we were going to buy the ticket. That being said though, everything was cool and really well designed. So we were like, "this is really cool!"
Yana: When we went to the Golden Gate Bridge, we thought that the view was really beautiful! It was really nice and had a great atmosphere. We ended up walking around a lot on the bridge and took a lot of interesting photos that we would like to show our fans. We wish to go and upload them someday or perhaps we can publish a photo book.
T-ONO: Can you tell us a little bit about how the group was formed?
Yana: We previously knew each other for ten years and then we decided to create some songs. Eventually, we got the idea that we wanted to present both costumes and songs so this we both shared this concept and that was how we ended up creating YANAKIKU.
T-ONO: How about a little bit on why you decided to go with the name YANAKIKU?
YANAKIKU: As you can probably tell, we decided on the group name by combining our names together. Yana is name of the tree and Kiku is the name of the flower, so it's kind of like a botanical name.
T-ONO: You two are wearing very unique and cute costumes. How did you get the idea(s) for them?
Kiku: Thank you! The costume we're wearing was the very first costume that we had. We have different songs for each of our costumes. For example, in "Orihime" we have a princess thinking of a long distance relationship. So we get together and using that concept try to think of a design.
Yesterday, the kimono we wore during the concert was from "Pakupaku Kingyo" so the image was a golden fish. We work with a designer named Nobu and she made all of the costumes.
T-ONO: Following up on that do they come up with the concept then talk to the designer or does the designer come up with the concept by listening to their music?
Kiku: Depends, in the latest one I was there and talked to the designer about ideas, but sometimes the designer says "I have an idea" or vice versa like I want it to be this and that.
T-ONO: Music inspires the costume or costume inspires music?
YANAKIKU: Music inspires the costume.
T-ONO: Yesterday during your performance I noticed you have a very unique dance style, how would you describe it?
YANAKIKU: Like the cosplay, we have our music and our image which is passed on to the choreographer. Sometimes the choreographer suggests moves, but sometimes we suggest that we want to include certain movements to the sequence such as the Ninja hand movement or the mouth of the kingyo (goldfish) with the hands.
T-ONO: Can you teach me some of those moves?
T-ONO: For your Fujiyama Disco music video it received over 20k views on its first week online. Did you expect that?
Yana: We never expected that. We were asleep, we woke up, saw the cell phone message, then went to YouTube and said "wow!"
Kiku: "Oh my goodness (OMG)!" or maybe more like "Oh my Buddha (OMB)!"
T-ONO: So it was a very nice surprise then.
T-ONO: How can your fans follow online?
Yana: www.YANAKIKU.jp Everything is on there and we just renewed a few days ago. Everything instagram, facebook, newsfeed, twitter are on the site. So please go to Y-A-N-A-K-I-K-U YANAKIKU.jp!
T-ONO: What are your impressions of the J-POP Summit Festival?
YANAKIKU: Quite a surprise, didn't know there would be so many people interested in Japanese culture in San Francisco and Japantown. We were really happy. If you go to Asakusa, you get the same feeling. We asked if Japantown was built recently and they said it wasn't.
We really want to come back. In Japan we see long lines for Ramen, but not this long!
T-ONO: It was about a five hour wait time.
YANAKIKU: Amazing! [Everyone] should come to Japan and eat it instead of being in that line.
T-ONO: We saw you earlier today in Tomochin's performance in Peace Plaza, we took a pic and uploaded to our twitter. Are you fans of her if so is she a influence in your music?
Kiku: Since Tomochin is on TV in Japan everyday, we were wondering who she was, so we just happened to meet her backstage which was the closest we been able to get. So we said we need to go see her performance. We wanted to take a picture, but we got star struck and nervous so we couldn't tell her.
T-ONO: Lastly do you have any words you would like to say to your fans around the world, or American fans in the states?
YANAKIKU: Hmmmm....what should we say! Let's see, the goal is to spread YANAKIKU's music around the world, and in order to do that we need to travel all over the world. We want to have that chance and have our fans to follow us on that journey.
Before we didn't speak very much English, but we are practicing more now so we can communicate with our fans around the world. We were shy when traveling overseas and not speaking the language but now we want to be more courageous so that fans can travel the world along side with us. We made friends in San Francisco and also made a lot of fans who asked us to come back, and we made them a promise to come back. Next time we want to be bigger so that fans in San Francisco will be proud of being the first fans!
T-ONO: Thank you very much!
YANAKIKU: Thank you so much!
To learn more about YANAKIKU, please follow them Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
Lead interview by Jason Young and Salvador Mateos.