Truth be told, I wasn’t planning to make this post. But after seeing the totally adorable, stunning, and hilarious J-Pop duo Yanakiku on Saturday, July 19 during J-Pop Summit 2014, falling in love with them is utterly unavoidable. So this is me confessing my love to Yanakiku as a new fan. I knew nothing about Yanakiku prior to J-Pop Summit outside of seeing their music videos “UP↑SIDE↓DOWN” and “Fujiyama Disco” on YouTube (during which I was mostly confused on what I was seeing, but completely mesmerized) and had no particular level of affinity towards them, but I’m sure that if they continue to perform the way they did during their US debut appearance on J-Pop Summit 2014, they will have a legion of fans in no time. They’re brave, hard working, beautiful, hilarious, genuine, and very sincere in their delivery.
To get a summary of what Yanakiku stands for, their official website’s profile gives a great summary. The one of the left (with giant yellow flower headdress) is Yana, and the one on the right (with giant red flower headdress) is Kiku. Yana is the “exotic, electrifying” half, and Kiku is the “cuteness overload” half. Together, they’re Yanakiku :) Both of them were part of the now-disbanded group Missing Link, and now as “Yanakiku”, they develop a colorful visual “kimocos” (kimono with cosplay) style that goes seamlessly with their music that combines traditional Japanese with young contemporary feel. I found this interview article to be a great quick insightful read for those wanting to know more about Yanakiku.
I feel really lucky being able to see them performed live on stage. Their music videos are fun and kooky sometimes, but seeing them up close and personal really brought forth the characteristics of what makes Yanakiku so special. First, even from the moment they stepped on stage, Yana was focused, serious, all business. Kiku looked very excited, her innocent but mischievous smile gave way to little skips on her steps. Shortly after holding the opening pose, they launched straight away to dancing (to precise choreography steps) and singing. They really balanced each other really well…and most importantly, they genuinely looked like they’re having such a blast performing to all of us!
When they took some time to introduce themselves to the crowd, they did it all in English. Granted their Japanese accents are still quite thick, I cannot help but admire their bravery. Knowing that some Japanese people had a hard time trying to speak in English (even though they can write and read in English pretty good) for fear of making mistakes, these two really proved their determination to go global. And not only they spoke in English, M.C. Kiku even rapped in English about how Yanakiku loves yakiniku! There’s also this verse “You are the lettuce, we are the meat!” So quirky, hilarious, and adorable all together. How can you not fall in love with them?
The word “lettuce” was also a play on “let us…”, and it’s just awesome for them to not take themselves too seriously and just having a blast on stage. At one point, a little girl (wearing a cute kimono outfit, obviously) even got on stage presenting them with a head of lettuce, which Kiku eventually gave as present to a unsuspecting (and perhaps a bit confused?) audience member. It’s just so entertaining to see what’s unfolding on stage that day due to their unpredictable and super fun nature. Their personalities shone on stage, and they looked beautiful. I’m sure the photographers (including Chris and I) had a hard time capturing bad photos of Yana and Kiku!
Ah yes, the last photo you just saw was taken after they finished performing their hit “PakuPaku Kingyo”. If you haven’t heard any of Yanakiku songs before, perhaps you’d want to check out this single to see their music style. The video is a bit quirky, but it’s consistent with their brand personality. I believe the production value will certainly go up once they become more famous, but for now it’s refreshing to see Yanakiku as they are now:
During their performance of “Ninja Iroha”, we were able to take some great shots, IMO. My favorite is the one where they leaped with the Japantown’s pagoda behind them, the sun providing the right amount of backlight. It’s a bit ridiculous and awesome at the same time!
I didn’t quite digest “Fujiyama Disco” when I saw it on YouTube the night prior, but seeing Yana and Kiku “educating” the crowd to form a triangle with their hands whenever the words “Fujiyama Disco” were sung was a mini comedy session in itself, mostly because Kiku was sincerely trying her best to demonstrate and repeatedly say “triangle!” like it’s the best word ever invented. When they showed off their special outfit “enhancement” for performing this song, I knew right there and then that I am a new Yanakiku fan.
The last song they did was “Hello World”. A simple, earworm-inducing song with a heart-warming message, Yanakiku chose this song to part ways with the audience…but not before they urged the audience to sing along. And Kiku was not satisfied with half-heartedly uttered “hello world” or hand wave; she repeatedly asked the audience for more enthusiasm. And boy, did she get it. My gosh, my hat’s off for these two!
The aftermath of that performance was pretty predictable. Many audience members fell in love (of course) with them and there’s a group selfie session (Yanakiku was the only group that did a group selfie during J-Pop Summit 2014) that currently is the J-Pop Summit Festival’s Facebook profile picture. As you can see, the press members and crew photographers were more than willing to be included in the group selfie.
And later that day, when Chris and I were roaming around the Post St. booths, Yanakiku were holding an autograph session with fans. Yana, who happened to be standing in front of the booth greeting fans, immediately struck a pose once she spotted Chris. What a pro! And without missing a beat, she went to help Kiku preparing some souvenirs of some sort to be given to the fans. Gosh, those outfits were so cute!
So that’s our gleeful encounter with Yanakiku. I actually saw a video of them performing the next day (Sunday) on YouTube, in which Kiku was visibly crying when performing “Hello World”. Aww, she’s too cute…I really hope they come back to San Francisco soon! I really want to interview them next time they are here! Until then, all the best, Yanakiku! You know you have won a great number of fans here in San Francisco Bay Area, so please continue being who you are and come back to us one day, alright?
We love you much….MWAH!
Thanks for reading, until next time,