They’re back!!! Our favorite J-Pop duo YANAKIKU was back to participate in J-Pop Summit San Francisco for the third year in a row. So naturally, we had to catch up! Read more to know what’s up with the dynamic vocal duo these days, and see photos from their J-Pop Summit 2016 performance. Photos by Christian Hadidjaja.

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been a year since we last interviewed YANAKIKU. That interview was our most favorite interview from last year’s J-Pop Summit, so we were hoping they’d be coming back to San Francisco.

Even though the announcement of YANAKIKU coming to J-Pop Summit 2016 was rather last minute, we silently screamed, “YES!!!” when the news came out. Immediately, I requested an interview with the J-Pop duo who stole our hearts two years ago.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Yana (left) and Kiku (right) of YANAKIKU

Our interview on Saturday, July 23 went just as well as we expected. It was like a déjà vu; Yana-san and Kiku-san were wearing the exact same outfits that they wore during last year’s interview! That aside, the girls were really fun to chat with, always genuine, open, and super friendly. We couldn’t help but falling in love with them even more.

Even watching their performance a day later (Sunday, July 24) was a really exciting experience. They confidently showcased their growth; their performance was on point and the audience LOVE them!

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Interview with YANAKIKU

By the way, shout out to Nadya-san, a volunteering translator for J-Pop Summit 2016 for doing a great job during this interview. Now, on with the interview! Here’s our conversation.

Fafafoom: Hi Yana-san, Kiku-san!!! It’s been a year since we saw you last time! We’re really happy to see you two back to J-Pop Summit. What’s up with you two?
Kiku: We’re doing great! It doesn’t feel like we haven’t seen each other for a year since we’re connected with Instagram all the time. (Note: Follow Yana-san and Kiku-san on Instagram :)

Fafafoom: That’s true, that’s true. What’s the highlight of your experience from the past year?
YANAKIKU: Last year, after the J-Pop Summit, we did a one-man live show in Tokyo!

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Fafafoom: So…when are you going to do a one-man live show here in San Francisco?
Yana: (somewhat hesitant) Aaahhh….that is…
Kiku: (excited) We really want to do it! Whenever, let’s do it! We need to have a sponsor, please! (everyone laughed)

Fafafoom: You’ve been going to San Francisco three times now. Have you had the chance to go around San Francisco?
Kiku: Last year, we went to Fisherman’s Wharf and went to In-N-Out!
Yana: (excited) Ooh, that’s right! The burger place! The burgers here are so big!
Kiku: American size! And then yesterday, we got to walk around Union Square for a little bit and had lunch.

Fafafoom: Are there must-visit San Francisco spots that you still haven’t been able to go?
Kiku: The Alcatraz! Since last year, we’ve only gotten to see the island from afar, but we haven’t been able to go there.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Fafafoom: Wow, Alcatraz is a really popular answer today! Una-san was saying the same thing. She tried to visit there but apparently you have to book the tour months in advance.
Yana: (disappointed) Ah, really? Well, that’s too bad. We won’t be able to do it, then.

(At this point, we got sidetracked a little bit. Kiku-san asked whether Nadya or I have had a chance to visit Alcatraz. Neither of us had, but we wanted to go someday. Maybe all of us should do a boat tour together next time…)

Fafafoom: Okay, yet-to-be-fulfilled Visit Alcatraz wish aside…after releasing your album YANAKIKU NO ENBAN, you also released new singles like “KIRA KIRA TOKIO” and “FUNK JAPAN.” In addition to your touring schedule, are you working on a new album now? Or what is Yanakiku’s current focus?
Kiku: (got excited when the I mentioned those singles) While we’re always making new music, currently we are ambassadors of iichiko. So we collaborate with iichiko to make a new song that we’re going to debut in J-Pop Summit!

Yana: Yes, we have yet to release this song in Japan. Tomorrow [Sunday] is going to be the first time we perform this song! It’s definitely a song for adults.

Kiku: We’re working on a bunch of new songs right now, and we want to release a new album soon. But we want to give it more time, so we’re hoping that we’ll release a new album later this year.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Fafafoom: By the way, you got a new costume! Tell us a little bit about the theme behind it.
Yana: Ah yes! We’re going to wear our black costumes for our performance [on Sunday, July 24]. It’s a combination of ninja attire and traditional Japanese aristocratic garments.
Kiku: Yes, the head gear represents that high rank, like what historical Japanese princes would wear.
Yana: And the bottoms are pants-style this time.
Kiku: It’s a new hakama style, with the balloon silhouette.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Fafafoom: I like your “travel videos” on YouTube, for example your road trip to Shiga and Osaka. You travel all over the place wearing your latest costume, even to 7-Eleven and such! Don’t you worry they will get dirty and damaged?
Kiku: Well, we perform in them, move around a lot, and we sweat a lot, too. But I guess that’s the testament of our hard work.
Yana: (laughed) That’s true! Plus, it’s a lot harder to wash the kimono (gesturing to her current outfit)

(Note: I have to say that I was really impressed on how well they keep their elaborate outfits in prime condition!)

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Kiku: And we don’t have spares, either. We only have one of each costume. So if they get dirty, they need to get cleaned. (got serious) Cleaning is so expensive!
Fafafoom: Of course! It’s because YANAKIKU costumes are so pretty and elaborate.
Kiku: (laughed) Oh, thank you!

Fafafoom: What do you think is the biggest challenge of getting new fans and supports for YANAKIKU?
Kiku: While performing is a great boost to get new fans, it’s hard afterwards when they don’t get to see us for a long time. So we do our best to keep in touch via social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. We’re hoping to connect with more fans that way.
YANAKIKU: It means a lot to us, and we’re so happy that you remember us. Thank you so much!

Fafafoom: Ah, is that so? You have a lot of fans here, so the pleasure is ours! Thank you so much for coming back!
Kiku: (excited) Today, some people were shouting, “YANAKIKU, welcome back!” And we’re so excited that people remember us!

Fafafoom: What is your most favorite part of being YANAKIKU?
Yana: I had never been abroad before, so I really enjoy traveling and performing in different countries!
Kiku: Whenever we’re performing live, I feel the best when I can connect with the audience. I was like, “Yes, I did it!”

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Fafafoom: Yana-san, last year you mentioned your favorite brands are Current/Elliott and Red Card. Any new brands you like right now?
Yana: James Perse
Fafafoom: Oh, really?
Kiku: Oh, really? (everyone laughed)
Yana: …as for denim brand, I really like Rag & Bone.

Fafafoom: Kiku-san, how about you?
Kiku: It’s a Japanese brand called Candy Stripper. They’re really girly and pretty.
Yana: Yes, we have totally different fashion sense. She’s really cute girly style, and I like cool styles more.

Fafafoom: Any surprises that we can anticipate for your performance on Sunday?
Kiku: Well, our first concern is whether people remember us from prior J-Pop Summit appearances. Secondly, there are so many great performers for Sunday’s music acts: World Order and Silent Siren. So we want to make sure we’re putting a great show and have smooth transitions.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Fafafoom: I’m sure you will do very well. We’re looking forward to see you perform! What are you looking forward for next year?
Yana: (excited) We’re going to do another one-man live show in Tokyo on December 29, and the venue is going to be much bigger. It’s Daikanyama UNIT. So we’re really looking forward to it!

Fafafoom: That’s so cool!
Yana: (determined) Come over and see us in Tokyo!
Fafafoom: Eeh??? That’d be awesome; let me see what we can do!

With that, the interview concluded and we took more pictures with YANAKIKU! Kiku wanted to do a signature YANAKIKU pose together (they usually do this “YANAKIKU de gozaimasu~~~” pose when introducing themselves during a live performance), while Yana wanted to do a ninja pose. So we did both!

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

After that, we took some more pictures…

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

…and even did a selfie with Kiku-san’s phone :) Look at her Minion phone case!

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Shortly afterwards, She put it on Instagram and I LOVE IT!!! It’s definitely one of my favorite moments from that Saturday.

毎年インタビューをしてくれるmiraさんと♡ Thank you so much(o^^o) #YANAKIKU #jpopsummit2016

A photo posted by YANAKIKU (@yanakiku_kiku) on

YANAKIKU Performance

On Sunday, July 24, YANAKIKU took the main stage around 6:30pm to deliver a energetic performance. I love everything about it; from their dramatic entrance, their transitioning to the first song “VIVA!人生珍道中” (Viva! Jinsei chin dōchū), all the way to their last song, the English version of “HELLO WORLD” was really engaging and entertaining. Moreover, the iichiko collaboration single “KANPAI NIGHT” was really good; the stylistic influence from Charleston and Big Band was delivered very well. We also got to hear “FUNK JAPAN” and the always entertaining “FUJIYAMA DISCO.”

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.

Image: Christian Hadidjaja for Fafafoom.
Alas, their set was limited to 5 songs, and we had to wait and pray until they’re back again in San Francisco. Hopefully next year, they get to do their one-man live show! It would be so cool to attend a full length YANAKIKU concert, don’t you think?

In any case, thank you very much YANAKIKU for setting aside their busy J-Pop Summit 2016 schedule to chat with us. We always have a great time catching up with you two, and your cheerful energy is contagious. As one of your many Bay Area fans, we hope you’re back again next time!

Thanks for reading; until next time,
Musank


Fafafoom team for Interview with YANAKIKU:
Interviewer & Editor: Mira Musank
Photographer: Christian Hadidjaja
Translator: Nadya-san
Assistant Editor: Kuni Natsuki

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