The kimocos vocal duo Yanakiku was back for the second time for J-Pop Summit 2015! We love Yanakiku and had a wonderful time chatting with them and watching their performance. They opened up about their close connection to each other, kimocos, personal style, and more! Photos by Christian Hadiajaja.

You might remember Yanakiku since this dynamic duo was my J-Pop duo crush during last year’s J-Pop Summit. When I found out that they’re coming back this year, I immediately put ‘interview Yanakiku’ on top of my to-do list. I’m really happy that item is checked off!

The kimocos (kimono cosplay) vocal duo have been traveling all around the world, including London, Seoul, Shanghai in addition to San Francisco and their home country Japan. Their first album “YANAKIKU NO ENBAN” was released this spring, and Yanakiku returned to J-Pop Summit 2015 both as live performers and Ryokan Pavilion ambassadors. Yana and Kiku’s warm hospitality and friendliness surely attracted a great deal of people to play dressing up with yukata and watch mini-videos on several Japanese traditional inns featured during the festival.

Yana (Megumi Yanagi) and Kiku (Shoko Kikui) had a full 2-day schedule during J-Pop Summit; floating from the Fort Mason main stage judging a cosplay masquerade contest, to greeting guests at Ryokan Pavilion, to doing interviews, back to the main stage performing live, to Union Square stage performing live, back to Fort Mason greeting more fans and drawing prizes, and….I’m exhausted from just typing them!

If their busy schedule was tiring, they certainly did not show any sign of it. One quality I like the most about Yanakiku is their sincerity. They are total professionals and they seem to genuinely enjoy what they’re doing. On top of that, the girls are super friendly and have a lot of fun interacting and spending time with their fans. What’s not to love about them?
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Yanakiku Interview

So thanks to Erik Jansen, we’re able to secure an interview with Yanakiku on the first day of J-Pop Summit 2015. We really had a blast talking to Yana and Kiku about their journey so far, the appeal of kimocos, personal style, plan for next year, and…what superhero power they’d like to have!

Fafafoom: It’s so wonderful to see you perform last year, and I’m very happy you both are coming back this year! Congratulations on the release of your first album YANAKIKU NO ENBAN. From when you first started in 2012 until now, how do you think Yanakiku has evolved?
Yanakiku: Thank you very much! From “YANAKIKU NO ENBAN” album, we have a song called Sabon no Yuwaku that represents ryokan (i.e.Japanese traditional inns.) That’s one way of how we continue to promote Japan culture and invite people to experience the joy of staying at ryokans!
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Fafafoom: What is the most touching moment you have experienced so far?
Kiku: Touching moments were many, but last year was the first time we came to San Francisco and performed during J-Pop Summit 2014. Seeing so many people sang “Hello World” together with us, I felt overwhelmed with emotion and it made me cry. (We saw that moment last year!)

Yana: I’m still getting used to perform internationally. Last year I was really nervous, but this year I’m getting better performing and interacting more with the audience.
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Fafafoom: Before forming Yanakiku, you have known each other for 10 years.
Kiku: That’s right!

Fafafoom: Are there moments in your journey so far in which your strong friendship help overcome whatever challenges coming your way?
Kiku: Yes, definitely. In Japanese, there’s this phrase called “aun no kokyu” (阿吽の呼吸.) We have this unspoken communication and strong chemistry. On days when one of us is feeling off, the other can tell because we have been together all this time. We’re really in sync with each other’s feelings.

Yana: For example, for a live performance, there is no re-take. We might have some disagreements during day-to-day rehearsal, but come the live show, we both know that we want to perform our best. The strong friendship we have for over a decade definitely helps getting us into that mindset.
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Fafafoom: You both are ambassadors of “kimocos” (kimono costume). What is it about “kimocos” that’s so attractive and fun to do? And how do you encourage people to do more of it?
Yanakiku: For us, they are like battle uniforms. When we wear them, we are ready to perform as Yanakiku. The kimono costumes also evoke a strong feeling and impact for the audience. So we’re really happy to see our fans imitate our Yanakiku way of dressing back in Japan. Even in America, because kimono is seen as a traditional costume, wearing it in a stylish and modern way like this makes it more approachable and accessible for people to get influenced by.
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Fafafoom: How many kimocos outfits do you have now? And which one is your favorite?
Yanakiku: We now have five. Our favorites are the newest ones we wore for “Sabon no Yuwaku” music video.

Kiku: I like it because it’s light, so it’s easy for us to move around while performing.

Yana: The theme for that costume is pop nishikigoi (i.e. koi fish.)

(On the next day, they performed on stage wearing the newest “Sabon no Yuwaku” kimocos.)
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Fafafoom: Your songs are very catchy and humorous, and your costumes are so electrifying and beautiful. How do you come up with those songs and planning outfits that would suit them?
Yana: Ah, thank you! We write the melody and lyrics together. Within the overarching Japan theme, we decide what do we want to sing about. We always try to come with songs that are outside of the box and original.

Kiku: As for costumes, we work with Japanese designer Nobu-san.

Yana: She would design costumes that will fit our music. For example, “Pakupaku Kingyo” is about goldfish, so the costumes are goldfish-like; for “Orihime” music video, our costumes are princess-like.
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Fafafoom: When you’re not wearing your costumes, what is your personal style look like?
Kiku: We look totally different! I like to wear skirts, short pants…

Yana: Just like a girl!

Kiku: …headbands, and also hats.

Fafafoom: How about you, Yana-san?
Yana: Super simple! I really love wearing denim and T-shirt. I buy a lot of them.

Fafafoom: What’s your favorite denim brands?
Yana: I LOVE Current/Elliott and Red Card.

Fafafoom: Kiku-san, do you have favorite brands?
Kiku: Yes! I really like AMIAYA’s brand joutie. When I met AMIAYA, I got so excited! They’re so cute ~ they’re very, very, very cute!

Fafafoom: But you’re cute, too! You’re very cute.
Kiku: (laughed) Aw, thank you!
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Fafafoom: You both are so funny; I love you two! By the way, what are you looking forward to next year?
Yanakiku: We definitely want to come back again to J-Pop Summit! We’d like to do “one-man live” performance next time and see more people!

Fafafoom: That’d be so awesome!
Yanakiku: Yes, awesome! Please come see us, when the time comes!

Fafafoom: Of course we will, definitely!
Yanakiku: (laughed happily)

Fafafoom: Hmm…if you’re a superhero duo, what kind of superpower would you like to have?
Yana: Ummmmm……

Fafafoom: Just one, please.
Yana: Hmmm…..wait a moment. Wait….

(At this point, Yana-san was thinking hard about her answer and made many interesting faces.)
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(On the other hand, Kiku-san decided her answer almost immediately.)
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Kiku: Superhero, huh? And just one superpower…Hmm….forever young!

Yana: Eeehhh, forever young? Really? For whose sake? You’re a hero, you know.

Kiku: For my own sake! It’s me! (We all laughed.)

Fafafoom: How about you, Yana-san?

Kiku: …Death note? (We all laughed.)
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Yana: No death note, no death note. I want to be able to control people’s mind.

Kiku: Eehhh?

Fafafoom: Ah, scary.

Yana: (in a monotone voice and hypnotizing gestures) Everybody, become Yanakiku fans…~

Fafafoom: Just for that purpose?

Kiku: (mimicking Yana) Yes, everybody becomes Yanakiku fans…

Yana: …and she’s forever young…~ (We all laughed.)
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Fafafoom: You two are so funny! May we take more pictures of you?
Kiku: (in high-pitched voice) Yay!

Yana: Of course!
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Yanakiku Performance

On the second day, we came shortly before noon to catch Yanakiku perform. And boy, their experience for the past year definitely showed. They’re sharper both in their vocal performance and dancing, and they’re more confident when interacting with the audience. Their English is much improved, as well!

Of course the first had to be “Sabon no Yuwaku,” followed by “Ninja Iroha” and “Fujiyama Disco.” The audience gleefully followed their lead, and it’s a no brainer Yanakiku gained more fans during J-Pop Summit 2015!
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And of course, just as they had done last year, Yanakiku took a huge selfie of Fujiyama triangle pose at the end of their performance.
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I have to say that throughout the festival, Yanakiku’s warm presence was very comforting. Seeing them interacting with fans or just smiling and waving to people as they’re walking by never failed to lift our spirits. There were some hiccups to our interview schedule on the first day of J-Pop Summit Festival, and we had one interview kept getting rescheduled every hour. On the other hand, our interview with Yanakiku was really easy to deal with. They not only arrived early, but also very candid and happy to talk to us.

It was Kuni’s first time being a Japanese-English translator. It was a long day for us, so Kuni sometimes accidentally translated what Yanakiku was saying in Japanese. Yanakiku laughed it off and encouraged Kuni in a very kind and supportive way so the whole interview felt so much fun. If I love these girls before interviewing them, I love them very, very, very much now! That’s probably why I was giddy on getting my picture taken when I passed the girls near the Fort Mason main stage on the 2nd day.
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I have one more notable thing about Yanakiku that I’d like to share. We left J-Pop Summit shortly after 6pm on Sunday, with only two artist groups remaining to take the main stage. Every other artists not performing were no longer on sight, except for Yanakiku. They’re supposed to be done with their Ryokan Pavilion appearance duties by 6pm, but they’re still there taking pictures with fans in front of Ryokan Pavilion and chatting up a storm with them. Kuni likened such generosity and friendliness to going to Osaka. Me? I’m just hoping they’re back again next year to brighten up our days!

Thanks for reading; until next time,

Fafafoom team for J-Pop Summit 2015:
Interviewer & Editor: Mira Musank
Photographer: Christian Hadidjaja
Translator: Kuni Natsuki

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