Beloved J-Pop kimocos duo Yanakiku was back for their 4th J-Pop Summit Festival appearance in San Francisco, and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview them again before watching their mini-concert. Yana and Kiku looked and sounded better than ever, and we cannot wait to see them back next year! Photos by Christian Haddijaja.
By now, Yanakiku has captured the hearts of so many loyal fans in San Francisco. Making their 4th annual appearance at J-Pop Summit Festival, we were looking forward to their always cheery, delightful demeanor and energetic performance. A few hours before their performance on the main stage on Sunday, September 10, we got to interview them again for the 3rd time!
Special thanks to Kuni Natsuki for the interview translation, as well as Christian Hadidjaja for the beautiful photos!
Fafafoom (F) : It’s always a pleasure to see you two, and thank you for this opportunity to interview you again! This marks the 4th time you are in San Francisco. What’s your favorite thing to do in the city and what activities are still in your wish list?
Yanakiku : This time, we finally got to do is eating clam chowder in a bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf! However, we heard there’s a tomato-flavored clam chowder and we’d like to get that next time.
Kiku : As for our wish list…we still haven’t gotten the chance to visit Alcatraz yet!
Yana : And I want to go cycling. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge while riding a bicycle sounds great!
F : You are the only J-Pop talent who have been coming to J-Pop Summit for 4 years in a row. From your point of view, how has your participation evolved from the first time you came in 2013 until now?
Yana : When we first came to J-Pop Summit 2014, it was our first time performing outside of Japan. We were very nervous then. Now that this is our fourth time, we have gotten to know the staff better, the audience know us better, and we are able to enjoy our time!
Kiku : Four years ago, J-Pop Summit Festival was held at Japantown and Union Square. Starting from 2015 onward, the venue changed to Fort Mason. We got to explore many different places thanks to J-Pop Summit. Year after year, we got to experience more crowd, more energy, more boost, and overall increasing growth of effort in building the festival. We are happy to be part of the J-Pop Summit family!
Yana : Yes, it’s like a home we are coming back to each year. We’re always looking forward to go back here!
Kiku : Tadaimaaaaa~~~
F : Okaeriiiiii~~~
Kiku : This year marks our 2nd year being iichiko ambassador, and we want to promote iichiko brand as well!
F : Speaking about evolution, how has Yanakiku evolved from the group’s debut in 2012 until now?
Kiku : It’s been five years, and we got to perform in various countries. From that experience, we are now much better in connecting with the crowd’s energy, both positive and negative. Of course we’re disappointed when the crowd doesn’t connect with us, but we are always looking forward to deliver every live performance.
Yana : As Yanakiku, one thing that stands out is the extensive amount of time we spend to travel and perform in many different countries in one year. From one country to another, there are different reactions from the crowd. Despite those differences, we have grown to be able to perform wholeheartedly each time.
F : You two are recording artists who go touring all over the world regularly while creating new songs, being iichiko ambassadors, and you’re also radio personalities in Japan. There’s no doubt you are super busy. How do you manage your daily activities?
Yanakiku : The truth is, we are always together. Since our houses are close to one another, we do all Yanakiku-related work together. From background setup, front-line work, organizational logistics, and even eating supper, we are doing them all together. Even our families are together.
Yana : That’s so true! Each day is different – some days we are rehearsing, other we are recording new music.
Kiku : Ah, for works related to JapanKuru, depending on what promotion we do, we are working separately. That being said, currently we are recording new music and rehearsing, so we are working hard together pretty much all the time.
F : We saw the music video for your new song “Hachiko Dance.” It is very catchy, however the style seems very different than that of your previous MVs. Is this style a new direction for Yanakiku?
Kiku : Actually, “Hachiko Dance” is produced by Mr. Kawamura Yuki, and we’re providing the vocals only on the track.
Yana : It’s our first time doing a song with ‘electro swing’ style. It’s very interesting, especially since this style is very popular outside of Japan. So yes, we’re exploring different ideas for our next album and this may be the new direction we’re taking on. The animation for “Hachiko Dance” music video is also very interesting, very colorful and shocking.
F : Let’s talk a little bit about your new costumes. This is your 7th costume, isn’t it? What’s the story behind this one?
Yanakiku : Oh wow! Is it? Let’s see…(remembering the kimono costumes they have so far) Fujiyama, Paku-paku Kingyo, Orihime, Ninja, Koi, Shodai…that’s true, this is our 7th costume!
Kiku : The design of our new costume is based on shūgi-bukuro (祝儀袋). It’s Japanese custom to gift money inside a special envelope at weddings. That envelope usually has a red and white colored decorative mihuziki (水引) knot. These new costumes represent a special, happy celebration.
Yana : This time, we can only bring one* set of costume with us. So we thought it’d be nice to bring the newest one.
*In the past appearances, Yanakiku usually wore different costumes to wear for the 2-day festival. This time, they were wearing the same costume on both days.
Kiku : Out of all of our costumes, this one is the most compact for travel. And it’s the most versatile; we can wear it to parties as well as formal occasions.
F : What fashion trend are you interested in right now?
Kiku: You know, we are currently producing neo knots, rope-shaped ornaments that are attached to the bottom of shamisen. This is the Kiku model**. We debuted these accessories last December, during our one-man live concert at Daikanyama Unit. We feel these are really pretty!
**Yana did not bring hers at the time of the interview.
F : Last question, what is the next milestone Yanakiku is pursuing?
Yana: (whispers) Tokyo 2020, Tokyo 2020…
Kiku : YES! TOKYO 2020! (laughs) We definitely want to see if there’s anything we can do to help promote the Tokyo Olympics and be part of it. On a different note, we’d like to come back to J-Pop Summit Festival every year, and our fans all around the world are definitely our motivation to keep working hard!
F : Well, we certainly LOVE having you back year after year, and we are looking forward to your performance later. Once again, thank you so much for the interview!
Less than two hours later, we saw Yanakiku on stage, performing their Tokyo dance pop music to their cheering fans. Their 5-song set flew by in a flash, thanks to their seamless track and video transitions, the English lyric video displayed behind them, topped with their endlessly entertaining energy.
In addition to featuring two tracks for iichiko sochu (one of them is “Kanpai Night”), they performed a new track about Kendama love story with popular Japanese kendama duo Zoomandake. Last but not least, they closed their set with crowd favorite “Fujiyama Disco.”
At the end of their set, J-Pop Summit MC Steve-san announced that Yanakiku will be back to J-Pop Summit 2018! Now that’s something we are really looking forward to. The 10th anniversary of this festival is definitely highly anticipated.
Having first attending the event in 2011 when the venue was in Japantown and there’s no such thing as ramen festival, the 10-year evolution of J-Pop Summit will be special. And we know it will be extra special with Yanakiku’s presence again next year.
Until then, we thank J-Pop Summit committee for their tremendous hard work, and all the best of luck for next year’s celebration!
Thanks for reading; until next time,