Stars from Japan's acting and music scene head to Bangkok to promote their country's popular culture
Proving that Japan is still hot with Thai fans, singer and actor Taguchi Junnosuke, a member of Japan’s popular boy band Kat-Tun, actress Kanno Miho, singer Piko and girl group Tokyo Girls’ Style drew thousands of fans to the recent J Series Festival at Siam Pavalai Theatre.
Junnosuke wasn’t in town to sing but to promote his drama “Legal High”. Miho presented 2003’s “Ooku” (“The Inner Palace”) and the more recent “Saka no Ue no Kubo” (“Cloud Above the Slope”). Piko and Tokyo Girls both stuck to music with the former showcasing tracks “Yumehana” and “Kotonoha” from his new album “Hitokoe” while the teens performed “Futarikiri” and “Onnaji Kimochi”.
All eight of them were happy to answer a few questions, so we started by asking Junnosuke and Miho if this was their first time in Thailand.
“It’s actually my third trip. I was here 10 years ago for the Pattaya Music Festival. Now, I can eat ‘phak chee’ (coriander),” Junnosuke says.
“I don’t remember how many times I’ve come here but probably five or six times with my family. We went to Phuket,” says Miho, adding her favourite destination in Bangkok is Khao San Road.
Junnosuke plays Kaga Ranmarua in the TV drama “Legal High”.
“Kaga is a spy and dresses in several disguises so that nobody really knows what he’s up to. For me, the most challenging scene was the one where I was supposed to be eating a meal. We had three takes and each time I had to eat a lot of food so by the time we got to the last time, I was having trouble swallowing! As the series is a comedy, the atmosphere on the set was fun.”
Miho says she enjoyed filming “‘Ooku’, the story of the lives of the women living in the hidden, maze-like inner structure of Edo Castle. “I was working with an older actress and she was very kind to me,” she says. “I’m 36 now and have much more experience and would love to have a go at dubbing an anime film.”
Asked how he stays in shape for the filming, Junnosuke laughs and explains that he doesn’t like to sleep before a shoot as his “waking up” eyes always look too small. Miho adds that she keeps fit by doing yoga.
Both are keen for Thai viewers to see their series.
“I hope Thai people will learn about Japanese culture through the series,” says Junnosuke. Miho agrees, adding that while shooting a series can be tiring, the results are always worth the effort.
Signed to Sony Music Entertainment’s sub-label Ki/oon Music in 2010, 25-year-old pop singer Piko is also called “Ryouseirui”, a fan-made word that describes his wide vocal range, which includes notes typical of both male and female voice types. He released his debut album, “1Piko” in 2011 and followed up last year with “2Piko”. He also provided the voice library for “Utatane Piko”, the first Vocaloid (singing voice synthesiser) from Sony Music Distribution.
“I have gone just about everywhere in Thailand and to Pattaya several times. I love the country’ it’s very liveable,” says Piko, whose latest album, “Hitokoe” sees him working together with fellow Vocaloid artists Hatsune Miku & Gumi.”
His single “Emiiro Refrain” was produced by L’arc-en-Ciel bassist Tetsuya.
“Emiiro is an expression of feeling. Blue means sadness while orange or green depict enjoyment,” he says.
Piko, who was discovered by Japan’s music industry through his Internet uploads, stays in touch with his Thai fans through Twitter.
“They write to me in Japanese,” he says. “And it’s really great to see so many of them at this festival. I’m at my happiest when the audience participates in my concerts.”
A five-member female Japanese pop vocal and dance group signed to Avex Trax, Tokyo Girls’ Style features teenagers Miyu Yamabe, Yuri Nakae, Ayano Konishi, Mei Shyoji and Hitomi Arai. Their debut album “Kodou no Himitsu” was released in 2011 and included their previous hit singles “Kirari” and “Onnaji Kimochi”. The Japanese idol group broke into the Asian market with a re-recording of “Onnaji Kimochi” in Mandarin Chinese.
All five say this is their first visit to Thailand and they’re already looking forward to coming back.
“We were really surprised that Thai fans knew about us and the warm welcome was great,” says Yamabe. We’ve tried tom yum koong and we loved it. I’d like to try Thai-style sukiyaki.”
Shyoji answers the question about the girls’ music style, saying “it’s fresh and joyful and everybody can dance to it.”
Arai, who turns 15 next month, says she doesn’t have problems balancing work and studying. “I’m the youngest and so I’m always asking for help from the others,” she giggles.