February 18, 2017 01:00 By Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul THE NATION
Pikotaro, whose music video of his first single "PPAP - Pen Pineapple Apple Pen" was an instant YouTube hit, turns his attention to orange juice.
JAPAN EXPO Thailand 2017 – the biggest J-pop event in Thailand and Asia – drew to an end Sunday night after an exciting two days that saw the four stages at CentralWorld packed with J-pop disciples.
Japanese idols taking part in this year’s event included Uguisudani Phil Harmony, who wowed the crowds by performing His Majesty the late King Bhumibol’s “Yan Yen” (“Love at Sundown”), and Hanazono Naomichi, who did a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
Akira was there too, drawing plenty of fans mad about their anime songs. Ryoma Quartet presented its folk instrumentals and ikebana artist Shogo Kariyasaki showed off some fantastic flower arrangements on the theme “Inspired by Two Nations from King Rama IX to Beautiful Friendship.”
One of the highlights was Pikotaro, whose music video of his first single “PPAP – Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” went viral on YouTube and has been viewed more than 100 million times. The zippy little ditty also reached No 1 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart. The single, which has been picked up around the world, lasts just 45 seconds and has propelled the Japanese artist into the Guinness World Records for the shortest song in the charts. He’s even been hailed as the successor to South Korean artist Psy, whose "Gangnam Style” was also a global media sensation.
But who is Pikotaro? He sat down the journalists the day before the Expo and quickly had cameras popping.
Dressed in his signature animal print outfit and sporting sunglasses as well as a drawn-on moustache, Pikotaro greeted the media with “Sawasdi khrub” then gestured towards the microphones and voice recorders on the table, saying “Wow, they are like a pile of toys.
“It is the first time for me to come to Thailand. I have been surprisingly impressed with Thai people, kids and adults, who have produced the most video clip covers of my song. Even a dog got in on the act! I’m so happy to be here. I loved the (sarcastically funny) version of my song by Bie The Ska. I also had fun with the heavy metal version by a German fan and the cover by an Indian choreographer.
“I hope I get the chance to eat lots of Thai food too. I’m told ‘phad kraphao moo’ (‘stir-fried pork and basil’), ‘phad thai’ (‘Thai-style fried noodle’) and ‘tom yam goong’ (‘sour prawn soup’) are the best. I’m also planning on hitting Lumpini Boxing Stadium to watch a championship bout and would like to go to Koh Phi Phi,” the 53-year-old Japanese artist, who was representing his country at the Expo to mark the 130th anniversary of Japan-Thailand diplomatic relations.
“I had no idea we’d had such a long relationship,” he admitted with a smile. “We have shops selling Thai food at our train stations in Tokyo and I know the Thai Festival has been often organised there. But I don’t know much about Thai pop culture, just fighters like Bua Khao and Diesel Noi and actor Tony Jaa.”
Pikotaro says he came up with the song after listening to a melody sent to him by his producer.
“I was looking at the pen, apple and pineapple on my table when I heard it and immediately wrote down the lyrics. It took me a minute, which is already longer than the song! It doesn’t have a meaning but it is fun to sing. Most importantly, it is also easy for foreigners to sing along,” Pikotaro explains.
“I played around with my dancing style and ended up with the one on the clip. I ordered my costume on the Internet. It was really cheap – lesser than 20,000 yen [Bt6,000] for the shirt and trousers and 2,000 yen for the scarf.”
The Japanese singer also attracted the attention of pop star Justin Bieber, who tweeted in September that PPAP was his “favourite video on the Internet”.
“I earned worldwide fame because of Justin Bieber. If I were a woman, I’d propose to him. He is very nice and looks so down to the earth. He gave me a high five when I met him at the Grammys.”
“I’d love to collaborate with Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Toni Ja, and Diesel Noi.”
Pikotaro performed his new single, “I Like OJ”, during his show at the Expo.
“I just want to tell everybody that I like drinking orange juice. Actually, grapefruit and mango juices are good too, but orange juice is better.
“I never dreamed of accomplishing so much musically. My song lasts less than a minute but it makes people laugh and we need laughter in our conflict-ridden world. Fans can follow me at my Pikotaro official YouTube, Facebook and Instagram,” he says.