Columns/Interviews

Getting to Know the Expo

#9

Kanjani Eight
Our Work and the Expo, Both Creating Moments of Happiness

The Japan Pavilion with its theme of “Where ideas meet.” Kanjani Eight, the pop group grateful for the chance to connect with people and experience the joy of singing together through its first national tour in a year and nine months, and aspiring to realize their dreams and ideas. Bringing together these shared visions, Kanjani Eight and the Japan Pavilion have launched a new project to reconnect the world and work toward the future.

With the long-awaited completion of “CIRCLE,” the project’s theme song, we spoke to the members of Kanjani Eight.

A Song of Hope for Dreaming and Looking to the Future

―― What kind of song is “CIRCLE”?

Kanjani Eight’s YASUDA Shota

YASUDA

Some people might be afraid to have dreams once they become an adult, but it’s actually really important to keep dreaming regardless of your age. And it can be kids who make adults aware of this. What’s good about the song is that it’s expressing this idea.

MURAKAMI

One of the important themes of the song is including phrases that even children can sing, which is something we discussed at the start.

YASUDA

Yes, especially for the opening.

MURAKAMI

In our usual songs, we don’t tend to think about the world in this way or about kids’ futures. We could adopt a whole new mindset and it felt really fresh to go deep into ourselves.

YASUDA

The part about “eternal youth” is good.

YOKOYAMA

It feels really true to what J-pop is about. Our song is packed with the good things about J-pop.

MURAKAMI

Like the “Japan energy” part.

MARUYAMA

The part of the lyrics I particularly like is the one about “reaching out an unfamiliar hand.” It takes real courage to do something you are not familiar with. Even if you aren’t familiar with it initially, you get something new by doing it, and in this way a “cycle” begins. We can’t form a circle unless everyone takes the first step, so that line about “reaching out an unfamiliar hand” means “let’s connect with each other around the world.”

―― Given the title of the song, do you feel like a circle as a group?

MARUYAMA

We do during a concert. In all our concerts, we share the idea of wanting to be together with our fans. I think our concerts really embody the feeling of wanting people to join the “circle” that we have made and have fun together.

MURAKAMI

In our concerts, OKURA is fundamentally the main person who builds the foundation. Together as a band, we then always flesh that out. This forms a kind of circle and it’s also one of the things we do on a daily basis.

An Expo That Begins from Doing What We Can

―― If you were organizing an expo, what kind of expo would you make?

Kanjani Eight’s MARUYAMA Ryuhei

MARUYAMA

A sushi expo! People make their own versions of sushi around the world using the ingredients they have to hand, like the California roll. In the same way that Sushiro is taking part in the expo in Dubai, I’d like to make an expo that brings together all the ways in which this piece of truly Japanese culture has been adapted across the globe.

YOKOYAMA

Mine would be a Johnny’s expo. I would like people around the world to know about Johnny’s culture. The members of Travis Japan are now studying abroad. I am really impressed by my peers, both young and old.

MURAKAMI

Mine would be an architecture expo. Traditional European architecture is stone, while Japanese is wood, though things are now really mixed. Different countries have their own materials. In Japan, there is this truly unique idea of letting the wood “rest” according to the season or amount of water. Based on this, I’d like to see what it would be like if architects from different countries made a Japanese house. You would get all kinds of innovative houses and buildings.

MARUYAMA

It would form a cycle. How about putting sushi in it?

MURAKAMI

That would be Japanese hospitality.

YASUDA

My idea is perhaps similar to yours. I’d make an expo about clothing, since it’s so culturally varied. In other countries, people have their own sense of color that we don’t know. Even though we are looking at the same color, the way we see it differs.

MURAKAMI

People say that about traffic lights.

YASUDA

In Japan, a rainbow has seven colors. In other countries, it can be five or four. It’s interesting to think about how we can learn about other countries’ cultures and traditions from such differences. You could combine that with MURAKAMI’s idea to make an architecture and clothing expo.

MURAKAMI

We could also include sushi.

MARUYAMA

An “architecture/clothing/sushi expo.”

YASUDA

That’s quite a mouthful. [Laughs]

MURAKAMI

OKURA, how about you?

OKURA

A zoo. If you have animals, people will definitely come to see them.

YOKOYAMA

[Laughs] That’s so true.

MURAKAMI

And there are ecosystems you can only find in a certain country.

OKURA

Small kids enjoy even just looking at animals. And by learning that certain animals exist, they will be inspired to care about them. In terms of thinking about the diversity of living creatures, this kind of casual approach might work well.

―― The Dubai Expo Japan Pavilion’s online platform JUNKAN: Where ideas meet is now collecting ideas from people worldwide about how to improve our planet for the future. One of the categories is “Building a Forest for the Future.” Do you have any ideas for this?

Kanjani Eight’s OKURA Tadayoshi

MARUYAMA

An ecosystem changes when people interfere with it, right? So to me, what feels closer is thinking about how we can protect the forests and nature that exist at the moment without interfering with them.

MURAKAMI

I’m not sure I agree. Look at the shrine Meiji Jingu. In a hundred years’ time or even more, those trees that were planted by people will still be there. We can also protect things by leaving what we make now to the people who come after us.

MARUYAMA

That’s true. There’s a precedent.

MURAKAMI

Yes. But in the sense of protecting a demarcated place, it’s perhaps similar to what you said.

OKURA

I want you to buy up lots of mountains.

MURAKAMI

Just think of the tax I’d have to pay!

OKURA

Don’t worry, I’ve already looked into it. [Laughs] But if a big community doesn’t protect the forests, it’s hard to do it as an individual.

YOKOYAMA

It’s also important to go there, right? If you go to a forest, you really feel its wonder and beauty. After seeing it with your own eyes, you’ll be inspired to protect it.

MARUYAMA

It’s about getting a direct sense of the gifts of nature. There are various mindsets.

YOKOYAMA

The Japan Pavilion’s theme is “Where ideas meet.” People have different opinions.

MARUYAMA

But this is a theme that people are always thinking about.

OKURA

Yes. For example, instead of not buying disposable items, not selling them in the first place is even better.

MARUYAMA

That makes sense. In the first place, yes.

YOKOYAMA

It’d be nice if we could do things that are good for the planet without too much effort.

OKURA

Reading these kinds of interview responses, people living their lives may feel unconvinced that they can actually do it. We have to say the sorts of things people can realistically do.

MURAKAMI

Right, people feel like they have heard the same things for years. But we have to keep saying it because we still haven’t done it. Once we’ve done it, we won’t have to say it anymore. We haven’t completely got there yet, but I hope we can find the right balance and tell people about these issues.

YOKOYAMA

The more I am able to take on roles like this, I get the chance to learn about all kinds of things. So that’s why I want to do the things I can.

Informing People about Difficult Issues in Simple, Fun Ways

―― Looking ahead to the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, what are your goals and aspirations?

Kanjani Eight’s YOKOYAMA You

MARUYAMA

I think it really depends on the situation globally.

YOKOYAMA

But that’s precisely why we should organize events like expos that lead to peace.

MURAKAMI

The SDGs are now taught even at schools, and a lot of people know about them, but it still feels a bit vague. Since we holding an expo in Japan, we should give it a clearer theme and message so that it hopefully leads to people thinking about the SDGs.

YOKOYAMA

Using anime to do that would be interesting. After all, Japanese anime is global.

MURAKAMI

True. You could turn it into a story.

YOKOYAMA

Yes. Various artists could help to make a story where lots of characters come together, like the Avengers.

MURAKAMI

The characters could tell us how if we try our best, things can really change. There are lots of difficult words related to the issues that our planet faces.

YASUDA

We can tell people about the issues through anime in a way that is easy to understand.

YOKOYAMA

And if it’s a manga or anime character you like, you listen!

MURAKAMI

I’d like to make it an expo where we can preserve something that then becomes the norm for children.

OKURA

An expo is something that adults think up, so younger people might find it difficult to understand. A big goal is conveying through our work the simpler message about the things that can make the future a brighter place. The news is pretty depressing recently, so I hope we can tell people that there’s a brighter future waiting in a few years’ time. Creating moments of happiness. That’s the same as what we do. Not only for 2025, I want to keep that generally in mind going forward.

―― Do you have any other goals for the future?

Kanjani Eight’s MURAKAMI Shingo

MURAKAMI

When you grow up, you tend to get a bit big-headed and think about things in a difficult way. But I want to tell people about things more simply. Just like OKURA said, I hope we can provide more opportunities—whether it’s a concert or a new kind of event—for people to see something and get excited and inspired.

YOKOYAMA

I’ve always wanted to do a five-dome tour, but the pandemic meant we couldn’t. I hope we can now finally do that kind of tour and other concerts.

MARUYAMA

This is another cycle, the entertainment cycle. With the pandemic, it felt like our whole world came to a stop, but we keep going with our work and circulating it. I want to circulate and protect entertainment even more.

Watch a video of the interview

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Kanjani Eight

Kanjani Eight

Pop group

With members all hailing from the western "Kansai" region of Japan, they are endowed with a brilliance, humor, and musical talent that is particularly representative of Johnny & Associates. Their concerts have been held in front of over 10 million people, and they have performed for 8 consecutive years at national broadcaster NHK's "Red and White New Year's Festival."
At the height of the Covid-19 Stay Home quarantine, they were especially active in helping to keep spirits up through regular content on Johnny's official YouTube and Instagram channels. They are also currently active as the official tourism ambassadors for the city of Osaka.

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