Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… Osaka Shunkashuto (One Year Later)

Last year I introduced you to Osaka based idol group Osaka Shunkashuto, at that time they were getting their foot in the J-pop door, and slowly pushing it open. One year later, that door has been slammed off it’s hinges as Osaka Shunkashuto are quickly becoming the hottest idol group to come out of Osaka.

When we looked at Osaka Shunkashuto last year, they were fresh out of Soezimax’s “CampFire” (similar to KickStarter in the West) campaign to help fund his vision of producing a female idol group with a fusion of rock and roll and idol group elements, including music videos featuring a lot of military hardware. Since then, the girls underwent vigorous military weaponry training so their movements in the music videos would seem authentic. Soezimax held a mini-audition to help decide which of the girls handled their weapon in the most authentic manner. That accolade went to my favourite member, Yuna!

Weapon handling audition for PV

There’s an extensive list of videos on Soezimax’s channel documenting the recording of the E.P and the music video. Some awesome Japanese actors were used (森崎正弘、大澤竜、松本大貴、市原厚樹、前田耕陽) and from the behind the scenes videos it’s easy to see everyone had a great time filming. The girls (along with Soezimax and his crew) worked incredibly hard around that time as they produced not one, but two main music videos. On top of that, inbetween shooting, they also made cover versions of popular songs too! Talk about having no days off! Here are the two music videos which were produced for the E.P. The first being a slow love ballad (Moshimo Aetanara), while the second is slightly heavier (Dawn of My Lifetime)…

もしも逢えたなら – 大阪★春夏秋冬

DAWN OF MY LIFETIME – 大阪★春夏秋冬

If you have time to watch some of the behind the scenes footage (links are provided after each music video) you’ll see lead vocalist Maina practicing her English. Maina is known to be a huge fan of ONE OK ROCK and her inspiration is clear in each music video. She’s constantly trying to improve, and for a 17 year old, her English ability is outstanding, I can only imagine where she will go from here.

As some of you know, in April last year I was able to visit Japan for three weeks. During this time I was able to check out many musicians in the Tokyo area such as Outside Dandy, BARBARS, and Sugar ‘n’ Spice. While I was in Kyoto, Osaka Shunkashuto announced they’d be playing a show at Yao shopping centre (their usual performance venue) in Osaka, however I wasn’t scheduled to go to Osaka until the following day. My friend Bob (whom I was traveling with) questioned my sanity when I put forward the idea of traveling from Kyoto, to Osaka for a few hours, see Osaka Shunkashuto, return to Kyoto, only to return to Osaka the following morning…

So off we went…

Osaka Shunkashuto – I Want You Back (cover) performance from Yao, April 5th 2014

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Here I am, meeting Mana, Anna, Yuna and Eon. Unfortunately Maina and Rina had to leave for a radio broadcast which is hosted inside the Yao shopping centre. If you get the chance to visit Yao, then do so. It’s an incredible structure which is home to hundreds of shops, a huge arcade, and event stages. They have their own radio station which broadcasts live via U-Stream too.

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I also had the pleasure of meeting the managing team behind Osaka Shunkashuto, who are an adorable married couple who also speak fantastic English. They were kind enough to allow me to spend a little more time with the girls than other patreons, and gave me some goodies, along with this (somewhat blurry) photo of me with Mana, Anna, Yuna and Eon.

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I was also lucky enough to meet Yuna, my favourite member of the group. She’s just as funny as she is in the videos, and just as sweet. I took some Omiyage for the girls in the form of Cadbury’s chocolate (very British) and an adorable Kumamon teddy which I’d won in Kyoto the previous night during my outing with fellow J-Blogger “Sakura Panda Tea Time“. The girls were very grateful that I’d traveled to see them.

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Yuna signed a photo of herself for me (in English too) while Eon practiced her English speaking skills with me, informing me “I study English, because I am smart”. Very cute and equally as funny.

Here, the girls share their experiences of the music video filming and E.P recording. If you listen around the 3:00 mark, (English subtitles are available) I get a special mention for attending one of their live shows, which they seem to be very grateful for. I felt very privileged that Soezimax included this in the video.

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New member of Osaka Shunkashuto, Runaちゃん!

In November 2014, Soezimax made a huge announcement via YouTube. It would be the addition of a new member called Runa who would become the youngest member of the group at just 14 years old. I imagine this must be terrifying for her, to join an already established group, however judging from recent videos and Twitter posts, she seems to be settling in just fine.

Since the start of 2015, both Soezimax and Osaka Shunkashuto have worked tirelessly for the next chapter in their careers. Not only have they been producing more music videos featuring cover versions of popular songs, but also they’ve finished yet another E.P bringing the number of recordings up to three!

カメレオン少女 – 大阪☆春夏秋冬

Osaka Shunkashuto continue to expand their live shows as more recently they’ve started moving away from Yao, and into smaller live houses. There are a number of new videos showing the girls performing in Tokyo to substantial audiences which a very energetic vibe to them. With the direction of their music constantly evolving, the girls seem to be focusing on the rock and roll elements with catchy guitar hooks, galloping bass lines, and uptempo drum beats. This energy spills over into their dancing and performances.

Osaka Shunkashuto performing live in Tokyo

It’s been an amazing 12 months for the girls. I’ll continue to support them in any way that I can, from retweeting tweets, to writing articles such as this. The girls were recently enrolled in a competition to support ONE OK ROCK, based on the number of votes gained determined the winner of the support slot. The girls finished 7th out of hundreds of entrants, which was very impressive! I can only imagine their ranking if we could get them more supporters here in the west.

So come on everyone, let’s help these girls continue their growth in popularity and maturity. You can follow them on Twitter by checking out their profile page here. Don’t forget to subscribe to Soezimax’s YouTube channel as he releases videos on a regular basis

ショーンと大阪!春夏秋冬でした!

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Bradcat’s J-Music Focus… F.E.M.M

There are seldom moments in the music industry where fantastic artistry and music come together to form something totally different. Creative back stories for bands are somewhat a thing of the past, except for gimmick artists. However Far East Mention Mannequins (aka FEMM) really bring this fusion of artistry into a new light.

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Touted as a music unit created by the FEMM Agency Syndicate, and fronted by mannequins MS-000000 (aka LuLa) and SW-000000 (aka RiRi) this electric duo are handled by their “Agents” Honey-B and W-Trouble.

Confused? Don’t worry. This debut video released in 2013 will explain all…

F.E.M.M Introduction Video

From what I can understand, FEMM isn’t just these two hypnotic mannequins, but a large team of creative individuals. After watching some of their music videos on YouTube, it’s obvious this unit is made up of graphic designers, videographers, fashion designers, producers, photographers, and other incredible artists who have worked with musicians such as Skrillex and Beyoncé. While LuLa (described as the healer mannequin) and RiRi (described as the combat mannequin) are the main performers, their “Agents” (the people who speak on the behalf) Honey-B and W-Trouble can be seen briefly in one of their music videos (Astroboy), and they also feature in rare interviews with online magazines.

LuLa and RiRi in a rare public appearance

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FEMM exploded onto the scene late last year with their “Girl Power” track “F**K Boys, Get Money”. It clearly has heavy influences from Hip-Hop artists such as Nicki Minaj, with the in-sync typography and outlandish costumes featured in the video. But it’s also receiving critical acclaim for breaking the stereotypes of the archaic subservient Japanese woman, which many still believe to be true.

FEMM – F**K Boys, Get Money MV

FEMM’s tagline is “Do Dolls Have Feelings? Do Their Songs Move People?” I’m inclined to agree. After hearing just one track (Wannabe), I was hooked. It has the dark electro synth aesthetic that I love, which drove me to listen to more of their tracks, and eventually download their album from iTunes. Which brings me to  the other great thing about FEMM, all of their music is available worldwide unlike most Japanese artists who limit their tracks to the Japanese iTunes store.

FEMM – Wannabe – Alternative MV

So what are you waiting for? Join the FEMM movement, become an agent, and share the noise. You can find FEMM in the following places…

FEMM Official Website
FEMM on Twitter
FEMM on Facebook
FEMM on YouTube

Bradcat’s Place Focus… Yuzu

The hunt for authentic Japanese food has been a long an arduous task, but someone’s got to do it, eh? So with each restaurant I visit, I weigh up a variety of key components including, taste (obviously), price, atmosphere, and authenticity. Of all the places I’ve been to, many restaurants will tick 70% of these boxes, until I found Yuzu in Manchester which blew my checklist off the table.

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You’ll find Yuzu in the middle of Chinatown in Manchester, with its traditional entrance and hiragana on the doorway「ゆず」 . I stumbled across the restaurant whilst visiting friends and using a quick search on Google, I found Yuzu at the top of the list with amazing reviews. Normally with restaurants with these levels of reviews you’d expect to pay through the nose, however Yuzu offers an amazing selection of Japanese food at affordable prices.

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The restaurant isn’t huge, but it offers seating in a bench style for people eating on their own or in pairs, and also a few larger tables (which I’m assuming can be moved around) to accommodate larger groups. I pushed my luck a little bit and tried to get a table by walking in on Valentines weekend. I think our timing was just right as they were able to fit three of us on a table in the corner, however looking around it seemed the smart thing to do was to make a reservation as all the other tables were taken.

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The waitress was very quick to seat us and take our drinks order and returned promptly. The usual Japanese beers were on offer, Asahi, Kirin Ichiban and Sapporo. However the Yuzu drinks menu is extensive and offers a wide selection of plum wines, spirits, and sake including the International Wine Challenge silver medal winner Ura Gasanryu Huka.

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As always, the common misconception with Japanese food is that it’s all seafood. Yuzu tries to break this stigma by serving up some fantastic traditional Japanese dishes. “But Sean, why don’t they serve Sushi if they’re a Japanese restaurant?!” I hear you cry. Well, Yuzu are so humble in their preparation methods, that they say sushi should be made only by sushi masters, which they are not. (I’m not being snide here, further down this article they say this themselves!) I couldn’t agree more. I’ve tasted some fantastic sushi during my time in Japan, only to come home and taste some utter garbage sushi which is dry and flavourless. Their menu more than makes up for not having sushi. They offer some amazing udon, sashimi don and tempura dishes, but I opted for the teisyoku tonkatsu 「とんかつ」set (pork cutlet) which comes with rice, miso soup and garnish.

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I don’t know if it’s because Yuzu source their ingredients from local suppliers, or they add some sort of magical seasoning to their food, but with one mouthful I was back in Osaka. The smell, the texture, everything was perfect. I tried to explain to my friends how incredible it was to find such delicious Japanese food, but they were too busy slurping their noodles.

I was able to have a quick interview with Yuzu restaurant, so that I could get a better understanding of their preparation methods and secrets behind their success. Here’s what they had to say…

– With Manchester having a lot of Japanese restaurants, what separates Yuzu from the rest?
“We make everything from scratch – gyoza, kara-age, yakitori, ebi-katsu e.t.c. I guess that very basic thing separates us from others.”

– Yuzu is listed as being “authentic Japanese” on many websites. What does an authentic Japanese restaurant mean to you?
“It kind of overlaps with the above question. What we offer is not ‘Pan-Asian’ where other Asian food are also sold as ‘Japanese’. What we offer is a traditional food that has been consumed by the people of Japan for many generations.”

– What would you say to consumers that believe the common misconception that Japanese food is all fish, and all sushi?
“The very reason we don’t do sushi is because in Japan, sushi is made by sushi meisters who trained as apprentices for ten years and finally become sushi maestros. And we don’t have those meisters. We are not going to pretend that we can make sushi because that would be an offence to the Japanese culture.”

– Your Twitter feed often has photographs posted of fresh ingredients. Do you think this gives you an edge over the local competition?
“Not really. It’s a word of mouth that brings new customers.”

– Also posted on your Twitter feed are a range of Japanese beers and sake. Are these available to customers? If so, how do you select the drinks to buy in?
“We select interesting looking, good quality sake from suppliers’ lists and sample them. If we like them, we put them on the menu. With beers, it’s quite limited in choices but we do stock Hitachino ale range now which are proving to be very popular.”

Thanks to all the staff at Yuzu for taking the time to answer my questions, and for serving up the most delicious Japanese meal I’ve had since returning from Japan.

ありがとうございました!

If you’d like to visit Yuzu, you can find their websites here:
Yuzu Official Website
Yuzu Facebook
Yuzu Twitter