After disappointing fans when their "Asia First Tour 2012 Live in Bangkok" concert was cancelled last year, J-pop boy band Hey! Say! Jump were back in the City of Angels recently for a "First Fans Meeting" showcase at Siam Paragon's Parc Paragon.
Young Thai fans started pouring into the venue early in the morning and the crowd was several thousand strong by the time the nine Japanese boys - Hikaru Yaotome, Kei Inoo, Keito Okamoto, Yuya Takaki, band leader Kota Yabu, Daiki Arioka, Yuri Chinen, Ryosuke Yamada, and Yuto Nakajima - came on stage.
Many of the fans held fans screened with the portraits of the boys and signs with their names and Japanese words.
After being interviewed on stage by the emcees, the nine youngsters swung into their first single "Ultra Music Power", which became the signature tune for the 2007 FIVB Men's World Cup. They followed up with their latest release "Super Delicate", a soundtrack used for TV comedy drama "Risou no Musuko", and closed out the mini concert with "Dreams Come True".
Earlier in the day, the band, which used to boast 10 members but was reduced to nine after photos of a smoking Ryutaro Morimoto found their way to the Internet, chatted with The Nation before heading out to the main press interview.
Asked about their favourite scene from their show in the spectacular musical "Johnny's World" that ran for two months at the end of 2012, the boys were unanimous: the sword fight before the waterfall.
Our next question is to Yamada Ryosuke. Why did he choose to play the daredevil tightrope walker during the "Johnny's World" show? Is he a fan of extreme adventure?
"No, I don't usually like anything like that. But I was never in any danger and it really impressed fans, so I did it again," he replies.
Yamada released his debut solo single "Mystery Virgin" earlier this year. The song was also used as a soundtrack for the TV series, "Kindaichi Case Files" in which he plays Hajime Kindaichi. How did he enjoy portraying the character?
"It was a lot of fun," Yamada says. "I found it particularly exciting because it was the first time that I done any filming outside Japan. Kindaichi has also been portrayed by some of the veterans of Johnny's Junior, so there was quite a lot of pressure. I grew my hair long like the character and learned comic delivery from the Japanese comedy actor, Takashi Okamura."
Yamada and Chinen have also worked with another boy band, NYC, which was formed during the FIVB World Grand Prix 2009. Did they find it very different from Hey! Say! Jump?
"Well, NYC had fewer members but we were all more or less the same age. Musically, I think NYC is more suitable for kids," says Chinen.
Asked about new single, "Super Delicate", band leader Kota Yabu admits the hardest part was learning the choreography. "We all have different styles of dancing but we had to learn how to dance in unison," he explains.
Do they have any suggestions about how they can contribute to saving the world?
"I think that we should reduce use of electrical equipment and do more to help the Japanese people who suffered from tsunami and earthquake," says Arioka.
Our 10 minutes at an end, we move to the room reserved at the Dusit Thani Hotel for the group interview and the boys show off their few words of Thai. Arioka says, "rak muang Thai (love Thailand)", while Chinen asks: "Tuk khon sabai dee mai? (how are you)." Keito adds in English: "I'm so glad to come to Thailand."
"It feels very strange to have food made of crocodile meat," says Hikaru responding to a question about Thailand.
"It is very hot but Thai fans are friendly," adds Yuya.
"I see Thai fans holding their fans painted with Japanese words and Yamada spelt Dayama," says a laughing Chinen. Yamada grins and tells the press he is looking forward to doing some shopping. "I had fun bargaining when I was here last time. You can't do that in Japan."
Asked to name their idols, Yamada says his is Kinki Kids' Koichi Domoto while Arioka's idol is Smap's Shingo Katori. For Keito, it's his dad, father, Kenichi Okamoto, who was a former member of the rock band & Johnny's group Otokogumi.
Just as the interview comes to an end, Yamada gets serious. "I promise we'll be back in Bangkok soon, this time with a concert," he says.
AVALON Official Video: The First Jump to Thailand 2013 HERE
CHANNEL V THAILAND Interview
credits The Nation, AVALON, Marumura, 1, Picspam 1, Picspam 2
Apart from the event, HSJ went to Thailand to shoot a CM, went to the beach & shopping. Fans' papapics are the best.