Nov 28

[interview] Jin Akanishi

What do you do when you’re a member of a phenomenally successful Japanese boyband? If you’re Jin Akanishi, you go solo and tour the United States.

For the past nine years, Akanishi was one-sixth of KAT-TUN, a relatively new song-and-dance group conceived and managed by the institutional idol agency Johnny & Associates, Inc., which has produced some of Japan’s perennial male entertainers, such as SMAP and Arashi. The boyband was so popular it sold out concerts years before officially debuting in 2006. Their singles, sometimes written by industry legends such as Takahiro Matsumoto and Kyosuke Himuro, hit the top of the Oricon charts and made KAT-TUN a household name. Akanishi himself, widely adored for his impeccable looks, was one of two lead singers and an occasional songwriter for the group.

Not long after KAT-TUN legitimately launched, Akanishi began to assert himself as a soloist. He went on hiatus from October 2006 until April 2007 to study English in Los Angeles; during this time, KAT-TUN released records without him. In 2009, he starred in the movie Bandage and sang its titular theme song. This year, he played solo shows in Japan and the United States and subsequently announced his departure from KAT-TUN in July. His first major venture as a solo Johnny’s singer was the Yellow Gold Tour 3010, a brief American outing from Nov. 7 to Nov. 21.

“Everything’s going well,” Akanishi says of the tour on the day prior to his final concert at New York City’s Best Buy Theater. “I already been to San Fran…,” he blanks out and turns to the poster on his left. “Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, and I’m about to have last show in here.”

Akanishi certainly didn’t slack off when he studied English four years ago. Though his accent and grammatical quirks are heavily Japanese, and his body language—palms on his chin, hands brushing across the back of his hair—reveals he’s thinking hard, he speaks readily and with largely correct syntax and pronunciation.

He says living in America did not particularly change him. “ I think I already knew American culture,” he explains. “There is no culture shock.” Nonetheless, he speaks of himself in individualist terms, so it’s not hard to imagine why he’s clicked with America. “I’m just like doing what I want and enjoying what I’m doing,” he says. “I’m just living the moment so I end up in this position.”

The tour’s name derives from one of Akanishi’s song titles. “The composition of my concert is futuristic,” he elaborates. “So like, not 2010—why don’t we say, 3010. People think it’s mistake, but it’s not.”

“I just want share my music with bigger audience,” Akanishi says of his goals for the U.S. tour. “I just want people to know what my music is and who’s Jin Akanishi.”

In multiple interviews before, Akanishi has cited wanting to share his own musical compositions as the reason for going solo. He explains that being solo doesn’t necessarily provide better opportunities to showcase said music than writing for KAT-TUN did, but live performances carry new pressure. “If I’m gonna make a mistake, there’s nobody to cover it up,” he says. “I have to take all the responsibility myself.”

Does he still talk with the remaining KAT-TUN members? “Yeah, if I have a chance,” Akanishi says. “Originally, we don’t talk that much, like just being friends. They’re like co-workers. They’re from same agency. If I see them, I’m like hi, and have conversation a little bit.” He adds, “I went to dinner with one of KAT-TUN member, [Yuichi] Nakamaru. He’s chill.”

Akanishi’s working on an album tentatively set for release early next year. “When I’m composing music, I just make whatever I want,” he says. “I don’t have specific genre or something, but now I already have a lot of hip-hop style, so I try to make more brighter, happier song.”

“I listen to a lot of music,” he says. “There is a lot of singers I like, like Keri Hilson, Lil Wayne, Kanye. I listen to…” struggling for the name, he snaps his fingers frantically. “What’s her name! I mean, not only hip-hop. I listen to rock. I listen to pop.”

Being a good-looking star, Akanishi is frequently chased by fans. But one incident particularly freaked him out. “A really long time ago, I used to live with my parents, and a fan put natto in my mailbox,” he recalls. “And when I open it there’s natto and onions in my mailbox, separately. What does that mean like, should I cook it?”

“If you do that, then cook it, and put it in!” he laughs.

NOTE: An early version of this article said that Akanishi’s article was due late next year. That has since been corrected.

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  1. diyaz

    Thank you 4 sharing! Jin is one of the amazing singer that i know. i’m happy to see he is enjoying his career now!

  2. Edna Nicholson

    Thank you for reading!

  3. bleurgh1

    thanks for sharing!

  4. cls

    Thank you for the article on Jin. He’s such a talented guy and it wiil be a huuuuuuuuge waste if his agency delay in releasing his album. I’m not really into Johnny’s boy bands but Jin really stands out with his strong personality.

    I really hope his agency appreciate Jin and his fans more. Give us Jin’s album now!!!

    1. Victoria Goldenberg

      Thank you for reading!

  5. Ginger

    Well, guess I got the order wrong. When I said “I second the post above”, I meant whatever the poster Ooe said. Sorry for the confusion.

  6. Ginger

    I second the post above, every word of it. Hopefully “late next year” is just a typo. How about “later next year”, meaning, the beginning of 2011? It’s already a long wait for us. I don’t know how Japanese agencies work, but I thought it’s the same everywhere —- fans’ loyalty should be rewarded, not to be punished by long and uncertain waiting period.

    I don’t know Japanese and have a very limited knowledge of Japanese artists and idols (e.g. I know almost nothing about SMAP or Arashi mentioned in this article), but for me, Jin stands out. It’s not only his look but the whole package. He’s an amazing performer and singer. I watched some of his concert DVDs and couldn’t take my eyes off him. It’s the same when I saw him live. He’s this powerful on stage. I can’t wait for his solo concert DVD.

    Thank you very much for this article. It’s fun to see him trying to express himself in English. Although he always seems like the silent type when he does interviews, he’s actually surprisingly interesting.

    1. Victoria Goldenberg

      We’ve received and added clarification. The article now correctly reads early next year.

      Thank you for reading!

      1. Ginger

        Thank you very much for taking the time to double check the facts with his agency! This is true professionalism.

        It maybe trivial for others but very important for fans. Now other than the wonderful pics and fun article, you’ve given us this exciting news. Purple Sky, you made my day. This is the first time I come to your site. I’ll be back.

  7. yessichan1

    YESH he remembered the SF concert :’D I loved that concert. I’m so glad that he’s happy right now. That’s all I want for him…to be happy. :) WE LOVE YOU JIN. YOU’RE NOT ALONE! <33

  8. ooe

    I had a heart attact when I read the line “an album tentatively set for release late next year”. I hope it’s just wrong information…Johnny’s can’t keep Jin and his fans waiting like that. This is not only unfair but also ridiculous.

    We fans are after him not only because of his look. Of course being good looking is always important, but without his talent and his unique personality, I’d have got bored years ago.

    Also Jin’s popularity in KAT-TUN mostly came from his stage, plus his success in a few tv dramas. Check out his solo performance in KAT-TUN concerts in history, you got to know why.

    1. Victoria Goldenberg

      I didn’t write he was popular only for his looks; it just would’ve been boring to give a laundry list of reasons fans like him.

      And yes, I spent hours researching for this article because I am a professional journalist who’s covered Japanese music for the past 4+ years. You can read up on my background if this is your first time reading any of my work. Thank you for reading!

      1. ooe

        Really appreciate that you replied to the comments. Certainly it’s boring to repeat everything people heard already, and saying he’s good looking is never wrong.

        Please take my comment as a little fan chat only. If I sounded sensitive before, sorry about that.

        About the release time of his album fans kept asking about, it’s all because the long unnecessary waiting made us feel painful. Actually it’s great you brought us the information. Be it early or late, at least there’s an album coming.

        Thank you for your article and the beautiful photos attached. The natto story is priceless^^

        1. Victoria Goldenberg

          No need to apologize! :)

          We received and added a clarification–the album’s actually due early next year! Unfortunately, stuff happens despite our best efforts, and I hope the error isn’t spread ’round faster than the correct version.

          1. ooe

            Thank you so much for your hard work! You don’t know how ridiculously happy I am now XD

            It’s the first time I’m on Purple Sky. Looks like a great site. I especially like the comment system, also it’s great people can directly talk to the journalist. Will totally explore more.

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