From playing their own instruments to scaring the crap out of each other, these six 7 MEN are changing the face of Japanese idols.

The past few years have been quite tumultuous for the powerhouse boy band management firm Johnny & Associates. In 2016, the iconic idols of SMAP decided to go their separate ways and in 2019, the company’s founder and heavily involved president Johnny Kitagawa passed away at the age of 87.

If that weren’t enough, the top-selling group ARASHI also called it quits as a unit at the end of last year and fellow long-running act V6 are set to follow suit this November. However, with all this change comes the opportunity to do something different, and that’s what the newest generation of Johnny’s groups have been working on.

▼ If this ain’t different, I don’t know what is.

One of the groups at the forefront of this movement are the six members of 7 MEN Samurai. I’ll explain why that math doesn’t add up in a moment, but for a few years now this group has been steadily building a fanbase online not just with music but with their many videos on YouTube and Johnny’s own Island TV website, such as the Taiko’s Challenges series.

Born out of the self-isolation of 2020, member Taiko Sasaki came up with the idea to attempt a range of self-imposed stunts at home and at work that defy common sense. He fails at pretty much all them, but it ultimately makes for more entertaining content that way.

▼ A fan-made video compilation of Taiko’s Challenges with Korean subtitles, my favorite is his ill-fated attempt to wear a frozen T-shirt without making a sound from the harmonica in his mouth at about 2:50

It’s a refreshingly weird departure from the carefully guarded pristine images of past Johnnys’ idols and earned 7 MEN Samurai the reputation as the “itanji” or “mavericks” of the company. It’s fitting too, as in many ways this group was born out of the upheaval of the past years.

They originally formed as a seven-member unit in February 2018 and were the last boy band to have been personally selected and named by Kitagawa himself. It was only a few months later that one member gave up on show business completely and left the group, but that may have ultimately worked out in their favor because the seventh member position was filled by the self-taught musical savant Rei Yabana.

▼ Another fan vid showing Yabana casually live-looping every instrument on a track, be sure to stick with it to the end

The remaining members trained hard to prepare for their first solo concert in March of 2019, but one suddenly had to leave the group after he got caught smoking while underage. 7 MEN Samurai was once again reduced to six men, but when Kitagawa died four months later they decided to make him the honorary seventh member because it was his creative input that set them on course for their shared goal of international fame.

So next time you see them on stage, know that there really is seven men there. It’s just that one of them is not currently on the physical plane of existence.

▼ One of 7 MEN Samurai’s first original songs, “Siren”

It would seem that being a six-member group was their destiny, and so their lineup was solidified: Sasaki and Yabana would continue to perform on stage and online alongside the multilingual Katsuki Motodaka who speaks Chinese and English, thespian Reia Nakamura who has already scored several major roles on stage as well as TV screens, smooth-voiced Taiki Konno who hopes to someday be as big as his own idol Takuya Kimura, and athletic Rinne Sugeta who is the only Johnnys’ member to have completed the first round of Sasuke (known as Ninja Warrior abroad) on his first attempt.

▼ From left to right: Taiki Konno, Taiko Sasaki, Rinne Sugeta, Reia Nakamura, Katsuki Motodaka, and Rei Yabana

Together their music is at its core true to the layered-yet-light J-Pop sound and they do their fair share of highly choreographed dance routines. But 7 MEN Samurai also buck the stereotype that boy bands lack musical proficiency by not only playing their own instruments, but sometimes exchanging them with each other part way through a song, as seen in this performance of their original song “SAMU-DAMA” in the video below.

In addition to music, they’ve also been weekly contributors to the Johnnys’ Jr. YouTube channel with a range of stunts and practical jokes posted every Friday, from duct-taping each other to being tricked into a haunted drive-in.

Depending on when you watch that video it may or may not have subtitles, and this where all you translating enthusiasts out there come in. As a part of the 7 MEN Samurai’s desire to reach a wider global audience they, along with the other acts on Johnnys’ Jr. Channel, have teamed up with the subtitle service

Amara is a new website that lets anyone craft their own subtitles with their set of free-to-use tools in any language. Doing so will make it usable on Amara, but in the case of Johnnys’ Jr. content you can take things one step further and submit your subtitles to them at

If approved, those subtitles will then be added to the official Johnnys’ Jr. Channel on YouTube for the whole world to enjoy. This process will help ensure that viewers are getting the most accurate translations possible too among the sea of fan-made videos like the ones we saw earlier.

So, head on over and pitch in to the cause if you can, because this group certainly has the drive and the talent, but it’s going to take the right support to help them on their path to becoming the next big thing in J-Pop.

Related links:, YouTube/Johnnys’ Jr. Channel, Island TV
Images: ©Johnny & Associates
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