We spotlight the J-Pop group that’s now based in the U.S. and is taking over with their charismatic performances on America’s Got Talent and more.

“Our dream is to become the biggest stars in the world” is what they told the judges prior to their initial performance at America’s Got Talent. If the reaction of the audience and judges afterwards is anything to go by, they’re well on their way to making that dream into a reality.

Meet Travis Japan, affectionately known as “TraJa (トラジャ)” by their fans. They’re an all-male J-Pop group belonging to the Johnnys’ Jr. division of Japan’s most well-known male talent agency, Johnny & Associates, whose members were auditioned by American choreographer Travis Payne (hence their name). The current seven-member lineup was finalized in 2017 and is led by 24-year-old Kaito (“Chaka”) Miyachika. Specializing in dancing and choreography, the group had already caught our attention last year when they opened their very own dedicated YouTube channel, +81 DANCE STUDIO, where they showcase their own dance covers to classic Johnny’s songs.

▼ This video of Travis Japan dancing to their song “Happy Groovy” embodies their fun, infectious energy and smooth moves!

In an unprecedented twist for a Johnny & Associates group, Travis Japan made the decision to relocate to the U.S. earlier this year to continue their training and take part in competitions abroad. They’ve been steadily growing in popularity after a number of prominent appearances at competitions and similar events, including America’s Got Talent, where their debut performance video has been viewed more than 3.12 million times on YouTube as of this writing. The following is a brief summary of their accomplishments in the short time that they’ve been in the U.S. and why we’re keeping a close eye on them.

▼ Travis Japan’s performance at the World of Dance Orange County Championships

Travis Japan burst on to the U.S. scene with the World of Dance Orange County Championships (March 27, Anaheim, California), where they came in third place in the team division only the day after they landed in California. Despite that tight schedule, their energetic performance, which included kitsune fox masks at the start and a small costume change partway through the performance, earned them specialty awards in Best Costume and Crowd Favorite. They were invited to continue the competition at the World of Dance Championship Week (July 29-31, Buena Park, California).

During the three-day Championship Week, they came in 4th place in the USA Team Division on Day 1 and 9th place in the International Team Division on Day 2, moving to the World Finals on Day 3, all during their first-ever appearance at the event. They also won the Ultimate Crowd Favorite specialty award and #TravisJapan was trending 4th worldwide after the competition. In response to the experience, team leader Kaito shared the following:

“Getting to participate in the World of Dance Championships was a brand-new and exciting challenge; not just for the 7 of us in Travis Japan, but also for the whole Johnny & Associates family. Not knowing what would happen each day of the competition or what such esteemed judges might think of our efforts made us really nervous at times, but it was always abated by the roar of the crowds and the thrill of being back on stage.

The experience we’ve had here will forever be our treasured memory and a weapon we hone through the course of our ongoing ‘Hollywood TJ’ adventure in the United States. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us through these past three days, and who continue to cheer us on this journey to our dreams!”

At the World of Dance Championship Week

Johnny & Associates

In between both phases of that competition they also took part in last month’s Rising Japan MusicFest in the Los Angeles area (which we previously noted as selling excellent yakitori as well), the Prelude Las Vegas Dance Competition, and Anime Expo 2022. During Anime Expo, Travis Japan participated in a livestreamed interview from the main hall on July 2, held a more intimate panel discussion/Q&A on July 3, and performed in the closing ceremonies on July 4.

However, perhaps Travis Japan’s biggest break for exposure so far has been participating in the audition process for popular TV program America’s Got Talent. The episode that they were featured in aired on July 12 in the U.S. An America’s Got Talent representative had noticed the buzz following their March 27 World of Dance Championships appearance and invited them to take part. No Johnny & Associates’ group had appeared on a nationally syndicated American TV program since SHONENTAI’s 1984 appearance on The Merv Griffin Show, so this marked a huge milestone not only for the group, but for the agency, and J-Pop as a whole.

▼ Posing outside of the Pasadena Civic Auditorium after their debut performance was recorded in late April

Johnny & Associates

The performance, choreography, and costume choice were all handled exclusively by the members themselves. They danced to “My Dreamy Hollywood,” an English adaptation of their first original song “Yume no Hollywood” [Hollywood of Dreams], in order to appeal to global fans. Their performance charmed the audience and judges so much that they were invited to participate in the show’s live semi-finals in September.

▼ Travis Japan’s debut performance on America’s Got Talent, which largely catapulted them into the public eye

Travis Japan’s performance in the America’s Got Talent semi-finals will be featured in the episode that airs on September 6 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. EST in the U.S., though check with your service provider for any local differences. Updates about that appearance and other upcoming events can also be found on their official Instagram account.

Want to know even more about Travis Japan? Stay tuned for our upcoming exclusive interview with the group, where we discuss their transition to living in the U.S., the group’s anime theme song dreams, and a funny episode during their travels while on tour.

Reference: Johnnys’ Island
Featured image: Johnny & Associates
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