We interview the all-male J-Pop group Travis Japan in the midst of their trailblazing efforts in the U.S.

In the first part of this J-pop spotlight, we introduced some of Travis Japan’s major accomplishments since relocating to the U.S. to train, which include winning accolades at the World of Dance Championship Week and being invited to perform at the America’s Got Talent semi-finals which will air in early September. In this second part, we’d like to share highlights from our interview with them at last month’s Anime Expo 2022 event in Los Angeles.

We caught up with Travis Japan on July 3 in the middle of the three-day convention. They certainly kept busy throughout its duration as well, participating in a live English interview on July 2, holding a panel discussion/Q&A on July 3, and performing in the closing ceremony on July 4. Read on to hear from them about their recent experiences in the U.S. and future career aspirations.

Front row, left to right: Genta Matsuda, Kaito Nakamura, Noel Kawashima
Back row, left to right: Kaito Matsukura, Ryuya Shimekake, Shizuya Yoshizawa, Kaito Miyachika

Johnny & Associates

SoraNews24: First, from your perspective, what do YOU think is the most charming part of your group?

Noel Kawashima: “During performances we’re always in sync, but each of us has his own unique personality that comes out at different times. Whether we’re just chatting or guesting on variety shows, we can be incredibly versatile.”

SoraNews24: It’s been several months since you moved to the States. This kind of long ‘study abroad’ is unprecedented for a Johnny & Associates’ group. I think there will be plenty of opportunities for growth, but what are you most excited to continue learning?

Ryuya Shimekake: “We want to continue learning singing, and of course, dancing. Everything, really. Out of everything though, it seems like we’ll have the most opportunities to showcase our dancing moving forward. It would be great to continue to improve upon our singing as well and become true artists.”

SoraNews24: What does a ‘true artist’ look like to you?

Shimekake: “Michael Jackson.” (laughs)

SoraNews24: We saw on your Instagram that you recently trained with Travis Payne and Stacy Walker. What was that experience like?

Kaito Miyachika: “We were incredibly happy to be able to work with them. Johnny Kitagawa [the founder of Johnny & Associates] made the relationship between them and us originally and assembled this group. There hadn’t been many opportunities for us to work with them until Los Angeles, so we’re glad that opportunity finally materialized. On top of that, we were fortunate to receive a lesson and practice Travis Payne’s choreography for the first time in a while. They also budgeted time for us to have an open discussion and ask questions. Many of the things that we talked about have left a huge impression on us and have become important memories on this journey.”

▼ A reunion long in the making

SoraNews24: By the way, have you gotten used to life in California?

Kaito Matsukura: “Yes, we…have? (laughs) At first we had a tough time with being able to do simple things like order a cup of coffee in English. There were times when we didn’t understand anything at all. But we’ve become able to order coffee now!”

SoraNews24: Tomorrow’s America’s Independence Day. Do you have any special plans?

Miyachika: “We’re going to perform in the [Anime Expo] closing ceremony! It’s outside at night and there should be fireworks. We’d love to see those.”

SoraNews24: What about BBQ?

Kaito Nakamura:Sounds great!”
Miyachika: “We’ll try asking some of our staff.” (laughs)

SoraNews24: OK, since we’re at Anime Expo, let’s talk a little bit about anime. You’re probably aware of this, but anime is the spark for many foreigners to study Japanese. What are some anime that you’ve loved since you were children or are into right now?

Nakamura: “I liked Neon Genesis Evangelion when I was in elementary school. That made me interested to watch more shows. Even now, when I have a day off, I can spend the entire day just watching anime. I’m thankful that we have streaming services now so that I can binge shows and then sleep.”

SoraNews24: I’ve seen Evangelion twice and I still don’t understand the ending.

Kawashima: “No worries—even Japanese people don’t really understand it.” (laughs)
Nakamura: “It’s better and more fun to think of the show as four separate works—the regular TV series, the [two] films that came directly after that, and the Rebuild of Evangelion films. Having different distributors also makes them seem like completely different stories.”
Kawashima: “Also, I think all of us watched Yu-Gi-Oh! when we were young. Yu-Gi-Oh!, Naruto, One Piece, Bleach…”

▼ Maybe someday we’ll even hear a [non-cat] cover of “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” from Travis Japan!


SoraNews24: I work at an American university, and Spy x Family, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Demon Slayer are all really popular. What anime would you like to sing the theme song for given the chance? Any past or present work is fine.

Kawashima: “We’d be so happy to provide a theme song…maybe for a series that seems like it’s still got a long way to go before ending? For instance, Spy x Family’s second season will premiere in October. Someday we’d love to be able to sing an original song for a popular anime for fans around the world. That way, when they hear the song, they’ll also think of Travis Japan. One Piece, My Hero Academia…we’d love to get the chance to sing for a show like those that are still not finished.”

SoraNews24: Incidentally, congratulations on your third-place finish at the World of Dance Orange County Championships! By any chance was there some Dragon Ball Kamehameha-inspired choreography hiding in your performance there?

Miyachika: “Hmm…when we thought of choreography that time, we wanted to showcase traditional Japanese culture through traditional sounds and by wearing haori [kimono jackets]. The thing that popped into our heads first was something like a Kamehameha. I think we were proud of Japanese anime in our minds.”

▼ You can see the hidden Kamehameha for yourself at the 0:52 mark in the video here.

SoraNews24: If you were to create new choreography based on an anime technique, what would it be?

Nakamura: “Something that uses hand signs from Naruto sounds like it would be interesting. For example, ‘Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu’ (‘Fire Style: Fireball Jutsu’). Or, Luffy’s stretching arms in One Piece.”
Miyachika: “Speaking of interesting poses, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures has a lot of interesting moves. Probably when we’re creating new dances the anime that we grew up with are influencing us. Like with the Kamehameha, we held up our arms and thought that it would be cool to line up. I think they’ll continue to pop up occasionally.”

SoraNews24: How about Rurouni Kenshin’s “Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki”?

Shimekake: “Sure, we’ll work hard at it!”
Miyachika: “Actually, Shizuya was practicing that one a while ago. He’s almost got it—just wait a little bit longer. “(laughs)

SoraNews24: Lastly, this is completely unrelated, but there’s something I wanted to ask you no matter what. The first video I ever saw of Travis Japan was your “No plan trip from Sendai to Tokyo” after your Sendai concert. As someone who lived in Tohoku for two years and often visited Miyagi Prefecture, I was really excited to see you doing things like visiting Matsushima, eating zunda, and seeing Date Masamune‘s statue. What are your thoughts on Tohoku?

The “No plan trip” video series, fully subtitled in English, with Kaito Matsukura’s infamous back scratcher souvenir making its appearance at 10:13

Genta Matsuda: “During our nationwide tour we were fortunate to visit some places in Miyagi Prefecture like Date Masamune’s statue [at the Sendai Castle ruins]. As Travis Japan, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we love all places throughout Japan and the people there from the bottom of our hearts as if they were our second homes. Personally, I have relatives in Miyagi, and have fond memories of eating harakomeshi (a local specialty rice bowl topped with salmon and salmon roe) with my grandmother and grandfather. There are so many kind people and delicious foods there. I’m very happy both as a member of a group and as an individual.”

SoraNews24: Did you end up eating any Hagi no Tsuki?

Kawashima: “We ate a ton of them. They were even at the concert venue. During the car trip home our spending money was limited so we held back on buying any more.”

Hagi no Tsuki, the most popular sweets souvenir from Sendai


SoraNews24: Do you still have that back scratcher souvenir?

Matsukura: “We still have it (laughs). It’s not with us right now but it’s being looked after in Japan. My dad’s probably using it.”

SoraNews24: Finally, we’d love to hear a little bit about your future activities. Where would you love to hold a concert someday?

Matsukura: “In Japan, it would be an honor to perform on a nationwide tour and ultimately a dome tour (held at the nation’s biggest dome stadiums, a dome tour is the ultimate sign that a musical act has made it big in Japan). Outside of Japan, we’d like to perform more in Los Angeles since we’re living here currently, or Las Vegas where we were before. We’ve also talked a bit about how awesome it would be to perform at certain venues as we’re traveling around.”

SoraNews24: We read that you’ve studied Chinese as well. Is that true?

Miyachika: “Yes, we studied Chinese when we were in Japan.”

SoraNews24: Are you studying English every day now?

Miyachika: “We have lessons on weekdays. Even when we don’t have class, English is everywhere in our daily lives now so we’re learning a lot.”

SoraNews24: Lastly, please share a message with Travis Japan fans around the world.

Miyachika: “Right now we’re training in the U.S. and absorbing many things. We’re using this time meaningfully to gain more confidence in our own way. We want to share many performances and other things with everyone. Until that time arrives, we’ll continue growing and working hard, so please wait for us. There’s nothing that will make us happier than to be able to share that with you.”

With all of the success they’ve achieved in such a short time so far, Travis Japan seems well on their way to landing their first anime theme song and becoming the first Japanese boy band to be a household name in the U.S. We look forward to all that they’ll have to offer moving forward and hope to see their name on a yearly ranking of top anime theme song karaoke hits in the near future.

Reference: Johnnys’ Island
Featured image: Johnny & Associates
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