Harajuku icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu took San Francisco by storm last weekend with appearances and live performances at the J-Pop Summit Festival. Somehow, despite her busy schedule, I managed to nab an interview (my 3rd one to date) with the PON PON PON one herself where we talked about idols, Kyary’s music videos, and the “dark side of kawaii”… thanks to New People and the ASOBI SYSTEM gang for making this happen. - PM
Crunchyroll: How are you enjoying San Francisco so far? What kinds of things have you done while you’ve been here?
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: I went to go check out the Fisherman’s Wharf area and I got to see the sea lions, eat sea food, and I got to play at the arcade there.
You’ve been around the world now, and have been to many different cities. What has that experience been like? Has it changed you at all?
One of the biggest things that I felt that after the world tour is that I became more courageous about being in front of people and it gave me more confidence to be seen by many people in the world.
What are some of the craziest and wackiest things that have happened to you overseas?
The craziest things? There’s so many (laughs)… Every time I go to a different city I see people who are cosplaying as me. I see people who are wearing my costumes from the “PON PON PON” or “Tsukematsu Tsukeru” music videos. That got me happy and excited about meeting the people out there.
Recently, it seems like you have been super busy with work. How are you dealing with that?
I used to be kind of hikikomori (“a shut-in”) and stay inside alone (laughs) but recently, I try to hang out with my friends when they ask me to go out. I usually start my day in the afternoon and I like to go to places like a Harry Potter exhibit (Now at the Mori Arts Center in Tokyo – PM) or the watch movies like new Hayao Miyazaki movie Kaze Tachinu. That was the most recent thing that I’ve seen.
What helps you to maintain your energy and workload?
One of my biggest motivations is absolutely the energy I get from fans during my live shows. I get so much energy from the crowd. Also recently a friend of mine read the tarot for me and there were some results from there that also gave me motivation.
I wanted to ask you about Tamukai Jun, who is the director of your music videos. What kind of director is he? What’s it like working with him?
I’ve been working with Tamukai-san since my very first video (“PON PON PON”, 2011) and he really truly understands the kawaii cute side of girls and also the dark grotesque side of girls. He’s really able to bring those things together. And every time we do a video together, it always surpasses everyone’s expectations and I absolutely love working with him.
When the music video of “Candy Candy” came out, some people interpreted it as a parody of Japanese idol culture. Did this idea come from you?
When I first heard the song “Candy Candy”, I really felt like it had ‘80s idol style. So when we were talking and coming up with the concept of the video, I mentioned that I wanted to do it kind of like the magical girl idols from back in the ‘80s. The whole concept is from the old music TV show “The Best 10”. The host was Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, who had this hairstyle that kind of looks like an onion. And as sort of a tribute to her, we have an onion for the host in the music video.
What does the word “idol” mean to you? Do you think you are an idol?
There’s so many different types of idols in Japan. When I was in elementary school, I was really into Morning Musume and I've always admired them. But I actually don’t consider myself as an idol. To me, an idol is something that is very cute and perfect. But with the way I present myself, there’s always a dark side, sort of like "thorns". That really differentiates me from a standard idol from Japan.
Kyary at Shibuya PARCO "Girls in the Room" event, created by Sebastian Masuda of 6%DOKIDOKI, 2011
What do you remember about your first reaction to the kawaii shops in Harajuku, specifically 6%DOKIDOKI?
When I went to Harajuku in high school, there was one store that absolutely stood out from everything else there and that was 6%DOKIDOKI. When I went inside, there were all these shop girls who had different stuff in their hair, rings that said “dokidoki”, earrings that said “arigato” and that was super-sensational for me. That’s what I remember about my first visit.
What do you think drew you specifically to Harajuku fashion instead of something else, like hip hop or punk rock?
I always just really liked girly stuff. Katy Perry is one of my favorite artists and I really like that kind of atmosphere that 6% has. Basically, an environment jam-packed with kawaii and cute stuff.
Once you said in an interview “kawaii can have a dark side” and you mentioned something similar earlier. What did you mean by that?
Did I say that? Hmm. I think I meant that things that I get attracted to are not just cute, but internally have a dark side or something grotesque about them. That’s what I consider to be my definition of “kawaii”.
This is sort of a strange question, but what do you think lead you to become “Kyary Pamyu Pamyu”?
People used to call me “Kyary” since I was in high school, but when I debuted (a a singer), I realized there were a lot of other “Kyarys” in the world like Mariah Carey, or Carrie the movie. So I added the words “Pamyu Pamyu” and I wanted a super-long name for people to remember.
So what are some of your favorite things right now? What are you interested in at the moment?
Hmm. I’m really into cupcakes and collecting stuff that has something to do with them. Sometimes, it’s just the candle that goes on top, sometimes it’s a bath salt that’s in the shape of a cupcake. I put stuff like that all over my room to help keep up my girliness.
What are some of the professional and personal goals you still feel you’d like to accomplish?
I definitely want to become someone who is recognized not just within Japan, but all over the world. And my ultimate, ultimate goal is to keep on giving people dreams.
Translator: Misaki C. Kido
All photos © Patrick Macias