Over the past few weeks, both the Japanese government and various artists have lifted the pandemic restrictions on cheering at concerts across Japan. Both fans and performers alike have acutely felt this absence, and so it was no surprise that when the restrictions were lifted many performers would be overcome with emotion at being able to finally hear their fans at events.
Performing at the end of January, artist Hoshino Gen cried when hearing the audience respond at the final performance of his tour Gen Hoshino presents “Reassembly”. Speaking to the crowd, he said: “Everyone, thank you so so much for your patience. I have really been wanting to see you, and this makes that three year wait so worthwhile”, to which the crowd responded “welcome home!!”.
Where this absence is probably felt the hardest is with idol and idol-adjacent acts. The fan call and response is a major part of idol culture across Asia, and is a big part of what idols look foward to when performing in front of a crowd such as in this interview with Team 8‘s Yoshikawa Nanase:
Nanase: I really want more songs like “47 no Suteki na Machi e!” Our fans go all out with the calls, and seem to shout it as if their lives depend on it – it looks like they’re having so much fun. The energy turns into something so powerful that we’re able to enjoy performing that with the fans. Hopefully we’re able to show our foreign fans this and I want to be able to have our foreign fans get that energy and feel from our performances.
And so it should not be surprising that the very same performance can take on a different life when fans are allowed to cheer their favorites on, as fellow Team 8 member Shimizu Maria explains here with the return of calls at AKB48 theater. According to her, calls and fan chants are something both the performer and fans create together, and the lack of calls made it incredibly hard to know whether or not fans truly enjoyed their performances, particularly when combined with mask wearing.
Current trainee and kenkyuusei Mizushima Miyuu, who joined AKB48 during the pandemic and therefore had never been at a performance with calls, talked about her feelings here, saying that feeling that fan appreciation in person was both surreal and ten times what she had seen through recorded videos. Because zensa, the part of AKB48 theater where they showcase new members or kenkyuusei, happens even before the overture, Mizushima was almost apologetic towards her senior members as she and fellow kenkyuusei Kohama Kokone were truly the first to “feel” the return of calls at performances.
In an interview with the Bandwagon publication, Johnny’s group SixTONES also echoed similar sentiments, remarking that the title of their upcoming release was due in part because of the members’ excitement at being able to hear their fans’ voices again.
"Audiences are finally able to scream and shout at live shows again…this renewed sense of 'voice' in being able to hear our fans is a big deal for both us and them, hence the title."
— Johnny & Associates (@johnnys) February 16, 2023
In a wonderful response to a great question in the interview about being back on tour and finally being able to hear the voices of their fans again, the members said:
Morimoto: this new period… feels like a new chapter for us. So much of what we took for granted was taken from us and our fans these past three years, so it’s not enough to just return to normal; we’ve got to do more to make up for lost time…
Jesse: This is the first show we’ve been able to perform to audience cheers since our debut, and the impact has been incredible. It truly feels like a live show
Read the interview here to see their full reactions on hearing fans!
So before you go to your next Japanese or Asian artist performance, be sure to check out what some of the standard mixes and calls are!