On a cold November night, Japanese pop group JO1 split the darkness enclosing Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, where the 2022 MAMA Awards are held. JO1 members Ren Kawashiri, Takumi Kawanishi, and Issei Mamehara appear in a dim blue glow, while the screen displays the opening line, “I am, I wish, I will.” It’s a culmination of dreams, a continuation of the journey that got them here, on one of the world’s most influential stages.
Haunting piano and violin chords usher in the entrance of JO1’s remaining members, Sho Yonashiro, Ruki Shiroiwa, Junki Kono, Keigo Sato, Syoya Kimata, Shosei Ohira, Sukai Kinjo, and Shion Tsurubo, who join them to present an orchestral rendition of their song, “SuperCali.” The tectonic combination sets ablaze a resounding spectacle that pulsates through the night, becoming a statement for tomorrow. With the performance nearing its end and the adrenaline still running high, the youngest member, Issei, declares: “You can now ask me what’s next.”
It’s an open invitation to shine a light on 11 intersecting lives destined to rise in unison.
When Teen Vogue makes the virtual connection to Tokyo for this interview with JO1, it’s the end of a spring day teeming with schedules and celebrations. The 11-member group — barefaced, comfortably dressed, and with a carefree disposition — just finished a YouTube livestream a couple of hours earlier to commemorate the release of their latest single, titled Tropical Night.
But also — of equal or greater importance — it’s the birthday of Syoya, JO1’s self-proclaimed sub-leader (this could be considered official), whose role has expanded to be a safety net for everyone in this team. He’s 23 years old now, a more fully-formed performer than ever, and a person who doesn’t hesitate to dance whenever our chat gravitates around topics of music. “I used to do a little bit of cover dancing [when I was younger] and I couldn’t forget the rush and excitement that I felt when I was going through that experience,” he says at the beginning of the conversation. “It really was the drive for me to want to become an entertainer — to make everybody happy.”