J-Pop’s masked idols Kamen Joshi don’t want to be just faces in the crowd

With their masks and synchronised dancing, and music that mixes heavy metal riffing with saccharine interludes, the Masked Girls are the Slipknot of the J-Pop world

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 8:00am

Standing out from Japan’s myriad girl bands can be a daunting task, but one group, Kamen Joshi (Masked Girls in Japanese), has found the answer – by hiding behind masks.

As many as 15,000 people flocked to a concert by the band late last year, showing how their fan base has grown in the three years since they first started, when they struggled to fill a 400-seat theatre.

One of its first breakthrough songs, Genkidane, hit the top of the charts in January 2015, with more than 200,000 records sold in the first week of release, says music company Oricon Style, setting a record for a female indie band in Japan.

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The band, made up of 18 members in three separate groups, are based in Tokyo and perform across Japan and in some Asian cities. The masks enhance the band’s appeal, say fans who attended a recent concert in the Japanese capital.

“It is unique that even though they are idols, they perform while hiding their faces with masks,” says one spectator, Akihiro Kuji.

Not all of the band’s songs are performed from behind masks, but band members say they prefer to keep their faces hidden. “We are happier if we are asked to perform a live session with our masks on, rather than asked to take them off,” says a band member who uses the stage name Nodoka Sakura.

“These masks are like our lives. We can’t go on stage live without them.”

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What began as a promotional gimmick for the band has evolved into a kind of raison d’être.

“By wearing this mask, we become invincible. We can’t live without it any more,” says a band member with the stage name Moa Tsukino.