Travis Japan moved from Tokyo to Los Angeles to accomplish a wide range of goals in order to achieve their Hollywood dream. SJPA member Sabina got the opportunity to sit down with them and discuss their thoughts about World of Dance and their indefinite stay abroad.
Travis Japan officially started their journey abroad off with a bang when they entered the World of Dance Orange County competition in Anaheim, California on March 27th, 2022. Their stunning performance landed them third place, Crowd’s Favorite, and Best Costume awards to roaring thunders of cheers from all around the world, both in the audience on-site and online.
Knowing that they would perform the day after arriving in Los Angeles, nobody expected them to win anything. Of course, no one doubted their current skills, and everyone expected a spectacular performance. After all they are Travis Japan, a Johnny’s group.
There is always something spectacular when it comes to Johnny’s. This time, it was no different. As soon as they stood on stage, you could feel the aura emitting from them. These guys know what they are doing. What will they do? What can we expect?
What we got was a performance beyond expectations. You were immediately drawn into their world on stage and felt their emotions as they expressed themselves through their movements. It was a style unlike what they usually display on stage, but still had the essence of what Travis Japan is – synchronization and Japanese entertainment.
In Japan, Travis Japan is known for their synchronized dancing and high-level dancing skills, along with a variety of other abilities that make them a loved group. While we are used to their spectacular shows and stages back in Japan, their performance at World of Dance did not disappoint. They were still the same Travis Japan that we know and adore, only on a different stage in a new country.
The sudden announcement about their move abroad caused a lot of questions and worries among fans. This is exactly what we are diving deeper into with this article, discussing Travis Japan’s thoughts and feelings about their journey and their time at World of Dance. Before that, look for yourself how Travis Japan clinched third place in this competition.
Travis Japan’s feelings about World of Dance do not stray far from what fans thought.
“We were extremely shocked by the results,” Miyachika said. “It was our first chance to really leave a great impression and have our skills be recognized, which was the purpose of participating in World of Dance.”
Aside from leaving a lasting impression and taking home three awards, Miyachika continued by saying they were grateful to be recognized for what they have been trying so hard to be able to show the world.
“It also gave us a chance to see what we are really up against and watch and to learn from so many other incredibly talented dancers, including those who placed first and second,” he continued. “We were able to see what we want to strive for and feel what we can achieve with our skills during our time in the United States.”
When they decided on what to perform, the biggest thing they wanted to present was their new song, Party Up Like Crazy. The first half of the performance was something they had added to it to show off a more Japanesque side. It was inspired by other stage plays and performances they have taken part in.
“We really wanted to show both sides of what we’re representing for our time in the United States,” Kawashima said. “Not only as young Japanese performers ourselves and where we come from, but also not to leave behind the fact that we are performers, artists, and that we have more than just dance to show off.”
He continued explaining that they wanted to make sure they kept a proper balance between their image as idols and who they are as dancers because World of Dance is a dance contest after all.
“Most people will be focusing on the dancing aspect and we need to respect that,” Kawashima added. “We didn’t want to leave behind who we are and what we really wanted to bring to our overall experience beyond this particular event.”
Prior to the event, they did not know much about World of Dance. The day after their Instagram live stream on March 3rd, when they announced their journey abroad, was the day they decided to take part in the competition.
“We recognized it as a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to hit the ground running and be able to show off exactly what we wanted to accomplish in the United States,” Nakamura said. He explained that everything after the Instagram live to the actual show happened really fast.
“In terms of responsibilities, the person who really led the coordination was Miyachika, our leader,” Nakamura said. ”We all came together to create the final piece of our performance, but he took the lead in regard to our format, layout, costumes, choreography, and everything in between. Miyachika was extremely busy putting everything that was necessary for our performance together.”
As they would be performing the day after they arrived in Los Angeles, they practiced and rehearsed while still in Japan. Due to their busy schedules, there were often times when they were only able to practice in groups of three or four, and sometimes Miyachika was completely by himself. Only a week before they left for Los Angeles and World of Dance were they able to present their performance to Hideaki Takizawa, the Vice President of Johnny and Associates, Inc., for a last bit of advice.
Despite this, each of them was able to focus on their individual parts and bring it all together, creating the performance we all saw that won third place.
“After we were able to see what World of Dance was in person, we really were able to understand that this was the right decision. It is something that was great for us, and we will be able to use it as a first step towards what we are trying to achieve,” Nakamura continued.
They got third place and were extremely happy but obviously, it also gave them the motivation to do more.
“We feel really proud and excited that we are able to go to the final stage of World of Dance as well as be a bigger part of what World of Dance does and contribute to the dance community in the United States,” Nakamura said.
When asked whether it was a different feeling performing in the competition as dancers compared to performing as idols back in Japan, Kawashima explained that standing on the stage in Los Angeles didn’t feel different to them.
“No matter which stage we’re on, we’re still the same Travis Japan,” Kawashima said. “We don’t feel like we participated in World of Dance as explicitly dancers. Even if the playing field is different, we don’t feel we are anything but Travis Japan, the same group that was active in Japan.”
“The Johnny’s brand to us is more important than anything,” Matsuda added. “We really want to further the definition of what that actually is and be able to contribute what we can bring to that particular spirit.”
They are incredibly happy and proud to work with so many talented choreographers, trainers, and others they have collaborated with up to this point in their careers. World of Dance was no exception to that feeling. They were able to stand shoulder to shoulder with other professional dancers and other performers, get inspired, and use it to create more elements for their own careers.
“We are really proud to be able to stand on this stage and see a clear path forward, especially in terms of seeing which skill sets we wanted to bring with us in order to increase our level as performers as we go on forward,” Matsuda said.
The final stage of World of Dance takes place at the end of July but instead of preparing for just the next stage, Travis Japan has their eyes set further ahead. They are not focusing on what is right in front of them but rather on what is in the far future. They see the next round, and everything that comes after, as a part of their overall progression and journey in the United States.
Throughout their journey, they want to continue to grow as young performers and take as much as they can out of various experiences, whether it would be classes, training, or events like World of Dance. This is all in order to move forward and improve the quality of their performances.
“When we move onto the next stage, whether it be the next round of World of Dance or another event, we want to add more to it and continue to impress more and more people as performers and artists,” Miyachika said.
Although Travis Japan have Japanese and International fans supporting their journey as entertainers, there was one big question when they announced their study abroad: Why did they want to go to Los Angeles?
A lot of fans were afraid it was too much of a risk, leaving Japan and their current fame to go chasing something unknown abroad. At the same time, many also supported the idea, seeing it as an incredible opportunity nobody else in Travis Japan’s generation had ever done before in the same manner.
Johnny’s & Associate’s had attempted a U.S. debut for the group Johnnys back in late 1960’s. In 1980, the group SHONENTAI, also from the same agency as Travis Japan, promoted themselves in the United States. Travis Japan is the heir to these attempts to break into the U.S., and they hope to represent the modern spirit of Japan as much as those groups did back in the day.
In 2012, f0r the stage production PLAYZONE, American choreographer Travis Payne had the opportunity to audition a group from the active support Juniors. The group born from this selection was called Travis Japan, who got to sing about their yearned dream stage and the Hollywood dream in their first original song Yume no Hollywood (My Dreamy Hollywood).
“In terms of the inspiration of wanting to go to Los Angeles, it really all started with Yume no Hollywood,” Shimekake explained.
They were inspired by the lyrics of the Hollywood dream, and they wanted to achieve this as a group because of what it meant to them. The history Johnny’s has with America and their formation by Travis Payne were also an inspiration. All of these factors led them to try for themselves to make their dream come true.
Hollywood itself is very renowned for having so much access to a lot of different opportunities – dance studios, lessons, and a strong connection to the world of entertainment.
“Even though all those things are obviously available in Japan, there are things in Los Angeles that are only here. If we are not actually here, we cannot experience those particular things that differ between Japan and Los Angeles,” Shimekake said. “It’s not about which is better or worse than the other but how moving abroad was what we needed to experience in order to push ourselves further.”
“Yes, there are risks and challenges, but ultimately by taking on those risks, we have the opportunity to grow bigger than we could before,” he continued. “Back in Japan, even with the success there, it was a safe zone. By taking on the risk of stepping out of that zone and heading overseas, we became able to grow in a more meaningful way. We want to use this opportunity to give ourselves something original and special that we wouldn’t have been able to find if we had stayed in Japan.”
They agreed that one of the biggest risks of leaving Japan is the fact that so many of their Japanese fans feel lonely and sad that they are not right in front of them as much as they were before.
“Even so, our fans are also the inspiration for us for wanting to challenge ourselves and get big, so we can bring something to them. To show them that this was worth it and we can really do something that will make them extremely proud,” Shimekake said. “That’s a huge motivating factor for everything that we want to continue to do.”
Aside from expanding their skill sets in regard to dance, singing, and languages, they expect to be able to absorb some of that can-do, independent spirit that they feel people in the United States have.
Yoshizawa mentioned something that really struck him during the time he has been in the U.S., is the deep sense of style and personality people seem to have.
“Of course, it’s like that back in Japan too, especially in regard to fashion, but there is some quality to that kind of independence that still continues to impress me,” he said.
Matsukura explained that, at their dance lessons, there’s a sense of being among people who have similar dreams and really want to improve themselves as entertainers, performers, dancers, and alike.
“We want to be able to go right up to the teacher and ask them questions,” Matsukura said. “We want to push ourselves as adults who want to grow and change. We want to have that same feeling the people around us have.”
It’s just the beginning of their journey, but Travis Japan is in a completely different country from Japan and is on their own. They are pursuing this dream, something that they decided on their own. That independent spirit is what they really want to take in and cultivate from their experience while in the United States.
Having left Japan, they still want to keep a lot of what they stand for, as Japanese artists but also as Travis Japan.
“Because this experience abroad is also a part of what our overall identity is, we really hope to continue to build a bigger perspective for ourselves,” Miyachika said. “We really want to make friends and connections with people who are also challenging themselves with their dance and voice. We also want to leverage the fact that Los Angeles is the capital of entertainment and be able to connect to athletes, actors, or any kind of people.”
They want to use this opportunity to expand their overall perspective and grow in terms of what they can bring back as representatives of Japan and as Japanese people who have undertaken this journey of theirs.
“We want to inspire and be an example for others with the fact that we have been able to do this incredible thing,” Kawashima answered when asked about their concrete goals and ambitions for their time abroad.
Kawashima felt the fact that their name has ‘Japan’ in it gives them an edge and responsibility to represent what Japan has to offer and to show what Japan means to them to the world. Travis Japan also want to bring back everything they have learned to share with their friends in Japan.
“We really want to have people say ‘Oh wow, you actually went and did this, accomplished this, participated in this and that’, and to be able to receive that kind of interest. We want to show that there is more to life than just continuing to do the same thing constantly, and that there are opportunities beyond the usual,” Kawashima said.
They want to represent what taking these risks actually means. The fact that good things can happen when you actually follow your dreams.
“Ultimately, entertainment has been our work since the very beginning. With entertainment, no matter what country it is, it’s always a part of what you can feel and really it has a limitless possibility in terms of what you’re trying to actually express,” Miyachika said.
Every single time they get on any stage, no matter where or which one, they want people to be able to look at them and feel something.
“People might not necessarily know about us or Japanese music, but that’s actually why we are continuing to push forward with this journey,” Miyachika said.
They want to deliver and experience the surprises that delight people every time they come to see Travis Japan perform.
“We hope to educate people,” Miyachika continued.” You might not know anything about us, Japan, or Japanese music prior to this experience, but, through experiencing the show we are putting on, that is how that interest of us and what we represent cultivates and begins.”
While Travis Japan had to leave a lot behind in Japan in order to improve, they brought with them an idea of how to improve themselves. They also brought how to accrue their connections, their skill sets as performers, and how to deliver something new and exciting to anyone who is able to see them.
“For us to get on stage and for people to look at us and have an experience from it is really the ultimate goal. That is really what we want people to understand and take away from this,” Miyachika said.
“If there is anyone, any fan, who comes up to us and says ‘because I heard your song, I want to learn Japanese’, then that makes us really, really happy,” Kawashima said. “It means that we have achieved our goal of sharing our Japanese music and culture with new people.”
Shimekake said that they are primarily Japanese entertainers and represent what Japanese entertainment is, but they really want to bring Japanese entertainment to the rest of the world.
“We want to bring our entertainment to the world, which obviously is a subset of the former, but it is something that is unique and different to us. We created and built it on our own,” Shimekake said.
Building and making experiences has been a running thread throughout their time abroad so far. That is exactly why they want to merge all the experiences they have had up until this point with all the new ones they are going to be able to accrue while they are overseas. Shimekake explained they want to actually bring out the true, real form of Travis Japan’s entertainment to the world and really be able to present that to the world.
“We can do it. We will go to the Grammy’s one day,” Shimekake concluded, speaking in English.
Shimekake assured fans that they are far from satisfied with their current level. They are ready to challenge whatever comes their way until they are going higher than the clouds. With performances at Prelude Las Vegas, Rising Japan MusicFest, Anime Expo, and on America’s Got Talent following their strong start at World of Dance, it feels as if Travis Japan will reach the sun during their time abroad.
Honestly, there is no telling where Travis Japan will go after the World of Dance finals. They are a group with endless possibilities. This incredible journey is just a part of their growth, and if the fans believe in them, Travis Japan can do anything. And, who knows? Maybe if fans believe enough, the Golden Nakamura will also appear in Los Angeles. After all, he is always in our hearts.
While they might have to struggle to live together, fighting for the bathroom and hot water, it will not be a problem because they are Travis Japan, a family of seven with a special bond. The dream stage they yearned for and Hollywood are no longer just a mere dream. They are making it a reality, and all of their fans are also a part of it. No matter where their fans are in the world, no matter what language they speak, or what connection they have to Travis Japan, everyone is in this together.
SONGS RECOMMENDED BY TRAVIS JAPAN
Their first original song they ever received. Yume no Hollywood is a song Travis Japan holds dear and is incredibly special to them in every way. It also has an amazing message, not only for them in terms of inspiring them to undertake this journey, but also the message of chasing your dreams and focusing on entertainment. It is what they want to continue to relay to their fans and new people who enjoy the song.
Their new song, Party Up Like Crazy represents their new era. It is something they have never shown to anyone prior to World of Dance and is their very first performance in the United States. Being a song completely in English also carries a lot of weight in terms of an important message for this journey. This is what they start with, and there is no telling where they will end.
They also personally like it because it is not just a song, but it is also something that makes them move. It is a dance-infused song and something that gives them a lot of energy and really plays up the element of who they are as performers beyond just dancers, musicians, idols, or similar.
The Show has been a fan favorite since the birth of the song, and the reason is that it is a song they can do with the fans, which makes it special to them too. They can really get into the groove with it and let fans dance along with them during concerts.
While Party Up Like Crazy has similar elements to it, The Show is in Japanese. This makes it a bit different, and it continues to be representative of ‘we haven’t lost who we are.We are Japanese artists, and this is what we want to share with the world.’
The World of Dance Championship Week 2022 took place July 29-31, here are Travis Japan’s accolades.
・Day One (Friday, July 29): USA Team Division
→Specialty Award: Best Costume
→4th Place overall (qualified to continue)
・Day Two (Saturday, July 30): Team Division (Top 10 from Day One + International WOD Qualifiers from around the world)
→Specialty Award: Crowd Favorite
→9th Place overall (qualified to continue)
・Day Three (Sunday, July 31): World Finals (Top 10 from Day Two + Additional WOD event qualifiers)
→Specialty Award: Ultimate Crowd Favorite
Through their performance they brought the experience and their entertainment to the audience they talked about. Their leader, Miyachika Kaito, gave us a statement about their experience at the finals.
Getting to participate in the World of Dance Championships was a brand-new and exciting challenge; not just for the 7 of us in Travis Japan, but also for the whole Johnny & Associates family. Not knowing what would happen each day of the competition or what such esteemed judges might think of our efforts made us really nervous at times, but it was always abated by the roar of the crowds and the thrill of being back on stage.Miyachika Kaito
The experience we’ve had here will forever be our treasured memory and a weapon we hone through the course of our ongoing “Hollywood TJ” adventure in the United States. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us through these past three days, and who continue to cheer us on this journey to our dreams!
Make sure to follow Travis Japan on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/travis_japan_official/ for more as they continue their journey overseas!
Written by Sabina Lindström
Edited by Kat Gruss