Ikimonogakari puts on cheerful, tearful final performance with Yamashita

Photos by Teppei Kishida
From left: Yoshiki Mizuno, Kiyoe Yoshioka and Hotaka Yamashita

Ikimonogakari was introduced as a “J-pop band that makes you cry, laugh, feel pain, love and a sense of nostalgia” when it debuted about 15 years ago.

The popular three-member band held the final performance of their nationwide tour at Yokohama Arena on June 11. It was the last show in which member Hotaka Yamashita, who announced he was leaving the band this summer, took part. The group lived up to their reputation — their performance was filled with tears and smiles. They put on an incredibly positive and fun concert.

It was the last performance for Yamashita, who played guitar and harmonica. The other two members are guitarist Yoshiki Mizuno and vocalist Kiyoe Yoshioka.

After a documentary-style video that included footage of Yamashita reporting his departure from the band to the staff, the three appeared on stage with a vigorous, “Good evening” to the audience.

When Mizuno cheerfully said, “Yamashita said he’s leaving,” Yamashita replied, “I’m sorry to surprise you, but I’ve been thinking about this for years.” There was no gloomy mood, and the three seemed to want to have fun with the audience as usual.

In addition to hit songs such as “Yell” and “Kaze ga Fuiteiru” (The wind is blowing), the band performed many memorable songs. They carefully sang and played “Karakuri” (Trick), which was written before Yoshioka joined the band, as if tracing their long history. Each of the three also sang “Natsu Koi” (Summer romance) while oozing charm.

The three also talked about the past. Yamashita and Mizuno looked back to when they started performing on the streets and joyfully recalled not being able to respond to a request to sing a song of pop star Namie Amuro. While talking about the time when Yamashita spoke about his decision to leave the band, it was revealed Yoshioka told Mizuno she was thinking of taking up the harmonica. Mizuno told her that that is not all he is and Yoshioka said cheerfully, “I’m trying to deal with it my way.”

It was Yamashita who brought Yoshioka back to the band after she had once tried to leave when they were students. At the end of the performance, Yoshioka had tears in her eyes and said to Yamashita, “Thank you so much for bringing me back.”

Mizuno acted cheerfully until the encore calls, when he seemed to become overwhelmed by emotion. “It’s so sad to see [Yamashita] leave us because he has seen everything with me since the first day of the band’s practice,” he said.

“I hope you will watch over me and the new Ikimonogakari, and support us. Thank you so much,” Yamashita told the audience. The way they smiled as they left the stage will be long remembered.