Japan High School Cheer Squad to Perform at NBA Halftime; Asks for Donations to Help Fund Trip

Jordan Godfree-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic against Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Jan 17.

TOYONAKA, Osaka — The Mino-Jiyu Gakuen High School cheerleading team is set to perform during the halftime show of a U.S. National Basketball Association game on Feb. 25 in Atlanta and are looking to finance a portion of their trip through a crowdfunding campaign.

Courtesy of Manami Onishi
Manami Onishi

Manami Onishi, 27, a dancer for an NBA team and a former member of the high school cheerleading squad from Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, organized it so the students could perform during halftime. It will be the first time Japanese high school cheerleaders will perform at an NBA game. The team is enthusiastic and eager to show off their skills on an international stage.

The team, called the Golden Bears, was founded in 1991 and has won the Japan Cup national cheerleading competition 23 times.

Last year, when Onishi sought an opportunity for the high school cheerleaders to perform at the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks approved the plan. The school then sent a video of the cheerleaders’ performance to show their abilities.

The Golden Bears will perform a 5-minute routine during halftime at a game between the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic in Atlanta.

About 60 people, including 53 members of the team and teachers, will travel to the United States. While there, they will also meet with other cheerleaders from local high schools and universities.

As the trip will be quite expensive, the squad is crowdfunding donations and set a goal of ¥20 million, which will cover about half the cost. As of Friday, the team has raised about ¥6.08 million.

The team has been practicing various difficult techniques, including lifts and aerial spins, and has left the music choice up to the Hawks.

“We want to show the appeal of Osaka and Japan through our cheer performance,” said Kazue Noda, 59, manager of the cheerleading squad. “We also want to promote the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo, as we’re from Osaka.”

Tomoko Takayama, 17, a second-year student and the team’s captain, said: “I’m really excited because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope a lot of people will support us.”

Donations will be accepted through the end of February on the crowdfunding site Yellz. Rewards for donating a certain amount include original plastic file folders and T-shirts.

After returning to Japan, the team will post a video about their trip for their supporters.