Spotlight on…. Guest performers at Japan Matsuri 2023

Travelling all the way from Japan to perform at Japan Matsuri 2023 were comedian and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Tonikaku Akarui “Tony” Yasumura, and Ainu folk music duo Ankes. We managed to catch both acts after their performances for a short interview.

Tonikaku Akarui “Tony” Yasumura

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience at Japan Matsuri.

Hello! I'm Tonikaku. Although I've now finished my performance on stage at Japan Matsuri 2023, hearing 10,000 shouting "PANTS" together in a loud voice made me so happy! It was an amazing time. I would like to perform here again next year. Don't worry, I'm "wearing"!

What's the difference between the Japanese and British audience?

The British audience are very enthusiastic. I feel that they are joining in together with me. I think that my style of comedy fits well here.

Next time you come to the UK, what kind of routine would you like to perform?

Next time maybe I should dare to NOT wear pants! Of course, I’m just joking – that wouldn't be good, and I'd probably get arrested. I'd like to try different poses with different music, while still "wearing".

Do you have a message for the British people?

I'm Japanese No.1 comedian!

Ankes - musical duo from Biratori, Hokkaido

Ankes Photography by Makoto Kawakami
Please introduce yourselves and tell us about your experience at Japan Matsuri.

Greetings! We are HARADA Rino and SHINMACHI Seiya from Ankes.

[Seiya] We are very happy that we could come to the UK on this occasion. Japan Matsuri was held after 4 years and was a great success. We have been looking forward to it and the reaction of the audience was very warm. Thanks to them our motivation increased, and we were able to "level-up" our performance.

[Rino] It was our first time to perform abroad but the audience danced together with us and responded to our performance with smiling faces, so we had a really great time.

How did you come to form Ankes?

[Seiya] We have known each other since childhood but there was a period where we went our separate ways until we met again at university. We both joined a group called Urespa that studies Ainu culture and discovered that we both loved singing and dancing, and often performed together. After we graduated, we both eventually ended up working for the same company and I invited Rino to establish Ankes with me last year.

[Rino] I never imagined that we would both start such a group together. And infact, in the Ainu culture usually the singers are female, although men would perhaps dance. However, Seiya performs as a singer, and so as a male-female double act we are quite rare and I’m proud of that!

Do you think there is something new that young people can do to promote Ainu culture?

[Seiya] Currently we are learning the style of singing that our ancestors left us and promoting that, which I think gives some encouragement to the generation above us. Whilst reviving the culture of our ancestors, together we can enjoy showcasing what current Ainu is all about. Biratori Town (a town in Hokkaido with Ainu roots) is also doing something similar so we are happy to contribute to that movement through our activities.

What is your next goal?

[Rino] Whilst cherishing the past, we would like to challenge ourselves to try new things and sincerely take those experiences in. Within the year we would like to perform again in London and promote Ainu culture to the British people in a way that they can fully enjoy it.