NewJeans rocks Tokyo Dome as new, younger generation of K-pop fans emerges in Japan

Posted on : 2024-07-01 17:23 KST Modified on : 2024-07-01 17:37 KST
The girl group made their official Japanese debut just over a week ago, and is already selling out fan meetings in the Japanese capital
The K-pop corner in Tower Records in Tokyo’s Shibuya bustles with customers there to purchase NewsJeans albums on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)
The K-pop corner in Tower Records in Tokyo’s Shibuya bustles with customers there to purchase NewsJeans albums on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)

On Thursday evening, Tokyo Dome was rocked to the core. The Big Egg, as the dome is known to locals, hosts only the biggest stars and performances, and now NewJeans has been added to the list. The quintet took the stadium on June 26-27 for their “Bunnies Camp” fan meeting. 

Tickets sold out so quickly that vendors resorted to selling even seats with obstructed views. Over 912,000 people flooded the indoor stadium during the two-day concert. This is less than two years after NewJeans first debuted in Korea and just five days of their debut for the Japanese market. NewJeans performed at the Tokyo Dome just a year and 11 months after debuting, a record for non-Japanese artists. 

For the first time in recent months, NewJeans performed with all members present. Hyein, the youngest member, rejoined the group after being sidelined by an injury. The concert began with “Attention,” the group’s debut title, and lasted for two hours and 30 minutes, churning out performances of 22 songs.

The performance itself was not much different from other NewJeans concerts. Most of the crowd was young, with around 60%-70% being male. The stadium roared and rocked from the crowd’s cheers. People enthusiastically waved neon light sticks. They sang along to almost every song. New Jeans has officially reached superstardom. 

NewJeans performs at the Tokyo Dome in Japan during a fan meeting that ran June 26-27. (courtesy of Ador)
NewJeans performs at the Tokyo Dome in Japan during a fan meeting that ran June 26-27. (courtesy of Ador)

An extra treat was a series of solo performances by individual members. Minji did a cover of “Odoriko” by Vaundy, a Japanese singer-songwriter on the rise, to the crowd’s delight. Hanni went old-school by covering Matsuda Seiko’s 1980 hit “Blue Lagoon,” eliciting a thundering applause. The Japanese classic drowned the crowd in a wave of nostalgia. It was a moment of convergence: the past of Japanese pop and the present of K-pop.

“Despite being a concert that showcased the latest K-pop, it brought the audience back to the days of J-pop in the early 2000s. Although people talk about the prevalence of NewJeans’ mid-aged male fans in Japan, the majority of the people at their concert were teenagers and people in their 20s,” said Yuka Kuwahata, a Japanese journalist who specializes in Korean entertainment who attended the concert. 

Fans snap pictures with NewJeans merch outside the Tokyo Dome before the “Bunnies Camp” fan meeting on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)
Fans snap pictures with NewJeans merch outside the Tokyo Dome before the “Bunnies Camp” fan meeting on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)

NewJeans is especially popular among young people in Japan. On the day of the concert, Tower Records in Tokyo’s Shibuya district was especially busy. The entire fifth floor is dedicated to K-pop records. Tower Records staff were busy filling the shelves with NewJeans albums when the Hankyoreh visited ahead of the concert. Young customers lined up to purchase NewJeans titles. An 18-year-old holding five NewJeans albums said he’d only gotten into K-pop six months ago. 

“I saw NewJeans on a Japanese program the other day. I like their songs and their choreography, and instantly became a fan,” he said. 

Line Friends Square Shibuya, where a NewJeans pop-up store was set up nearby, was also filled with people waiting to buy the girl group’s merch. The first basement floor, devoted exclusively to pre-purchase appointments, has had all its appointments booked through to July 15. People lined up before the opening of the first and second floors, devoted to walk-ins, at 10 am, with their wait queue tickets in hand. The store also sells merchandise designed in collaboration with Takashi Murakami, a renowned Japanese pop artist, and street fashion designer Hiroshi Fujiwara. 

A crowd forms outside the Line Friends Square in Tokyo’s Shibuya, where a NewJeans pop-up store opened. (courtesy of IPX)
A crowd forms outside the Line Friends Square in Tokyo’s Shibuya, where a NewJeans pop-up store opened. (courtesy of IPX)

“I saw them [NewJeans] on YouTube last year, and I’ve been a fan ever since,” said Risa, 27, who came all the way from Osaka to see the K-pop group.

“Most K-pop groups are generally all the same, but NewJeans was different. Their retro vibe brought something new.” 

NewJeans released its single “Supernatural” to the Japanese market on June 21. The song marked the group’s Japanese debut. This was also around the time of the group’s first performance in Japan. It’s notable that NewJeans was already popular before they’d ever set foot in Japan. 

Customers wait in line at Tower Records in Tokyo’s Shibuya to purchase NewJeans albums on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)
Customers wait in line at Tower Records in Tokyo’s Shibuya to purchase NewJeans albums on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)

“Normally, K-pop groups need to build up their fan bases in Japan by releasing songs in Japanese and appearing on local TV broadcasts,” said Kim Seong-hwan, a critic. “But NewJeans marks a departure in that they had already accumulated a decent amount of fame on global platforms prior to setting their sights on Japan. I think the Japanese market saw them as global pop stars rather than simply K-pop.”

But NewJeans isn’t the only K-pop act that Japan is hooked on. The K-pop craze has become even more dynamic in Japan as younger generations there take in global content on social media and YouTube. 

“If you look at YouTube views for 2023, Japan is the biggest consumer of K-pop outside of Korea,” said Kim Hong-ki, the CEO of Space Oddity, which runs the K-pop chart site K-pop Radar. 

A convenience store near the Tokyo Dome, where NewJeans held their fan meeting, sells newspapers with NewJeans on the front page on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)
A convenience store near the Tokyo Dome, where NewJeans held their fan meeting, sells newspapers with NewJeans on the front page on June 27, 2024. (Suh Jung-min/Hankyoreh)

“In the past, Japanese fandoms were focused on only a small number of groups like TVXQ. But now fourth-gen artists like NewJeans are able to garner major popularity based on the very sturdy foundation laid by third-gen K-pop artists, and we’ve reached a point where the genre of K-pop is just part of young people’s everyday lives and interests,” he went on. 

Kuwahata also noted that while it was primarily urban populations that took a liking to K-pop before the COVID-19 pandemic, “after going through a pandemic, young people from regions that usually don’t have many concerts have begun to enjoy K-pop after coming across it on digital media and through things like online concerts.”

“The fan base has gotten younger and spread out in terms of region, to the point that K-pop dance has become a popular feature of high school festivals outside major urban areas as well,” she said. 

“It’s an era in which interests and likes spread through social media, so K-pop’s popularity will only grow among young people in Japan going forward,” she predicted. 

By Suh Jung-min, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles