While the economists and demographers warn of a dark future for Japan’s rapidly aging society, a bunch of grandfathers have turned the tables on the gloom and doom by starting a boyband (average age 68) and telling the world old guys just wanna have fun.
You have heard of J-Pop, now meet G-Pop – a play on the Japanese word Ojii-san for old men.
The question seems to be: Yes, Japan’s workforce is aging fast, so what else is new? The five members of the hip G-POP All Stars, who range in age from 59 to 81, have produced music videos poking fun at going grey instead of worrying about it.
Their latest song, titled I Was Young, has attracted more than 640,000 views since it was uploaded to YouTube last month. The band has a collective age of 341.
The clip shows the men – in white suits, bandanas, fedora hats and slick sunglasses – strutting their stuff, sort of, and driving along a coast road in a red 1950s American convertible as they croon about girls, how time passes fast, and how much they love life in southern Japan.
We are G-POP from Japan
Can not speak English
Sky is blue. Don’t be afraid
Life is great
Throw your phone into the sea
The men are from Kochi prefecture, which faces the Pacific Ocean on Japan’s Shikoku island, about 800 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.
Kochi, which has Japan’s second highest ratio of residents aged over 65, is part of what Japan is calling the Nippon Positive Project. The G-POP band feeds into that and aims to comprehensively demolish the stereotype of old people lying around on balconies waiting to die.
The oldest member, Hidetada Yamada, 81, said he has run marathons in all 47 prefectures of Japan because he set a goal and promised his wife he would do it.
Joining the band, he explained, was simply the latest task to which he devoted himself.
“I am just an ordinary old man and there are many people in the same circumstances all around the world,” Yamada told Asia Times by email.
“However, now I enjoy performing as a member of G-POP, with a goal to perform for the region and the world, so I want to tell everyone: We should live positively with a goal.”
I Was Young has already surpassed the popularity of the group’s first song, called Banzai Old Age, whose nightclub dance scenes garnered a strong 514,000 YouTube hits in just over a year online.
Yamada said he gets feedback about the songs when he is out and about, including when he ran a marathon in Kochi prefecture in February.
“People from my hometown support me and say, ‘Take care of yourself and do your best!’,” he said, while adding that several fans had strong views on his costume get up.
“Some of them give me their opinions – ‘The pants are too short’ and ‘The hat does not fit’ – worrying about me like a family.”
G-POP has a female counterpart that blazed the trail on geriatric pop in Japan. KBG84, a 33-member “girl band” from Kohama in Okinawa took its name from its average age of 84 and was a hit across the country a couple of years ago.
And more recently in South Korea, a 30-member cheerleading squad known as Cheer Mommy has attracted attention for competing in tournaments against younger rivals. The group’s average age is 75.
“Although I’m aging on the outside, this keeps me young at heart,” one of the oldest cheerleaders, Oh Geum-Nyu, 82, told the AFP news agency in an interview last month.
Both Japan and South Korea are facing demographic challenges as a result of low birthrates.
In Japan, the proportion of employed people aged 55 to 64 has risen from 64% in 2005 to 70% in 2015, figures that are well above OECD averages.
With people increasingly working longer, G-POP’s upbeat message about positive aging has found an eager audience.
While there are no current plans to produce another music video, Yamada isn’t ready to retire yet. He said he would like to make another one, featuring some “cool” dancing.
More lyrics from I Was Young
We are G-POP from Japan
Living in Kochi-Ken
Great fish, Great river
Great Sake, Great girls
This is my heaven
When was my first kiss
When was it?
I totally forgot it
Oh My God