This past weekend, our man Daemon hit up the East Meets West Music Fest; with Monsterpanda in tow as translator, he sat down with literally three of this site’s all-time favorite idols. Today, we have his report back from crossing paths — and surviving — with Hanako-san.
On the morning of the opening day of the East Meets West Music Fest, we are directed to a rehearsal studio that sits among the warehouses of industrial Anaheim. Far from Disneyland but about a mile from Chain Reaction, site of festival itself, the studio’s walls are plastered with photos of The Dickies, Agent Orange, Voodoo Glow Skulls and other indie icons of Orange County. Over a door with a hand written sign that reads “Control Room” is a doodle signed by Derek Riggs, the artist who created Iron Maiden’s mascot “Eddie”. While the place doesn’t exactly feel haunted, we are led through the door next to the control room to conduct a face-to-face interview with a blood-drenched ghost visiting all the way from Japan.
14th Generation Hanako-san of the Toilet is a 404 year-old youkai (ghost) who haunts fourth-floor bathrooms and performs as a solo punk idol. As she explains in the intro to her shows by holding up sign boards to the audience: “My head has been cut off. I cannot speak. But I can sing.” And sing she does in a brittle, child-like voice, but more significantly, she screams. Of all the harsh vocalists in chika idol, Hanako-san is perhaps the most natural screamer. Her screams are primal and ferocious and seem to come out of her more effortlessly than clean vocals.
Upon introduction to Hanako-san, she comes across as schoolgirl-cute in her signature red and white complete with a shiny red randoseru (the iconic backpack for Japanese schoolchildren). She is as unfailingly polite as any Japanese idol would be and often bursts into sincere giggles. The only indication that we are in the presence of something more ominous are her bandaged neck, blood-red eye and eyepatch, and the bloodstains patterning her white shirt and socks.
Hanako-san’s visit to America is not only the first time that she has been outside of Japan, but the first time she has ever been on a plane. My first question to her is to see how she is adjusting.
I like murderous things.
Homicidols: As a Japanese ghost in America, are you encountering any difficulties?
Hanako-san: I am nervous right now because in Japan the gaps in closed toilet stall doors isn’t that much but in America, they’re huge. So it’s making me really nervous.
Homicidols: What is the one thing you want to make sure you do while you are in the US?
Hanako-san: Hmm. Let me think about it. I’ve done most of the things I wanted to do already.
(Note: She had visited Disneyland the day before with her friends in NECRONOMIDOL.)
Okay. Let em think about it some more. Okay, cool: I want to say “Hello” in a really cool fashion.
Hanako-san’s “Hello” to America was eminently cool. Her sets at East Meets West Fest were as brilliant as they were brutal. On stage, Hanako-san’s aspect flips back-and-forth between murder victim and murderous villain: cute, bewildered sweetness and violent, focused insanity. Her music alternates between Saturday morning cartoon soundtrack and pounding grindcore punk. While her charisma is pure kawaii idol, her delivery channels early Iggy Pop rolling around in broken beer bottles with a side order of GWAR.
The climax of every Hanako-san show, and the element of her performance that has seen her banned from basement clubs across Tokyo, is the one-sided food fight she has with her audience, pelting, pouring and spitting food, beverages and condiments all over her willing fans.
Homicidols: What made you decide to include throwing various things at the audience?
Hanako-san: The human form of Hanako-san goes grocery shopping a lot and, unfortunately, a lot of food winds up spoiling in the fridge. I thought, hmm, it’s kind of a waste to just throw it away, so I decided to put it to good use.
Homicidols: You sometimes hold up (and abuse!) photos of controversial people during your shows. What made you want to do that?
Hanako-san: (giggling) How do you know this? How come you know this? I have really dark humor. I just thought it would be fun.
Homicidols: You starred in a movie last year, would you like to do that again?
Hanako-san: Yes, I would like to appear again. Especially under all those corpses.
Homicidols: Are there any other showbiz roles you would like to try out?
Hanako-san: I’m the type that can only concentrate on one thing at a time. So, besides being an idol, I can’t really think of anything else. Thinking about it, I would like to travel, go visit other places, different countries, see other people and, at the ultimate end of it, I just want to perform in different places.
Homicidols: You have said in the past you don’t like conflict. How does it mingle with your murderous persona?
Hanako-san: (giggling) Wow. you did a lot of research on me. It’s making me happy. I like murderous things. But if I were to actually carry it out, how should I say this, it’s more of a hobby.
I want to destroy the trendy in fashion idol right now.
After spending a short amount of time with Hanako-san or her material, it is easy to suspect that there is more going on inside her severed head than just a desire to put on a shockingly loud and messy idol show. There is an incomprehensible depth. There are an incomprehensible … many things. Perhaps even unknown to Hanako herself.
She seems at times to be at war with her own persona just as she seems to be at war with her audience.
In the middle of her Sunday night performance at East Meets West, she slammed the signboards outlining her persona to the stage, stabbed her finger at them in anger and shouted in English, “THIS IS LIE!”
Homicidols: Being 404 years old, what can you tell us about things back in the 1600s?
Hanako-san: When I died, I only have a vague memory of it, so I just picked a random number. So, right now, I am 404 years old, but on November 19th, when there is a big change in Japan, I am going to declare myself 444 years old. Sorry it’s not a good answer, but I don’t really know. It’s just a theme.
Homicidols: You have the image of Japanese author Osamu Dazai all over your randoseru (backpack). Is there a connection of between his literary themes and your own performances?
Hanako-san: There is a work of his, “No Longer Human”. In my performance, I have to think about it, but there is a part of the character where he has trouble when he is eating. He doesn’t understand what it is like. And every so often I have this part that can relate to the character, so there is a connection there but, sorry. The fictional work is focused around human trauma and I feel like I also have a lot of that trauma, so that is expressed in my work.
Homicidols: You are appearing before a bunch of U.S. metal fans in this festival, as opposed to idol fans. Do you think that you can reach them?
Hanako-san: I’m not really tied down by genre. People tell me that my sound is sometimes metal, but I don’t consider myself metal. So, I’m just going to end with, metalheads are scary. (giggles)
Just as onstage she alternates between sweetness and insanity, throughout our interview she alternates between confidence and insecurity. She is a kawaii riddle wrapped in bloody red and white enigma who wants to scream at the top of her lungs, douse you in ketchup and spit balsamic vinegar in your face. And through all of it, she shines like the idol she is. One can’t help but believe that there is an unknowable genius to it all.
Homicidols: Did you know that you’re the unofficial face idol of Homicidols.com? How does that make you feel?
Hanako-san: What does that mean?
Homicidols: It means that the readers feel you represent hardcore and chika idol very well.
Hanako-san: No. (giggling) Really? You’re not lying? That makes me very happy. I want to destroy the trendy in fashion idol right now.
Kawaii. Brutal. Genius.