RADWIMPS and the Healing Power of Music

By Julian Mauricio
Photos by Takeshi Yao


When foreign acts visit the Philippines, they usually talk about how scrumptious the food is, how warm the people are, and how wild the crowds at their shows can be. But not RADWIMPS. Instead of extolling the virtues of Jollibee Chickenjoy, or raving about how the Filipino people were the best crowd they’d ever played for, the Japanese rock band focused on a part of history that their own country prefers to sweep under the rug.


Before performing their last song—the bouncy yet plaintive “05410-(ん)” from their fourth album, RADWIMPS 4: Okazu no Gohan—frontman Noda Yojiro paused to address the crowd that filled the Araneta Coliseum on May 1. The venue was packed with people of all ages, colors, shapes, and sizes, all eager to hear what their idol had to say.


Yojiro spoke about his visit to several historical sites in and around Metro Manila the day before the show, all related to World War II. As those who didn’t sleep through history class would know, the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II was brutal. It was characterized by numerous atrocities against Filipino civilians and prisoners of war, including arbitrary executions, property destruction, massacres, and sexual violence. These actions have left deep scars in the collective memory of the Filipino people, impacting Japan-Philippines relations and the historical understanding of the war in both countries. Noda and his bandmates came to the Philippines with the intention of doing whatever they could, in their own small way, to help heal the lingering trauma.


“I just want to say that this tour’s title is called ‘The Way You Yawn, and the Outcry of Peace.’ And we don’t want to forget what the people did,” he said. “I truly feel grateful to be here and stand in front of you guys and perform the music. And you guys cheer with the music. This means so much to us. So, we would like to keep this peace moving forward with our music.”


Speaking of music, the show opened on a high note. RADWIMPS kicked things off with “Lights go out,” then segued into the energetic “NEVER EVER ENDER,” which got everyone from the pit all the way up to the nosebleeds jumping up and down. A mesmerizing display of bright lights and colorful lasers punctuated the air in time to the music as the band showed off their technical skills on songs like “Darma grand prix” and “Oshakashama.”


It amazed me how effortlessly Yojiro switched from being a dynamic frontman to playing the keyboards for some songs. Takeda Yusuke also kept things interesting by handling his bass, synths, and even breaking out a double bass at one point. Kuwahara Akira dazzled with his guitar solos while also contributing keyboard parts, as support drummers Mori Mizuki and Masafumi Eno kept the band in the pocket with their drumming. I shouldn’t have been surprised at how well-oiled the unit was, considering they’ve been together for over two decades. When musicians have played together for that long, they develop an almost psychic rapport, translating into a seamless performance onstage and a magical experience for anyone watching.


Like many in the crowd, I discovered RADWIMPS through songs that were used in the animated films Weathering With You and Your Name. The band wisely chose to save those songs for the latter half of the show, making the moments when they did play the opening chords of “Is There Still Anything That Love Can Do?” and “Suzume”—for which they were joined by guest artist Toaka—all the more impactful. Because the audience waited so long to hear those songs, when they realized what the band was doing, they screamed so loud I wouldn’t have been surprised if the roof of the Big Dome had been blown clear off.


But let me talk about their performance of “Suzume” for a minute. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that it was one of the best moments of the show. For the uninitiated, the song was born when Noda reunited with filmmaker Makoto Shinkai to compose a piece for his then-upcoming film. At first, Noda considered lending his own vocals to the song, but the longer he worked on it, the more he felt a female voice would better suit what they were aiming for.


This realization led to an extensive search for a singer who wasn’t just technically proficient but also possessed a clear, emotional, powerful, and ethereal voice. After auditioning many hopefuls, they discovered Toaka. Her voice met the unique criteria set by the team, and the resulting song became a viral sensation. So when RADWIMPS announced that they would be coming to the Philippines, fans hoped for a performance of “Suzume.” The band made Filipinos’ dreams come true when they brought Toaka on board as a guest artist for the Manila leg of their tour.


The audience was captivated from the first notes she sang. She didn’t belt or perform any vocal acrobatics, yet her voice carried through the Big Dome with such a commanding presence that it silenced the crowd, who fell into an awed hush. Her performance not only showcased her vocal talent but also demonstrated her ability to connect deeply with the audience. I hope she becomes a bigger artist after this because she was simply sensational.


The evening concluded with the fan favorites “Katawaredoki,” “Sparkle,” “Zenzenzense,” and “Nandemonaiya,” which had the crowd singing in unison. The band was equally overcome with emotion because of how the Filipino crowd responded to them. At one point, Yojiro screamed at the top of his lungs, “Aishiteru yo! (I love you!)” Not to be outdone, Kuwahara stepped up to the mic towards the end of the show and uttered a heartfelt, “Ang tindi ng Pilipinas! (The Philippines is so intense!)”


Their sold-out show was the first of its kind. Perhaps the success of RADWIMPS’ concert will be the start of an exciting new phase in PULP Live World’s life. Will they bring more Japanese acts to the Philippines after RADWIMPS? Your guess is as good as mine, but here’s what I do know.


I don’t presume to speak for generations of Filipinos, especially the descendants of those who suffered the most during World War II, but judging by the way the Araneta Coliseum crowd embraced Yojiro, his bandmates, and their music, Filipino-Japanese relations were greatly improved that night. 


It was clear from the crowd’s enthusiastic response and Yojiro’s heartfelt interactions that RADWIMPS will be eagerly welcomed back to the Philippines—and so will other Japanese acts who wish to perform on our shores.