What is a Kaigai Idol?: An Introduction and Guide to the Overseas J-Pop Community
Photo: Non Sweet @ Northwest IdolFest 2023
Kaigai Idols have existed for around two-three decades; with some artists being active since the 2000s. There are many artists based in different parts of the world such as the USA, the UK, Venezuela and Colombia.
What is a Kaigai Idol?
The term “kaigai idol” literally means “overseas idol”. The term was coined by PAiDA, with the earliest known post using it being on February 12, 2017. The members of the kaigai idol community all share a passion for J-Pop music, and many members come from the odorite or utaite communities; such as Lulu Bitto. The community is built up by Wota’s, or Japanese idol fans. Wota’s are particularly associated with fans of Hello! Project and AKB48.
A large amount of kaigai idols work completely independently, with no label or major company to back them up. This means that a lot of them write/produce/compose their own music. For example, Jemimemu is known for composing and producing music for Lulu Bitto, PAiDA, Phoebe and Abyss.
So, what exactly makes someone a kaigai idol?
Well, according to the Net Idol Wiki, people who have a strong admiration and inspiration of Japanese style pop, rock etc are considered Kaigai Idols. Kaigai idols can be found in many countries, such as Canada, Australia, South Korea, Scotland and more; in South Korea, these groups are typically referred to as “jihadols”, however, the fact that they are heavily inspired by J-Pop groups can make them kaigai idols; with some even covering Japanese music or releasing Japanese music.
Has a Kaigai Idol ever been signed under a Japanese company, or debuted in a J-Pop group?
Yes! Some examples include the identical twins Ally&Sally, who were a part of the Japanese idol group SeiSHUN Gakuen, as well as their Canadian sister group Seishun Youth Academy. There is also Heidi who debuted in Merkmal Mermal and Amina du Jean from CHICK GIRLS.
Have Kaigai Idols ever performed in Japan?
Yes, many of them have! However, mainly for small underground events/collaborations. Some are starting to be invited to bigger events though, with Tokyo Idol Festival (TIF) inviting artists such as A-Muse Project. PAiDA has performed in Japan over 5 times and Non Sweet were initially invited to an event but it was postponed due to a government mandated state of emergency in Okinawa.
So, if there are overseas J-Pop artists, surely there are foreign J-Pop idols in Japan too, right?
Of course! Some examples include Ladybeard/Richard Magarey, who was a part of LADYBABY‘s original lineup, as well as the duo DEADLIFT LOLITA. He is currently a part of BABYBEARD. There is also Alice Peralta, who was born in Guam and raised in Japan; you may know her for providing the angelic voice of Marina of Off The Hook from the Nintendo game Splatoon 2. There was also the idol group EMBRACE, who’s members were from Mexico and the UK.
Have any major pieces of media acknowledged international/overseas idols?
There have been some instances over the years! The Love Live! franchise has definitely shown foreign idols, with members of Nijigasaki High School Idol Club and Liella! being from countries such as China, Hong Kong, Austria and the US. Love Live! also recently aired an OVA for Nijigasaki titled NEXT SKY, which focuses on the club showing Isla what it is like to be a school idol, before (slight spoilers!!!) she returns to England and eventually starts her own school idol club with Penelope. In the anime series, Ayumu Uehara is also seen travelling to London to see some overseas idols perform live, too.
The IDOLM@STER has also shown foreign idols too; creating a whole Korean drama named The [email protected]. The group Real Girls Project is argued to be the reason why Korea’s kaigai scene grew so much. The games The IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls and The IDOLM@STER Million Live! also have characters such as Anastasia, who is half-Russian on her father’s side, Natalia who is from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Layla who is from Dubai, India and Emily Stewart who is from Europe.
The anime series Pretty Rhythm Dear My Future also formed a Korean idol group PURETTY, featuring Somin of KARD/APRIL, Chaekyung of APRIL/C.I.V.A./I.B.I, Shiyoon who was a contestant on Produce 101 and KARA PROJECT, and Hyein of Smile Girls.
Are there any events that Kaigai Idols often perform at?
Kaigai Idols can often be seen performing at anime conventions such as Anime Expo. Many also perform at Northwest IdolFest and SoCal IdolFest.
So, what Kaigai Idols can I get into? What countries are they from? Are there any from my country?
There are plenty of idols, and maybe one near you! Here is a list of idols from different countries;
PAiDA – Houston, Texas
Phoebe – California
Melancholiaah! – Texas
Pengy – Florida
Mimi – Florida
Vi – Florida
Alexis – New York
Pan Ranger – New Jersey
Signals – East Coast
Kuro Hime (currently on hiatus)
ChiRi Girls – Michigan
Alex Pinku – Maryland
Non Sweet – Vancouver
Ally&Sally – Vancouver
Ice Qream – Quebec
Seishun Youth Academy – Vancouver
Honey Hime – Bologna
bunny☆kaisui – Barcelona
SH1NY ST4RS – Barcelona
Chekiss (Inactive) – London
Urania’s Mirror – London
Jemimemu – Caracas
Lunarun – Brasília
NEORiYON – Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
nextanative – Jakarta
Rainbow Signal – Laguna
A-MUSE Project – Brisbane, Queensland
Melody Parade – Brisbane, Queensland
NEONism (Hiatus) – Sydney, New South Wales
CiTRus Plus – Sydney, New South Wales
étude – Sydney, New South Wales
Ripple – Brisbane, Queensland
Are there any other places where I can get information on Kaigai Idols?
I’d recommend reading the Net Idol Wiki and the International Idols Wiki. A community called International Idol Network was also created so more people can learn about the kaigai idol scene; with staff members being kaigai idols themselves. You can read the first issue of their zine here. Many kaigai idols also post about the community at times online. Or, if you’d like, you can also message them with your questions and there’s a chance they might reply! Kaigai idols are very sweet, based off my experiences, so there’s no reason to worry!
The kaigai idol Alex Pinku also made a YouTube video two years ago explaining what a kaigai idol is; you can watch it here if you’d like!
Do Kaigai Idols release merch like CDs and lightsticks?
Some do, yes! In J-Pop however, we call lightsticks “penlights” or “fanlights”! Phoebe is selling fanlights for $45 each, visual prints for $10 each, charms for $12 each, undecorated chekis for $5 each, decorated chekis for $10 each, decorated and personalised chekis for $15 and decorated random cheki bundles for $45. FYI, “cheki” is the Japanese word for Instax/polaroid!
Meowgical Rosie is also selling her first album “Kitten Starlight Power!” for £10 each on CD. I have bought the album myself, and it is very cute! The CD is also signed! She is also selling personalised video messages, starlight wands (fanlights that come in pink, purple or yellow, you can choose!), stickers, pins, badges, prints, bracelets, charms and t-shirts. The prints also come signed!
Bunny Kaisui is also selling photo prints, signed chekis, keychains and stickers! She was also selling some copies of her Ganisong CD, and I managed to grab one. It is so pretty! Definitely listen to it when you can.
Lulu Bitto also sells a variety of merch, and is currently selling special birthday edition merch! This includes prints, chekis, keychains and shirts. She also does art commissions!
Pan Ranger is currently letting everyone pre-order their debut single “GUARDIAN”, with each CD costing $10 each.
ChiRi Girls are selling photocards, buttons, keychains and stickers on their Ko-Fi.
And there is so much more! A lot of Kaigai Idols also include cute little hand-written messages in your order; I currently have 2 from Meowgical Rosie and 1 from Bunny Kaisui and they are so sweet!
Is the music on streaming platforms?
Yes! Majority of kaigai idols put their music on platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music!
I also created a YouTube playlist with some original songs by kaigai idols; right now it’s pretty incomplete, but I’ll be updating it soon!
What if I have any other questions?
I will admit, I do not look in my comments often (I get a bit scared lol, sorry!) However, I am very active on Instagram and Twitter so you can message me there and I’ll most likely reply! Or you can contact my new email [email protected] and I’ll reply!
Overall, kaigai idols are people who love J-Pop and wish to be a part of it too, and are – just not in Japan. They are very interesting and fun, and the fanbase is very welcoming and accepting!
An extra message from the author:
There have been recent occurrences where *SOME* K-Pop fans make fun of kaigai idols and tell them they will never be idols and mock them. Please understand that the J-Pop industry is VEEEEERY different to the K-Pop industry; foreign idols are much more accepted! Not saying that they aren’t in K-Pop of course, since we’ve seen more and more recently, but in J-Pop having foreign idols or even overseas idols is not uncommon at all. If you’re going to judge something, please at least do your research first! But overall, we shouldn’t judge someone for trying to achieve their dreams, especially when said dreams aren’t hurting anyone, so be respectful and kind to others! 🙂
made by cutieyoomei
Thank you for reading! Hopefully this post helped you understand what the kaigai idol community is, and what it has to offer!