Ikimono-gakari (いきものがかり, also "Ikimonogakari") is a Japanese pop rock band from Kanagawa. The group started in February 1999 with Hotaka Yamashita and Yoshiki Mizuno, and was joined by vocalist Kiyoe Yoshioka in December. The group's name is a reference to ikimono-gakari (生き物係), a group of children who are responsible for looking after plants and animals in Japanese elementary schools. In 2006, the group released its first single on Sony Music Entertainment Japan's Epic Records label. Several of its albums have reached number one on the Oricon Weekly, and its songs have been featured on various media from anime shows such as Naruto to the Olympic broadcast theme song for NHK and the set piece for a national junior high music competition.
Formation and trials:
In 1989, Mizuno and Yamashita met by chance while they were in the first grade; they were both put in charge of being Ikimono-gakari (生き物係), who are caretakers of the school's plants and animals. Yamashita later noted that he really wanted to be a "blackboard monitor". Yamashita and Mizuno formed their band on February 1, 1999, and began performing live on the street; not taking it too seriously, they named it "ikimono-gakari" after their shared experience in first grade. At first, they did covers of Masayoshi Yamazaki. In December 1999, Yoshioka joined the band. In those days, Mizuno and Yamashita planned to make a group with a female lead vocalist, which would be an unusual sound for the street performances they were doing. Yoshioka was the younger sister of one of their classmates; she entered as the main singer and the band took on its present-day form. As they were then performing with three members, the band did a cover of Yuzu's single, "Natsuiro" (夏色, "The Colors of Summer").
In September 2000, they suspended the band to focus on college entrance examinations for Yamashita and Mizuno. By March 2003, after a difficult journey, Yoshioka recovered; she saw this as a second chance to grow as a person. Again, the band re-formed, but then, they were performing with the intent of supporting their increasing fame. As their style of music was moving more towards an acoustic focus, they planned to expand their scope to cover not only street performances but live house concerts as well. Moreover, they made a greater effort to compose more original music and rely less on covers.
Rise to fame:
In April 2003, the band resumed playing with a street show in front of the Hon-Atsugi Station on the Odakyū Odawara Line. In June, they did a one-band show at the Thunder Snake Atsugi live venue for the first time. A person who happened to be attending this performance ended up becoming their manager; this became the impetus for them to launch a major road tour. On August 25, they released their first indie album, Makoto ni Senetsu Nagara First Album wo Koshirae Mashita.... On March 26, 2005, the band held a show in the small hall at the Atsugi City Culture Building (Atsugishi Bunka Kaikan); this was the first time the band had ever done a single-band show in a hall.
On March 15, 2006, the band released their first single, "Sakura", produced by Masanori Shimada. This was their major label debut with Epic Records Japan of Sony. Their second single "Hanabi" was released on May 31, 2006, earning the band their first appearance on the Oricon top 10 chart with a number 5 debut. Between November 10 and November 30, they held their first live tour, called "Ikimonogakari no Minna-san, Konni-Tour! 2006". They released their first full-length studio album on March 7, 2007, entitled Sakura Saku Machi Monogatari, debuting at number 4 on the Oricon weekly album charts. Between May 24 to June 14, they went on a live tour to support this album. Their second major studio album, Life Album, came out on February 13, 2008, debuting at number 2 on the Oricon weekly album charts. This album's live tour was from March 30 to May 23. On July 7, they came out with their tenth single, "Bluebird", which also became an opening song for the Naruto anime, and the group's first to crack the Top 3 in Oricon Singles. On December 24, they released their third studio album, My Song Your Song. This album topped the Oricon weekly charts, becoming their first work to achieve a first ranking on any chart. On December 31, they debuted in the 59th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen festival.
On March 4, 2009, their first-ever collection of video works, "Tottemo Ēzō", was released. That year, Mizuno was put in charge of writing the song "Yell" as the set piece for the junior high division of the 76th annual NHK Nationwide School Music Contest. Their 15th single "Yell / Joyful" came out September 23, taking the No. 1 single spot for the Oricon daily charts and the number 2 spot for the weekly chart, the highest rankings so far for any of their singles. The band won one of the Gold Artist awards at the 2009 Best Hit Song Festival (November 26), their first time winning one of the show's prizes. They followed that up with their fourth studio album Hajimari no Uta, released on December 23, and debuting as the number 1 album on the Oricon weekly charts. On New Year's Eve, the band appeared again in the 60th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen festival. On June 9, 2012, Japanese television network NHK announced that the theme song for its Olympic broadcasts would be performed by Ikimonogakari. The song is titled "Kaze ga fuiteiru" (Wind is blowing). The three members wrote the song and said its lyrics will hopefully encourage Japan's athletes like a strong wind. During the Olympics, the band made live appearances in Great Britain on NHK.
Ikimono-gakari's musical style stems from their original lounge rock style found on their first three mini albums under Cubit Club. Their primary instruments were the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar, and the harmonica. Their initial music was considerably slower; "Natsu Koi" on Sakura Saku Machi Monogatari is considerably faster in tempo compared to the same song on Makoto ni Senetsu Nagara First Album wo Koshirae Mashita.... Guitarist and band leader Yoshiki Mizuno also sang considerably more on their indie albums.
With the release of their first major-label album, Sakura Saku Machi Monogatari, their style changed to a more conventional rock style, but still keeping with their traditional guitar-harmonica combination. They also began to add other elements to their songs, such as strings and tambourines, as evidenced by "Sakura" and "Kira Kira Train". Additionally, they recorded songs with faster tempos, such as "Ryūsei Miracle" and "Hinageshi".
Ikimono-gakari began to shift to a more mainstream pop sound with their second and third albums, Life Album and My Song Your Song. Songs like "Kimagure Romantic" differed greatly from their songs during the Sakura Saku era. Life Album saw the revival of a couple of songs from their indie albums; "Hana wa Sakura Kimi wa Utsukushi" from Makoto ni Senetsu... and "Chikoku Shichau yo" from Jinsei Sugoroku Dabe. "Kuchidzuke", also from Jinsei Sugoroku Dabe. was revived on My Song Your Song.
Kiyoe Yoshioka (吉岡 聖恵, Yoshioka Kiyoe) (born (1984-02-29) February 29, 1984 (age 30)) is the vocalist. She was born in the city of Shizuoka, and later moved to Atsugi, Kanagawa when she was five years old. Nicknamed "Kiyoe", "Kiyo-chan" "Se-Ki", "Las Kiyo", and "Ponyo Megumi". Education: Primary Education City Minami Mouri Atsugi, high school Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture, Graduate School Musical courses Showa University College of Music (now four-year) graduation. Her brother was a high school classmate of Mizuno and Yamashita. She also became one of the hosts of All Night Nippon from 2009-2010.,
Yoshiki Mizuno (水野 良樹, Mizuno Yoshiki) (born (1982-12-17) December 17, 1982 (age 31)) is the band's lead member and guitarist. He primarily uses the electric guitar. Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, he moved to the city Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture, at an early age. Education: Junior High School Otani Sugikubo City Ebina, high school Prefectural Atsugi, Kanagawa. After Ronin mask in Economics, Politics, Meiji University, graduated from Department of Sociology, Hitotsubashi University. It was recently announced that he registered his marriage on August 17th, 2013 to a woman who has no connection to the media industry. He has released no further information about her identity.,
Hotaka Yamashita (山下 穂尊, Yamashita Hotaka) (born (1982-08-27) August 27, 1982 (age 31)) is the guitarist and harmonicist of the band. He was born in Ebina City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Education: Junior High School Otani Sugikubo Ebina City, schools of higher Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, graduated from Department of Sociology, Hosei University.,
Takashi Adachi (安達 貴史, Adachi Takashi) (born (1982-12-27) December 27, 1982 (age 31)).