Sky Garden’s Ryu, Hiro and Iwa break into music SCENE

There are now two full-blooded Japanese young men bidding for adulation from the multitude of Pinoys as members of a band signed up recently by AltG, a sub-unit of GMA Music. The boyband is known as Sky Garden.

The two are Hiro and Iwa, who have been living here for more than a year now upon the invitation of the band’s founder Ryu (pronounced as Rio), who is a Pinoy-Japanese brought up in Japan, finished college there and worked for a few years at Toyota in Japan.

Ryu’s mother is from Isabela. When the pandemic unsettled the world, he decided to move to the Philippines where he easily landed a work-from-home job. He also landed a scholarship for a one-year course at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Ryu, Hiro and Iwa (for easier recall they use their very short nicknames as their showbiz names) are very close friends from Nagoya, Japan. They have another friend — but he took his own life sometime after he lost his job due to the economic constraints and contractions brought by the pandemic virus.

Ryu was already in the Philippines when he learned about the tragedy. As casually and as briefly as he could at the launch of Sky Garden in Quezon City, Ryu revealed that he got very worried Hiro might fall into depression, too, since the latter eventually lost his job, too, and so did Iwa.

Ryu convinced Hiro and Iwa to join him in the Philippines and he would take care of them until the pandemic subsides, and new jobs and financial opportunities open in the Land of the Rising Sun.

To make it easy for the two guys to come to the Philippines, Ryu told them he would buy plane tickets for them. The boyish Ryu, who seems to be a well-disciplined young man who graduated
cum laude in college, soon managed to raise money for the plane fares. Happily, their parents were willing to support them for a few months in the Philippines, hoping they’ll find their financial bearings on a short stretch of time. They got here just early last year.

Ryu admitted that his parents, too, we’re partially supporting him which is why he is able to rent a pad in Metro Manila where all three of them stay together.


Getting ‘Filipinized’

Hiro and Iwa have college degrees, too, which equipped them with enough English vocabulary to get by in the Philippines. They also find it easy to pick up a foreign language, such as Tagalog. Warm and extroverted, they do not hesitate to break into a conversation with anyone in a mixture of Tagalog and English. Or it could be that Ryu is a very good language teacher.

Hiro and Iwa have picked more than enough Tagalog words to enable them to do hilarious contents for their vlog of jokes and how-tos. The two had been vlogging individually in Japan but were easily persuaded by the voluble Ryu into forming themselves into a trio of clownish characters who can also sing and dance and act and do covers of K-pop, P-pop and Japanese pop, of course. Iwa and Hiro even ventured into the streets singing to passers-by with Hiro strumming his guitar.

They once found their way in Murphy in Cubao, Quezon City, sang to some kids hanging out on the street one of whom happened to be celebrating his birthday. Iwa offered to buy a cake for the boy on condition that he would take them home to their parents, and let them eat with the family — including partaking of food that Iwa himself would buy ingredients for and cook in the family pans and stove.

“Iwa has very passable cooking skills,” blurted Ryu at the presscon. The middle-class family accepted them. They ate, danced, sang and caroused with the family, including the middle-aged father of the birthday boy.

Sky Garden has amassed 17 million views in less than a year for their vlogs, one of which was a gag about “first circumcision.” They also have a series of gags comparing Japanese antics with those of the Pinoys. They are at home playing an assortment of Japanese and Pinoy characters in a variety of situations. Even their covers of hit pops are well-followed to the tune of hundred thousands of views. At the presscon, they easily broke into snippets of the Voltes 5 theme and SB19’s “Gento.” They are completely un-shy in sharing themselves to the people. They seem serious at becoming “Filipinized” Japanese.


Jap-Pinoy talent on the rise

Their success at entertaining themselves and people prompted Ryu to offer Sky Garden to GMA Music to become a talent group of the company. He sent them email offers since he had figures to show from the video-sharing apps. He also sent the company videos of the three of them performing rock compositions of Hiro with Tagalog lyrics mainly put together by Ryu whose mastery of Tagalog is amazing. He could really pass for a Pinoy who just happens to look like a Japanese.

“I’ve been vacationing in the Philippines every school break since my childhood years.That’s how I slowly grew a tongue for Tagalog with no Japanese twang,” confided Ryu.

The boys were signed up by AltG just last July, although long before that they have acted as guests in the Vic Sotto-Maine Mendoza sitcom on GMA 7, Papa’s Gurl, and on Family Feud. They’ve also found a manager, Ruby Gomez, who has been a talent supplier for the Kapuso network and for ABS-CBN for some years.

Their first single, “Kokoa,” was launched in all the
video-sharing apps on 1 September. The boys have vlogged that the song ranked 10th on iTunes 100 on the day it premiered. They’re praying that when the music video for Kokoa is launched on 8 September, it will do well, too.

The forthcoming music video may show in fleeting seconds the well-toned upper torso of Ryu and Hiro who do gym workouts. Their chest and abs may peek from unstrapped kimonos which the boys love to wear to signal to people their being Japanese. Iwa has gone a little chubby although pics of them on their FB and Instagram accounts show that Iwa looked the handsomest of them when he had less poundage.

AltG will surely find exposure for Sky Garden in their weekly musical-variety All Out Sunday and in the network’s new talent competition shows one of which is hosted by the network’s hottest star for some time now, Dingdong Dantes.

We recently intoned in this corner that a wave of Jap-Pinoy talents is upon the entertainment industry. The Sky Garden is one more manifestation of that wave.

Sky and garden are iconic images in classic Japanese paintings. Those are images in our subconsciousness over centuries. Ryu, Hiro and Iwa surely know how to connect to the world at large.