Japan girl band stand out by covering faces
STANDING out from Japan's myriad of girl bands can be a daunting task.
But one group, Kamen Joshi or Masked Girls in Japanese, have found the answer by hiding behind masks.
As many as 15,000 people flocked to a concert by the band late last year, showing how their fan base has grown in the three years since they started, when they struggled to fill a 400-seat theatre.
One of their first breakthrough songs, Genkidane, hit the top of the charts in January last year, with more than 200,000 records sold in the first week of release, said music company Oricon Style, setting a record for a female indie band in Japan.
The band, made up of 18 members in three separate groups, are based in Tokyo and perform across Japan and in some Asian cities.
The masks enhance their appeal, said fans who attended a recent concert in the Japanese capital. "It is unique that even though they are idols, they perform while hiding their faces with masks," said one spectator, Akihiro Kuji.
Not all the songs are performed with the band in masks but members say they prefer to keep their faces hidden.
"We are happier if we are asked to perform a live session with our masks on, rather than asked to take it off," said a band member who uses the stage name Nodoka Sakura.
"These masks are like our lives. We can't go on stage without them."
What began as a promotional gimmick has evolved into a kind of raison d'etre.
"By wearing this mask, we become invincible. We can't live without it any more," said a band member with the stage name Moa Tsukino.