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The story of Shin Takarajima

How a Japanese Song Became a Popular Meme in China

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In 2019, a young Japanese man started an entire movement in China. Not many people know about this.

However, this is not a political or social movement. It’s actually just a meme.

We previously explored the art of combining Japanese music and Bollywood dances. There, we explored Morimori’s impact as a central figure in creating these memes. This is about his greatest accomplishment.

Sakanaction - Shin Takarajima

One of the songs that Morimori frequently uses in his videos is 新宝島 (Shin Takarajima) by サカナクション (Sakanaction).

From Wikipedia:

Sakanaction (サカナクション, Sakanakushon), stylised as sakanaction, are a Japanese rock band from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Their music is a fusion of alternative rock, electronic, pop, and new wave styles, and is thus difficult to classify under one category.

Shin Takarajima is a popular song, with the music video having more than 155 million views on YouTube.

The retro-style music video is “produced in homage to the Shōwa-era music and variety show Dorifu Daibakushō.”

Shin Takarajima is a song that people love to combine with random videos—such as Bollywood dances. There is even an article (Japanese) by a professor explaining why people like combining this song with other random videos.

Changing History

In March 2019, Morimori published a video that changed history.

He combined Shin Takarajima with a video by Filipino dance group Iconx Family.

Iconx Family dance:

Morimori’s video perfectly combining these two completely unrelated works

Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20210613004854/https://twitter.com/MoriMoori/status/1132639336552251393

This video was then reposted on the Chinese video site Bilibili.


Lillian Li describes Bilibili as follows:

Grossly simplified, it’s the Chinese equivalent of Youtube. Except it’s not. It’s like if Youtube, Twitch, Steam, Patreon, TokyoPop and Netflix had a CRISPR-baby, and that baby was a weeb, but that weeb is also super down with Chinese Gen Z and is listed on the Nasdaq with a market cap of $15bn. That is Bilibili.

The video streaming platform is full of Japanese content. Even famous Japanese people at the top of their respective fields have been starting their own channels on Bilibili:

Screenshot of Bilibili page for voice actress Kana Hanazawa

Voice Actress Kana Hanazawa

Screenshot of Bilibili page for Ayase-YOASOBI

Music producer Ayase and his music duo YOASOBI

Shin Takarajima on Bilibili

Going back to Shin Takarajima, the best thing about Morimori’s video is that it became a huge meme on the Chinese internet—specifically Bilibili—as well.

These are the search results when you search “Shin Takarajima.”

Search results on Bilibili when searching for Shin Takarajima

"Shin Takarajima" = 新宝島 (Japanese) = 新宝岛 (Chinese Simplified)

万 is 10,000 in Chinese (and Japanese), so the video on the top left—a repost of Morimori’s video—has over 96 million views. For comparison, Morimori’s video on Twitter has just over 600 thousand views.

The search results above also include dance covers and edited versions of Morimori’s video that are receiving millions of views.

And the video at the top right of the grid is the best part: the Filipino dancers in Morimori’s video were invited to perform at a Bilibili event in China.

This video by Morimori goes over the entire timeline, but skip to 2:55 if you just want to see the performance at the Bilibili event:

To review:

  1. Morimori posts video on Twitter combining the Filipino dance and Shin Takarajima song
  2. Video is reposted on Bilibili
  3. Video (dance and song) become popular on Bilibili
  4. People in China start doing the dance and posting dance covers
  5. The Filipino dancers from the original video are invited to dance to a Shin Takarajima Remix at a Bilibili event in China.

This is a Bilibili event that’s probably full of people who like Japanese content, so a Japanese song being played is not particularly surprising. However, the fact that they’re performing in front of a huge crowd in China after Morimori randomly decided to combine the video by Iconx Family with Shin Takarajima is incredible.

The main questions I have are:

Although the scale for measuring meme popularity could be different in China, I’m guess that this can be considered a popular meme even by Chinese standards for the following reasons:

Ichiro Yamaguchi from Sakanaction seems to be aware of this situation: