Last year, singer Xiangyu released the song “Tofu So Good.” It was so catchy that it made our Best Songs of 2022 list. It was a busy year for the singer, in which she held an exhibition in collaboration with clothing brand Perminute, released a book and started a radio show on J-Wave.

We spoke to her at the end of a busy day, and she was as bubbly as you’d expect from someone who writes unironic lyrics about the merits of tofu.

Finding Her Voice

Xiangyu came onto the scene in 2018 thanks to her current manager, Yasutomo Fukunaga, who is known for his work with the pop group Wednesday Campanella. He met the Bunka Fashion College graduate as a designer at Tokyo Design Festa in 2012. That was when he advised her to start singing.

At first, she declined but they stayed in touch. Five years later, after becoming disillusioned with the fashion world, she decided to take him up on his music management offer and the Xiangyu project was born.

Xiangyu has garnered attention because of her mundane lyrics, which cover everything from shoes to curry. She has an idea of how she’d like the song to be and then leaves it with the producers. The track comes back, and she starts writing lyrics, based on her daily observations of things in her life. Not playing her own instruments is something that she found “tough” although she is excited to report that in her forthcoming song “Katappo Shoes” on her new EP, she plays the cowbell. “There are actually so many different ways to play,” she enthuses.

She discovered the cowbell through her weekly spot on the radio show Backpack Tokyo, which sees her visit a different Tokyo spot each Monday. Billed as a Tokyo “not in the guidebooks,” we’re keen to see if she has a favorite spot. “I really liked the Japan Percussion Center in Asakusa,” she tells us. “When I told my musician friends I’d been there, they all knew it. I went back after the show to get my cowbell.”

Xiangyu’s collaboration with Perminute

Back in Fashion

Entering the music world in 2018 led to a surprising re-kindling of her passion for fashion, albeit on her terms. In 2022, she collaborated with her friend and former classmate, who was also the designer behind the successful independent Japanese fashion brand Perminute.

“We were walking down the old riverbed from Shibuya to Daikanyama when we noticed that the rubbish around us started to change,” says Xiangyu. “The garbage in Shibuya was so different to that near Daikanyama. We started to collect and catalog the rubbish. Then this turned into a ‘let’s start a fashion project.’”

The pair began to work with students from Bunka University to accumulate and clean the rubbish. This resulted in a project called “Riverside Story” with an exhibition being held at Parco shopping mall in October 2022. Picked up by HypeBeast, the collection, which included clothes and art, looked at the story behind the garbage. It was then collated into wearable clothes that incorporated cigarette butts, candy wrappers and plastic bags. She hopes to continue the Riverside Story project, having found it a great way to get people out into the community.

“It’s a good excuse for people to get together,” she says. It’s a little like a fashionable river clean-up. The project was fully crowdfunded, with the description stating that it hopes to get to the Nile one day.


Last year, she released a book in Japanese called Sometimes in Kotobuki. This details her friendships with people living in Kotobuki, an infamous blue-collar district in Yokohama. The book was an amalgamation of her column for Maybe! magazine, incorporating serialized stories of her wholesome friendship with an older resident called Yama.

Getting out in nature is something she values, often mountain climbing and camping out in the wilderness alone. As with clothes, columns and lyrics, she looks for stories in everything and relishes opportunities to meet new people.

One of her favorite stories happened during one of her first ever solo climbs on Mount Fuji. Heading up the mountain, she stopped at a hut for the first time and ended up climbing to the top with the people she met inside. They shared mountaineering tips and tricks along the way. “When we got back, we met up again and went out for dinner,” adds Xiangyu.

While Xiangyu is focusing on music this year, she is keen to keep making connections while finding stories along the way. Her new, as yet unnamed EP is centered around the theme of “dropped things.” She describes this as finding single gloves on the ground, random bags on trains and the strange phenomenon of single shoes on the road. This is a regular occurrence around Tokyo. “But where did the other shoe go?” This is a question that may or may not keep her awake at night.

She covers the topic of the singular dropped shoe in her new single. “Katappo Shoes” (translated as one-step shoes) is her ode to the owner of the other shoe.

“Katappo Shoes” is out now.