TOKYO • Standing out from Japan's myriad girl bands can be a daunting task, but one group, the 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 the band's appeal, said fans who attended a recent concert in the Japanese capital.
One spectator, Mr Akihiro Kuji, says: "It is unique that even though they are idols, they perform while hiding their faces with masks."
Not all of the band's songs are performed in masks, but band members say they prefer to keep their faces hidden.
Says a band member who goes by the stage name Nodoka Sakura: "We are happier if we are asked to perform a live session with our masks on, rather than be asked to take them off. These masks are like our lives. We can't go on stage live without them."
What began as a promotional gimmick for the band has evolved into a kind of raison d'etre.
Another band member, Moa Tsukino, says: "By wearing this mask, we become invincible. We can't live without it anymore."