Photography Hanna Moon

Takanori Iwata: "I wanna be a beacon for someone"

We’re diving into the archives of i-D Japan and throwing back to our 2019 cover story with the multi talented actor, dancer and J-Pop superstar.

by Michiyo Nishimori; as told to Kazumi Asamura Hayashi
12 March 2020, 5:05am

Photography Hanna Moon

For the launch of i-D Asia we’re diving into the archives of i-D Japan, one of our first outposts in the region. Here, we throwback to the 2019 cover story of i-D Japan No. 7, The Hero Issue with multitalented performer, and Louis Vuitton ambassador, Takanori Iwata.

”Once I check in, I walk around the hotel until my next appointment — even if it’s only for 30 minutes. I always want to move and input some ideas,” Takanori said, at a bar on the first floor of his hotel near the Place Vendôme. He looked relaxed and calm even though he must have been tired from his busy schedule in Paris. “The colour of sky is even different [here],” he said.

The multitalented performer has many outputs: he dances powerfully on a stage, he smiles at people through TV commercials, and he expresses human emotions through the gentle face of an actor. He’s succeeded greatly as a performer in music groups Exile and J Soul Brothers III, turning his many passions into real experiences.


“When I saw a performance by Exile in my childhood, I genuinely thought ‘they are cool.’ I was really impressed by their high quality dance and music, songs, and also fashion. I admired their fashion, and imitated Atsushi’s, a vocalist of Exile’s, hairstyle of a buzz cut with lines. I believe that boys want to be like them.” He was influenced by his big brother at the same time. ”My brother studied in the US when I was a junior high school student. Every time he came back, he gave me hit albums. I often listened to hip hop because it occupied the top of the charts at that time, and was interested in hip hop dance.”

It’s well known among his fans that Takanori played lacrosse when he was a student. He took up dancing and soon became absorbed in it after he watched a movie. “I watched Rize, directed by David LaChapelle at a mini theatre with my teammates. I was shocked and thought, ‘What on earth is it? Can people move like that?’ Their extremely powerful dance and highly energetic movement inspired me a lot.” Rize is a documentary film showing how the dance style krumping was born. “It draws on the roots of krumping, spiritual and religious outlooks, and how the people are busy living. These stories moved my heart.” After being inspired, he tried to learn krumping by himself. “I didn’t take lessons at a dance studio, but I practiced dancing myself every night by using the glass on buildings as mirrors to see my reflection.”

When we asked if he has his own dance style, he quickly answered krumping. “That’s not only because I was fascinated by the movie. Krumping is a dance that has taken root in culture and lifestyle, as well as a dance style. I can enhance myself and hype friends through it. I feel like I talk to people when I have a dancing session with them. I’m beside myself with joy when I dance.”


His work as a performer in Exile and J Soul Brothers III allows him to explore his talents with a group. “I’m sure that the group changed everything about me. I’ll be a member of the group, and it is much more than a workplace for me. I cannot describe this emotion in words. It is different for members, friends, or business partners.” Takanori had performed as a member of J Soul Brothers III, and then passed an audition to become a member of Exile, who he respected for a long time. “It meant that I came to the core of the company,” he said. Everyone already expected him to become a core member of the company, take it over and bring it into the next generation.

So how does he refresh and get ideas in such a busy daily life? Take for example this trip to Paris as an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, what are his plans? “I have a lot of chances to express what I experienced, but few chances to have experiences. It makes both my heart and body exhausted. However, when I come abroad, I can be free because all the rules are different from Japan. I can focus on just experience, not expression. Being in a foreign country refreshes me, and when I go back to Japan I feel like, ‘Okay, I’ll do my best!’ I don’t want to just enjoy my vacation, but to touch art, fashion and music, and get inspiration for my work.”


Today LDH (the Japanese management and entertainment company founded by the six original members of Exile) has artists including members of Exile active in various fields as singers, performers, and actors, both in and out of Japan. Akira, who is also a member of Exile, was appointed as the first Asian model for Ralph Lauren. Naoki Kobayashi appeared in the movie The Earthquake Bird, on which Ridley Scott served as an executive producer. And Takanori, as a core member of LDH, has his own interests in sight. “I was invited to a Louis Vuitton show in January two years ago. I realised that Asia was not in the centre of the world. It motivated me to see how I would perform in the world. It is not that easy, but I think I can develop myself from a different perspective in the world where we cannot see the limits.”

“To achieve this goal, I have studied english. I also want to contribute to society through dance. Dance is now required in compulsory education and the popularity has spread across Japan. I want to be a beacon for someone by showing my desire to do what I want to do. Of course, everybody goes for their goals. I want to support people in distress, as I am a performer and have a chance to share my experiences and challenges with the world. This is what the movie and Exile did for me. I want to play such a role, and deliver light, hope and courage as words and performances.”


As told to Kazumi Asamura Hayashi
Text Michiyo Nishimori
Translation Akiko Nakazumi
Photography Hanna Moon
Styling Delphine Danhier
Hair and Make-up Akemi Kishida
Photography assistance Matt Kelly
Styling assistance Celine Duong
Production Ryan Benyaiche
Takanori wears all clothing Louis Vuitton.

This article was originally published on i-D Japan and has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Louis Vuitton
i-d japan
Takanori Iwata
i-D Asia