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January 26, 2018

Meet the Japanese grandmother whose Instagram fame led to a Beck music video

by John_A

Japanese grandmother “Tamanegi” never set out to create a hugely popular Instagram feed. And she certainly never imagined it would lead to a meeting with indie rock legend Beck and a starring role for her family in his latest music video. So how exactly did it happen?

For Tamanegi (which, incidentally, is Japanese for “onion”), it all began back in 2015 when she started posting pictures on Instagram. Her daughter had recently gotten married and her son-in-law had come to live with them in Yamagata prefecture, about 200 miles north of Tokyo.

“A friend of Beck really liked the photos and told him about them.”

“I wanted to record life with our new family,” Tamanegi told Digital Trends, though it quickly became apparent that Qoo and Riku, their poodles, were going to be the stars of this particular Instagram account. And when granddaughter Mame came along in 2016, Tamanegi really got into her photographic stride.

Her pictures are the epitome of cute, with the fluffy dogs often appearing in various costumes, while the adorable Mame cuddles and plays with the mutts as if they were toys brought by Santa.

And Instagrammers took notice: In the summer of 2016, Tamanegi’s Instagram account went viral, a happening that eventually led to one of Beck’s buddies stumbling upon the photos.

“A friend of Beck really liked the photos and told him about them,” Tamanegi said. Beck liked them too, in fact he was so taken by them that he decided Mame and her four-legged friends would be perfect for his next music video.

A post shared by たまねぎ (@tamanegi.qoo.riku) on Dec 24, 2017 at 5:39am PST

Now, you won’t be surprised to learn that Beck isn’t known to have a strong following among Japanese grandmothers, which explains why Tamanegi was caught off-guard when his team got in touch.

Beck’s people explained that the multi-award-winning artist had an idea to feature Mame, Qoo, Riku, and a new addition to the family, Gaku (yes, another poodle), in the video for Fix Me, a track from Beck’s latest album, Colors.

After doing some hasty research online, Tamanegi realized this was something big, telling Digital Trends she felt “so honored and happy” that such an acclaimed artist had taken an interest in her Instagram photos. She was even more amazed by the music video request.

Beck isn’t known to have a strong following among Japanese grandmothers, which is why Tamanegi was caught off-guard.

As Beck had no plans to appear in the video, it seemed unlikely Tamanegi would have a chance to meet the musician she’d heard so much about. Until, that is, he came to play Tokyo’s famous Budokan venue in October 2017 and invited the family along. It was, by all accounts, a fun encounter, with Beck happy to pose backstage with the stars of Tamanegi’s Instagram photos. Mame’s grandmother described Beck as “very kind and charming.”

The following month, a film crew of three people, together with a translator, descended upon Tamanegi’s home to shoot the video. People say never work with animals or children, so this particular cast looked like something of a challenge.

“Mame-chan is only one year old, so she was moving all over the place, and it was hard to control her,” Tamanegi said. “As for the dogs, Qoo, and Riku are well trained, so they behaved properly. But Gaku is only nine months old, and he’s full of energy and wants to play, so it was harder to control him.”

Fortunately, there were no major mishaps during the shoot, which took a total of two days from start to finish.

In January, the video for Fix Me, starring Mame, Qoo, Riku, and Gaku, was released to the world. You’ll quickly see it has a similar feel to Tamanegi’s Instagram shots, with several costumes used to recreate various scenes from her photos.

Now with more than a quarter of a million followers, Tamanegi says of her recent Instagram experience, “I’m just so surprised, I can hardly believe it even now.”

It’s certainly a story she’ll be able to dine out on for years, though admittedly she may have to explain to some of her friends precisely who Beck is.

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