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'Prison idol' pop duo Paix2 serenades 860 inmates in Kyoto

Pop duo Paix2, consisting of Manami Kitao, left, and Megumi Ikatsu, perform at the Kyoto Prison in Kyoto's Yamashina Ward, on Feb. 14, 2020. (Mainichi/Kanae Soejima)

KYOTO -- Pop duo Paix2, known as "idols for prisoners," gave a 10-song concert for about 860 inmates at the Kyoto Prison in this western Japan city's Yamashina Ward on Feb. 14.

Manami Kitao and Megumi Ikatsu formed Paix2 in April 2000, and started throwing support concerts for offenders at correctional institutions all over the country in December that year. They have served as probation officers since 2014, and were commissioned to support the rehabilitation of inmates by the Ministry of Justice in 2015.

The idea for the shows came when someone connected to a chief-of-police-for-a-day PR event the singers performed at in their home prefecture Tottori, western Japan, said the smooth melodies of their music would be a good fit for prison support concerts.

The concert at Kyoto Prison marked the pair's 503rd in Japan and their fifth at that facility, where they last played in 2015. When the duo performed their debut song "Cheer up!" prisoners raised their arms in the air and clapped along. Before singing "I hope to meet," one of the Paix2 members called out, "We hope to meet next time in a nice place somewhere," and inmates listened attentively to the song.

According to Ikatsu, at first the pair visited correctional facilities in the simple hope that the inmates would enjoy the shows. However, at a public event about two years after their debut gig at the Tottori Prison, a former inmate at the facility who had seen them perform gave them a letter saying, "I gained the will to make an effort in society after listening to your songs." Since then, Paix2 has been striving to make a similar impact on as many prisoners as they can.

Ikatsu said, "Rehabilitation is difficult if (prisoners) don't have awareness. I want use the songs to flip 'switches' in their minds to change their thinking." Kitao added, "I want to perform music that will give a helpful nudge to people who are seriously hoping to change."

(Japanese original by Kanae Soejima, Kyoto Bureau)

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