This is an interview with Okada Nana released in the April issue of Bubka Magazine.
–Last time (in the January 2014 issue), I interviewed the 3 musketeers (the group consisting of Okada Nana, Kojima Mako and Nishino Miki), but today I wanted to take some time to talk to you by yourself.
Okada: Thank you very much. I’m so thrilled!
–When I went to see a Team 4 performance the other day, the junior members were saying things like “Okada-san is so reliable” and “When I consulted her about a dance, she wrote a long mail back saying ‘If you still don’t get it, I’ll dance it with you’”. When I heard that, I thought “In the future, Okada Nana could become someone like Takamina (Takahashi Minami).”
Okada: No way… that’s too much. But I don’t really get that many questions from junior members. That’s why, when I do, I want to help them out in the same excellent ways I’ve been helped by my seniors.
–Who are those seniors?
Okada: Team A’s Iwata Karen-san.
–Eh! That’s a bit surprisng, considering her character recently.
Okada: Yeah, I guess it is (laughs). But really, she listens closely to anything I have to say. She’s a person who really thinks about others. Even though she’s a year younger than me, she’s such a reliable senior.
–I’m writing this down for her sake, too (laughs). But the fact that you recognize your senior’s habit of thinking so much of her juniors shows that “seriousness” that’s attributed to you. Also, the “AKBINGO!” serial that spanned 3 weeks, the prank episodes themed “Let’s find out how far her seriousness goes”, have finally aired. Has the response from those episodes been noticeable?
Okada: It has (laughs). At handshake events, all of a sudden a lot of people were telling me things like “Do your best to be serious”, “I really like how serious you are” and “Always stay serious like that”.
–Even around our office, you gained a reputation almost overnight. “Okada Nana is so awesome”.
Okada: Eh?! Thank you! But ever since those episodes, when I do press interviews like this, I always wonder if there’s a camera somewhere… (She looks around and checks as she says this).
–There aren’t any today, so you don’t have to worry!
Okada: Since I’ve already had that experience, I somehow know now if there’s a camera around (laughs).
–I guess you’ve become wary (laughs). Still, they tried really hard to corner you during that segment of the program, didn’t they?
Okada: Even I thought “I’ve gotten really strong” when I managed not to cry! There was a time when I would always cry over the smallest things, like having a quarrel with my mom or something. There was also a time when the 14th generation members were having a hard time memorizing things in lessons. I happened to overhear some senior members talking behind our backs, and I cried out of frustration. But then I started to hate the fact that I cried so much.
–While you were talking, I was thinking how straightforward you are. You don’t seem like how girls usually are nowadays.
Okada: Oh, I’m not like other girls?
–I meant that in a good way, of course (laughs).
Okada: But all the girls in Team 4 are so upfront and honest, I think they’re all so nice. Like Takashima Yurina-san and Uchiyama Natsuki-chan, I think we’re quite similar (laughs).
–The two of them are the clumsy, hardworking type, aren’t they? Are you like that, too?
Okada: My fingers are clumsy, and so are my inner thoughts. I’m really bad at the basics! When I ask the other members “What should I do? How should I do this?” they tell me “Shouldn’t you just do it like usual?” But I can’t really do that. Just before a concert, when I have to remember a lot of dance moves and stuff, my head is close to bursting. That’s why I take my lessons as seriously as I can.
–Do you have trouble forgiving yourself when you can’t do something and cause trouble for those around you?
Okada: No way. But I don’t think of it as particularly painful. For the time being, I set my own goals and hurdles pretty high, so I can see just how close I can get to them. I don’t think there’s any disadvantage to setting them high.
–That’s amazing. Given that you’ve improved since then, do you ever feel like you want to be someone who’s pulling the group forward?
Okada: I do. I even feel like that in regards to my seniors sometimes.
–Even if you’re up against Aigasa (Moe)-san?
Okada: Yeah (laughs). But Moe-san is an independent person, so there’s really nothing I can do there. It’s just, with members like Umetan (Umeta Ayano) or Kojimako (Kojima Mako) who are around the same age, they’re always making a racket together, so I try to take a step back from that.
–So when Aigasa-san starts saying something you don’t like…
Okada: When I don’t want her to talk about something, I’ll say “Please don’t say that”. But lately, she’s been catching herself and going “Oops! I’m sorry, Nana!”, so I’m happy about that (laughs). Now, though, there are things I worry about more than Moe-san. Like how Miki-chan seems to be at kind of a rebellious age…
–Well, that could be trouble (laughs). Will it be all right?
Okada: She’ll be entering her 3rd year of middle school soon, so it’d be nice if she could grow up a little more… But I think she’ll be fine.
–You really seem like you’re on a public morals committee or something (laughs).
Okada: Do I? It’s totally normal!
–Since about when did you switch into your current “Okada Nana mode”?
Okada: Probably around the formation of Team 4. While I was a research student, I had already come up with the idea to make rules for myself and do my best according to them. But when I joined Team 4, it’s a team, so everyone had different ideas of how to do things. But I guess it’s because we’re a team that we can say things like that when we want to.
–It might have been that change in consciousness that caused it, but since you joined Team 4 I think you’ve really changed. It’s like you’re noticeable all over the stage.
Okada: Thank you! I guess it’s that when you change your feelings, a lot of other things change too.
–But now, a lot of people are suddenly saying “She’s so serious”, right? That doesn’t feel restrictive to you?
Okada: Somehow, I’m not really thinking of myself as serious when I do things, so it’s a strange sensation.
–Are your parents strict?
Okada: Not really, it’s not something I’ve paid much attention to in daily life… I don’t think they’re very strict regarding me, though. When I was accepted to AKB48, they didn’t say anything particularly special about it, and they basically let me do what I want.
–So all of the growth you’ve achieved has been thanks to your own will, hasn’t it? (laughs) You also don’t seem like the type who would oversleep.
Okada: I absolutely am! It even happened the other day! I’ll make it on time, but I’ll wake up around the time I should be leaving my house. Then I have to really rush!
–But don’t you set your alarm really early?
Okada: I always set it so that I’ll get there 20 to 30 minutes beforehand, but when I oversleep it feels like I barely make it.
–I knew it! (laughs). Fans make up fantasies of their own, they talk together about how “I’m sure Okada-san is like this” and such.
–Well, there was a heavy snow yesterday, and Okada-san was probably out with a snowshovel first thing in the morning so that the only place that’s not buried in snow is the Okada residence.
Okada: Sorry, but I wasn’t (laughs). I definitely have a switch I flip depending on whether I’m at home or out somewhere. I’m really useless at home.
–You say you’re useless, but at yesterday’s Team 4 show there was a MC corner talking about the topic “How much do you love AKB48?” And there, you said something like “I’m betting my life on AKB48. If I didn’t have AKB48, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself”. It was very impressive.
Okada: I really wouldn’t know what to do. There was a time I studied really hard so I could get into a good university, it was my goal. But I love AKB48 and since following the entertainment world was a hobby of mine, I really waffled about it. But when I was accepted to AKB48, I made up my mind to do my best here. That’s why, for me, AKB48 is all I have. If you take that away from me, I have nothing left.
–That’s considerable resolve. If AKB48 wasn’t around, what would you do?
Okada: Oh, if that happened, I wonder what I would do? I couldn’t live. I wouldn’t have any reason for living.
–That’s going pretty far! Then, if you’re really staking everything you’ve got on AKB48, what are your goals?
Okada: I want to become someone necessary to the group. As I am right now, whether I’m there or not, AKB48 is fine. But when you think about if Takamina-san weren’t there, I think everyone would have trouble knowing what they should or shouldn’t do. I eventually want to become that, a person everyone absolutely prefers to have around.
–The issue this interview will be in is going on sale after the Daisokaku Matsuri [grand shuffle festival], but I have a feeling that you’ll be playing an important role in the upcoming AKB48.
Okada: (Oshima) Yuko-san is graduating too, so I wonder what will happen?
–The members of Team 4 might also change.
Okada: I really love Team 4, and it has a special place in my heart, so when the Daisokaku Matsuri was announced, I cried all day… . But I also felt like we have a duty to support AKB48. Kind of like, even with Oshima-san gone, no matter what happens, AKB48 will be all right.
–I think you should convey those feelings to Oshima-san.
Okada: I want to have a good talk with her by the time she graduates.
–And after having a good talk with you today, I’m sure of one thing. The day Okada-san changes is the day AKB48 will end.
Okada: Eeehh?! That’s a heavy responsibility!