Category Archives: Essays

Hirata Rina Interview – ENTAME 01.2014

This is an interview with Hirata Rina found in the January 2014 issue of ENTAME. Accompanying the interview are several blocks of extra material like a letter to her oshis and a “getting to know Hirari” segment, which I have also translated.


I still can’t believe I’m on a jacket cover!

-This month, we have the girl with the catchphrase “Fluttering down to your heart♪ With a flutter-flutter, Hirari-!”, the friendly Hirata Rina-chan!

Hirata: Thanks for having me!

-First off, congratulations for placing 3rd in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament and entering your first senbatsu!

Hirata: Thank you! I’m really happy. Honestly, on the day of the tournament, I was thinking “I’ll win, I can definitely do this.”

-Eh!? Really?

Hirata: I had a feeling since I woke up that morning that I could do it (laughs). But… I couldn’t beat Jurina-san (wry smile).

-Even still, 3rd is amazing! And the reaction surrounding it has been amazing too, hasn’t it?

Hirata: I got over 100 emails on my cellphone about it, I was so surprised.

-You wore a Statue of Liberty costume on the day of the tournament. Why was that?

Hirata: When I thought about what I could do to appeal to my fans, I thought it would be best to do something that highlighted how I’ve returned to my homeland from America. And everyone knows right away that the Statue of Liberty is from America.

-It made you stand out perfectly. How is your senbatsu work going?

Hirata: Since I went in thinking that I definitely wanted to win in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament, I was truly glad that I won a spot. Right now, I’m really happy that I have so much work to do. I was especially excited while doing the photoshoot for the CD jacket. Because I’m actually on a CD cover (laughs). I still can’t believe I’ll be on the cover of a CD that’s going to be picked up by so many people.

-Were you ever frustrated that so many members of the same generation or lower have been chosen for senbatsu?

Hirata: I wasn’t frustrated. I stay pretty positive (laughs). I believed my chance would definitely come around.

-You’re very optimistic.

Hirata: Well, even if I worry about it, there’s nothing I can do, right? This time, I grabbed hold of a chance, and now I want to aim even higher.

-Why did you want to join AKB48 in the first place?

Hirata: I’ve always loved idols. Since I was living in America, it made me fall in love with Japan. And if I joined the entertainment world that I longed for, I would be able to live in Japan. That was what made me decide to auditon for AKB48.

-How did the audition go?

Hirata: Well… I wasn’t nervous at all (laughs). I did a back handspring, I sang in a loud voice, I think I was probably the noisiest one there (wry laugh).

-And so you became a 12th generation research student.

Hirata: I was really happy.

-This year, in April, you were promoted to Oshima Team K.

Hirata: I really admire Oshima Yuuko-san’s power of expression and performance. That’s why I’m working hard every day to eventually surpass Yuuko-san.

-What do you find amazing about Oshima-san?

Hirata: When Yuuko-san said “For each and every song, I change my heart”, I was really surprised. I change my expression, but I don’t change my heart… . I think that idea is truly amazing. Yuuko-san told us “Ask me anything. Because I’ll give you everything I’ve got.” That’s why I want Yuuko-san’s everything (laughs).

-Is there anything we should look for in your theater performances?

Hirata: Of course there is! Fans have told me “Your performance and power of expression are really good” and “The gap between your cute and cool expressions is good”, so it’d be great if you’d keep an eye out for that!

-What are your dreams for the future?

Hirata: It’s been my dream to be a singer, ever since I was little. But recently, I’ve gotten interested in acting. I’ve started thinking I’d like to try acting in cool female roles like Angelina Jolie does.

-Then, to conclude, please give us a message for the fans.

Hirata: If you don’t become my oshi, you’ll regret it (laughs). From here on, I’m going to aim higher and higher, so please keep supporting me.


Extra Material:

[On snakes]

I’ve always loved snakes, ever since I was a kid. I don’t really know why, but my dad likes them too. I love winding them around my fingers! I have two snakes right now named Pocky and Piper. Pocky is a California snake, and Piper is a coral snake. I got them before I entered AKB48, so I’ve had them about 3 years. The picture is of my favorite snake, Piper. He gets spoiled when I hold him (lol).
[Letter from Hirari]

Hirata Rina
To my oshi

Thank you for supporting me♡
Everyone’s words and comments always fill me up with energy! I think it’s thanks to all of you that I was able to get 3rd place in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament. I’m going to work even harder than I have been up until now so that all kinds of people become aware of me, so please keep supporting me!
Next year, I enter high school, so I think more work options will open up to me and you’ll have more chances to see me. Until then, please keep watching over me. You are my Only One♡ Thank you♡ I LOVE YOU♡♡♡

Team K
Hirata Rina

[Getting to know Hirari]

Phobia of Needles: I’m so scared of needles, I can’t even be around safety pins. Even talking about them like this is awful for me… . And this is the season for influenza vaccinations. I really hate those and I run from them. Lately, the staff seems to find my running pretty funny (sob).

30second English Dialogue: Lately, a lot of members have been uploading videos to their Google+ posts, but in AKB48, I was the first one to do that. At first they were just normal videos, but along the way I started my specialty, English conversation. I try to choose phrases that would be used normally, and I upload them (almost) every day.

Jellyfish: I love to draw jellyfish characters. Their names are Kuuru-chan and Kaarii-chan (*they can be seen in the title on the page to the right). My fans made a jellyfish alliance for us. If you can describe a jellyfish you like to me at a handshake event, you can join the jellyfish alliance too!

Friendship: What comes to mind when talking about me is how I’m famous for being able to make friends with anyone (laughs). I think I like people before I even meet them. I haven’t met any of the girls in HKT48’s 3rd generation yet, but I think I can be friends with all of them. Oh, and I have faith that I can get along with all of the draft conference members, too!

Returnee: Among the AKB48 members, I’m the only one who’s a returnee. Honestly, I’m better at English than Japanese (laughs). Thanks to being a returnee, the number of people who are interested in me have increased, and fans from overseas come to see me at handshake events. And there are lots of people who learned English because they want to talk with me in English at handshake events.


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AKB48’s Takahashi Minami’s Leadership

This is an article written by Matsuyama Jun, a man who studies and writes about leadership. In a multi-part article, he talks about Takahashi Minami’s leadership and his impression of her from a couple of the AKB documentaries. [Original Article – AKB48高橋みなみのリーダーシップ]


10. AKB48’s Takahashi Minami’s Leadership

Right now, from children to the elderly, there probably isn’t anyone who doesn’t know of AKB48. As a national idol group, they are staples on TV, radio and in magazines.
They are produced by Akimoto Yasushi, but commanding the entire group is the leader, Takahashi Minami.

I did not know AKB48 very well, but recognizing my own blind spot, in a stroke of ambidextrous thinking, at one time, I had enjoyed watching the AKB48 documentary movies (in 2012).

There are two works, “Documentary of AKB48 – Show must go on – Shoujotachi wa kizutsukinagara, yume wo miru [While being hurt, the girls dream]” and “Documentary of AKB48 – to be continued – 10nen ato, shoujotachi wa ima no jibun ni nani wo omou no darou? [10 years from now, what will the girls think of themselves as they were right now?]”

In those DVDs is where I first learned of the leader Takahashi Minami and her quick wit. I was surprised. Surely here was a “leader of leaders”. She laughed and cried along with her comrades, and was able to voice stern words at times when necessary. She is an example of an excellent leader.

However, in the movies, Takahashi Minami confessed of herself, “I wasn’t really the leader type”.

Is leadership innate? Or is it acquired?

I come across this question quite often, and I have a distinct “theory of leadership”. The grounds for my argument comes from the standpoint of someone who works in a setting that develops leadership through coaching and training. And when I think of Takahashi Minami, who went through a metamorphasis from someone who wasn’t a leader type to someone who became a splendid leader, I think the leadership that Takahashi shows in the AKB48 documentary movies serves as valuable evidence towards my “theory of leadership”.

In my book “The Leader Who Can Laugh at Himself Wins in the End”, I mentioned Takahashi Minami’s leadership along the likes of Sakamoto Ryouma and Steve Jobs. It’s not written in that book, but the strong image I got from the movies of Takahashi Minami as a leader will be written about in the next book.

Leadership is Influenced by “conviction” and “resolution”

“Conviction” and “resolution”.

These are staple keywords in every debate about leadership.
Takahashi Minami is kind. And at times, when she can be a strict person, it is because she “has the resolve to be hated”. This may be because she has the kind of strong “conviction” that supports that “resolve”.

Takahashi Minami is recognized as having the respect of the other members.
“Takamina [Takahashi Minami’s nickname] is amazing.” “I can’t be like her.” AKB48 members like Oshima Yuuko, Shinoda Mariko and Kojima Haruna sigh in answer while being interviewed.

When I think about leadership, I think that I will focus more and more on the “resolve” that supports a leader as an important concept.

10 years from now, Takahashi Minami may be acting as a leader who has crossed over the limits of AKB48. I have high hopes for her!

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Takahashi Minami | Natsuichi Essay | “23-Minute Miracle”

Many of the 48 group girls have been given a book to read and do a book report on in partnership with Shueisha for their “Natsuichi Toshokan” project. Takahashi Minami’s essay was on “23 Funkan no Kiseki”, a short story by James Clavell, the famous author of the novel Shogun. Here is the original source for Minami’s essay [23分間の奇跡]


Takahashi Minami: “Reading 23-Minute Miracle

People’s, and especially children’s, way of thinking is pliable.
I thought so once again while reading this book, and even thought it was a fearsome thing.
The things we hear and see and the people we meet in the short period of 23 minutes all shape our lives.
I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

But even I’ve met someone who’s changed my life. It was when I was in 4th year elementary school. A teacher transferred to our school from another school. My class had few students, and we were all together in the same class from year one until then. The good thing about it was that we all got along together very well, but the bad thing was… we were a class who gave the teachers a hard time. The boys in my class were all really looking forward to picking on the new homeroom teacher. They really didn’t like teachers. That’s why, when the new teacher arrived, wearing his characteristic blue Italian jersey, they saw him as nothing but new prey.

It’s just… this new teacher was different from all the teachers we’d had up until then. With just a few words, he was angry at us and started to lecture us. I think he was the first person who had ever gotten outwardly angry with our class.

At times, like a child, he would be the fastest out to the grounds to kick around the soccer ball. Up until the end, everyone called him “old man” and admired him. To us, he acted both as a teacher and a father, and maybe it was because I met someone like him that I started to trust adults a little bit.

I believe that every encounter is a necessary “miracle”.

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Kodama Haruka | Natsuichi Essay | “One Big Family in the Heisei Era”

Many of the 48 group girls have been given a book to read and do a book report on in partnership with Shueisha for their “Natsuichi Toshokan” project. Kodama Haruka’s essay was on “Heisei Daikazoku”, a novel by Nakajima Kyoko. Here is the original source for Haruka’s essay [平成大家族]


Kodama Haruka: “Reading One Big Family in the Heisei Era

Normally, I like to read a lot of fantasy novels so I can have fun daydreams. But this is my first time reading this genre.

The title is “One Big Family in the Heisei Era”. What I get from this title is that there are a lot of people in this family, which is lively and fun with lots of siblings. But when I actually read it, it was different from what I thought. There wasn’t a single fragment of fantasy, it was a very realistic world. I felt interested in the gap between the title and the contents, and was gradually sucked into the story.

At first, the Akeda family lives a quite life with their 30-some-year old shut-in son and a mother-in-law who’s over 90. One day, suddenly their bankrupt first daughter and her family, as well as their divorced second daughter, come back, and they become a great big family spanning four generations. “One big family” was referring to this.

The scene that left the biggest impression on me was, while the oldest daughter and second daughter were having an incident, the eldest brother Katsuo, who everyone thought was uninterested in love, fell in love for the first time. The person he fell in love with was the mother-in-law’s caregiver, who came to the house twice a week. Without realizing it, I started rooting for Katsuo. The romance unfolded little by little and had a pure feeling to it, and as it made me interested I thought, “First love can even come around like this”.

This book has “Heisei”, the current era, as its setting. The problems that occur are very realistic, and because it’s written rather derisively, it’s something both my family and I can read and compare our thoughts on, I think it’s really interesting. Thanks to this book, I’ve started to like books on families a lot. I want to try reading a lot of books this summer.

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Okada Nana | Natsuichi Essay | “The Sky the Birds Taught Me Of”

Many of the AKB girls have been given a book to read and do a book report on in partnership with Shueisha for their “Natsuichi Toshokan” project. Okada Nana’s essay was on “Tori ga Oshiete Kureta Sora”, a novel by blind author Sannomiya Mayuko. Here is the original source for Nana’s essay [鳥が教えてくれた空]


Okada Nana: “The Sky the Birds Taught Me Of”

The author of this book is Sannomiya Mayuko-san. She said that when she was only four years old, she lost her eyesight and was bereft of light.
My own eyesight is fine.
I’ve never thought of what it would be like to live everyday life without being able to see.
I’ve just been living by relying on the things I can see. Being that I am this way, when I read this book, I was surprised by many things.

First is the cries of the sparrows that we inadvertently hear every day. When I heard a sparrow sing, I never thought anything but “Oh, it’s a sparrow, how cute”. Honestly, my interest in them ended there.
But in the sparrow’s cry and the way it sings…
About what time it is, what the weather is like, what kind of landscape is before me, the fact that all of that can be understood from a sparrow’s cry is truly amazing to me.

One other thing is the matter of playing games like ‘Hide and seek’ or ‘Red Light/Green Light’ normally with friends. If it was me, I would say “I’m sorry, I can’t see” and decline the offer to play with them.

The number one thing I thought about when I read this book was the number of things I don’t think about in everyday life and the fact that because they cannot see, the blind can understand and feel nature.

By reading this book, for the first time I’m interested in the cries of birds. Lately, when I heard birdsong in my house, I go to the window and listen closely for it.

After becoming blind, I think Sannomiya-san must have felt pain such as I can’t imagine. I deeply respect Sannomiya-san, who overcame that and has been able to live positively while having fun.

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Liner Notes: Team Surprise “Dessan”

These are the translated liner notes to the new AKB48 Team Surprise song “Dessan [Rough Sketch]”. The original source is here [LINER NOTE | デッサン公式サイト]

(I’m not sure about the name of the writer or a little bit of the musical explanation, however, it shouldn’t be too far off the mark)


It’s a song about getting into a fight over an insignificant thing,
with “I [boku]” being the one to step up and compromise.

Listening to this song, the first thing I thought was, “Ah, it’s 6/8”. “6/8” being a song in 6/8 time. “Let me see, are there any other AKB48 songs in this time signature?” but I couldn’t think of any offhand. Slow ballads in soul and country often use 6/8 time, but it’s an unusual rhythm for an idol pop song, because it can’t really be said that it’s suited for group dances.

Of the famous songs in 6/8 time, I soon thought of the following three. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, called “Futari no kizuna [Our Bond]” in Japanese. The version by Simply Red is famous. The original song is by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. This sweet ballad in 6/8 time is the example of examples. Next is “The End of the World”, titled in Japanese, “Kono yo no hate made [To the end of this world]”. The version by Brenda Lee is famous, but the original song is by Skeeter Davis. Skeeter’s version might just be one of the greatest masterpieces of idol pop ever. One more song, “When I Need You”, titled in Japanese “Haruka naru omoi [Distant Feelings]” is of course a ballad by Leo Sayer. There are also many covers of this song. Being that there are so many sweet, sweet love songs written in 6/8 time, it’s interesting that each of these has a complete Japanese translation.

When it comes to 6/8 in Japan, it has to be this song… RC Succession’s “Slow Ballad”, I suppose. Please try singing it at karaoke. The 6/8 in the A-melody of this song is the real deal.

Now then, in regards to our own AKB48 and songs in 6/8 time, hmm. There are 5 songs I can think of. The one song I can say firmly “This is in 6/8!” about is “Classmate”. From the intro, there’s a full sense that it’s a ballad in 6/8. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll explain little by little. When I say “6/8”, it means it has a rhythm where “within one bar of music, there are 6 8th notes”. “Don ta taa tsu ta taa” is what the rhythm is like. However, you shouldn’t think that you can reduce it to 3/4 time. “3/4 time” is, in a word, a “waltz”. There are 3 beats. However, since “6/8 time” is comprised of “two measures of 3 notes”, we can go as far as to say that these are two different time signatures.
It’s a totally different, unusual rhythm, but one that is just right for ballads.

The other four songs are “Haru ga kuru made”, “Mushi no ballad”, “Yokaze no shiwaza”, and “Noel no yoru”. The feeling that it’s in 6/8 time isn’t quite as strong, but it’s there when you count it off. As suspected, they’re all ballads.

This preface has become rather long. Let’s get into introducing “Dessan”. It’s got that “don ta taa tsu ta taa” rhythm from the intro. An instrument that sounds like an electric sitar goes “piyooon”. Takahashi Minami begins singing. After half of the A-melody, Sashihara Rino starts singing. It’s easy to recognize both of their voices, so you’ll know instantly who’s singing which part.

The song’s structure is simple. “A melody, B melody, chorus” are repeated twice, and after the second time around the D-melody (grand chorus) starts. And then a repeat of the chorus. The singing keeps going without interlude. What’s this? This arrangement is a little more elaborate. Earlier, with a self-satisfied expression (although I didn’t actually have one) I said that “6/8 time and 3/4 time have different rhythms”, but what about the arrangement of this duet?? Certainly, it progresses in 6/8 time through the A-melody and B-melody, but the chorus feels different. No matter how you look at it, the chorus takes a “3 beat waltz” rhythm. “Zun cha chaa zun cha chaa” is a waltz. Doesn’t your body just want to sway with the tempo of this song’s chorus, which appears to be a slightly quick tempo waltz?

I’ve got it now. It’s the “downbeat”. Though the tempo hasn’t changed, the way the bass is played has changed. When we enter the chorus, the bass doubles (1 bar is played twice). According to that, the beginning of the verse becomes “zun”, and it starts to feel like a waltz. It’s certainly an arrangement that takes fearsome skill. If this was a quiz, that was a trick question I was on the verge of getting stuck on. By the way, I can’t think of any waltzes in AKB48’s repertoire besides “Honehone waltz”, but I wonder if there are any.

The characters in the lyrics are “I [boku]” and “you [kimi]”, a couple. It’s a song about getting into a fight over an insignificant thing, with “I [boku]” being the one to step up and compromise. “You [kimi]” seems to be dancing in a ballet classroom. Because “you” gave “me” a giggle, it seems the two were able to reconcile peacefully.

The MV has some considerably complex creations. The models and constructions on the set must have been planned out in advance, and even though it’s a duet between Takahashi and Sashihara, it matches each of their separate movements, rotating with them, so the two of them can’t ever meet. The world created in the lyrics also tries to show the listener a picture of this feeling of passing each other by, making it a very ambitious production. Even the costumes – Takahashi Minami in white, Sashihara Rino in black – help create a contrast. When this song, “Dessan”, is performed live, I would like to see the return of the revolving set, if possible. I want to see it live.

-Ishigami Gen

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Nishino Miki | Natsuichi Essay | “Reading Kokoro”

Many of the AKB girls have been given a book to read and do a book report on in partnership with Shueisha for their “Natsuichi Toshokan” project. Nishino Miki’s essay was on “Kokoro”, a novel by famous writer Natsume Souseki. Here is the original source for Miki’s essay [こころを読んで]


Nishino Miki: “Reading Kokoro [Heart]”

For me, who doesn’t like reading very much, this book was very difficult, and at first I didn’t really understand much. However, while reading it, I began to understand a bit about the emotions of the human heart: loneliness, envy, and other sad and painful emotions that I have not personally experienced.

I think that lying at the heart of Sensei’s pain are two things. One is the fact that he was betrayed by a relative. The second is that he drove his good friend to suicide.
Whatever happens, you should be able to rely on your parents. But Sensei’s parents died very early on. Among all of his grief and solitude, he was betrayed by his relative. When I think of how overcome with sadness he must have been, it wrenches my heart.

I believe that emotion was a deep scar that never faded, even until the very end of his life. Yet even while harboring that emotion, Sensei was able to face K and betray him. Thinking about how such a matter can cause so many different human emotions to come out is rather frightening. With K’s suicide, Sensei would be in pain his whole life. In the end, until the last, he was probably lonely to the depths of his heart. Sensei should have hated the uncle who he placed his trust in and was then betrayed by, but he did the same thing to K. In the end, Sensei’s “heart” was dominated by regret and, sadly, he ended his life.

I think the “heart” that every human possesses is a complicated thing. I am still in middle school, and there is still so much I don’t understand. But in the long life ahead of me, by tasting many different feelings and emotions, the “heart” inside myself will likely continue to change. When, at that time, I read this book again, I wonder if I will see a “heart” I wasn’t able to see this time. This has become a book I would like to read over and over again.

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