Category Archives: Translations

Nikkan Sports Article 9.15.16 – Shimazaki Haruka Potentially Graduating?

AKB48’s Salty Member Shimazaki Haruka on the Road to Graduation – Will Her New Center Position Be Her Final? [source]

We’ve learned today, Sept. 15th, that Shimazaki Haruka (22) of AKB48 has expressed her intentions to graduate. Though she is an ace of the group whose position in the General Election has remained high, it seems she has resolved to take the next step. Today, it was announced that the group’s 46th single (set to release 11/16, title undetermined) will be centered by Shimazaki, and that the song will likely be the last one she centers.

Shimazaki participated in today’s AKB48 concert at Yokohama Arena. During the encore, it was revealed that she was chosen to be the center of the next single. Sharing her thoughts, Shimazaki said “I’m really awestruck. According to what I’ve heard about this song, it’s going to be a really energetic song.” Sashihara Rino (23) of HKT48 made everyone laugh by replying, “Even though she herself is so unenergetic?!” Shimazaki then made light of the joke by saying “I’ll do it energetically so it doesn’t become unenergetic!” which invited more laughs. Even though it appeared to be a funny scene, in truth, it seems her heart was full of the resolve to graduate.

According to data collected this summer by Nikkan Sports, some close friends of Shimazaki’s divulged that “she has resolved to graduate from AKB48”. “Paruru”, as Shimazaki has been nicknamed, gained a boost in popularity when she centered last year’s Japan Record Award-nominee single “Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai”, but of course the graduation of the current ace would cause huge reverberations.

Actually, the new commercials for Baitoru that started on the 12th of September that Shimazaki stars in may contain some evidence of her thoughts of graduation. When Shimazaki, in the role of a cafe owner, is asked by her junior co-worker (played by HKT48’s Miyawaki Sakura (18)) “Paruru-san, is it true that you’re quitting?”, Shimazaki answers with a refreshing smile, “I’ve had a lot of valuable experiences here, but I finally know what my real dream is. That’s why I won’t call it quitting, but rather graduating. I’ve decided to move on to the next part of my life”. Afterward, the current General Manager of the group, Yokoyama Yui (23), Watanabe Mayu (22) and Sashihara all chime in with “We’re rooting for you!” The contents of this commercial suggest Shimazaki’s current condition and thought process.

The timing of her reception of a solo center position is also laden with significance. The past three years of General Elections have seen her position fluctuate between 7th, 8th and 9th, but her position has only been stable, and it can’t be said that she’s been making rapid gains in popularity. It also can’t be said that AKB48 chooses centers with no rhyme or reason to the decision, so her position as center in the upcoming single could be considered support for her graduation.

It is not known whether Shimazaki has made her intentions clear to Producer Akimoto Yasushi as of yet, but the situation bears the scent of surprise that AKB48 members are so fond of springing upon everyone. We may recall Oshima Yuko’s surprise graduation announcement during the live broadcast of NHK’s Kouhaku Utagassen. Also, Shinoda Mariko and Kojima Haruna’s graduation announcements during two different General Elections. It is quite likely that Shimazaki also already has a plan for her graduation announcement in mind.

Shimazaki has often expressed her dream to be an actress and her roles in dramas and movies have been steadily multiplying. She will also be playing a leading role in TV Asahi’s serial drama “Metropolitan Police Department: Nasi Goreng Division”, which starts in October. The number of her outside activities is certainly increasing. And during this year’s General Election in June, Shimazaki made the declaration that “this year will be my last election”. During her speech after she ranked in, she also confessed “Honestly, I have been considering graduation”.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Yamamoto Sayaka

This is an interview with Yamamoto Sayaka, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Sayanee’s answers are in quotes.

“The theme for this year’s election is ‘You can’t just wish for it, you have to take it!’ Last year, my sentiments were weak and I was only wishing to get into senbatsu. But I thought after that, ‘Isn’t the way I participated with such failing resolution really rude to the fans who did their best to support me?…’ That’s why, this year, I decided to aim as high as I possibly can. On that note, the rank I’m setting my sights on…well, it’s gotta be 1st! There, I said it!”

You aim to jump from your rank of 14 last year to 1st in one go!?

“I think that setting that as my goal is, in itself, a way to answer my fans’ expectations.”

I see. Actually, I haven’t told you this yet, but in the official election guidebook, this year, we ranked members based on our own ideas of where they might place this time rather than where they placed last yea
r.

“Ahh~ really? That’s an interesting way to do it.”

And in the book, we placed you at number 1.

“…Huh? What did you just say…?”

I’m sorry to have surprised you. But anyhow, congratulations!

“No, no, wait… huh. Yeah… okay. Sorry, instead of hesitating thinking it over, I’ll just say… I’ll do my best. I’ll have to do my best!”

That’s positive of you! You can feel the strength of someone who’s steeled her resolve coming from you this year.

“That’s right. I feel like maybe I’ve gotten a little stronger this past year. A little like (Oshima) Yuko-san…”

Do you have a close relationship with Yuko-san?

“The last half-year, I feel like the distance between us has closed really quickly. We went to meals together and she got me a present for my birthday, things like that. I’m definitely not the type to shy from proactively involving myself as a junior, but I feel that the effort to get closer came from her, and I’m very thankful for that.

She had written on a card for my birthday. On it were the words ‘It’s also important to act, not just to think’. She decisively hit the nail on the head as far as what I’m lacking in. I was very moved… . Other seniors pretty much stick to being kind. They point out what you did well, and they search for the good things about you. But Yuko-san sometimes gives very harsh advice.”

Like what, for example?

“Last year, during my speech I made the declaration that ‘From here on, I’ll become a beast’, but…”

You wanted to stir things up by graduating from being a ‘stray cat who was taken in’ in AKB senbatsu and becoming instead something like a beast.

“That’s what I proclaimed. Actually, on the program we did a recording for the next day when we played a game of musical chairs, I did manage to stir things up. Even Yuko-san praised me by saying ‘I felt that beast aura from you’, and I was elated. But honestly, that was the only time I was able to become a beast”.

Just once, the very next day after the election!? (laughs)

“I’m sorry! But then it became a question of how I should really become this beast. I didn’t hit upon anything even when I was trying to think of ideas. I don’t have the kind of character Suda (Akari)-san does, where she can appeal to fans by pushing her way to the front… And while I was thinking, feeling that it would be impossible for me to become a beast, I sealed off the word ‘beast’ during that period of time (laughs).

And then, one time Yuko-san abruptly asked me ‘So when are you becoming a beast, Sayanee? Or have you given up on that!?’ She saw through it all. She was so on the mark that I didn’t have a reply. It was kind of scary (laughs). But after that, she said this to me: ‘You might not be able to be a beast just yet, but it’s you so I know you can do it’. Even recently, though I’ve been able to perform on TV, there are times I get depressed when it’s over because I feel like I didn’t stand out at all. But then I remember the words Yuko-san told me, and after that I feel like I want to keep on challenging myself without giving up”.

On the flip side of that harshness are Yuko’s big hopes and affection for you. There are episodes when they show through. Although, on TV, you haven’t been able to break out of being seen as “a stray cat who was taken in”. With your resentment towards yourself, and TV viewers pointing out again and again ‘that’s not the Sayanee I know’, you’ve been fairly cornered.

“I know it’s bad that I haven’t been able to break out of the shell I’m in, but that’s also a part of myself, so I’m a little bit sad about it….”

This spring, you were presented with a large opportunity. You were given a concurrent position in AKB48’s Team K.

“The other day, when the new Team K performed for the first time at Saitama Super Arena, the fans who watched were saying ‘You were really dazzling today, Sayanee’. And there were a lot of people saying it, too! Actually, since my own fighting spirit was on fire, I thought ‘Ah, did it come around to me?’ In Team N, I’m always going out with ‘Team Spirit’. Dancing with representing Team N foremost on my mind. But I figured out that I can polish up a different side of myself in Team K. During the time I’m in this team, I can shine as an individual, I think.”

Not as a representative of the NMB48 group, or as the captain of Team N; when you’re in Team K, the “beast” may awaken.

“It’s a really good stimulus!”

Who do you get motivation from in Team K?

“I get it from a lot of people, but the foremost would be (Matsui) Jurina-san, who’s also a concurrent member. She burns with desire, in a good way. When Jurina-san is there, she draws your eye”.

Jurina is the possessor of a fiery passion, isn’t she?

“She really is. That’s why, when I’m standing next to her, that fire comes across to me, and even I feel like I might lose to her! My heart is so set on our rivalry that it might cause trouble to her actually… and when I think that, I end up repressing myself. But when I realized I was doing that, I tried to bare my heart toward my opponent in my dancing… . Even I’m surprised about it”.

You’re speaking very lively now. You’re spoken of as one of the successors to Oshima Yuko. So by putting you in Team K, the old home of Oshima Yuko, do you feel like they’re trying to awaken something in you? Or do you think it was just coincidence?

“Actually, the day before the big shuffle, I met Yuko-san at a music show we were recording for, and she asked me a question it seemed just came to her mind. ‘What would you do if you were told you’d have a concurrent position with Team K?’ Since I had never thought about it before and I wondered what to say, I answered something like ‘I think I’d like to try it.’ And then Yuko-san just said, ‘I see, well I’d be happy if you came to Team K’ and walked off. And then the next day, my concurrency with Team K was announced…”

The concurrency might be a coincidence. But then there’s the feeling that Oshima Yuko wished for the team she poured her soul into to help polish you up as well. By the way, something that was a big factor in this imagining of you at #1 is that you have the same “hourglass figure” as Oshima Yuko. Right now, sports clubs around the country have posters of you stuck up on their clubroom walls, saying you’re their idol.

“It’s not that great… But my friends have also told me that when you do an image search for ‘Yamamoto Sayaka’ on the internet, all that comes up are pictures of me in a swimsuit (laughs)”.

The other day, Yuko-san saw a cover of you on a magazine in a bikini holding a guitar for some reason, and she thought in surprise ‘What in the world is that girl doing!?’

“Before, when I was asked to do gravure in a bikini with an apron, Yuko-san pointed it out and said ‘That’s a little extreme!’ (laughs)”

You must like to be photographed in swimsuits.

“No way! I’ll just say this. I’ve always been really embarrassed when it came to doing gravure! On top of that, it might just be my imagination, but doesn’t it seem that recently the amount of cloth in the swimsuits has been getting smaller, and the demands getting bigger…?”

But, since it’s you, you definitely won’t complain.

“There’s a part of me that wants to answer my fans’ expectations, and with the requests of the staff who are helping me prepare, I just end up doing it… . I keep saying that, but behind those covers of me you see at the convenience stores is my own desire to push myself forward (laughs)”.

So it’s a good kind of embarrassment (laughs). Well then, in the end, seeing as we imagined Sashihara Rino at 2nd and Watanabe Mayu at 3rd, please ring out a declaration of war!

“To declare war on those two, who are so big… your demands are high, huh~. They’re both seniors whom I respect. Sashihara-san has her individual activities, of course, and it’s thanks to her presence that the HKT group has kept getting bigger and bigger. Her power of production is really something! And most of all, she’s the first member from a sister group to reach #1 in the election. I think seeing her like that became a huge goal for sister group members.

Mayuyu (Watanabe Mayu)-san is a stoic person to the end. I love how high level her professional consciousness is! I want Mayuyu-san’s faithful fans to be rewarded, too. A declaration of war…? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s those two, I want to overtake them someday. With that high hurdle in mind, I’ll do my best!”

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2014 Election Book Interview – Shiroma Miru

This is an interview with Shiroma Miru, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Mirurun’s answers are in quotes.

Dependent like a puppy and whimsical like a kitten: when you become a fan of Mirurun, you want to protect her and be teased by her so much, you don’t know what to do! But there you have one of the unexplained mysteries of the world. Right now, the number of people who want to become her prisoner are rapidly increasing.

The same as Yamamoto Sayaka and Watanabe Miyuki, Mirurun is a founding member of NMB48. She’s the orthodox idol type who seems like a dependent little sister one would like to protect. However, in the past 3 elections she’s participated in, she’s never ranked. Up on that stage, her own name has never been called.

“Honestly, in the 3rd and 4th elections, it wasn’t that much of a shock to me. I wasn’t able to stand out from the crowd, I wasn’t able to imprint myself on everyone’s hearts, and I couldn’t even really say I tried my absolute hardest… that’s why I felt I didn’t rank. But instead of feeling frustrated, I was sad about my state of affairs”.

The turning point was last year’s election. NMB48 names were called again and again.

“The candidates had increased for those 64 ranks, so I got in a defeatist mood, thinking ‘I probably won’t rank in this year, either…’ But then (Yoshida) Akari-chan’s and (Yabushita) Shuu-chan’s names were called for Future Girls, and they hadn’t ranked in previous years. Because of that, my heart started to pound in excitement. After that, Fuu-chan (Yagura Fuuko) and Keicchi (Jounishi Kei) were called up for Next Girls, and at that point my heart really started hammering.

My hopes were lifted. What should I do if I’m called!? Tons of people are watching this live on TV, what should I say in my speech!? But then (Yamada) Nana-chan was called for 28th, and after the announcement that the Undergirls ranks would start to be called, I came to the realization: ‘Ah, I guess I’m not going to rank this year, either…’. I was getting my hopes up all by myself. I was an idiot for getting excited. That’s when I started to feel just how cold the wind hitting my skin was, and I shivered in the chill. And for the first time, I seriously felt ‘frustration’. My tears just wouldn’t stop. Looking back on it now, it’s embarrassing enough to make my face turn red….”

What you were left with were feelings of impatience and frustration. You wanted to break out of your shell somehow. But first, you resolved to do something about your handshakes, which you lacked skill in.

“I like meeting fans, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make handshake events fun, and I wasn’t very good at them. But I thought, ‘It can’t go on like this’.”

How were you able to change it?

“I started to do this run run run♪ thing, and shook hands by crossing my arms, I tried coming up with some different things to do. And then I started speaking in a loud and energetic voice, and jumping in little hops. When I look like I’m having fun, it also makes the fans happy.”

The impressions posted on the internet by fans who shook your hand quickly gained you the reputation of a “handshake goddess”. Hearing of this, the number of people lining up to shake hands with you skyrocketed. Recently, you’ve become popular enough to be a contender for NMB’s Top 3.

“My confidence level has gone up a bit thanks to that. Handshakes, the thing I was worst at, have now become so much fun every time!”

After your change, a chance opened up for you in NMB48’s single “Takane no Ringo” which was announced in March. Aside from being a senbatsu member for the A-side song, you were also chosen as center for the coupling song “Yama e Yukou”.

“I was so, so happy. After the shooting was over, I wanted to tell my fans right away. Because I hadn’t been able to repay them at all… . And then there was my family. Because I haven’t been very visible in media up until now, when I showed them the MV at home, they were incredibly happy, saying ‘What happened that you’re so up front and center now?!’ We watched the MV together over and over (laughs). And behind them, all the while, I was grinning like mad while we watched… and I felt a prickling behind my eyes.”

Now, finally, the election will answer the question of how much you’ve grown this past year. In this book, you’ve been placed at 16th!

“Eh!? Wait, are you being serious? Wow, I’m really happy. Yes, I really want to make something of this chance. I hope I can at least make Undergirls… . I’m going to bank everything I’ve done up until now on this challenge!”

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2014 Election Book Interview – Ikoma Rina

This is an interview with Ikoma Rina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Ikoma’s answers are in quotes.

Nogizaka46 was formed as AKB48’s “official rival”. One of the members who stands at the center of the group is Ikoma Rina. In the “Grand Shuffle Festival”, it was announced that she would become a concurrent member with AKB48 as a “foreign exchange student”.

“When I first heard the announcement that I would be a concurrent member, I was really surprised too. The members were all joking with each other, saying ‘I bet someone will get transferred from Nogizaka’, but I never thought it would be me… . It’s just that, if what we were joking about actually happened, I planned on going to AKB. One reason is that I feel our live peformances are lacking in strength. In order to satisfy the people who come to see us, I have to level up my singing and dancing…And right when I was thinking that, I received the news about the concurrency, so I feel like it was fated. I think it’s a huge chance for me to grow”.

For the sake of her own growth, and to further the development of the group even more, Ikoma accepted the concurrency.

“Before, I would get sentimental very easily and ended up crying a lot. I worried about coming to a standstill, then I would panic and try to run away. But since I joined Nogizaka, I’ve experienced many things, and I think I’ve gotten a little tougher and more resilient. Without running from the things set before me, I’ll challenge anything I can, and I’ve started to be able to think of it as good experience for my future. It’s probably impossible to do everything perfectly, but I think as long as I try, it’s fine even if it doesn’t turn out that well”.

When she was in middle school, she was a glum, negative girl. She looked upon her more popular classmates with jealousy and envy. Wanting to change, she became an idol.

“From the start, I wasn’t the type of person to stand in the spotlight. I never imagined I would be chosen to be Nogizaka’s center and do MCs as the group representative. I really think it was a miracle. There have been a lot of hard times, but this is the first time I’ve ever found something I could really lose myself in. I’m not good at studying or athletics. For someone like me with no redeeming qualities, Nogizaka46 is the one place I belong, a place where I can give my all and have fun”.

This will be her first election as a concurrent member.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure I should present candidacy. I know there were some fans who were saying ‘I don’t want you to enter’, and I was also worried about what the other Nogizaka members would think… . But our captain, Sakurai Reika, gave me a push by telling me ‘I think the election will turn into a positive for you, Ikoma, so you should enter’. Her words put me at ease, and I know the other members are supporting me, so I went for it”.

Ikoma is worried about the “challenge of the unknown” the election represents, but she’s ready for it.

“Since it’s been decided that I’ll do things with AKB as a concurrent member, I think I have to see everything that AKB does. I might not be allowed to enter the election next year, so I think it’s something I can only do right now. What is the election like? I want to see that with my own eyes and experience it for myself. Even just once, I want to absorb a lot of things and take them back with me to Nogizaka”.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Kawaei Rina

This is an interview with Kawaei Rina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Ricchan’s answers are in quotes.

Kawaei Rina, preparing for the close-at-hand election, is seriously thinking and worrying about her rank this year.

“Last year, I went from unranked to my first time ranking in. And on top of that, I even ranked at 25th, so of course I was really happy! But I kept hearing ‘I thought you’d rank higher’ from everyone around me, and even the fans told me ‘Sorry you only ranked 25th’. That’s why, this year, the feeling that I want to rank higher than 25th is really strong. It’s just that I honestly lack confidence in myself. I’m really anxious, actually…”.

Though she says this, the rank she’s aiming for is 16th. Of course, she has a reason for setting her goal as a rank inside the single senbatsu, despite her lack of confidence. Her exposure in the media this past year has risen rapidly, and as a result of that, she’s surely aware of herself as a person who has accumulated many different experiences.

“I’ve made appearances on a lot of variety programs, and I’ve been in dramas like ‘SHARK’ and ‘Sailor Zombie’ too. I was chosen as one of the 16-member senbatsu for the first time in ‘Heart Ereki’, and followed Yokoyama (Yui)-san in being promoted in commercials for ‘AKB Challenge: You Can!’ So I want to live up to those expectations, and I want to connect my experience with results. Because I get the chance to appear in media so much. On the stage last year, I was able to hold it in and didn’t cry. But this year, if I can rank 16th, I might…..start crying”.

Kawaei says this year’s election is a battlefield.

“As expected, it’s a ‘battle’. Since I believe I’ve worked as hard as I possibly could up until now, if I fail to reach rank 16, I’ll wonder, ‘What did I do wrong?’ So no matter what ends up happening in the election this year, I’ll take it as an opportunity to reevaluate my life and think about what I should do from now on.”

Kawaei also has a clear idea of what she wants to be.

“Everyone sees me as the ‘dunce character’, but I’m thinking seriously! Right now, what I want to become is ‘someone who ought to be in senbatsu’. That is to say, I guess I want to be someone who’s required to be around (laughs). Like if I’m not in senbatsu, people will say, ‘Huh? Kawaei’s not there?!'”

She herself says her goal is 16th, but in this book, she’s ranked 9th! When I showed it to her, she said “No way!” with a look of surprise.

“9th is how many steps up from last year? Around 15 ranks?! …Ah, 16 ranks, huh (laughs). It would be too awesome if I could climb that many ranks!”

However, after “Waratte Ii Tomo!”, she began serving as a regular on the show “Viking” and, as usual, using it as a chance to make her appeal to people other than AKB48 fans. When we consider this, her rank jumping up to 9th is not outside the realm of possibility.

“Well, if I really did end up ranking 9th, I’d shake and hyperventilate onstage like Yokoyama-san!! And she’d probably get mad and say ‘Oi, Kawaei!’ (laughs)”.

Kawaei! Because it’s you, you can do that!

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2014 Election Book Interview – Matsui Jurina

This is an interview with Matsui Jurina, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book. Interviewer is in bold, Jurina’s answers are in quotes.



“I need a rival so I can continue to grow”

In the 2013 Election, Matsui Jurina entered “Kami 7”. After that, she was the victor in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament. The next place she sets her sights on can only be that one. In the interview, she analyzed herself with composure, but from every word blossomed a passionately burning fire. What could the reason for that be—?

When talking about this past year in regards to Matsui Jurina, the thing that comes to mind is, of course, her triumph in the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament. After her entrance, the image of an innocent girl in a school uniform, she rose to victory by throwing nothing but paper.

“You’ve got it”

I can’t explain it in words other than that. You surely have the “Hand of God”.

“The instant I won as champion, I ended up making a face of surprise without thinking. My mouth was wide open (laughs). I’m still so embarrassed about that, I can’t even bring myself to look at the photos! To my fans, that rock-paper-scissors tournament was the beginning of something. At handshake events, they would tell me, ‘There hasn’t been anyone yet who’s been both election center and rock-paper-scissors champion, so let’s aim to crown you as the first!” But on the other hand, I also got a lot of people telling me ‘I wanted your first solo center to be one that wasn’t won through rock-paper-scissors.'”

The fans’ feelings are passionate. And you are connected as one, as remarkably evidenced in this year’s “Request Hour” when the song you stood as solo center for, “Suzukake~”, was voted in at #2 over a multitude of other songs.

“I was really surprised. I would’ve been happy if it had just ranked within the top 10, but to think it would land at #2… While I was singing, I naturally broke down into tears. I also feel like a lot of people got to know me through the rock-paper-scissors tournament. At that time, I had an eye problem, so for a while I would wear an eyepatch or a pair of glasses. Because of that, fans who like ‘girls in glasses’ started to come see me at handshake events (laughs)”.

In any case, the biggest change came in your way of thinking when standing as “solo center”.

“Double center and solo center are completely different. Of course, you’re happy to be solo center, but the pressure is enormous. There’s the million-seller streak on the line, and I don’t want people to say ‘It all went bad when Jurina became center’. So I was always battling my anxiety over that”.

Having experienced being solo center, Jurina has passed another landmark in her growth.

On March 8th, she had a birthday performance in both Nagoya and Tokyo. This was a historical first for the 48 Group. In the afternoon, she appeared in a Team S performance for SKE48 in Nagoya, and then headed for Akihabara in Tokyo. Then she appeared in a night performance for AKB48’s Team K, and she was all smiles.

“I was worried it would be very difficult for my body to withstand. I didn’t even know if I would be able to do it. But the fans on the birthday committee were warmly awaiting my birthday performances, and the SKE members saw me off with ‘It’ll be hard from here on, but have a good trip!’ When I got to Tokyo, everyone came and talked to me, saying ‘You just came from a performance in Nagoya? It’ll be tough, but let’s do our best.’ Hearing everyone’s feelings made me happy, and I was also happy to be the first member to do this.”

Looking back, you were 11 years old when you auditioned. And now you’re already 17.

“I feel both like ‘I’m still 17?’ and ‘I’m only 17?’ Though when I talk to the staff, they talk to me like I’m already over 20 (laughs)”.

As you get older, your group of fans acquires more layers. Your peak as an idol is yet to come.

“From around the time I turned 16, I gained new fans. I’ve been told ‘You were too much of a kid until now, and I couldn’t support you’. And since I turned 17, it seems my fanbase has increased yet again (laughs). I think I’m still fresh. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now, but I’m still only 17! I won’t lose to those past 6 years. But NakoMiku-chan (Yabuki Nako and Tanaka Miku of HKT48) have just started middle school… . I’ll lose to that kind of cuteness, but I won’t lose in energy and being powerful! I want to shine even brighter when I turn 18”.

In her 6-year career with youth on her side, she will become a grand weapon for the 48 Group in years to come.

That brings us to this year’s election. Last year, you got into “Kami 7” for the first time. With what feeling are you facing the election this year?

“Last year I received a really wonderful rank. Supported by that result, I’m able to overcome all the hardships”.

Last year, Shinoda Mariko, who was one placement above you, was separated from you by 15,000 votes. We can call this a difference resulting from general public familiarity. In order for you to eventually climb that high, you have to become familiar as well.

“It’s true that I still have a long way to go in attaining that degree of familiarity. I want to keep increasing the frequency of nationwide exposure I get, and there are a lot of things I want to do. But right now, I think the most important thing is to focus as much as I can on the activities I’m doing in SKE and AKB. Rather than making my name as an individual known, I’m putting priority on doing things “for the sake of SKE” or “for the sake of AKB”, because I want us to grow more as groups… . And I’ll be glad if that comes back to me someday, and glad if I can shine brighter when I’m 18. That’s what I think”.

For the recent single, “Labrador Retriever”, you’re no longer center.

“I was incredibly happy to have been chosen to be one of the front 3 members, but frustrated when I thought there’s still a higher place I could be in. But after listening to the song, I was satisfied. I think I would have been more frustrated if I was passed over as center for a dance number”.

The frustration you hold inside hasn’t really shown on your face this past year. Good things have just kept coming your way. I’m sure you’ll sparkle even more if you turn that vexation into energy. If you didn’t aim desperately higher like you are now, it wouldn’t be very interesting.

The presence of Yamamoto Sayaka seems like motivation in the making. You and she are both aces of sister groups, and now you’ll both stand on the same stage in Team K performances. Should we be calling you strong rivals?

“When I found out we’d both be in Team K, I was really looking forward to it, because it’s been a while since I’ve had this burning feeling. Until recently, the rival I’ve been trying hard not to lose to has been (Oshima) Yuko-san, my senior. But this is the first time I’ve felt a burning desire not to lose to one of my juniors. When I realized that, I couldn’t help but be excited. Because it won’t be my 100%. I’ll be putting out 120%.

Oh yeah, at AKB’s Request Hour, it was amazing when we danced together as Team K members. Before our performance, Sayanee and I were both calm, but when we went out on stage we both danced as if to say ‘Like I’ll lose to you!’ (laughs). As we were dancing, that’s when I felt it. I wanted all our fans to see us at a theater performance. Because concerts and theater performances are totally different things. I want to change myself, I want to be forced to grow, and because of that I need someone who will act as motivation for me.”

Since your debut, Matsui Rena has been by your side, and you’ve constantly been compared to each other. These past 1~2 years, you’re no longer considering each other rivals or being considered rivals with the appearance of the Western Beast, Yamamoto Sayaka. She’s become an unknown variable in this election. As a vision of the future of AKB, the position you’re both in will likely come to stand out from the rest.

“But I’ll be satisfied with any rank I get in the election. Though I’m a bit let down to be forecasted [in the book] at 7th place (laughs). Eh, the book staff forecasted Sayanee as 1st?! That’s totally fine, but, yeah, I’m a little fired up about it (laughs)”.

To Jurina, is it that the election is an ignition point for vexation? Or is it a springboard to a leap forward? The two are one in the same.

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2014 Election Book Interview – Takahashi Minami

This is an interview with Takahashi Minami, found in the 2014 version of the Senbatsu Election Book.  Interviewer is in bold, Takamina’s answers are in quotes.



Listening to your speech last year, it seemed like you were pretty unsure about whether to run in the election or not. What about this year?

“The decision to run was much easier than last year. (Oshima) Yuko isn’t around anymore. So in order to keep the public from thinking ‘The AKB group has gotten weak’, as a long-time member of the group, I made the decision to fully participate. That was my own reason, but I think another reason to participate might be as a way to repay AKB and Yuko… . Besides, to me, participating in AKB events is “making memories”. Since I’ve reached this stage, I just want to experience each and every thing the group does together with the members and fans. But don’t take what I’m saying as a ‘graduation flag’ or anything (laughs).”

I’m worried about it (laughs). You’re always at home at handshake events. Your fans must be very warm people.

“They really are~. Just like last year, when I put in my candidacy this year, they told me ‘Thank you for running in the election’. And so many people told me that. I’m always being reminded of what good people my fans are. I’m sure no matter what happens with my situation, they’ll keep cheering me on. It goes for the election as well. Even if I chose to withdraw this year, I think they would have understood. That’s why I want to fight in the election alongside them.”

Do the fans come to handshake events with the air that they’ve “come to meet a good friend of theirs”?

“It goes beyond the relationship between idol and fan, it’s absolutely ‘person to person’. That I’m being supported like that is, in a sense, a point of pride for me. It becomes an incentive. THE ALFEE’s Takamizawa Toshihiko-san, who I’m on ‘Shin Domoto Kyoudai’ with, is celebrating his band’s 40th anniversary this year, which is amazing! And so there must be fans who have been supporting the band for nearly 40 years. I guess they would be called something like “comrades who lived through the same era together”. I think that’s wonderful. Sharing the same time with the people who have been supporting me while I repay them, getting older together, I think it would be wonderful if that could happen.”

By the way, this came up in our conversation already, but do you think the ‘AKB48 without Oshima Yuko’ will be all right?

“Since we’ve already had this problem so many times in the past, I don’t think I can answer any way except ‘it will be all right'”.

As the General Manager, are you the advance guard in pulling the group along?

“Of course I feel that way, but as far as ‘pulling the group along’, it really means ‘there are people for me to pull along’, right? I feel that from now on, the 48 group can’t continue on that way. The most important thing is just how much everyone feels ‘I want to be in AKB’. The things that I’ve been doing up until now are things I’ll keep doing. I’ll put everything I have into supporting the group. After that, what direction the ship sails will be up to the members who are shouldering its future”.

Takamina, you kept saying, ‘Yuko is a billboard for AKB that everyone has put up’. Who seems like they might be a successor to that billboard?

“Speaking from what I’ve concluded, I don’t think anyone can fill the hole that Yuko has left. Just like any of the other members, there is no replacement for Yuko, so… . Instead of filling in the hole, dig it up! Or that’s what I’m thinking, anyway (laughs)”.

And how would you go about digging it up?

“Attempt to build something new. Up until now, the 48 group has been one big department store with Oshima Yuko’s image as its billboard. It felt like ‘Please look at this sign, AKB is over here’. But from now on, though they’ll be small, each member will run her own shop with its own advertisement out front. With those all assembled together, they’ll make up AKB. I think that would work out well. It would move from an all-in-one department store to a whole shopping mall full of different stores overflowing with personality. If they can complement each other, that hole will naturally fill up, and from there I think a new power to charm people will be born in the 48 group.

There are a lot of young members who are working very hard, such as “the three musketeers” (Okada Nana, Kojima Mako, and Nishino Miki), Owada Nana-chan, and (Mukaichi) Mion-chan, whom Yuko personally chose as a center for ‘Heavy Rotation’. There are currently a lot of girls like them who I think will become very noticeable in two or three years. However, what I really want to convey to them is that if they don’t each treat AKB with as much care as possible, there won’t be a two or three years later. It’s for their sake, too.”

It’s not restricted to Yuko – lately, members wanting to take the next step and move on have been graduating one after another.

“The activities Acchan (Maeda Atsuko), (Akimoto) Sayaka, (Shinoda) Mariko-sama, and Tomochin (Itano Tomomi) have been doing are really encouraging. If you judge by their popularity in AKB, they’re also popular outside it, and that gives me hope. Like Kikuchi (Ayaka) who aims to be a model, Haa-chan (Katayama Haruka) who’s making great strides as a stage actress, etcetera, I’m praying from the heart for everyone who graduates to find success. And if the junior members’ goals pan out for them, there’s nothing better than that.”


From here on, the graduates will probably increase, won’t they?

“From the beginning, AKB has been ‘a place where you work hard developing the ability to strike out on your own and make your dreams come true’. So it’s not a unhappy thing for graduates to increase. Some could say “I joined AKB to help out my future self”. Rather, who I’m really worried about are the members who will go on to graduate years from now. The moment those girls take the happy state of affairs AKB is enjoying right now for granted is the moment the door to their future closes… . But the situation the group is in now is a very fortunate one. In a week we’ll shoot 2~3 commercials, and a day will be set for the whole group to record. All the different media providers we record for will gather in the same studio for us, so we can do several recordings without interruption.”

But you at least have a certain degree of familiarity with the world at large. Would you say that your situation won’t change much even if you graduate?

“Of course not! When AKB’s faces leave, whether it be original members or senbatsu members, it’s worrying for them. As much as I do work outside of AKB, I’ve experienced the fact that reality isn’t so sweet. That’s why I try to do things in a way where I won’t be misunderstood as thinking ‘There’s plenty of people who can replace you’. Up until just a few years ago really, things were extremely hard for AKB in the entertainment world. We had to grit our teeth and just do it, but now it’s the opposite. Taking that first step, an intimidating world waits for you at the beginning. The members up until around the 9th generation have felt that, and so they’re a bit more subdued. I’m worried about the members after them. They don’t have the free time to consider how thankful they should be that people follow their daily activities… . That’s why, so there aren’t a bunch of “AKB refugees” showing up in the entertainment world some years later, I want to convey the things I have to convey to the other members. Even if they look at me like they wish I’d shut up (laughs).”

You’re as earnest as ever, you really do love the 48 group (seriously). And to think for your appeal to the voters today I thought about asking things like ‘where on your body do you wash first when you take a bath?’

“Ahahaha! What kind of question is that? (laughs) But I can’t help it. I am who I am, my personality doesn’t change.”

Putting your role to watch over your juniors as General Manager aside, what goals are you yourself aiming for right now?

“At present, having been made captain of the new Team A, I want to make it the ultimate team, but I also have other goals. There are things I want! From the beginning of this year, this whole time, there’s something I’ve been burning for that I’ve kept secret from everyone else.”

And what would that be?

“At the end of the year, I want to seize the Japan Record Award!”

The award for best song 3 years in a row was on the line last year, but regrettably, the prize went to someone else.

“The first year we received the grand prize, I was really happy. It was like repayment to Akimoto (Yasushi)-san for what he’s done. However, somewhere in my heart I wondered ‘Is it really okay for us to win it…?’ That didn’t change the second time around. However, last year was different. The song that was up for the award, ‘Koi suru Fortune Cookie’, is a song that had quite clearly been accepted by more different kinds of people than our songs up until then. Everyone was more interested in it than we thought they would be. Everyone was talking about it, from little kids to veteran artists. I was moved to hear that it was considered a song that was ‘loved nationwide’. That’s why I wanted it more than anything, that Record Award. With pride in our hearts, we all wanted to win it… . That’s why, this year, I want to try to win it one more time! I want to show everyone in Japan that ‘AKB48 doesn’t get discouraged’!”

As expected of the General Manager, how passionate! Any last words for the conclusion?

“This year, I’m gonna do it!”

Your meaning is a little obscure, I think~ (laughs). What are you aiming for in the election?

“I went from 5th, dropped to 6th, then to 7th, then back up to 6th. And then last year, I was in 8th place. I did a lot of thinking about this year’s election, and as a result a desire came out. I want to make it back into the top 7! Uwaa~ I said it. I wonder if that’s okay…”

I forgot to tell you, but in the book, we placed you at 4th.

“Why would you put that hurdle there?! (laughs). This year, please allow me to stand firm here as AKB48’s Takahashi Minami. Thank you for your support!”

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