– The music video for “Furari Ginza” brought you into 60s fashion. What did you personally like about the style and colors from that era? It must seem like a flashback for older members of your family to see you dressed that way!
Maria Makino: I really love the colorful costumes, and they make us really bright and visible on stage. I also got to wear the “guy” costume and put a mustache on, so when my family saw that, they just laughed. They said, “This is great!”
Sakura Oda: I heard that the 60s was the time when Japan started to become more fashion-conscious, so I feel like we were able to bring the focus back to that time period. Even before then, there was a Western fashion movement in Japan called “modern girls”, or “moga“, and I was happy to connect to that idea, too.
Haruna Iikubo: We’re talking about fashion in the 60s, but right now we see the retro boom, too, and we don’t feel like it’s old or outdated. On the contrary, it’s a popular fad, and it’s a great feeling to bring this back to the fashion world.
– The coupling song “Jiyuu na Kuni Dakara” has a positive message about independence and accepting yourself, and the message feels even stronger when a group of young women are coming together to give that message side by side. What personal meaning does this song have for you?
Reina Yokoyama: When it comes to my own personality, I have a tendency to become negative. But when you hear this kind of song with a message about freedom, the lyrics make you feel strong. So I think the song has a strong impact on women like me and can really energize people.
Mizuki Fukumura: I believe everyone longs for freedom, and I’d really like it if women from our generation could feel like they’ve achieved that. And for us, freedom means live concerts, so I’d like everyone from Japan and overseas to see our performances and the way we express freedom on the stage.
Chisaki Morito: There’s a strong message in this song, and this is the type of music that will let people in any type of situation feel the way we do. The lyrics are so positive, and I really hope that people of all generations can gain courage from this song.
– The schedule for each member of the group seems so busy, with rehearsals, recording, live performances, video shoots, and modeling. How do you keep your energy up day after day, and what do you say to each other to give encouragement when one of you is feeling down?
Miki Nonaka: Even when I get tired, I still like being busy. So working actually gives me energy. But when I get tired, I like to look at the internet. We’re always updating our blogs and SNS so we can stay connected to our fans, and I love watching the comments from all the different countries. That gets me energized again. And whenever one of us gets tired… we’re like a big family, so we play games just like little kids. We’ll play apps together on our smartphones, or just something simple like rock-paper-scissors, and that makes everyone smile.
Erina Ikuta: I really love comedy, and I go to comedy shows a lot. Those places are full of laughter, and I think making people laugh is a great way to give people energy.
Miki Nonaka: She tries to make us laugh, but sometimes she’s not funny! (laughs) But that’s her character, that’s why we love her so much.
Erina Ikuta: I’ll keep trying!
Ayumi Ishida: I think what energizes me is eating! It gives me a lot of energy. A bit earlier, I wasn’t feeling well, so my energy and my mood were down, but I got better and as soon as I got to New York, I kept on eating until I got full, so right now my costume is kind of tight…!
– What’s the most important thing about Morning Musume。that has made the group so popular for so many years with worldwide fans?
Kaede Kaga: I think the reason that people from all around the world have loved this group for twenty years is because of the effort of all the performers who came before us. I feel so grateful to the previous members from the bottom of my heart, so I’d like to keep moving forward to create something that the rest of the world will love, too.
Akane Haga: The group has been around for 20 years, but we haven’t been doing the same thing over and over. The group has always taken on new challenges, even in recent years like the “formation dance” and trying new music styles like EDM, or even going back to older eras like the 60s in “Furari Ginza”. I think the reason people of all different interests like us so much is because of that variety, and I’d like to keep on finding new challenges so we can invite even more people to like us.
Masaki Sato: The truth about Morning Musume。is that we’re human beings with so many different emotions, and we express ourselves without holding back – it’s like a roller coaster.
When we’re at work, we take our jobs very seriously, but when we’re off work, we just do whatever we can to have fun and enjoy our lives. I think people can see the honest side of us clearly, and I’d like to keep going on that roller coaster and live life in a way that expresses my individuality.
– For Haruna Iikubo, this is your last live performance overseas as a member of Morning Musume。’18. Can you remember your first overseas live? What made you most nervous, and what made you most excited?
Haruna Iikubo: The first time I performed live overseas was in 2014, but I actually wasn’t nervous at all. Right before I went on stage, I heard a lot of cheering, and I really felt such warmth and kindness from the fans. Since the day I heard that, I feel like wherever we go, whether it’s in Japan or overseas, that energy is still the same.
– You’ve been performing as a member of Morning Musume。since 2011. What advice did you get from older members of the group when you were first starting, and how has that helped you as you moved forward now into your final year?
Haruna Iikubo: The most important lesson I learned was the importance of being confident, especially when you’re on stage in front of the fans. Outside of work, I sometimes don’t feel so sure of myself, but I made sure to always find the confidence to go on stage and give it my best. That’s the main thing that helped me move forward all these years.
About Morning Musume。’18
Morning Musume。 is one of the biggest Japanese idol groups of all time! Producer Tsunku started the group in 1997 through auditions held on the Japanese TV show Asayan, and he selected five candidates to form a new group called Morning Musume。.
They were issued the challenge to sell 50,000 copies of their demo single, “Ai no Tane”, and reached this goal in just five days – which then led to the debut single “Morning Coffee” in 1998.
Their third single, “Daite Hold on Me!”, hit number one on the Oricon singles chart for their first time, they received the Best New Artist Award in the 40th Japan Record Awards, and they made their first appearance on Japan’s prestigious New Year’s special – NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen – all also in 1998!
Their 7th single, “Love Machine”, was released in 1999 and was their first to sell over a million copies, an achievement that was repeated with “Koi no Dance Site”, “Happy Summer Wedding”, “Renai Revolution 21” and more, breaking multiple Oricon chart records held by female groups!
Last year, the group reached their 20th anniversary and are continuing to grow around the world with 12 members led by Mizuki Fukumura!
Anisong World Matsuri: http://anisongworldmatsuri.com/
Anime NYC event info: http://animenyc.com/anisongworld2018/
Morning Musume。’18 Website: http://www.helloproject.com/morningmusume/
Morning Musume。’18 Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorningMusumeMg
Morning Musume。’18 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Morningmusume.Official
Interview by David Cirone / Resonance Media