My Way Your Way

Do You Like “Idols?”


Being All That We Want To Be

Mari, 21 Misaking, 21 Saorina, 19


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myw_gakusei_label.pngWe at TJF have collaborated with a seminar class at Meiji University's School of Global Studies that aims to rediscover and share captivating aspects of Japan with the world.

Students taking the seminar split up into two groups, with one looking into the question, "Do you like idols?" and the other on "Expression through decoration."

A comment from the students:

A number of our requests for interviews were turned down, and had a lot of trouble securing interviewees. Even when people agreed to speak to us, they had busy schedules and we found it difficult to set up appointments.

Related link:

  • The Japan Forum Newsletter No. 97 "Up Close and Personal" PDF

Being All That We Want To Be


【リード】 Over 100 "gotochi"--or "local"--idol groups formed to carry out PR activities for specific cities and regions are said to exist across Japan today. We had a chance to interview three of the six members of local idol group Shimonchu, which launched in 2010, who tell us that as idols, they're able to do things they wouldn't have been able to otherwise. So what else does being an "idol" mean to them?


Mari, 21
Hobbies: Karaoke, "Purikura," shopping, reading, brush calligraphy, drawing and crafts

Misaking, 21
Hobbies: Watching anime

Saorina, 19
Hobbies: Looking at and eating delicious food, pigging out on vegetables, doing anime voices

Shimonchu's official website

Q: Tell us what you do as Shimonchu.

Mari:We have a regular performance once a month at the Shimonchu Theater*, and a special performance once every three months at a movie theater at a shopping mall.

myw_cimonchu-2.jpgSaorina:We also do PR for Ibaraki outside the prefecture. Just recently, we held an event at Ibaraki Marche (a shop selling goods from Ibaraki Prefecture) in Tokyo's Ginza district. We sang and handed out snacks made in Ibaraki.
At events like that and after live performances, we hold "handshake events" and "photo shoots" with our fans.

*Shimonchu Theater is an event space on the third floor of Kondo Gakki, a musical instrument store in Shimotsuma.

Q: What led you to become an idol?

Mari:A friend of mine from high school told me that Shimotsuma was looking for idols, and she asked me if I wanted to try out for it with her. It sounded fun, and I was like, "Sure, let's do it!" without much thought. I was a Morning Musume fan in elementary school and used to dance to their songs with my friends, so I'd always wanted to try it.

Misaking:An acquaintance of mine who was involved with Shimonchu asked me if I wanted to join, and so I did. There were no auditions for the group at the time, just a singing test. I'd always loved following idols, and looked up to Morning Musume when I was in elementary school. I didn't know much about Shimonchu and wavered about joining, but in the end decided that I'd try it out and see how it went.



Saorina:I just love Ibaraki, and had always wanted to do PR for it. But a high school kid can't really do PR on her own, right? So when I heard that Shimonchu was involved in PR activities for Ibaraki, I was like, "This is it!" and auditioned for the group's second-generation lineup. Plus, since I was little, I'd always dreamt of one day becoming an idol. I'd given up on that dream, but my goal of doing PR for Ibaraki helped me take the first step toward becoming an idol.

Q: What do you enjoy about being an idol?

Mari:It makes me happy when people come from far away just to see us. When people say things like "We're so glad we came today," or "It was worth coming a long way to see you," it makes me want to practice much harder. Since these people are using their spare time to come see us, I don't ever want them to feel like they wasted their time, and I think it's our mission to make sure that we give them a good time.

Misaking:It's so encouraging when people who come to see us Tweet things like, "Shimonchu gave a good performance." I don't want our audiences to think our shows are boring or that they should've gone to a different show. To get them to have fun, I make sure that I'm totally having fun myself (laughs).


Saorina:I believe that our fans are gifting us with fun moments, so I want to be able to give back something more in my own way.

Mari:The U.M.U. Awards--an event in which the no. 1 local idol group in Japan is chosen based on things like the number of views that a group's video gets and the number of ringtone downloads a group's songs gets--recently took place, and a lot of people spread the word about Shimonchu on Twitter and other means. It made me really happy to know that all these people were going out of their way for us. I realized that we've been able to become involved in these people's lives, even if in a small way.

Q: What's tough about being an idol?

Mari:We get plenty of praise, of course, but some people are hard on us and say things on the Internet like that we're "not cute." That, at first, was hard to take. I've built up a thicker skin now, though (laughs). I've tried to shift the way I think about it, and just say to myself, that's just one person's view.

Misaking:When I see online comments like that about us now, I use it as motivation to say, "Just you watch (laughs)!"

Mari:I also find it tough when I don't see results from practicing. Like when I practice really hard but get nervous and trip up on stage, or when I have trouble speaking smoothly during a talk show. Those are times when I think, "Wow, I'm no good."

Q: When do you really feel like an idol?



Misaking:When I'm on stage, and my fans call out my name. Being on stage makes me feel like I'm not my real self! I like being on stage, and I think the moments that I'm on there are when I'm at my best.

Mari:I feel like an idol when I go from being in the wings before a show, and then on the stage. It's the moment I shift gears into idol mode. Also, when cameras are pointed at me, I get a bit tickled and it makes me smile (laughs).

Saorina:For me, it's when we're given a greenroom that says "Shimonchu" or when boxed meals have been prepared for us in our greenrooms that I'm reminded that we're idols, and makes me a bit high (laughs). When I realize that people are taking care of things for us, I think, yeah, we're idols.

Q: When you're in idol mode, are you different from who you are when you're not?

Misaking:I automatically go into idol mode when I put on my costume, makeup and accessories (laughs). Ordinarily, I'm not very social, but when I'm acting as a member of Shimonchu, I'm able to talk freely with my fans.

Mari:Idols are generally seen as these smiley people who have the power to cheer people up, but I'm usually not that way. I'm really quiet (laughs). When I'm an idol, I smile a lot more, and I become a more outgoing speaker.

Saorina:It would be considered odd if I constantly talked about Ibaraki or danced around in my private life, right? But I'm allowed to do things like that as an idol. Since I can do things as an idol that I have to stop myself from doing in my regular life, I pretty much go all out when I'm in idol mode (laughs). It's like, woohoo! It gets me pretty hyper.

Q: How do you feel about being called "local" idols?


Mari:You're talking about being called a "local" idol as opposed to a "mainstream" one, right? It would be great if we could one day become nationally known idols, but at this point, I'm not sure if we've been successful enough in bringing more excitement to Shimotsuma, let alone Ibaraki Prefecture (laughs). We probably have a ways to go. But I do hope that some day people will say, "Shimonchu is the biggest local idol group."

Saorina:I don't know if I would be happy if I were to become a member of a famous idol group like AKB48. Being a local idol has given me a lot of opportunities to interact with local residents, and it lets me do PR for Ibaraki. I've also been able to experience for myself how warm the people of this prefecture are. For example, my neighbors invite their relatives to come see our regular performances. If we were a nationally known idol group, this probably wouldn't be the case.

Q: Now that you're an idol, is it different from what you thought it would be?

Mari:I saw idols as people who hung out under bright spotlights in cute costumes, but I know now that it requires a lot of hard work behind the scenes. We have voice and dance lessons twice a week for about three hours each, and also practice on our own, but mainstream idols probably do even more. I wouldn't say so much that there was a difference in what I thought and what I know now, but more that I was confronted by the hard truth (laughs).

Misaking:Unlike the image of idols I had in the past, I was surprised by how the members of Shimonchu really don't play up to roles as idols. But I like this better, since it allows me to be myself.

Saorina:I was shocked at how much you have to practice on your own. What you do on stage is all that matters when you're an idol, so no matter how hard you practice, it doesn't mean anything if you make a mistake on stage. For performers, the process is important, of course, but it's been driven home that people will assess you based on the final result.

Q: What do the members of Shimonchu mean to you?


Misaking:They're valuable people that I could say are friends, family, as well as members of the same idol group. I need them in my life right now.

Mari:They're all very unique, inspiring, and more than anything, fun. They're not so much friends, but more like comrades (laughs). Fate brought us together, and I want to treasure that fate as we continue to work together.

Saorina:Saorina: They're all different ages, and they're people I never would've met if I were just living an ordinary life. I'm grateful for the miracle that brought us together. I'm counting on you, guys!

Mari & Misaking:We're counting on you, too (laughing)!



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