Inuyama Kamiko. Oda Sakura oshi. Wife.
Tsurugi Mikito. “In the end… Michishige.” Husband.
Hello! Project today seems to be popular even among couples. Naturally, however, you rarely hear about the types of private conversations that happen between these “H!P couples.” Do they argue about their favorite members? Do they think about wanting to have their child join H!P…?
The married couple of Tsurugi and Inuyama, both passionate H!P fans, invited us to their home to have a thorough discussion about these kinds of subjects.
— Our theme today is “matrimonial happiness through H!P!” First of all, I want to begin by noting how it seems like are much more females at H!P concert venues these days. More and more couples have started popping up as well.
Tsurugi: Among the married couples I know, many of them are, indeed, H!P fans. Now that you mention it, it could be true that that sort of thing is becoming more common.
— Inuyama, how did you first get into H!P to begin with?
Inuyama: It all started with Morning Musume’s “One Two Three.” I’d had a period of joblessness around this time, but then I started receiving more work all of a sudden. What with me being in a public line of work, I naturally received my fair share of criticism which had me quite down — you’re not exactly well-equipped to handle that kind of thing when you have that NEET mentality like I did. (laughs) But, although I felt worn-out by all that at the time, as I kept watching all kinds of H!P videos, I found myself feeling better mentally.
I’m the same age as Nacchi, and Morning Musume was big right around the time when I was going through puberty, so one day I just found myself thinking, “I wonder what happened to that group during all these years?” So I looked them up and I was going “Platinum Era? What the… their singing is amazing!” I’ve made so many new discoveries since then.
— H!P is what helped you overcome that slander and defamation?
Inuyama: Right. (laughs) Up until that point in my life, if I heard someone saying something along the lines of “I was saved by idols,” I’d groan at them all “ugh…” as if by reflex. To think that that was exactly what would happen to me…
— What was the relationship between you two around that time?
Tsurugi: I think that was just around the time when you and I first met, right?
Inuyama: Yeah. That was during a period when you had drifted away from Morning Musume, wasn’t it?
Tsurugi: I still remember the lecturing I got from you when “Help me!!” was released.
Inuyama: It was because I knew you’d been a Musume wota in the past — you told me so yourself, all bragging, right when I’d only just gotten into them. I was going “if you’re really the passionate man you claim to be, then pay attention to the Musume of today!” And before long, Tsuru-chan was hooked on them again. I think it was right around “Help me!!” when we went to a Hello! Con together for the first time.
— Was it by any chance your first date?
Inuyama: I don’t know if it was our very first date… (laughs) But there’s no question that having that something (H!P) in common really helped us become closer fast.
— That’s not limited to just H!P: it’s very easy to get excited about any shared hobby together with your partner.
Inuyama: Yes. But I have to say: I think the reason why H!P especially is so easily “forgiven” is because they’re just so cool. What I mean by that is… idol appreciation is the act of cheering on girls, right? So if the boyfriend is supporting some girl that his girlfriend doesn’t approve of, that makes her take offense. “Huh? You like this type of girl…?” But in my case I love everyone in H!P, so for me it’s more a feeling of: “Ah, you’re cheering on a girl that I love! You sure know your stuff! As expected of my great boyfriend~!” (laughs)
— I think you’ve just touched on really one of the most major themes with idol fans. Looking at it from the male perspective, they would usually feel guilty if their girlfriend happened to find their photobooks or something.
Inuyama: Something like that happened in my past, too. An ex-boyfriend of mine had bought a gravure idol photobook, and when I found it, it just made me so pissed off I scribbled something on all the pages. I was so young back then; so narrow-minded. I was looking at it just thinking, “grrr, this little bitch!” (laughs)
Tsurugi: I really do feel grateful for having an understanding partner. I mean, I would think there are so many guys who literally have to hide their idol goods from their partners. They have to live like hidden Christians! I seriously have a friend whose girlfriend demanded that he step on one of his microfiber towels while she looked. It was a Risako towel — apparently, my friend couldn’t bring himself to step on Risako. That sort of tragicomedy is something that must have been repeated over and over again throughout the ages.
— Have you ever had clashes of opinion that have led to fights — over your love of H!P?
Tsurugi: I don’t think we’ve ever had arguments like that, no. Me and my friends used to have fights over our favorite members though…
Inuyama: Me and Tsuru-chan tend to have mostly the same favorites, so maybe that’s why we don’t get into disagreements about them? There’s Odasaku, Ayacho, Kanatomo… As of late, we like Kishimon, too.
— Anyone who follows H!P for a prolonged period of time will experience important events that will go down in H!P history forever. Michishige’s graduation, Tsunku♂‘s illness, Berryz Koubou’s indefinite hiatus… Do you ever have to hold emergency spousal meetings when these things happen?
Tsurugi: Rather than talking it over with just the two of us, we talk about it with a bunch of people. We get all the H!P fans around us involved, too.
Inuyama: A lot of the time, before we even notice it, our house will be full of H!P wota.
Tsurugi: When the “Budokan” drama was airing, our friends would come over every week and we’d watch it together.
Inuyama: We’d always watch it like four times in a row. First, we’d watch it live as it aired. Then, from the second time onwards, we’d watch the recording and stop it at points when we felt like analyzing it in-depth. “Were those Hello! Project tissues you could see in Aiko’s room?!“
Tsurugi: “Where exactly would one see the Budokan from this angle?” We actually went over to Budokan just to try and find where they’d shot a particular scene.
Inuyama: I remember how you were crying when we found it. You got so emotional. (laughs)
Tsurugi: That drama really made me cry! I was crying every week for like the last four episodes.
Inuyama: You hardly ever cry when it’s something that’s unrelated to H!P, do you?
— So H!P, to you, is something that you can cry over?
Tsurugi: It is. Especially anything that has to do with Michishige. I can start crying just by listening to someone else talk about her.
Inuyama: It’s the “girls doing their best” aspect of it all that does it for you, right?
Tsurugi: There’s maybe some of that, but it’s also because Michishige has such a long history. I like to think of it alongside my own. I associate so many things from my past with Michishige. She makes me remember a friend who passed away; old acquaintances who I was close to but who I haven’t heard about in years, my years of living in Osaka… “What have I been doing these past ten years? What have my twenties and thirties been all about?” I can’t help but think and look back. It’s like she takes me back to those days of past… Michishige is a very spiritual being for me personally.
— Do you like going out to bars after concerts to reflect and share your thoughts?
Inuyama: Of course. Oftentimes we’ll meet up with a bunch of friends and go together.
Tsurugi: When Sayashi graduated, it turned out to be like an actual wake for her…
Inuyama: We were all going, “is there nothing we could do to make her reconsider?” Of course there isn’t! (laughs)
Tsurugi: It escalated into this big argument. “She quit because of you!” Asai Ryo was with us that evening, and he’d gone to see this stage play by Morning Musume called TRIANGLE. Sayashi had a male role in that play, and apparently Asai is the type of person who feels embarrassed when he sees women acting in male roles. He was talking about how he couldn’t bear looking directly at Sayashi as she was acting. And just like that, everyone started criticizing the hell out of him for that. “It’s that kind of shitty attitude that hurt Sayashi-chan’s feelings!” (laughs)
— Why do you feel it is that there are now more female fans coming to H!P venues?
Inuyama: In my case, it’s because I have this fundamental feeling of respect towards the members. They can sing properly, they can dance well, and they’re so cool. It’s admiration. The company doesn’t let them slack off just because they’re cute girls. They train them until they become able to sing properly. Another big thing is how they don’t view the girls as “products.” That’s a big thing for same-sex fans — it gives us a very real peace of mind. The lyrics, too, are very much from the female perspective — songs like “Onna ga Medatte Naze Ikenai.” They’re so easy to sympathize with. In my view, they should be included in school textbooks.
— I see. (laughs)
Inuyama: When I’m watching over H!P, it’s like I’m instantly taken back to my junior high school days. I’m back to my 13-year-old self, going “that senior of mine sure is cool…” I’m not saying everyone feels the same way as me, but I feel like surely there are a fair number of women who are high achievers in life, who come to their concerts with the mindset of wanting to take back a piece of their youth. For me, personally, I never took part in any club activities in school or anything like that, and I just wasn’t brought up in an environment where I could’ve honestly looked at another girl who was a great dancer and say “man, she’s so cool.” So in a way, it’s almost like I’m now reliving my youth with H!P. That’s why, when I see those “seniors” of mine on the stage… I’m moved to tears.
— Is it possible for love to be born simply through a shared connection of H!P?
Inuyama: Well, I think there are definitely some girls out there who just can’t accept their boyfriends ever liking idols — even if they aren’t as bad as I was when I was young and scribbling things in my boyfriend’s photobook. That is to say, there are some girls who perceive it as something sexual. So really: your best bet is to date someone who also likes H!P!
Tsurugi: Ah. While this isn’t something that really happens a lot with H!P… When you move a bit closer to the whole live idol scene and you go to their shows, you’ll find young guys who are very obviously there only to look for girls. So it’s true that there’s definitely been a surge in popularity in that whole “dating amongst fellow wota” scene.
Inuyama: Mmm… Okay, I have to go back on some of what I just said. I’m not talking about that sort of thing. It’s true that there are couples like that — couples between female wota and “female wota wota.” But those relationships happen between people who know what they’re getting into, right? What I want to see more of isn’t really that kind of thing. I understand the feeling of wanting to hide the fact that you like idols when you’re with a girl you like, but what I’d want instead is for that guy to take the opportunity to talk about what makes that idol in question so great in his mind! I want him to go through the trouble of finding the right words and successfully convincing the girl! It’s no time to be hiding your photobooks or something!
(For example, you could say this. “This girl, Kanazawa Tomoko. She got into the Kenshuusei after winning a karaoke contest, so at first she was this complete outsider. She then managed to find a large following with the help of her sadistic tendencies, but also — on the flip side — her caring kindness for others. But then, she was sadly diagnosed with an illness… But that only made her story have that much more impact, and as a result, she’s become absolutely perfect.“)
— Yes, and as you keep dating someone and you become closer to that person, there’s no way they won’t find out sooner or later.
Inuyama: Besides, when you’re married and you spend all your time together with someone, you run out of things to talk about. But if you can say something like “so did you hear how Kishimon did this and that today?“… just by saying that, what you’re basically doing is you’re lubricating the chains on your bicycle so the wheels of your relationship can keep turning. Also, it’s important that you like the same music. If you do, you can simply put on some H!P music and, just like that, the two of you are having fun together.
Tsurugi: It’s a wonderful thing being able to enjoy H!P with your family. If we ever have kids, that just means we’ll have even more people to share that enjoyment with.
— If you ever do have children, and assuming it was a girl, would you like her to become an idol?
Tsurugi: If she herself told us that was what she wanted to do, I would support her. I’m not sure what my wife would think though…
Inuyama: Well, idols obviously need to be cute. And let’s be honest: if it was a child born from us two… I don’t know about her chances. (laughs)
Tsurugi: But if she would insist on wanting to become an idol, I would like her to aim for H!P in particular.
Inuyama: On that point, I agree. But do you understand that you would have people from all walks of life calling your own daughter “ugly”? Would you be able to take that?
Tsurugi: Oh, man. I wouldn’t like that…
Inuyama: You saw what happened in “Budokan,” didn’t you? She’s going to go through the same things as Aiko — and at least Aiko was cute!
— Lastly: please tell us the secret to enjoying H!P between a man and a woman.
Tsurugi: Thinking about it purely in terms of “content you can enjoy as a couple,” I do think H!P is very high up there in the rankings. They have such a long history, surely even grandma and grandpa could enjoy them. In that sense, I think H!P will continue to move towards the direction of something like Takarazuka. I feel like I have no choice but to live with Hello! Project for the rest of my life. For me, it’s a lifetime hobby.
— You sound determined. (laughs)
Inuyama: I feel like there remains a societal prejudice against idol wota. But when you think about it for a minute, there really aren’t many feelings as pure as that. I mean, this is a hobby that earns you very little rewards. But even so, the fans keep supporting these girls — girls that they haven’t even met — with all that they have. I personally feel moved when I see other wota. There’s something beautiful even about my husband’s determination to live the “wota life” for the rest of his days, and I can respect him for it as a person. In my eyes, even as his wife, he just glows. I wish that everyone else, too, would throw away all their prejudices and just enjoy H!P to its fullest.
Henkka: On January 6, 2017, Inuyama gave birth to the couple’s first child — a healthy baby girl.