August 10, 1981 — Hokkaido
1997/09/14 ~ 2004/01/25
Abe: In the beginning, it was a source of pressure for me being in the center and being the face of Morning Musume. But at some point down the line, I came to think of it as my destiny. I started to think, “this is the reason for my existence,” and once I did, I became able to overcome anything and everything, no matter how bad it felt like I couldn’t stand it anymore.
— Ever since the group’s formation, you were “Nacchi” — the center, ace, main vocalist, and face of Morning Musume.
Abe: Even as far back as elementary school, I always had difficulty doing the same things as everyone else. I’d always want to do something no one else was doing. So when I became a member of Morning Musume, it was this feeling of… “Me? In a group? Being an idol?“
— The same group that first began right there is now 20 years old.
Abe: It feels like a huge miracle. I think of it as fate. The bonds between us five original members are to the point where I think we must have been close even in our past lives. I mean, we ended up together despite all our age differences and different places of birth. Moreover, we were the ones who failed the audition; the ones who weren’t chosen. The group was formed through pure happenstance and lucky timing. It really is just a miracle.
February 15, 1999 — Osaka
2014/09/30 ~ 2018/06/20
Ogata: 20 years of history — I really do think that’s incredible. It’s because my parents’ generation knows about Morning Musume’s history and their achievements that they gave me permission to go to Tokyo and take part in their auditions. The group’s history is what allowed me to even take on that challenge in the first place.
— So your parents were forced to say, “well, if it’s Morning Musume…” Did it make you think about the greatness of your seniors?
Ogata: They used to be only these people on the TV screen for me… like, just these “amazing people.” So then when I first met them in real life, it had such a big impact on me that I couldn’t even talk. They’re all so kind. It felt different from meeting Sayashi Riho, who is someone I also admired. The original members especially, it really felt like I was meeting these hugely influential superstars. It made me want to brag to everyone I knew about having met them.
— You also got to collaborate with them, didn’t you?
Ogata: That made me feel like I was only a fan again. Honestly, when I look at the CD covers, it doesn’t even make sense to me that I’m pictured there with them. Half of me feels glad about it, while half of me is just confused.
February 19, 2000 — Tochigi
Morito: It feels like I just made it in time for the 20th anniversary. I was already a member of another Hello! Project group, so I could’ve never imagined any of this happening…
The First Ever “Concurrent Member”
— One thing that’s interesting about you is how the way you came to join Morning Musume is different from all the other members. In fact, you’re a first in the group’s entire 20-year history.
Morito: Yes. I was a member of Country Girls first, and I joined Morning Musume while being a concurrent member of my first group. I had initially applied for the 12th generation auditions because of my admiration for Sayashi Riho, so I was very happy about getting to do this.
— Being a concurrent member, I would think you have a different perspective about many things compared to the other members…
Morito: After I failed the 12th generation auditions and joined Country Girls, I think after that point I only saw Morning Musume as our senior group.
— Did it feel wrong for you to be a member of a different group even though you had so hoped to join Morning Musume?
Morito: For the first month or so, I did feel sad about how I had failed the audition. But when the rehearsals for Hello! Con started, that sadness changed to me feeling so glad about how I was now in Hello! Project. Simply just being able to hold a mic in my hands and sing and dance was so much fun. I think it was in that moment when I gave up on my dream of getting into Morning Musume.
Part Twelve: “The Pinnacle of Desire: Unashamed Love”
Writers Yuzuki Asako and Asai Ryo
profile the lyrics of Hello! Project songs!
Song #1: Morning Musume ’17 – “Jealousy Jealousy”
Asai: Stuff happened and we took a break from the last issue our column was supposed to be featured on. People taking breaks — it just happens to be all the rage in H!P right now, too!
Yuzuki: And lots of stuff happened within H!P itself during our break.
Asai: I wish I could genuinely congratulate myself for the restart of our column… but truth be told, I’m actually a bit worried as to whether or not we’ll be able to go on…
Yuzuki: Back when Sayashi quit, and then later when Zukki quit, we were similarly saying “we don’t know if we can do this anymore…” But then they’d come out with something like “Watashi no Nanni mo Wakacchanai” or “Utakata Saturday Night!” and that’d get us back on our feet, but…
Asai: There’s lots of things going on within H!P right now, and while we of course hope that it all works out well for them, it kind of feels at times like we’re being seriously tested… tested to see whether we can remain as excited about H!P as before. And ultimately, the biggest change — even though it’s not something that’s only just started recently — is the decrease in the number of Tsunku♂ songs. It’s only obvious that the organization would keep introducing more and more creators, and sure, something like Tsuno’s “Utakata Saturday Night!” was great. But still…
January 19, 1985 — Kanagawa
2000/04/16 ~ 2005/05/07
Ishikawa: I used to be very shy and reserved and I hated being the center of attention. But when I joined Morning Musume, my personality changed completely.
— It’s true that there was this “gloominess” about you in the early days.
Ishikawa: I was about to graduate from junior high school, so timing-wise it felt right to commemorate that by applying for the auditions. I had decided that it was going to be my first and only audition — if I didn’t make it, I was going to just enjoy my normal high school life. I was of course a big fan of Morning Musume, but never in a million years did I think I would myself end up singing and dancing in public, not to mention doing comedy sketches on variety TV and stuff.
— So you didn’t feel confident about passing the audition?
Ishikawa: Not at all. I really wasn’t thinking about it that deeply though. Early Morning Musume songs and choreographies were so mature, but with “LOVE Machine” the style suddenly changed and they started doing more dance music that everyone could have fun and dance along to. Basically I just thought, “maybe even I could do that.”
February 22, 2001 — Saitama
Yokoyama: I first became aware of the group’s existence with Morning Musume 14’s “wake-up prank.” Because I only discovered them so late, I might not know as much about the group as the other members. Nevertheless, I sincerely felt that this was where I wanted to be and I personally applied for the auditions on my own, and thus I’m determined to do my best as a member of Morning Musume.
The Pressure of the Legendary 6th Generation
— It was announced in the lyrics of the Morning Musume ’17 version of “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari” that you are the “second generation Reina,” being the successor of the name.
Yokoyama: I have never once met Tsunku♂. I’ve never been able to meet him in-person, and I’ve never gotten the opportunity of being taught anything by him. So being suddenly named the “second generation Reina” in the lyrics of “Kashimashi,” considering I hadn’t even met Tanaka Reina at the time and especially considering how she is one of the true legends of Morning Musume… it was a huge source of pressure for me.
— Was it something you became more conscious of once you were literally named the “second generation”?
Yokoyama: If anything, I felt that I shouldn’t just try to copy my predecessor. Tanaka was known for her crisp, powerful voice, which is something I don’t have. Instead, I consciously try to sing in a cute voice. But setting aside me being the “second generation” Reina, I’m just trying to be the version of me that suits me the best.
October 7, 1999 — Shizuoka
Nonaka: When I joined the group, I got to read a message from Tsunku♂. It said: “please become the bridge between Morning Musume and the overseas.” I believe that is the reason for me now being in Morning Musume.
The Global Representative
Broadcasting to the World
— Previous members in Morning Musume’s 20-year history include Junjun and Linlin, the two exchange students from China. However, you’re the first member who is also a “returnee” to Japan, and you have been appointed the role of the group’s “global representative.”
Nonaka: Morning Musume performs concerts overseas as well, and I believe that whenever we do, that’s when I have to step in. First of all, it’s important for us to communicate with the overseas fans and accurately convey to them what it is we want to say. If I can’t do that properly, then there was no meaning behind me joining the group.
— You were very busy at the group’s 2016 events in Houston, USA.
Nonaka: It was my first time visiting America after moving back to Japan at the age of 10, so I was glad about that and I had a lot of fun. I did interpreting for the members during handshake events, and I could communicate directly with the reporters when we did press interviews. I was proud that I could make use of my ability.
November 11, 1989 — Fukuoka
2003/01/19 ~ 2013/05/21
Tanaka: “Oh, you’re that girl from last time!” It gave me so much courage when Tsunku♂ said those words to me.
— It’s a well-known story: you first took part in the 5th generation auditions while misrepresenting your age.
Tanaka: I completely ignored the age limit and applied, thinking only about how I wanted to be in Morning Musume. If only I’d gotten into the group at that time, I could’ve stood on-stage with Goto Maki. That’s the one thing I never got to accomplish as a member of Morning Musume.
— So you were aiming for this path because of your admiration for Goto Maki. From what I understand, however, you were quite the “bad girl” back in your hometown.
Tanaka: I didn’t even know what that was supposed to mean. Although I did attend my junior high entrance ceremony with my hair dyed blond… But still, my hometown was very peaceful. My teachers were helpful and my parents raised me very well. I was rather well-respected, you know.