In this serialization, Base Ball Bear member Koide Yusuke
talks to his guests about idol music. In this final edition,
as per his strong request, we welcome a Japanese music industry legend!
Please enjoy this almost entirely uncut, one-and-a-half hour discussion of theirs.
Koide: I’ve been doing this serialization for around five years now, and ever since it first started I always hoped that for the final edition I could have you as my guest. Not only are you the person who made me get deeply hooked on idol music, I also greatly respect you as a songwriter, lyricist, and producer. I’d like to take this opportunity today to ask you about all kinds of things.
Tsunku♂: Let’s do this!
Koide: Next year, Morning Musume will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. That also means it has been 20 years since you first started doing producing work.
Tsunku♂: It might actually be closer to 21, if you count the auditions.
Koide: I once read somewhere that when the whole Morning Musume project started, the way you first envisioned it was that on New Year’s Eve of the year they released “Morning Coffee,” they would appear on Kouhaku Uta Gassen and break up right then and there, in spectacular fashion.
— We were introduced to you by Komuro Tetsuya, and so I wanted to begin by asking: how do you view him yourself?
Tsunku♂: His band TM NETWORK is very good at showing us listeners new things. It’s like they picked up right where YMO left off with techno pop, but there’s also a feeling that they’re creating something that’s completely original — it’s like they’re half a step ahead of everyone else with their music. When they first came out I remember thinking “wow, now that’s an amazing band.“
I couldn’t have ever imagined that he’d later go on to becoming the producer that he is today. Shinohara Ryoko’s “Itoshisa to Setsunasa to Kokoro Tsuyosa to” — how many copies did that sell again? Something like 2.2 million? When I saw that I was going “oh man, Komuro’s really made it big time now.” Before long, he’d become one of the greatest producers out there.
— Do you have any memorable Komuro episodes you could share?
Tsunku♂: We were both appearing on this TV show one time. Back then, we didn’t really pay much attention to the music charts and things like that. Komuro, though, was very particular about the charts. He was producing Kahala Tomomi, and she was very disappointed that she didn’t manage to hit no. 1 on the charts with her release at the time. I said to her, “So what even if you didn’t make it to no. 1? You still sold an insane amount of copies!” That’s when Komuro said to me: “You don’t get it, Tsunku♂. Girls want something that is easy to understand — something like being no. 1.” I thought, “Huh. I see. That may actually be true.” He had a point: I mean, what could be easier to understand than being no. 1? Ever since I heard him say that, I personally started paying more attention to the number of “1.”
Determined women have what it takes to make men get serious
When a person becomes truly determined about something, whether it be a sport or whatever else you can imagine, they reach a sort of place of enlightenment. People like that are easily able to go beyond what others might deem commonly accepted. I often unconsciously find myself greatly admiring people like that.
One example of such a person might be Taiyou to Ciscomoon’s Shinoda. I have no qualms about calling her a determined woman — hell, she’s an Olympic athlete! I’m sure even Utaban’s Taka-san and Nakai-kun would agree: Olympic athletes are a huge object of admiration for all people doing sports. Sure, even kids who can make it big in high school level baseball are already amazing, but the amazingness of these people is on a whole other level altogether. I have some sports experience myself: I did swimming and track-and-field. But even if I was the best of my school, becoming the no. 1 of the entire Osaka prefecture would’ve been completely unrealistic for me — to say nothing of being the no. 1 in Japan. That’s something too amazing for me to even properly visualize.
And when you’re representing an entire country in the Olympics, like Shinoda was, it isn’t enough for you to take part in the nationwide tournament or something and win once. You have to have maintained that average for years, and you have to remain in your peak condition for the Olympics, which only happen once every four years. In other words, you can’t be an Olympic athlete if you are unable to keep constantly working hard, constantly bringing in the results, and constantly being lucky. Not only was Shinoda able to do all that and become a representative of Japan, but she was also the ace of their team — she went even higher.
Let’s reconsider: is a height complex really something you need?
I wonder if it’s maybe all the recent trends among university and high school girls?
For a while now, much has been made of the so-called “selfishness” of young Japanese girls. Ordinary, everyday girls these days have become so much more plain-spoken than before. Everyone on TV is doing stories about them and how society as a whole seems to be delighted by them, so part of it may just be the girls responding to the demand and playing the part. Nevertheless, it feels like young girls have now managed to attain the right to be blunt. Go out to any of the popular spots around the city for young people to hang out and you’ll find them everywhere around you — girls acting all cynical and overly direct.
It’s actually because it’s that sort of a moment in time that small women are now in high demand!
There are many different types of men in the world. Lots of men will find these increasingly self-indulgent girls cute; guys who want to be at the mercy of their whims. On the opposite end, lots of men view their bluntness as tactless; guys who are just afraid of them. Part of it may be because some men simply feel small in our current society. Take someone who’s maybe hooked on anime; someone who thinks real women could never see them as a worthwhile partner — it’s no wonder people like that will shy away from women who strike them as especially strong. Not to mention if the woman in question is even taller than them! Women who are both big physically and act that way on the inside? For men like that, no matter which way they look at it, women like that will seem like too much for them to take on.
Countryside calm or metropolitan bustle?
I think quite a lot of girls who don’t live in the very busiest suburban cities — even if they’re not from a complete countryside area, but just somewhere where people lead even slightly more laidback lifestyles — might’ve been surprised upon first seeing Goto Maki, one of the additions to Morning Musume.
Goto is someone who entered the world of show business quite literally out of nowhere. Yet, from the very beginning, she’s had the freshness and the looks of someone you could line up with other celebrities and she wouldn’t look out-of-place at all. Sure, some of it is thanks to her naturally lovely facial features and her nice figure. But frankly, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that she’s a Tokyo girl. In addition, she has older sisters who are quite a bit older than her, making her seem mature for her age — but not in a bad sense of the word, mind you: she’s just your average Tokyo girl who became fashionable thanks to the influence of her big sisters.
Someone like Goto might go, “well, summer vacation’s started and all — I guess I’ll try dying my hair blonde!” But if it was a girl from the countryside, dying your hair blonde would be a momentous decision. People all around town would be rumoring about you. “Did you see what the girl from that house did?” Her parents would be crying, begging her not to go through with it. This is something that would be a non-issue for Tokyo girls.
Assuming your parents weren’t the abnormally bossy type, they’d think nothing of it if you showed up one day, going “I decided to change my hairstyle!” To a girl like that, it might be similar to something like the countryside girl simply getting her nails done. This might sound unthinkable to anyone from the more rural areas. I can see it being an issue even for someone living in a larger suburban city like Osaka. I really think it’s something you can only get away with if you’re one of the big city, Tokyo girls.
Who decided that thin = pretty?
It’s all a matter of taste. There are certain people out there who absolutely refuse to drive anything but German cars. You know the type, right? They’re the ones who tell you they couldn’t care less about American or Japanese cars. Personally, I don’t mind if my car is Japanese or American or German, as long as it’s convenient and I like it. But it really is just a matter of taste, and some people will have things they feel much more strongly about when it comes to cars.
In a similar fashion, there are some guys who only like girls who are skin and bones. When the average girl sits down and they’re slouching a little, I’m guessing they’ll have that one roll around their stomach, right? But when you’re talking about the type of guy who only accepts the girls who are skin and bones, even that single roll would be a deal breaker for them. They can’t even accept squishy arms, from what I hear.
Guys like that could never sense even a hint of the good in women like Saito Yoko or Mitsui Yuri. I could be showing them a picture, going “Look! Just look at that! Do you see that?! Is that hot or what?!” But no matter how passionate I might be, it wouldn’t get through to them. They’d just respond all unimpressed: “man, what’s the point if I can’t even see her ribs?” Any amount of breast development? Forget it, they couldn’t care less. I don’t get that way of thinking at all. Do they have a sense of fear towards any girls who have a bit of fat to them? Are they afraid they might get eaten by them or something?
Women who can brag about themselves with class are the best!
When it comes to women and bragging, it feels like the topics they brag about are mostly limited to their possessions, their boyfriend, how rich they are, how popular they are, how great they look… that sort of thing. Right?
When there’s a girl by my side bragging about something, it’s probably safe to say I’m only pretending to be listening to them most of the time. I’ll be nodding my head while thinking about something entirely different. Or, I’ll be listening intently, trying desperately to find something in what they’re saying that I could use to steer the conversation in a different direction. I’m not alone — I feel like this kind of reaction is something that comes very naturally to men. That’s because there’s some part of us that just thinks, “what’s the point in listening to someone brag?” Maybe if it was a guy who’s exceedingly nice to women, or just really, really devoted, he might actually listen. And not only that — he’d probably praise them to high heavens.
By and large, however, most men will only think “mmm” in response. With most women, their bragging is just that: bragging. It doesn’t lead to anything; there’s no conclusion. That feels unsatisfactory to us men, and we’ll be busy struggling to come up with a fitting reaction. I sometimes wonder: if you’d just finished listening to some girl’s long-winded, boastful story and you were simply to ask them “…and?“, what on earth would their answer be?
Unstable women have an unpredictable future!
Folks who have their own set of policies in life are the people who, even if something about their fashion or their way of life or something else about them sticks out like a sore thumb, are able draw others to them with the sheer intensity of their personality. But total unpredictability — completely defying one’s expectations — is another quality that draws people in just the same.
To me, Morning Musume’s Ishiguro Aya is someone who has that sort of unpredictability about her. To put it in other words: I think Ishiguro is a very unbalanced person. If the average person was to take a look at Ishiguro, they might attempt to place her in a certain category. “Ishiguro is this type of girl.” But I believe placing Ishiguro firmly in any one genre would be a challenge.
On the outside, Ishiguro just looks like your average, pretty young lady. But she is not your average, pretty young lady. In a weird way, there’s actually something about her that makes her come across more like a middle-aged man — I probably wouldn’t be surprised at all if I saw her with a red pencil behind her ear and a horse racing paper in hand, screaming her head off at the race track.