Aya & Ayaya
Part One: Childhood
A rather premature autobiography (2004)
Born in the city of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, she would often find herself lost — that was the sort of active girl she was. Through kindergarten and elementary school, she loved to stand out. Then, at the young age of 14, she found herself at a turning point in life. By a strange coincidence, she had stumbled upon an opportunity. Already you could see glimpses of her strong willpower in how she pulled this opportunity towards herself.
She made her way to Tokyo. Settling down, breathing in the air of this place that was all new to her… Before long, her singing permeated that same air as it found its way to us.
Choosing to Be the Protective Big Sister
— You are the eldest of three sisters (born June 25, 1986), right? Because you were the eldest, were you brought up always being told you had to have your act together?
Matsuura: I don’t remember if I was exactly told to “have my act together,” but up until the first couple of years of elementary school my little sisters would always say that I was in the wrong. I was always the one everyone would get mad at. But I didn’t like being constantly told, “it’s big sis’ fault!,” so I started thinking about what I could do to make it stop.
That’s when I realized: “I should just always take Mom’s side in everything!” (laughs) So before my mom even had a chance to get mad at me, I would say, “That’s right, Mom! It’s their fault for not doing as you told them! Right, Mom?!” I realized that when I did that, it wasn’t me she would get angry with.
— You had all kinds of strategies…
Matsuura: I did. (laughs)
— I think the whole being told to “have your act together” thing might be a parenting technique they use because they know the younger siblings are going to imitate whatever the eldest sibling does.
Matsuura: But the feeling that I had to protect my little sisters, it feels like I always unconsciously had that anyway. For example, if they started crying at night and Mom wouldn’t wake up, I would apparently always go get their baby bottle, give it a shake, and make them drink it. My first little sister was born the year after me, and already at the age of a year and a half, or two maybe, I was apparently doing things like that.
— Really? Unconsciously?
Matsuura: Of course. I myself have no memory of actually doing that. But my mom told me how before she’d even noticed it, I was already doing things like that. And apparently, if Mom wasn’t waking up, I would go to her and say, “Mom! They’re crying!” I would wake her up. But again, I have no memory of that whatsoever. Then, when I was a first grader or so, my youngest little sister was born. I would always be carrying her and putting her to bed — it was my duty to look after her when I got home from school. I would change her diapers and stuff.
Matsuura: Also… Let’s see… When she was in elementary school, my little sister came home crying one day, saying this one boy had been bullying her. So I went and took revenge for her. “Where is he?!” “He’s walking home…” “Come with me!” So we ran up to him and I went, “just what do you think you’re doing?!” Then we went home — after I’d given him a good punch.
— That is too cool. (laughs)
Matsuura: I would do that kind of thing… I felt I had to protect them as their big sister. I just felt that way for some reason. It’s not like Mom told me to do so or anything… I just decided that was what I wanted to do.
— So kids in the neighborhood would see you as this scary big sister type?
Matsuura: Right, exactly! And I knew how all the boys just liked to tease the girls because secretly they liked them. But my little sisters hadn’t caught up on that yet. They’d just be crying and going, “it huuurts!“
— What types of games would you play?
Matsuura: Normal stuff. In kindergarten we’d play “Sailor Moon” and things like that. Or jumping down the stairs at a nearby apartment complex. Also, while this isn’t exactly related, I seemed to be constantly losing my umbrella. I would always carry one around even if it wasn’t at all obvious it was going to rain, and I’d come home having lost it somewhere…
— Do you remember why you liked carrying an umbrella around?
Matsuura: I’d think to myself, “I wonder if I held up an umbrella and jumped down from a high place, would I be able to fly?” Or I’d jump down from somewhere with it and go all, “TRANSFORM!” I liked games like that. I actually didn’t really like playing house or things like that. I didn’t play with dolls or anything. Most girls love playing with Rika-chan dolls and stuff, right? I just hated them! (laughs) Many girls like to have pretend conversations with their dolls, but I’d just think, “Why would a doll be able to talk?!” I was one of those kids. I wasn’t girly at all.
People tend to assume that our house must’ve been filled with dolls, but there were none. Well, maybe we had a couple after my youngest sister was born. But none of them were mine, and my room wasn’t the least bit girly.
Complicated Kindergarten Love Quadrangle
— By the way, did you experience your first love very early on?
Matsuura: It was when I was in kindergarten. The boy I liked was the same age as me — we’ll call him “A-kun.” (laughs) But “A-kun” liked my little sister, and my little sister in turn liked “B-kun.” He was also the same age as me, and he liked me. So we had a love quadrangle going on!
— You already found yourself in a love quadrangle in kindergarten…?!
Matsuura: But my little sister had no interest in “A-kun” and I had no interest in “B-kun.” So it was a super complicated love quadrangle. See, when we were little, I was a very thin girl whereas my little sister was chubby, so we looked totally different…
— Despite your young age, that might have been your first taste of how unfair and inconsistent the world could be. (laughs)
Matsuura: Right. I felt so envious of my little sister because “A-kun” liked her. We’d be in our bunk beds at night — me in the top bunk and my little sister in the bottom bunk — and we’d be talking about it. I’d be going, “Ahhh, how nice it must be you… Switch places with me!” (laughs)
— Did you want to stand out?
Matsuura: Yes, ever since I was little. At my kindergarten, they would teach us how to play the Japanese drums. They had all kinds of drums from big to small, and once every few months we would go and perform at a public square, or invite elderly people to visit our kindergarten and play for them, or even perform at the civic center. And whenever we did, I always wanted to perform in the spot where you stand out the most. (laughs) The rest of the kids would all follow my cue to start playing their drums — that was my role.
— You were like the star of the show; the one in the spotlight.
Matsuura: The teacher would say, “you do it, Aya-chan.” Also, at our kindergarten sports day, I was carrying a stick and walking at the very front. Everyone else was wearing shorts while I alone was wearing a skirt. I would often be given roles like that, so apparently I was quite dependable.
— Were you taking lessons in anything?
Matsuura: I was taking piano lessons up until the first grade of elementary school. I really loved the piano and I actually started taking lessons because I personally wanted to. Still, I ended up quitting at the end of first grade. But I liked a lot of things. Music, musical instruments…
— Why did you quit the piano?
Matsuura: We moved.
— Ah, that’s right. You moved a lot, didn’t you?
Matsuura: Quite a lot, yes — I went to three different elementary schools. It was never because of anything very special either. The first time, we were living in a second floor apartment and my dad was going through this phase where he was really into tropical fish…
— I see…
Matsuura: So we had this fish tank at the house — this big, long fish tank that you’ll see at tropical fish shops. We had tropical fish, as well as a catfish. One night the catfish must’ve went, “I’m hungry!,” and it went on a rampage, causing the entire fish tank to fall over. So then there was a water leak and the landlord found out. They were going all, “what are you doing?!” and they drove us out of the apartment.
— No way!
Matsuura: Yeah. They were like, “What have you done?! Get out!” So that was the reason we ended up moving which is why I stopped playing the piano. They told me they’d sign me up for lessons again after we moved, but then it turned out that there were no piano classes offered near our new place. (laughs) So eventually I just forgot about it…
We lived there for about four or five years, and then the next time we moved was… Wait, what was the reason for that one…? Oh, right. My dad was building a house, and he only told us about it once it was pretty much already built. So out of the blue he just told us, “we built a house.” We the kids were going all, “whaaat?!” Like, “oh, we did?” We were suddenly being told that we were moving the following month. That’s the sort of person my dad is. (laughs) He’s someone who does exactly what he wants.
Anyway, so we just went like, “okay, fine,” and we moved into a house near where my grandmother lives. That’s where they still live now. It was all for these stupid reasons — nothing at all like, “we have to move because of Dad’s work!“
— Something like that would usually be the reason for moving…
Matsuura: I know, right? (laughs) But it wasn’t anything of the sort.
— Your father sounds like a fun person. Once he comes to like something, he becomes completely absorbed in it.
Matsuura: But then he’s just as quick to get bored of it, too. He gets totally into something for a short while, then totally loses interest, then gets totally into something different. Even with fishing — I think he was into that only for about half a year, and yet he has several fishing rods and a box full of… What do you call them? Like, those things you attach to the end of the fishing line. He starts by getting into things from the superficial end like that. With the tropical fish, he got started on that without even knowing how to take care of them properly.
— I understand how it can be so exciting just getting all the stuff together when you’re first getting into a new hobby. Still, I wasn’t expecting to hear a story about catfish when I asked you about the piano. (laughs)
Matsuura: Yeah… (laughs) That was ultimately the cause for me quitting.
— How far along did you get in your piano studies? I mean, Beyer-wise or…
Matsuura: Even before Beyer, there was this book meant for little kids that I was using. I finished that book, and then only made it to like the second or third page of Beyer before stopping. (laughs)
— Had you kept at it, you might still be playing today.
Matsuura: I’ve thought about that, yes… I do think it was a wasted opportunity.
Music Was Always Playing
— Switching schools, it must take a toll having to introduce yourself to everyone in class over and over. Did you have any experiences like that?
Matsuura: Ah… Well, the first time we moved I basically just said, “I don’t mind. Sure. Let’s move.” But I was against it the next time — we’d lived there for around five years after all. I was really good friends with both the boys and the girls and I was just having so much fun. But our new house was only about a 30-minute car ride away.
— 30 minutes is a bit of a difficult distance… It’s still close enough that you could see your friends if you wanted to, but… All right, but let us get to the meat and potatoes. Did you like music?
Matsuura: My parents both liked listening to it so there was always music playing both at home and in the car. So yes. I suppose the reason I like music would be because of their influence.
— You must have been subconsciously learning the songs your parents were listening to.
Matsuura: Yes. And the songs I’d hear playing in commercials and stuff… My mom says that I’ve always been quick to learn new songs. I would just try to mimic the words as I heard them so I would get them all wrong, but apparently I always had the melody lines right.
— Gradually your own tastes were developed, too. Was there anything you personally liked, even if it was something your parents listened to as well?
Matsuura: Ah… One artist I remember liking was Matsutoya Yumi. That was mostly because of my mom’s influence. Also, DREAMS COME TRUE. For the most part, I liked artists that came across as proper singers.
— In an interview conducted soon after you had debuted, you also mentioned Matsuda Seiko.
Matsuura: With Matsuda Seiko, I didn’t so much learn about her because I heard her songs at home or the in car. Rather, it was because I heard my mom singing her songs in karaoke.
— Even at that point were you already asking to have the mic?
Matsuura: No no, it was more like I was watching “Mom’s Hit Parade.”
— So you were like her audience.
Matsuura: Yes. I would clap and cheer her on.
— As far as your awakening as a vocalist, was there a time when you realized, “hey, I’m actually pretty good at this“?
Matsuura: I can’t really tell the difference between “good” or “bad” when it comes to singing. I would go to karaoke with my friends and I really loved to sing, but I was too embarrassed to say stuff like, “I’m going to be a singer!” This was the countryside so no one around me was saying anything as illogical as that.
— “Illogical“… (laughs)
Matsuura: I don’t know if that’s the right word for it. But anyway, no one was saying stuff like that. And so… Had I told people about it, they would’ve just replied, “yeah right, keep dreaming.” I would’ve been embarrassed had that happened, so I never spoke even a word about it to my friends.
“I Want to Become a Singer”
— Once you began to think about how you wanted to become a singer, did you come up with concrete steps you could take in order to make it a reality? Did you have a process you followed to make it happen?
Matsuura: Not in the least! I had nothing! I had always thought about how I wanted to become a singer, but I did nothing in the way of like searching for auditions or anything like some of my friends did. At the time I may have been thinking like, “I might have to go to Tokyo to try and get scouted.” But that was the extent of it.
So then once I passed the audition and told my friends, “I’m going to move in a couple of months. I’m going to Tokyo,” they were completely dumbfounded. Like, “WHAT?!” Some of my friends had been talking about how their dream was to be a singer and that they might start looking for auditions, but I myself hadn’t spoken a word about it. So they were going like, “why is this the first time we’re hearing about this?!” (laughs)
— You had kept going while keeping it to yourself the whole time.
Matsuura: Yes. My dad was the one exception because I did kind of keep telling him when I was in the upper grades of elementary school. “I want to become a singer. If I did, would that be okay?” But he said, “could you do me a favor and became a singer only after you’ve graduated from high school?“
— I’ve heard this well-known story about how you once scored 100 points several times in a row when you were singing in karaoke…
Matsuura: I wasn’t even trying to practice my singing when I did that. It was the day before my audition and I still hadn’t decided on what I was going to sing, so I just went to karaoke while thinking to myself, “what am I going to do?!” So for starters, I tried singing Hamasaki Ayumi’s “Faraway” and I got 100 points right away. I thought, “Huh? Maybe it was just a fluke…“
I then sang other songs until finally deciding to end by singing the first song once more, and once again I got 100 points. That’s when I realized: “I might actually have a chance with this one.” That was the song I sang at my audition.
— It’s quite a feat to score 100 points on those karaoke machines, let alone two times in a row. It might be strange of me to say this, but maybe it was your destiny in a sense. Rather than a fluke, maybe it was kind of like fate giving you a push and saying, “make it this song.”
Matsuura: I would always be making my own mix tapes of these “this week’s top 10” CD’s, and that was one of the songs among them that I really liked. I just happened to get 100 points when I tried singing it.
— You just “happened” to score 100 points… I’m kind of jealous. (laughs)
Matsuura: Hahahaha. I was surprised myself!
— I suppose that just goes to show how you seem to have this natural intuition towards music.
Matsuura: W-well, I couldn’t say… (laughs)
Thinking About Design School
— Had you not become a singer, what sort of a path do you think you would have taken instead?
Matsuura: Even if it hadn’t been in music, I might have aimed at something that would still let me express something. In art class, I was never good at drawing something like an apple that was just sitting there. I much preferred sketching out designs that I would think up on my own.
In the first grade of junior high school — before I applied for the audition — my art teacher kept telling me to apply for an art school that specialized in design. So had I not become a singer, the first thing I might have done is enroll in a design school like that.
— When you speak of your own designs, do you mean like line patterns, logos, things like that?
Matsuura: Yes, exactly. For example, I would take the kanji character for “street” (“街”) and I would try to draw it as an actual street. Like, “I could draw this part as a traffic light.” I liked coming up with things like that.
— Oh, so all those different parts would form the kanji character?
Matsuura: Right. That’s the kind of thing I liked doing.
— Do you still have something like a collection of your works?
Matsuura: I should probably still have them at home…
— Do you look at them every now and then?
Matsuura: Oh, the albums are all at my parents’ house, so… I don’t look at them very often nowadays.
— That’s another rather “dry” aspect about you. (laughs) Most people would probably want to have albums like that with them, no?
Matsuura: Well, I do like taking pictures in order to preserve memories and stuff. But now that you mention it, you’re right. I don’t really look at those albums very much.
— Seeing as you liked karaoke ever since you were in junior high school, would you say that it was like a place of relaxation for you and your friends?
Matsuura: We would sing a lot there, but then we’d also talk about love and stuff, too.
— As you had already experienced a love quadrangle in kindergarten, I’m curious to know what your love life was like after that. (laughs)
Matsuura: I often found myself acting like an intermediary between people. I would have to come between different boys and girls, and I’d be thinking, “why can’t you two just fall in love on your own?!” (laughs)
— So you were like their Cupid.
Matsuura: “What? You want me to hand this to them?! Give it to ’em yourself!” It was like that. Although if they were really, really persistent about it, I would do it for them. Reluctantly. (laughs)
When I was in the first grade of junior high school, my senior in third grade — that is, my senior of not one but two years — was really popular. He was like the “leader” of the third graders. He was a bit of a bad boy, but he was popular among everyone, friendly with the teachers, good at sports… Those kinds of kids are really popular, right?
— The popular bad boy character… No one is match for them.
Matsuura: I was close with my seniors as well… And so, often I would even have one of them coming up to me and going, “please give this to him for me!“
— Were you so busy attending to all your friends’ love lives that you didn’t have time to pursue one for yourself?
Matsuura: Uh… Well… No… I wouldn’t say that. (laughs) But you could say that I’m a bit of a busybody, being the eldest daughter and all. Many things tend to bother me. And naturally the source of most of those annoying things would be the youngest child of the family…
— Oh, I see. (laughs) So that all cultivated the whole “eldest daughter personality” in you.
Matsuura: Right. I think so.
Certain of Failure
— To get back to the topic of your audition, your actual discovery of it really came about quite unexpectedly, didn’t it?
Matsuura: My wish was to become a singer, but I really had nothing in terms of a plan. Then, one day, I happened to borrow a Morning Musume CD from a friend — “Happy Summer Wedding” (released in May, 2000) — and it had an application card included. I just randomly happened to come across it and I thought, “maybe I should try sending it in…?” I asked Mom what she thought and we decided to give it a shot, just to satisfy our curiosity.
The first round was just document review. I sent in this report paper talking about myself, along with a tape of me singing. I passed that round, and they asked me to come to Tokyo. I had only told my mom about passing that first round, but I figured I would probably have to tell my dad at least about having to go to Tokyo… I mean, I was going to leave in the morning and I probably wouldn’t be back until nighttime, so I couldn’t just keep quiet about it.
So me and Mom went to tell Dad together, and after he heard me out he thought there was no chance that I could actually pass the audition. And so he just said in this completely carefree manner, “Sure, why not? Go ahead. It might make for a good experience!“
— Even though your father had previously said he wanted you to graduate from high school first…?
Matsuura: I felt the same way as him in that I was sure I was going to fail. Even the very moment that my audition ended, I thought, “ahh, it was no good.” (laughs) And so I went home. I thought I had failed so I just forgot all about the audition and went back to my ordinary life. They told us they would contact us in a week, so after a week had passed and I’d received no word from them, I thought to myself, “I knew it. It was no good.” But then, two or three days later, they finally contacted me with an offer. “We want to have you debut!“
— How did you feel in that moment?
Matsuura: I was dumbfounded. But I was also so glad, I was just running around and going, “UWAAAAHHH!!“
— When you were at the audition and your first thought was that you had failed, was it because you felt that you hadn’t been able to show them what you were truly capable of?
Matsuura: I was just so nervous. I was shown into the room and there were all these scary-looking adult judges lined up. There was a big speaker, someone put a mic in my hand, there were cameras rolling… I didn’t know what was going on. There were mirrors all over the room.
— It must have been one of those rooms that members use during dance lessons to see themselves.
Matsuura: I had never been in a room like that so it made me nervous. I barely even remember it — that’s how nervous I was.
— What did you write about in that initial document to introduce yourself?
Matsuura: I wrote it all by myself on manuscript paper, but I really don’t even remember what I actually wrote… I think it was just stuff like, “I’ve always liked singing since I was little,” “I’m always happy!,” “I’m cheerful!” It was just normal stuff.
— So it wasn’t something forceful like, “I’m definitely going to pass!,” but more natural.
Matsuura: I think so, yes. I just wrote it as-is.
— So far, it sounds like there was a lot of good luck at play in the story of Matsuura Aya.
Matsuura: I definitely think I’m very lucky. Even just me passing the audition — I believe that was all luck. Sure, you can’t accomplish anything without hard work as well. But when I went to the audition, I saw all these girls who were so relaxed; so many girls who just looked like models with their perfect figures… Even when I sent in the documents for the audition, I did so just barely in time. The stamp on the letter was before the deadline so they kind of let it slide. Even there I got lucky.
“Let’s Do This!”
— You just described yourself as being a very lucky person. Have you been told that by others?
Matsuura: Maybe by a fortune-teller. I went to have my fortune told out of curiosity and they just kept telling me, “you’re a very lucky person.“
— How did your family react when it was decided that you were going to debut?
Matsuura: Well, my mom was in total support of it. Her dream when she was little had also been to be a singer, but her dream didn’t come true. So she was going all, “go for it, go for it!” My little sisters were saying that they were cheering me on me while also saying, “ah, must be nice to be you…” But my dad… Dad opposed it vehemently. Like I said, he insisted that I first graduate from high school.
— Why was he so opposed to it?
Matsuura: Ultimately the job of an idol isn’t something you can keep doing indefinitely, so his point was that I needed to have my high school diploma just in case. So I said, “I know what you mean, but this is what I want to do right now!“
— One can understand how he felt. It’s definitely a fair argument.
Matsuura: But then every day whenever I saw him I would say, “I am going to become an idol! I am going to Tokyo!” This was going on every single day until finally I managed to push back enough and I won the argument.
— Your father tried his best to persuade you, but…
Matsuura: He did, but the more he would say things like that, the more I would protest. I would at least listen to what he had to say, but eventually it would all lead back to: “I know, I know. But it’s my life, is it not? It’s my decision, is it not?” So then he’d have no choice but to go, “Well, if you say it like that… You…” (laughs) “Yes, yes it is.” He finally had to give in and say, “Okay, fine! Just go then!“
— It’s not like your father was unreasonable in his opposition. He just wanted you to graduate from high school first.
Matsuura: I could see that he had a proper reason and I understood it. But it was… “I want to do this right now!” I would say to him, “Sorry Dad, but my stubbornness is something I inherited directly from you! I’m very sorry!” (laughs)
— When you felt that you “wanted to do this right now,” was it an instinctual thing? Like, “I have to do this thing, and do it this very instant!”
Matsuura: The reason I felt that I wanted to go for it right then and there was because I felt that if I didn’t, I didn’t know when, if ever, I could again feel like I wanted to do something of my own accord. Besides… it did feel like it was kind of just good luck that I had passed the audition in the first place. Also, I just had this very strong feeling of, “let’s do this!” I desperately wanted to go. Even if I ended up failing, that would be okay. “I just want to go!” That’s how I felt.
— Once they all understood where you were coming from, did you then have the full support of your whole family?
Matsuura: Yes. They all became super supportive of me. (laughs)
When the Parents Are Gone…
— When it was finally time for you to leave for Tokyo, did they throw you something like a party to cheer you on the night before you left?
Matsuura: I spent the day before with my family. It wasn’t very lively or anything, but more just a normal day with the family… But for some reason I didn’t feel worried at all. There were no tears. But then, on the morning of my departure, my friends…
All of a sudden our dogs started barking and I wondered what was going on. So I peeked outside… And this was super early in the morning because I had to leave the house at seven. But before that, right around after six, all my friends suddenly showed up — there were like 10 of them or so. I was like, “huuuhhh?!,” and I rushed out of the house. They told me they had come to see me off.
There’s this song by Hana*Hana called “Sayonara Daisuki na Hito,” and they all started singing it in chorus right there, at six in the morning. Except, they changed the lyrics to: “♪ saaayonara, daisuki na Ayaaa~ ♪” (“goodbye, our beloved Aya“)
— What?! That is so moving!
Matsuura: I did cry then. Obviously. And my mom was crying right there with me. Mom and Dad were both saying, “you sure have got yourself some great friends.” (laughs)
Anyway, then the three of us went to Kansai Airport and we flew to Tokyo. We spent the day in Tokyo, buying me some everyday necessities, and the next day my parents flew back home. I went to see them off at Haneda Airport. At that moment, I didn’t feel worried at all. If anything, everything was just so much fun. But when it was time for us to part, my dad said, “Your family all supports you. If anything happens, you just tell us.“
Hearing him say that, it made me start bawling. I was even surprised by it myself. Like, “why am I crying?!” Maybe I was… I wouldn’t say “overdoing it,” but maybe I was hiding something even from myself. Maybe I was worried. Just a little bit.
Matsuura: And so… When Dad said that, it felt like something had snapped. But mind you, I didn’t cry in front of my parents — it was only after they’d gone. Really, I was crying so much that it even surprised my manager. He was going “come on now, don’t cry.“
— Even if you were only just a little bit worried, you probably didn’t want for your parents to see it.
Matsuura: That’s right. I didn’t want them to worry. Hmm… Although I do feel like I can openly talk to my family about anything. But maybe that’s not so much the case after I came to Tokyo… I just can’t make them feel worried about me.
— If you were totally open to them about everything, then it’s just…
Matsuura: Right. Also, I just generally don’t like asking others for advice. So I’ve stopped doing so with my family, too. But I feel like in some ways they also realize that — parents can be mysterious that way. They might see a TV appearance of mine and later they’ll say to me, “you weren’t feeling too great that day, were you?” And I’ll think back on that day and realize, “oh, you’re right.” Parents will notice things like that, even if anyone else around me won’t. I think it’s amazing.
— It must be because they’ve been watching over you since you were a baby.
Matsuura: I’ve really become closer to my family after coming to Tokyo. It’s like I only realize the true value of my family now that we’re apart. I think I’ve become kinder towards my family, and they’ve become kinder towards me. My little sisters depend on me, and even when they won’t listen to their father they’ll listen if it’s me telling them. Mom will ask me for advice before she asks Dad. (laughs) But then so will Dad. (laughs) So right now, I’m often like the go-between in my family. My family gets into so many fights — every six months there’s a really big one. Whenever that happens, everyone just leaves the house. (laughs)
— Wait, didn’t you say you’re a close family…?!
Matsuura: Whenever there’s a fight, everyone just leaves. I would come home only to find that Mom, Dad, my little sisters — no one’s home. So I’ll call up Dad and he’ll say, “I don’t know!” “But where is everyone?” “I don’t know!” So I’ll call Mom. “Where is everyone?” “I don’t know!” Even my little sister will be going, “I’m not going back there!” So it’s just like… “what is this?!” (laughs) So I’ll end up having to call everyone to try and persuade them. “Stop acting like children and go home! My little sister is crying all alone! Talk it out among the four of you!” (laughs) It’s not easy!
— No comment… I don’t want to stick my nose in other people’s family business. (laughs)
Matsuura: Whenever they get into fights like that, it’s like none of them can be honest about their feelings.
— But they still call you because they want a reason to make peace.
Matsuura: It’s so tough. It really is. I’ve had nights where I couldn’t sleep because of this! Like, my little sister would call me and she’d say, “I’ll go home in the morning.” But then that would make me worried and I’d think, “I can’t sleep before I hear back from her and make sure she made it home safe!” As a result, I would end up getting only like an hour of sleep. (laughs)
— And this was when you were already busy yourself, having now debuted… (laughs)
Matsuura: I’d be thinking, “Not even being able to sleep because of my family… They’re the worst!” But then they’d be all… “We’re sorry, Aya-chaaan!” Even if they do get into fights, they’ll be right back to being friendly again the next day. It’s to the point where it makes me wonder what exactly goes on over there!
— The calm after a storm. (laughs)
Matsuura: I’ll call them the next day and they’ll be all back to normal, everyone just happily chattering away. Like, I’m calling them because I’m worried and they’re just going, “Oh, that? We already forgot about that!” (laughs)
— Them fighting so much is proof of how close they are. (laughs) Anyway, when your debut was decided upon and you thought you would give it your best shot, what was on your mind then? Were you just thinking about how you wanted to make the most of this opportunity that had been given to you?
Matsuura: I thought I would get to sing first… But then it turned out that the first thing I did was acting!
— For a TV drama, right?
Matsuura: I was thinking, “Wait… What exactly was I supposed to become again?” But I just did as I was told and I gave it my all.
In Tokyo With No Sense of Direction
— After your debut was set, did you make any promises to yourself? Like, “since the voice is the singer’s most important tool, I can’t go to karaoke and just sing my heart out like before.” (laughs) Did you have anything like that?
Matsuura: Tsunku♂ gave me a briefing on things like that. He instructed me to buy an inhaler right away, to treasure my throat, to wear a mask when in public transport, and about other ways of taking care of myself like that.
— Did you notice many big differences in the lifestyle once you moved to Tokyo?
Matsuura: It was all so different. There are so many people and I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings. But in the beginning, I was living in Shonan due to the location of the filming for the TV drama, and there I could still relax and feel at ease. But then I’d have to head out to Tokyo for work. There are so many people and it’s like the air is just dusty… But actually, when I came to Tokyo, my hay fever due to my allergies was cured since there’s no greenery like that. Also, I’d never taken the subway before. I first did so only after coming to Tokyo.
— Because of work?
Matsuura: Yes. I just did as I was told, and they told me to look at the signs to get on the correct line and how that would take me to where I needed to get. So I was like, “Wow, you sure have to walk down a lot of stairs… Ah, I think this is the train!” I got on. But then once it started moving it was all dark outside the windows and I was thinking, “what’s wrong with this train?!” So I got scared and got off at the very next station.
I called my manager and said, “Um, excuse me, but there was no scenery appearing outside the windows!” (laughs) “What do I do?! I’m so scared!” And my manager was like, “Well, yeah… It’s the subway…” And I was just going, “what do you mean?!” (laughs) Osaka has a subway system, too, but I’d never used it.
— So it was…
Matsuura: We would always go by car whenever I was going somewhere with my family. Osaka and surrounding areas weren’t that far away and it was just easier by car, so I had never used the train much. So that was all a big surprise for me. I didn’t really understand the train system, and moreover I have no sense of direction. I could be asking people where the building I’m looking for is even when it’s right there in front of me. That’s how bad my sense of direction is.
— When you finally became able to independently get to where you needed to go on the subway, did the timing of that roughly coincide with when you got used to life in Tokyo in general?
Matsuura: I don’t think I’ve still gotten used to it even now. Mmm… I wonder? Oh, but I was ordered to stop taking the train by myself.
— Because people would recognize you when they saw you?
Matsuura: Yes, but it wasn’t so much because of my face but rather because of my voice. I’d often be told by like the staff working at the TV station… “You were on the train earlier, right? On this-and-that line?” And I’d be all surprised. “Huh? How did you know?!” (laughs) “Oh, you just sounded so excited when you were talking to that old man sitting next to you.” “I-I’m sorry…” (laughs)
— They knew it was you just by your voice? (laughs)
Matsuura: Apparently, I have a very recognizable voice. I just love talking to people. If someone talks to me I will respond to them, and even on the train I’ll start blabbering with some old man sitting near me. It seems people can tell it’s me from my voice when I’m just talking to someone like that. And eventually the staff got wind of it. “People have been spotting you all over the place! They can all hear you! You’re not allowed to take the train by yourself anymore!” And I just said, “okay.” They got angry with me before I had the chance of actually getting used to taking the train…
— Not because of eyewitness reports, but because people had been hearing that distinctive voice of yours…?
Matsuura: I guess so. You don’t really properly listen to your own voice unless you’re in this line of work, right? I used to think my voice was just normal, but apparently it’s somehow different. Now I really like my voice though.
— And that was the story of Matsuura Aya up until the night before the birth of “Ayaya.”