September 14, 1986 — Fukui
2001/08/26 ~ 2011/09/30
Takahashi: Right around the time when people started calling it the “Idol Warring Period” and we suddenly had more rivals and less exposure, Tsunku♂ said something to us. “It’s because it’s a time like this that you need to raise the level of your performances.” It was such a relief to hear him say that. It seemed like nothing was going well for us, and yet, now it suddenly felt like I could see the road ahead. It felt like I had been shown the direction that we were supposed to take.
— The group’s Golden Era that had begun with “LOVE Machine” was showing no signs of slowing down even in 2001 when the four members of the 5th generation joined. However, there were tough times ahead.
Takahashi: It was so, so difficult. “Platinum Era” is something they started calling it only after I had graduated — we received zero acknowledgement in real time. I just barely got to experience the Golden Era, but when the 5th generation joined, things in Morning Musume began to change. We couldn’t help but always struggle with the thought that it had been our fault; that we had lacked something.
February 26, 1985 — Hokkaido
2003/01/07 ~ 2007/06/01
Fujimoto: The first dream I ever had was to become a singer. Or rather, it was the only dream I ever had. My grandmother used to take enka lessons and when we’d be singing together, the people around me would praise my singing. That’s when the feeling first arose. I decided that I would aim to one day become a singer.
— You then took part in an audition — namely, the one for Morning Musume’s 4th generation.
Fujimoto: As an elementary schooler, I was in shock when I first saw Amuro Namie. Someone like her… she was a miracle. But I lived in the countryside of Hokkaido and there were no auditions anywhere. “ASAYAN” was the biggest audition that was held even in Hokkaido, and that’s why I thought to apply.
— You ultimately failed the 4th generation auditions. Not long after, however, you made your solo debut.
Fujimoto: I made it as far as the third round. But because I had already previously failed in the Komuro-produced audition — also held on “ASAYAN” — I knew from experience how passing wasn’t that simple. I thought that I would just wait and try my best again when my next chance came.
But that’s when I suddenly received an invitation from the company to come and do lessons with them, and so I moved to Tokyo.
September 23, 1985 — Tokyo
1999/08/22 ~ 2002/09/23
Goto: The amount of time I spent as a member was a mere three years, but there’s no question that it was the most intense three years of my entire life.
— It really was a surprisingly short amount of time. One thing is for sure though: when that blond-haired junior high school student made her first appearance on TV, something had instantly changed all over Japan.
Goto: I’d only dyed my hair because I was on my summer vacation. That was back when that whole gyaru boom was happening and I just got swept up in it…
— But you were taking part in an idol audition. Were you not worried about the hair hurting your chances?
Goto: I liked the way I looked. And besides, while I did hope to become a singer, I also wasn’t the type of girl to hold back from doing something I wanted to do just because of that.
— You have also said that you were able to proceed in the auditions only because you didn’t go on your school’s field trip.
Goto: Going on the field trip, we would’ve had a certain dress code. I absolutely did not want that. I intended to go in full makeup, wearing a paleo skirt and everything, but the teacher said no. So I withdrew from the field trip and went to the audition instead. (laughs)
January 7, 1997 — Miyagi
Ishida: In the beginning, I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to live up to Tsunku♂’s expectations because he had commented on me: “she can sing and dance well — she seems like someone who is going to inherit the soul of Morning Musume.“
I had been learning dance since I was little, but I just felt so inadequate and there was a period of time when I couldn’t help but wonder just why he had chosen to put me in Morning Musume.
The Soul of Morning Musume
— So you felt burdened by the pressure of not knowing what exactly this “soul of Morning Musume” that you had inherited from your seniors was.
Ishida: Ever since I was little, I’d loved performing for people. So I took up dancing, and just when I’d started thinking I might as well aim to perform on big stages, I found an advertisement for the Morning Musume auditions. I’d grown up on Morning Musume’s songs, hearing songs like “LOVE Machine” in my everyday life, so I knew they were an amazing group. But I didn’t particularly admire them or anything.
June 17, 1987 — Tokyo
2000/04/16 ~ 2004/08/01
Tsuji: I don’t think I would be who I am today was it not for Kago Ai. Someone as reserved as me, the name “Tsuji-chan” would not have become this well-known otherwise. It was because there was “Kago-chan” that there was “Tsuji-chan,” too. I definitely feel this way very strongly as of late.
Tsuji & Kago:
The Birth of Hello! Project’s Strongest Characters
— You joined the group in April just after you’d become a junior high first grader, but you took part in the auditions while you were still only a sixth grader. Did you want to become a member of Morning Musume?
Tsuji: It all started with a friend of mine at school saying she would be anxious if she got to join the group all by herself, so she asked me to apply together with her. I did like Morning Musume, but since I had no singing or dancing experience I thought there was no way I would be able to get in. My friend even had to pester me into writing my resume, and I sent it in just barely before the deadline. Even after sending it, I forgot all about it for a while.
— A month later, you received a phone call informing you that you had passed the first round of judging.
Tsuji: The call came from a man with a low voice, so I thought it was a prank call at first. I still remember how I said, “mom, it’s from some strange man,” as I handed the phone over to her.
January 20, 1983 — Kanagawa
1998/05/03 ~ 2005/04/14
Yaguchi: From the very beginning, I hated the thought of being the center. Me, having to shoulder all that responsibility? I’m just not that character. But I did want to stand out, and that’s why I loved the position that was right next to the center. That’s where I wanted to express myself.
But even with that said, the cover of “Memory Seishun no Hikari” was just terrible. (laughs) Abe Natsumi alone was in focus and all the rest of us members in the back were blurred. Some of us even had our eyes closed! But then even there the message was loud and clear: “Be serious about each and every shot they take of you! Never lose focus!” It’s very serious. You can’t survive in this world if you don’t have some guts.
— You were among the first members to be added to Morning Musume. Did you apply for the auditions because you admired the group?
Yaguchi: I was a SPEED fan at the time. I watched “ASAYAN” and I did like Morning Musume, too, but I never felt like I wanted to actually be in the group myself. But when they showed the announcement of them holding auditions for more members, it felt like a surge of electricity going through me. Immediately I felt that I had to apply and I sent in my resume the very next day. So it wasn’t because I loved them or because I admired them — rather, it felt like I was being pushed towards the group by fate itself.
February 2, 2001 — Aichi
Makino: I always thought of it only as a dream that was never going to come true, but I really wanted to become a Morning Musume. So when I was accepted, it felt like I was in a trance. Everything was so new; anything and everything seemed like a dream. For a while, it didn’t actually feel like I had become a Morning Musume — it was just pure bliss. For the longest time it literally felt like my feet weren’t touching the ground, like I was floating on cloud nine.
The Sparkle of the OG’s
— You first took part in the 10th generation auditions and joined the Kenshuusei. Later, the third time was the charm and you became a member of Morning Musume. When did you first begin to so strongly hope to join the group?
Makino: I liked “Kirarin☆Revolution” so much that I came to admire Morning Musume. Then, after I’d applied for the 10th generation auditions, I had an experience that made me come to love Morning Musume even more. That experience was seeing Dream Morning Musume in concert.
— What drew you to Dream Morning Musume?
Makino: I’d heard the songs on the CD, but this was the first time for me to be seeing my seniors in concert. They were all sparkling so much that it moved me. I instantly became so hooked that I was listening to the CD again in the car on the way home.
I especially love their version of “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari” — I’ve listened to it so much that I could probably sing all the parts. I was a member of the Broadcast Committee in school so I’d always be broadcasting Morning Musume songs during lunch, including Dream Morning Musume’s “Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari,” of course!
April 12, 1985 — Saitama
2000/04/16 ~ 2007/05/06
Yoshizawa: When I’d first just joined, I felt there was nothing I couldn’t do. I was pretty good at all kinds of physical exercise so even without any prior dancing experience I just thought, “well, I’m sure it’ll work out somehow.” So when we actually started with the dancing lessons, I was just astonished. I had no sense of rhythm. My body just froze — I couldn’t move at all.
— You applied for the auditions without any prior experience in singing or dancing. You weren’t thinking of it very deeply — you couldn’t even picture what it would be like if you actually passed.
Yoshizawa: I saw them advertising it on “ASAYAN” and it’s not like I had zero interest in the world of entertainment, so basically I just thought, “I’m not going to pass anyway, so I might as well apply.” That’s how it all started.
I had no idea that having good reflexes and having a good sense of rhythm were two completely separate things. It was to the point where my body simply couldn’t get used to rhythm. When the teacher would talk to me about rhythm, it was as if they were speaking to me in some sort of an alien language — I literally couldn’t make any sense of what they were saying, and so I was in a constant state of panic. Honestly, at that point I thought to myself, “it’s quite possible they won’t let me continue.” When I thought about all the many choreographies I would have to learn, I felt that there was just no way I was going to be able to do it.