Tomoe Shinohara: Press Conference

interview - 11.25.2005 07:00

Mini-concert held by Euro Japan Comic at the Asian Bar on November 18, 2005

We arrive at the Asian bar, which houses a superb ambiance, around 6:20pm. On stage, near the bar, is a little woman preparing her material. She is none other than Tomoe Shinohara. Soon afterwards, she disappears to get read for tonight’s events.

Kenji Nishiyama, the man in charge of Euro Japan Comic (ユーロジャパンコミック), approaches us to say hello and talk about the association.

EJC has been around for two years now and has three main focal points: manga, Japanese animation and J-pop. They are an information/help site for both Japanese and French societies. They've already been present at Japan-Expo and Epitanime, sending a few French cosplayers to the World Cosplay Summit in Japan, hosted by Japan's TV-Aishi. At this year's Epitanime, 50 Japanese cosplayers are expected to attend. You can see that the door is beginning to swing both ways.

Concerning anime, they have contracts with the Goblins School (famous for its animators, both on paper and digitally) and other Japanese schools.

Manga-wise, they want to create a manga museum in Kyoto and even hope to display European comics there. If everything goes well, a Euro-comic store might see the light of day. Of course, all this is in the planning stages, but you can see that EJC has a lot of motivation and ambition.

J-pop wise, EJC wants to make the genre popular in France to create some kind of relay between both countries. They've just recently finalized the details for the Imitation PoPs Uchuu Sentai NOIZ show. It will be at La Loco on February 26, in partnership with Ongaku France and the Syrius society.

EJC is testing the return of the French in order to help and reassure the Japanese labels. If everything goes well, they'll work with Ongaku France in order to bring Gackt over to France. However, it must be mentioned that none of this is official or signed. It is simply the goal EJC is striving for.

However, for the time being, the room seems pretty crowded compared (thankfully) to the night of November 4th. The crowd is pretty eclectic, but one thing that stands out is the amount of Japanese fans present. Perhaps word has already gotten out?

OPENING ACT: YAMATONATTO

The show begins with YAMATONATTO, a Butō dance troupe. It's comprised of three members: Masa on guitar, Ko's on bass and the dancer Ippei Hosaka. They give quite a surprising performance. With a mixed riff playing in the background, Masa and Ko's improvise many different sounds while Ippei contorts himself in a bizarre manner, sometimes structured, sometimes not as if possessed by a demon. Masa uses a lot of vibrato techniques while Ko's goes as far as placing a CD between the strings and his bass’s body.

MAIN ACT: TOMOE SHINOHARA

The bar's owner announces Tomoe Shinohara, who arrives dressed in pink and sporting a large smile. She quickly takes her place on stage and begins speaking French to the crowd: "Hi, how are you? My name is Tomoe Shinohara, but just call me Tomoe! Alright, now I want everyone to dance tonight!"

She jumps into her first song, as everyone applauds her for speaking French, which she continues to do during her entire show to communicate with the crowd. She even throws in French expressions that she had the kindness to learn to please the audience, and herself.

She sings two tracks from her latest single, ★AsoFEVER★ and Stereo Phonics, as well as Ultra Relax. Near the end of her last track, she invites the cosplayers attending the event to come on stage. Two of them bring her a bouquet of flowers and she then poses for the reporters, both Japanese (she even tries presenting the members of the Japanese newspaper Sanspo) and French.

Afterwards, she has a brief session where she poses with fans. She then leaves for the private room in the back of the restaurant. Most spectators are happy with the concert and some will even buy her new single.

PRESS CONFERENCE

The head of EJC was our translator during the press conference (it wasn't an exact translation, but more of a summary of what Tomoe said).

Who decided you would come sing for this mini-concert?
Tomoe: I've got a good mental picture of France, and I've always dreamt of coming here. So I did.

You are the first pop singer to come to France. How do you feel about it?
Tomoe: I now have big dreams in my head, one being to perform with Daft Punk!

Do you think there is room for pop artists in France?
Tomoe: Sure, starting with shows in little venues as opposed to huge venues like in Japan.

Why did it take five years for you to release a new single? What were you doing beforehand? Do you plan on having a comeback?
Tomoe: Well I kind of lost touch with music and singing. I began acting in theatre productions. But recently my inspiration came back, allowing me to sing again.

You wrote two out of three songs on your new single, which did you choose Kagami for Stereo Phonics?
Tomoe: I've known him for a long time, and I asked him to come up with music which had a "dance" flavor.

You sang a duet with Eiko Matsumoto. How exactly did it all come together?
Tomoe: Well, I imagined something like a rainbow and Eiko suggested we input some white elements, which was convenient.

You're part of the Namie Amuro and Ami Suzuki generation. What memories do you have of the period?
Tomoe: People would walk around dressed like this (she suggests a very exuberant style and imitates people walking in the street) and it was fine.

You're also a designer. How do you create and distribute your clothing line?
Tomoe: (She gestures something to Mr. Nishiyama, which he tries to translate, but after a few words she intervenes and says "No, no!")
I’ve made long t-shirts for ceremonies in Roppongi (a Tokyo district). A store in Paris might be interested in the designs. I’d like to be a singer AND a designer in France.

Out of all your hobbies (singing, designing, voice overs, etc), which is your favorite?
Tomoe: Singing

And second?
Tomoe: Secondly... (Tomoe places her head between her hands) dancing and designing.

You’ve performed in many duets. Would you be interested in performing with a European artist, and if so which one?
Tomoe: Daft Punk!

At this point, Mr. Nishiyama tells the audience that she will be leaving for Japan in two days, but that she will return on June 21 for the Fete de la Musique. The first choice would be Place Saint-Michel, the second to be across from the Sorbonne. Nothing is definitive, other than the fact that she will return.

Tomoe: My project is not only to sing, but also to dance and organize a fashion show. The Japanese only like the image that France projects, they don't go into enough detail and there isn't enough information overall. I'd like to make them discover things by working on the details.

Do you have any plans on releasing your albums in France?
Tomoe: If you know a label, I'm interested (She begins to laugh).

The image you project is very cartoon-oriented. Is that the reason you sang the title for Kodomo no Omocha?
Tomoe: I grew up on anime, so it's only natural.

When you first began your look was very colorful, but now it's turned into something more serious. Which do you prefer?
Tomoe: (Once again, she holds her head. It seems it isn't easy finding an answer)
I enjoy both styles, however during my 10 years I've changed and now I am the way I am. Later on I might go back to my old styles. I really love the colors of the rainbow.

You’ve been seiyu (anime voice over artist) for the anime Ghiblies Episode 2 (she voiced Hotaru-chan in 2002). Did Miyazaki choose you?
Tomoe: I love Miyazaki, and he's the one who approached me with the idea. My favorite one of his films is Kaze no Tani no Naushika (Nausicaa).

And so ends the press conference, an event that will be remembered thanks to Tomoe's smile and laughter.

JaME thanks Tomoe Shinohara, Euro Japan Comic, The Asian bar and Ongaku France.
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