Interview with Berryz Koubou at Sakura-Con
Berryz Koubou kindly offered their time to speak with JaME on the last day of Sakura-Con 2011
Hello Berryz Koubou, and welcome to the US. Can you start off by introducing yourselves?
Saki: I’m the captain of the group, Shimizu Saki. I like sakura blossoms. Nice to meet you.
Momoko: I’m Tsugunaga Momoko. I’m the cutest member of the group. It's nice to meet you. (everyone jokingly disagrees)
Chinami: I’m Tokunaga Chinami. I like anime and manga as well as American goodies, like small gadgets.
Maasa: Sudou Maasa here. My charming points are my eyes and ‘tarako’ lips. Please take care of me.
Miyabi: I’m Natsuyaki Miyabi, nice to meet you. My charming points are my small ears and the small beauty mark next to my eye. Because I have very small ears, I can’t use the regular kind of cotton tips. So when I clean them, I have to use the kind for babies. (laughs)
Yurina: I’m Kumai Yurina and I’m the tallest in the group. If someone wants to remember me, they should remember me as the “tallest in the group”.
Risako: My name is Sugaya Risako, nice to meet you. Um, my hobby is watching movies.
So how are you all doing? How was the flight to the US?
All: (in Japanese) Genki! (We're fine!)
(mixed chatter) Everybody slept. It was so tiring!
Saki: It was a long flight over here; I got a backache.
Berryz Koubou travelled to Hawaii on a fan-club tour last year, but this is your first time performing on the US mainland. How do you feel about it so far?
Maasa: Well it was a long flight, but even during the flight we were so excited. [Seattle] is a beautiful city—everyone is nice. We’ve been looking forward to coming here and I am very happy that we came.
Are there any places you want to see while you’re here?
(mixed chatter) Yes, a few. Safeco, no...the Space Needle...
Miyabi: I’d like to do some shopping, see the downtown area.
Momoko: Oh, I want to see the original Starbucks here. I heard that there is a different logo for that store; I want to buy a mug from there too.
Your appearance at Sakura-Con is connected to your debut release in the US,7 Berryz Times. Do you have plans to release more albums in the US?
Maasa: We’d love to release more albums in the US.
Is a tour at all possible?
All: I want to try! (excitement)
Chinami: America is really big, isn’t it? I want to go all over the place.
Could you tell us a little more about the album 7 Berryz Times? What concepts or themes does it have?
Maasa: This is Berryz Koubou’s seventh year as well as our seventh album. We'd like to stick to the concept of the number ‘7’, so it has kind of a special meaning to us.
How did the recording process go? Did you enjoy working in the studio?
Maasa: We record the vocal parts individually, one at a time. On the album, everyone tries to be both ‘sexy’ and ‘kawaii’ (cute) throughout, trying to think of and be the correct interpretation of both.
Can you explain that interpretation further?
Momoko: Kawaii...sexy...well, a sexy song is like when everyone whispers. And kawaii is...when the last words kind of...jump up at the end. (laughs)
What does it take to be an idol and what sort of difficulties do you face as one?
Maasa: Well, I don’t have to ‘act’ as an idol. (laughs) I try to be as natural as I can whilst having a loud voice and laughing. But, because I’m an idol, sometimes I feel I have to stay quiet to show everyone my natural side. (laughs)
Miyabi: When we do signings at events and shake hands, we have to stand in high heels for a long time so we get cramps in our legs. But I get used to it. (laughs)
Momoko: Yes, I feel like I’m an idol. (laughs)
Then, Momoko, what makes the ideal idol?
Momoko: Well, first, stick your pinky finger up...
Miyabi: You know, at lives, Momo is always wearing a pinky ring. Because, well...that’s what she does. (laughs)
Momoko: So next, you have to believe you are cute. It’s important! And communicating with the audience is important too.
Maasa: And you’ll have to be able to put your pinky finger up at all times—to show that you are cute.
Momoko: Then make a heart shape with your hands with your pinky up! Then you’re an idol!
Miyabi: But only Momo does that...(laughs)
How do you find time for other side projects while balancing Berryz Koubou?
Miyabi: I can change my personality with songs, but I also change it with the way I dress. So I really get into the character I’m playing, or the person I am, like with a cute pose. I can adapt easily to any project that I’m part of.
Would any of you consider becoming a voice actress?
All: Oh, I wanna try!
Saki: I actually tried it once, but it was very difficult.
Risako: I tried it too. It was very hard.
Do you feel like Berryz Koubou is reaching a point in its career where each of you want to explore other things?
Miyabi: I want to try being a model...a Berryz model. (some laughs)
Momoko: We saw a catwalk yesterday, before our show, and seeing it made us want to walk down it as models.
Who designed the costumes you are wearing now?
Miyabi: Our stylist and designers.
Maasa: They’re very glittery, aren’t they?
Momoko: The visual matches the song. The costumes we’re wearing now are the same costumes we wear in the opening of our shows in Japan. It’s very shocking for the audience because they’re so glittery.
For our readers who couldn’t attend the live here at Sakura-Con, could Chinami briefly explain the significance of the fish costume she wore and the reason behind her wearing it?
Chinami: At our lives in Japan, we often cosplay in different costumes. We actually used that fish costume in previous Berryz Koubou shows in Japan. We heard that Sakura-Con is very famous for people who cosplay. Also, Seattle is very famous for seafood. So when we came to Seattle and saw everyone cosplaying, I thought that I should cosplay too. (laughs) The staff had brought the fish costumes anyway so I decided to wear it—and that’s what happened. (laughs) The ‘tai’ is the red snapper and everyone wore a fish costume with the word ‘tai’ on it at one of our shows in Japan, but Momo was the fish market seller who wore long, rubber boots instead. So I wanted to do that again.
That was a catchy idea.
Maasa: Yes! That use of ‘tai’ was a Japanese joke: medachitai (wanting to stand out)...and that’s why everybody has to be a red snapper, ‘tai’.
What are your plans for the upcoming months?
Miyabi: More lives, definitely.
Finally, please give a message to our readers.
Risako: We couldn’t communicate directly with our fans as much as we would have liked to over these three days, but at least we had a little time to. Thanks for your support and please continue to support Berryz Koubou.
Yurina: We didn’t have much of a chance to look around and explore Seattle. But next time we come our fans should tell us where to go.
Miyabi: We were so amazed by the different people from around the world who came to our live. It was a rare experience and very eye-opening. I’d like to visit the many countries that they are from. Thank you for the support!
Maasa: Next time we come to Sakura-Con, I really want to try cosplaying.
Chinami: As I’ve already told you, I really like American food and gadgets. But also, I’d like to try cosplaying next time as well—but not the fish costume. (laughs)
Momoko: Our stay was very short; I’m sad that we have to leave. But next time, everyone visit us and come and see the sakura blossoms.
Saki: I’m glad that Berryz Koubou could attend Sakura-Con. I appreciate the support and hope to come back to the US again, so please support us.
JaME would like to thank Berryz Koubou, Yaz Noya and their management as well as JapanFiles for making this interview possible.