Saturday, 17 October 2015

Country Girls: We're a unique group even within Hello! Project、 so I want to make that our forte

{Interview published on the 18th of March 2015, after Tsugunaga Momoko had properly joined the group post-Berryz Kobo's hiatus, but before Country Girls' major début}

We are familiar with the 'Country Musume。' that Satoda Mai was attached to, which was formed in 1999. However, the group has been reborn as 'Country Girls'. They'll make their major début on the 25th of March with their single 『Itooshikutte Gomen ne/Koidorobo』! With “Momochi” Tsugunaga Momoko as their Playing Manager、 Country was reborn with 5 fresh girls. Let's get introduced to the characters of these members and find out what led them to aiming to become idols.

Tsugunaga Momoko
You fully joined the group as Playing Manager Momochi after Berryz Kobo ended with your last Budokan performance on the 3rd of March. Have you gotten used to the new environment?

Tsugunaga「It's been a smooth transition into Country Girls. I don't feel like I've had a change of heart in particular...... We're on the heels of our major début. so there's no time to be confused. I feel like I'll use up everything I've got to deal with the work I've got ahead of me」

Before Momochi had fully joined in, the one who played the role of leader and led events was the oldest among the 5 of you, Yamaki-san。

Yamaki「Right. I passed the baton to Momochi-senpai、 and when she led our events, I learnt a truckload of things by watching her from the sides, like different ways of doing things!」

Inaba「Speaking about Momochi-senpai, when it comes to talking, there's a lot to respect about her! We'll be getting even more opportunities to work together、 and I look forward to what I'll learn beyond this!」

Tsugunaga「Wait up、 you're making this hard on me~.(laughs) You haven't really flattered me much before this、 so I've got no idea what to do. Such overwhelming words of praise actually make me think, 『Are they making veiled threats?』laughs) I'm happy that you respect me in your hearts, but right now, I'm seriously thinking that you don't need to mention it here. (laughs)」

For the 3 of you in the younger group, your impression of Tsugunaga-san might only be “the Momochi that appears on television”.

Ozeki「Yes。 When I watched her on TV、 I thought “Momochi's so funny”. (laughs) Who knew that we would be holding activities together in the same group!」

Tsugunaga「Yup、 that's about right. Ozeki's the best!」

Shimamura「When I watched TV、 Momochi-senpai brightened up the atmosphere with her talking、 I always thought “That's Momochi for you!” (laughs)」


Tsugunaga「That's good、 because you're talking times before you joined the world of entertainment」

Inaba「I watched her on television before I became a Kenshuusei、 and her ability to talk was wonderful。 She was completely like an entertainer!」

Tsugunaga「You guys say quite a lot once you've been allowed to let loose, huh (laughs)」

Yamaki Risa
By the way、 the 5 of you besides Momochi-senpai came via the Morning Musume。 auditions, right。

Inaba「Mine was for the 9th gen auditions (2010)……」

Yamaki「Mine was the first run of 12th gen auditions (2013)。 The 3 younger ones were in the 2nd run of the 12th gen auditions (2014)」

Firstly、 what led you to aim for this world?

Inaba「Apparently I would dance whenever music was played when I was small、 and I've been learning dancing and singing from the age of 4。 In Hello! Project、 the level of singing and dancing is high、 and everyone has their own personality、 so I've always admired Hello! Project. So I tried my hand and auditioned. I failed、 but I was able to become a Kenshuusei。 I was able to learn a lot of things during my training period、 but was also among the oldest, so I felt rushed。 When the Morning Musume。12th generation members were decided、 I started thinking about the future、 and that was when I received word of Country Girls……。 My family who had always been cheering me on were overjoyed、 everyone celebrated it、 it was a joy!」

On the other hand、 Yamaki-san doesn't seem like someone who intended to become an idol from the outset。

Yamaki「Right. I love Hello! Project、 and more than wanting to become an idol、 I took up the auditions since I strongly felt that “I want to enter Morning Musume。” However、 the auditions I entered ended up having “no qualified person” as the result。 It was really heart-breaking、 but I became a Kenshuusei and experienced a lot of things。 However、 even though I was the oldest、 I was flustered as the younger senpai were good at singing、 and the new members of Morning Musume。 and ANGERME were from their ranks. With fellow Kenshuusei joining groups one after the other、 there was a period of time when I was really worried about what was lying in wait for me. But I felt really relieved when I was told 『You've been selected for Country Girls』!」

Inaba Manaka

For the 3 of you in the younger group, were your eyes on the world of entertainment from when you were small?

Ozeki「I was told by my mother that they were recruiting new members for Morning Musume。、 and I applied。 As I advanced through the judging process, the feeling of “I want to be an idol!” became stronger、 I really wanted to pass. In the end、 I failed the auditions、 but it was decided that I would be part of Country Girls。 Singing on-stage was a dream of mine、 so I was really happy!」

Shimamura「Liking Morning Musume。、 and thinking about trying out singing and dancing、 my mother sent in the audition application before I knew it (laughs)。I went 『Eh!?』 with surprise、 but I got so close to the end、 the result frustrated me so much that I'd cried。 Then I got  wind of Country Girls……。 I'm really happy that I'm now able to sing and dance on-stage」

Morito「I've been dancing from since I was in my first year of primary school、 and I got interested in Morning Musume。-san、 and tried out for the auditions。 When I heard about Country Girls、 I never would have imagined it、 so I was really surprised。 I was happy to be able to début as an idol!」

From Momochi-senpai's point of view、 what are the charms of the characters of these 5?

Tsugunaga「Hmmー、 where should I start?」

YamakiInaba「Ehー、 this is nerve-wracking!!」

Tsugunaga「But I'm afraid that if I give them too much praise, they might not work hard」

YamakiInaba「We'll work hard!」

Tsugunaga「(Yamaki) Risa-chan may say that she's nervous at the moment, but she's the kind of person who doesn't let it show on her face. Inside、 she might be enjoying herself、 or she might be embarrassed、 there might be all sorts of things happening in her mind ……。 Although I think that it's very professional、 she might seem more relatable if she lets her feelings show a bit more. Well、 people say that Momochi isn't relatable at all though. (laughs) She's got a good head on her shoulders、 she's knowledgeable、 though she's a bit clumsy. Also、 she's got the such lovely looks。 To those who like the grown-up feel of the oneesan type、 go for Risa-chan! (Inaba) Manaka-chan has a cute face!  A smile that can capture grown-up men。 She's got a bit of a impish feel to her。 And she can hold proper conversations even with grown-ups。 She's a girl who can maintain a conversation」

Morito Chisaki

Well then, how about the 3 in the younger group。

Tsugunaga「(Morito) Chisaki-chan's charm is that she's yet to be coloured、 which makes the people around her think “I'll dye her in my colour”。 The “cuttlefish type”: the better the fans get to know her, the more attached they grow to her…… But now I sound like I've turned into an idol critic (laughs)。 When she discovers her own colour、 we'll get hit with an intense force、 so I can't get careless either。 You could say she's an unpolished gemstone。 As for (Shimamura) Uta-chan、she's a person who gets more embarrassed than necessary。 But she has an aura when you see her on-stage。 Despite only having entered the world of entertainment for 4 months、 for her to start off with an aura, it's like she already started off with the trappings of an entertainer.」

Shimamura「Saying I have an aura、 it's kind ofー(embarrassed)」

Tsugunaga「Also、 I think she's got this frailty to her、 but seeing how she interacts in this interview、 I feel she's more level-headed than I thought. She's also talented at writing. These contrasts are irresistible. (Ozeki) Mai-chan's a “brat”.(laughs) She's the youngest、 but she has it easy because of that、 since she's forgiven for whatever she does。 She's lovable with her smile、 and a little mischievous。 She's the life of the party、 so I've got high hopes for her talking ability」

Ozeki「Thank you for those words!」

Among the members, is Ozeki-san the person who talks the most?

Inaba「Right、 it's like she's always talking backstage」

Ozeki「But、 there are times when I'm really mature!」

Tsugunaga「You can't be the one declaring yourself mature! Since I've fully experienced that stage myself (laughs)。 And、 standing at the vanguard and leading these 5、 is me、 Momochi。 The difference of 10 years is quite huge。 But I've gotten used to it (laughs)。 And I won't lose to them! How wonderful (laughs)。 In the future、 there'll be even more opportunities to get along with everyone、 all sorts of chemical reactions will occur、 and I think we'll become an even more enjoyable group」

Shimamura Uta

And on the other hand, from the kouhai perspective、 what's an unexpected aspect of Momochi-senpai?

Yamaki「Something that's unexpected is that she plays a lot of mobile games」

Inaba「Ah、 I thought that too!」

Yamaki「I had the chance to glance at Momochi-senpai's phone……」

Tsugunaga「Wait、 stop itー」

Yamaki「When Momochi-senpai opened her phone、 I had the opportunity to confirm it from behind her. When the screen went on、 it opened to the middle of a puzzle game。 She was playing it in the dressing room just now、 she's really into it」

Yamaki-san sneaked a glance at Momochi-senpai's phone、 how suspicious……。 Since we know that you are an ardent fan of Michishige Sayumi-san、 and there are rumours that you really love the H!P senpai members。

Yamaki「Ah、 I didn't go out of my way to look at her mobile phone!(laughs)」

Tsugunaga「The clothes that Risa-chan wears for lessons are T-shirts used by people who are crazy about Michishige-san. When I saw her wearing those、  I thought, 'This girl is serious'. (laughs)」

You weren't afraid that she'd turn her interest twoards to you?

Tsugunaga「I think it's probably because she doesn't have such an attraction to me as she does with Michishige-san」

Yamaki「But、 I watch Momochi-senpai more than Momochi-senpai might realise ♡」

Inaba「Me too! Me too! I watch from places that she won't notice ♡。 Seeing her from up-close, she really is cute!」

Tsugunaga「(lost for words)……… Quit it……」

What if their approach becomes more proactive in the future……。

Tsugunaga「If it turns out that way、 first of all, I'll escape from the dressing room! I'll stay in the staff room (laughs)」

Ozeki Mai

Finally, please tell us your goals in the future as Country Girls、 and as individuals。

Inaba 「As Country Girls also includes the expectation of being a group that'll be accepted globally、 I'd like to hold an overseas concert someday。 But first, I'd like as many people to know about us、 to watch our performances。 I like acting as well、 so I think it would be great to try out stage-acting」

Yamaki 「At any rate, I strongly feel that I'd like to all of us to be friends. Not in the sense that we never fight, but that there'll be a friendly rivalry between the six of us, and we'd advance step-by-step together. Singing is a feature of Hello! Project,  and because of that、 I personally would like to work hard at singing in particular」

Ozeki 「With Momochi-senpai having joined in、 so I'd like to appear on lots of variety programmes! If I act energetic as usual、 I think that my energy will show through my performances、 so that's my “rule”……」


Tsugunaga「Ozeki、 that's greatー!」

Ozeki「Ah、 I'll keep that in mind (laughs)、 I'd like to do my best to give energy to everyone」

Shimamura 「In the future, I think it would be great to have activities overseas。 For me、 it would be nice to develop my singing and dancing、 and be able to do fun performances、 ones that the audience would be able to enjoy as well」

Morito 「I'd like to do lots of concerts、 to the extent that we can hold concerts by ourselves! I'd like to raise the level of my singing and dancing、 and be told 『You're good』」

Finally, from Momochi-senpai、 your aspirations from now on。

Tsugunaga 「Even within Hello! Project, we're a unique group, so the main thing is that I want to make that our forte。 As Playing Manager、 while I'd like to draw out everyone's charms while keeping to the sidelines, I won't give up what makes me who I've been up until now. I'll move on forwards and forwards, taking up all the delicious parts. I'd like them to think of that as something undesirable, so that they'll step up and daringly bring themselves forward so that they don't lose out. If that happens、 we'll become a great, synergistic group. So in a good way、 it would be nice to become a group which has that greed, as well as humility!」

Wakatteirunoni Gomenne / Tamerai Summer Time / Country GirlsWakatteirunoni Gomenne / Tamerai Summer Time / Country Girls

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