22 pages of Karin-chan. A long interview, filling up 16 pages with walls of text. That's not counting the cover page, the 'table of contents' photo, and the attached postcard. The title of this magazine, 'Idol and Read', isn't just for show - it's got photos of idols, and an overwhelming amount of text. These excerpts make up roughly two-thirds of the interview with cover girl Miyamoto Karin, clocking in at over 4000 words. Just in time for Juice=Juice's Taipei and Hong Kong concerts! It's a long read, but I hope you enjoy this journey into the mind of Hello! Project's idol cyborg.
Personally, what is your view of the present state of Juice=Juice in 2015?
I think that we're moving onwards and onwards. For Juice=Juice, the 5 of us think, 'Let's polish up our performances even more', so we're all heading in the same direction. Through our livehouse tour, we've gone to all sorts of places by ourselves. It was by no means the short road, but if you were to ask me, it passed by in the blink of an eye. I'd like to aim even higher, and progress forward. Also, our original goal was to go around all 47 prefectures, but we only got to go to 38 prefectures in our first tour. So it would be great if we could conquer the 47 prefectures through the 220 performances in our upcoming nationwide tour.
At your first Nakano Sunplaza tour by yourselves, you performed your new song 'Tsudzuiteiku STORY' from your album 'First Squeeze!', and Miyamoto Karin, you couldn't hold back and broke into tears. Why did you cry then?
Looking back on Juice=Juice up until then...... This may be obvious, but with lyrics like 'Yume wo Katatta Nakamatachi, Egao to Ase no Jikan Ryokou' (We friends talked about our dreams, time-travelling through sweat and smiles) or 'Fuan de Ugokenakattari... Joudan de Waraiattari... Mainichi ga Takaramono deshita' (Unable to move due to anxiety... Laughing due to jokes... Every day was a treasure), I got into them, as they fit Juice=Juice's story to a tee...... Nakano Sunplaza was also the very first stage that I got to stand on when I was in the H!P Eggs (H!P Kenshuusei), so the many things that had happened since then came to mind. Being able to stand on that stage for Juice=Juice's first one-man live made me feel happy, and I was emotionally moved!
For that day's performance, I wrote an article with the headline 'Even the idol cyborg's eyes had tears', but what led to Miyamoto Karin to start being called the 'idol cyborg'?
I was being called that before I realised it, but honestly I'm not an idol cyborg at all (laughs). And so, every time I'm called that, I steel myself, thinking that I have to be perfect, but my fingers are clumsy, and there are lots of things about me that are awkward, I'll cry at concerts, like I did at Nakano Sunplaza. More than a perfect idol, I'm more of a human idol. Of course I'd like to aim for perfection, but I don't adhere to the idol framework when it comes to facial expressions for songs. I'd like to become a person who can pull off all sorts of expressions.
In what ways do you resemble your parents?
It's been said that my voice is similar to my mother's...... I don't really think that there's anything else that's similar (laughs). From my great-grandmother, my hastiness, the way I talk, doing as I please, I think those are what's similar, but with my father...... Ah, when I was small, I was told that we had similar faces.
So, your father has a sweet face?
I have no idea about that (laughs), but I was often told that ours were similar.
You've been alive for 16 years so far, so please let us hear a story in which you thought 'I really caused trouble to my family'.
One day, my mother picked me up by car, and we had a fight inside the car. I was mad, and even though it was raining, I was like 'I've had enough of this!', and got out of the car. I can't remember what the fight was about, so I probably was mad over some silly thing (laughs). And I didn't have a mobile phone, I only had about 1000 yen in cash, hardly enough to get me home. And then, I didn't have an umbrella with me and my shoes were drenched, so I bought a vinyl umbrella and cheap vinyl sandals with that 1000 yen. Having already exhausted my money with that, I had to walk over 20 kilometres to get back home, but my mother was really worried, thinking that I wouldn't come back home. I think that I caused trouble to her in that situation. But I had it tough too though!
How did your family react when they found out that you'd be making your début as a member of Juice=Juice?
I'd been a Kenshuusei for donkey's years, so they went 'Congratulations!' My family has always been supporting me.
In the first place, what led Miyamoto Karin to setting her goal to become an idol?
I'd been going to dance school from the middle classes of kindergarten. The anime 'Kirarin☆Revolution' was the craze at the time, so I fell in love not just with dancing, but singing as well. At that point, I listened to a lot of Matsuda Seiko-san's songs thanks to my mother's influence, and there are those home karaoke systems where you can put cassettes in, right? I sang selections of Matusda Seiko-san with that, and I found out about auditions when I was in primary school!
Like 'I could be an idol too'?
Then, my mother found out about the H!P Egg auditions. And I passed those.
And you became a member of the H!P Eggs in 2008, but what sort of world was the H!P world once you actually had gotten into it?
I don't remember it well, as I was still young at the time, but I remember being surprised that Noel (Kitahara Sayaka)-chan and Kobeni (Kikkawa Yuu)-chan from 'Kirarin☆Revolution' were there. Because I really loved 'Kirarin☆Revolution' (laughs). Also, I'd been going for dance lessons up to then, but the degree of difficulty of singing and dancing in the H!P Egg went beyond my imagination! It was tough.
Do you still remember your first time on-stage?
I do. I didn't dance or sing on my very first stage appearance, but I introduced myself, decked in a blouse and plaid skirt. At the time, it was like, 'At any rate, I can't forget what I have to say!' 'My favourite food is this and that, the senpai I look up to is her and her......' Also, the first time I sang and danced on-stage was at the April Shinjin Kouen, and I got to sing 'Zukyun Love' and 'Suki na Senpai' while caught up in a storm of nervousness. And then, what really left an impression was 'Koi suru ♥ Angel Heart'. The dance was difficult like you wouldn't believe, I couldn't remember it! The leg movements were really complicated. But I practised with everything I had, every day, for hours on hours. It was really tough, but I never want to forget that feeling, and I think of it even now.
After getting into the H!P Eggs, it was hardly a simple task for Miyamoto Karin to début. The Morning Musume。 9ki audition in 2010, the 2011 S/mileage 2ki audition and the Morning Musume。 10ki 'Genki Jirushi' auditions, the 2012 Morning Musume。 11ki 'Suppin Utahime' auditions, you were unsuccessful at all of those. How did you come to grips with the repeated failures?
For the Morning Musume。 9ki auditions, Fukumura Mizuki-chan passed, which made me think 'Congratulations!' As a senpai had been picked, I felt like 'I have to do my best! I'll follow up from Fukumura Mizuki-chan!' But on the other hand, Sayashi Riho-san and Suzuki Kanon-san, who were the same age as I was, joined as 9ki members, so I also had felt frustrated. Then, I got to the final judging round of the S/mileage 2ki auditions, but I was unable to pass. What's more, when we found out the results, I was together with the H!P Egg members that had taken the auditions, at the cheering seats on-stage. In that case, I knew that I really shouldn't cry...... But even though we were on stage, the tears wouldn't stop, I was unable to do anything. But then I thought carefully about what I lacked, and went for the Morning Musume。 10ki 'Genki Jirushi' auditions, but at the final stage, when I found out that Kudo Haruka-chan got accepted while I had failed, I cried to the point that I couldn't go to lessons the next day.... I was so frustrated! Kudo-chan was a kouhai, and I fully felt like 'I won't be able to make a début at this rate'.
That's definitely the answer one would come up with after 3 consecutive failures.
Indeed, I couldn't think of anything. And, if I hadn't passed by the time I got to the 3rd year of middle school, I'd only be a normal senior high student, I spent the days while thinking 'How will my future turn out to be like?' But I definitely loved singing and dancing, so I did activities while thinking 'I have to work hard and develop!', and then I applied for the 2012 Morning Musume。 11ki 'Suppin Utahime' auditions, but I was unsuccessful once again. At the time, I thought 'There probably isn't any hope for me. I have to start thinking about all sorts of things, like studies'.
You'd hit your limit?
Everyone around me was making their début, with quite a number of kouhais making their début as well, I thought that it was too late for me, I'd be unable to make my début. In the middle of that, Kanazawa Tomoko-chan joined in like she was a scholarship student, despite being at an age where you wouldn't be able to join the H!P Kenshuusei, and in my eyes, 'Ah, this girl is going to début'.
When you were feeling at your limit in 2013, a new group was formed in Hello! Project. That group was Juice=Juice, and Miyamoto Karin was picked as one of its members. The long-dreamed-of début. Do you remember your mental state at the time?
For us in the H!P Egg and H!P Kenshuusei, we have no idea when we might lose our positions as Kenshuusei, until the very end. There isn't any form of graduation, so it'd be like we quit in order to prepare for exams without even saying a parting 'Thank you for everything up to now'. And there are cases where it would be announced on the home page, but in most cases, there wouldn't be an announcement. Without realising it, your name would be erased from the profile list.
And that possibility might have happened to you.
Yes. However, even though we had no idea when we might end up in that state, there were lots of people giving us support. And so, when I was chosen as a member of Juice=Juice, I thought that I could finally repay that support.
Your fans at the time must have been overjoyed, from the bottom of their hearts.
Also, I'd always thought that I wanted to début with a composition by Tsunku♂-san, and it made me really happy that it came true. I really liked how Tsunku♂-san depicted the image of a contrarian girl, who shows her weakness despite appearing self-assured. It made me really happy to get to sing that.
Ever since Juice=Juice were indie, you got rave reviews from musical types, 'A sound that's different than the H!P we've had so far', 'New and cool'.
I heard 'Watashi ga Iu Mae ni Dakishimenkya ne' before our unit name 'Juice=Juice' was announced, but all the members were surprised at how mature it was. Because we thought it'd be more brimming-with-youthful-spirit. But we thought 'This really demands performing ability'. Honestly, we had a lot of people who lacked experience with dancing, it was really tough to master it, it went down to the detailed movements of our fingertips. For myself, I prefer dynamic movements, but I'm really bad at delicate movements. But through Juice=Juice's choreography, I got to tackle with the areas that I'm bad with through and through and through, so I think I was able to develop.
What sort of person are you in the classroom? Surely you stand out prominently....?
No, I don't really stand out. Particularly in the upper grades of primary school, where I didn't have anyone I was really close with, it was like my friends were my desk and the walls......
It sounds a bit heartbreaking.
That's pretty much how it was (laughs).
It's busy work being an idol, and I think that you must end up with all sorts of feelings and thoughts that you'd like to let out, but for you, who listens out to those thoughts? Your friends? Family?
You don't say anything to anyone?
Right. I probably vent those thoughts out through my performances.
At the time when I was unsuccessful at every audition, I did voice out to my manager-san that I was frustrated, or something like 'I don't understand how it turned out this way', but rather than voicing out my worries in words, I often change them into actions. Perhaps I've always been venting it out through performing.
What is Juice=Juice to Miyamoto Karin?
Juice=Juice, unlike Morning Musume。-san, has no new members that have joined in, the members have been the 5 of us from the very start, from when Juice=Juice was first formed. When we got the name Juice=Juice, it really made me proud that I was among the 5 of them. Also, each and every one of us in Juice=Juice is really unique, but as a group, we can't be beat. In that way, I think it's a place that we can always return to, it feels like we've all made it into a place for ourselves. So Juice=Juice can't be missing even a single person.
I'd now like to touch upon the members of Juice=Juice. So what sort of person is leader Miyazaki Yuka?
Yuka-chan is really airy and cute, girly to no end. Among the members, she's the most feminine! Make-up is one thing, and even for hairstyles, she'll think 'What sort of hairstyles would the fans enjoy the most?' She'd do a ponytail, she'd do twintails, she'd try out all sorts of things, making roughly 3 changes. It's an intuition I lack, so I think it's amazing.
Continuing on, Kanazawa Tomoko.
Kanazawa Tomoko-chan's skill at talking is amazing! She's really reliable at interviews like this or when we're on-stage. ..... However, backstage, when's she's really charged up, she's like an entertainer, and that's really amusing. She's good at jokes, she's got quick wits, and so she's able to lead the members through MC segments. When there's a talk at an event, her presence is really reassuring.
Continuing on, Takagi Sayuki.
I've been together with Sayuki for a long time, but I feel that she's a really powerful girl. Her singing is powerful, and she's the kind of person who always burns with fighting spirit, she even flares up while on-stage. Because of how heated up she is, it draws in the other members who also get fired up, and it's a strong point for Juice=Juice to have a member like that among us. While we won't lose out to her, Sayuki truly is passionate.
Continuing on, Uemura Akari.
She's the same age as me, but no one would think it looking at us (laughs). Because she seems so grown-up. So people often say that we're like 'oneechan and imouto', but you'll find that she's quite mischievous inside once you talk with her, or that she's really sweet. Also, at any rate, she seems like a prodigy. One example would be dance moves, where something that would take me hours, she'd have it pat down in about 30 minutes, somehow or the other. So she's an mysterious entity.
Well then, what sort of member do you think Miyamoto Karin is in Juice=Juice?
It's hardest to talk about yourself! Let me see...... I'm not really a person who's able to lead the group, I gaze at everyone quietly (laughs). But because of that, I think that I've got to be more passionate than anyone at performing when we're on-stage, while on the other hand, I've got to be the person who makes everyone think 'We can't lose to her!'
How does it feel to stand as the centre of Juice=Juice?
I think that everyone in Juice=Juice plays a leading role. But I'd like to lead the group in passion and expressive power, and for each song we perform, I'd be the person who has read into the song the most. When it comes to 'Turning completely into the girl in the world of the song', I'll do it in a way that I definitely won't lose to anyone.
Does Miyamoto Karin have a H!P member that she's set as a goal, a senpai idol she looks up to? It would be fine even if they've graduated, but could you please tell us if there's anyone like that?
I really like Niigaki Risa-san, and even now I look up to her. The way Niigaki-san gets the crowd pumped, and her really strong ability to squeeze the hearts of the audience in the middle of a song, those are things that I'd like to learn from her example. Also, Takahashi Ai-san's facial expressions. Depending on the song, she can be cool, cute, or sexy, and what's more, she's got an innumerable repertoire while being stylish, I'd like to make having those sorts of expressions as my goal.
I see, you like the Morning Musume。 5ki members. The AiGaki pairing.
Also, I really like Tanaka Reina-san, but Takagi Sayuki-chan loves Reina-san so so much that I can't really say that I like her too (laughs). But I love her cute voice, and whatever expression she's got on her face, Tanaka Reina-san's core doesn't waver, she's always Tanaka Reina-san. She's really cool. Of course, I like the current Morning Musume。-san as well, but the age of Morning Musume。-san that's called the Platinum Generation had a great influence on me.
Having been influenced by your favourite H!P senpais, what sort of idol would Miyamoto Karin like to become?
I think that idols have to lift the spirits of the guests who watch them and meet them, they have to give them vitality for the next day onwards. While doing the things I enjoy, that is, 'dancing and singing', I think that it's really a joy that there are people who enjoy it, whose spirits are lifted by it. However, I'd like to deliver performances that bring me to my very limits. For idols, even as we aim higher and higher, there's still some higher level, it never ends. And yet, I think that gradually aiming higher is what an idol is, so I'll raise myself onwards, asking 'How far can we go?'
For Miyamoto Karin, what's the dream that you'd like to bring to fruition as Juice=Juice?
Our first goal is the Nippon Budokan that we're currently touting. And, ever since our formation, Juice=Juice have continued to discuss about 'We would like to advance towards the world someday', so I hope that we'll be able to perform live overseas.
You still have no experience performing live overseas?
Not at all. I myself have never gone overseas.
Ah, that's unexpected.
But I've got a passport (laughs).
So that you can do an overseas performance at any time?
That's right! I can go at any time! With all the trouble, I'd like my first time overseas to be as Juice=Juice.
What do you think about your kouhai groups. Kobushi Factory, Tsubaki Factory?
Every time I see them perform, I think 'An amazing group of girls have appeared', 'Amazing, amazing'.
Just watching them, they feel like a threat. But I think 'We definitely won't lose. We'll do our best in order to not lose'. While I think that there isn't any winning or losing when it comes to performing, but because we're Juice=Juice, I think it's because it's the 5 of us that we'll carefully do our best in things like expression or the group's colour.
Under those circumstances, it must be truly meaningful that Juice=Juice was able to attain a 1st place on the Oricon charts. How did that 1st place feel like?
I was surprised! Our leader Miyazaki Yuka-chan said 'I've got an important announcement', and the first thing I thought was 'Eh, is someone going to graduate?'......
Indeed, you do get that impression from 'important announcements' now (laughs).
And then I was thinking about all sorts of things, and what do you know, it was a 1st place announcement. I think there was nothing but surprise, joy, and feelings of gratitude, but as much as we had received a good result, wouldn't it mean that the next one would become even more important, wouldn't the expectations on us be raised? That's what I noticed. There's the pressure of the degree of our 'We've got to cherish it' spirit gradually growing greater. However, more than feeling the joy, I feel even more that 'I've got to work even harder after this!'
And in the midst of that, you declared that 'Our goal is to hold a performance by ourselves at the Nippon Budokan!' What turn of events led to that decision?
It was the result of discussions between the members and the staff. We've seen a lot of our senpai's concerts at Budokan, and we've even got to stand on that stage as the opening act, but it's not a stage that one can stand on with half-hearted feelings, so we have to work way harder to aim for our own performance there. But we have to make it a reality.
Amongst the ones you've seen, which Budokan performance was unforgettable.
I actually went to Matsuda Seiko-san's Budokan performance. I was really small, but I remember it well. She was super-duper cute, and her singing was amazing as well. I was awed, even as a child, always shouting out 'Seiko-chan!', 'Seiko! Seiko!' I can't forget that Budokan performance.
Is that the roots of Miyamoto Karin becoming an idol?
Perhaps? But there's no denying Matsuda Seiko-san's influence on me.
With the goal of realising the Nippon Budokan, your first album 'First Squeeze!' was completed to act as a trigger. What sort of production do you feel its turned out to be?
I think it's amazing that it includes all of Juice=Juice's songs up to now, and the new songs are new songs of types that Juice=Juice hasn't had before. What's more, we also got to record covers of songs by our senpai, so wouldn't that make it an album that anyone would enjoy listening to?
The song 'Tsudzuiteiku STORY' that made Miyamoto Karin cry is also recorded on it.
Right (laughs). Ever since the first time I heard this song, I thought that you couldn't sing the lyrics without breaking into tears, there are parts of it where we sing of what's happened to Juice=Juice so far, so I thought that it'd become a precious song for us. Also, we've got 220 performances after this, and if we sing this song at the Nippon Budokan, I think it would become a richer and deeper song. The more Juice=Juice's story continues on, the more precious 'Tsudzuiteiku STORY' will get.
On the occasion of seeing you perform it for the first time at Nakano Sunplaza, I had that hunch.
However, I'd always always like to continue singing it. It's a song I love. Personally the phrase 'Watashi ha Daijoubu, Minna to Sodatetekita Egao ga koko ni aru kara, mou Mayowanai wa' (I'll be fine, because here, there's the smile that was nurtured with everyone, I won't hesitate any more) makes my chest squeeze, so I'd like you to pay attention to it.
With this production, you also recorded (Taiyou to Ciscomoon cover) 'Magic of Love', which has already knocked people off their feet when you performed it at concerts that you've held here and there, and it raised voices of jubilation from the fans.
When I first saw Taiyou and Ciscomoon-san perform it at their reunion, it felt like a wall that couldn't be overcome. But when I heard that we would be covering that song, I thought 'Eh? Can we pull it off?' And still, we've been singing the song since our first concert, and in this recording, it's been arranged for Juice=Juice, and it ended up being titled 'Magic of Love (J=J 2015 Ver.)' Now it's a song that can unite all of us, and I personally love it too, and I think that it'll become a song that gradually becomes more important to us.
For that, I'm actually a real negative thinker (laughs). However, when I'm singing or dancing, I get into the mind of the protagonist of the song, so what I'm worrying about at that moment doesn't matter. For those who came to watch us perform live, rather than my present state, letting them have a good time is number one, so I think that my manner of negative thinking doesn't come out on stage or when I'm performing.
That style of getting into the mind of the song's protagonist, when did you cultivate it?
Even now it's not really my speciality, but I was really bad at singing a long time ago. Like for karaoke scores, you can get like 70 points, right?
Normally, you'd get about that amount when you sing.
However, I'd get 40 points.
I intended to sing normally, but I got hammered by the scores! And then lots of people told me, 'You're tone deaf, tone deaf', and I never got better no matter how many times I sang, so there was a time when I was like 'I hate singing!' But when I listened to songs by various people, and I noticed 'It's not about the number of points you get for the song, it starts with the feelings, the thoughts'. Since then, I put the feelings before the song, and I'd think deeply about the feelings of the protagonist in the song, about the message contained within the song.
For Miyamoto Karin, what's your ideal form of an expressive performer?
Matsuda Seiko-san. I like Matsuda Seiko-san's songs, and I've sung them at karaoke, but I immediately notice something when I try to sing them. The depth is completely different. Matsuda Seiko-san said this herself, 'Even before you let your voice out, if you can't get into the feelings of the protagonist of the song, you won't be able to sing it'. So, I'd like to keep that in mind, and sing carefully.
Well then, how about aiming to be the Matsuda Seiko of this age?
No-! ...... But, that is so. I'll do my best to get to that level of expressiveness!