Amongst the readers. there may be people who have no idea why Kumai-san is here. Please give an explanation, even a brief one would be fine, of the extent that Kumai-san has an essential place within Fukuda-san's life as an idol.
Fukuda: That's right...... The first thing that made me like Berryz Kobo-san is their ages, that played a big part. Up to then, idols had been like older oneesans, but [Berryz Kobo-san] were in my generation, people who I might have been friends with had we gone to the same school, they were shining. Seeing that, it gave me a push, like 'I should do my best too'...... They gave me courage. Among them was Kumai-san...... Before I knew it, my eyes just kept following Kumai-san. It's always been that way, ever since the times of 'Anata Nashi de ha Ikite Yukenai'. I'm fickle when it comes to idols, immediately oshihen-ing. However, why is it that Kumai-san's the only the only one I've continued to oshi? I thought about it a week ago, while I was on the Shinkansen. What I noticed is that, idols change and develop, in looks, expression, and singing, right? But for Kumai-san, despite going through those sorts of external changes, within her, since the days of her début, her core of being Kumai Yurina-san has never wavered. I think that it's because of that that my support for her has never changed. If it were an anime, it would be fine to remain unchanged, but part of the attraction of idols is that they change. But, as a fan, there's that delicate line of not wanting them to change as well. On that point, Kumai-san always treads exactly on it, keeping to that line.
Although I said that you could be brief (bitter laugh). However, Fukuda-san, you're very knowledgeable about idols in general. What was it that made Kumai-san special?
Fukuda: Even though she's such a wonderful person, she doesn't put on airs! Even though she has a cool look on her face in photos, when you talk with her, she's airy and adorable. Being the pioneer for that gap got me excited!
Kumai: It's kind of embarrassing. It's like Kanon knows me from head to toe. Even when I think about myself, I'm unable to put it that well in words, so instead, this is a good reference for me (laughs).
It's been 11 years in the past since Fukuda-san entered in the 1st generation of the H!P Eggs. Kumai-san, surely you didn't have an impression of Fukuda-san at the time?
Kumai: Ah, but I remember that in the middle of the Yokohama Arena rehearsals, Kanon talked with Maasa, who's good in the field of stage-acting.
Fukuda: I joined in primary 4th, and the system was that those in primary 3rd and below couldn't appear at concerts, so I was the smallest. There, everyone talked to me. As Eggs, there's virtually no opportunities to interact, so it made me really happy when a senpai would talk to me. Like, 'The people I've watched on TV are talking to me!'
You weren't scared of Berryz Kobo at the time?
Fukuda: I wasn't scared at the time (laughs).
As Fukuda-san mentioned, the 2 of you aren't far apart in age.
Fukuda: While we're close in age, we lived in different worlds. When I joined S/mileage and started to blog, I wrote a post on the lines of 'I'll announce my H!P oshimen'. I picked a name from each group, and Kumai-san alone had a ton of hearts surrounding her name. But at the time, it was an age where the concept of oshimen wasn't understood, so I was criticised by the fans, 'Giving a rank to your senpai is quite rude!' Nowadays it'd be like, 'Ah~, I see', but I'd gotten a flood of flaming comments (laughs).
It might have been something that was natural to talk about for you, Fukuda-san. Because some pro baseball players start baseball because they looked up to their favourite players.
Fukuda: But, how do I put this...... Rather than wanting to become an idol or an entertainer, it was because it was Hello! Project that I wanted to join. When we first started out as the 4-person S/mileage, we said 'Let's pursue our own interests'. Even if it meant establishing a character. Like now, how Ayacho is with Buddha statues. In my case, it was Hello! Project. Thinking 'It's the thing I love most in my life, so being like an wotaku will be fine. And so, I'll master it even more!' and it got stronger.
For Fukuda-san, you couldn't help loving H!P.
Fukuda: Yeah. So I think it was good that I joined in my 4th year of primary school. If I hadn't joined, once I'd got to the age where I could go to events, I'd probably become an wotaku who immediately would be NG-ed (banned from coming and going) by the office. If that happened, then I wouldn't be able to enter H!P, right!?
Your graduation is drawing closer, so how is your present state of mind?
Fukuda: It hasn't hit me yet, so I still don't feel sad. On the contrary, it gets me excited, thinking that I'll be able to watch Hello! from the viewpoint of a fan.
Fukuda: Our group is a group that changes members, just like Morning Musume。´15-san. In that case, I thought there there's nothing that makes me have to always be an idol. That there would come a day when I'd have to graduate. That was when we added the 3ki members and changed our name. In the midst of discussions with the staff, of its own accord, my mouth went 'Well, I'll graduate at this time', the words were just blurted out. But I don't regret letting out those words. Instead, I think it was well timed. Berryz Kobo-san had announced their hiatus, and Hello! Project was gradually changing, so I thought it was a good time for me to change as well.
Berryz Kobo's hiatus definitely was something big for you.
Fukuda: For me, Hello! Project is a place where the senpai that I've always admired are in front of my eyes. Continuing to run after the backs of the senpai, never surpassing them even though I'd like to surpass them someday...... That was always fun, and I sometimes think that that's what Hello! Project's about. But now, at Hello! Con rehearsals, it's like the almost everyone is wearing yellow Kenshuusei T-shirts, and the kouhais are making their début one after the other. Well, simply put, I'm glad that I'll be graduating next after Berryz Kobo-san.
Kumai: Is that so~. For me, I really couldn't make up my mind though. Until this very day, I'm still lost. Like 'What do I do after this?' However, that's an indispensable part of life, it's something that everyone faces. Worries are a given. And so, in the end, I now think that the only thing I can do is go full throttle though.
Half a year has passed since the hiatus, but what has changed?
Kumai: Berryz Kobo have entered an indefinite hiatus, and I really think that I had been in a fortunate environment up to then. The half year since then has passed in the blink of an eye. Because I don't have something that will always continue on, circumstances have changed, and I'm really starting from zero. The members aren't around, so I've only got myself to bring out my own uniqueness. That's something that's harder than what you'd imagine.
She'll be by herself as a lyricist, but do you have any advice as a senpai in solo activities?
Kumai: It might be better to not think of your current environment as a given. Because while you might have quarrels with the other members at times, once you don't have any partners you can't even have a fight! If you lose your way, you should take another look, what's important is that you think about what it is that you want to do now.
I think that Fukuda-san has her own characteristics that are unique to herself.
Kumai: Yes. That's why I feel she'll be completely fine.
Fukuda: U~m, I've lived my life with hobby = Berryz Kobo, Special Skill ~ Berryz Kobo, so I don't have anything in particular. The fans have said 'Sing even when you've graduated, okay', but for me, it's difficult. I do think that I could get away with this level of singing because I'm an idol, and in this world, there are countless others who possess the skills, like they were born to sing...... It's because I'm unable to fight on that field, I thought that I should polish up even more the things that only I possess though.
Kumai: Well, that's pretty level-headed!
As a senpai in solo activities, do you have anything you would like to ask your senpai Kumai-san?
Fukuda: You've been together with the members for countless years, and there are times when you get fed up, right? However, you definitely do miss them, don't you?
Kumai: Honestly, oc~casionally there'll be some activity in Berryz Kobo's LINE group, and I'll miss them, like 'Ah, it's been ages!' Miya works together with Chinami, and I'll see Maasa as we're both in the same company. Rather than feeling like we've gone back to those times, it feels more like we were friends from way back.
Your trusty companion of eleven years, Wada-san, must be feeling lonely.
Fukuda: She doesn't really show anything of the kind to me, she's said 'I'll be fine since the 2ki members are around', Instead, it makes me feel lonely, like 'I see. It'll be fine without me around'.
Kumai: Well~, isn't that just her acting tough? Because for Ayacho, she'll finally be by herself. In her own way, Ayacho's thinking about her own life. And so, I feel that Ayacho will be chasing after Kanon's back from now on.
You entered the Eggs when you were in the 4th year of primary school, and now you're twenty. Has your way of thinking changed?
Fukuda: It changed when I made my début in S/mileage. When I was an Egg, everyone was a rival, and I only thought of myself. We didn't have any assurances for the future, I was always insecure, I thought that everyone was an enemy! But ever since I got into the group, I could think about what I wanted to pursue, and I could calmly take a look at everything.
Fukuda: At the time [when I was an Egg], I constantly had an irritating disposition. When a Hello! Project setlist was passed to us, there wasn't a song that I didn't know. I was simply glad, 'I can pull off these songs!' However, if I heard someone say 'What's this song~?', I'd be like 'Why haven't you studied up everything despite being in H!P!' 'Do you really feel like making your début?' I was always irritating. And, whenever those girls would get work before me, I really couldn't hold back the frustration and disappointment...... However, as a result, the only ones remaining in H!P from my generation are only myself and Ayacho, so I'm really glad that I just continued on with my love of Hello! Project.
When you found out that Fukuda-san had been selected for S/mileage, Kumai-san, what ddid you think?
Kumai: 'Just as I thought!' Kanon was a fanatic, wasn't she? S/mileage had a line-up of 4 cuties, it was like 'An amazing group of girls are making their début. Honestly, they might trump Berryz Kobo'. Because, firstly, a 4-person group itself was something new, you were fresh, your songs were high-spirited, and you were cheerful.
On that note, Fukuda-san sung 'Anshinkan' at the Hello!Con.
Kumai: I'm glad that it was Kanon. 'Anshinkan' is a really memorable song for me, that I couldn't even sing it at my birthday event the other day. It's because it's so important, I don't want to immediately just go out and sing it. However, if it's Kanon, I honestly think that I want her to sing it.
Fukuda: When I saw 'Anshinkan' in the setlist, I thought that I couldn't sing it! Because there are still fans who haven't sorted out their feelings, so I also did feel like it was inexcusable. But it would be rude to sing it with half-hearted, anxious feelings...... For this, I resolved that I had to do it to completion.
After all this time, is there noting more that you'd like to tell Kumai-san?
Fukuda: In front of Kumai-san, I have less words.
From just now, you haven't been looking Kumai-san in the eyes at all (laughs).
Fukuda: I can't look at Kumai-san when I'm talking with her (laughs).
Well then, finally, Kumai-san, please give a message to Fukuda-san.
Kumai: That's right..... We'll still be buddies even when you've graduated, so please contact me any time! Let's go to Disneyland, okay!
Fukuda: I'll be free around Disney Christmas, so let's (laughs)!
Kumai: I get surprised when Kanon pops out in my timeline as someone with 'Free time right now', but it's always at the times when I'm in the middle of work, so maybe we should faithfully check our timelines.
Fukuda: I'll set mine to 'Free' every day!
Moving towards the graduation?
Kumai: There's still 2 months to go, so at any rate, don't have any regrets! The only time you can do it is now, so finish up what you can do. Please graduate with a momentum that's like 'There nothing beyond this that I can do for ANGERME!'
Fukuda: Thank you very much!
Kumai: Thank you very much!