Country Girls New Members
A direct assault on Yanagawa Nanami and Funaki Musubu!
We hear about the particulars of Country Girls from the start, when they joined the group, until recently!
We would never have expected the appearance of such debaters on the idol scene. You wouldn't think that they actually were newbies, watching them shrewdly explaining their vision without a hint of fear. And in the midst of the discussion, Momochi-senpai's ability to draw out their innate talents comes to light. This confirms things. We can see nothing but a bright future for Country Girls!
Entering their 2nd year of middle school
Truly did make them slightly impatient
Congratulations on joining the group! Have you gotten a little used to it?
: Yeah! Compared to when we first joined.
Yanagawa: At the Hello! Project New Year's concert (Hello!Con), we had lots of opportunities to talk with the other members. That was huge.
It was announced to the fans on the event held on the 5th of November, but had the 2 of you actually heard about your success before that?
Yanagawa: That's right, we were told about it two days beforehand. Musubu and I were called by a staff-san, and what we were told at first was that we'd be making a surprise appearance at a Country Girls event. 'We'll keep it a secret from the members that the 2 of you will be turning up, and you'll be acting as background dancers or assistants'. And then, the moment we knocked on the door to the lesson room and opened it, we were greeted by the words 'Congratulations on joining us~', along with the sound of crackers being popped.
: It was a pretty strange situation. We'd been caught unawares, unable to grasp the situation, and I felt that the senpais were curious about us as well. That said, while the senpai did know that new members would be joining in, they didn't know who the new members would be.
Yanagawa: Until the door opened, the senpais didn't know who'd be coming in. Once the huge din of the crackers had settled, they confirmed it with a 'Ah, it's Yanagawa-chan' (laughs).
I see. However, with the announcement being made in such a way, you probably didn't feel that burst of joy.
Yanagawa: Yes, it took some time for that upwelling of happiness to arrive. I couldn't grasp things, like 'Eh? What's happening?', and I could only make an expression of bewilderment (laughs). But once I grasped the situation, I realised that I'd be making my debut in Country Girls.
Yanagawa: Just a little bit... But I thought that it wouldn't be a good idea to cry.
Why is that?
Yanagawa: If I cried, my face would get all squished up, so it would have been unappealing from an aesthetic sense (laughs). And so, I kind of endured it. But on the other hand, I'm worried about being unable to stop smiling in the future.
Funaki-san, how did you feel?
: For myself, at first, I was full of vim and vigour to be a background dancer. But the details, the flow... Like the question of how long the songs would be, for example, or that we hadn't received a video detailing the choreography, those kind of arrangements were floating in my head. So I sent the manager-san a message about it.
Like 'Hey, do your job' (laughs).
: Not to that extent (laughs). More like 'How long will the songs be? When can we get a video?' Then the manager-san sent a reply, writing 'It's a simple dance, using cheerleading pom-poms. So it'll be fine even if you don't practise beforehand'.
Isn't that quite the intricate deception!
: But I didn't think that it wasn't true at the time, and my head was filled with pom-poms (laughs). Then I opened the door, and the senpai were like 'Congratulations~', and what's more, next to them, I saw Nanami, who had also just found out about her acceptance...... I was in such a state of confusion, I shut the door (laughs). Plus I have this habit of making funny faces when I'm surprised. Though I somehow figured out what was happening. I wasn't really able to give a cute reaction......
That normally happens when you get caught off-guard.
: At first I was so surprised that even my tears didn't flow, but I started crying when Ozeki Mai-san was speaking. Things like scenes of the 2 and a half years that I'd been practising as a H!P Kenshuusei started spinning in my head... At the time, all sorts of emotions gushed forth, but the biggest was 'a sense of security'. When I first joined the Kenshuusei, I was the youngest age-wise, and my profile was always at the bottom. But then Kobushi Factory-san and Tsubaki Factory-san happened, and before I knew it, I was suddenly near the top.
'When I heard about my success from the senpais, it took some time before I brimmed over with tears. The scenes of 2 and a half years of working hard as a Kenshuusei started spinning in my head...' (Funaki Musubu)
Were you flustered about it?
: Very much so.
Yanagawa: In my case, my tenure as a Kenshuusei was far shorter than Musubu's, but I was older in age than Musubu. So age-wise, I felt like I had to rush as well...
In a rush at that age? For girls in their 2nd year of middle school to say that, the H!P Kenshuusei must be quite the organisation (laughs).
Yanagawa: Well, there was a girl in her 5th year of primary school who joined at the same time as myself. and with that in mind, I felt like there wasn't any time. Though compared to Musubu, I couldn't do anything. I couldn't sing nor dance, and I didn't know how to greet people and how to act with proper etiquette before that......
: (with a startled expression) Eh? That wasn't the case at all~
Yanagawa: No, no, if we hadn't been taught those things by Musubu and the other senpais at the time, we wouldn't be able to do anything.
Is that so? But didn't you sing really well during the Jitsuryoku Shindan Test? Did you receive any formal lessons before joining the Kenshuusei?
Yanagawa: I was inexperienced in singing and dancing and acting, a complete amateur. I've always wanted to be an idol from way back, but I couldn't build up the courage to go for auditions or lessons.
Yanagawa's atmosphere unconcealed
The trick to her wide and rich vocabulary is...!?
First of all, why did you want to become an idol?
Yanagawa: It started with Michishige Sayumi-san. She was just so cute, and I love how funny she was in conversations, and then I took the auditions. It was the Morning Musume。12ki Golden auditions (the 2nd 12ki auditions). Michishige-san appeared on various talk programmes, didn't she? I'd often see her on those. (Pauses as if considering a thought) Ah, I'd often see Momochi-senpai on the television as well though......
That's great, that follow-through that seemed like an afterthought (laughs). But let's ask Funaki-san, doesn't it feel like she's made great strides to get to this point?
: It's true! You know, she's changed completely from when she first came in. She speaks clearly, and assertively makes moves to ask questions to even the senpai. It's incomparable to when I joined. At the Jitsuryoku Shindan Test, she was so impressive, it was amazing. She dances in a big way and her dancing has an impact, yet her singing didn't waver at all. It was a topic of discussion amongst us, that an amazing newbie had joined us.
Yanagawa: Really? Were you happy about it~?
: Since I'd been a Kenshuusei for far longer than Nanami..... I'd joined the Kenshuusei in my 5th year of primary school, so the question of who'd be picked to make their debut started during Morning Musume。-san's 12ki for me. Among the members that were selected, there was Haga Akane-chan, who I've always said was my rival...... That was the biggest shock I've had in my entire life.
Funaki-san, when you took the first 12ki Mirai auditions, this magazine even did a full coverage interview.
: I remember! At the time, Yamaki Risa-chan was among the girls that remained at the end. But compared to kouhais, I felt really left behind when someone from my own generation made their debut. It was like that with Akane, just as it was with Risa-chan. It's a complicated feeling. While I do obviously feel frustrated, I also feel like cheering them on because they're from my generation. Risa-chan's older, and she's got a good head on her shoulders, so she knows how to talk properly. She's also good at singing. As for Akane, she's really cute. Thinking about it in that way, it was obvious why they were able to debut, but at the same time, I felt down in the dumps.
Why do you think that you were picked for Country Girls?
: Because of my height, I think. I'm 147cm, and the average height of Country Girls is lower than that of other H!P groups.
Yanagawa: I think that the reason that I was chosen was because of my atmosphere. Compared to my classmates, my looks and such engender an extremely childish atmosphere.
But you're level-headed though.
Yanagawa: Musubu often says that as well. 'Your mind is that of an adult, but your body is that of a child'. It makes me think that 'I really have to take that into consideration'......
: That expression itself is really grounded (laughs).
It's amazing! How do you have such a wide vocabulary?
Yanagawa: Reading is my hobby. I like novels in particular, mysteries, love stories, whodunnits...... I'll read anything. I learn from reading books. Reading is a habit, isn't it? I've been reading ever since about my first year of primary school, so before I knew it, I could remember kanji and how to phrase things.
Come to think of it, Yamaki-san is a woman with a literary turn, and Momochi-senpai is a reader as well. Country Girls is a group with quite the intellectual air.
Yanagawa: Really? I don't think that I'm an intellectual though......
: Ahaha! That often gets mentioned~ (laughs).
How amazing! Yanagawa-san, are you often told that you're mature for your age?
Yanagawa: I'm told that I'm like a child actress. I really have no idea what they mean by that though......
: You've got these eccentricities to you, don't you? Listening to you, it's like you spent a lot of time together with your grandma, and it feels like your choice of words differs from normal youths. Even when it comes to reading, I think you're amazing. Because when it comes to me, I'll occasionally read manga on my phone. Personally for me, you're like a real Conan-kun (laughs).
Not a princess?
: She's different from a princess. You could say that she's got strength...... yeah, she really is a child actor (laughs). But, I'm feeling a sense of impending doom from being next to Nanami. At any rate, she's got a strong character! I really feel that I have to push myself at least as aggressively, but I have this habit of feigning ignorance.
Momochi-PM's super hands-on lessons
This is how she crafts the greatest legion
Does Momochi-senpai put a focus on hammering out your individual characteristics?
: She really does! Even in the dressing room before concerts, all of us will be practising MCs. So that we can get drilled in ad-libbing. It feels like we're on a make-believe talk programme.
What is that, exactly?
Yanagawa: Momochi-senpai will play the chairperson, and through that, we act as if we're on a variety programme. Like, 'The next theme will be... Something that surprised you recently!' And with that, everyone will raise their hands, going 'Me! Me!', and the talk starts. The point isn't that we get called out one-by-one in order, but it feels like we all build up on what's being talked about. And we perform tsukkomis.
: It's difficult...... At first, I couldn't talk unreservedly while I was mixed in with the senpais. But recently, I endeavour to push myself forwards.
Doesn't that mean that Momochi-senpai brings out your innate abilities? It'll strengthen the group!
: It's fun, it's more like a game rather than training though. It makes us think, 'For this conversation, what sort of retort will stir things up?' If you don't normally prepare for those, I think that you can't bring out your power when it comes to an actual battle.
You wouldn't be able to interact with entertainers on live television, right.
Yanagawa: That's right! Ultimately, there's a strong component of practice that allows us be able to interact. On TV, we appear with all sorts of people. Since whoever it is, what sort of conversation is happening, we have to be able to respond on-the-spot. Amongst the people watching the shows, there are lots of people who don't know about idols, much less H!P. How do we leave an impact on those viewers who are part of the general public? For Momochi-senpai to build our awareness of that, making it just a normal part of the process, she truly is a wonderful person who's worthy of respect.
You wouldn't think that this was an interview with rookie idols (laughs). It's like an interview for a weekly business magazine, like 'Shuukan Diamond'.
Yanagawa: We're fully packed with freshness!
'My dream is to be known by boys and girls, young and old, even by people who don't know about H!P. In order to do that, I'd like to polish up my conversational ability in order to become a character that leaves an impact.' (Yanagawa Nanami)
: As a member of Country Girls, it would be to have lots of tours and concerts. It's a dream of mine to sing on a huge stage, like at an arena. In order to do that, I'd like to polish up my conversational skills, and of course my performance abilities. Also, Country Girls is a group with a really strong image of cuteness, right? Personally, my current goal is to raise my girlishness beyond that of those members.
Yanagawa: Just like Musubu, I'd like to have hall tours and concerts at large venues. Besides that, I aspire to appear on television. However, I don't aim to just make an appearance, I'd like lots of people to know about me, boys or girls, young or old, including those who know nothing about Hello! Project. That is my goal as the idol Yanagawa Nanami. For that, I've got to polish up my conversational skills, and be a character who can leave an impact.
[I've also translated a video of a news report where you can watch the five Country Girls senpai welcoming Yanamin and Funakki to the group]