Saturday, 2 April 2016

Tsugunaga Momoko: Spotlight Interview (Feb 2016)

{With the release of their latest single 'Boogie Woogie LOVE / Koi wa Magnet / Ran ra run ~Anata ni Muchuu~' in March, there's been quite a flurry of coverage of Country Girls recently. One theme that's been cropping up is how Momochi trains these girls in her role as Playing Manager, either by asking her directly or through interviews with the younger members (like in this one).

This interview by Spotlight is of the former type. The interviewer latches on to the fact that Momochi possesses a teaching licence, and talks with her about teaching and leadership. The original interview is of epic length, and if it wasn't for time and skill constraints, I would have liked to have translated the whole thing. Still, here are excerpts that I thought were worth translating.

Note that emphasis is mostly not mine, but are based on the original article.}


---Tsugunaga-san, you joined Country Girls full-time almost immediately after Berryz Kobo's hiatus concert. How did you prepare yourself for being separated from the group that had been your entire youth, and leaping into a new group?

We entered our hiatus through our Budokan concert on the 3rd of March of 2015, while the first time I appeared in front of everyone as a member of Country Girls was on the 7th. But the day before that, the 6th of March, was my birthday, and I held a solo event by myself. It was an event that came between my concert as Berryz Kobo and my event as Country Girls, and I used the day I turned 23 to act as a juncture. Doing an event by myself was a really good cushion.


---Tsugunaga-san, you've assumed the position of 'Playing Manager'. In other words, you're 'a player and supervisor at the same time'. We would like to ask about the what the role entails directly from the horse's mouth.

But I have no idea about what it entails either though (laughs).

The 'play' part is that I join in together with activities with them, but when I was thinking about what I should do for the 'manager' part, the fact that I've continued to experience the idol lifestyle definitely is a big part of what differentiates me from a 'manager-san'. The members knew nothing when they started off, and they'd hit walls, such as taking some time to remember the dances and the songs, while I've got the experience of going through the process of overcoming those walls before.

And because of that, I can talk about the difficulties I faced at that period of time, and talk about what I did in order to overcome them, so I think that I can care for the members in a way that would be difficult for our manager-san or the people from the office. Particularly with the new members, I've been talking to them, since I need to weed out as much as possible what sort of girls they are.

If I wanted to be 'relied upon', on the contrary, it might instill something weird in them... I could impart the wrong kind of wisdom to them, so it burdens me with a strong sense of responsibility.

It's really rare to see groups with this sort of playing manager system. If you just limit it to Hello! Project, it's really special, it's one of Country Girls' advantages.

A plus point of being the Playing Manager is that I get to listen to opinions from both the staff-san's point of view and from the members' point of view. And so, I have the freedom to immediately say whether some information might be better relayed later on in time, or to bring to a halt information that definitely shouldn't be told to the members. And it's fun to listen to the managers' inside stories that I hadn't been privy to before. I'm in a very advantageous position (laughs).


--- With Tsugunaga-san's experience that spans over 10 years, how do you instruct the Country Girls members?

When I made my debut, I would often use what was written in the script as a base for discussions and whatnot, but as time passed. I would start mentioning the things I was thinking about and wanted to say, which brought me closer to the fans and elicited responses from them. Personally for me, I feel happier with that, so I tell the members that they should naturally convey what's going on in their minds, in their own words.

But they're still middle schoolers, so I correct them when their words or their usage of Japanese is off, but fundamentally, we talk about getting across what they'd like to get across.

What's more, they're still going to school, so they really want to use the words they've learnt there (laughs). When I ask them if they're using some new words they learned from class, it turns out to be the case, and they wanted to try using those words. Maybe I've got an 'oneesan perspective', but I do enjoy how they're all childish and cute, with some space to grow.


In the middle of our conversations, I often feel that there's a generation gap. I'm from the Gameboy generation. Screens were still monochrome. But the kids these days, when I tell them that Pokemon was monochrome, they're like 'Ehhh!?', 'Monochrome, I can't believe that', 'Now, they can fly out in 3D'......


Up to now, Nakazawa Yuko-san and the rest have been firing back by saying things like 'I don't understand this generation', and I think that I've finally reached that position (laughs).


---We would like to ask about how you went on to university and acquired a kindergarten and primary school teacher's licence, in the midst of the pressures of work. Even before you were acting as the 'Playing Manager', you already had training focused on being an instructor.

I love 'school'. I joined the world of entertainment in primary school, but school was more-or-less the only place where I could have fun together with children of my generation, just as much as I had to work with grown-ups.

There definitely were times when work took priority, but I received lots of support from my teachers. So with thoughts of gratitude towards them, as well as a fondness for children that I've always had, I thought that if I were to go through the trouble of going to university, then I might as well try getting a licence, so I joined the Education Department. It was relatively tough near the end, but I was also blessed with friends, and was able to attain a licence in one piece.

I did practical teaching for a month. I caused a lot of trouble by taking time off from work, but after starting back on entertainment activities after returning from one month of practical teacher training, I realised that this line of work is something that I do enjoy. Teaching was really fun and rewarding, but I realised anew that being an idol was truly enjoyable as well.

---10 years after having started activities in the world of entertainment, you fully reaffirmed the joy of being an idol. Acquiring a licence for both kindergarten and primary school while working must have been troublesome.

If I had to say, I'd say that exams were tougher than maintaining university-work balance. I've really got no ability to concentrate, and my home is just a nest of temptations - TV, games, manga. I generally got back home at about 11 at night, and I'd go to a family chain restaurant to study until late at night. I'd be at the family chain restaurant until three or four in the morning, together with my mother, as I told her that I was scared to be alone....

Since I felt sorry for my mother who had to accompany me at the family restaurant every day, I'd be like 'Let's have dessert' or 'Let's have a drink'. The toll those expenses took on me were even harder than the task of battling sleepiness (laughs). Like, 'Ah~ My pocket money is getting drained~!' Midway through, feeling the pain, it shifted my feelings: 'I've spent so much of my allowance, so I've got to pass at any price!'

--- The more we talk about it, the more I'd like to ask, since I feel that Tsugunaga-san is 'reflecting a leader'... For Tsugunaga-san, is there a 'sensei' or a 'senpai' who acts as an instructor to you?

I don't really have someone-or-the-other who I'm conscious of as being an example of leader in my mind, and due to that, out-of-the-blue, the education method where you're asked to find an appropriate method for the student comes to mind. Like, you shouldn't just give them a scolding. If they're the type that prefers receiving praise, praise them first, then tell them off.

If I had to say, I'm probably more in the camp where I think up methods in my own way. Since I can't imitate anyone even if I wanted to, and I'd hate worrying about being unable to live up to a certain person... Also, there's also that thing where 'doing what you like' is the best (laughs), so I thought that it would be better if I could teach in my own Momochi way. 


--- Tsugunaga-san, you mentioned just now that you told the Country Girls members that 'you wanted them to do and say what they're thinking in their own minds', but I'd think that at times, they don't think about it, and you have to give them a harsh cautioning. When you have to give harsh warnings, how do you chide them?

Before getting angry, I take the time to ask myself one question: 'Firstly, can I really do it myself?' If they were to say 'But still, Momochi-senpai, you can't do it either, right?', it'd be...... well, it'd end like that (laughs). But there are times when, regardless of my standpoint, even if I'm unable to do it, I'd have to caution them. At those times, I'll say something like, 'I can't do it myself, so let's all start paying attention to this'. But more than anything, before I advise them, I'll confirm first whether I'm able to do it myself.

Something else I keep in mind is that, after I tell them off, I immediately follow up with a change of mood. Once I've finished telling them off, I'll immediately start a fun discussion. After all, I'm not a manager, there's that 'playing' part there, which means that I'm working together with them, so since I wouldn't want the atmosphere to be strained, I'm careful about keeping that variation. Besides that, I also gauge the timing, like letting the matter drop before we go off to perform.

I can do that when the mood's calm though... (laughs). But in cases when I really can't stand it, I'll tell them off at the time, only after I've considered the timing.

--- I can't imagine you being strict.


I get a bit ill-tempered when I'm hungry, and the members know that they're treading on unsteady ground, so they'll respond 'Ahh~ we apologise'...

All of them perceive it, and I hear them mumbling 'Momochi-senpai, she's hungry, so she won't forgive the next mistake. In my mind I'm like, 'Right, they understand' (laughs)


--- It'll soon be fully one year since Country Girls fully got together, so in another way, it'll be one year since Berryz Kobo entered your indefinite hiatus. For the fans who still continue to safeguard the existence of Berryz Kobo while harbouring their sadness, could you please tell us about how the members are doing recently?

With one of us having gone to study overseas, we can't meet up frequently, but we immediately go back to those times whenever we meet. When we have reunions, it feels like we're a bunch of middle school friends who have gathered up, and we return to our middle school days. In that way, every time we meet, we immediately go back to those days.

They're all doing their best on their individual paths, and I really feel that we're really cheering one another on. While we hardly straight-out wish one another all the best, we've been together so long that it goes without saying. While we're comrades that support one another on the paths that we're working hard on, we also feel that we don't want to get left behind, so it gives us all a good synergy with our activities.

Because we each have different positions, it's fun to let the flowers of reminiscence bloom as we look back on the Berryz Kobo of those times, like 'That's how we were back then~'.


Source: Spotlight

Boogie Woogie LOVE / Koi wa Magnet / Ranrarun - Anata ni Muchu - / Country GirlsBoogie Woogie LOVE / Koi wa Magnet / Ranrarun - Anata ni Muchu - / Country Girls


  1. Great article, thank you so much for translating, now I admire Momochi more, and since I did my degree in Education, I could understand this Momochi's "vision" and I feel motivated when I read the way she used her knowledge in the Idol world. Just great!!

  2. thank you so much for this insightful interview translation!!!

  3. Momoko is so awesome <3
    Thanks a lot for the translation, I would've loved for the whole thing to be translated, but at least I've got a little peek into the non idol side of things thanks to you c:

  4. I've always thought she was 16 kinds of awesome, but now I realize she's 32 kinds of awesome. Y'know, if there was someone equivalent to her in the American entertainment industry, that person would have her own TV show, have starred in several movies by now, guested on everyone else's shows, and had a book or two published already.