Nogizaka46 has had its share of solo photobooks. This privilege is usually given to some of the center-caliber members, such as Shiraishi Mai and Nishino Nanase. So why not give Ikuta Erika one?
Yes, this is a review of Ikuta Erika’s recently released solo photobook, titled Tencho, or Modulation. The photobook was released this month, and of course since I am a big Nogizaka46 fan, and a big supporter of Ikuta Erika, I had to pick this one up. There’s a lot to like about Ikuta Erika. She loves udon, she is one of the biggest dorks in the Nogizaka lineup, she voiced Rue in the Japanese dub of The Hunger Games, and she is one of the most talented piano players I’ve seen in my life.
But is her first photobook worth a purchase? Let’s find out.
One thing to note in this photobook is that there is an awful lot of German in the book, ranging from sentences to chapter titles. That’s because Ikuta Erika was actually born in Germany and spent 5 years of her life there before moving to Japan. Speaking of Germany, the entire photobook takes place in Deutschland.
When I open the photobook, I can imagine myself going on a vacation with Ikuta Erika to visit the area where she grew up. She first arrives in the airport, and then takes a bus to her hometown of Dusseldorf. In some photos, you can see her visit some areas that were still around when she was younger, evidenced by a “before and after” type of photo set. I personally find it pretty awesome that Ikuta Erika can remember the same places that were still around before she moved to Japan.
Of course, because Nogizaka46 is known for conservative gravure, there are some shots in this photobook where Ikuta Erika is relaxing in her hotel room. It is classy, it isn’t lewd, and I have this feeling that I am just hanging out with her before we see the sights of Germany again.
I do like Ikuta Erika’s fashion sense. She wears a lot of cute casual outfits when touring around the city, such as a beanie, a sweater and short shorts. She can pull off this combination well. One thing I also want to point out are the shots where she is dressed in a pretty heavy dress. This made her look like a princess who escaped her lavish daily lifestyle.
Then we get to one portion of the photobook, aptly titled Erster Verusch, translated in English, First Try. What is Ikuta Erika going to try for the first time?
As mentioned earlier, Nogizaka46 is known for having conservative gravure shots. The most you would see is a tank top and short shorts on your favorite member, but nothing along the lines of swimsuits or bikinis. Only a few members have been seen in a bikini, such as Nishino Nanase, Shiraishi Mai, Eto Misa, and Hashimoto Nanami. Now it’s Ikuta Erika’s turn. Basically, Ikuta Erika is in a pool, in a white bikini.
Moving right along, we get a few photos of Ikuta Erika practicing some Chopin on piano, as well as a few photos where she is eating dinner in a black dress. The dinner photos are pretty notable because she bears a very striking resemblance to someone on the AKB48 side. Basically, Ikuta Erika looks near identical to Maeda Atsuko in those photos, and sure enough, it is possible to mistake the two.
One thing I do want to note is that, throughout the photobook, I could not stop staring into Ikuta Erika’s eyes. They’re really spellbinding, to be quite honest. Yes, they are listed as one of her charm points, but a photobook usually emphasized a charm point, and you’re able to see it in a few shots. I was looking into her eyes with every shot. No lie.
Overall, this book is spectacular. There are a lot of things you discover about Ikuta Erika just with one run through of the photobook, and it’s sure to please fans of Ikuta Erika and Nogizaka46 alike. It feels like a trip to Germany with one of the most beautiful, yet dorky, members of the franchise. I loved this photobook, and I am glad that I purchased it. This was an experience, and I am glad it was with Ikuta Erika.
Hopefully, you can enjoy the experience too!
Recently our Translator/Artist Liaison, Tiffany, caught of with KOTO before Her live at Hatsudai DOORS (The event was titled "SOLOxSOLOxSOLO@Hatsudai DOORS") She talked everything from her music to her then upcoming show in Taiwan (a show that we were also lucky enough to attend) Check it out and be sure to keep an eye on KOTO as she is one of the most interesting idols in the scene today!
Keep an eye out for a live report on the concert that followed this interview as well as an interview/live report from her overseas live in Taiwan!
A-To-J: Thank you for the interview! First, please introduce yourself.
KOTO: Hello, I’m KOTO! I’m a solo artist and I’m 17. Nice to meet you!
A-To-J: Can you please tell us some of your hobbies.
KOTO: Since I like making handmade accessories, I use something called resin to make accessories myself.
A-To-J: We caught you right before you’re about to perform, please tell us how you feel.
KOTO: I’m usually nervous before a live but I always have fun when I’m on stage. I’m nervous today as well, but I think standing on stage will be exciting!
A-To-J: Please tell us something about your recent releases.
KOTO: Recently, I released a single called "Omatsuri GALAXY", it's only available at live venues though. Right now we’re releasing a song every month so at the end of the month it gets released and more get announced. They’re only sold at live venues so you have to come to to the shows to get them, but please listen to it!
A-To-J: For overseas fans that can’t go to your lives as often, is there a CD they can buy?
KOTO: On iTunes you can buy my first single “Kotolip” or “Mada Okiteru?” (Are you still awake?) Also, on Amazon you can buy my first album, “Platonic Planet” so I hope they purchase it! [Editor's Note: These are actually only available on Japanese iTunes and Amazon]
A-To-J: Is there a live of yours that has left a big impression?
KOTO: A lot of them have left an impression… But recently I had my birthday one-man live and it was a really happy time for me!
A-To-J: Have there been any incidents or accidents at your lives that you care to share with us?
KOTO: There are a lot of accidents, I break my costumes all the time and it happens a lot.
A-To-J: What is your favorite song to sing at a live?
KOTO: That’s hard… When I sing my songs live, they are all fun and I like them all equally. I also change the songs I perform depending on the venue.
A-To-J: Speaking of venues, do you have a favorite live venue?
KOTO: I really like Shibuya’s GLAD because the staff there are very warm and nice!
A-To-J: Please tell us the reason you decided to become an idol.
KOTO: きっかけはダンス映画「SHAKE HANDS」という映画の主題歌のメインボーカルのオーディションを受けて合格したのがきっかけで、そのままソロで活動することになりました。
KOTO: The reason was because I passed an audition for the dance movie “SHAKE HANDS” to do the main vocals of its theme song. From there I started my solo works.
A-To-J: Is there a specific genre you want to try singing?
KOTO: I want to convey myself with different kinds of singing so I want to try many different kinds of songs.
A-To-J: Your performance is quite intense; do you do anything such as exercises or diets for it?
KOTO: The choreography requires a certain amount of muscles so I try to not lose too much muscle mass. Other than that I practice regularly.
A-To-J: Are there any overseas venues you want to perform at?
KOTO: Soon I will go to Taiwan and when I get to go overseas more I want to go places like America. My dance teacher goes to America often so I really want to go someday!
A-To-J: Is there any place you want to go overseas for sightseeing?
KOTO: I’ve been wanting to go to Hawaii!
A-To-J: Please describe your sound to someone that has never listened to it before.
KOTO: Right now I’m usually told it sounds electronic or “piko piko” [Used to describe 8-bit or electronic songs] so I think that’s what it sounds like… What else?
KOTO’s Manager: From KOTO’s ideas, we do things like put in the sound of a Japanese koto and it’s a very free, original product…
A-To-J: Do you have any favorite artists?
KOTO: Artists… I like Shiina Pikarin!
A-To-J: There are a lot of overseas readers, is there any spots in Japan or food you would like to recommend?
KOTO: Right now Harajuku is very popular so I think it’s fun if they go to Harujuku… Food… I like sweet things so I want them to try different sweets in Harajuku! I want them to eat a lot of different kinds!
A-To-J: In your album [Titled “Platonic Planet”] that you released last year, what was the song you had the most fun working on?
KOTO: The last song of the album, “Cinderella Syndrome” is the first song I got to write the lyrics for and it’s the only I have written lyrics for so far. I was very nervous but I’m happy that many people listened to it.
A-To-J: Do you want to compose songs or write lyrics again in the future?
KOTO: Yes I’ve been wanting to but haven’t had the chance… I’m hoping sometime this year!
A-To-J: You have some music videos; please tell us of any behind the scene stories.
KOTO: There’s a MV for “Platonic Planet” and it had an “’80s” theme. We wanted it to look old so we filmed it with me wearing a headset. I guess because KOTO’s dance is intense, the headset fell off! (Laughs) This happened many times and we kept saying: “Oh no!” So whenever I was wearing the headset I had to tone down the dancing.
KOTO - Platonic Planet PV
A-To-J: How are you preparing for the live in Taiwan?
KOTO: I’ve been thinking of a costume that looks Japanese and I also put pandas on my nails! I just recently did the nails, so I put decided to put pandas in the design. (Laughs)
A-To-J: It’s very cute! (Laughs)
A-To-J: Have there been any difficulties in your career so far?
KOTO: I work alone and I have difficulty talking to people because I get anxious when I communicate with others… So when the wait time is long in my dressing room, I don’t know what to do and I just stay in there alone most of the time… Recently I’ve been able to talk to many people so it’s getting more fun.
A-To-J: Are there any artists you are close to?
KOTO: I don’t know who to say when I’m asked that (Laughs) Compared to last year and the year before that, I’m happy that I’ve been able to talk to many different people.
A-To-J: There are a lot of artists performing in today’s event, what do you think is the difference between these kinds of events and your one-man lives?
KOTO: For “Battle of the Bands” type events, there are people that come for KOTO and people that come for others… I try to make it fun for the people that have come to see KOTO and I try to leave an impact for the people that have seen me for the first time. For one-man lives everyone comes to see KOTO so I get really nervous but the atmosphere is very warm and fun.
A-To-J: Where should overseas fans go to check your recent information?
KOTO: On YouTube I have a channel called “KOTO Channel”. There are music videos of my songs as well as performance videos. My new songs get uploaded there as well so I think you can see quite a lot there… There are also videos that were uploaded before my channel was made so if you search in my name, “KOTO”, you should find some performance videos as well. I would like everyone to watch me performing and moving. I also have a Twitter… and recently started an Instagram account. So if you go on my Instagram, Twitter as well as a phone app called “CHEERZ” you can see how I am usually and find out about upcoming lives so I would like overseas people to check it out as well!
A-To-J: Lastly, please give a message to our overseas fans and readers.
KOTO: To the people that have found out about me for the first time in this interview and the people that have found me through videos and such, we can’t meet each other much because we’re far away but thank you for watching KOTO! I will try my best to go overseas so when the time comes, please come see me! Also if you have time, please come visit Japan! I’m looking forward to it!
For More Information Please Follow KOTO On Social Media!
The above interview was conducted and translated by Tiffany Fujii.
Everybody loves vinyl. They are a relic of times past. They also represent a level of aural quality that sounds quite a bit more natural than the digital spectrum. These are some of the main reasons many decide to stick with the medium whenever they can.
Considering the importance of ℃-ute’s last single, it came as no surprise that they would release it as a vinyl alongside the standard digital and CD copies. That being said, this practice is not the norm within Hello! Project. In fact, it is quite a rare occurrence.
In a surprising turn of events, we are being blessed with yet another 12-inch vinyl release. Morning Musume ‘16’s most recent single, ‘Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi / ENDLESS SKY / One and Only’, is getting a vinyl release as well (released under ‘Morning Musume ‘15’). Included will be the original three songs recorded in analog specifically for the vinyl along with a special track. The special track is a classical arrangement of the song ‘Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi’. This arrangement is particularly pleasing to me, because I always felt like that song would be able to take immense advantage of a classical arrangement. It looks like my dream has come true, and I hope the arrangement does the song justice. ENLESS SKY is a song presented as a farewell to Riho Sayashi, who graduated from Morning Musume ’15 on December 31st, 2015. Finally, One and Only is the first song that the group has ever done entirely in English. To top everything off, this single was the first single to reach #1 in the Oricon Weekly charts since Sayumi Michishige graduated back in 2014. That should speak volumes about the quality of the release.
The vinyl is being sold on Up-Front’s official online shop: e-LineUP! Pre-orders for it have already begun, and will end on February 9th. The expected ship and release date is sometime in late March. These vinyl tend to sell out and are released in limited numbers. If you decide to order it, I highly recommend you do it soon.
If you aren’t sure which third-party export service to use, I highly recommend checking out Michael’s shop on Facebook called ‘No Country For Tall Men Exports’. He specializes in acquiring good for fans overseas, is very professional and offers some of the best commission prices I’ve seen. Links are provided below.
Whatever service you ultimately decide to use, don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity! Let’s hope this recent trend becomes a new standard from Hello! Project.
Official e-LineUP! Listing: http://www.e-lineup.com/shopdetail/000000008306/
No Country For Tall Men Exports: https://www.facebook.com/NoCountryForTallMenExports/
I had the pleasure of attending Riho Sayashi’s last bus tour as a member of Morning Musume ’15. Here is my story.
We gathered at Tokyo station on Saturday morning and rode our bus to Boso, Chiba. I believe the total number of participants was 372 with 9 buses total. We were separated in about three different hotels.
One of the first things was the on-the-bus video which took the format of Riho's old radio show ‘RIHO-DELI’. It was one of my favorite things she did over the years and I missed it dearly, so I was so ecstatic that they brought that back. They had all the sound tracks they used on the actual show (even Deli-Kun, Riho's pet/partner). After a brief introduction and explanation of the trip, they had their "Shuwa Shuwa Mail Corner" which was a part of their radio show where they read and answered emails they received. Since this was a special version the emails were sent from the other members Morning Musume ‘15. Sadly these Riho deli segments won't be on the DVD.
The first activity was two-shot picture. Rather than the usual cheki, this was taken by a professional camera man. It was taken in one of the ceremony rooms at the hotel I stayed at. First, our whole bus was taken into a waiting room and the bus tour MC Suzuki Keita from Jo-Jo Gundan came in to greet us. Then Riho was called in to the room and we finally got to see her! She was being very goofy and she walked into our room with her face hidden behind a big poster (that had our bus number on it) and she had changed her voice to say "Hi everyone. What if I'm not Riho Sayashi?” Then she asked us if we had already chosen our poses for the picture and that her pick will be the Sayamaru pose. I ended up asking for the LA pose. I first panicked because I forgot to ask her to smile but I ended up getting the best face. We received the printed picture at the end of our trip and it’s an L size. To top it off, she even signed each and every one of our pictures.
Next, we had a chance to pick up some goods. We then drew two lottery papers, which indicated our seats for the concert later in the day as well as the event the next day. There was a nice early dinner before we headed out to the venue.
Now this venue was amazing. It was very new and clean, and also probably a lecture hall because each seat had those pull up tables. All of the rows were higher than the other so I don't think anyone had trouble seeing Riho no matter what seat you had pulled. As for the concert, most of the fans were expecting to have a similar set list to her solo live she had a few days before but she actually changed most of it.
The only same song was the new Tsumetai Kaze. The rest of the set list is as follows:
- Kimagure Princess
- Take off is now!
- Kiseki no Kaori Dance
- Moonlight night ~Tsukiyo no Ban da yo~
- *Present corner*
- Go Girl Koi no Victory
- The Matenrou Show
- Dokka-n Cappriccio
- Egao ni Namida ~THANK YOU! DEAR MY FRIENDS
During the present corner Riho picked out seat numbers from a box. One person won a present of Sayashi drawing their face (which was surprisingly good). Two won Sayashi writing a calligraphy kanji for them. Whoever got chosen would come up to the stage and Riho wrote the first kanji that came to her mind by looking at them. One guy got 柔 which basically means soft and it was because the guy was a bit chubby. The next lady got 凛 meaning frigid and dignified. For this one when she first thought of it she couldn't remember how to write it so she almost gave up, and told the MC she'll change it. We wanted to know what it was though, so then the audience shouted out how to write it and she ended up sticking with it. One person won the ability to have her record a voice message onto an alarm clock. He asked for "It’s morning, wake up. Shuwa shuwa pon!!" It was really cute! The last present was three bracelets that Riho had made in her free time.
Concerning the performance itself, the place was most heated up during Dokka-n! The last song, Ayaya's Egao ni Namida ~THANK YOU! DEAR MY FRIENDS, made me burst into tears, especially since I was an old Risa Niigaki fan too (this song was her graduation single). Part of the lyrics say: We'll probably see each other again. We'll probably see each other again smiling. It was optimistic and left us with less bitterness and more hope. It was just a train wreck of feelings for most fans because at her solo live a few days back, she started out with her song from the play Stacy's Kimagure Zetsubou Arigatou. The song begins: Thank you, so don't be hurt. Thank you, so don't be sad. I thought that was said straight to us fans and it was very sad but at the same time you knew she was reaching out to us and trying to send a message. You know she picked the songs carefully, and I'm so glad she had these opportunities to perform all of them in her short time.
After the live we all got to say bye or good night to her on our way out as handed out a pouch with the bus tour logo on it.
Today we started the day off at a farm called Mother Bokujyo. We watched a sheep dog show with Riho, and she even got to feed a baby sheep. After that we took group pictures. One group was half a bus with 18 teams in total. I was lucky enough to stand right next to her in the picture! I feel like I used up all my life’s luck! That one is a 2L sized picture.
After that we had lamb meat barbecue for lunch. At that place Riho came to say "Itadakimasu" with us and walked around the room. Her outfit for the second day was the cutest thing ever. While we ate we also received these custom packaged gums since lamb meat is known to smell (although no one wanted to open them).
Next was our last planned evening event. It started out with watching a fan club event history compilation video all the way back to her first fan club 9th generation greeting event (which was adorable). Some memorable moments were talked about and then the NYC concert came up and the MC asked if any of us in the audience had gone to the concert. I was so happy I got to proudly raise my hand to that. I’m pretty sure she thought I was one of the Japanese native fans who supported her, though.
The next part Sayashi had been told that they’d hold a Q&A event, but it was a secret surprise planned by the staff and us fans. Before the tour, we had received a message card to fill out and all those cards were put into albums to give to Riho for her bus tour memories. A leader was picked from each bus to give a small message/speech on the stage and after their message they would hand their bus's album to her. Then all the people on that bus would stand in the audience and shout our previously chosen short message to her. Some messages were: "Hyahho-i x3", "Please believe in yourself!" and my bus’s was "We will always love you". My bus leader's speech was the most honest and heartfelt.
"You're actually going to graduate...I can't tell you congrats from the bottom of my heart. Do you remember at your birthday event this year you had said 'I realized that taking care of myself is the way to give back to my fans'? That is correct. Please take care of yourself. Both your body and your heart/mind. Please be healthy. Thank you for everything. We will always be rooting for you. I will not graduate being a Sayashi-oshi."
The whole room was as one at that moment, because our team leader expressed everything we all wanted to express. After all our speeches were done, as our last present to her, we all sang Maji Desu ka Ska! to her and she walked around the aisles while she held her tears.
After that, Riho spoke. "I'm always trying to give back to my fans...but my fans would always give back so much more. I can never beat my fans."
One last surprise was announced from the MC and it was a video from her favorite person. All the fans murmured that it has to be Takahashi...but it turned out to be Rola, the half celebrity. She had been one of Riho's favorite celebrities for a long time, and the staff was able to get a video message from her saying congrats on your graduation and good luck on your study abroad. Sayashi was so surprised and happy that she wanted to watch it twice.
After that was a handshake on our way out. I was so full of emotions it was really hard to think of what to even say to her. When I got there I was able to tell her that the two days were so much fun, and that English isn't too hard so ‘ganbatte’. She was like, ‘Oh really?’, but I successfully got to tell her what I wanted.
Then we all went back to our buses. She came out to wave and say bye to each sides of our buses and we went on the road to go home.
Or at least that's what we thought! On the bus we had watched our last episode of the Riho Deli video and then one more video started to play. It was the MC and he was talking about how much fun the event was and how sad he was that it ended. He went on to say "Don't you want to see her again!? You can't go home yet! One last surprise event! Head straight back to the farm!"
Excited, we were taken back to the farm. It was dark and super cold by then. The surprise event was that Riho would be brought to the place thinking she's going to shoot a little video with the illumination at the farm in the dark. She would come with an eye mask because the director wanted her pure reaction and things like that. In truth, all 372 fans were waiting for her arrival in the dark trying our best to keep dead silent so we wouldn't be noticed.
After getting settled in our spots and having our procedure explained, the car with Riho came driving in to where we were. Then comes out Riho with an eye mask lead by her manager, the camera man and the director. She walked right next to the big crowd of fans as we held our breaths. The funny thing was, since it was a farm with a bunch of sheep, in our dead silence you could clearly hear the sheep bleating in the distance. This made a lot of us fans snicker. When Riho was walking to her spot, she got excited when she heard the sheep too. The director said "Why don't you have a conversation with them?" and Riho laughed and went on to bleat at the sheep in the distance. She even got a reply back from a sheep and she was super excited. At this point we fans were dying trying not to laugh, and that was the hardest part of the bus trip.
Once she got to her place the director counted down to take off her eye mask, and when she did, we greeted her with the biggest "SURPRIIIIIIIIISE!!!" She was so dumbfounded and taken aback she tripped off her small stage! It was the cutest reaction! She was so impressed by our silence and said that she didn't feel any presence and she was also super embarrassed because we had all heard her conversation with the sheep.
Happy Aloha Friday folks! If anyone has ever been to Hawai’i, then you are sure to know that Fridays are known as Aloha Friday (the best day of the week)! Not only is today Aloha Friday, but it also happens to be Feature Idol Friday again as well! With this installment of our Feature Idol Friday we will be talking about Kobushi Factory (こぶしファクトリー).
[Editor's Note: For a bit of information on the reference "Aloha Friday" check here!]
On January 2nd of 2015, in the midst of the annual Hello! Project WINTER concert, the announcement of a new group was made. This group would be made up of 8 members, Rio Fujii, Ayaka Hirose, Minami Nomura, Reina Ogawa, Ayano Hamaura, Natsumi Taguchi, Sakurako Wada, and Rei Inoue. The name for this group would remain unknown until February 25th, when they were given the name of Kobushi Factory.
When it comes to meaning, the word Kobushi can have a few. In the case of this group, Kobushi is said to contain the meaning of both the coming of spring and the refinement of the kobushi magnolia (辛夷) as well as the strength of a fist (拳). As far as the factory goes, it is a tribute to the ever so fantastic group Berryz Koubou (工房) where the “Koubou” means “Workshop.”
Kobushi released their first Indie DVD single on March 26th of 2015 titled “Nen ni wa Nen / Survivor” (念には念 “Be Double Sure” / サバイバー). Survivor is the theme song of the musical Week End Survivor which starred the 8 members of Kobushi Factory as well as Sudo Maasa (Berryz工房). I really enjoyed the stern, serious feel of Survivor as it seemed to make the song very powerful. I would recommend using this song as a warmup song for working out!
Survivor Rec/Off-shoot Video
Nen ni wa Nen is definitely one of those songs that you can just blast at full volume and dance and sing along as loud as you can while having a crazy amount of fun!
Nen ni wa Nen PV
On June 14th, it was announced that Kobushi Factory were going to have their major debut on September 2nd with a single titled "Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta / Nen ni wa Nen (Nen'iri Ver.)." (ドスコイ！ケンキョにダイタン / ラーメン大好き小泉さんの唄 / 念には念（念入りVer.）) Since Kobushi Factory haven’t even been around for an entire year yet, this was a very big announcement, because only a few groups have made their major debuts in such short amount of time. Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta (A cover of "Ramen Daisuki Koike-san no Uta" by Sharam Q) is another one of those songs that you dance yourself silly to. Its fun and simple dance will undoubtedly keep you scooping noodles, draining the water, and eating ramen for days to come!
Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san no Uta PV
If you thought the Ramen song was fun, just wait until you hear Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan. Not only is this song one of my favorite hype songs of all of 2015, it was also a huge factor in the winning of an award later in the year.
Dosukoi! Kenkyo ni Daitan PV
Kobushi Factory - Best Newcomer Award + Dosukoi! Performance
More good news for Kobushi fans is that there has just been an announcement made that they will be having their 2nd single released on February 17th and it will be titled Sakura Night Fever / Chotto Guchoku ni! Chototsu Moushin / Osu! Kobushi Tamashii (桜ナイトフィーバー／チョット愚直に！猪突猛進／押忍！こぶし魂)! So far the released from Kobushi Factory has been awesome and I cannot wait to see how great this upcoming single will be!
For More Information:
Second Single Information
Official Hello! Project Profile
Kobushi Factory (Magnolia Factory) Introduction In English by Mitsui Aika
Hello! Station EP. 148 Kobushi History Pt.1 (34:32 – 45:00)
Hello! Station EP. 149 Kobushi History Pt.2 (35:00 – 44:55)
Hello! Station EP. 125 Major Debut Announcement (11:42 – 16:35)