On the 3rd of March 2014、Berryz Kobo celebrated the 10th anniversary of their début。 They held their first independent Nippon Budokan performance in November of last year、and their 10th anniversary commemoration tour held in the spring was a success. They have released new songs and held a stage play、 and as they’re scheduled to hold a performance at the 「15th Japan Expo」 held in Europe in July、 they continue to run at the forefront of the idol world。
And so、 this time around, we’ll be having a talk with one of the members, Sugaya Risako、 about the 10 years up until now and her vision of the future hereafter。 In 2014、 while rushing into their 11th year from their début、Sugaya, the youngest member, will also be entering into the age of adulthood、 it’s a turning point where all of the members have 「Become adults」。 The past and the present、 and what sort of future she’d like to paint out、 she conveys her thoughts through this interview。
――You celebrated your birthday on the 4th of April 2014. Have there been any changes in your mental state from around the time you turned into an adult until now？
From the age of 19 to the age of 20、 honestly、 I didn’t really feel like anything much had changed。 However、 born in me was the thought that I should take responsibility of the things that my parents have been taking care of。
Also、 at Berryz Kobo’s post-event parties、 I’ve been drinking ginger ale so far. Although I don’t drink alcohol as I’m not a fan、 I feel excited to be able to enter into places where they serve alcohol.
――You drew a mug of beer on your birthday commemoration T-shirt, didn’t you？
I drew my image of what it meant to turn into an adult、 but I don’t actually drink （laughs）.
―― It’s mentioned in the title of your new song、 but I think that getting to “10 years” is a huge landmark, even if you aren’t talking about being an idol. Celebrating your 10th anniversary、 breaking into your 11th year, do you feel that anything has personally changed for you？
I entered this world in my 2nd year of primary school、 when I was 8。 While devoting myself to my studies、 I had to wrestle with work as well。 Looking back at it, I think 『It really was difficult』, trying to make them compatible with one another。
When I was still going to school、 we had to present our report cards to the managers。 So it wasn’t just about work, they checked on whether we were studying properly as well。 I’m pretty bad when it comes to studies、 so even though I worked hard on my homework, my results weren’t great. I wasn’t scolded but I was told 『You’ve got to work harder at your studies, okay』。
But、 I really love this line of work、 and though I’ve had my fair share of enjoyable and painful events、 I wasn’t alone as I had the members、 and surrounding me were the staff-san who were supporting me from behind and my family、 that let me get through these 10 years.
――When you were in primary school、 did you get any help from the other members with your school homework？
In our free time, there were times when we did all go study together（laughs）.
――Sugaya-san, as the group’s ”youngest child”、 from that standpoint、 were there any points where you felt there were changes in the group in things like the relationships between the members？
All of the members are from the same generation、 but there definitely was the sense that I was the youngest child、 and since I wasn’t good at striking up conversations, there were times when I had to be careful。
However、 I don’t remember this clearly、 but there was once where I had a moment when I spilled out my emotions suddenly、 where I told them my opinions and my thoughts like 『I want to do it this way』。 Up until then, a lot of the time I would ride on the coat tails of the other members、 but I became able to say things like 『For me ～、 so I think this is wrong』。
The members too、 for a long time ago we would only start making moves once we were told to by the adults around us、 but recently、 we’ve started gathering the members’ input on things like the song order and costumes for lives、we even did it during our plays.
――For example、 do you discuss among members what to do beforehand for things such as MC corners at lives？
We do。 For MCs、 Momo （Tsugunaga Momoko） and the other members think about it、 and come up with all sorts of ideas like 『Wouldn’t it be funny if we did it like this?』。 I tend not to think about the MC and organisation since I’m bad at it、 I’m more in charge of thinking about costumes and make-up.
―― On fashion in particular、 we can see your obsession with it everywhere, like on your blog、 but what spurred that awareness？
Some time ago、 I appeared together with my friend Kyary-chan （Kyary Pamyu Pamyu） in a magazine、 so it might have been then when I woke up to a new discovery, 『Even these types of fashions exist』。 It started with me wanting to challenge myself to try out all sorts of clothes、 and changing what I wore depending on the day、 I tried on girlish fashions、 I tried casual styles、 and how I felt on the day was totally different depending on what I wore.
―― Let’s continue、 talking about singing、 amongst the fans, the topic of 「In 『Otakebi Boy WAO!』, the strength of your singing changed」 has come up、 was there something that started it or was there a reason behind it？
Up to then, I had followed the instructions of the recording director、 but for that song, Tsunku♂-san entered the booth together with me、 and standing by me, gave me guidance。 『Try singing the next one in that way』, 『Try putting in more breath here』、 he taught me all sorts of ways to sing at the time、 so I discovered new ways to bring out my voice from within。 And so、 from then on, you could say that my awareness and a lot of things changed.
―― Currently、 I think you’ve had chances to sing the songs from the time of your début、 are there any changes that you’ve noticed when you compare then and now？
At our 10th anniversary live （Held 3rd March 2014）、 we sang a number of songs from the time of our début。 Like for 『Fighting Pose ha Date janai』、 the 7 of us sang it energetically as we hadn’t sung it for a number of years. At its release, everyone’s voices were cute、 but having aged, the way we sing has more presence （laughs）
Even though we also thought 『We’d like to revive our selves fromthe past』、 and we wanted to mimic even the finest details of the song as much as possible、 it definitely was difficult to sing since it was a bit different than usual。 Still、 the fans enjoyed it, so I think that 『It’s good that we sang it』.
Ai ha Itsumo Kimi no Naka ni / Futsuu, Idol 10-nen yatterannai desho!? (Limited A cover)
―― Did you try to reproduce the dance as close to that time as possible too？
We tried our best （laughs） However、 recently we haven’t had many songs that are brimming with youthfulness, compared to when we made our début、 and because our past selves were very young, 、the cuteness would ooze out when we danced. But while our current selves were wondering how we should dance it、 we tried to dance while maintaining as much of that awareness as possible.
―― Dancing songs from your début, from ages ago、 how did the members react during the rehearsal held before your performance？
While dancing, everyone was going 『This is nostalgic』。 While watching a video of our dance lessons during those days、 all of had exchanges going『We danced like this』, or 『Ah、 how young』、 it really was nostalgic.
―― In connection with an episode from your 10th anniversary live、 you wept at the MC of your first independent Nippon Budokan performance held last year（Held on 29th November 2014）. Could you tell us your feelings at the time and about the view that was reflected from your eyes？
Honestly、 I was really nervous before it started。 I definitely was tided over by all sorts of emotions、and I was already sobbing even before we went out on stage。 The song we were starting with was 『Anata Nashi de ha Ikite yukenai』、 and the moment we stood on-stage, the view really made me want to cry、 but since the tune itself didn’t have an atmosphere of shedding tears, so while I was frantically holding it back, thinking 『I can’t cry』, I put up a confident face and sang （laughs）.
―― The Budokan covered in the light of glowsticks and the roar of the crowd was amazing, wasn’t it？
It’s normally difficult for the cheers from the audience to go beyond our ear monitors. But when we were at the Budokan、 it got through、 you could really hear the cheers of the fans on a grand scale。 And so、 I was constantly in tears throughout the day。 At the final MC、 I was deeply moved by the fact so many people had come to see us even though it was a weekday. The enjoyable experiences we’ve had up until now、 and of course, the hardships and the tough experiences、 and then、 the faces of the people who had been supporting us came to mind. At any rate, all sorts of emotions just welled up、 so it had me crying at the MC.
―― Once the Budokan live was done with、 did you feel a sense of accomplishment？
I did。 But、 rather than feeling that I was done with it、 even stronger was the feeling of wanting to do it again.
―― In September of this year、 you’ll be preparing for a Nippon Budokan live again, right?
That’s right。 I’m really looking forward to it！
―― Within the 10 years since Berryz Kobo’s début, there’s been a clamour about the 「Idol Warring States period」、 and showdown events have also increased、 with the circumstances surrounding idols changing from moment to moment、 but as an idol、 have you felt any changes in the idol scene？
I think that there aren’t that many groups with individuality like Berryz Kobo has、 where each and every one of our members pulls in different directions、 and I mean that in a good way。 We’ve had more than a few thoughts about other idols、 but I think that our forte is 『Although we may be all scattered, we do what needs to be done when it needs to be done』。 I’ll hold on to this feeling to the bitter end、 but I don’t have a strong sense of rivalry with other idols.
―― Currently、you’re just facing the selves who are just in front of your eyes, without wavering。
―― Have you had any chances to watch other idols or artistes？
I’ve watched them through the television。 When I get the hint of an idea、 between the time our live performances are announced and before they actually start, I use them as references and make suggestions.
Ai ha Itsumo Kimi no Naka ni / Futsuu, Idol 10-nen yatterannai desho!? (Limited B cover)
―― Turning to the topic of you new single that went on sale on the 4th of June 2014、 while it was a double A side, they had completely opposing vibes、 but to connect it with your 10th anniversary、 what were your impressions the first time you saw the lyrics of 『Futsuu、 Idol 10-nen Yatterannai desho!?』？
Honestly、 I truly felt surprised。 The title itself has a great impact、 and I don’t think it could be sung by anyone besides us。 Also、 although I expect Tsunku♂-san wrote the lyrics、 it really is completely packed with our thoughts and feelings、 and we were astonished, like 『How does he understand our feelings to such an extent』。 It feels like he hit the mark splendidly.
―― For the other song, 『Ai ha itsumo Kimi no Naka ni』、 what were your impressions？
Listening to the intro, my first thought was that it sounded like the opening for the drama 『Mitokōmon』。 The melody is majestic, like something out of a musical、 but the dance is characteristic as well。 At the beginning, our dance teacher told us 『Even the expressions on your faces have to be precise』。 The choreography itself wasn’t that difficult、 but since we had to make detailed expressions for every phrase、 there were parts where we were hard-pressed.
―― Let’s go back to talking about the group again. For Sugaya-san、 you’ve spent 12 years together with them, counting from the Kids era, so what is Berryz Kobo to you？
They’re like a second family、 like lovers to me。 Obviously they’re like air to me、 and I remember having moments of unease when I couldn’t meet up with them。 Even if I don’t meet them for two、 three days、 the loneliness that wells up in me is akin to one month’s worth。 Of course, when we meet, we interact normally、 but it’s a strange sensation.
―― The contrast between family and lovers is amusing .（laughs）
The trifling acts of the members make my heart skip a beat、 and there are moments that make me think, 『How cute』 about each member。 In particularly、 ever since Maasa-chan （Sudo Maasa） cut her hair short、 since she’s become boyish, so there are times when I think that she’s like a romantic partner （laughs）.
―― You joined as the youngest in the beginning、 were you under the impression that the other members were like ”older sisters”？
That’s right。 I have siblings、 and at home I definitely have to be a reliable older sister、 but when I went for work, it felt like 『There are many older sisters around』。 And so, even now I’m still pretty pampered （laughs）.
―― Now that all the members are now adults、 can you describe your view of the future for Berryz Kobo after 5、 10 years？
This year, through our 『Naruchika』 live tour, we’ve been going around to lilve houses at various places、 but on my blog there are a lot of comments on the line of 『Please make sure to come to our home town！』、 so I’d like to make our way to the places we haven’t been before、 and if we can, I’d like to have gone around all 47 prefectures。
Also、 I’d like us to have one more performance at Saitama Super Arena。 Previously、 we set the record as youngest performers there （Held on the 1st of April 2007、 they established the record amongst independent artiste performances with 「An average age of 13.8」）、 not immediately、 but I’d like to go back there in the future.
―― Finally、 as you continue to progress from now on、 would you like Berryz Kobo to continue on for 10 more years？
By that time all of the members will be in their 30s, and our individual circumstances may have changed、 but if we’re able to, I’d love to continue on.
―― You’ll certainly look forward to 「cha cha SING」 after 10 years.（laughs）
Don’t you know it? （laughs） I’d be a bit worried about my body、 but since it’d be amazing if I could do, I think I’d continue with it.
―― In the midst of how busy you are today、 we’d like to thank you very much for spending your precious time with us。
In the midst of the changes from childhood to adulthood、 Sugaya talked about her relationships with the members、 and how the way she performed had changed。 Indeed, getting to that critical juncture of “10 years” in anything、 isn’t a simple achievement。 For Berryz Kobo、 who are pushing forward as idols, and for Sugaya Risako、 what sort of changes will they achieve from now on? Through their music and their live performances、 let’s continue observing that process。