Translated from Marquee magazine, vol. 117.
Hiragana Keyaki is the third group in the Sakamichi Series, after Nogizaka 46 and Keyakizaka46. The results of its auditions were announced in May.
At first, it was called an under-group to Keyakizaka46, centred on Nagahama Neru, who would appear with both groups. But since its twelve members appeared on Keyakizaka's TV show, Keyakitte, Kakenai, their strong individual personalities are being talked about, and the group's popularity is rising.
Their song Hiragana Keyaki was on the standard edition CD of Keyakizaka46's 2nd single, Sekai ni wa Ai Shika Nai, and they have performed it at handshake events. But beyond that, they have remained veiled.
Now two members, Kakizaki Memi and Katou Shiho, make an appearance for us, talking mainly about personal matters.
-- Katou-san, in your blog you often write of your love for Kakizaki-san. Is that true?
Katou -- Yes, it is, but this kid loves me, too, you know.
Kakizaki -- (giggles) I do.
-- It seems that Kakizaki and Katoshi [Katou's nickname] are known as "Zakishi."
Katou -- It's kind of intriguing, don't you think?
Kakizaki -- And I'm the one who came up with it (laughs)
-- From Katou-san's point of view, what kind of girl is Kakizaki-san?
Katou -- Although she looks as cute as a doll, she's surprisingly outgoing. But she's still a spoiled child who likes to depend on others. She's always going: "Katoshi, what should I do here?"
-- And how does Kakizaki-san see Katou-san?
Kakizaki -- My first impression was that she seemed cold, and would be cool and hard to approach. But when I tried speaking to her, she was soft and flouncy and not cold at all, so we unexpectedly became close. Because she's older, I depend on her in some things. But she's flighty and not very mature at all in some ways, so it's easy to be with her.
-- Kakizaki-san, you're the youngest member of the group. Don't you feel the difference in your ages?
Kakizaki -- No, I don't.
Katou -- I've always been the type who was friendly with people older and younger than me.
-- Katou-san seems to like cute girls.
Katou -- I really love them. I've always liked idols, but what I really love is cute girls.
-- In your blog you say you're a negative person.
Katou -- Yes, I am.
Kakizaki -- Sometimes she calls me and talks about all her worries.
Katou -- I've never thought I was cute. The more I look in the mirror, the more depressed I get. It's all negative.
-- Ever since you were little?
Katou -- No, it's only recently. Until now, I never thought about complexes and things. It's only since joining Hiragana Keyaki that I haven't been able to avoid seeing my round face or my other bad features. I'm short, my feet are chunky....
-- You're someone whose thoughts tend to go in a negative direction.
Katou -- Yes.
-- Kakizaki-san, are you negative or positive?
Kakizaki -- I don't want people around me to know those things. I'm the type who doesn't tell her troubles to others. I don't want to make people worry about me or watch out for me.
Katou -- Sorry.
Kakizaki -- (smiling) I don't tell people, but I do have things I think about. However, I try not to think about them too much.
-- You've said in several places that both of you liked Nogizaka, but didn't have the courage to try out for Keyakizaka the first time. But did you basically have an interest in working in entertainment?
Kakizaki -- No. It was only recently that I found Nogizaka and began to aspire to be like them. If I hadn't found Nogizaka, I don't think I would have had such a dream. I really had no dream for the future. I like clothes, so I came to think I might like to sell clothes in a shop.
-- But Katou-san, you've said before that you liked idols.
Katou -- I went to Nogizaka live events, and my friends and I said: "Wouldn't it be nice to sing and dance like that." But I never thought I could actually do it. I thought I would just go to a college and get a job in the normal way. As for idols, when I was in middle school I would say: "Wow, AKB are so cute!" But since I loved clothes, my dream was to work in an apparel shop. I like children, so my mother said I should be a nursery school teacher, and I was thinking about that. But since those things weren't happening, before the audition I was thinking I wanted to be a full-time homemaker.
-- You didn't have the courage to enter the Keyakizaka auditions, but when the Hiragana Keyaki auditions came up, you had a strong desire to enter them. Was that it?
Kakizaki -- When the Toriizaka members were announced [Toriizaka was Keyakizaka's name when the auditions were held] and I saw the photos, I regretted not having entered the auditions. I thought that if there were more auditions, I would definitely enter.
Katou -- Like Memi-tan, I regretted not entering. I thought the next auditions wouldn't come for two or three years. But when the Hiragana Keyaki auditions were announced, I thought: "Ah! I will definitely enter these."
-- Could you describe your regret in more concrete terms?
Katou -- [putting her hand near her heart] I felt depressed right here (laughing). It was a feeling like "oh, no!"
Kakizaki -- [nods and giggles.]
-- If it wasn't a Sakamichi group, you wouldn't apply?
Kakizaki and Katou -- No!
-- Quick response. What most attracts you about them?
Katou -- First, the look: they're cute! And the songs give a neat, clean feeling. The skirts being long rather than short, etc., the hairstyles not being too flashy, neater-seeming... Those are the things I admired.
Kakizaki -- I also thought the neat, clean look was good, and everyone was cute. I wanted to be like that. I had thought lots of people were cute, but that was the first time I had wanted to be like any of them.
-- This is a somewhat personal question. Katou-san, you are currently in first-year college. What are you studying?
Katou -- I didn't want to study anything, but my father and mother ordered me to go to college (laughs). It didn't seem as if I could do four years of study, so I went to a two-year college -- doing nails, and dressmaking, and practical things like that. I'm enjoying it. And I study psychology.
-- So that's what you'll make a living at in the future?
Katou -- No, not at all. I'm super happy to have become an idol. My life is happy (laughs). Ever since I was an elementary-school student, I haven't had a dream. When I wrote down my dream, it was to have a happy home, or to be a full-time homemaker. But I was worried that might not be something I could decide on as a job. I'm so happy that I entered the audition for Hiragana Keyaki.
-- Kakizaki-san, you live in Nagano. Doesn't it make you nervous that you're going to come to Tokyo?
Kakizaki -- Not at all. I really want to come to Tokyo and do my best.
-- I see. You're the type of person who, once she has decided something, goes straight ahead.
Kakizaki -- Ah, I've been called stubborn.
-- Your activities have just begun and you're piling up new experiences every day, I imagine. But on stage Kakizaki-san is a double centre with Nagahama-san. When you first heard that, what did you think?
Kakizaki -- I felt guilty. I thought: I can't really do anything special, is this okay? I'm a poor singer, and even though I did do some dancing in the past, I wasn't really into it and was at the beginners' level. Seeing everyone working hard at it, I thought I was just no good. I had no thought at all of going on stage, and I still have no confidence.
-- Katou-san, do you have any ambition to be centre?
Katou -- I do. I think it would be nice to be centre, but I really am not very good at either dancing or singing, and I don't have a millimeter of expressive ability. When I have to smile, I can't smile.
-- But you've been smiling all along here, haven't you?
Katou -- Normally, I do smile, but when I'm singing and so on, I can't. I'm so useless I end up crying every time. Memi-tan really has a strong heart. When I see videos and so on, she seems totally confident. I think I always look like some suspicious character.
-- Kakizaki-san, are you someone who doesn't get nervous?
Kakizaki -- I thought I would be super nervous the first time I went on stage, but it was surprisingly okay. When I'm making a presentation at school, I get so nervous that my jaw chatters, but recently I haven't been nervous at all. I wonder why.
Katou -- It's because you're suited to be an idol. At our first time on stage, I was no good. I was thinking: when people look up at me from below they're going to see my nostrils. Oh, no! (they both laugh). I was negative then, too (laughs). "If it goes on like this, it's no good. Oh, what to doooo?" (laughs) But on my second time on stage, I'll look at the audience's faces properly.
-- Within you, do you have an ideal girl you want to become?
Kakizaki -- I want to be a girl who's totally white.
Katou -- Me, too. I want to be like a ghost.
-- What? What are you talking about?
Katou -- It'd be okay to be scary. I like weak-looking girls. Wouldn't you like to be a ghost?
Kakizaki -- No, I don't want to be a ghost (laughs). I want to be a doll.
Katou -- Ah, I get it. Like having no blood colour.
Kakizaki -- Exactly!
Katou -- I want to be blue-white.
-- Katou-san, you're a weird one, aren't you.
Katou -- I get that a lot. Ever since I was little, my mother has said: "Just become a normal girl!" But I never have (laughs).
-- Finally, please tell us your personal goals from now on.
Kakizaki -- I want to gain confidence in myself, so that I'm not ashamed to stand there in front of everyone as centre in Hiragana Keyaki. And I want to work hard at both singing and dancing.
Katou -- I want to forget the fact my face is round and become good at singing and dancing and gain some expressive ability, so that I can give a performance that gives people goosebumps. I'm practicing hard every day.
Thanks to Keyakizaka Matome for original text and images.
Pretty well everything they say here tallies with what I have learned of them elsewhere. Memi just seems straightforward and at ease. Things don't seem to faze her. She laughs a lot and seems to get along with everyone.
Katoshi is definitely weird. And she really does look like a suspicious character in some of her early photos, particularly the very first ones after the group was selected. But now she seems to be getting prettier and prettier. This is from her blog:
I was surprised by the implication in the intro to this article that Hiragana was a separate group from Kanji Keyaki. Order was restored in a report on Monday's "guerilla event" where Hiragana members, including Memi and Katoshi, sold tickets to their "Hospitality Event" on 27 October. A sports paper referred to Hiragana as an under-group again. But the confusion over the group's real status remains.