Ai-chan and Gaki have been interviewed by the hotexpress, and since I found a translation by kurikaesu.haru in H!O. This interview is where TakaGaki expresses their feelings and experiences during their 10 years together in Morning Musume. Since it's the last interview of Ai-chan as a Morning Musume in hotexpress, I want to share it with you guys.. ENJOY!
Last interview with Takahashi Ai as Morning Musume. We got her and Niigaki Risa, who have come this far having supported each other for 10 years, to spit out feelings that have been welling up within them. A strong bond between Takahashi, who shed tears at hearing words of being the closest of friends, and Niigaki, who also shed tears upon seeing the crying Takahashi. Please feel this unspeakable love towards Morning Musume.
Takahashi Ai, graduation close at hand.
---Today we'll have the two of you talk about your thoughts on 10 years of Morning Musume. First, we'd like to hear from Gaki-san. Can you talk frankly about your state of mind now that Takahashi Ai's graduation is a month away?
Niigaki: Um........she's graduating soon, so little by little I'm actually feeling that it's rapidly coming closer and closer. The tour that we're doing now started with the thought, "There are only 10 performances left." Because we've come along being in Morning Musume together these past 10 years, being with her is just natural. That's why I'm passing the time thoroughly experiencing each and every thing, like concerts.
--How about Ai-chan? What's your state of mind with your graduation approaching?
Takahashi: There are a lot of moments when I feel, “Ah, I'm graduating.” When moments when I'm like “This is the last time I'll be on this show,” or “This is the last Hello concert for me,” or “This is the last concert I'm doing in Aichi prefecture,” gradually pile up, as expected, I get this painful, numbing feeling of “Is that so? So this is the last one?”
---You're currently in the middle of “Morning Musume Concert Tour 2011 Fall Ai BELIEVE ~Takahashi Ai Graduation Commemoration Special~” With what kind of thoughts and feelings are you facing it?
Takahashi: The fall tour last year was the last for Kamei Eri, Junjun, and Linlin, and Eri in particular was different from usual and it felt like she was filled with fighting spirit. She was different from the Eri we'd seen up to that point, or rather, it felt like she was trying to impart something. So we also thought, “We gotta work hard!” and got motivated. Everyone got all hyper with that synergy. That's why I wanted to do this tour in the same way, but it hasn't been like that.
Takahashi: The rehearsals this time were also not like that. There are also quite a lot of new songs, so I myself am not composed. That's why I've been told “Takahashi is really Takahashi until the end. Nothing changes just because 'this is the last', huh?” And I replied, “Sorry. I want to do this firmly.” (laughs) But a part of me thinks it's fine this way.
---Because that's also what Takahashi Ai is like, right?
Takahashi: Also, the 9th gen members (Fukumura Mizuki, Ikuta Erina, Sayashi Riho, Suzuki Kanon) have been crying quite a lot. They've been getting scolded. I get nostalgic seeing that. It's because when the four of us (Takahashi Ai, Niigaki Risa, Konno Asami, Ogawa Makoto) joined as new members, we were always crying in the beginning. I remembered the four of us from that time. Four people bonding.
---We'd like to go back on the time that the two of you have spent together, all the way back to the beginning. Almost ten years ago, the two of you, along with Konno Asami and Ogawa Makoto, joined Morning Musume as 5th generation members. What were your first impressions of each other?
Niigaki: I met Ai-chan for the first time at the audition training camp. Was it then that we first talked? And Ai-chan had an accent.
Niigaki: Up until then, I had lived in Yokohama for all of my 12 years, so I had only been around Yokohama Prefecture citizens.
Takahashi: You mean Kanagawa Prefecture citizens, right? [Yokohama is a city in Kanagawa prefecture.]
Niigaki: I was raised among Kanagawa citizens, so it was the first time I talked to a girl who was from somewhere else. That's why I thought, “Huh? Ama--zing! Such a way of talking exists!” That was so fresh that I remember very well feeling that that was superbly cute, thinking, “A dialect is sooo nice~” and being envious.
---Speaking of which, you've lost your accent, huh?
Niigaki: Nope. She still has it, you know! She has it when she's about to lose her temper.
---(laughs) What about your first impression of Gaki-san?
Takahashi: When we first met, she had a really cute hairstyle, so I was thinking, “How cute is this girl,” but when we started our training camp, I was like, “Huh?” It seems her mom had been doing her hair for her, and she had never done it herself. That itself was also really cute. Maybe I saw her as a child?
Niigaki: It's because I'm two years younger.
Takahashi: I was a third year middle schooler. At the time, the two-year difference was so great that I thought, “She's still so young...” Along with Gaki-san, there was also another young girl. And that girl would also be crying, saying, “I wanna go home.” But basically, everyone got along well. Normally, at an audition, you'd be all “I don't wanna lose to her!”
Niigaki: We got along so well that we got scolded.
Understanding each other even without exchanging words.
Takahashi: Like, “You're rivals. Do you understand?”
Niigaki: On the bus, there was no tension at all and we were all screaming around. Each of us did what we had to do at training camp with all our might. It was like we were fighting a battle with our own selves. That's why there was no sense of being rivals.
Takahashi: Gaki-san was very energetic since then.
---At that time, you may have been like older sister and child, but now you're like classmates, right?
Takahashi: If I had to say, Gaki-san would be the older one (laughs).
---Has there been anything that triggered you to think that you've completely opened your hearts to each other?
Takahashi: For girls, there are a lot of things that you do together as two people, right? In our case, there were 4 of us in our generation, but generally, I was with Gaki-san. During our tours, the two of us would stay in twin rooms, so we naturally became close.
Niigaki: But I think, “Probably....recently?”
Niigaki: No, we opened up to each other from the beginning, but recently.....
Takahashi: Recently, haven't we been alike in many ways? Like we face each other at the same time, or when Gaki-san thinks of something and says “Yeah” while nodding her head and I look at her, I also say, “Yeah, huh.”
Niigaki: We've become able to understand each other even without exchanging words. To the point that we ourselves are surprised. We've become like that without any particular impetus.
---That's an amazing thing, you know. That's telepathy.
Takahashi: We're like, “Yeah, that's right, huh” and understand each other without putting what we mean into words.
--When the two of you joined Morning Musume 10 years ago, it was filled with seniors, Iida Kaori, Abe Natsumi, Yasuda Kei, Yaguchi Mari, Goto Maki, Ishikawa Rika, Yoshizawa Hitomi, Tsuji Nozomi, Kago Ai, and they each had established characters on TV and such. With what kind of feeling did you carry out activities with them?
Takahashi: There was pressure, and everyone seemed like “someone from TV!” When we got accepted in the audition, those 9 seniors came down the stairs and danced “The☆Peace!” right in front of us, and I was so nervous that I couldn't look them in the eye (laughs). From then on, the 4 of us were together for about a month. There were so many things to memorize and we were frantic. When we joined up with the rest of them, the 4 of us still stuck together.
Niigaki: Our seniors each had established characters, so it was like, “You can't establish your characters because the 4 of you are together like that. Look at 4th gen. Make your characters!” Despite being told that, we were like, “What's my own character?” (laughs).
Takahashi: We were troubled over that for a long time.
---As expected, that time was the most severe?
Takahashi: That's right. We had so much to memorize, and we got scolded about our characters (laughs). We often cried.
Niigaki: I think it was really great that I had generation-mates. I wouldn't have been able to endure it by myself. As I thought, I was able to do my best because there were 4 of us. We've had fights, too, but of course, the 4 of us felt the same and have persevered even through tough times, and because of that, we're here now. Two have graduated, and Konkon in particular has become an announcer and is in a completely different place, but because we're from the same generation, there's the feeling that we're still connected even now. I think that's amazing.
---At the same time that these 5th gen members were finally able to show their characters, the senior members started graduating one by one. What was it like when these seniors who had been scolding you and worrying about you were gone?
Takahashi: There was that time when graduations were occurring one after another. Recently, when Gaki-san and I were being interviewed, we were looking back at Morning Musume in chronological order and were surprised, saying, “Eh? She graduated at this time?” But whenever there was a graduation, I thought, “What am I gonna do afterwards?” In the beginning, there was Goto Maki-san's graduation. And after that, someone had to take over her parts, right? Goto-san had a lot of parts, so they were handed over like, “You do this song. Gaki-san, you do this song.” But as soon as I took over, it was like, “Goto-san left a strong impression, and I'll be watched on TV. What am I gonna do?” I was happy, but there was pressure.
Niigaki: Every time, graduations are big. New members joining is also a big thing for us, but each time, we're more worried about the graduation and how to move forward.
---And among that, wasn't the graduation of your generation-mates Konno Asami and Ogawa Makoto in 2006 severe?
Takahashi: It felt like, “What IS this!?”
Feelings towards 5th gen members, A cool Morning Musume that hasn't existed until now
---Did you get a little angry?
Takahashi: It was like, "Why!?" "Isn't it too soon!?" It's because both of them were graduating at almost the same time. Up until then, I didn't understand what it was like when someone of the same generation graduates, so I thought, "I wonder if Yoshizawa-san felt this way, too."
---Are you still concerned about the two of them until now? Like about their activities as Dream Morning Musume and announcer.
Niigaki: We are! Konkon is saying “I'm Konno Asami” in a deep voice with all her might. Everyone else probably takes this normally, but us, we're like, “Konkon!?” and “Wa----she's doing her best!” Precisely because we know her, we're surprised (laughs).
Takahashi: We've never seen that kind of Konkon, so we're like, “Such a Konkon exists!?” It's because she always used to be scolded, “Konno, your voice is tiny!”
Niigaki: It makes you think, “You could strain your voice that much?” That's probably why she's putting in a considerable amount of effort.
Takahashi: Probably, huh. She has probably overcome a lot. I think she went through a considerable amount of hardships. At the time, she really had such a frail voice. That part of her was cute, too, though.
---Then, the year after those two 5th gen members graduated, Yoshizawa Hitomi graduated, right after her was Fujimoto Miki, and the two of you had to pull Morning Musume along. Since that year, did Morning Musume's way of perceiving and matters to consider change in a big way?
Takahashi: It was no longer only about myself. Not that I had never thought of the group as a whole, but I became more attentive to small details like, “Right now, this girl is in this condition, and that girl is in this condition.” Yoshizawa-san also used to send mail asking, “What's wrong?” with such perfect timing that it made me think, “When was she watching?” I also naturally adapted that point of view when I became leader.
Niigaki: Aichan becoming leader was really sudden, so I think she was certainly worried, thinking, “Eh? Leader, without warning?” There wasn't much I could do, but we're from the same generation, so together we started talking about work like, “Because we're in such a situation now, we should do it like this, right?”
---For 10 years, just as much as you've watched the figures of many of your seniors, [you must think about] how you should nurture Morning Musume, and what mark you should make. Conversely, isn't there a part of you that's troubled?
Takahashi: I was troubled at the very beginning. By nature, I wasn't the type to be a leader, and Junjun and Linlin had just joined, so there were a lot of new things. But during that time, Nakazawa (Yuko)-san and Yoshizawa-san called out to me, saying things like, “It's fine to do it in your own way,” and “You don't have to be troubled so much.” Then, the leader position was entrusted to me, and still I'm like this, so Gaki-san supported me, and so did the 6th gen (Kamei Eri, Michishige Sayumi, Tanaka Reina). After that, Tsunku-san gave me a push, and at the first tour after I became leader, the idea “We'll do our best to become a cozy Morning Musume” was set forth. And when we did our best doing that, all the fans told us, “I like the current Morning Musume.”
---That's reassuring, huh.
Takahashi: That's why I mostly felt at ease and not troubled. We were able to have a successful Asia tour, we got to do concerts at Anime Expo in America and Japan Expo in France, we were able to take on many challenges that Morning Musume has never done before. However, when Eri, Junjun, and Linlin, and also Koharu, were still in the group, the members didn't change for a long time, so we were very tight and thought, “Surely the members won't change anymore. We'll probably move forward with the 9 of us.” That's why when Koharu's graduation was decided, I was surprised, or rather, I remembered, “Ah, this is Morning Musume.” (laughs)
---The Morning Musume under Takahashi Ai's leadership aimed to be a “cool Morning Musume” that hasn't existed until now, while making the best use of each member's individuality, particularly on stage when the whole group sparked, producing deeply moving moments many times over. I personally would like you to be proud of that.
Takahashi: Thank you! But that's when Morning Musume was changing. Before 9th gen joined, somewhere there was this idea of “We have to be cool” because we got music that was cool, and the 8 of us were all happy to be told that we're cool. But because the fresh 9th gen members joined, our outlook changed. More than the “We have to be cool” idea that we've had up until now, it's “energy.” That's why I think the Morning Musume now and the one from before are completely different groups. From now on, I think the 9th gen's coolness will come out, too. Once I'm gone, a different coolness will come out. Because no one but Morning Musume can gradually change form in such a way, I'll still be a fan even after I graduate.
---Incidentally, from Gaki-san's point of view, what kind of leader was Takahashi Ai?
Niigaki: The closest one, or how should I put it....a leader who's very close to her juniors. Aichan personally doesn't have the sense of “Because I'm leader,” rather, it's like, “Even though I'm leader, it's easy to talk to me.” It's easy to consult her. She's a leader that the 9th gen can get close to, going, “Takahashi-san!” In that sense she's become a leader who wants to create a cozy Morning Musume. There's still the senior-junior relationship, but in a good way and without creating barriers, she watches over everyone, and everyone also loves her dearly. I really think she's that kind of leader.
Takahashi Ai cries out loud, and then, Niigaki Risa, too.
---And then, what about having walked along together for 10 years as partners?
Niigaki: 10 years is amazing, isn't it~? For me, the 10 years passed in the blink of an eye, but it was also long. We've been together ever since we were the most junior in the group. When we were new members, the two of us really were always together. There was also a period of time when I was watching her from afar, not for any strange reason or because we particularly didn't get along, though. There were times when I really thought, "She's working so hard," when Ai-chan was in a position where she had to be reliable, and also times when I thought, "Right now, she's pushing herself too hard, though." Really there were so many various periods. Those times, the members were different, too, and we're coming along together having seen all of that. When we were juniors, and since we became seniors, too. It's truly.....difficult to express it in words.
Niigaki: But I'm glad, or, how should I put it....the earlier graduation of our two generation-mates was painful and sad, but the 10 years that I've been able to work hard with Ai-chan is very deep, and probably from now on......we have to do our best, though! In my heart, these past 10 years is a treasure. Whaaaaat (laughs) !!
(Takahashi is crying out loud)
Niigaki: But somehow, what is it.......It's difficult, though! Really. Putting it into words.
---You've conveyed it perfectly.
Niigaki: That's how it is.......
(Niigaki is crying out loud)
Niigaki: We've come along having worked hard together like that, so she also does things like worry about our future. I myself am also very uneasy.....but we were able to work hard and come this far, even while worrying, “Will it be ok after she graduates?” so I think we'll be fine. [We'll move forward] so that we don't worry her about anything, and the 10th generation members will join. I think completely different girls might join, too, though!
Niigaki: When those girls join, I think we'll become a very new Morning Musume, and the 9th gen members will very suddenly grow. That's why.....this Morning Musume that we've built up together is in its 14th year, and we've been members for more than half of that. That's why I think because Ai-chan also worries about this Morning Musume that has been built up, we have to continue it properly so as not to worry her. We'll move forward in a very positive way.
---How is it hearing all this talk right now?
Takahashi: I'm very anxious, but I really think they'll be fine. I've been the leader, but I was able to come this far because Gaki-san has been there for me as subleader. It's like, Gaki-san is very reliable so even if I'm not reliable, it's fine (laughs). Gaki-san told me the things that I did properly. That's why in that sense, I'm not worried at all. Gaki-san is sufficiently leader-like. Recently, there have been times when I watch her from a distance, since I'm also doing things like think about my future after graduation. When I see how she interacts with her juniors, I imagine, “So this is how it'll be like...” That's why I now think it's unnecessary for me to be that worried. Rather, I'm looking forward to it.
---The last single for Morning Musume with Takahashi Ai as leader is “Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterundayo!” What are your thought and impressions now that it's finished?
Takahashi: It's like, “It's become this way!” The graduation single for Kamei Eri, Junjun, and Linlin was “Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game” and our previous work was “Only You,” so I thought, “Maybe it'll be a cool type.” But when I try singing it, I can sing it with a very natural smile. At first, the choreography was also cool and the costumes were mature, so I didn't know what facial expression to have. But since the message is very strong by nature, I cheer up while singing it. That's why I end up laughing without fabricating anything. Up until now, I've been thinking, “I'll make a facial expression,” but I'm made to laugh so it really made me think, “It's great to be able to graduate like this!” It's great to decide to graduate in a cool way, but it's also great to graduate with a smile.
---It's tied to the music video of “Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai” right?
Takahashi: That's right. We've never had that pattern before. It took two days to film, and we also got to wear various costumes. There were things like a pajama scene, too.
---I saw on Tsunku-san's tweet that new songs will be introduced during the current tour, and that you'll sing songs from the new album that will be released in October. He said it's because it's the latest Morning Musume. Is Ai-chan also participating in the new album?
Takahashi: I am. The album will be released after my graduation, so it's a form that we've never had until now.
---Moreover, the duo Takahashi Ai x Niigaki Risa from that album will also be shown during the tour, right?
Niigaki: I'm very happy that at the very last moment a song was written for the two of us. Moreover, singing it feels really good. We're singing it with great care during the tour.
Takahashi: It's an extremely happy song. I think it's also such a blessing to be able to say that it's “our song.” Furthermore, we get to harmonize. When it comes to harmony, it's not right unless you both depend on each other's melody, right? Gaki-san can be very reliable when it comes to that, so although I say, “it can feel really great singing it in concert,” I'm singing it just naturally, so there are times when it's like, “Eh? We should harmonize at that part, right?” (laughs). The two of us can sing with a natural feeling to the point that we don't even worry about that.
---Nippon Budoukan on September 30th. How will Ai-chan be, huh? As soon as they send you off, you'll be on the side of those who've been sent off.
Takahashi: I can't imagine it, but you can only experience being sent off once, right? I think I'll definitely cry, but I don't want to. Of course, I want to say “Thank you” and graduate, but I also want to say, “Please take care of Morning Musume from now on,” with a smile. Graduation is not a bad thing, since it's connected to both of us stepping up. I think that, but I'm already crying here (laughs).
---Well then, finally. What kind of place is Morning Musume to Takahashi Ai?
Takahashi: It was like home. Once in a while, I go out to do things by myself, but it's like I have a place to come home to. The members and I aren't from the same family, but we're with each other more than we are with our families, so it's really like a relationship that's somewhere between friends and family. I'm sports-minded, so it feels like a club activity, but it's also deeper than that, and it's longer than that. Also, I joined Morning Musume because I like singing and dancing, and there were unpleasant things, times when I wanted to quit, times when I was homesick and wanted to go home, but after all, I think, “I'm glad I'm in Morning Musume.” I've been extremely happy being able to spend 10 years in it.