If you think K-pop groups have far too many people in them, there are some from Japan which typically have around four times more members. And for such idol groups, like the popular Nogizaka46, lunch time can be chaos.
“Whenever the bento boxes come out, the girls will rush for the most popular one,” said member Manatsu Akimoto in Japanese.
The 24-year-old was in town on Thursday (23 November) together with fellow member Erika Ikuta, 20, and Sayuri Matsumura, 25, for a mini press conference ahead of the group’s performance on Friday. Manatsu explained that the group always has three different bento box sets to choose from, but one will be the clear winner for most of them.
Formed in 2011 as a ‘rival’ to another J-pop group AKB48, Nogizaka46 has held three rounds of auditions for members, the last being in 2016. They will perform in Singapore for the first time at the Suntec Convention Centre as part of Anime Festival Asia, which takes place over the weekend.
Manatsu, Erika and Sayuri, who are all first-generation members, shared other insights to what it’s like being a part of a group larger than a typical secondary school class in Singapore.
While lunch time might be a chaotic, there are many benefits to being a part of a big group, they said. For instance, the members rarely feel lonely and will always have someone to lean on.
“When you’re scared or nervous, you can always ask someone to be your support system,” said Manatsu. As older members of the group, they also play the role of senpai or teacher to the younger ones, she added.
There are only 23 first generation members left in the group, with the remaining belonging to the second and third. Their youngest member is 13-year-old Iwamoto Renka, who will not be performing in Singapore.
Since the group’s debut, Nogizaka46 has released three studio albums, with the most recent one, “Umaretekara Hajimete Mita Yume”, released earlier this year. They have also appeared on Japanese television with their very own variety show called “Where is Nogizaka?”.
When asked about their proudest moments as a group, Sayuri mentioned the time when the group performed at Tokyo Dome City, a popular and large entertainment complex in Japan.
She described feeling as if her “feet were off the ground”, especially considering that their debut performance took outside Tokyo Dome City, while AKB48 was performing inside the concert venue. While they remain known as AKB48’s rivals till today, the group seems inclined to detach themselves from that reputation.
During the press conference, Manatsu highlighted their unique selling points, which are different from AKB48’s. “Our appearance is different. In terms of outfits, we always wear uniforms. Our skirt is longer. AKB48 has a more pop sound to their music while Nogizaka46 has slower sounds,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the pressure.”
One such example was the group feeling “scared and worried” upon initially hearing the news of their first show in Singapore.
“‘Is it okay that we come?’” recounted Manatsu. The group felt like it was such a big step for them to perform in Singapore, more so since they never had the chance to interact with their fans here.
But the girls of Nogizaka46 are clearly excited to be in the little red dot, and have even made plans to visit the Night Safari.
Here’s a list of members performing in Singapore: Asuka Saito, Erika Ikuta, Kana Nakada, Kazumi Takayama, Mai Shinuchi, Manatsu Akimoto, Marika Ito, Minami Hoshino, Miona Hori, Misa Eto, Reika Sakurai, Rina Ikoma, Sayuri Inoue, Sayuri Matsumura and Yuri Saito.
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