--First I’d like to ask about the end of Morning Musume ’14. When Michishige Sayumi graduated at the concert of November 26th, what kind of day was it for the members seeing her off?
Oda: That day, after the concert, Michishige-san alone stayed behind in the dressing room, and all the other members went home first. So, when we were about to leave we’d say to Michishige-san, “Otsukaresama deshita!!”… I wonder how many times we said it?
Sato: We said it many, many times.
Oda: No one wanted to go home, so we just kept saying “Otsukaresama deshita!” again and again, and then Michishige-san said, “It’s as if we were going to meet again tomorrow like usual, isn’t it-“. So we, too, while thinking “It’s like we’re going to meet tomorrow-“… we parted.
Sato: That's why, even when tomorrow came, everyone still felt like "Michishige-san is still here".
--That she might just be doing Morning Musume work somewhere else.
Oda: It's not like we always work with all members together, I myself had radio work the next day in a group of 3, so it felt like everyone was just working separately, including Michishige-san. But then you'd realize, "Ah, we haven't met in how many months now...".
Sato: The curtain kept stretching until it closed. But since our feelings had no closure, the curtain ended up stretching further and further. In reality, that curtain was already closed, and a new curtain was opening, but for us it felt like the previous curtain just kept stretching on forever. It didn't even feel like we were working with the 12th gen after 11/27, so we really spent the rest of 2014 with a really weird feeling. Before we noticed we'd become Morning Musume '15 already.
--How did the 12th gen members feel watching Michishige Sayumi's graduation concert?
Ogata: I only spent about 2 months together with Michishige-san in Morning Musume, but I felt like it had been such an important time. Since we only had 2 months, we didn't get to talk much, and we even took pictures together only about 2 or 3 times, but when we watched Michishige-san's graduation concert from backstage the 12th gen members were all crying. She was really cool, and I even lost confidence thinking "Can I really make it in Morning Musume from now on?", but even more so I felt like "I'll do my best!".
Nonaka: The concert left a really deep impression, I was also watching from backstage the whole time, and at some scenes like when Fukumura-san ran towards Michishige-san, I cried really hard. At the end when the members said their messages to Michishige-san one by one too, though it's not like I've acted as a member of Morning Musume for long, I'd always been at a position of watching Morning Musume, so at that time I thought "Is Michishige-san really leaving? It has to be a lie?", I couldn't believe it. Even after it ended, when I thought "From tomorrow onwards I can't meet Michishige-san anymore" I couldn't help but feel dumbfounded... but from there on Morning Musume '15 is starting again, I could feel it for real from that moment on.
--After that grand graduation concert, what did the 1 month-and-bit before starting activities as Morning Musume '15 feel like?
Sato: I thought, "Is it fine like this?". After Michishige-san graduated the members didn't gather to talk, nor decided "This is what to make Morning Musume into!" or anything. I wound up thinking, "Couldn't we have done a bit more in the few months before Michishige-san graduated?", or "Shouldn't we have treasured that time more?"... but part of me myself felt like "I want to move like this, but I can't move properly" too... fuu!
Oda: Your air came out (laugh)
Sato: I thought, the things Michishige-san brought all the way to this point, we are letting it become smaller and smaller. If I were to compare it to that day's concert, even though Michishige-san extended the stage all the way to the center stage for us, even though she'd brought Morning Musume this far, now we can't get as far as to the center stage anymore, I feel that a lot.
--Oda-san, how did you spend that 1 month-and-a-bit?
Oda: At the time, we did a lot of activities as the 9 '14 members. 12th gen had already joined, but the latest single was a '14 release, so naturally we did a lot of events related to that with the members that were in '14. So, when we'd meet in the corridor in front of the dressing rooms, we often went "Eh? Isn't one person missing? ...Ah, that's right" like... it was a hazy feeling. It was really hazy wasn't it?
Sato: That's right, it was a really ha~zy sensation. There was even a period where Michishige-san and 12th gen were working at the same time, so part of me felt like '15 had both 12th gen and Michishige-san. So it felt like "Michishige-san is just taking a break right now". It was really like a cloud.
--Like a cloud?
Oda: A feeling like there's no gravity.
--Personally, I felt like during the Michishige Sayumi graduation concert you burned out completely for a moment.
Oda: There was that.
Sato: The road disappeared.
Oda: You know how when going to school sometimes you think "I don't like school-", or you're sleepy in the morning and you think "I wanna skip-", but when the graduation ceremony comes there's a lot of things that make you think, "I should have done more!", it's a similar feeling to that. "'14 sure was happy" "The environment with Michishige-san around sure was fun", that really sunk in.
Sato: Of course now is also fun, but it's a different kind of fun. If we'd call the current relationship between members "good work colleagues", '14 was "family". It felt like home. There's time separating 12th gen from 11th gen, and 10th gen is even further away. 9th gen is even further further away, but Michishige-san united all those members who were far apart and got them together as one. But even if we want to do the same for 12th gen, we don't know how to, I feel like we should go out all together for a takoyaki party and such like when Michishige-san was around, but 12th gen are still like "Sorry!" "Of course!", and I don't know how to connect with them!
--Then, I guess 12th gen should just invite you themselves already. "Senpai, I wanna have a takoyaki party".
Ogata & Nonaka: Ehh-! (laugh)
Oda: For an instance, when leader Fukumura-san contacts us saying "Let's do this tomorrow", 9/10/11th gen say "Got it" but the four 12th gen members will reply with "Understood" (laugh)
--That's stiff! So they're still being very formal, it seems.
Ogata: That's right. As a regular high school student, I didn't know what to say in those circumstances, then 12th gen Makino Maria-chan told us "At times like this you should reply with 'Understood'", so since then the four of us have been using "Understood". (laugh)
Sato: Then, if we tell them "We're just speaking normally, you know?", they reply like "I see, I'm very sorry." (laugh) It makes me think, how did Michishige-san soften her kouhai?
--You're saying Maachan, who broke the senpai walls in one go one after another with Tanaka Reina, doesn't know what to do when faced with kouhai?
Sato: It's hard when they're younger! (laugh)
Oda: Also, I feel like the presence of generation mates is really big in a lot of ways. Since I joined alone, I only had my senpai to establish communication with, you see. So I think I was able to naturally get close to them, but since 12th gen have other in the same position as them from the start, they end up going in that direction. I guess they just end up going back to where the other 3 are no matter what.
--It's a path that most past generations have tread, isn't it.
Sato: That's right. 10th gen also stayed with 10th gen at the beginning so I can't say anything but, but my feeling of wanting to soften them no matter what has been really strong, ever since we became '15.
--At the Morning Musume '15 reveal performance in New Year's, despite the situation of Suzuki Kanon being absent due to a ligament rupture, you developed a scaled-up performance. It looked perfectly put together to me, but how did you feel about it?
Oda: I thought, "12th gen is impressive".
Sato: We of 10th gen joined at Pyoco Pyoco Ultra, then we had Ren'ai Hunter and went through One Two Three, Wakuteka Take a chance, Help me!!, raising the level of the formation dance little by little, so I didn't think 12th gen would be able to do it right off the bat. I thought it would be hard. "Even Maa can't do it sometimes, it's definitely impossible". But 12th gen kept saying "It's fine", and when we held the actual reveal performance, it really was fine. So I thought, "are they geniuses!". I thought it was amazing they could do TIKI BUN and such.
Nonaka: I struggled with TIKI BUN the most. The formation is super hard, and we took it as it was already complete and added the four 12th gen members giving it a new shape, so at times I couldn't figure out how or where should I move. But I feel that I got used to it bit by bit as we kept doing it.
Sato: I just think they should showcase more individuality. When I was injured, I had an opportunity to look objectively at the current Morning Musume. 9/10/11th gen still haven't reached Michishige-san's level, but 12th gen, even though they're new members, it's like they aren't standing out, or are losing out somehow. They're still hiding themselves. Since they aren't showing all of themselves yet, they should barge into the front, they should go farther to the front than Sayashi-san, I know there's senpai-kouhai relations, but I just thought they should let out a bit more aura. I'd want them to do TIKI BUN and such with a more grand feeling, like saying "Look, I'm right here!", I really feel that I want them to do it with a feeling of "Fans, Look at me! I'm here, don't you see!" "I'm a star!".
--What do you think? Hearing that advice just now.
Ogata: I'm a star... huh.
Sato: "Excuse me, but I'm in Morning Musume!" "I'm here, do you have a problem with that?" I want them more of that level of feelings. Makino-chan and such has been coming to the front but, I still feel there's a lot of times when she loses motivation. In that aspect, Oda-chan had a "Look, I'm singing right here!" kind of feeling right from the beginning. She was really imposing even in front of the cameras. And since 12th gen has four of you, I just really feel like it would be good to let out a bit more of that.
--Within HelloPro, I have the impression that newbies in Angerme and Country Girls are also going all out towards the front, so I'd like to see Morning Musume. '15 new members working without giving in too.
Sato: That's right.
--And Morning Musume '15 which has taken off together with the new 12th gen members has been having activities for about 4 months now, so how is the situation currently? As a whole.
Oda: I think there's a good atmosphere. The age gap tightened a lot, didn't it. Michishige-san also had 12 years of career time, so of course that leaves a big hole, but now the 13 of us are taking on the hole together. How can I say this? I think we have different goals from '14.
Sato: Michishige-san would convey her will to all the members, "I want to achieve this, I want to cross over past it, I'll leave it behind me", so in order to reach that goal the whole group united as a single mass. But right now the goals aren't for the group as a whole, each person has their own scope, so it's like the balls are being thrown in every direction. That's why even if someone's ball hits their target, with just one person's power the target will just reply with "That's not enough power, you know".
Oda: During '14, Michishige-san would run ahead, and the 9 of us would chase after her. Right now each member is trying to achieve someone, and for me that's definitely singing. Because I feel like, "It won't get through like this". So like that, I think everyone has something about which they're feeling "I must do my best at this" right now.
Sato: But I'm thinking of nothing but bringing Morning Musume '15 together, so I feel like the members are all acting alone. Even though we need to get the rose Michishige-san gave each of us back together...
Oda: I think everyone might be acting like rivals in the good sense.
--Does that mean you aren't coming together as one?
Sato: We get along well, but there's nothing like "Let's all gather"...
Oda: I don't think it's the same as when it was '14. Whether for the same 9 (9/10/11th gen), or for the same 13 (9/10/11/12th gen).
--And that's the issue at hand for Maachan right now, right? How to work that out from now on.
Sato: I'm thinking of nothing besides putting the rose back together. For the rose that Michishige-san gave all of us including 12th gen, the rose she gave us that was supposed to become one, if we and 12th gen just keep holding on to our respective pieces they will just get blown away by the wind, it's like that.
Oda: If you compare what Michishige-san gave us to flowers, we have to make a bouquet out of them. But right now, it's not that everyone's hiding theirs, but since they're thinking "This is definitely mine", it's hard to put all 13 together. Isn't that right?
Sato: Yes. All I think about is how to complete it. When Michishige-san was around, after the 10 of us had a performance we would look at the fruit box and say "I wanted to have done that" or "Since this is our goal I feel like we should do things like this" and the like, to be specific, things like "We want to outgrow the Morning Musume of the past". Towards things like that, we would feel "I, Masaki, want to aim for that too" "I want to aim for it to", everyone would agree with it, but lately we don't even peck at the fruit together. We'd confirm something with the coach, teach something to 12th gen, and since everyone's caught in a commotion I get that it's hard, but... I want to peck at the fruit with everyone a bit more.
Oda: Right now everyone's working separately on their honing their skills, and it's about how much you can polish that 1/13. I'm the same as well, and I think that's also an important thing, but it's with all the put together that's it'll become 13/13, or it might even become 26/13, you see.
--I'm looking forward to see how this develops from now on. Now, Maachan just talked about her impression of 12th gen, but reversely, what is 12th gen's impression of Maachan?
Ogata: Sato-san is a genius.
Ogata: Like the metaphors she uses to talk...
Oda: It's unintelligible, isn't it.
Oda: Probably, it all makes sense inside Sato-san's mind.
Ogata: I think that sort of thing is amazing. It's like she's not human.
Sato: Hey, I'm human-!!
Ogata: (laugh). I think she's really a genius. Someone who can do anything.
Oda: She's really a genius. And Sato-san hasn't realized her own genius. Just now, she was referring to Morning Musume as a rose, but for her that is totally natural. But looking from outside, you think "Wow, what a romantic person", don't you. She also compares life to an equation, and says really splendid things about it. But to Sato-san that's also just a normal subject. Also, I'm really jealous of her superior sense for music, she's even been teaching the 12th gen about rhythm, teaching them how to catch the 16 beat, and lately she's even been doing a lot of song mixing, making BGM and the like, composing and writing song lyrics, she can do anything. As someone who loves singing, I think that there can't be a body this wonderful!
--That there is not be another creature so wonderful.
Sato: Creature (laugh).
Oda: There's no other living thing built like this, you know? If I were built like Sato-san, I feel like I'd want to make use of it to the maximum! I'm really envious.
--What does Nonaka-san think?
Nonaka: She was talking about "bringing everyone together" just now, and she's been helping 12th gen with dancing, and has been teaching me a lot. Up to the really small details of the dance. So, Since I really love Sato-san's dancing, I want to become like that too!
Sato: Even though I'm so bad at it?
Nonaka: I really love Sato-san's dancing. It's my goal. And, I also think Sato-san's words are amazing, to the point that one day I'd like her to write some sort of poem collection, and make it into a book. If Sato-san were to release a book, I'd definitely buy many copies (laugh).
--Maachan, you are being very higly praised. A person who once introduced themselves as, "I'm Sato Masaki a.k.a. Sato Masaki".
Sato: That was because i didn't know what "a.k.a." meant, so for the time being I thought it would be fine as long as I said "a.k.a." (laugh).
--How do you feel that there are people who'd call you a genius now?
Sato: I don't want to be called "stupid", when I took the Morning Musume auditions too I was told "If you shut up you'll pass. Don't talk", so I tried really hard, really hard to be as quiet as possible, and after passing I still stayed quiet even around 10th gen for a while. But when I did anything I would get scolded by the manager. Even when I introduced myself as "Sato Masaki a.k.a. Sato Masaki", I could see the manager there with a face that said "She's done it-" (laugh) ! When I saw that, I got nervous, thinking "Eh, did I say something weird just now? I said my name, I said I was 10th gen, I even used the 'a.k.a.'!", since it seemed I'd said something weird again. So when kouhai joined in, since I still didn't want to be thought of as "stupid", I tried my best not to talk...
Oda: But both 12th gen and I knew what kind of person you were, you know. Since we joined Morning Musume because we were fans.
Ogata: Actually, at first she wouldn't talk to us at all. I thought she seemed like the most distant one (laugh), but lately she talks to us a lot.
--And now Morning Musume '15's new single "Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru/Yuugure wa Ameagari/Ima Koko Kara" has been released. For 12th gen members this is your debut single, so what kind of work do you think it is?
Ogata: The 3 songs each have a different image, even the dance is cool for one, graceful for another, and energetic for another, and understanding how to adapt our facial expressions was also really hard, Like this song has a cute feeling, or this song has a cool feeling, they're all different. So, I studied by watching the senpai's expressions.
Nonaka: Since 9th gen's debut song was Maji desu ka ska! and 10th gen's debut song was Pyoco Pyoco Ultra, I was wondering if we'd also get a debut song with a fresh kind of feeling, but it was a seriously cool, seriously bittersweet kind of single, so I thought "I wonder if I can do it?", and felt really nervous. The dance and the use of expressions and such were really hard but, since all 3 songs are wonderful, I feel really honored to have gotten to debut with such a wonderful single.
--Oda-san is standing in the center for the Ima Koko Kara PV. Were you happy?
Oda: I have nothing but gratitude for that formation, and I realize that it was an overlapping of coincidences. The choreography for Ima Koko Kara had already been uploaded on Youtube previously, you know. A video with Pretty Cure dancing. I'm confident that I had remembered that dance better than anyone. So, during dance classes, I was also helping teach the other members, so I think, maybe the dance coach saw that, and decided me to put me in a good position? Or, maybe I just had a singing part with 12th gen, and got put in the center because of seniority? But, I was really so happy. It's been since my debut song Help me!! that I get to stand in the center. That's why I thought, "I must treasure this song, I must be thankful". It's not a "Woohoo!" kind of thing. Of course I'm happy, but the "Thank you so much!" feeling is stronger. Also, since Ima Koko Kara has the sort of optimism and cheerfulness to be sung by students on graduation ceremonies, so I'd like to sing it with care.
--In the singles ever since Oda-san's joining, so far you hadn't gotten to sing such a majorly Pop song yet, isn't it.
Oda: That's right. It's the first time I sang an idol-like song for a single. I hadn't ever sang anything other than EDM, so I'm really happy I got to sing an idol-like song as main for the first time.
--On the Yuugure wa Ameagari PV, Maachan stands out when you suddenly do solo air-piano. How did you feel about that?
Sato: At first, when I asked the dance coach "With what kind of feeling should I do it?", they said "Hm. You just need to play it." (laugh). But afterwards they told me, "Shouldn't you play the piano with a, come on 12th gen! kind of feeling? Like, watch me and follow after me! that kind of feeling". But after I play the piano, the four 12th gen members dance in front of me. So, in the end I did it with a "itterasshai!" (See you later!) kind of feeling (laugh).
--You saw them off instead.
Sato: I saw them off! Like seeing my little sisters off. Oda-chan is my kouhai but she's older, so apart from Duu I thought of everyone as my older sisters. Everyone. But for 12th gen I thought, I wonder if I have to become an older sister? It's the same in Seishun Kozou wa Naiteiru, of course in Yuugure wa Ameagari, and in Ima Koko Kara as well. Also, I think Yuugure wa Ameagari is a message from Tsunku-san, that Michishige-san's time has passed, but that we have no choice but to build a new time now. We can't waste it. Like ,"You guys need to lead the 12th gen now". So I'm singing it with that image, and putting all of those thoughts into the air-piano. Personally, rather than an orange aura, I try to let out a golden aura. Also, at the end, when everyone makes a circle around Masaki and spins around, that's not playing around.
--I know that (laugh).
Oda: They wouldn't think everyone would just play around right at the end (laugh).
Sato: And then everyone comes close to encircle me! That's why when it ends, I'm thinking, "All of my older and younger sisters are here, Masaki is so happy!". Like, "Thank you, for being by Maa's side."
--So, it's a tremendous important song. For Maachan.
Sato: For me, it's a song where everyone likes Maa.
--When I first saw that air-piano, the episode of Maachan making music at home suddenly came to mind. If I'm not mistaken Oda-san talked about it in her radio. Since when did Maachan become a house-recording girl?
Sato: From quite a while back. I've been doing it ever since I joined Morning Musume.
Oda: Ever since she installed the app in her iPad she's became capable of doing anything, she's even done recording.
Sato: Hahaha! That's right!
Oda: Sato-san would click and go, chicchicchicchi... at the same tempo she's add the drums, the piano, the guitar, my voice, and made a song like "Fantasy ga Hajimaru (Sato Masaki version) feat. Oda Sakura"! And we recorded it in a moving car, even.
Sato: In the middle there's a car horn sound going "Pu-!" (laugh).
Ogata: Also, when 12th gen was struggling with the rhythm of Seishun Kozou ga Naiteiru, Sato-san made a CD with a Sato Masaki version where the rhythm was easier to catch. When I heard that Sato-san made it I thought "Eh!?".
Oda: At first, Sato-san was asked by the manager. "Please bring a sound source as soon as possible for 12th gen to catch the 16 beat more easily". Then she showed up the next day with one she'd made herself!
--Can't everyone dance and sing together to a song Maachan created? In the future.
Oda: A lot happens in life~?
--What was that? That song just now!
Oda: It's called Jinsei wa Iroiro Aru? ("There's All Sorts of Things in Life")
Sato: When Fukumura-san became leader and was going "no way, no way!", I imagines Fukumura-san's face and did my best to write it, but I'm too embarrassed to let Fukumura-san listen to it so I can't show it to her! The only one who's heard it is Oda-chan. I show let her listen to everything,
--Looking at you 2 even from the beginning, you seem close. What does Maachan think?
Sato: Maachan thanks that! (clings to Oda Sakura's left arm)
--You linked arms (laugh).
Sato: Maachan thinks that we're like twins. She's an older sister, but a twin. That's why I've been telling her "we can just speak informally!", but she says "That's impossible. I don't want to." Because even if she's an older sister, she's a kouhai. That's why, my head really spins round and round! But we quarrel about everything. It's a strange relationship, isn't it.
Oda: I'm the kind that can't hate people, so I'm fine no matter what I'm told. That's why we don't hide anything from each other, and things never get sour between us.
Sato: Oda-chan is really weird. Sometimes I've said something really mean to Oda-chan, and even if I say "If Masaki were told that same thing I would definitely snap!", she still says "I don't think anything of it".
Oda: That's not it! I know a lot of good aspects of Sato-san's, and I like her so much that just being told something kinda bad wouldn't make me dislike her...
Sato: Ho... Hoho... Hohohoho!!
--Maachan, you're getting too embarrassed (laugh).
Oda: I like this about her. I look up to her. I respect her. When I think that way, just being told something small, it's really not enough to make you dislike someone, isn't it. Thinking that way... that's why it's fun!
--In conclusion, it's fun. That's good. I guess that's what's most important.
Sato: We are really enjoying life to the fullest.
--If Maachan says so you must really be having a lot of fun (laugh). Does 12th gen feel like they'll be friends like this too?
Ogata: Yes. I can already by my honest self around other 12th gen members.
Nonaka: But among the senpai I still withhold a bit...
Ogata: We talk about it with each other. "Be more straightforward in front of the senpai too-"
Oda: I feel like I'm closest to the 12th gen. That's why ever since they've joined I've been starting conversation with them a lot. But I wonder if they're still holding back?
Nonaka: 9th gen-san, 10th gen-san and 11th gen-san's joining times are 1 year apart from each other, but 12th gen is further away, so I feel really nervous of joining in the circle with my senpai, and I'm not showing my true self yet, or rather... I am doing better than before though!
Sato: But when Haga-chan joined Oda-chan went straight to hug her, right. I was surprised.
Oda: I've been friends with Akane-chan since my time as a kenshuusei. Maria also took the 11th gen auditions together with me.
Sato: Is that how it is-.
Ogata: Oda-san was the first senpai to take a picture with me. On the day of the Budoukan concert where 12th gen was revealed she came to our dressing room, and took it with me. I was so excited for it to be uploaded on Oda-san's blog that I kept thinking "I wonder if it's there yet? Is it there yet-?" and when it was uploaded I got super excited like "Waa-!" and immediately saved the picture.
Nonaka: For me too, Oda-san was the first member I spoke to one-on-one!
--Oda-san, it seems you're already a key-person.
Oda: I had no kouhai for 2 years, and was in an environment where I could only use formal speech, and I was the only one who was in a position of having to change that, so that's part of the reason why I started conversation, but honestly I just thought "These are the girls we'll be working together with from now on" "They're cute~ I want to get along with them" (laugh).
--I would like to start on the conclusion soon, so does Morning Musume '15 have any set goals?
Sato: First of all, to succeed in the first tour with the 12th gen, make the fans happy, and have them think "Today's concert sure was fun!". We are happy as long as the fans are satisfied. At the same time, we get to be here because there are fans who choose to like Morning Musume '15, so I think I'd like to express our gratitude for that.
--To think Maachan has become the sort of older sister who can say things like that. On our interview 2 years ago, you talked about the senpai who punctured a hole into a ball at school, lied about not heating up your baths for no reason, and before long it was over already (laugh).
Oda: That's legendary.
Sato: Ahahaha! Since I graduated middle school, and my high school entrance ceremony was just this week, I have nothing to talk about from school you know.
--I didn't mean that I wanted you to talk about school (laugh).
Oda: The topic didn't come up with once.