ARTICLES Hello!Project Audition Winners Roundtable Discussion

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The joint new member audition for Hello!Project's Juice=Juice and Tsubaki Factory is underway from January 22 to March 1, 2021. This will be the first open audition for new members for both groups, as well as being the first joint audition in Hello!Pro history.

To commemorate the opening of the audition, Ongaku natalie held a round-table discussion with present members of Hello!Pro who joined by way of auditions. Morning Musume '21's Nonaka Miki, ANGERME's Kamikokuryou Moe, and BEYOOOOONDS's Hirai Miyo are all the same age and all shine while making good use of their individual talents, and we talked to them about their experiences auditioning, their stories after they joined their groups, and their feelings toward Hello!Pro.

In the second part of the article, we have Juice=Juice leader Kanazawa Tomoko and Tsubaki Factory leader Yamagishi Riko introduce their groups' respective flavor and charm. We will be publishing their messages from the heart towards their future new members.

Interview, text / Ozawa Aya
Editing / Seshita Yuri
Photography / Inohara Yu (TRON)
Translation / Lurkette


Participating members

Morning Musume '21 - Nonaka Miki

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Nickname: Nonaka-chan, Chel
Birthday: 1999.10.07
Hometown: Shizuoka
Special skill: English, piano​

A 12th generation member of Morning Musume by way of the 2014 "Golden Audition." From ages 2 to 10 she lived in America before returning to Japan, and so now is active in the group's "global role." She studied abroad for a brief period from December 2018 to February 2019 to further develop her English proficiency. In April 2020, she enrolled Waseda University's e-school.

ANGERME - Kamikokuryou Moe
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Nickname: Kamiko
Birthday: 1999.10.24
Hometown: Kumamoto
Hobbies: Watching DVDs, solo karaoke
The sole 4th generation member of ANGERME who joined by way of the 2015 new member audition. Her carefree, translucent singing voice is described by fans as the "crystal voice." In addition to being active in the group, she works in the fashion and beauty industry and is a regular model for the magazine bis. She has also appeared in several TV shows and commercials, further expanding her range of work.

BEYOOOOONDS - Hirai Miyo
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Nickname: Miyo, Miyorin
Birthday: 1999.12.11
Hometown: Tokyo
Special skill: Classical ballet, dance​

A member of BEYOOOOONDS by way of the 2018 "ONLY YOU" audition. She's the leader of the unit SeasoningS inside of the group, alongside other audition winners Kobayashi Honoka and Satoyoshi Utano. She studied classical ballet for 14 years, from the age of 4, and since going to college, she has been self-studying the middle school variety of hip-hop dancing. She uploads a number of dance videos to social media.


Ordinary girls before joining Hello!Pro

--You all joined your groups via auditions, but out of all the many idol groups out there, why did you wish to be in Hello!Project (Hello!Pro)? Please tell us how things went for you up until you joined the group.


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Nonaka Miki: I grew up watching Morning Musume DVDs since I was little and living in America, so I loved the group. I thought, "I'm only a fan," but when I was 14, I heard their single track "Egao no kimi wa taiyou sa." It has these lyrics, "You can only do it now, you have to do what you want," which got me thinking, "I might be able to become part of Morning Musume, too. I'm going to try and see!" So I sent in my application. There was also a section on the audition information that said, "People who speak English will be given a warm welcome," so I thought, they're calling out to me! (laughs)

Hirai Miyo: That's amazing! Originally, I felt strongly about wanting to be a performer, more so than an idol, and I applied for the Takarazuka Music School until I was in high school. But through my older sister's influence, I started liking Hello!Pro and getting to know the company better, and I could feel how high the quality of their singing and dancing was. This feeling of wanting to work hard there started to grow inside of me.

--I see.

Hirai: So, I applied for both the Morning Musume 13th generation audition (the New Century audition) and the 20th anniversary audition (Hello!Project 20th anniversary audition), but I didn't pass. I gave up because of my age and went to a normal college like everyone else, but when I looked up the ONLY YOU audition information (2018), it said the upper age limit was 22, so I thought I'd definitely miss out if I didn't at least try, so I applied right then.

--Kamikokuryou also failed an audition before getting in, right?


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Kamikokuryou Moe: Yes, At first, I tried out for the same Golden audition that Nonaka Miki did. I also wanted to be in Hello!Pro more than I wanted to be an idol. My feelings changed a bit after failing, though, out of shock (laughs). After a while, I happened to hear ANGERME's song "Taiki Bansei," which encouraged me to apply again.

--During the audition, were there any questions or examinations you remember really well?


Kamikokuryou: I was so nervous I don't remember anything, but there was a round on doing some comedy bits. When I gave my response, the reaction from everyone was quiet, so I lost all confidence, like, ah, I failed... (laughs)

Nonaka: Ah, there was a comedy section! (laughs) Our audition rounds were singing, dancing, and comedy (laughs). Even in the training camp there were comedy lessons. We have an instructor who teaches us really well on how to practice for our MCs.

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Hirai: There was no comedy in my auditions (laughs). My memories of auditioning... I always danced for my examinations, but in the 4th round, I chose just to sing. The judges said, "Huh? You're not going to dance today?" I was a bundle of nerves, but it gave me confidence that they remembered me!

--Was there anyone among the soon-to-debut members who stood out to you during the auditions?


Kamikokuryou: Asakura Kiki and Onoda Saori (both in Tsubaki Factory)! They were friends, but it felt like there was this spark of rivalry between them. I thought, "These 2 are probably going to make it."

Nonaka: For sure. Everyone was impressive, but the one who particularly stood out was Kiki, I think. She could sing and dance, and she was the absolute fastest to remember the choreography. I also thought she would pass.

Kamikokuryou: Right, I definitely thought so!

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A senior who smiled, "That's good"

--Even though you each had some basis in singing and dancing, you went from a general framework to being part of a group. Was there anything that left an impression on you when you joined?


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Nonaka: Right after I joined, I had my birthday before I started working as a full-fledged member, but the senior members of the group unexpectedly celebrated it for me. I hadn't let them know it was my birthday myself, but I guess they had looked at my profile and got ready after seeing that, and it made me feel so much more at ease without as much fear or anxiety. Michishige (Sayumi) gave me a present before she graduated, and at the time I was still half just a fan, so I was ecstatic! (laughs)

Kamikokuryou: I had absolutely no experience in dancing or singing, but I was still joining ANGERME alone. I didn't know anything at first, and I couldn't keep up with the performances at all... but my first time on stage, but outside the dressing room that day, all of my seniors came to practice with me the whole time. Like, "We'll do it until you can!"

Nonaka & Hirai: What a nice story!

Kamikokuryou: In the end I did mess up during the show so I went to them straight away to apologize, but they just asked me if I had fun. When I said I did, Tamura Meimi (ex. ANGERME) smiled and said, "Then, that's good!" She was the one who had given me the strictest teaching, so for her to say something so warm... I cried so hard. Our current leader Takeuchi (Akari) was also really kind to me. After she gives direction on performances, she talks to everyone so cheerfully, and jokes around so that the junior members don't get discouraged. She's very good about going on and off like that, and everyone, including myself, has been helped out by her.

Hirai: With BEYOOOOONDS, there were 3 of us who passed the audition, including me, but all the other members were Hello!Pro trainees, so even though they were younger than me, in Hello!Pro, they became my seniors. I think that made it a little confusing for everyone at first on how we should approach each other. But then Maeda Kokoro, who had a long history as a trainee, took the initiative to point things out to us before we made mistakes, and when we did mess up, she would apologize for not saying something sooner. She was so nice. Those sorts of things piled up, and naturally as a group we came to feel that the trainee group and the audition group should come together and understand each other with all that we did or didn't know.

--The members supported you all right after you joined. How were your lessons for your performances?

Nonaka: I improved a lot in the lessons that they had specifically for the new members. I had lots of opportunities to receive instructions on the basics from dance and vocal coaches, and I even had lessons in surprising things like makeup.

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Kamikokuryou: I also got particularly lessons from Taisei (SharanQ) in rhythm in addition to voice training. Normally, he's involved as the creative director for the music, but he taught me the basics of rhythm, and I thought how great it was they even taught us how to do things like that.

Hirai: BEYOOOOONDS does a lot of skits, so when I joined we had a lot of articulation practice and acting lessons. Even now, when we get as new song, rehearsals means they have set aside time for acting classes (laughs). We practice how to say our lines and how to pace the skit over and over.


Something I was supposed to have given up came back into my life

--Right now everyone shows a lot of personality in their activities, but has there been any moment so far that has made you think how glad you are to have joined the group or joined Hello!Pro?

Nonaka: I've gotten to try out acting in shows and plays, in the "Girls Theater Division" (a stageplay series featuring Hello!Pro members), and that pulled out a new side of me, which made me really happy. I've also gotten to work in a lot of different fields, which has made me realized that what I love most is singing and that I really like Hello!Pro's music.

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Hirai: I've also had the opportunity to be in the plays with "Girls Theater Division," but I had given up the dream I originally had, to join Takarazuka and act on stage, and joined Hello!Pro, so it's like the dream I was supposed to have given up has come true. I've also been given male roles, so I study the movements and ways of reciting dialogue from the male roles in Takarazuka, it's surprising how the things I was supposed to have given up in my life have come back around to me, it feels like I was destined for this.

Kamikokuryou: That's wonderful! Right now I get a lot of work in magazines, and that has given me the chance to realize how fun it is to have so many facial expressions. At first I wasn't able to understand what having expression really meant, but different magazines will ask me for a different kind of look or expression, and I noticed it's the same thing with ANGERME's songs. I think I've become conscious of the depth there is in facial expressions.

Hirai: BEYOOOOONDS members will give each other compliments, like, "Your performance earlier was amazing!" "You looked so cool!" "I love you!" I've always been the type to never express my own thoughts and feelings, but from spending time with the other members, I've gotten to where I can talk a little more about these things, too. I really respect the other members, so I think I've changed and I'm glad that has happened.

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Nonaka: Speaking of that, no matter which group you look at, their passion for performing is really great, so I think Hello!Pro is a place where the members can all encourage each other to be better. I myself get motivated by watching the other members perform, and I'll tell them directly the parts that I thought were awesome. I guess Hello!Pro as a whole has a culture where we praise each other directly.

Kamikokuryou: Definitely. There are so many people that will praise you when they think you did something well! They also speak straight from the heart, so it makes me happy and I then want to work even harder.


The people who are always there for me

--How do your family members and others in your life talk about Hello!Pro?


Kamikokuryou: They say it seems like such a great company (laughs). When I would feel down, people from the company came rushing to my house, and I'm really grateful that they would listen to me no matter the time. Staff have told me to think of them as my mom, which makes me feel so relieved. Sometimes things just piled up on me back then... of course, now I enjoy everything I do!

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Nonaka: Before, I was also the type to hold back a lot, so people from the company often tell me, "You should say something before you bottle it up." Last year, Yokoyama Reina and Morito Chisaki (both in Morning Musume '21) we worried about me so there were times when they would go outside with me. I cried my eyes out at how kind they are.

--Yokoyama and Morito are your juniors, but they're still so considerate of you.


Nonaka: Yes. In moments like that, there is no hierarchy, it's just the members who notice coming to help support me. Even though I do love my job, there are also times when I get exhausted. During the lockdown last year, I had too much time to myself and would get too deep in my thoughts and I started to feel depressed, but I would call my managers and talk to them so that I could starting thinking positive again.

Hirai: I also get a lot of support from the managers. Lately I've failed at the same things I messed up in the past. I got scared, like maybe I'm still just causing trouble for everyone, that pressure... (tears well up).

--Take your time.


Hirai: Even though I had to give the same performance the next day, going onstage scared me... Then, I got a message that said, "It's okay. Have confidence in yourself." Thanks to that, I was able to realize that even if I cry today, tomorrow is a new day, and I'll do my best, and then the performance went great. Right after, the managers all said, "You did it!" "Do it little more this way next time, okay?" I was really grateful for them.

--You were all brand-new when you joined, but now you have situations where you need to act as a senior member. Is there anything you keep in mind when interacting with your juniors?


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Kamikokuryou: I try to keep in mind not to be too strict. With singing, especially, it can be hard to explain things in words, so we'll sing it together. I have some experience not doing things right and feeling upset about it, so I want to teach them how to do things right away so that that doesn't happen to them.

--Is that this feeling of teaching them all that you learned when you were new, so that you can reduce those negative experiences for your juniors?


Nonaka: Right, I'm the same. The year before last, when the 15th generation joined Morning Musume, I gave the three of them notebooks, telling them to write down what they learned. When I first joined, the managers did the same for me which really helped me out, so I figured it might also be helpful for my juniors, too.

--What sorts of things did you write down, specifically?


Nonaka: Names and features of different staff members, things I noticed I needed to fix when I watched the concert footage, things like that. Even really specific things, like, "Juniors leave the elevator last." You won't know if you aren't told these things, and so if you don't become familiar with them, you'll forget them, right? (laughs) I felt like my juniors might feel the same way, so I bought them the notebooks.

Kamikokuryou: Wow, what a good senior!

Hirai: (smiles while nodding and clapping)


We're like different members of a family

--Nonaka and Hirai are both currently college students, but how is it balancing work and school?


Nonaka: I consulted a lot with the members and managers both about studying abroad and going to college. They said, "It's okay, because you might be able to connect that to your future activities," and encouraged me to go for it. I realized what a great environment I'm in. There are so many times when I feel like I'm really being supported.

Hirai: I also have help coordinating my work and school schedules. There are a lot of students in BEYOOOOONDS, so there are times when we're all studying together in our dressing rooms. Just earlier, Nishida Shiori didn't understand her chemistry homework so I helped her out (laughs).

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Kamikokuryou: That's so cool! You're like a family!

Hirai: Ahaha (laughs). When it comes to work and school, I worry sometimes because I personally feel like I can't have my cake and eat it, too, but the other members care about me and tell me to rely on them more, so now I'm at a point where I can grumble to them about things, like, "Ugh, this report sucks..." or, "I didn't sleep at all last night so let me sleep in the dressing room!" (laughs)

--Kamikokuryou, you do a lot of individual work with magazines and commercials and such. Is there anything you try to keep in mind doing both your solo work and your group work?


Kamikokuryou: There were times in the past when I had difficulty telling the members myself that I'd gotten a big job as an individual. I was grateful, to be sure, but I was anxious about what the other members would think. But when I actually did try telling them, they were even happier than I was. Since then, I've always told them directly when I get work, and I'm honestly so happy when they get solo work, so we all congratulate each other.

--You're all working hard on different challenges and things you like to do while employed by Hello!Pro, then.


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Hirai: Right. It's also not just the staff and members in my own group, I also rely a lot on my seniors in other groups. Back in December of 2019, I had a some big jobs all happening at the same time and it became too much, so I broke down in rehearsals for the countdown live, to the extent that I was crying while running off. My seniors all ran up to me, asking if I was okay. Ishida Ayumi (Morning Musume '21), who was always watching my performances from the wings, gave me a hug, and Inaba Manaka (Juice=Juice) sent me a text, "Are you okay, Miyorin!?" A few days later, Miyamoto Karin (ex. Juice=Juice) took me out to eat and I cried to her while talking about work, so I think I've built up a strong bond with the senior members, too.

Kamikokuryou: Yeah, no matter which group you look at, they're all kind people. If things aren't going well for me, even for a moment, it's just like (Hirai) Miyo said, the senior members of other groups will help me through it.

Nonaka: Hello!Pro is a collection of people of different ages and characters. I think new members that join from this audition will be welcomed warmly as part of the family.

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The audition is fate, it's inevitable

--The current audition is for Juice=Juice and Tsubaki Factory, so I'd like to ask you what your impressions are of those two groups.


Nonaka: Both groups are so kind, so personally I think joining either one would be a lot of fun. They each have their own flavor, but both would be welcoming.

Hirai: Their dressing rooms are always so lively; they seem fun.

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Nonaka: Yeah, it's been a long time since Tsubaki Factory added new members (after the group formed in 2015, 3 members were added in 2016 from the Hello!Pro trainees), so there might be some people who are nervous about that, wondering if it's really okay for them to join, but they don't need to worry. They're all such good friends that they all go eat together even in private, and they're all so aware of what's trendy! I feel like you'd become cuter if you joined Tsubaki (laughs). They have such high visuals.

Kamkikokuryou: I get you, they're all so stylish! Juice=Juice's senior and junior members are really different in terms of how long they've been working, but that doesn't seem to matter: I see them talking casually and having fun together all the time. I always think how nice it must be to be in that group, they all seem so happy.

Hirai: In terms of performance, both groups are quite feminine, but Juice=Juice is more mature, while Tsubaki is a more sweet and girly. BEYOOOOONDS has a lot of songs in the comedy vein (laughs), so I admire both of them a lot.

--Both groups have different charms, so it's exciting to think of the kind of people who will join.


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Hirai: It is. With this being a joint audition, you won't necessarily know which group you're joining if you pass, but it was the same thing when I did the ONLY YOU audition, so I know how it feels. Some people might be really worried. But I auditioned 3 times, and in the end, I'm glad I passed the one I did. It's all about timing, and no matter which group you go to when you pass, that's fate, it's inevitable... what I mean to say is, you're bound to be happy with the result. I've learned so many things since I joined Hello!Pro and I feel like I can make the most of what I have to offer, so I hope that the applicants can give it their all and have fun with this audition and I don't want to anyone to walk away feeling negatively if they don't pass.

Kamikokuryou: Either group should be a lot of fun! I'm also curious to see how the 2 groups turn out when new members join.

Nonaka: I'm really looking forward to the results! It's so exciting.
 
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