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#18 What it Means to Shoulder the Tradition that is Morning Musume。- Extended Interview with New Morning Musume。’15 Leader, Mizuki Fukumura(1/3)

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In summer 2010, I encountered Morning Musume。in Paris. That winter, Eri Kamei, Junjun and Linlin’s graduation concert was held at Yokohama Arena, thus signaling the final performance by the remaining members of the legendary platinum generation. As I’ve written and spoken about on numerous occasions, after witnessing these two spectacles, I spent a year in 2011 chasing after Ai Takahashi and Morning Musume。. I wanted to see for myself just how leader Ai Takahashi would take all these girls, each with their own larger-than-life presence, and bring them together on stage.

At the same time that year, I also got to witness the continued growth of four of the 9th generation members. I still remember the first performance of their tour in their new formation at Omiya like it was yesterday. That day I realized, ‘Even if Ai-chan and the others graduate, I’ll probably still continue to follow Morning Musume。’ That was my first real encounter with the 9th generationers.

I didn’t know about the platinum generation members until they were well into their term. I can’t believe there were these girls doing such incredible things and I didn’t pick up on it sooner. That’s the first thing I thought when I encountered them. But that’s how I came to realize the tradition that is Morning Musume。and from that point on I’ve been able to watch all the 9th and succeeding generation members perform live in concert. 10th generation members were soon introduced into the group and it was around the same time that I started hosting my radio program, which gave me a lot more opportunities to talk with the 9th and 10th generations. At their world handshake tour in Bangkok, I got to witness the moment the girls united Japan and Thailand.

I’ve played video letters from Morning Musume。to my audiences at my lectures and talks overseas. It’s Morning Musume。diplomacy and it’s in these moments that I strongly feel just how connected the rest of the world is to Japan through Morning Musume。Wherever they go, the reaction from the crowd is always intense. It’s all the little things that have gradually accumulated, but to me, the 9th and succeeding generation members now feel more like close colleagues that I’ve had the pleasure of walking alongside in various scenes and situations these past four years, right from the very beginning.

In mid January, roughly one month after Sayumi Michishige’s graduation concert, I interviewed Mizuki Fukumura, who was appointed the new leader of Morning Musume。’15. I asked Fukumura about her thoughts on the new position as leader in the lead up to the group’s first tour as Morning Musume。’15 beginning in March.

▲Mizuki Fukumura

On Former Leader, Sayumi Michishige
Fukumura “When the ten Morning Musume。’14 members performed in New York, it was obvious that Michishige-san was drawing most of the attention from the audience, and I just thought she was so cool. That’s how it is in Japan, too, but I guess that’s how it would be no matter where she went in the world and I thought she was incredible. She was an idol that we could all look up to, a leader that knew how to lead us, and someone who we respected and could rely on. We could follow the path that she led us along without any worry or concern whatsoever. That’s the kind of person I want to be too, but there’s just so many things I can’t achieve at the moment that Michishige-san could. It really gets me down when there are these things that I can’t do as leader, or times when I feel I can’t bring the group together the way I want to. But the group is now 13 members, and come time for our first solo tour, I really want to show off the new Morning Musume。’15 unit. If we work hard enough leading up to the tour, everyone’s mentality will change and ’15 will be able to show off something spectacular from the very start.”

When I was speaking with Sayumi Michishige on a radio program right after she was made leader, and she told me waveringly that you have to pass the Morning Musume。sash onto the next generation, you can’t let it end with you no matter what. At the age of 18, that’s the tradition that Fukumura has shouldered.

Fukumura “It has renewed in me a strong sense that I have to treasure the history. In saying that, though, there’s much less of an age gap between the members of Morning Musume。’15, so the whole junior-senior relationship situation that existed in the group up until now has changed. The members all see each other as rivals and I think that that feeling that each of us has of not wanting to lose out to any of the other girls is what’s so good about the current group. While it’s important to uphold the aspects of Morning Musume。that made us who we are, we also need to appreciate the strengths that we have now as well. It’s given me a lot to think about.”

After becoming leader, Fukumura says she now fully realizes the weight of the words that Sayumi Michishige imparted on her.

Fukumura “The things that Michishige-san says are incredibly cool. She has the ability to draw everyone around her in and I always thought that was incredible. And she doesn’t just speak, she remembers the things she says. There’s a weight to her words and Michishige-san brings them to reality.”

Sayumi Michishige is someone who truly values words. It’s something that even I’ve always been able to sense. Whether she’s speaking to one person or ten thousand, Sayumi Michishige comes across as someone who always knows the right thing to say.

Fukumura “Michishige-san was so great that, honestly, my greatest feelings as leader right now are of doubt. I absolutely love Morning Musume。and I’ve been watching them from the very beginning. When I joined Morning Musume。there were five Morning Musume。girls who were my seniors and who I adored and then there was us, the new recruits. But now none of those seniors remain and sometimes I wonder whether the group I’m in now really is Morning Musume。at all. So we just have to work our butts off – that’s all we can really do. We just have to take each moment as it comes.

But I also think that we have to maintain our pride as Morning Musume。. I’m aware of how great the history of the group is. Sometimes you just lose sight of where you are and the situation you’re currently in. That’s why I think we have to have a stronger awareness that we’re a part of this group Morning Musume。. Each year the group takes on a new name, so I want to create what legacy of Morning Musume。’15 I can.”

Sayumi Michishige's Graduation Concert

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