I want to ask about the 2013 Tokyo Dome Tour. How did you feel participating in that?
Okada: Last year’s Tokyo Dome Concert was my first time standing on such a massive stage, and at that time, I was so nervous that I didn’t take in anything around me at all… But this time, I felt like taking the opportunity to look out over the crowd a bit, and I had so much fun. I felt like I began to understand the difference between theatre performances and performing in front of such a huge crowd.
Kojima: I think it was a great chance for us. We could appeal in such a massive place, and we didn’t want to waste that chance, so the members often got together in our free time and after rehearsals and we were able to get closer to each other.
Nishino: In every place, the trainees were allowed to perform 1-3 songs, so I thought we were really blessed. Participating allowed us to raise awareness of the personalities of the trainees, I think.
You were performing in such a huge venue, so weren’t you nervous?
Everyone: We were nervous!!
Nishino: We said it at exactly the same time [laughs]. Right before we went out, my heart was really pounding.
Kojima: Ahaha. To be sure, Miki was always trying to keep her nerves under control [laughs].
Nishino: Although we were nervous, I think everyone really grew from the experience. From giving our opinions to the audience, everyone became more conscious of the trainees than they’ve been up until now.
Okada: However… because of how we all go used to it, I wondered once in a while if we were becoming spoiled. At that time, Minegishi (Minami) told us, “If you’re nervous, you’ll perform better!” You could say that it changed everyone’s consciousness. We had the strong feeling that, “No matter what the concert is, we’ll perform with all our might!”
Kojima, what did you think?
Kojima: The same as on my left [laughs]. \t
Okada: Which one of us?
Kojima: But, both of you have already said the things that I wanted to say…
Which of the venues left an impression on you?
Nishino: For me, it was probably Sapporo. It was the first time the trainee unit “Tentoumu Chu!” was introduced. It was the first time we’d had out own song, our own clothes and our own positions. I was so happy that we could perform it on such a huge stage! I was really moved!!
Okada: About “Tentoumu Chu!”, up until that day, we’d been having individual lessons, and I was really uneasy, but when everyone got together, there was no problem with our combined power.
Kojima: There was a really strong feeling that every one of the seven members definitely wanted to make it a success. Our fighting spirit was worthy of that determination!
Nishino: Yeah, we definitely couldn’t fail [laughs].
Okada: We were also allowed to perform the trainee song, “LOVE Shugyou”. All of the members’ names are called out, and we wear our own uniforms. That also made an impression.
Moving on, at last we reach the main topic. At Tokyo Dome, the formation of the new Team 4 was announced! What do you think of the unbelievable formation of Team 4?
Kojima: I had been wondering what would be announced at this concert, but I couldn’t believe it when Team 4 was announced, I was so surprised.
Nishino: Actually, I thought, “The announcement time is early – there’s still lots of time left, so what could they possibly be announcing?” [laughs]. I was thinking it would be great if they formed a team with all the current members, but I never imagined it would be a new Team 4.
Kojima: In reality, half of me was really happy, but I also felt uneasy.
Okada: Iwata came to us and hugged us while crying, and saying, “Congratulations!” At that moment, my feelings of unease were instantly blown away.
Kojima: I had a mail from Shimazaki (Haruka)! “Congratulations on your promotion! Isn’t it really great!?” After that, I stopped smiling uneasily [laughs].
The captain is Minegishi Minami.
Okada: For us, the fact that Minegishi will be there is an incredibly comforting thought. It would really be a different team if Minegishi wasn’t there.
Nishino: But I don’t think we can just keep relying on Minegishi all the time. I think we have to look out for each other, too, and not forget our original resolutions.
Kojima: …It really is reassuring that Minegishi will be there.
After the initial response to the new Team 4, I think there’s a danger you’ll be compared to the old Team 4.
Kojima: I think we’ll certainly be compared. But we have to stand on stage as the new 16-member Team 4 and put comparisons aside. We mustn’t lack for anything.
Okada: Up until now, we’ve been trainees, but from now, we’re team members. All of the individuals have to come together in unity. All of us have to make the new Team 4.
Nishino: Since we made a team, all of us will have to make performances together. All together, we’ll make a stage that everyone who’s come to watch will enjoy!
Last time you were interviewed for this magazine, Nishino, you said, “I want to become friends with my juniors,” Kojima said, “I want to be able to smile in different kinds of ways,” and Okada said, “I’m bad at MC, so I want to get good at it.” Do you think you grew in those areas during the Dome Tour?
Nishino: Recently, as well as together during the performances, I’ve also been getting on with my juniors before the performances. But… I’m still worried about whether they hate me [nervous smile]. I want to become such good friends with them that they start to rely on me.
Kojima: Recently, I’ve been checking the performances on ‘On Demand’ and I think I’ve chanced from before. However, I still want to be able to do more kinds of smile!
Okada: For me, I wonder if I became even worse at MC than before… When the “Tentoumu Chu!” unit was announced, I said, “We’re a 7-member unit, so since I’m also Nana [Japanese for 7], it’s Lucky Seven!” which doesn’t really mean anything… Aaah… I messed up… [awkward laugh]. I really want to get good at MC!
Three of your seniors graduated on the Dome Tour – Shinoda Mariko, Itano Tomomi and Akimoto Sayaka.
Okada: It was something they decided of their own will. Watching them from our position was incredible. They were so radiant. …And the fans were also shining in the same way. It was very moving.
Nishino: The fans really conveyed their feelings. The glow sticks were really beautiful… I also thought that in the future, I’d like something like that.
Kojima: It was sad, but it was also, would you call it refreshing… it was really cool. Afterwards, the members who had already graduated before them came out, and I was really moved.
What are your memories of the seniors?
Okada: Especially Akimoto always thought about the trainees, and called us whenever we were unwell.
Nishino: In the confusion of the make-up room, I’d often see Akimoto practicing making announcements by herself. I thought that she was really amazing. I thought I should learn by watching her.
Kojima: But all of those seniors had the overflowing confidence to lead AKB48, so I think we must set aside our feelings of embarrassment and continue that.
Nishino & Okada: That’s right.
By the way, during the Dome Tour you also saw performances by the sister groups.
Nishino: NMB48’s movement was amazingly uniform – it was beautiful. Although they were dancing with all their might, it was also very carefully done.
Okada: Yeah! NMB48’s performance was very vigorous, but also very uniform. That point was amazing! SKE48’s performance was one that you got really drawn into as you were watching it. I was also glued to it… I don’t think I can do anything like that yet. But watching their performance, I felt like I didn’t want to lose. Aaahh…. I want to get better!
Kojima: I was really studying the conscious unity of the other groups. I think we also really need to be like that from now on.
Okada: Conscious unity is an important point.
Kojima: HKT48 had a really fresh feeling. Murashige Anna is really interesting. When I met her, she said, “You’re really cute – the second cutest after me!” [laughs].
Nishino: Ahaha. Definitely. The first time I met her, she said, “Nishino, Nishino,” in a sing-song voice [laughs].
What are your evaluations of each other?
Nishino: Nana’s bad a smiling, but when she does it in unexpected moments, it’s magic. I think that if Nana could capture that smile, it would be an incredible force.
Okada: Miki is like a cute princess, and although she’s energetic, she feels like a very neat-and-tidy idol. Kojimako’s smile is cute however you look at it. Miki is Team 4’s eye contact specialist, and Kojimako has the best smile. I think both of them are very important members.
Nishino: Definitely Kojimako is always smiling. But I think that once in a while, she also wears an evil smile [laughs].
Kojima: How horrible! I’ve never smiled in an evil way!
Okada: No, you really have!
Nishino: Ah, I meant it as a compliment. But in any case, she’s never shaken. I think that’s amazing.
Kojima: Ah, thank you. Miki is Team 4’s little sister character [laughs]. And also a crybaby [laughs].
Nishino: Ah, I really cry a lot, don’t I [awkward laugh].
Kojima: But even if she cries beforehand, when she’s standing on stage, she’s always smiling with all her might. That’s amazing!
Nishino: That’s because performances are fun!
Kojimako: Nana is the main support for Miichan in Team 4. She always keeps things running tightly. She’s a pillar for the 14th generation!
Okada: For me, my father’s also a leader. From now on, I want to be both strict and kind.
Finally, can you tell me your challenge as three members of Team 4.
Okada: I want to be Team 4’s ace. It’s the role of everyone to support Minegishi as captain. But I want to be called the ace.
Nishino: I want to have an important existence in Team 4. My objective is to get into the Senbatsu for a single, and improve my skills in the fields that I’m most interested in.
Kojima: I want to get as good at dancing as Nana and as good at singing as Miki. But lined up next to those two, I also want to polish all of my skills and get much better.
Okada: Let’s make a fun stage with all sixteen of us!
Kojima & Nishino: Please look forward to it!
I want to ask about the 2013 Tokyo Dome Tour. How did you feel participating in that?