Here is a translation of Airi's long interview from her latest style book "Airimania", released in 2017.
There are many things she already talked about in the long interview of her first book "Airi-aL", therefore I skipped those, unless she added some details to the stories or it became too incomprehensible for me to left it out. I strongly advise you to read her first interview before this one !
I love to sing. It's something I've had inside me since childhood
(...) Both of my parents are pro golfers, and as they both know how difficult and strict the life of a sportsman is, they never forced me to do golf or anything and let me enjoy what I wanted to enjoy from such a young age. When I was in primary school, I studied piano, english, dance, had voice lessons...
As I always had something to learn, I don't have too much memories of playing with friends after school. I do have a memory of trying my best to remember all of the Pokemon names though. I don't know if that's because of it, but I lived in Gifu then moved to Chiba, so I grew up without knowing anything about Pokemon. Even though most of my comrades were addicted to it. I remember learning all of their name because all of my classmates were so into it, I didn't want to be left out.
On the weekends, I would go to a music school in Tokyo, took voice and dance lessons, rhythm lessons with drums, too. (...) At that time, I didn't think of becoming an Idol at all, I just wanted to sing songs. When you think of it, my mother was in the brass band club and my father in the choir, so even though my family is full of athletes, I realized that we all had a special relationship with music. During the last year of primary school, I had to choose between continuing to study at that music school, or study for the entrance exam of a junior/senior/high-school group that would allow me to study abroad. I think I was 5 or 6 years old at that time, but when I think of it now it's kind of a big life decision for a kid. I chose to continue to sing, but I could've been a japanese girl fluent in english by now if I didn't. As I was a kid, I picked it because I just enjoyed singing and didn't really think through it, but I'm glad I made that choice !
Not only did my parents let me be free, but their way of educating me was also very good. "If you chose do to anything, then stick with it". Since I became an adult, I had more time to talk about the child I was with my mother. It seems the image I had of me was completely different than what she saw. When I told her "I was some cheeky kid, right ?", she said "You were never smiling. Your personality didn't change, though !". I was never smiling as a child, and it seems like I made my mother pretty worried about me. But she said she's glad that since I became an Idol, I was finally able to say "It's fun !" about something, with a true happy face. It's true that when I see pics of me as a child, even though my little brother is all cute and smiling, I always look so serious. I have an awkward smile and look so unfriendly. It's maybe the DNA of my family of athletes, or the fact I hate to lose that was showing on my face. As I was like that, it was pretty surprising for me to become an Idol.
At that time, I loved SPEED and BoA. I was also in Morning Musume.'s fanclub. I still have the fanclub limited clock at home. When it reaches 1P.M., it says "It's 1P.M. !" in the members' voice. I also went to see a Morning Musume. musical. There was a small live corner where the members would sing 3 songs after the play, and everyone sang "Renai Revolution 21", that I just happened to learn during my lessons. I was sitting in the middle of the front row and danced hard (laughs) The members waved to me. I will never forget that incredibly happy feeling I felt, thinking "There's no way such miracle would happen !". Now that I'm standing on the other side of the stage, I really want to make fans feel as happy as I was at that time. I can only do small communication with them like wave my hand, but I always remember that moment when I'm on stage. That memory is still so strong in my head, and whenever I go to that same place, I remember how hard I worked at that time. The studio we used for the dance lesson of our indies single "Wakkyanai (Z)" is the same as the one I used to get dance lessons. I didn't think about wanting to be popular, it all started simply because I loved to sing. That memory makes me go back to my roots.
The fact I wasn't choosen at that time was simply fate
I was about to graduate from my musical school when the Hello! Project Kids audition was announced. When I participated in it, I was deeply happy but couldn't show it at all. I couldn't put on a happy face like a usual child. (...)
When I was 9, I was able to make my major debut with the unit "Aa!" and I became a °C-ute member at 11. Even though we debuted as a group, we didn't have any song and I was thinking "I wonder when we'll truly debut...".
Before that, other girls from Hello! Project Kids were chosen to debut as Berryz Koubou. I was envious of their cool debut song. In the end, it didn't become like that, but at first, we were told Berryz Koubou would be an ever-changing group with a different members lineup for each single. Therefore, in the backstages, I was secretly learning their dances, so even if the lineup changed, I would be able to dance to every song. That's why I can dance all of Berryz Koubou's first songs (laughs)
I think that's the first time in my life I discovered what frustration was. There was the group of girls who got choosen, and the others. I remember us being called "the leftover" and felt really hurt by it. We spent 2 years as an indie group and then finally debuted in major before I entered middle school. I remember thinking "We're finally starting" when I saw our CD aligned in the stores. I was so happy, but I felt very anxious about it, too. From then, every day, I went to school, did my job, took lessons... I tried to choose a school close to the office and the workplaces so it was easier for me.
I was able to get over it because my mother was there - I was scolded "Put that aside !"
If I could go back in time, I could never be able to do the same middle school years I had.
It was a middle school full of people working in the entertainment industry, therefore I was blessed. However, it was pretty hard when I was very busy. The most intense period was when °C-ute and Buono! activities lined up, and that we had to shoot dramas and movies. Even more, I also had to prepare for my university entrance exam. There was a time when as soon as °C-ute's tour rehearsals ended, I had to quickly go to Buono!'s ones. I was borrowing class notes from friends, took them during dramas shootings and studied for tests during my breaks. I was also attending some lessons to prepare for my university entrance exam. My schedules were so packed, when my classes ended at school I had to immediately jump into my mom's car waiting for me. I would've never been able to have such schedules if I didn't have a car, and that's why I think I wouldn't have been able to make all of this if my mother wouldn't be here.
There's also the "goods writing" specific to Hello! Project, where you have to add some drawings and comments on your pictures. I really wanted to make these ones special, so I was carefully drawing them, even creating some stories for the daily pictures of our tour dates... It took me so much time, but when you start, you can't stop. Also, I know fans were looking forward to it so I really used a lot of time to make those. My mother, who was worried, scolded me a lot telling me "Leave that aside !". You don't usually scold somebody for taking time to make something, right ? (laughs) But I'm glad I didn't give up. As I continued to do it, it became something I was known for. I decided of the story, the concept, the outfits my character Su-san. would wear. We're in the middle of a nationwide tour right now, and I'm drawing every single food speciality from the place we're visiting.
When I look back, it was a pretty painful period, but I don't have any regrets because all the works I did at that time were very fun. The only thing I craved for was sleep.
I believe, and my mother also says it a lot, that since I was able to get over that hard period, there's nothing which can stop me now. Because I did it, I can overcome anything. However because of that, I don't have much school memories. I'm really glad I was able to be the representative student to read out loud the graduation ceremony's speech.
The fact I'm able to live everything fully now is all thanks to my past self
I'm not able to refuse something people want me to do. If I get asked "Are you able to do this ?", it hurts my pride. It's not like I was living in a bad environment though. Like, the only time I got scolded by my father was when I made my mother cry. I made my mother cry 2, 3 times in my life, but at that time, my father's voice sounded like thunder. "Don't make your mother cry again !". The fact my father got angry and my mother cried is definitely because of me. Usually, they're my ideal as a couple. They're really cute (laughs) My mother was also a professional golfer. She stopped after marrying my father to become a housewife, but maybe I, also, would be able to drop singing if I met somebody who I think is more important than my passion. I realized it lately but, I think my dream husband would be somebody like my father.
My mother always tell me "The efforts you're doing right now is for the person you'll be in 3 years from now". In the same way, the fact I'm able to live everything fully right now is all thanks to my past self. But, thinking how my mother was always there for me, I can't forget the fact that because of it, my little brother rarely spent time with her during his childhood. That always makes me cry. Even though, my little brother never complained and always told me "Do your best, big sis". We never fought. My little brother is a very good boy. We took some commemorative pics in family to celebrate him turning 20. My time with my family will increase from now on, so I want to go on a trip with them, and give them back their love and support.
The time I spent as a normal girl is a material I can use
When I entered Hello! Project Kids, I made a promise to my parents that I would go to university. I think part of what made me work hard in high school is the fact I knew I had to go to university, no matter what. I thought about going to a professional training college to study music, but the schedules are harder and it would've been impossible with °C-ute's schedules. I wanted to be able to create music and lyrics. They were many people working in the entertainment industry in my high school, but only few of them went to college, so they were pretty surprised when I told them I'd be going to Keio. I initally thought that, if I was to study for the entrance exam, then I should try to aim for the best university. When I asked for advices to one of my teacher, I was told "Don't lose your motivation ! It's because you have such personality that you can definitely do it!". So I decided to aim for Keio simply because I've been pushed for it, but when I visited the campus, I loved it immediately. I clearly remember the results announcement. We had to check the web page. I was in the middle of a drama shooting, we got out of the studio with my manager to check them. That teacher who motivated me unfortunately passed away, but I believe I wouldn't be the one I am today without that person. I was blessed with this encounter.
The classes were hard and of course, it's impossible to retake them. It's not because you're busy with entertainment that you can get the credits. I was in the exact same situation as all the other students. To be honest, I was told many things about it, but was mostly surrounded by people understanding me. And if didn't struggle, then I would probably have had a very lenient approach to my studies.
In the people I met at university, there were people who had many experiences overseas, people famous in the sport industry... There were of course people who knew who I was, but the students I was friend with didn't know. When °C-ute's Budokan performance was announced, the pictures were all over the newspaper. I was in my first year of college at that time, and a friend of mine told me "Are you... in °C-ute ?" (laughs) That's the moment my second life was discovered, like a manga (laughs) As they didn't know °C-ute at first, our relationships didn't change even after they learned about it. I'd be glad if I could turn this experience I had as an usual student in my lyrics one day. That's also one of the reason I went to college in the first place.
Without surprise, my research paper was about music. I studied about the music's effects in the brain, like how the BPM (tempo)'s difference was perceived, studied about music's history and such.
After graduating, I will be left as a researcher under the seminar teacher, so I hope that I can deepen my research a little further to make it useful for my future musical activities. There are people in the lab who are studying various genres of music such as vocaloid, jazz and classical music. Different genres captures music differently. Their approach to the research was also different. I was inspired by them and thought "I just want to continue studying !". I'm really motivated about it.
"I may be able to become like her, but I can't" I want to keep on being that kind of woman
To be honest, fashion and style were never my top priorities. Hagi-chan (Hagiwara Mai) teased me a lot because of it, because even though I was changing outfits, my shoes would always be the same, and so on. I didn't think about trends, and would wear them until they're worn out (laughs) But I think there are many people who wants to copy my style. That's what I thought, not only the Airi I am in the magazines, but the one I am at college and in real life, should care more about what she wears. That's why being a model makes me learn a lot. I didn't know anything about clothes, hairstyles, make-up, and felt motivated surrounded by professionals. Not knowing something is fun ! It's pretty stressing, but it means it's a new chance to learn something. It'll soon be 3 years since I became a model, but the model I am is not perfect yet. I want people to feel close to me, since I don't have the body to become a model in the first place. I want to keep that proximity.
The posing and facial expressions are completely different than the work I do as an Idol. When you're an Idol, you have to promote yourself. When you're a model, you have to put the clothing forward. However, it musn't be impersonal either. That balance is really hard to find and I had a lot of struggles. They were many times I was told by °C-ute fans "It doesn't look like the Airi we know". Of course, by becoming a model, I had to show another image of myself people didn't know yet, and felt anxious about it. However, I tried to think about it positively, thinking that becoming a model also meant gaining more °C-ute fans, a different type of fans. That it would allow me to be another person. I think that'd be even more clear after °C-ute's disband. I can't wait to see how I'll evolve.
I'll turn into philosophical Airi for a second here, but the most popular Showa idols were "women you can't reach". As an Idol and a model, I want to be somebody that makes people think "If I try hard, I may be able to become like her, but I can't". Somebody that feels close, yet is unreachable. I want to make people think "If Airi's doing her best, then I have to do my best too". I went to high school like any other girl, and also had experience as a student. I think that's something that'll never change.
The happiness of being in °C-ute ; feeling blessed by being 5
°C-ute used to always be compared to Berryz Koubou, and we were told that even though we had our own personalities, the group appeared bland. That always hurt us a lot. But lately, there are many times where I feel so happy the 5 of us are together.
We were 8 at first, but after members' graduation we became a 5 members group. It's not excessive to say that we spent more time together than with any other member of our family. Of course as girls, there were times where we fought. There were times where each of us wanted to put priority in school work instead of our career. Even though our choices were all different, we all picked °C-ute in the end. It was our home. I always hear that colleagues can never be that close, but it's not true for us. We are always talking and laughing together and never got tired of it.
I think what really made us stronger is the first Budokan performance we had. We all became adults, and we tried to talk more about our feelings. It's alright to have your own opinion, as long as all of these ideas are for the better of °C-ute. That made us walk forward as a group. There were also many things that we let others decide for us before that we started to think about, and our trust between each member grew.
We all had different solo works that started at the same time, we created different environments besides °C-ute, and became able to understood each other thanks to it. At the moment, we're having our spring tour, Naruchika tour, and are trying very hard to remember each and every single one of our song to be able to sing them at least once before our disband, so our heads are pretty full (laughs) There are many album songs and coupling tracks of which we don't know the dancing to. We're taking dance lessons together while helping each other to remember them. That's where you see many time passed since our formation.
What do I think about before the disband ? My thoughts are pretty simple
Since our disband announcement last summer, Autumn went by, our last OTODAMA, our last Hello! Project concert, our last °C-ute day, our last events. These times are the most painful. As we thought about the setlist for the OTODAMA live before our disband was decided, we all cried so hard when we performed our cover of "Secret base Kimi ga kureta mono". Fans weren't aware of the disband yet, so we had to hide it, but lyrics like "Let's meet 10 years from now on in August" fitted our situation so perfectly we couldn't hide our tears. From that on, we decided to think about what we could do as °C-ute before the disband. We don't have time to be sad. We need to have the best body condition to be able to do everything at 100% until the end, and to be able to see all the fans before the disband. What I want to do as an Idol, is being able to show myself like fans are expecting me to. My style, hairstyle, the lenght of my skirt, every single detail needs to be thought about. The work, the body maintenance, the good food, I want to enjoy it until the very end (laughs) My thoughts are pretty simple : I'm all about °C-ute.
Everything I was doing since I'm a child has been perceived as "obvious" and I never got any compliments on it. The only person who complimented me on my dance is Morning Musume.'s Takahashi Ai, who is somebody I look up to. That's when I realized that there were people who noticed my work. I want my juniors to feel the same way. Not compliment the girls who are always up front and are always being complimented, but complimenting the juniors who are maybe struggling, who are working hard behind the scenes. We don't really want the juniors to copy us and we don't want to tell them "You need to do this that way", but if we could become a group that makes them think "That's what I want to be", then our goal would be accomplished. We grew up when Hello! Project was at its beginning, so we'd be glad if the members could inherit of something from us.
Your dreams will come true if you push through it, so you have to constantly evolve.
I realized that dreams indeed come true if you push through it when we stood on the Budokan stage for the first time. I was in the middle of a burn out... Knowing that a dream can come true made me think about what I wanted from now on, and made me decide to be somebody who constantly evolve.
The first thing I wanted to realize was something I promised to my fans since many years : to create a song by myself. I have to decide how to start from zero with the same passion I've had since childhood about singing. I have to fight for myself in this world.
With °C-ute's disband also ends the life I've been living since I'm a child, and I'll also graduate from my college at the same time, so my whole life will be reset at that moment. It's like God is telling me "You have to pursue another path from now". I try to stay positive and think that it's only my fate.
All the experience I lived with °C-ute, all the words I've received from fans are my treasures, and as long as I've got that with me, I'll be alright ! I really want to make a big group reunion when we'll all be older. I also don't want to lose face to any of them ! There's no point to it, if I don't try to go further than where I am standing now.
That's why we decided to disband in the first place. To move forward in a positive way.
Translation : Suzuki Airi Online