23rd December, 2018
‘When we say perseverance, the feeling is similar with Koshien (a manga about high school baseball). The harder the situation, the more hardworking you have to be.’
KPOP surges all over the world. Among them, there is a Korean-Japanese co-produced girl group IZ*ONE, born from the Korean survival program. Among the 39 members from Japan’s AKB48 Group, the three members who successfully entered IZ*ONE were Miyawaki Sakura, Yabuki Nako and Honda Hitomi. There are three Japanese members in IZ*ONE. To be more accurate, there are ONLY three Japanese members. The three members stepped out of their comfort zone in AKB48 Group, experienced the language barriers and the huge gap of skills, leading the whole group to success. The reporter interviewed them on the topic “perseverance.”
Facing directly the problem of being unskillful in Korea
The global group IZ*ONE was born in Korea’s survival program ‘Produce 48’. On 29th October, the 12-girl group debuted with their 1st mini album ‘COLOR*IZ’ and won the first on the iTunes chart of 12 countries including Japan. In Korea, they broke the record of the highest initial album sales of girl group. As a rookie group, this is an amazing start.
Among the 12 members in IZ*ONE, there are three Japanese members. They are Miyawaki Sakura, Yabuki Nako and Honda Hitomi. Miyawaki is the third place in ‘AKB48 the 53rd Single Sekai Senbatsu Sousenkyo’. Yabuki is one of the centers in HKT48. For Miyawaki, she viewed PRODUCE 48 as her chance.
‘In 48 Group, although I had the pleasure to star in the TV dramas and been the center, I have always been thinking what are my goals of being an idol. Because of this reason, I think this is a very good opportunity to try hard and shine on the world stage,’ said Miyawaki.
However, in the new environment, what is waiting for them is the cruel reality. 39 members from the AKB48 Group participated. Although the AKB48 Group has many fans in Japan, there is an overwhelming strength gap as compared to the Korean trainees.
In the three-month broadcast of the program, on the basis of the theme song evaluation, strict practices and many rounds of voting, 12 debut members were selected at the end of the program.
The three Japanese members felt the strength gap since the first day of evaluation. Although it was said to be assigning the 96 contestants into A to F class, but most of the Japanese members were evaluated severely. Although Miyawaki is in A class, Honda is C and Yabuki is F.
The burden of being a center
Compared to other trainees, Miyawaki has 7 years of experience, which is a great burden on her.
‘I have been an idol for 7 years. When I saw Korean trainees who are so much more skillful than me, I couldn’t help thinking what I had done in these 7 years. I even thought of hiding,’ Miyawaki recalled and commented on her unskillfulness.
“Even if there are some immature parts, but the process of her efforts to grow up should be supported, the 48 Group has such a culture. There are also other areas to be evaluated other than singing and dancing, such as handshake, the Sekai Senbatsu Sousenkyo and SNS. But in Korea, to debut, you must be mature in vocals and have a strong foundation of dancing, which are the criteria to determine your success and failure.”
‘I also worried about the language barrier. There were translators helping us when we had lessons, but there was not any when it came to the daily communication between trainees. I also experienced miscommunication with Korean trainees. “There was once I did a different dance move on the stage because I could not understand Korean. In Korea, it is very important to dance perfectly and precisely in a group. The hardest moment is when I was being the first center of Nekkoya,’said Miyawaki.
Two times of debuting as an idol
Why do you still stay in Korea under such challenges?
“‘Is there anything that can make me improve?’ I asked myself. When I was working in the 48 Group, I had this feeling. To debut as an idol for twice, it is an unusual experience. Therefore, I want to focus on the activities of IZ*ONE, and debut again as a rookie. I think it is really lucky for me to be able to debut for twice,” said Miyawaki.
Yabuki was the ninth place in the AKB48 Senkai Senbatsu Sousenkyo, she is also the selection member. She is one of the double centers in ‘Hayaokuri Calendar’ and has been an active member stably.
‘I was very frustrated at that time. If I was assigned to a very low grade or my ranking is very low in IZ*ONE, I would be very upset. However, I think I can also benefit a lot from it,’ said Yabuki.
The one who benefits the most from Produce48 should be Hitomi. Although Hitomi is the 82nd place in AKB48 Senkai Senbatsu Sousenkyo, her popularity is comparatively lower than Miyawaki and Yabuki. However, in the final round of Produce 48, her ranking skyrocketed to the ninth place, becomes one of the 12 debut members.
‘Everything happens so fast. Although it has been the fifth year since I entered AKB48, I was shocked by the attention I received during the six months of Produce 48. This has also ignited my determination to work harder.
To fight on behalf of the ‘48 Group’
In PRODUCE 48, the three members also cried, but they did not choose to escape. It is better to say that it is the adversity that ignited their fighting spirit.
“Because we carry the 48 Group’s name, our actions can also reflect the situation of the members who are working hard in Japan. If we work hard, Japan’s 48 Group will receive more attention. On the contrary, if you don’t work hard at all, 48 group will be criticized by people on the world. ‘Japanese idols are just like this.’ I don’t want to hurt my self-esteem as a member of the 48 Group,’ said Miyawaki.
“When I was first assigned to Class F, I thought about ‘Would it be better if I didn’t come?’. On the contrary, it ignited my fighting spirit – ‘I must go to a better class’. I have been the center in HKT48, but I still go to the F class. ‘I can stand in the front row without strength in Japan’, I don’t want to be considered this way,” said Yabuki.
On 31st August, members of IZ*ONE confirmed and debuted on 29th October through “COLOR*IZ”. This great success has made IZ*ONE a world-famous existence. In Japan, there has also been a lot of support from people who have never shown such strong interest in the AKB48 Group.
Regarding these positive responses, the three members unanimously said that ‘the feeling is unreal.’ In South Korea, IZ*ONE is still treated as a rookie group. Although they are often recognized by people on the streets in Korea, in the backstage of variety shows, they still share a large lounge with other rookies.
The three members go to Korea, a whole new environment, with the whole new world as their goals. What they have in common is the ‘48 Group DNA’. So, what exactly is a ‘48 Group soul’?
“When we say perseverance, the feeling is similar with Koshien (a manga about high school baseball). The harder the situation, the more hardworking you have to be. Whenever I feel sad, I look around and see everyone around me is working hard. And I feel that ‘ah~ I am not alone’, then I work much harder again,” said Miyawaki.