That photo from preschool.
-So, what kind of kid were you when you were little?
A brat. And I mean it. I feel sorry for my preschool teachers and my parents for having to stand me back then.
-What did you do?
At preschool, I liked touching my preschool teacher’s boobs.（笑）
I made a lot of girls cry too.
-Is that like, you liked them so you felt the need to tease them?
Nah, it was more because I took my favourite toy away from the girl and my teacher there was like, “You took it because you liked ○○chan and you wanted her attention, right?” and I was like, “Nah-“ but then for some reason the girl was like, “Oh, is that so? Okay then.”
-So you were pretty wild.
Even in that group photo from preschool, I’m just that one rebellious kid who sticks out their tongue.
-You have a brother who’s 5 years older than you, right? Were you nice to each other?
I guess. But when we go shopping, I would be that kid who sings really loud, so he’d be like, “Please it’s embarrassing I don’t want to walk with you.”
-What kind of songs did you sing?
I sang a lot of songs by Matsuda Seiko-san.
-Then, what did you want to be when you’ve grown up?
I always wanted to be something different everyday. I loved watching documentaries, and whenever there’s something to do with host clubs and stuff, I’d be like, “I’m gonna be a host!” to my mum. But in the end, I think I just wanted to be where I am now. I mean, I was an attention-seeker all the way.
-Were there any stars you liked?
I’ve always liked Katori (Shingo)-kun.
-So you’ve always had an interest in show business.
Yeah. When I was little, there was a dance school in the local. One of my good friends went there, and I started going there too. But when I went, I was in a different class from my friends, and there were girls in leotards around me. I hated it. But that school happened to do some things associated with show business.
I’ve only heard this from my mum recently, but yeah, there was this one time when I got into trouble by this really strict staff member, and on the way home as I was crying I told my mum that I’ll become famous. It’s a pretty childish belief, that, you know, you think being famous won’t get you into trouble.
-And I’m guessing you were popular among girls at school?
To be honest with you-yeah. That was pretty much my height in popularity at school from girls. In the school book I was ranked first for most popular, after all.
I might disappear one day.
-You auditioned for JE at 12, right?
Yep, when I was in year 6. My friend who went to the same dance school became a Jr. That was how I got to know JE. I liked singing and dancing in the first place, so I just wanted to stand on that stage. I applied for the audition; I had nothing to lose anyway.
-So you weren’t expecting to pass?
Yeah. I was in the same audition as Chinen (Yuri). Johnny-san suddenly talked to Chinen & I and told us to go ask our parents if we can audition for a role in a movie.
-What audition was this?
It was an audition for “Ninja Hattori-kun”. They said Katori-kun was going to be in it, and I really wanted to do it, but when I excitedly called my mum, she told me I couldn’t while I attended the dance school.
Chinen was calling his mum next to me, and I remember him whining about having to do the audition-he really didn’t want to do it. I explained to Johnny-san about how I couldn’t audition, and he just said, “Okay then, contact me once that dance school’s over.” I thought I had no future in JE.
-What happened after that?
I didn’t do much for the next year, but then one day I saw the trailer ad to Hattori-kun, and Chinen was in it. I was like, “It’s that kid from the auditions!!” I quit dance school a while ago, so I called Johnny-san. I didn’t really think he’d remember me, but amazingly he did, and he told me to go to NHK the next day.
-it was so sudden then.
Didn’t even know my lefts and rights but I went, and I saw Kis-my-ft2 practicing on their roller skates. I had no idea what was going on, so I asked Senga (Kento) –kun a lot of stuff. At first he seemed a little flirtatious and dangerous but he was actually really kind. And I remember Miyacchi (Miyata Toshiya) grinning like hell asking me if I knew his name….I was like, “Sorry, I’m not too sure.” But he was all cool with it.
-How was it attending the rehearsal?
We were practicing HikaruGENJI-san’s song, and well, that day, they suddenly told me to be part of “J.J Express”.
I mean really. I was like, “what the hell is happening”. But reality was, at first, I wasn’t even sure if I was part of J.J Express. Like, at magazine shoots and stuff, Ino-chan & Yuto would be called on while I just sit there. I couldn’t stand proud and tell everyone that I was part of “J.J Express”. It was like I was some reserve.
-Did you think about debuting back then?
I was too busy doing the work that they gave us. J.J Express had this rapid exchange of members back then- like, Tamamori came in so suddenly and before we knew it, he was out. I saw that happening right in front of my eyes, so I’ve always been anxious that I might disappear one day too. It was like the hunger games.
-And after that, Takaki-kun added to the members of J.J Express.
Takaki was so easy going, so we naturally became pretty good friends. Yuto, Takaki & I were in (Doumoto) Koichi-kun’s stage, “Endless SHOCK”, and back then, we’d wrestle each other everyday before we went home.
-We see that from 2006 onwards, Yamada (Ryosuke)-kun also started working with J.J Express too.
I was pretty good friends with Yamada from a while before J.J Express. We went home together after work, and even though he was younger than me, he had this mature disposition, he had a good taste in fashion, and I constantly stuck to him.
-What did you guys talk about when you were going home together?
Nothing of value, really. We never talked about work. Oh, I remember! These scary people came up to us and they were like, “Yo what yo looking at me like that yo” and we went home crying. （笑）
-Interesting. We had the impression that J.J Express was sort of like an elite group within Jr’s.
Oh yes I do think we were privileged. …I really do. But it was always just luck. Our abilities were never up to the standards of the work we got. That was really something I had in my mind all the time. We really, could not do anything. Talk, nor sing, nor dance. Even the choreographer told us everyday that we were the worst group in history within JE. We were always the ones causing problems in rehearsals of “Shounen Club”, and we involved Ya-Ya-yah, Kis-My-Ft2 and A.B.C. in all our troubles.
-What were you thinking when you got into trouble?
I always thought that I’ll pay them back with the favour. I still think that.
Not enough strength in the eldest
-It’s the year 2007 and Arioka-kun, Takaki-kun, Yamada-kun, Nakajima-kun & Chinen-kun have formed Hey!Say!7.
Oh yeah. We were suddenly called on by Johnny-san during our rehearsal for KAT-TUN’s concert. He was like, “You guys, are Hey!Say!7.” I found the members pretty strange. It was that time when I finally met Chinen and we became pretty close talking about the audition. First we thought it was just some unit group formed for the tour, but we happened to sing the OP and ED for an anime, and soon we saw “Hey!Say!” as part of our Jr’s concerts.
-You guys must’ve been so happy.
We were happy, yes, but…it was complicated. It wasn’t like we’ve disbanded J.J Express, but we still worked as “Hey!Say!7”. It was like we pushed Ya-Ya-yah, Kis-my-ft2 and A.B.C. aside to dance in front of them. Yeah. It was just…complicated.
I was always really good friends with (Yaotome) Hikaru-kun, and we were always together…until Hey!Say!7 was formed. It was painful since I well understood how Hikaru-kun must’ve felt. Trying so hard, yet not being selected into the new group. It’s just…not very enjoyable.
-So how did Hey!Say!JUMP come to form then?
Takaki & I were mentioned of about this previously from Johnny-san. He said, “I’m thinking of making a group based on the members of Hey!Say!7, but I think the two eldest don’t have enough strength.”
-What were your feelings towards that?
I got a little upset. Especially because I knew. I knew very well that we weren’t strong players in our team. It was upsetting to know that we were reflected so in the views of other people too.
-And that new group was Hey!Say!JUMP.
I believe so. It was when we suddenly got a call that we had to meet up for a magazine interview. When I got to the studio, there was Yabu-kun, Hikaru-kun, (Okamoto) Keito… I was thinking, “what’s with these members? Oh, maybe it’s about that thing…” But I knew. Even our manager was like, “You get it, right? You need to be aware, Arioka.”
-When you guys first met as a group, what did you think?
Don’t know myself. I thought we had an infinite potential. Confidence without reason. I remember being overly excited about the formation.
-What were your opinions on the addition of Yaotome-kun & Yabu-kun?
It felt…reassuring. They were the two whom I looked up to.
But we were specifically told by our manager that it’s unofficial, so we must not tell anyone, as in, anyone. It was like I was carrying around some bomb. It was hard- not everyone from J.J Express was there, and I couldn’t explain to my members, I couldn’t tell my parents.
We were always the outlier. Always.
-I recall you saying that you wanted to be the connective bridge between 7 & BEST in your interviews earlier into your debut?
Our members were varying too much in age and career. Some members hadn’t even spoken to each other before. At first, I felt we were going to be pretty awkward. So I felt responsible to stand in the middle and try to tie the group together. It’s not like I went around and tried to forcibly tie up conversations, but I did try to inclusively eat out.
-Your debut concert was Tokyo Dome. You guys were the youngest to ever have a concert in Tokyo Dome. Any memories?
Honestly, I don’t remember anything. We were just trying, trying, trying. I mean, we did enjoy it; we did. But we couldn’t exactly afford to look around enough. Just…
Just that it was different from how I thought it’d be. We were really grateful towards Kis-my-ft2 and A.B.C. who came to perform, but at the same time it was hurtful to know that it doesn’t work without their help.
-I see. Did you find any pain in surpassing your elders, Kis-My-ft2 & A.B.C. on debuting?
Yes. I mean, those people who were your team until a few months ago, are now dancing behind you. You can’t tell them “Thank you” because it just sounds mean, and “sorry” is even worse. I couldn’t tell them anything.
I could tell what they were all thinking-it isn’t hard when you’ve been working with them 24/7. They were all thinking, “Why the hell do we have to be on their back?” Maybe I was a bit oversensitive. But they were definitely feeling something, and it was tough looking at their expressions. It’s only recently that we were finally able to let go.
-You were lonely.
Honestly, I was part jealous seeing how Jr’s were bonding together better after we debuted, and how the senpai’s were taking care of them. Jr’s did stages with Takizawa (Hideaki) –kun, and went on Tackey CHANnel and stuff. So, it was envious seeing them fooling around with senpai’s.
-Hard, isn’t it.
We were the outliers. We were always the outliers. Always.
-Had no home to belong to.
But then again, I felt that Kis-my-ft2 and A.B.C.-Z had a tougher time. So, every month when I read this 10,000 letter interview, I really felt that.
-It’s not like the loneliness of a forerunner, but I see you guys have been running with so much load on your backs.
Because things were going so steadily, people did think of us as the elites… but that too doesn’t come down so clean in my mind. It just…I felt that there’s got to be something wrong with that.
-And it was just the things you need to do piling in front of your eyes.
I genuinely did not know what to put effort into. I knew that I just needed to…try.
-What was your support?
My fans. We ended the 2009 tour at Tokyo Dome. This time, we were on our own; no A.B.C, no Kis-my-ft2. This time there were heaps of people. That was when it just hit me: this was the view I was looking for in Tokyo Dome. There were so many people supporting us. And in the last MC, when one person started crying, everyone started off. Until then we felt somehow scattered as a group, but I like to believe that, that day, it all fell into place.
“Just do it your way, Dai-chan. It’ll all be okay in the end!”
-Do you personally feel helped by your members?
Definitely. Like when we had our “SUMMARY” in Tokyo Dome city hall, when I was given a place to run by myself. It was that bit where each one of us performed tricks with our dogs-and well, it didn’t go too well in the rehearsal. I mean, trying to bind our members to work together is hard enough-let alone dogs. It’s not like the dogs listen to you, you know. （笑）
Even when it was only a few days until the actual stage, it didn’t go well. And I couldn’t participate in some of the rehearsals because I had a TV show to record. I got so anxious, and I stayed back alone on some days to try and get it right. Chinen texted me you know. He said, “Just do it your way, Dai-chan. It’ll all be okay in the end!” those words really saved me. I realized how I was trying too hard. I learnt to just relax and let it be. After all, the important thing isn’t to run it as precisely as possible, but to run it so that everyone has a good time.
-And we never knew.
Nope. I believe that my stance as an MC was created there.
-So on the contrary, is it pretty obvious when other members are down, or irritated?
Very obvious. I think it’s because we’ve been through good times and we’ve been through bad times together.
-Who get’s upset easily?
Humm…I guess Yamada. It’s probably because he’s has the most passionate attitude whether it be towards Hey!Say!JUMP, or towards work in general, and that means more to take in, more to think about.
-What do you say to Yamada-kun when he seems down?
Just go natural. I mean, we all know what the problem is, so it’s needless for words. We just go to a café and have a cup of coffee, sometimes we just sit in the terrace, not saying a word.
-You starred in “Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo” with Yamada-kun, right?
-But the theme song was sung by Yamada-kun alone. You were in it too-didn’t you have mixing feelings about that?
Ah, yes, because I automatically assumed JUMP was going to sing it. When it was decided he was going solo, we discussed it quite a lot. At first we were planning to go ask them to make it so that JUMP can sing it. But for Yamada this was an opportunity. A huge one even. So I decided that I’ll give him a gentle push to get him to do it. He was so concerned over it. I told him that he shouldn’t be concerned over us, and that he should go drill a wind cave for us.
-Then, what do you consider as a turning point in JUMP?
This is pretty recent, but yeah, I think the Asia tour we had. We were told that we might be able to have one. But one day when we were rehearsing, we were called on and they were just like, “So it’s been decided the tour will be called off. Okay guys go back to practice.” …not one person moved.
We all needed an explanation. And that was the first time we displayed our solid will towards something. I think it’s because when JUMP first debuted, some of us were still in junior high, and we were still reminiscent of that childish image. We always followed what the adults told us to do. And from the adults’ perspective, I guess they just thought the minimum would do. So it was the first time then when we had a whole discussion on it. We weren’t children anymore. We wanted to know what was going on, and we wanted to move on, on our will, not by others’.
-What triggered that change?
I think it’s just that sense of impending danger.
-You felt danger?
Definitely. We’ve been selling ourselves as the freshmen, but that had to be changed with Kis-my-ft2, A.B.C-Z & Sexy Zone’s debut, and we all felt it.
-You guys felt insecure with Kis-my-ft2 & A.B.C-Z’s debut.
We felt we couldn’t just stay inattentive. But we mostly felt thrilled. This was where the real battle was to start. When we first debuted, I’m sure they thought we couldn’t do anything. But that’s not true anymore. So much has changed since then from our attitudes to our experiences. Of course each group has its own thing. But don’t you underestimate us. I was happy we finally got to stand on the same stage.
-You briefly mentioned that it’s not until recently you could talk to Kis-my-ft2 and A.B.C.-Z without anything. Did something happen for you to be able to talk like that again?
Hmm…Well I think for A.B.C.-Z, it’s a huge factor how we were together for Johnny’s World for three months. It’s not like we’ve had that kind of DMT’s but we did talk to them about a lot of things. After that, when JUMP was running Shonen Club, Kitayama-kun suddenly talked to us.
-What did he say?
He said, if it were us, we’d be doing a better job at running this show. I’m pretty sure he meant it, and nothing of his expression or his tone told us that he meant is as a mean comment. It was more like a nudge to a rival. It was like we need not to think about anything anymore, we purely need to focus on stimulating each other.
I wasn’t wrong for my confidence without reason.
-Any personal turning points, then?
This is really recent, as in, June 2013 recent. It was that time when I was hit against with a wall. I mean, all the other members have instruments, or they can act. And I just thought…I had nothing. Nothing.
I travelled alone in hope for a change. I mean, if you go to an area you don’t know, whether you like it or not, you’ll be having to converse with people. I thought I may be able to grasp a sense of self there. So I planned nothing, went to Haneda Airport, and took the first flight possible. That just happened to be a flight to Kagoshima. And when I got to Kagoshima, I saw a sign to Yakushima. Yakushima’s one of those spiritual areas, so I got on a ferry and went there.
-Pretty active as I perceive.
By the time I got there night had already fallen, so I went around numerous lodges looking for accommodation…and I finally found one. I told them I wanted to go see the Yaku cedar, and they prepared an obento for me. The yaku cedar was located in the middle of the forest, and apparently it takes 5hrs on one way, 10hrs in total. They told me I needed to be off by 3, so I should take a bath and go straight to sleep.
-You prepared for the next day.
I felt the warmth of people’s hearts, and I really loved going there. It was then when I got a call from our manager…and I didn’t tell anyone about how I came following my heart, not telling anyone of my trip. My manager was like, “Hey, so we’ll have a meeting tomorrow with JUMP so make sure you come to this place at this time.” And I had no choice but to tell my manager that I was in Yaku-shima of Kagoshima. …Of course I got into trouble. My manager was like, “Come back right away!”
-And you went back without seeing the Yaku cedar?
I felt nothing would change if I didn’t go see it, so I told my manager that I really needed to see the cedar so I wouldn’t be able to participate in the meeting the next day and hung up.
After that call I sent a text to each member. I told them that I felt the need to change, so I’m on a trip on my own. I told them I couldn’t go back tomorrow, and that I’m sorry. I called Yamada after the text. I briefly told him of my plans, so it was okay. I kind of asked him if I should really be making an effort to go back, but he just said that I shouldn’t, because this trip should be of value to me. Those words hit me so strong that I cried.
-That was nice of him.
And even after the call, Yamada took a derp photo with his family and sent it to me, telling me to have fun. It brought me to tears again. I still have that text. I treasure it.
-What did other members say?
They said it was okay. But some members didn’t reply, and I thought it was reasonable for them to be angry at me. But then…when I saw them they were like, “So, how was it?” they were so kind.
-You’re gifted to have such a caring group.
I really think so too. I love everyone.
-I’m sure it didn’t come with immediate effects, but was your solo trip of some value?
Well, the first gig I happened to have after I came back from Yaku shima was the recording of a music show for “Come On A My House” and there a lot of people told me I looked different, as in, good-different. I know it’s a bit strange, but I did feel it was of some value, and it did come with effects. Most of all, I felt confident.
-What kind of confidence?
While I was walking on Yakushima for those good 10 hrs, I was just thinking. The pathway we’ve followed was filled with so many things, and there are probably going to be a lot more in the future, but I knew it wasn’t the wrong path we were following. I felt that, that excitement and that confidence without reason I felt when we first met wasn’t wrong at all. I felt we good keep moving on. I trudged on wanting to see my members.
-Finally, what were your happiest moments, or unforgettable moments as Hey!Say!JUMP?
Happiest and unforgettable…the debut concert is one, the Tokyo Dome we went for the second time is one, SUMMARY is another one. JOHNNYS’ WORLD is definitely one too. Every time we accomplish something big, I always group everyone together to have a photo. I didn’t want to forget the moment where we just managed to climb over a huge wall, and I felt that in this moment, we’ll have the best of expressions. Every time, what we felt was the happiest moment keeps on getting repainted. I guess it’s the feeling of joy in that moment of repainting that keeps on creating new moments. Together with the fans, together with the 9 of us.