Kikkawa You introduces herself to America
Story, photos, and videos Copyright © 2012, GTH/Selective Hearing.
Note: We apologize for the delay in publishing this story. A lengthy process of communication with Kikka’s management was required, regarding the use of our photos and videos.
J-Idol Kikkawa You appeared at Anime Weekend Atlanta from September 28th to 30th, 2012. The soloist spent the weekend meeting with fans and performing some of her favorite J-Pop songs.
“This is my first time outside Japan, and I feel very happy and excited to have fans here. I hope more people will learn about me and become new fans!”
To that end, she made herself very available all weekend long, holding four autograph sessions, two Q&A panels, and a 45-minute concert. She also spent a lot of time walking through the convention halls, greeting people who were in line, taking pictures with fans and cosplayers, cooing at every baby she laid eyes on, and personally inviting people to her concert.
She began one of her Q&A sessions by telling the story of how she became an idol (complete with her own hand-drawn illustrations.)
“When I was a child, I admired the Hello!Project idol groups Morning Musume and Berryz Kobo. So when I was fourteen years old, I decided to challenge myself by auditioning to become a member of the 8th Generation of Morning Musume.”
“[In English] But… cry, cry… cry, cry…”
She didn’t make it.
Not only was she disappointed herself, but her teachers also scolded her for being rejected. “That’s when I realized that being an idol is not just about having fun and being happy; it’s also a very strict world that requires hard work and discipline to succeed. It was a difficult experience, but I never gave up on my dream.”
Soon after, she became an “H!P Egg” where she spent four years training in singing, dancing, and other performing arts. Every day after school, she would ride a bus for two hours to the Tokyo training center (studying her schoolwork along the way) then spend three hours in H!P Egg training, and finally ride the bus back home for another two hours.
“H!P training is very strict, but they teach you with love.”
During this time, she was able to perform as a backing dancer for other H!P groups, and also as a member of a 3-girl group called Milky Way (along with Kusumi Koharu and Kitahara Sayaka.)
At the end of those four years, she began to wonder if she should go to college and prepare a different future for herself. But then she was offered the chance to become a soloist, and she took it – even though the idea made her anxious at first.
“For the first six months, I was very nervous. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to remember all the lyrics and all the MCs by myself! Maybe I’ll learn all the lyrics, but then when I learn the MCs, they will push the lyrics out of my head?! But now I’ve gotten used to it, and I’ve increased the capacity of my brain so that I can remember everything (even though I make a mistake every so often.)”
The last picture in her story is of her standing on top of a mountain, signifying that her goal is to reach the top of her profession. “I want to be big! Number One!” Given the amount of drive and ambition she’s already displayed through a failed audition followed by four years of rigorous training, a successful solo debut, and several movie and TV projects, I don’t doubt her ability to get there. But she has a long climb ahead. The turnout for her events in Atlanta was a bit thin. There seemed to be only 25-30 people who attended AWA solely to see Kikka. Only three or four of her Japanese fans made the trip. But as the weekend rolled on, more and more people came by to check her out, and I estimate that her concert was attended by about 150-200 people. I’m sure she made a lot of new fans during this first foray overseas, as well as gaining some valuable experience in the role of “international idol.”
Some other highlights from her Q&A sessions:
- Did she study English before coming to America? “[In English] Yes. Very yes.”
- When asked to make a pun about America or Atlanta: “When you turn on a faucet, ‘Jo’ is the sound the water makes when it flows from the tap, and ‘Ja’ is the sound it makes when it splashes in the sink. Jo-Ja… Georgia!”
- She seemed fascinated by the Cheesecake Factory restaurant across from the convention center. “I want to eat big meals so that I can become ‘big’ and have a big impact!” She then impulsively leapt to her feet, stuffed a sweater underneath her shirt to form a big belly, and exclaimed in English, “I am Cheesecake Factory!”
- If she had one wish, what would it be? “To be the manager of a Cheesecake Factory!”
- To a cosplayer: “Where did you get that huge lollipop?”
- When told that an 8-month-old boy enjoys her music: “My soul is that of a young child. Maybe that’s why my songs reverberate with your son, and with many other people of all ages. [In English] Kikka vibration!”
At her concert, she thrilled the audience by singing some older H!P songs like Romantic Ukare Mode and Daite! Hold On Me along with some of her own recent hits like Hapirapi Sunrise and Kikkake wa YOU! “We thought it would be a good idea to include some classic songs, because this is my first time in the US, and maybe people here are more familiar with the older songs than with my songs. Also, I want to be versatile and try many different song styles. In fact, maybe I’ll surprise you soon,” she said with a sly grin and a mischievous laugh, hinting at her latest album, Vocalist?, in which she covers J-Pop songs from the ‘80s and ‘90s in collaboration with several Vocaloid producers.
Her concert was a terrific showcase of her talents. She seemed very excited to be performing outside Japan for the first time, as she danced back and forth across the stage, playing to the entire crowd. “I love to sing, and I’m very honest in expressing myself on stage. When I see the fans react to that, it makes me happy.” There were a few technical audio glitches during the show, but she didn’t let that stop her from delivering a wonderful, joyful performance from start to finish.
I didn’t know much about Kikka before I went to Atlanta. The impression I came away with is that she’s a very beautiful and charming girl, ambitious, hard-working, confident, very friendly and outgoing, with a playful, goofy sense of humor (she enjoys defacing her own photos with drawn-on whiskers and blacked-out teeth, for example.) It seemed to me that she didn’t want to merely “meet” her fans; it was more like she really wanted to feel connected with them. That’s one of the things she likes about being a soloist rather than being in a group: “It allows me a greater opportunity to communicate with every fan.” She was happy to satisfy every request for a photo or a handshake, and she ended each autograph session by coming out into the crowd to pose with us for group photos.
Kikkawa You also appeared at the Japan Expos in France (October 27-28) and Belgium (November 2-4.) Her upcoming concert DVD will include a documentary about her overseas events.
For more information about Kikka, visit her official website, www.kikkawayou.com (Japanese.)