Sunday, October 23, 2022

Her admiration for Shibuya Gyaru is her driving force - The story about Fukuoka born Ikuta Erina of Morning Musume moving to Tokyo

Erina Ikuta, sub-leader of Morning Musume '20, is the only current member of Kyushu and Fukuoka.

Ikuta-san has been admiring Shibuya Gyaru ever since she was a child, and has been making her social media more lively with the hashtag "#eriponkawaii", with a true "I'm the best!" gyaru spirit.

We asked her to reflect on her time in Hakata, where she spent her junior high school years, and how she felt in 2011 when she moved to Tokyo, full of dreams.

As a young girl, I had a longing for Shibuya

――Ikuta-san, you always had a strong admiration for shibuya gals right?

Ikuta Erina-san: Ever since I was a child, I had a strong image of  "Tokyo" as seen in manga, anime and TV dramas. I have always loved Fuji Mihona's girls' manga "GALS!" and the TV drama "Gal Circle". Seeing the gyaru in those stories, I always thought "Someday I want to wear shorts and leg warmers too!". I've also been reading the magazines "egg" and "Popteen" for a long time.

Ikuta-san says "I like gals from the 00s". (from Morning Musume '20 Qki Official Blog)

――You've been reading the "egg" magazine since elementary school? That's pretty amazing. Ikuta-san currently is sort of gyaru as well, which is pretty rare in the Hello! Pro scene.

Ikuta: Since I lived in Fukuoka all my life, I had a strong admiration for gyaru. Those born and raised in Tokyo can go out to Shibuya anytime they want and become a gyaru right away if they want to. So that's why I have a sense of rivalry when in Tokyo, I end up wanting to be flashy to stand out from the other girls (laughs). This may be a common thing to do when from Fukuoka.

――Tanaka Reina, OG Morning Musume, also comes from Fukuoka. She, too, was flamboyant and stood out from everyone else.

Ikuta: Morning Musume has an overall balance, so our hair colors shouldn't be too flashy. But I always make my own suggestions to my manager. I go to Hot Pepper Beauty and look for styles for gyaru and ask & try to find out, "Is this color okay? (laughs).

――It's like a gyaru who is on the edge of the school rules.

Ikuta: Hehe. But you know, Fukuoka has many schools with a really free school culture. You can wear a uniform or whatever you like to the graduation ceremony. Recently, I was looking at pictures of my elementary school graduation ceremony, and even back then I was quite a flamboyant kid (laughs). Anyway, I remember that I loved gyaru-like items and the Kitson bags that were all the rage were my favorites. I also had an unbelievable amount of key chains on my cell phone.

The way she looks down smiling while looking at her nails is just like a gyaru from "back in the days".

The place to be at is Tenjin. When meeting up with friends "Let's meet at the big screen!"

――What kind of places do Fukuoka gyaru meet up at?

Ikuta: Ever since I was in elementary school, I used to go to Tenjin (shopping district in Fukuoka) every day to take purikura pictures. Even if I only had one hour to spare, I would definitely go to Tenjin. Telling your friends "Hey let's meet up in front of the big screen!", you could meet up right away.

――"Let's meet up at ..." - that's a good instruction

Ikuta: This might be an odd Fukuoka thing, but if you just say "at the big screen" you can definitely meet up! This might be difficult in Shibuya right? Since the area around Tsutaya alone is full of big screens, it can be confusing.

――But you do have a lot of those big screens in Fukuoka as well right?

Ikuta: That's right. But for some reason, everyone always meets up at the big screen under the Solaria Stage. If Fukuoka citizens talk about "the big screen", that's the place to be. There always are a lot of people waiting for each other.

――When meeting up, do you go shopping?

Ikuta: Both have closed recently, but I loved Tenjin Core and Tenjin Vivre for shopping. Right now, it's probably Tenjin Parco. Fukuoka has everything that is fashionable in Tokyo as well, so it's a great place to get the best of both worlds. I enjoyed walking around the fashion buildings because they would have gyaru clothes brands. What makes it different from Shibuya is that everything is connected in an underground mall, so you can get your errands done in one go.

――So it's that easy to walk around there.

Ikuta: In Shibuya, it is hard to move around to get to the stores you want to go to. Tenjin is so convenient that you don't even need an umbrella because you can't get wet in the rain.

Not only Tonkotsu Ramen, but Tenjin Gourmet as well

Locals often communicate with the staff while eating

――Fukuoka is a place where the food is delicious right.

Ikuta: That's right. Since it's kind of "everything you can get is delicious", it's hard to give any recommendations.

――Which restaurants does Ikuta-san frequently go to in her hometown?

Ikuta: A restaurant called "Shinsei Hanten Tenjin" in the back alley of Tenjin 1-chome. It's a Chinese restaurant that's open during the daytime, and I've been going there frequently since I became a member of Morning Musume because I get along well with the couple owning it. Their champon is really good, so I hope you'll try it. The noodles have a normal thickness, but the texture is different. There's also lots of vegetables in it, so you can finish the soup without feeling guilty. When I took one of our members, Haga-chan, she acclaimed it highly! In the evening, it changes to a motsunabe restaurant called "Rakutenchi Tenjin Honten", which is also delicious.

――So it's two different restaurants operating in the same place. Fukuoka doesn't seem to have an image of being known for champon, so that's interesting.

Ikuta: When I go out with friends, we often go to a hamburger steak restaurant called "Kiwamiya" located in the underground of Tenjin Parco. It's a restaurant chain that serves meat dishes mainly in Fukuoka City, and they recently opened up a restaurant in Shibuya Parco! I would like people in Tokyo to try their hamburgers. It's a classic among Fukuoka residents.

――This is great information for fans in Tokyo. Definitely check it out.

Ikuta: For those who are short on time, I recommend West's Udon, it's a classic. I would also recommend the "Beef Butter Yaki" at Tenjin B.B.Quisine, located in the middle of the food court at Fukuoka Airport. It's teppan rice topped with beef and yakisoba. I've never seen it in Tokyo, so I always have to go back to Fukuoka to enjoy it.

――Indeed, this is a menu we've never heard of.

Ikuta: Really, everything is delicious in Fukuoka. We're mostly known for tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen, but in Hakata it's not just about the good taste, it's also the cheapness. When I first moved to Tokyo, I was surprised at how expensive ramen was. In Fukuoka, you can get a ramen bowl for about 200 to 300 yen, and you can even get a second serving of noodles for 100 yen. I could have as many bowls of ramen as I wanted.

――Does Ikuta-san also keep a stock of Hakata ramen at home?

Ikuta: I love "Umaka Chan" instant ramen so I stock up on it. We have a ramen club within Morning Musume, and this one's very popular among the members. I'd like to do a commercial for it someday.

――Do you have any other cheap, easy food recommendations?

Ikuta: As a souvenir, Nakamuraya's "Oryoryo" cheese flavor! At the airport, you can get one to taste. It needs to be refrigerated, but I always buy it because it is easy and tasty.

Moving to Tokyo full of dreams "I can become a Morning Musume member in Tokyo!"

Since joining, Ikuta-san has never missed a day of work. She is also a pro at managing her physical condition.

――Fukuoka is a super idol battleground right. It's an area with many local idols.

Ikuta: There really are many idols in Fukuoka. I'd like to appear on the "Himitsu no Kenmin SHOW" someday, but the competition is super high. Also, there are a lot of cute girls like Hashimoto Kanna. Even the term "Hakata Beauty" exists, so there is a lot of pressure to be an idol as a native from Hakata. So that's why I also have a high sense of beauty.

――So there might be situations where a class in school has several idols in it.

Ikuta: There were a lot of idols in the junior high school I went to. I didn't even tell any of my local friends that I auditioned for Morning Musume. After I passed the audition, I only told my best friend "Actually, I passed the Morning Musume auditions and will be going to Tokyo". She answered "I didn't know! Why didn't you tell me!", but then that same friend became a member of HKT48. That friend is Motomura Aoi-chan, captain of Team KIV. We've been together since we were 6 and are still good friends, often going to Disneyland together.

With her childhood friend Motomura Aoi, member of HKT48. (from Morning Musume '20 Qki Official Blog)

――That's great, so you were able to reconnect with your local friends in the entertainment industry. What originally inspired you to pursue a career in there?

Ikuta: When I went to see this fashion show called "Fukuoka Asia Collection", there was a handshake event with Suzanne-san. At this event I was told "You're really cute! You should join our agency." I wanted to enter the same world as Suzanne-san, whom I adored, and meet her again.

――Right after, you debuted as a Morning Musume member.

Ikuta: I remembered that I had written in my kindergarten graduation album "My dream is to become a Morning Musume member", so I thought "This is it!". Miraculously, auditions were being held at the time, so I applied right away.

Fukumura Mizuki (current leader) and Ikuta-san when they first joined. (from Morning Musume '20 Qki Official Blog)

――Then in your first year of junior high school, you moved from Fukuoka to Tokyo. What was your impression of Tokyo at the time?

Ikuta: I had a longing for Shibuya, so I immediately went to Center Gai, and was very impressed when I saw manba gyaru in person for the first time. I was so happy to see panda gyaru and other types of gyaru really existed. I thought to myself "I want to do that style of makeup at least once in my life!", but it hasn't happened yet (lol).

――At the time you moved to Tokyo, you were still in junior high school. Did you feel any loneliness about leaving your hometown?

Ikuta: Rather than the loneliness of leaving my friends in Fukuoka, I was filled with the feeling of "I can be the Morning Musume member I've always wanted to be in Tokyo!". I did a lot of shopping at 109 and enjoyed Shibuya very much. But the rehearsal for our first concert tour was so hard that I called my family in tears. It was tough.

Looking back on her early years, Ikuta-san smiles shyly and says, "I was super bad"

My dream is to have a radio show in Fukuoka

――With 9ki joining, it was the first time in a long time that new members were added, and it was a tough situation for you to suddenly jump into the midst of veteran senior members.

Ikuta: Yes, it was like a bunch of children were suddenly thrown into the midst of all these perfect members. It was really hard just to keep up with the practices. That is why I am able to watch over the 15ki members (the three new members who joined last year) with a warm heart and say, "Well, it's difficult isn't it?"

――There was a time when Ikuta-san herself wasn't getting much singing parts. You only got the "ru" part of the "Aishiteru".

Ikuta: My fans would praise me by saying "I love Eripon's singing", so I felt a lot of regret that I wouldn't get any solo parts. But when I realized it's not good to be self-deprecating in front of those who support me, I changed. I don't mind if I get teased by other members during MC's, but I no longer joke about myself. Since I feel it only makes my fans sadder.

When she's thinking about her kouhai and fans, she looks very serious.

――Thanks to the fans who support you from the start, your feelings have changed.

Ikuta: But you know, after about the fifth year, there was a time I didn't really know what to do. I even talked to my mother about quitting. But then she asked me "What did you even accomplish with Morning Musume up until now?". From that point, I began thinking more deeply about what I could personally do. So I thought "We have members who are good with singing and dancing, so I'll try my best with acrobatics and talking!" etc.

――What is Ikuta-san's dream for the future?

Ikuta: I would like to have a regular radio show in Fukuoka. I have a lot of friends who are idols in my hometown too, so we talk about how we would all like to do a program to promote Fukuoka someday. I would like to host a program that connects Fukuoka and Tokyo.

Original article:
Translated by: ©Eriponderful World