Interview: AKB48 Team 8by Bamboo Dong & Earl Gertwagen,
Making their United States debut, six members from AKB48 Team 8 participated in this year's Japan Kawaii LIVE Anisong World Matsuri at Anime Expo. The lineup featured Hijiri Tanikawa, Akari Sato, Nanase Yoshikawa, Ayaka Hidaritomo, Yuna Hattori, and Yurina Gyoten, who were on hand the morning of the concert to answer a few questions.
AKB48 Team 8 is considered an unofficial sister group to AKB48, and features members from different prefectures of Japan. Created specifically as a traveling troupe, the team travels around Japan and overseas and participates in live performances and handshake events.
AKB48 Team 8 members each come from a different prefecture of Japan. What is your favorite part about working with other members who come from different regions of Japan?
Nanase Yoshikawa: I'm from Chiba prefecture in Japan, and Chiba doesn't really have its own dialect. And sometimes I hear other members' dialects and I think it's really cute, so it makes working with them so much fun."
Hijiri Tanikawa: Sometimes there's a word that will come up during conversation amongst the team, and multiple members will go “What is that? What does that mean?” so that's part of the fun of interacting with the other members.
You all travel a lot! What is your favorite part about traveling?
Ayaka Hidaritomo: The food!
Yurina Gyoten: The things unique to the places we're in, like local landmarks and food.
Hijiri: Seeing local items, like souvenirs and things like that.
What has surprised you the most about meeting fans from different regions of Japan and around the world?
Yuna Hattori: I feel like fans, for example from Nagoya City, fans of course have SKE48 in Nagoya, and I feel the passion, and response and reaction to be a little louder and more direct. It was very suprising.
What do you miss the most about your hometown?
Yuna: During the summer time, sometimes we're stuck in a hotel room for long, long periods of time when we're on tour doing lots of concerts, and when it comes to eating, I miss warm home-cooked meals. That's something that makes me feel homesick, because in that moment I feel like “Yeah, I miss my hometown...”
Nanase: When I joined AKB48, I had a bit of a homesick moment. I haven't really lived far away from my family before this, so of course it was a new experience, and I had a moment where I needed to basically cry, saying “I miss my mom, I wanna see her! I wanna see my family!” Especially the first and second years. It doesn't happen anymore, but it was difficult in the beginning.
You have a special concert coming up on August 8th. How are you preparing for it?
Yurina: We call it the "Day of 8", and as a special thing for that day, we'll be performing four times. And in between each of those performances, we'll be interacting with fans outside. So it's a lot like a festival, almost like a food truck or vendor truck kind of gathering, with activities where fans can interact with us.
Akari Sato: We'll be passing out bread to fans in the morning.
Nanase: The bread will be the shape of the NUMBER 8.
Sounds like a busy day!
Nanase: Yes, it'll be very busy.
What are you looking forward to from your fans in the United States?
Yurina: We went to perform in the Philippines before, and the responses from fans, especially for calls, were really loud and big and great. We're looking forward to how the fans here in Los Angeles will react during the calls and how big their responses will be. This is our first time performing in the United States, basically, so I'm really excited about it.
What surprised me when we performed in the Phillippines before was actually that the responses to our calls from female fans was really big. That's something that doesn't really happen in Japan. So I'm really looking forward to seeing how that compares.
We also need to be really strong so we don't get overwhelmed by the fans' responses. I want to do my best to give back the same energy the fans are giving to us.
AKB48 Team 8: http://www.anime-expo.org/guest/AKB48-team-8/
Our thanks to AKB48 Team 8 and Anisong World Matsuri for the opportunity.