The Birth of a Star,” which will not go on the air CoCo” and “ribbon” spin-off
Love and a pay phone “Shall we break up for now?
Encounters” that led to a career change to a cookery researcher
After high school at 3:00 p.m., we would meet at the south exit of Shinjuku Station 30 minutes later. We take turns getting into parked cars, and from there we go to TV, radio, and interviews …… that go on until midnight. Saturdays and Sundays are spent on location and filming. I was so busy that I didn’t know what was going on. I felt as if I was seeing it for the first time and thought to myself, “I didn’t know I was on a TV show like this. One time I was answering a quiz with Akina (Nakamori), and I thought to myself, “Akina is beside me! Why don’t you remember, what a waste! Why can’t you remember!
Maki Miyamae, 49, of the popular idol group CoCo, which debuted in 1989, has been fascinated by idols ever since she can remember.
The first record I bought was Seiko Matsuda’s “Shiroi Parasol. However, although he was scouted on Takeshita-dori, he never took concrete action.
I didn’t have the confidence to ……. At the time, “Onyanko Club” was very popular, and I thought, ‘Maybe I can get in here because there are so many people! I thought, ‘I’ll join Onyanko when I get into high school,’ but when I was in the third year of junior high school, ‘Yuyake Nyan Nyan’ (Fuji TV program) ended and the group broke up. I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ (laughs).
One Saturday afternoon during her first year of high school, while she was writing a resume to work at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, an announcement on TV changed her fate.
I was just writing my résumé on ……, so I pasted a picture of me on a field trip and sent it in. I put a picture of myself from the field trip on it and sent it in. But when I got there, there was a long queue from the nearest station, Akebonobashi, to the Fuji Television building in Kawadacho. I was overwhelmed by the fact that everyone had passed the first screening.
There was a camera kid at the entrance of Fuji Television, and he was asking the girls I had my eye on to let him take their picture, but I went through …… and silently passed behind the girl being photographed (laughs).
But the results took a surprising turn. I was told, “Your voice is too quiet.” “What are you doing here?” I passed through eight rounds of judging, despite being told I was not good enough. Before he knew it, he had made it to the final round.
One of those who passed the screening with her was Yurimi Matsuno, who later became a member of “ribbon. I was thinking, ‘I wonder if this kind of girl will be selected,’ and we were both in an uproar when I was also selected. During the screening, I was told that my voice was too quiet, but at the very end, I was told to shut up! (laugh).
The Otome Juku was formed as a unit within the new program “Paradise GoGo‼” (Fuji), which started in April 1989, and a severe competition for survival took place every week.
The program was a Monday through Friday evening slot, but there were always lessons on the weekends to determine the next week’s performers. It was not unusual for a girl who had been on the show until then to be dropped. The off-air ‘Birth of a Star! on a regular basis (laughs).
We would set up a set in the studio and the MC would be Keiko Kono or some other announcer from the station. Production people would sit in the audience. One by one, we would go out on stage, sing a song, and promote ourselves; as you would expect, we didn’t put up tags, but those who were scouted would stay, and those who weren’t would leave the program.
After surviving the harsh days, “CoCo” and “ribbon” were spun off from Otome Juku.
First, eight students were selected for the Fuji Television summer image campaign. Then, except for Hiromi Nagasaku (Hiro-chan) and Ami-chan (Yurimi Matsuno), who later became members of “ribbon,” the program staff called the six of us and said, “You are a group starting today. This was the prototype of CoCo. Even now, I don’t know what criteria were used to select them.
The remaining five members started their activities after the school gave the naysayers the go-ahead to quit.
I was thrilled to be able to participate in a TV program that I had watched since I was a child. For example, “Night Hit Studio” (Fuji). At that time, Mr. Itiro Furudate and Ms. Mariko Kaga were the hosts, and right before I sang, Ms. Kaga said to me, “You guys didn’t say hello. (Laughs). (Laughter). I didn’t know when to go and greet them. ……
Now let’s hear you sing! CoCo” with “Hanbun Wonders”–I was shocked right after Furudate said that.
Kaga-san said, “It’s all a mystery! I was shocked immediately after Kaga-san said that. Looking back on it now, it was completely fake, but we were so depressed that we thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to be dried up ……,’ so when we watch the footage from that time, we all have drawn faces (laughs).”
The group’s second single, “Hanbun Wonders,” was their breakout hit, and all of their subsequent songs, including “Natsu no Tomodachi/Memories abound” (No. 3 on the Oricon chart), charted well.
I was in love with ……,” he said (laughs). We were in the same industry. But since there were no cell phones in those days, we exchanged letters and a diary. There was a row of pay phones in front of the Fuji Television cafeteria, and we would say, ‘I’ll put my letter under the second pay phone from the right. After the recording was over, I checked to make sure the letter was gone and …… it’s possible the cleaning lady threw it away.”
I couldn’t look directly into the camera anymore.
After that, solo activities of the members began to flourish, and in 1992, Azusa Senoh graduated, and the group entered a transitional period.
The music was selling well and there was no tension between the members, but at the time, it was an era in which “once you pass the coming-of-age ceremony, you are no longer an idol (……). When Mikiyo (Ohno), the youngest member, turned 20, we talked about it and decided to break up for the time being, which was a surprisingly easy decision (laughs). (Laughs) Everyone had the desire to “break up regrettably” like the Candies, so our first wish was to “have a breakup concert. I felt satisfied that we were actually able to do it. It was a happy idol activity.”
After the breakup, her solo activities went well. He continued to appear on regular TV programs and his live performances were well received.
However, the wheels gradually fell out of place.
In the late 1990s,” she said, “there was an increase in the number of variety shows that sold tongue-lashing, and I had to say bad things that I didn’t want to say. That stressed me out and I thought, ‘Well, how about an actress?’ But when I went on set, I got really nervous. …… I didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t look directly into the camera. It was around the time I turned 30 that I started having a hard time.
It was cooking that saved her. She had vaguely hoped to work in the culinary arts someday since she was an idol, and upon her retirement from show business, she began to work on her goal. She entered Le Cordon Bleu, a prestigious French culinary school, and obtained numerous food-related certifications, including one as a nutrition education instructor.
He said, “I started going to school, and the encounters I had there were significant. It was a world of real professionals. The people I studied with were all very kind. I started to think, ‘I don’t want to do this as a hobby, I want to do it seriously,’ and I changed myself.”
There was also an unexpected reunion.
When I was running an organic restaurant in Aoyama, Ami-chan came to visit me and told me that the photographer Keita Hagiwara was at the restaurant next door. He had taken photos for both “CoCo” and “ribbon,” so that was our first reunion. Years later, when I was producing a salad shop, I followed every single Facebook page for PR purposes, and he showed up as an associated person. I got a message saying, ‘I’m interviewing people who are starting something new, would you like to be on it?’ That was our second reunion. From there, it was like a big …… breakdown and we ended up getting married (laughs).”
For Maki Miyamae, who is now gaining ground as a cookery researcher, what were the days of Otomejuku and CoCo like?
I was allowed to do great things,” she says. I am proud of people like Hiro-chan who are active as actresses. I don’t watch dramas because they have Hiro-chan in them; I watch them because they are interesting. （Rieko Miura helped me a lot. When I was away from show business, I was saving a lot of money, so Rieko gave me clothes and bought me dinner. Because Rieko is still active, the name “CoCo” remains. I am extremely grateful.”
She had planned to stay away from the entertainment industry, but the recent “Showa retro boom” has swallowed even her stubbornness. Her theoretical explanations have been well received, and the number of offers has increased rapidly.
The other day I was invited to the Waseda Festival and was introduced as a ‘Showa idol,’ but ‘CoCo’ is making its Heisei debut (laughs). (Laughs.) But I am grateful. I am about the same age as a student’s mother. Actually, someone who helped me when I was an idol suggested that I release a CD. and after much deliberation, I decided to take the job. I may never have such an opportunity again, and I’m even going to perform live on January 15 (laughs). When I retired from show business, I never imagined this would happen.”
The members of “CoCo” will return to the stage with their first new song in 30 years.
From theDecember23, 2022issue ofFRIDAY
Interview and text： Masashi Hosoda
PHOTO： Hiroyuki Komatsu (1st and 5th photos)