The truth about Tokyo Performance Doll: Confessions of the first members, Satomi Kihara and Mai Yagita! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The truth about Tokyo Performance Doll: Confessions of the first members, Satomi Kihara and Mai Yagita!

The original and legendary idol group that produced Ryoko Shinohara, Yuri Ichii of "EAST END x YURI," Yuko Anai, and others!

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It will soon be 35 years since the leader and the youngest member met. Kihara (right) and Yagita, who are still good friends after getting married in Reiwa.

What was hard for me was that nowadays there are many successful examples, such as AKB48, but back then there was nothing, so I didn’t know if it would work or not. None of the staff understood. But once we started, we had no choice but to continue. That was the hardest part.

Starting with Morning Musume。 and Momoiro Clover Z, it is fair to say that nowadays, the standard for idols is a large number of people. Perhaps at the origin of this trend is Tokyo Performance Doll (TPD), which, like AKB48, began with a small theater performance, followed by a 2-DAYS at the Nippon Budokan and eventually topped out at the Yokohama Arena.

Satomi Kihara (52) was the leader of the group from its formation in 1990 until her graduation in 1995, and Mai Yagita (47) was also an early member of the group and joined at the youngest age of 14. In their testimonies, we would like to trace how the pioneers of the multi-member idol group were born and how they completed their mission.

Perestroika in the entertainment industry

It was in the third grade of elementary school that Kihara first aspired to become an idol, based on his admiration for Seiko Matsuda, who was also from Fukuoka Prefecture. Her dream was not crushed when she entered junior high school, and her aspirations continued to grow.

My parents had always been opposed to my entering the entertainment industry, but when I entered high school, my father decided to transfer to Tokyo, and to my joy and surprise, I began my life in Tokyo.

The chain of miracles continued. Soon after moving to Tokyo, she was scouted in Yamashita Park (Yokohama) and chosen to be a regular on an information program on TV Tokyo. She was selected as a regular on TV Tokyo’s information program, and in a spur of the moment, she entered the “Miss Champion” contest, voted for by readers of Weekly Shonen Champion, and won a special prize. She was chosen as the winner of the “Miss Champion” contest, voted by readers of “Weekly Shonen Champion,” and won a special prize.

At that time, I was told by a person concerned that I was going to be part of a three-member unit,” she said. I was told, ‘We’re going to form a three-member unit, and the name is Golbez. The name is Golbez. At the time, Soviet Union General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev was a hot topic, so they named the group after him. The catchphrase was ‘Perestroika for the entertainment industry. As expected, I thought this was a bad idea (laughs).

In 1990, Kihara made his long-sought CD debut, but it was not as popular as the grandiose copy. The other members of the group at that time were Tomosako Kawamura and Ryoko Shinohara.

Soon after, teenage girls joined the group one after another. The people involved in the group announced their new plan for the group. Tokyo Performance Doll was born.

During the weekday lessons, we did hours of dancing, push-ups, and sit-ups. On Saturdays and Sundays, we performed at a live house in Harajuku called “Louido. But there was no audience at all. One time, there were only seven people there (laughs). All the members sold tickets by hand in front of Harajuku station.

Member departures also became a regular occurrence.

There were times when we were short on people, and Sony employees joined us (laughs). (Laughs.) Then one of the kids came to us with a big smile on his face. That was Mai.

Mai Yagita, who says she “didn’t stand out in class,” first aspired to be an idol because of Miho Nakayama. She became obsessed with dramas such as “Everytime I’m Sorry” and “Mama is an Idol! (TBS), and other dramas. When she was in her first year of junior high school, she applied for the audition “The 4th Lotte Commercial Idol is You! which produced Risa Tachibana and Sachiko Suzuki (Wink). The GP crown went to Rumi Shishido, but a Sony representative asked her if she would like to take lessons. Rumi Shishido was invited by a Sony representative to take lessons at least.

Six months later, an official who came to observe the lessons said, “There is a group called Tokyo Performance Doll. It’s only been a month since it was formed, but some of the girls are quitting, so why don’t you join? I wanted to see firsthand what kind of group they were. I went to Harajuku Ruido to see what the group was all about. What I witnessed was a dance-vocal group unlike any I had ever seen before.

I frankly thought they were cool. There was certainly no audience, but what they were doing was innovative. But what they were doing was innovative. I immediately thought, ‘I want to be a part of this.

Thus, at 14 years old, Yagita became the youngest member of TPD.

She says, “I went to the TPD lessons, but they were all older women. They were looking at me and whispering in my direction, so at first I couldn’t get in. I thought, ‘I’m scared’ (laughs).

(Laughs) “At that time, members were coming and going so fast that I think they were saying, ‘Someone’s here again’ (laughs).

The seven members of the initial TPD who gathered at that time were Kihara, Kawamura, Shinohara, Miho Yonemitsu, Yuri Ichii, Yuko Anai, and Yagita. Shinohara is now an actress, Anai is the wife of professional golfer Shinichi Yokota, and Ichii had a million-seller “DA・YO・NE” as the vocalist of the hip-hop unit “EAST END x Yuri.” They must have been a diverse group, but at that time they had no time to feel that they had a future. But at the time, they could not afford to feel that way about the future.

You are not idols.

The lessons are hard, the customers don’t show up. I was seriously worried about the future if I kept repeating this kind of thing. I was seriously worried.

“Moreover, during the summer vacation, we had to perform not only on weekends but also every day. The physical exertion was too much to bear. ……” (Yagita)

At this time, Kihara, the leader of the group, was at his physical and mental limits. Yagita, the youngest member of the group, remembers it vividly.

One day, Satomi-chan and the others gathered and whispered to each other. ‘What should we do? Do we run away?’ I was so surprised. I was so surprised.

Despite the harsh environment, the wind gradually changed. Word of mouth spread, and the number of visitors began to increase.

The number of visitors increased day by day. My family often came to see the show, and my sister did some research and said, ‘There’s definitely been an increase since the last time you were here.

Then, a miracle happened. On August 31, the last day of the summer vacation performance, the audience exceeded 100.

I couldn’t believe it. For me, the most moving event in my five years at TPD was not making it to the Budokan or Yoko Ali, but reaching 100 people at Harajuku Ruido. I can’t shake that” (Kihara).

Even after the summer was over and they returned to weekend performances, the auditorium was packed across the board, creating a situation where tickets were harder to come by, on the contrary.

Kihara: “I was surprised by the reaction of my classmates. One day, a girl who belonged to the top of the school caste said to me, ‘You’re in the entertainment business, aren’t you? Do you get to meet celebrities?’ (laughs)” (Yagita).

(Laughs Yagita.) Still, the staff would always tell us, “You’re not idols. They always told me, “You are not idols, so don’t get the wrong idea.

I originally wanted to be an idol and entered this world, but I was told sternly, ‘You are not an idol. So don’t laugh. I wouldn’t appear on TV; I even refused to appear in commercials at first,” Kihara said.

TPD, which also had sister groups, Osaka Performance Doll (OPD) and Shanghai Performance Doll (SPD), was not without its challenges. In any case, their CDs were not selling well.

They changed their policy and started getting a lot of exposure on TV and radio. It must be a sense of crisis. They also started appearing in commercials, which they had once turned down.

Their name recognition increased, and they swallowed up a super-capacity audience at the Nippon Budokan 2-DAYS in August 1993, and then at the Yokohama Arena in 1994 and other large venues. Normally, this would have been the “here we go,” but ironically, the work of the individual members increased. In fact, immediately after the Yoko-Arena performance, Shinohara, Yonemitsu, and Ichii graduated from TPD. The members were renewed.

“In the following year,” said one of the staff members, “I said, ‘I can’t take care of you anymore. I was shocked because I loved the group. I was shocked because I liked the group so much.

Kihara also graduated in 1995. However, he says he has no sense of having “graduated.

Before that, I started doing Shimura Ken’s comedy and other non-TPD work, and I was so busy that it made me dizzy. For me, it felt more like a natural disappearance than a graduation,” said Kihara.

TPD restarted in the fall of 1995 with a renewed lineup led by Masashi Arai, but the group spontaneously disappeared without any announcement. This would be an unthinkable outcome today.

Kihara then went on to work as a TV personality before getting married. While working as a housewife, Kihara also invites Anai, Yagita, and other members from the past to dance lessons, which she shares on her Instagram page.

Yagita, who had released four solo singles while a member of the group, has released two solo singles produced by Rory Teranishi since graduation. As an actress, she appeared in many movies and dramas. She is currently busy as a housewife and occasionally appears at TPD-related events.

When we asked Satomi Kihara, the leader of TPD, what TPD was all about, she answered after careful consideration: “Looking back, it was an experiment.

Looking back, I guess it was an experiment. It was a grand experiment involving the members, the staff, and even the fans. That’s the way I feel about it.

Here are Kihara (left) and Yagita from the TPD days, joking around during a break in rehearsals at the Tsuroku Studio (Minato-ku, Tokyo).
This photo was taken at the end of a performance at Harajuku’s “Louido” live house, which was TPD’s “home base. Shinohara is next to Kihara.
A shot from the Budokan 2DAYS in August ’93. They performed successfully at Yokohama Arena, Kosei-Nenkin Kaikan, Shibuya Kokaido, and other venues.
Both retired from show business. They met again while living as housewives and became involved in TPD-related events.
Unpublished material: Confessions of Satomi Kihara and Mai Yagita, the first members of Tokyo Performance Doll.
Unpublished cuts from the magazine: The truth about Tokyo Performance Doll: Confessions of first generation members Satomi Kihara and Mai Yagita

From the April 26, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text by Masashi Hosoda (Nonfiction writer) PHOTO Hiroyuki Komatsu (1st and 4th photos)

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