Gravure Idol Hotaru Kusakabe, a MENSA Member with an IQ in the Top 2%, Explains Why She Became a Qualification Maniac | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Gravure Idol Hotaru Kusakabe, a MENSA Member with an IQ in the Top 2%, Explains Why She Became a Qualification Maniac

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Known as ‘Japan’s busiest photo model’ and supported by fans, Hotaru Kusakabe. She is also nicknamed the mysterious creature who can do anything because she holds 43 qualifications. (from ‘Iinari’)

On June 5th, gravure idol Hotaru Kusakabe released her first photo book, ‘Iinari.’ She is also known as a qualification maniac with 42 qualifications, earning her the nickname ‘the mysterious creature who can do anything. Her 43rd qualification was passing the MENSA membership test, which is only open to those with an IQ in the top 2% of the entire human race.

How did someone with such a high IQ become a gravure idol? Delving into her background reveals the reason why she continues to obtain qualifications.

Kusakabe says she had always wanted to take the MENSA test. She often solved IQ quizzes on TV shows and thought, ‘Maybe I can do it.’ She says she has loved studying since she was a child.

“My parents were very keen on education, so I attended many lessons from a young age. For example, piano, swimming, gymnastics, art, and several others. I also played with friends, but I basically went to lessons every day.

However, I didn’t take entrance exams for private schools; I went to public elementary and middle schools. For some reason, my parents weren’t very strict about entrance exams. I didn’t even go to cram school. When I was in the third year of middle school, everyone around me was going to cram school, and I was the only one who wasn’t, so I asked to go and attended for a short time. But my grades in middle school were all 5s, probably the best.”

Her father ran his own business, and her mother was a nurse, so she grew up in an ordinary family environment. She attended a top public high school. However, despite balancing daily lessons and studies and always excelling academically, her routine took a sudden turn for the worse in her first year of high school.

The start date for applications for the MENSA test was not disclosed, so just applying itself was difficult.

“At first, it was a physical ailment. I started to take more breaks. Maybe I had been pushing myself too hard with lessons and studies. Before the feeling of not wanting to go to lessons, my body just stopped moving. Even if I wanted to go somewhere, I couldn’t go anywhere.

But I never thought I hated lessons. I didn’t really understand the feeling of hatred. I had probably never expressed my own desires, like wanting to do something or wanting something, so I wondered what was going on with me being swept along like that. But at the time, I didn’t know the reason; my body just wouldn’t listen to me.”

Even so, until part way through her second year of high school, she continued going to school, but eventually, she became a complete shut-in. She quit school and lessons, losing everything. She lost her appetite and dropped 10 kilograms. There were times when she wanted to die. Moreover, her relationship with her mother was not good at that time either.

“I think my mother was, of course, worried, but I felt that she disliked the fact that I couldn’t go to school and couldn’t do anything more than the fact that I was sick. This made our relationship strained, and I felt uncomfortable at home. On the other hand, I started talking to my father, with whom I hadn’t spoken much before, after I became ill. He listened to my feelings. But just as I began to recover little by little, my father passed away.

When it was just my mother and me, my mother’s mental state deteriorated rapidly after my father’s death. After that, I started doing part-time jobs and eventually began working, but my relationship with my mother never improved, and we became estranged.”

“I never rebelled against my parents, so maybe I bottled it up to the point of getting sick,” she said. Afterward, Kusakabe worked part-time jobs before becoming a gravure idol, but according to her, “I didn’t want to do gravure from the start.” Initially, she was desperate to make a living and reclaim the time she had lost. It all started when she took a job as a tobacco campaign girl, thinking of it as a part-time job until she found permanent employment.

“I was told by the companion agency that they have that kind of project, so they made me come to do it, without knowing anything, but I started and really enjoyed it, and got hooked.

Promotions were fun, and I enjoyed talking to customers a lot. People around me started praising me for being good at promotions, and the sales results were really good. I was chosen as the nationwide best campaign girl for that tobacco company for two consecutive years.

It was fun to be recognized for my hard work, so even though I started as a part-time job, I continued. But if you ask if it was really what I wanted to do. Well, when I get into something, I tend to enjoy it no matter what.

As I continued with that campaign girl job, I started participating in photo shoots. Through those photo shoots, I gradually started doing gravure as well. Really, I’ve just been going with the flow all this time (laughs). But I don’t worry about it anymore.”

The experience of “falling” during high school was such a profound one that now she no longer feels truly painful or depressed. Through that experience, she may have reached a state of being able to objectively observe and enjoy the “drifting” aspect of herself.



Her catchphrase ‘Brain and Body, Packed to the Brim’ has also become well-known.

She started acquiring numerous qualifications about two years ago. At that time, she already held certifications such as Kanji proficiency level 1, totaling about 5 to 6. At her peak, she continued to acquire qualifications at a pace of three per month. These ranged from small boat handling, gas welding, forklift operation, large motorcycle riding, hunting, to soba noodle making, totaling 42 certifications. Some qualifications could be obtained with just a day of training, but she mentioned that fewer easy ones remain as she progressed.

“Next, I’m thinking of taking the meteorologist exam this summer. I took the written exam in January and passed, so next, I’ll take the practical exam. Acquiring qualifications is enjoyable; it’s a hobby. Perhaps it’s because I was made to do many extracurricular activities as a child that I can enjoy pursuing various things.”

While Kusakabe once struggled considerably with being “someone who goes along without dislikes,” as she put it, titles like her photo book ‘Iinari.’ suggest that the more she goes with the flow, the more her charm shines.


In the June 28th issue of ‘FRIDAY,’ released on June 14th, unpublished cuts from an even more provocative photo collection are featured in a 4-page spread.

Hotaru Kusakabe’s 1st photo book “Iinari. (Tadao Matsuda/Kodansha)

The origin of the title “Iinari.” came from her own idea that she would deliberately become “completely obedient to the staff on set” during filming.
Her girlish expression and the contrast with her I-cup explosively large breasts are charming. (from “Iinari.”)
(From “Iinari.”)
(From “Iinari.”)
(From “Iinari.”)
(From “Iinari.”)
  • PHOTO Yuri Adachi (interview)

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