Interview: Niigaki Risa

Niigaki Risa (新垣里沙)

Niigaki Risa was present at Japan Expo 2018 for the 20th anniversary of Hello! Project.

We had the opportunity to meet Gaki-san, and to talk about her career as a former member of Morning Musume and Hello! Project.

Check out our interview with Niigaki Risa.

Could you introduce yourself?

Hi. I’m Risa Niigaki. (Note: She spoke in French).

You’re known as a former member of Morning Musume and Hello! Project. What are your activities since you left the idol group?

I became an actress after my graduation. I perform in theater.

Could you say a few words about your upcoming stage play?

This is a comedy about rock. The title is Minato Rokku vol.1 « Rock no Onna ». The stage play is produced by famous actress Suzuki Sawa.

What has been the most rewarding experience or learning as a Morning Musume?

This is mostly concerts. We gave live performances in various countries. For example, Morning Musume came to Japan Expo 8 years ago. That was really great to sing in front of many people here.

What do you think the most rememberable concert you have ever done is?

This concert at Japan Expo is one of my best memories. We were happy to hold a live outside Japan, and to see that knew our songs even abroad.

Which of the songs you have performed is your favorite?

My favorite songs are Resonant Blue and How Do You Like Japan. In addition, they are part of the songs for which the public has the most reactions.

You were a member of Morning Musume from 2001 to 2012. How did you feel about the evolution of the idol group?

What is interesting in the evolution of Morning Musume is the change of members. For example, last time we came to Japan Expo, there were 2 Chinese members Jun Jun and Lin Lin. They brought some things by always trying to make the best possible performances with the rest of the group.

How are relations between members of different ages and different generations?

This is a « senpai » and « kohai » system as we say in Japanese. The senior members help the new ones. They explain to them how to sing and how to dance by giving personal advice. Then, the youngest members take over to become « senpai » when new girls arrive.

What is the role of the Morning Musume leader?

The main role of the leader is to speak on behalf of the group, to speak in public. It’s also this person who motivates and manages the others before the beginning of a concert. Concerning the youngest members, it’s not just the leader who takes care of them, but all the elder ones.

Which of the current members of Morning Musume is the most similar to you?

I think it’s Ikuta Erina. She told that she loved me and that she was inspired by my performances for the concerts. However, I don’t think she looks like me physically.

Did you give her advice?

For example, when I go to Morning Musume concerts, Ikuta Erina sometimes asks me at the end how it was. So I tell her what she did well or what she can improve. These are just little tips like that.

What has been your best memory since the beginning of your career?

That’s a difficult question. There have been a lot of things. But my best memory is about the concerts.

Did you participate in the writing of songs or in the creation of choreographies?

About the songs, Tsunku was in charge of everything related to music, production… We are only performers of the songs that Tsunku wrote. We didn’t participate in their writing.

Tsunku also worked on choreography. We had a dance teacher, but he had the last word. Everything was already decided in advance.

You have already done several live performances in various countries. How do you feel about having many fans abroad?

I was quite surprised to meet fans outside of Japan. We performed at Japan Expo in France, at Anime Expo in Los Angeles in the USA, but also in Asia in Taïwan, in China, in South Korea… Every time we were really worried. We were wondering if fans would come. Then we realized that they were always there to support us. That made us very happy, and motivated us to do our best.

Have you noticed any differences between the fans of these different countries?

Reactions abroad are more natural. People don’t hesitate to shout. The other difference is that there are more girls in the audience overseas than in Japan. So it’s a nice experience.

You came to Japan Expo for the 20th anniversary of Hello! Project. Are you proud to be here as a representative?

Of course! I was surprised when I heard that there was a special booth. I wondered who would come with me. When I realized that I would be alone, I was proud. It’s important for me to promote the Hello! Project idol groups so that people can keep on supporting them.

Are you still in touch with former Morning Musume members?

As we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hello! Project, we see ourselves a lot at concerts, events, TV shows… Apart from that, I see some members regularly.

If you had not become an idol, what would you have liked to do?

I would have liked to be a kindergarten teacher.

What advice would you give to a girl who would like to become an idol?

When I participated in the audition to join Hello! Project, I couldn’t dance or sing. I had no experience. But I was really a fan, I was loving Morning Musume. I think Tsunku understood that passion. In my opinion the motivation is the most important. There’s obviously a lot of work. If a girl thinks she wants to be an idol but doesn’t dare because she can’t sing or dance, she should try.

Japan Expo is an event about mangas, video games, anime, music… What are your favorite themes?

I haven’t had time to visit the convention yet. I like anime, games and cosplay. I’ve seen Mario and Princess Peach cosplays.

Did you feel a change compared to the last time you came to Japan Expo?

I haven’t met the fans yet, but I’m looking forward to doing that. The main difference is that the last time I came with the other members of Morning Musume. This time I’m alone and I’m not in the group anymore, so it’s a different experience. My main mission is to promote Morning Musume and Hello! Project.

What do you think of the evolution of Hello! Project in 20 years?

I’ve been a member of Hello! Project and Morning Musume for a little more than 10 years. It’s true that 20 years is a lot. Few idol groups can be active as long. In my opinion, it’s thanks to fans in Japan and in other countries. I wish Morning Musume songs would be performed for 30 or 40 years.

Do you currently have a role in Hello! Project ?

No, I don’t have any. I only give advice if members ask me.

Do you have solo music projects?

I still do solo concerts in Japan. I sing Morning Musume songs. I really love concerts, so I’d like to keep on doing that.

You’re a Disney fan. Have you been to Disneyland Paris ?

I didn’t have the opportunity this time. However, I went there a few years ago with Takahashi Ai as part of the filming of a TV show.

What are your goals for the future?

My activity as an actress is currently the most important. I’d like to act in more and more stage plays. I’d also be interested in pursuing my career for film and television if there are opportunities.

Do you have a message for your fans?

I’m at Japan Expo to participate in the 20th anniversary of Hello! Project and Morning Musume. The last time I came, the fans were really friendly. They had great interest in Japan and in the group. It made me very happy. I’m looking forward to meeting the fans again. I wish they would continue to love Morning Musume and the other Hello! Project idol groups. Thank you for your support.