A Whole New World: Interview with Iketeru Hearts

We have been writing quite a lot about idol group Iketeru Hearts – to be more precise, the Bonjour Idol team had the chance to work with them before they even officially debuted! While trainees for Stand Up! Records and part of a unit called Stand Up! Hearts, we first met some of the current members in France, during Japan Expo Paris in 2015.
After a surprise announcement, Iketeru Hearts debuted as a full-time group in December 2015. 4 years later, on February 2019, they released their 7th single, “Sparkle☆Power”. We have been delivering many photo reports about the Iketeru Hearts journey, and today, we finally sat down with five members of the group for a special interview!

Thank you for accepting the interview! Could you introduce yourselves to our readers? (from right to left on the picture above)

Nijika: Bonjour, I am the leader of the group, Nijika! You can call me Niji-chan!
Aise Risako: Bonjour, my name is Aise Risako and I come from Osaka!
Koizumi Shiika: Bonjour! My name is Koizumi Shiika! You can call me Shiikaten!
Ochi Karin: Bonjour, my name is Ochi Karin! You can call me Ochi-chan!
Uchida Kotone: Bonjour, I am the Iketeru Hearts sub-leader, Uchida Kotone!

Part 1: About the group

It has now been 4 years since your official debut, we have seen members come and go. How would you describe this evolution since you started your career as idols?

Shiika: For me, the biggest change is that now, a lot of our songs are collaborations with the Japanese animation industry, and I think it helps us widen our audience.
Karin: It’s also true that there are members of the group who have been there since we started as trainees, and we have been active for almost 5 years now… to be honest, we did not think that the group would last that long. There are a lot of idol groups in Japan and ours was able to grow, seeing people come and go. Today, we want to keep going and expand our activities towards new horizons!

Nijika and Kotone, since you are now leader and sub-leader of the group, what kind of direction do you have in mind for Iketeru Hearts? What do you do as leaders to support the members?

Nijika: The concept of Iketeru Hearts is to suppress any negative thought from our hearts and replace them with positive things. When someone feels down and comes to see us, we try to make them happier, and we will keep doing this! As for my way to support the members as the leader, communication is the key for many groups. As an example, if a member does not give any news, I will try to personally contact her by text message, to make sure the communication is not broken.
Kotone: As for me, as long as the group will be active and as long as we cannot sell out a one-man concert, we will keep climbing the ladder from a new goal to another. As sub-leader and founding member of the group, I try to be available for the members to answer all their questions and cheer for them in the difficult moments!

The second generation debuted in 2017 with four members. Risako and Shiika, as members of this second generation, can you explain the reasons behind you deciding to join Iketeru Hearts?

Shiika & Risako: Since Yukafin-san (note: former Afilia Saga member Yukafin Doll) is the producer, she sent out calls for the second generation audition herself. We thought it would be a good opportunity for us to meet her, and we also felt like we could trust the group itself. So we thought, why not?

We noticed that you four seem very close. Did you know each other before becoming members of the group?

Shiika & Risako: (laugh) We did not know each other personally, just by name only, since we all work in the Afilia maid cafés.
Shiika: So I knew about the waitress named Risako at the Egoist Afilia Café.
Risako: But we sure did not think we would see each other at work everyday and grow so close! (laugh)

Your 2019 tour is starting soon, taking you to Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo. Since the title is “Partytune DISCOTHEQUE”, how would you explain the concept to people who are not familiar with Iketeru Hearts? Should we be expecting some surprises?

Everyone: We have already done this type of concert in the past, and at first we were unsure on how the fans would react to this. With this concept, we want to say something like, “Join the Iketeru Hearts world!” and it really worked well. We are really happy that “Partytune DISCOTHEQUE” became the tour title this year because we are one of the rare groups to hold this type of concerts. Our songs are remixed to match some kind of night club atmosphere and we want fans to come and dance and have fun with us, so we can create good memories together!
Karin: As for the surprises, our 5th anniversary is coming up… but we really have no idea. Generally speaking, we discover this type of surprise during the official announcement itself. We have no idea if anything will pop up, and even if we did, we obviously could not reveal anything here (laugh) But we would like to discover them together with the fans!

Maybe surprises about the type of performance you will deliver?

Karin: This, yes! Since we will be performing remixed versions of our songs, we will have to adapt our choreographies, and many other surprises like this.
Kotone: Maybe a theme song will be revealed and performed… or special units during the concerts…
Karin: Also when we say tour, we usually say new costume, right…?

Since your producer is a former idol (former Afilia Saga, Yukafin), does she ever give you advice from her own experience? What kind of advice?

Shiika: Of course she does! As an exemple, to stay confident during our radio shows, she always tells us to stay true to ourselves. She also taught us how to move and dance more easily in our costumes without ripping them.
Risako: Yukafin-san also listens to the fans a lot and gathers a lot of feedback on us and our performances. From there, she can give us some advice on what to improve or change about ourselves. That is why I recently changed my hairstyle, and I am very happy about it!
Karin: She also decides of the concerts setlists. Because she knows us very well, she can come up with duos and trios that make the performance more interesting.

Part 2: About performing abroad and foreign fans

What kind of memories do you keep of your performances at Japan Expo Paris 2015?

Karin: I was still in middle school back then and it was my very first trip abroad… it was actually a bit of a rush to have my first passport done. I had no clue on where I was going and we were only trainees. We were planning on singing Afilia Saga songs and some anime songs that are popular in France, we had no experience and not a very strong bond as a group, so this trip had me worried a lot. I was thinking a lot on how to catch people’s attention during the performances and on the booth, but the first day, I was very surprise to see that a lot of people were coming to see us directly within the first hours at the festival! There were even fans who already knew about us! It was even more surprising that during the last two days, there were so many people that we could not even see the other booths around our stage! It was really a very fulfilling and unforgettable experience of all of us!
Kotone: French people are very kind and they fearlessly came to talk to us right away. Of course, we did not speak any French, except the few expressions we had studied before flying, but French fans did they best to communicate in Japanese, English or even just with gestures… I remember the warm welcome we received and I could really love to go back one day!
Karin: I actually also had promised them we would back then… (laugh) That year, we were able to go through the CHEERZ app, and when we flew back to Japan, we saw that a lot of French fans had installed the app to cheer for us. There are actually still a few of them who still use it and it makes me so happy. Now that we are a full-time group and that we grew up, I really want to go back to France and Europe to show our evolution and meet all the French fans who supported us again!
Risako: The second generation still hasn’t been to Europe so of course we are all for another trip to France… (laugh)
Kotone: There are so many foreign fans who came to see us since our trips abroad, so this time, we want to be the ones coming to meet them!

You also performed in Singapore and Taiwan, and you have quite a lot of fans in Asia too. How different is the audience abroad from the audience in Japan?

Everyone: It’s true that it’s very different…
Risako: Foreign fans showcase their affection to us a lot more easily than Japanese fans, like telling us “I love you!” or…
Kotone: “Aishiteru”
Karin: “Kimi no kota ga Suki da!”
Risako: …and because we rarely hear this, or just not that directly, from Japanese fans, it makes us really happy!
Nijika: Foreign fans also do their best to talk and write letters to us in Japanese, and they are often very good! It makes us so happy to see all these efforts!
Karin: As we said earlier, we now collaborate with the Japanese animation industry, which is very popular abroad, so we would love to go back to festivals like Japan Expo and try to reach more anime fans!

Where would you want to perform next?

Karin: I would love to go to Thailand! The idol culture is very popular there and there are a lot of fans. When we were in Singapore, thai fans sent us tweets or even showed up at our lives to tell us they were waiting for us to come to Thailand… there are also Animate stores (note: stores specialized in Japanese anime products) there so there are a lot of opportunities!
Nijika: As we said, we already went to France, Taiwan and Singapore. France was before our debut as Iketeru Hearts, and Singapore was before we had a second generation, so I would love to go back in these countries to show our group as it is now!

How would you convince foreign idol fans to come and support Iketeru Hearts?

Risako: “Japanese Popular Idol” (laugh)
Karin: When we were in Singapore, we told people on social media and on the CHEERZ booth to come and see us on stage, and people actually came. But if I had to develop a little, it’s a bit hard… I would say I want everyone to come and have fun, so they can feel stronger by watching our performance!
Kotone: There is a lot of furicopy (note: when fans reproduce the choreography at the same time as the idols) that comes with our songs, so I would tell them to come dance with us and have fun, even if they cannot understand the lyrics!
Karin: I would of course also tell them to go check out our MVs on Youtube if they are still hesitating to come see us live.

A last word for our readers?

Nijika: The current line-up of Iketeru Hearts has yet to perform abroad, so I would love to go and show everyone our group as it is now! We will do our best to come and meet you as soon as possible! Thank you for cheering for us!
Risako: The second generation still hasn’t gone beyond the Japanese borders so I would really like to experiment this with everyone one day! I want to spread the word about our group abroad! Thank you for your daily support!
Shiika: There are many foreign idol fans following our activities thanks to Bonjour Idol, so I will do my best so the group can travel outside of Japan to meet everyone! I would also like to thank all our fans, both Japanese and foreigners, for their precious support!
Karin: Whether it was in France, in Taiwan or in Singapore, I made unforgettable memories from these experiences abroad, and I would like to create new ones with our current members. I want to share our happiness and positive thoughts to fans abroad and we will do our best to reach them!
Kotone: One of our singles is titled “Sekai he Habatake!” (note: “Flap to the World!”), so I would like us to be able to fly to many new countries to meet the fans! And if people in these countries are having negative thoughts in their hearts, I want to turn them into positive thoughts thanks to our songs and performance!

We also took a moment to ask the members 5 simple questions to get to know them better. Take a look at the video below and find out who do they look up to as idols or what is their favorite anime!

Next Event

Iketeru Hearts – One-Man Tour “Partytune DISCOTHEQUE~東名阪ツアー2019”
May 18 2019 (Sat)
Banana Hall – Osaka
Presales (Afternoon) – 3000 yen // At the door – 3500 yen (+ 1 drink)
Presales (Night) – 3500 yen // At the door – 4000 yen (+ 1 drink)
Afternoon performance, Open – 13:00 // Start – 13:30
Night performance, Open – 17:30 // Start – 18:00

Iketeru Hearts – One-Man Tour “Partytune DISCOTHEQUE~東名阪ツアー2019”
May 19 2019 (Sun)
Speed Box – Nagoya
Presales (Afternoon) – 3000 yen // At the door – 3500 yen (+ 1 drink)
Presales (Night) – 3500 yen // At the door – 4000 yen (+ 1 drink)
Afternoon performance, Open – 13:00 // Start – 13:30
Night performance, Open – 17:30 // Start – 18:00

Iketeru Hearts – One-Man Tour “Partytune DISCOTHEQUE~東名阪ツアー2019”
May 26 2019 (Sun)
Shinjuku ReNY – Tokyo
Presales (Afternoon) – 2500 yen // At the door – 3500 yen (+ 1 drink)
Presales (Night) – 3800 yen // At the door – 4500 yen (+ 1 drink)
Afternoon performance, Open – 13:00 // Start – 13:30
Night performance, Open – 17:30 // Start – 18:00

Buy their music


Iketeru Hearts

Released on: February 27 2019
Buy on CDJapan

Photos by Nathan Gey
Interview transcript by Nathan Gey, translated to English by Melody
A big thank you to Xavier Bensky for leading the conversation throughout this interview!

Iketeru Hearts – Official site Iketeru Hearts – Twitter

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