―The last time you were interviewed for our 10,000 character series was four years ago in May 2011, do you remember?
―You didn't show any sign of it at all, but that was a rough period for you, wasn't it?
"It was. Because that was about just after I was told the two were going to leave."
―Were you informed just suddenly out of nowhere?
"I somehow knew it. I had been asked by Yamapi, 'What would you do if I went away?' That being said, I thought it probably wouldn't happen. So the moment I heard the words 'I quit' I was bewildered, but I also thought that finally the time had come. But in regards to Ryo-chan I hadn't realized it at all so in his case it was sudden..."
―What was the atmosphere amongst the remaining members like?
"At that time, only that the two were going to leave was communicated to us. The conversation ended like 'Let's talk about what will happen from here on out next time,' but... Those two left the room and we couldn't get up from our seats easily. I wonder what it was...it felt so shocking that we couldn't process it. No one tried to start a conversation about what would happen to NEWS, and because of that I think that at that moment there wasn't a member thinking of the option 'as the four of us.'"
―The announcement that two would leave the group was half a year after that on October seventh.
"I couldn't tell anyone up until then and mentally speaking I had become unstable. There were many times when I woke up in the morning I would be crying."
―But as an idol there were many places where you had to smile, weren't there?
"That's true. But I wasn't smiling. Or rather, I couldn't smile. I had forgotten what smiling was. Like, 'Huh!? What does fun mean again?'"
―When it was decided that the two of them would leave, what were the first things you thought?
"What was it... Because NEWS was the place I belonged. So first of all there was the fear that would go away... Like, if there was no NEWS I wouldn't be able to be in Johnny's anymore. Maybe I'd be fired or forced to quit. But for the happiness of the four of us I wanted NEWS to remain...no, I guess that's not right. At first I didn't have any room to think that. It's not that nice of a story. In order to keep my place I absentmindedly thought that I wanted NEWS to remain."
―When did your feelings of wanting NEWS to remain become stronger?
"For news every. there were many times when I visited the area struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The victims were still forced to live in shelters. There I met a girl who told me, 'It was really awful. I ran away holding a NEWS CD.' She had lovingly brought the final CD we released as six of us. She said, 'Please play a concert in Sendai sometime. I'm waiting for NEWS to come!'"
―I'm sure you were troubled giving her an answer?
"That was the only time I was acting not as a caster but as an idol, and I answered, 'Yes, we'll do our best.' But I was thinking both 'thank you' and 'I'm really sorry.' If I had to choose I'd say the feelings of 'sorry' were stronger. After suffering from such a terrible experience, one of the things keeping that girl going was NEWS. But I knew that the six person NEWS that girl was imagining wouldn't come here in that shape again. I knew, but I couldn't say it... It was really painful."
―I can imagine.
"But at that time, when so many people were looking for a way to make it through the disaster, at least one person was being supported by NEWS. Like, 'Therefore, the thing I have to do is―"
―You thought you wanted NEWS to remain.
"If this thing called NEWS can be of some support to a person suffering, the feeling that 'I can't say goodbye so simply' sprouted."
"It's the opposite. I received encouragement. Before my eyes, there were a large number of people who had lost their homes and loved ones. Even so as I watched them fighting hard to stand on their feet I was made aware of my own anguish."
―During the time until October seventh, what kind of conversations did you have with the members?
"I guess I talked with Shige about many things. We had rock bottom conversations too. Tegoshi and Massu have Tegomass. But Shige and I have nothing but NEWS. It was scary that the only place we had might have disappeared. Shige and I shared the same fears that maybe we would never do a concert again, maybe we couldn't sing anymore."
―When did the four of you all talk together?
"I guess in about September, there was one time that the four of us gathered at Shige's house. But without anyone broaching the subject of 'what should we do about NEWS' the morning dawned. I think that everyone was scared of coming to a conclusion. To keep away from the reality we were just messing around. After the other two left, I remember Shige muttering 'We weren't able to talk.'"
―Then, it became October seventh.
"I couldn't even imagine what the reaction would be like. And then almost everyone told us, 'We want NEWS to remain.' Of course I think that it was a shock and there were lots of people who left us. But, we received the words 'want you to remain' and many fan letters. I don't know how many fan letters I was saved by at that time. I decided after reading fan letters. Many of the company staff thought we'd probably break up. But because so many fans were giving their voices to us there was a reason to fight. If I didn't fight, NEWS would cease to exist. Therefore I decided to fight for the continuation of NEWS."
―Were the odds in your favor?
"I mostly could see nothing but failure. Because there were so many people who thought 'Is there anything you can do as four?' It felt like being weaponless and making a challenge against people holding swords with a full defense. But it seemed like we had a chance somewhere. However before persuading the company and staff, I had to persuade Tegomass."
―Nothing would start without their agreement, would it.
"Right. But I thought it was natural that if I were Tegoshi or Massu, even if I liked NEWS, if I couldn't clearly see a tomorrow as four people I think I'd place importance on the Tegomass which I could clearly see. I had to make a presentation of 'There are things we can do as four.' However, I couldn't see them either. What could we do as four people."
―How did you persuade them?
"Since Tegomass happened to be in the middle of a tour at that time, I called them once and said, 'When your tour is over, please give me some time to talk.' My impatience and anxiety were at their peak. Shige and I went to see Tegomass's concert. And then the two of them sang 'Sakura Girl.' I wondered with what feelings and for what reason they were singing it... I started thinking that perhaps they were singing it as a farewell to NEWS and I ended up crying. My heart was weak, so I ended up thinking that everything was bad and seeing everything negatively...."
―You didn't have any confidence.
"Yeah. I didn't have confidence to win over the company and even confidence that we could go forward as four. But, I wanted to do it. There was only that. I simply said, 'Let's become happy as four' I guess. Although I had no basis for this, and no confidence."
―What was the reaction of the two of them?
"I only asked them to think about it, so the two of them said, 'Alright.' Just that was enough, I think they told me 'alright' a lot. They gave a quick reply there, and I think it's because they were just taking my feelings into consideration."
―When was their reply?
"There wasn't particularly one. But, I guess at the end of October, I got a phone call from a staff member saying, 'It's been decided that you'll continue as four.' Like, 'What, seriously!' In other words, it meant that those two had also told the company that they wanted to do it. 'Ah, we're going to do it as four.' However from there it was tough. I said it before, but there were many people thinking 'What can you do as four?,' so we had to persuade those people. I went to see many people and made presentations. At that time we were called things like 'Yamashita and Nishikido's merry companions' and 'Oden without shellfish.' It seems Shige was told 'A shortcake without strawberries.' What was it we could do as these four. Now I can say these as funny stories. But at that time it was like 'So that's how we're seen. We're seen as four losers.'"
―You were battered down?
"But we soon converted them. Because being losers was easy."
"Because after that there was nothing to do but win. We had already lost completely. There's no way to lose more than this, right?"
―Was it around then that the four of you went to yakiniku and you rallied them to let you become leader?
"Right. But rather than a rally, it was like a self-righteous athlete's oath (lol). Because there was no seeable future. Since there was no decision to release songs, concerts weren't decided either. Amongst that situation, even saying 'I'm going to be leader, leave it to me!' had no resonation. But I thought that if I started it things about NEWS would be left to me. We were being regarded as 'What can be done by these four,' so from there we had to self produce. There was nothing for us to do but say, 'We can do this!' I said we all had to think about what we can do and what we want to do, and that after I would go to the office and speak about everything with them. Since I met with many people, I was able to find all the routes where I could talk to make things real. Anyway, I think I was given that kind of role as a pipe."
―You said that after the two of them withdrew you 'forgot how to smile.' When were you able to smile again?
"I guess at the time we released 'Chankapaana.' Since it was the first CD we released as four. We started from a place where no one around us thought we had any value. But we had nothing to do but believe. After the release there were huge reactions from the fans. At that time I was finally able to smile, or I guess it felt that I could smile and feel relieved."
―The lyrics to the coupling song 'Full Swing' became a hot topic.
"I think there were many people who thought that was the A-side. But if we weren't aggressive here it would be an insult to all the people who waited for us. Because it was our debut song. I think that by making 'Chankapaana' the A-side we showed our aesthetics, that we were definitely going to make it as four."
―You've often said that even now you can't forget the opening scene at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium from your first tour as four, NEWS LIVE TOUR 2012.
"While riding the elevator and waiting to go on stage we of course heard cheering. But I became worried that when we got on stage there would be no one there. I had no confidence. In myself. But when we went out, there was a huge view I had never seen the likes of before. There were fans who had actually waited for us. I saw the video after, but in the opening where our faces are all shown in succession, I've never see the four of us all making those kinds of great faces. I think in all our history that was the moment where we showed the best faces."
―Your fans believed in you and waited.
"That was communicated to us, and those emotions quickly scraped away all of our doubts. Because it was the voices of the fans that had encouraged us to continue NEWS. I thought that rather than the thousands, tens of thousands of words I could give to persuade Tegomass, just a word from the fans was so many times stronger. Because there was no responsibility with my words. I had no grounds. Even if I said, 'It's okay!,' they'd think, 'Then can you do something?' But the fans just saying, 'We want to see four member NEWS' was different. Those voices were a basis to continue, there were hopes, and there was a light. If there was actually something big that set us in action, it was the voices of the fans."
―Then who were the people who supported you other than the fans?
"I guess it varied depending on the period. I somehow wasn't able to tell my mother about the withdrawal of the two. Because I didn't want to burden her during the time when I had no answer of what would happen from then. But she said to me, 'Something happened, right?' I was pretending to be calm, but if I was being told that by my mother I guess I wasn't energetic at all. She asked me, 'What happened?' At that time I talked while crying. Then she told me, 'Do your best with the work you have at the moment.' In that situation I think the only person who could say some kind of opinion to me was my parent. Because I was sulking so much (lol). I suppose my mother told my sister. It's painful even now when I think about how much I worried the two of them. Because if I were careless I think that they would have been troubled even more than me."
―Was there anyone else who supported you?
"I also received support from the producer of news every. On October sixth I asked him, 'Just 15 minutes is okay, so could I have some of your time?' I said, 'Actually, tomorrow there will be an announcement that two people are leaving. I think that you chose me for news every. because I'm a part of NEWS. That NEWS might cease to exist. If that happens, would it be okay for me to continue being a part of the program?' And then I was laughed at."
"While laughing, he quickly replied, 'You're making such a serious face I wondered what it was about, is that what it is. I'm not working with Koyama-kun of NEWS. I'm working with the person called Koyama Keiichiro. Even if you end up as just one I'll be working on the program with you.' I was so happy I could've cried."
―Was that the producer who saw your sign language on 2009's 24 Hour Television and gave you the news every. offer?
"Yes, the same person. There was a side of me that could have peace of mind due to that person's words. And I was able to concentrate on continuing NEWS."
"Various people at various times supported and were there for me. But I think the sole person who was continually there for me and supported me was Shige. Shige was a huge support to me. When I was alone crying overcome with worry about what would happen to NEWS, I received a message from Shige. 'Even if it's just the two of us let's be NEWS.'"
―It's something that couldn't be said without determination.
"Yeah. I think it was the ultimate answer. Of course even if the two of us talking to each other brought forth something like an answer, we didn't know what would happen or if we could change anything. If the company would even recognize the two of us as NEWS. So no matter how much the two of us talked, there was nothing that affected the future. But because there was a person this close to me thinking, 'Even if it's just the two of us let's be NEWS' I was really supported."
―That's an amazing bond.
"Yeah. Like, if that's how you feel, I've decided I'll fight anyone. I'll do as much as I can. But if we challenged to fight there was a high possibility we'd be smashed. There was also the possibility that without NEWS remaining I'd be separated from Shige. I told Shige that no matter what conclusion was waiting for us, act in a manner that we wouldn't regret. Because I would do as much as I could in my own way."
―Well then, please share three things that have made an impression since NEWS became four people.
"The release of 'Chankapaana' and the view I saw from the stage of Chichibunomiya that I talked about before. One more thing is when we stood once again on the stage of Tokyo Dome in 2013 in our 10th anniversary year. I was happy and when I was told by the staff, 'This is the largest number of people in Johnny's history' I thought, 'Is this for real!' This year too we're able to play concerts in Tokyo Dome. That we weren't wrong is really motivating. Oh, is it okay if I add one more thing that made an impression?"
"It's something that happened lately, that is to say yesterday, but the four of us had dinner together. I'm including that as one of the things that left an impression since we became four. Concert rehearsals ended at 1am, and then we drank until 4 in the morning."
―How timely. Who planned that gathering?
"Shige had set it all up for us. Yesterday was our final rehearsal, so it was like, 'When we're finished, let's go!' Rehearsal was extended until 1am and we weren't sure what to do, but Tegoshi knew a yakitori place open until 4. We went there and ended up staying until it closed (lol)."
―How long had it been since just the four of you had dinner together?
"There were ones where staff members were also present, but for just the four of us it might've been the first since the time we had yakiniku where I announced I wanted to be leader. It's obvious, but the gathering we had at the yakiniku place and the gathering we had yesterday were completely different in terms of conversation topics and atmosphere."
―In what way?
"Before I realized it the four of us had talked about the future of NEWS. Before no one was able to broach that topic, but we've become able to. We also talked about things like, 'What were you thinking at that time?' There were periods we weren't able to hear about. Like, I'm happy we can hear it now."
―It was a good gathering, wasn't it.
"Yeah. Moreover the one running things was Shige. It felt like I was behind the scenes supporting. He's really done his best. Like, he brought up great discussion topics for everyone. I've been observing his hard work, and Tegoshi and Massu realized it too. I also tried digging a little deeper for topics. Like there are so many things we didn't know up until now."
―For example, what kinds of things?
"In the end, without understanding things like the meaning of doing it as four, we started the train without considering objections any longer. Therefore, I didn't know things like, 'What was Massu really thinking.' But, yesterday, I found out that Massu also passionately felt like, 'Fight as four!!' Everyone's dream as NEWS was clearly there. Somehow it was so refreshing. At the end we all shook hands and departed (lol)."
"I think Shige was happy, he drank a lot. When I become tipsy I cry easily, and since I don't like it when I start crying I stopped at two drinks (lol). I think that everyone had things they were holding back in their heart. But for a long time we went without speaking and being able to ask difficult things. We put on a filter as we liked, and there were times when we pretended to understand, like 'I guess he's thinking like this.' We removed all of those filters yesterday. As expected, everyone was thinking of NEWS first, and we understood that all four of us were in agreement."
―I understand why you ended up shaking hands.
"When I got home I soon got a message from Shige. Like, 'That was an intense night (lol).' I answered, 'It was a good evening party. Thanks for taking the lead role.' This is somewhat embarrassing, but when I woke up in the morning I thought, 'I want to see the members' (lol). Like I wanted to see them really soon. In the evening, I spoke during the weather corner of news every., and I got a message from Tegoshi saying, 'The response now was strange.' So he was watching it (lol). Like, that's such a small thing but I feel happiness now."
―Your member love is amazing (lol).
"I seriously love the members. Seriously. That hasn't changed from the old days, and now those feelings have gotten even stronger. To the amount that I definitely think my happiness is seeing all three of their happy figures, and I respect all three of them, like I love them as people. Because the three of them can do the things that I can't. I can't do Shige's work, Tegoshi's work, or Massu's work. On the other hand, the other members tell me, 'We can't do what Koyama's doing.' So we highly regard each other, so to say we come to like each other. I think I rely on them and I feel that they rely on me. I wonder what it is. I guess because we share the same destiny. We'll definitely be continuing NEWS until we're old men, and I think that by becoming happy as the four of us with the fans, there are also our feelings towards Yamapi and Ryo-chan."
"I believe that the three of them definitely brought me to a happy place. Although I'm the leader, I don't think I'm the type to lead at the front. I'm probably the one at the back, and I think I'm the type that only at times when the three make a mistake towards the wrong direction I'll say, 'That's wrong!!' Because Tegoshi's the one at the front of the group rushing us along."
―Next, please tell me the parts you respect about each member.
"For Shige, of course it's amazing that he writes novels. But I think the amazing part is that he found it by himself and took action by himself to finish writing his first book. Like that power of taking action. Because it's a chance he grabbed on his own when he was irritated he had nothing of his own and searched for something he could do. It wasn't a chance he received, it was a chance he got a hold of from his own power alone. If NEWS was a single human being, the part in control of taking action and mental capacity would be Shige. Shige is the mind of NEWS. No matter how discouraged it looks like we'll become, because we have the mentality of Shige we definitely won't give up."
―Then how about Tegoshi-kun?
"Tegoshi is the heart of NEWS. He's been that type since the past (lol). Even without any grounds he has confidence. But this is extremely important. Because with his big mouth he says, 'NEWS is amazing!' Things like, "NEWS can really sing!' If Shige, Massu, and I are asked, 'Can you do this?' we begin with things like 'Hmmm,' 'Well...,' 'I wonder,' but Tegoshi quickly answers, 'That's okay!' Furthermore, after putting in the effort he really does it successfully. So I can really think that his 'okay!' means something is actually okay. It's seriously amazing. Because the single positive one wins against us three negative ones (lol). The human being called NEWS appears to move cheerfully because it has Tegoshi as its heart. Although there are three cowards, NEWS can keep running without stopping because we have Tegoshi."
―How about Masuda-kun?
"Massu is NEWS's eyes. In a good way, he's very particular. That particularity is the strength of his love for NEWS. For example, Massu is specific about wanting to hold concerts at big venues. Like, 'Because we're NEWS, because we can do it.' To him, the shape of NEWS is clearly defined. Therefore he's able to make everyone's outfits. He sees NEWS, plus me, Shige, and Tegoshi, better than anyone else. Cause he decides everything up to the patterns on the edges of the sleeves of my outfits. He decides the length of Tegoshi's pants, and even the best amount Shige's shirt should be open at the chest. He has the power to look at the group with a bird's-eye view, powers of observation, and the ability of a producer. I said earlier that NEWS is self-producing, but in regards to the visual side Massu produces almost everything. If the being called NEWS becomes unable to see or becomes doubtful, we rely on the eyes called Massu. It's good if Massu walks straight forward at the front looking at things square on."
―Then how about Koyama-kun?
"I'd probably be like the veins or nerves. I think like a pipe connecting the group to the fans and the group to the staff. I guess my role is to move in a way so that the other three can enjoy working."
―In other words, all four of you have roles that only each individual can do.
"Right. And I think that that we've finally made the foundation of NEWS. We became certain of that at yesterday's dinner. Up until this point, as a group we've been working on our foundation the entire time, so from here we can build a house. Of course I want to build a mansion. I want to build a mansion that all our fans are able to live in and allow them to have a great life. I want them to have peace of mind. Because from now on no more members will leave (lol). Like we've resolved to live on as four. So I'm really looking forward to this tour. After the get-together we had yesterday, somehow it's like I can cry thinking about the four of us standing on stage. I think that's how much of a great form we're going to show. Not just the performance, the atmosphere given off by the group too. Like we can show a brand new NEWS."
―Alright, this a vague question, but to Koyama-kun what is success?
"Continuation, I guess. Going on. To keep continuing on as a caster I need people to acknowledge me, right. NEWS is the same. We're able to continue because we and the fans created an atmosphere that has to be recognized. The continuation of the group simply means that we're being acknowledged. Because one time it seemed as if we couldn't continue, I want to place importance on the word 'continuation.' I think that it isn't so terrible to maintain the status quo. You can't stay in that one place without doing anything. Cause everyone is running, if you halt you can't keep up. We understand the difficulty of keeping in one place in this world."
―You seem to be satisfied with the present.
"I wonder... The day before yesterday, I suddenly got a message from Yamapi. 'What are you doing?' When I replied, 'What's up?' he said, 'I listened to the album.' On White there's a song called 'Romeo' that I sang with Ryo-chan during our six member era. His message said that it was 'really nostalgic, really great.' When I sent him 'thanks,' he invited me, 'Next time, let's go out drinking.' I replied, 'Yeah, okay' without hesitating. At that time, I really felt that my mind is back in order. Like, we can meet as two of us. I've got room somewhere in my mind again. Because NEWS was made with these four members, maybe that's why I have the confidence I can meet him as the Koyama of NEWS. If this hadn't worked out I probably wouldn't be able to meet him (lol). Therefore rather than satisfied, I'd say fulfilled."
―I can tell you're fulfilled by the expression on your face.
"Maybe that's true. That's why I want the people reading this, if there's someone thinking they're going through a tough time, to know that really someday they'll have a moment where they'll be able to look back at it as a small thing. Worries are connected to growth, and someday it'll be a victory when they can talk about it and smile. Yeah. Cause I'm smiling now. I can talk about 'There are only four members' and smile."
―This time, completely different to four years prior, you're really giving off a happy aura.
"Hahahahaha. I cried and doubted a lot, but at the time of the earthquake disaster I understood the meaning of being an idol, and really felt that idols are amazing and was happy I'm an idol. Working as an idol, working as a caster, I'm incredibly happy now. I think I can feel this this way because the other three were there for me. If it was just me it would have ended as a dream. Since our dreams overlapped, since we had a dream as the four of us, NEWS was continued and we can pursue our dream that it's from here on. We haven't won yet, but we haven't lost either. It's that we're on the path to winning."
Next month is Shige! Koyama passes the baton of bonds...
For yesterday until four in the morning, otsukaresama.
This dinner party with the four of us was fun.
I felt Shige's cuteness in the message that arrived when I got home (lol).
Many things happened to us, but now we've come to be able to talk about it and smile.
It's really great, isn't it.
We both had the experience of being at rock bottom.
The one who supported my heart was always, always Shige.
Shige, who's both a member and a friend, please continue to support me from here on.