―In your interview four years ago (Nov 2011 issue), you said "Right now is period of preparation," but you were talking about your novel, weren't you.
"At that time I still couldn't announce it publicly, I'm sorry I couldn't say anything."
―It was also already decided that the members would leave, but it wasn't the time you could say it yet. I remember that something about your expression seemed uneasy.
"That was a rough period. It was like, 'Why am I being interviewed now' (lol)."
―Please tell us what you couldn't say back then, starting from what made you begin writing a novel.
"I guess I was 23. I was worried about, 'What is it that can I do in the group?' About right after LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! the relationship amongst the members was strained. The reason was that everyone didn't properly respect each other. Because individually we were going back and forth between being confident and the balance collapsed. It was a period where I really thought I was riding on the shoulders of the members. Therefore I thought I had to take some action so that I could contribute to the group."
―In the previous interview you said you went to the company and directly said, "I want work."
"Right. By chance I had the TV on and Ninomiya-kun was on A-Studio. He talked about how he had been the only member of his group without work, so he had gone directly to the company and said, 'I want to go to auditions.' That led to him appearing in the movie Letters from Iwo Jima. I guess I was at my wit's end. As soon as I finished watching the program, it was probably like eleven thirty at night, I suddenly called the office. Although of course no one answered (lol). Soon after that I sent an email to one of the higher-ups in the company asking, 'Could you please make some time to talk to me?'"
―So that's how your direct negotiations came about.
"Yeah. So first of all I made it clear that I really wanted to work harder. But since I had impulsively taken action, I hadn't prepared any concrete plans like, 'This is what I can do!' I was overly excited by just my emotions. I was asked, 'Then what is it that you have?' I couldn't say much other than vague things like, 'I can see things from different angles than most people...' Despite that I received various work and was really grateful. However, that didn't leave a big result either. After that I went to directly negotiate one more time. This time together with Koyama."
"He was thinking the same things, 'I want to work harder too.' That was February 15, 2011. I also said, 'How about a unit with Koyama and me, like Tegomass?' But in the end that idea went away because we thought it wouldn't be very good for the group to keep dividing up. Next I was asked, 'Eventually what is it that you want to do?' I casually slipped out, 'I've been thinking forever that I want to write a novel by the time I'm 25.' Then I was told, 'Go write it by March 31.'"
―You only had about six weeks until the deadline?
"Yes. I think the company only half believed me, or felt like I was behaving a bit recklessly. But I began writing thinking, 'If I don't take action here my life won't change.'"
―A switch was turned on.
"It turned on. When I returned home the first thing I did was put a futon over the TV. So that I wouldn't watch it. And then since I didn't have much time I wrote earnestly."
―Before your deadline the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred.
"I think people who have read it know this, but in Pink and Gray a character dies. When the earthquake happened I was really conflicted over if it was okay for me to be writing this. Nevertheless on March 31 I finished writing and brought it to the office. At first I didn't know at all if it would be made into a book or not, but bit by bit the discussion advanced. I was really helped by many people."
―When was it decided it would be a book?
"In June. Looking back I can see how it was, but at a crossroads in one's life there are really times when you don't know which path you'll fall down. The moment I learned it would be a book I was so happy that a 'Yes!' came out of my mouth. But at the same time I had the thought that, 'I wasn't in time.'"
―You weren't in time?
"Why was I able to write a novel at that timing. Even if I had nothing to do, just based on that I think it wouldn't have crossed my mind to write a novel."
―Then why could you write it?
"I was able to write it because the other members were there. It was tough almost the entire time I was writing. But just the fact that I wanted to do something for the sake of NEWS kept me going. Of course it was a period where I was standing ready like, 'Go ahead and underestimate me. I'm not really like this.' I understood that I had nothing in me. But I blamed things that weren't going well on my surroundings. So because I had a complex that I couldn't do anything in return for the members I think I was able to work hard."
"I thought that if I could finish writing a novel I could change the future of the group. But that's pretty conceited. The puzzle of the group had definitely become broken bit by bit. If I could publish a book, however, I thought that people could think, 'In this group, maybe more and more interesting things will happen.' But in the middle of my work there was a conclusive discussion that members would leave.... In the end I wasn't able to do anything for the sake of the six of us. Even now I regret that I was too slow in taking action there."
―After the two of them withdrew, there are probably many people who think you were the first person to take action after the members decreased by changing your name and publishing a novel.
"Yeah, probably. But to put it truthfully it's the opposite. I wrote it because I wanted to protect six member NEWS. But I couldn't keep it. I wanted to make it stay."
―I understand what happened now.
"I wanted to stop the two of them, but about half of me also thought, 'If you're going to quit, quit. It'll be better as four of us.' It's painful if you don't have any hope. Even though I had no grounds for confidence. I guess I just wanted to believe. That we could do it even as four of us. At that time I think I was the most unsettled."
―Because it must have been such a huge shock, right.
"In the meeting room the two of them said the word 'quit' and everyone seemed to be giving up, so I said, 'Then I want to do a final concert as the six of us.' But someone said, 'We can't do something like a concert when it's known members are leaving.' That's where I realized it. Like, 'I see, the concerts done by the six of us are already over.' Even now the scene of their backs as the two of them left the meeting room is burned under my eyelids. If there's a scene I won't forget my whole life, a sight that I must not forget my whole life, I think it's their two backs. After all, that was the final moment. It's the moment that six member NEWS ended. I thought, 'Ah, they're not looking back.' I'm not blaming the two of them. But, it's like, didn't they have any lingering regret...."
―As you watched their backs, what kinds of emotions rose up?
"I guess I was regretting that couldn't I have tried harder somewhere, couldn't I have brought the members together more. Like, it ended up like this because I was bothering them and running away when it was tough. I was also blaming myself. Somehow, there aren't mirrors on their backs, but it felt like my figure was being reflected. At that time it was about the eighth year since NEWS' formation. Even though we had gone through eight years, had worked hard, it felt like I was being told, 'Your existence was just up to here.' I realized my presence didn't become enough to be able to keep them, like, 'Because Shige's here, even if things are going a bit unwell now."
―After that, what kinds of things did you think about?
"I was really down. What was even worse was that I thought we could keep doing NEWS as four, but we heard many people saying it would be better to break up. Tegomass had one world established. It was said rather than taking a risk and continuing a NEWS without its pillars, it was more rational to only continue the still whole Tegomass. It wasn't over just because two quit. Like, 'Maybe we can't continue as four....' The period of nothing being decided formally continued for over half a year."
―Weren't you anxious?
"I was anxious the entire time. Tegomass had a tour and preparation for that, so we couldn't find the time to establish good communication. I regularly phoned and emailed with Koyama. We also met up and talked with each other. We talked about everything up to the worst possible case, and even then it became stronger in our minds that Koyama and I wanted to do it as four. But despite that we didn't know how it would turn out. I guess that's why I emailed Koyama. 'Even if it's just the two of us let's be NEWS.'"
―He said that email made him happy.
"Of course it wasn't a nice pure tale. It was just weakness, and I thought I couldn't do it alone. The fear of having the title of NEWS taken away― One time previously during the time our activities were suspended, the characters NEWS were crossed out on every printout. It's just four English characters, but that made me realize just how big of an existence it is to me. So I guess I felt that even if everyone else was going to throw it away, I wouldn't throw away NEWS."
―When was it that your bond with Koyama became so tight?
"I wonder when!? We got along well since we were Jrs., but Koyama was put in the front first, and his existence stood out. I didn't have a place I belonged at all. I was able to appear in a drama, but that was all, I barely had any experience appearing in my senpai's concerts and plays like other Jrs. The other Jrs. I got along with who had entered at around the same time as me quit one after another. Koyama was the only person from the same generation that I got along with. But Koyama is three years older, so he entered university, turned twenty, experienced various things three years ahead of me, and gradually changed. He became sociable and his world spread, and he rapidly received work. I felt sad and looked up to him thinking he was amazing, and I guess I had a bit of an inferiority complex. Despite that I acted strong, like 'I am me.'"
―I thought it was like that.
"I think that everyone has a period where they have a lot of pride. But since that's a bluff to hide their lack of confidence, people in that period are the most troublesome. Koyama was there for me without keeping any distance. I'm really grateful. Furthermore, within NEWS there was Yamashita-kun, Nishikido-kun, and Tegomass. Wasn't there a sense like that we were just the extras. Like we were the remaining merry companions. Because of that itself the two of us were always trying to show a smile and have an unyielding spirit thinking, 'Definitely sometime,' so I suppose we resembled each other mentally. It sounds bad to say it myself, but I think the two of us are pure (lol)."
―Then do you remember anything you were told by Koyama-kun?
"...Surprisingly, nothing (lol). That's not true, I do but I won't say. But I know that actually Koyama has some negative cowardly and weak parts, and likewise I think there's a me that only Koyama knows. I guess that makes me happy. Also, when Koyama talked about becoming leader, he consulted me and said, 'I think I'll announce I want it, but, Shige, what do you think about it?' When I said, 'I think that's good,' he asked things like, 'When do you think is a good time to say it?' and 'How should I bring it up?' Then I said I'd set up a time and bring up the conversation, and made all kinds of preparations. While thinking like, 'Huh!? If I'm working this much for the group, aren't I the leader?' (lol). But I thought being Koyama-san's advisor was fine. He's not like a typical Johnny's leader, but isn't it better for the leader to be just a bit unreliable. Since the world is also starting to recognize unreliable leaders. I guess I'll let Koyama-san have fun swimming about freely and I'll become the dependable advisor. Because he surprisingly has some airheaded points, it kind of feels like I need to protect him (lol)."
―What kind of talks did you have with the Tegomass two about the future of NEWS?
"Our schedules didn't line up and for a while the four of us couldn't talk properly, but I thought, 'We need to have a heart to heart talk with all four of us one time." I made a restaurant reservation and thought we could talk it all out there, but everyone was probably somewhat embarrassed. We talked about trivial matters the entire time until the restaurant closing time. Then I invited everyone to my place to talk, but at my house we couldn't talk either."
―No one could bring it up.
"Yeah. I guess that's right. But I thought it was good like that. It's also important to communicate heart to heart with words, but it's fun when the four of us can spend time like this, and I thought it was alright if I could have them think it would be sad if these kinds of times went away. Putting things into words creates misunderstandings, in my experience. From the personalities of these four people. Because if Koyama opens up his heart more and more, everyone gets pulled in (lol). We end up not wanting to resist like 'But I'm this way!' Like, 'I am me.' That's why it was alright if rather than words, I could have them think that they wanted to spend more irreplaceable time with these irreplaceable companions in the future."
―You don't need words?
"Yeah. That's why, the two who quit said things like, 'With the way things are now, I can't have respect.' But no matter how much I put it into words like, 'Have some respect. After all I'm trying this hard, aren't I!,' it's no use. Because there are times when words have no strength."
―Hearing that from a novelist feels somewhat strange.
"The reason I can say that is because I write. There are times when attitude is more important than any words. When Pink and Gray became a book, when it was decided it would become a movie, Tegoshi was the one most happy for me. Like, 'Shige is amazing!' Although rather than the contents, he thinks it's exciting that I cut out new work for myself, it wasn't work I received. I think that there are things you can only express through attitude and a trail."
―I see. Then, was going to see Tegomass's concert also attitude?
"That's exactly right. Because it was a complicated situation, maybe the two of them wouldn't want us to come. But I couldn't think of any other way to communicate my affection for those two."
―You were called during the MC and brought out on stage.
"I was happy, but as expected there was something sad about it. Because even though Koyama and I weren't there, they were successful. They also sang the NEWS song 'Sakura Girl,' and it's not that I didn't want them to sing it, but the song was great with just the two of them. I ended up thinking, 'Maybe I won't ever stand on a stage again. Maybe my final stage already finished a long time ago. Maybe I'll never see this kind of view from here again.'
―On October 7, when the withdrawal of those two was announced, what were you thinking?
"I got an email from Yamashita-kun saying, 'Do your best.' I feel like I responded with, 'Don't say that kind of thing.' Like, you didn't look back at that time, so don't look back now. I think the general feeling has become 'Let's all do our best individually.' Somehow I'm the one with the most lingering regret. After all I'm the one dragging it out the most."
―Is that right.
"Now, people tell us things like, 'Since you became four NEWS has gotten better' and 'Everyone's individual character stands out now.' But I think I we did that when we were six as well. Maybe this is just the view in hindsight. Even now I can't think like, because now is good that was the best. Of course we can't ever go back to being six people. But, at that time, even though things were troubled, if we had overcome them we would have been the strongest. Somehow that's what I think."
―What kinds of things do you think in regards to Nishikido-kun?
"It was about a year after he quit. There was one time we had dinner together. Maruyama-kun invited me out and when I arrived Nishikido-kun was there, it's like I was set up (lol). Nishikido-kun said, 'You're trying hard, but you need to try harder!' For some reason I end up crying when I'm told something by Nishikido-kun more than when I'm told things by anyone else. And then I couldn't hold back my tears. While wiping my eyes with a moist hand towel I cried the entire time. After eating, I went to karaoke with Maruyama-kun. I sang while continually sobbing. I'm dragging it out on purpose. If I wanted to forget it I could. I also think I could get along normally. But it's like I'm not allowed to forget that day and what I thought that day, that I should have been trying harder."
―Did your parents say anything about the withdrawal of those two?
"They didn't say anything. But I think I was supported by my family not saying anything. Probably around the release of 'Chankapaana,' they broached the subject of the number of members for the first time with, 'You're good with four people as well.' Even though they hadn't said anything up until then. Like they were keeping an eye on me. Oh, but, when I changed my name, this is really strange, but when I was thinking about changing my name into katakana, even though I still hadn't said anything to anyone yet, my mother said to me, 'Why don't you make it katakana.' That's amazing. Part of me was worried about changing my name because my parents had given it to me, but if my parents were telling me I should do it, making it katakana, well then."
―After that Pink and Gray was released in January 2012. The reaction was really great.
"I was so happy."
―However, as a novel written by an idol it ended up being looked at with a biased viewpoint. You didn't think that you wanted to apply for a literary award and receive fair evaluation under a completely different penname?
"If I did that there'd be no meaning. Completely no meaning. Of course I have confidence in and affection for my work, but rather than fair evaluation it's more important to have people think with interest about NEWS, like 'There's this kind of guy within NEWS.' Because it's more valuable for people to learn about NEWS, about Koyama, about Tegoshi, and about Massu through my book. I think that that's the reason for being in a group. That's why, even now I'm asked, 'Why did you change your name?,' but it's simply just because there were people who couldn't read the kanji for Shigeaki and I wanted to give priority to having people learn about us."
―Then how long did it take for you to think that NEWS could do activity as four?
"At the time the withdrawal of the two of them was announced it seemed like we would go on doing activity as four, but at that time nothing was decided for sure. There was anxiety that maybe we would remain just in name. That's why I wanted to quickly release a CD, but there was also the opinion that we didn't want to release anything until we could make something great. But we didn't know what was a good song for the four of us, and even when it was decided on 'Chankapaana' we were still worried if that would be good. When I looked at the internet news that announced I would be releasing a novel, people can leave comments now, right? In the comments bar, things like 'A shortcake without strawberries' were written. Criticism that is right to the point really stays in your heart. Because I thought that it's really like that. I was anxious, but because of that I really thought about how we should fight."
―When was the conviction that you were able to do it as four born?
"It was probably the time when we had our first concert with the four of us. It's the same as the backs of the two after quitting, but that concert, every scene, I remember the two hours completely."
―Unexpectedly you were crying.
"Yes. I thought, 'Huh, I'm crying.' But isn't it because perhaps my final concert had already been over. Despite that I was standing on stage again. I thought about how I love the members, and the time and space the members and fans made was something that couldn't be made with anyone else. I really have many thoughts about how I want to keep on going, but on that day, the view I saw from that stage, it's not a tattoo, but it's like engraved in my body."
―Thinking of your companions, finishing writing a novel. Overcoming despair. Don't you want to praise the you from that day?
"I wonder.... If I could meet myself from that period, I guess I'd want to teach him, 'You'll only be acknowledged for the things you work hard at.' Just remembering it is embarrassing, the me right before and after age twenty had a late coming explosion of the behavior of a teenager going through puberty. Because I thought things like, 'The world surrounding me really fucking sucks' (lol). Like, 'The world is so stupid for not accepting me!' Every day was just complaining. Just one word is enough but I want to tell him. 'Unexpectedly, the world is kind to you.'"
―That's how you feel?
"Yeah. My life hasn't been that sort of life. I've happened to have good luck to come this far. In regards to my novel, honestly, I worked so hard I thought I'd die if it didn't go well. That gave me an evaluation. It's honestly become my hope that if I do something, there will be things that I'll be acknowledged for. That feeling is living in singing, in dancing, and in acting. Before that I somewhere had the sense that even if I tried really hard it wouldn't work out at all."
―Living in singing and dancing, for example what kinds of things?
"At the time of 'Chankapaana,' with the feelings of 'I'm going to redo everything from zero' I shaped up my body, learned dance, and even went to voice training. The thing that humbled my feelings was definitely my novel. Up until that point I had a mindset somewhat like, 'Whatever, I can't do it anyway,' but at that time I took on the attitude of, 'This might be my last chance.' And this might just be looking back in hindsight, but I think we were assessed more than in our six person era. I didn't expect that to happen. Just by working hard, you can receive assessment. Like, the world is somehow kind."
―Maybe that's true.
"However, it might seem like I'm a pioneer for writing a novel, but that's wrong. Because after all the existence of Arashi is really important. At the time when I went to the company and directly asked for work, in the corner of my mind was the exhibit Ohno-kun had done. The thing that planted the idea that maybe I could send out a signal from a place atypical for an idol was Ohno-kun's existence. I didn't begin something new. On my own I just arranged the things my senpai have done a bit."
―Have you told Ohno-kun that his exhibit was one of the things that made you write a novel?
"I did, I told him. Like, 'It's all thanks to Ohno-kun.' And his response was, 'I didn't do anything. So don't say things like that' (lol).
―So one of the people who supported you was Ohno-kun, right.
"Yes. But actually, when thinking of people who have supported me, the first thing that comes to mind is the fans. Undoubtedly. Even though it's so obvious that I tried to not answer this kind of question with 'the fans.' Furthermore, saying that my past self was wrong is maybe rude to the fans. Because I expect I had fans supporting me at that time as well. I don't know how many times I've used the words 'for the fans' up until now, but I think that after becoming four I became able to really understand the meaning of those words and say it from my heart. When we became four I was seriously anxious. I think I caused others to worry as well. However, the fans told us, 'We want NEWS to continue as four people.' Also when we released 'Chankapaana' they gave us a push on the back. No matter what timing, even if it was just once, if we didn't have the voices of the fans our activities would have been cut off. We are supported by our fans. I understood this after we became four. That kind of thing is really a bad point of mine. I'm working hard for the people who are giving their support to NEWS, for the fans, I can now say this from my heart."
―Then, why are you continuing to write novels now?
"I think that continuing something is the most amazing thing. Because I think that there are tons of people who were interesting just one time. Like, continuing something is what makes a real pro. I've made a decision. That because I've started I'm going to play two roles at the same time. I won't quit in the middle. I think that more than anything I'm happy. That someone is reading what I've created."
―I'm looking forward to the movie of Pink and Gray opening next year as well. Doesn't the personality of Nakajima-kun, who's playing the main role, resemble yours?
"Perhaps. I thought it'd be interesting so I went to the filming location, but I can see it a bit. The main character of Pink and Gray isn't me, but I guess as expected there's some self projection in writing. Yuto also said, 'I saw him in me.' Although maybe Yuto's fans are going to get angry at me (lol). I also thought it when we went out to eat. That things like a sense of awkwardness, holding on to various things, and not putting things into many words maybe resemble me. But at 21 he's doing that much stuff and handling himself way better than I did. I think it's great that Yuto is playing the lead role."
―Finally please tell me three scenes that have left an impression since the two of them withdrew.
"Their two backs, the view from the stage of Chichibunomiya, and...I guess I want to hold back on the last. I want to keep it open. Of course there are many things. I was also moved when I saw my own book lined up at the bookstore, and I can't forget the release of 'Chankapaana.' But, I'll keep it open."
―Koyama-kun said, "I'll put the dinner we just had on my list of things that made an impression." He happily talked about how, "Shige was the one who was running it."
"Why's he talking about me like that so happily (lol). Certainly it was a passionate dinner, and the four of us talked a ton about our dreams. I'll talk about them when they become reality. Like, 'The thing I was talking about at that time came true.' I thought about it again at that dinner. It's not a to do list, but there is still a list of so many things we want to do and should do as NEWS. Furthermore, if we complete everything on that list I'm sure we'll then make a new one. That's why, isn't it okay for me to leave the last spot open."
―Of course. When we first met today I thought that your atmosphere had changed, but what do you think is different from four years ago?
"I've gotten confidence. It's not that I feel like I can do anything. It's the confidence that I can do things for the benefit of the group. Now when I'm criticized, without putting the blame on anyone else, I can apologize with an, 'I was wrong.' I think that because I have confidence I can become humble."
―People can really change.
"Definitely anyone can change. No matter when it is you can change. That's what I think now."
Next month is Masuda Takahisa! Kato passes the baton of bonds...
Out of all the members my relationship with Massu is the longest.
With Massu being so particular,
And from your wild ideas that sometimes fly out,
There are many times you're misunderstood.
But, I understand that those preferences and ideas
Come out exactly because
You want to make NEWS even better.
That's why I want to support Massu and
I think I want to become able to understand
The wide world in Massu's head even just a little bit.
Earlier, when you were debating about the lighting for the opening,
I was happy when you asked me, "Shige, what do you think?"
Like, you trust me at least a bit.
From here on as well I want you to not hesitate to turn to me.
After all, we're old 3-B classmates (lol).