J-pop girl group fight over food

Japanese idol group Nogizaka46, which comprises 46 members, debuted in 2011.
Japanese idol group Nogizaka46, which comprises 46 members, debuted in 2011.PHOTOS: C3 AFA

With 46 members, you would think that the girls of Japanese idol group Nogizaka46 would fight over the amount of time each gets in the spotlight.

Yes, they do fight, although it is not for attention. Instead, it is over food.

Member Manatsu Akimoto, 24, tells Singapore media at a group interview yesterday: "We get bento boxes for lunch on rehearsal days, but the bentos are not all the same.

"There are usually three types and one is always the best. So, as soon as they bring out the bento boxes, all of us would make a run for them."

Indeed, despite the notion that such a big group could spell bouts of jealousy and fierce internal competition, the members insist they always see things as a group first.

Akimoto says in Japanese via a translator: "Of course, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But at the end of the day, it is about working together as a group and always being there for one another.

"Actually, that's one great thing about being in such a huge group - you never feel alone."

She was answering questions from the media alongside two other members - Erika Ikuta, 20, and Sayuri Matsumura, 25 - ahead of the band's highly anticipated performance at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre tonight, as part of the music programme line-up at the C3 Anime Festival Asia.

It will be the first time that the group are performing in South-east Asia.

Ikuta is excited about performing here and hopes to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing this weekend.

"We found out about the Night Safari, which sounds great. I really hope we'll all be able to visit the place together," she says.

Akimoto adds: "We haven't had the chance to interact with our Singapore fans yet, so we're happy to be here. We couldn't believe it at first when we were invited to come."

The pop group, which debuted in 2011, have always been marketed as the official rival to another popular Japanese mega girl group, AKB48, which has 48 members and debuted in 2005.

Reportedly, Nogizaka46 deliberately formed with two fewer members than AKB48 to prove that they could be better, even with fewer members.

Ask the Nogizaka46 members about the rivalry, however, and they are careful with their words.

Akimoto says: "There will always be pressure when we're being compared with them, but I think we're quite different as groups.

"For example, our music styles are different. AKB48's songs are faster, but we sing ballads.

"Our image is also different - the length of our skirts is longer."

Yip Wai Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2017, with the headline 'J-pop girl group fight over food'. Print Edition | Subscribe