Group showcases Japan’s seaside region
By Jerrison Oracion, Senior Columnist
Because the Tokyo Olympic Games and many other industries—including music—are now delayed due to coronavirus, this column will be ongoing and published from time to time to learn the histories of famous musicians in J-pop.
If you read this column regularly, you probably know that the 46 groups are the biggest idol group in Japan right now and still have a rivalry with their predecessor AKB48. Despite that, the coronavirus pandemic affected music sales in the country. AKB48’s recent hit single “Thank You Heartbreak” surprisingly sold more copies than Nogizaka46’s recent hit single “Protective Colour of Happiness.” Both singles were number one in their first week—with AKB48 selling 1.3 million copies compared to Nogizaka46’s 900,000 copies. It appears that AKB48-mania is here just like Beatlemania was in the 60s’.
The group is still relevant today with Team 8: a team in the main group that has members from all 47 prefectures in Japan and is sponsored by Toyota. They also stay on the scene with their newest sister group: STU48. Unlike the rest of their sister groups where each represents an area in a city, STU48 represents the entire Setouchi region—which is in the southern part of Japan and includes Hiroshima and Kobe. I went through the region during my trip to Japan in 2018, and their music videos do Setouchi justice in showcasing their picturesque mountains, seaside towns, and lemons—the official fruit of the region. The group is co-owned by the Setouchi Tourism Board, which might be predictable.
With four singles so far and a fifth single possibly being released in May, the group was launched in 2017 with their airy hit single “Setouchi Voice.” In that music video, the STU48 members get advice from two predominant members of AKB48: Nana Okada and former member Rino Sashihara. They are depicted as the captains of the ship showing the new members the way. When the group began, they performed in various theatres around the region while a ferry was being refurbished into their theatre. Since April of last year, the “STU48 GO” docked in its home port of Hiroshima and the group goes around the region holding performances inside it. Their music has a seaside sound; songs like “Darkness” and “Waiting for the Wind” sound like songs that you would hear in a cruise ship. “Onward” and “The Person I Really Like” have music videos that actually showcase their cruise ship.
It can even sail to other parts of the country and they do special events on the deck. The members showcase Setouchi through tourism ads and appearing on a lot of shows. One of the members, Sakaki Miyu, even has a YouTube channel called CUCA Channel where she talks about food in the region and explores restaurants near train stations in Setouchi. An interesting fact about the J-pop group is that almost half of the members went to Actor’s School Hiroshima—the same music school where the infamous Perfume was formed.
The lead member in all their singles, Yumiko Takino, is very tall and plays the saxophone. My favourite member in the group is Mitsuki Imamura who is now the captain of the group after Okada stepped down from her position during a concert in Tokyo in January of this year. She sings great, plays the guitar, likes baseball, and surprisingly knows me because I talk to her a lot in an app called Showroom where the members do live chats. One of the newer members in the group, Kudo Riko, is known to international fans because she is fluent in English.
If you are going to Japan for Tokyo 2020 next year, watching STU48’s music videos and talent will convince you to go to Setouchi. Even if you aren’t, the group is great for easy listening and conjures up images of a relaxing day at the sea.