Kokoro Shinozaki – born in 1993, Japanese idol, model, DJ, songwriter, producer. In 2013 she formed the idol unit ‘Petit Pas!’ The group dissolved in 2016, however since then, Kokoro has become even more active in the art-modelling world, finally marking her first movie appearance in ‘Noise’ by Yusaku Matsumoto, for which she received an award for the best debuting actress at Kohan Festival 2018. ‘Noise‘s cinema release starts from 1 March 2019 at Theatre Shinjuku

In the interview, Kokoro shares her point of view on her first acting experience, Japanese idol world and her own private thoughts. Kokoro (Japanese: 心) means ‘heart; mind; mentality; emotions; feelings’.

You have been engaged in a various range of activities, starting from being an idol, model, producer…Your portfolio is quite versatile, considering your age! I would like to ask in the first place, how was your first experience as an actress in ‘Noise’, on the way to becoming a full-fledged movie star?

I have to admit that in the very beginning I was a little bit worried, whether this risk will turn out well. It was a major turning point in my life, however now I am grateful I received such an opportunity and that I ventured to play the main role.

Your memory, as well as personal experience are engraved in ‘Noise’ to the extent that some of the dialogues are ad-libbed. Figuratively speaking, it is an act of exposing your own kokoro to the audience. I presume that venture must have been a tough trial for you?

The creation of the role was in some parts very distressing experience. I really hope I did well. Telling the truth, the more I exposed my true sadness and pain, the more I understood there is no gimmick in it and thus the ending result is a movie filled with real emotions. In the script, there written merely didascalia, how to play a certain scene, excluding the character’s lines, so I put my kokoro into it and played the role the way I am, the way I felt.

Considering your utmost devotion to the role, have you received any special aid from the director – Yusaku Matsumoto or any kind of directions that could lead you down the right path?

He let me be quite flexible on the set; however we discussed each scene beforehand, so that he could ask me what I intend to do, how I actually intend to act.

Since the production took nearly three years, how do you feel now when you watch yourself on the big screen?

Precisely because it has been three years, I am finally able to look at it from a broader, objective perspective. Now I understand, what is hidden behind the title ‘Noise’ and what were the director’s intentions; however at the time of filming, I was not mature enough, reckless, as to say. At that time, I was mainly concerned about the character I create – Misa, however now I understand, how all the threads blend with each other, and how she is connected to the Akihabara massacre, its victims and the murderer. Now I can say I have a full scope.

Yusaku Matsumoto used a doppelgänger effect, so that the two female idol characters – Misa and Rie look alike, to the extent it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them. When you watched the movie, didn’t it feel a bit cringy or perhaps even creepy for you, as if you were looking in the mirror, but seeing a different person?  

That was exactly my impression when I saw Anjo Urara, who plays Rie’s role! How is it possible for a person looking so similar to me to exist?!– I pondered. It was a bizarre feeling, difficult to describe. Quite spooky, actually, because it was the first time I realized that Japanese might look so much alike! In the end, however, it provides a very interesting effect – we might be look-alikes, but lead utterly different lives in the movie.

There is a line in the movie when Rie’s father comes to watch Misa’s performance for the second time: ‘We, idol fans, are all the same’. Don’t you think that that line might have a reverse side of the coin – ‘We, idols, are all the same’?

Well…I don’t think they are the same, however they share a similar world. I personally reckon, they do their best to express their own individual personality and peculiarity, as it is shown in ‘Noise’. The idol culture is not really present overseas, especially the culture of so-called ‘underground idols’. I can tell they really struggle to create original characters and to stand out from the crowd.

There were certain occurrences in the Japanese idol world that shocked worldwide mass media – quite recently Mako Yamaguchi from NGT48 apologized merely because she had been assaulted by two men and thus ’caused trouble to her fans’. Not to even mention the very famous Youtube video that went viral, where Minami Minegishi from AKB48, her head shaved, is asking for forgiveness, because she had the audacity to spend a night at her boyfriend’s apartment. Do you justify these self-humiliating acts of contrition?  

I don’t know how to put it into words…it might be a cultural thing, anyway here in Japan when one ’causes trouble’ or ‘disturbs’ is bound to apologize. It’s not even the fault of the idol world itself, but rather that of a long-established custom which is quite harmful. If the same thing happened to an actress, I am almost positive she would be apologizing as well. Let’s not put the blame on the idol culture, but rather the Japanese archaic conventions.

Do you think it will change?

I don’t know, but I personally think it should be changed. I can only hope, but truly speaking, it’s a thing that is stuck in the society, so it might be really difficult to alter the convention.

It might be a biased point of view, but in the West idols are sometimes somewhat compared to products on a belt conveyor, being deprived of their freedom…

I suppose otherwise they wouldn’t sell. It’s certainly not a noble thing. I presume in Europe there is no such idol culture, am I right? Here in Japan, it is more than a boom, it might be considered a ‘religion’. One can perceive it as something glamorous and dazzling, but on the other hand, it has its shadows. Nevertheless, I think idols should stay within Japanese culture, as its unique trait. I am also very happy that gradually it’s spreading around the world and thus helps popularizing Japan.

With all that baggage of experience, if you had a daughter who tells you she wants to become an idol in the future, would you support her or rather warn her to be careful about that decision?

I wouldn’t warn her, however I would certainly want to guide her by giving some pieces of advice. I will definitely support my child.

Can we expect that you will be continuing your career as a movie actress?

I definitely want to. Since I am a big fan of Sion Sono’s works, I would love to be engaged in one of his projects in the future, if I only got the chance.

Sono Shion? Women are being quite looked down on in his movies! Since you brought that up, do you think that women status in Japan might improve, especially in the light of #MeToo movement and recent scandals, such as for instance lowering  women’s test scores at Tokyo Medical University?

I think so, even artistic activity bolsters up women position. I might not be in the major league, however, the fact that there are so many other women like me who participate actively in different forms of art, despite not being in the mainstream, is already quite remarkable and helps to cope with male chauvinism. Maybe precisely because male chauvinism grew stronger, women have become more powerful and gained artistic freedom. I’m pretty sure women’s social position will progress and develop in the course of time. It has to be altered.

Could you then say about yourself: ‘I, Kokoro Shinozaki, am a feminist’?

Ah no! Absolutely not! (laughs) I fully support men! I am in fact bisexual and in the past I had a girlfriend…How should I put it….I don’t believe that somebody stands higher or lower, is better or worse. My kokoro is big and wide open, so I accept everybody. I hope we could live in a world, in which everybody is treated equally!

“Noise” official site’s address is https://noise-movie.com/. 
International and local rights: Makotoya Co.,Ltd.

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PhD candidate at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and a researcher at Waseda University in Tokyo, film/theatre critic, professional translator/interpreter from Japanese, event planner and artist manager, nowadays preparing a book on the concept of intertextuality in Terayama Shūji’s art and own festival dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Polish-Japanese diplomatic relationships together with two major institutions – The Gdansk Shakespeare Theatre & The Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw.