Yuasa Hiroshi’s, SKE48 theater manager, interview from Weekly Playboy SKE special.
Decided to translate it so everybody would know a bit more about the man in charge of SKE (well, in the measure of what power Aki-P actually gives him). I’m myself not a huge fan of kuma-san. I have no doubt he likes the members and cares for them, but apart from that he is pretty useless… and spineless. He never publicly stands for SKE48 nor does he go to confront Aki-P or whoever need to be when time calls for it… The interview reveals it clearly enough : he watched over the members individually, but not after SKE48 per se.
I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to give him the title of nanny rather than manager （/TДT)/
SKE48 theater manager, Yuasa Hiroshi. Being in contact with the members as well as the fans in the theater, what does his position require to think about and what does everyday look like for him? That’s what we will try to figure out in this interview.
Q First, could you tell us about your childhood?
Yuasa - It may come as a surprise, but I was raised in a rich family, my father was running a company. But as he made blunders in the gestion, trouble started. We traded our vast house for a multi-unit apartment. When I was in my 5th year of elementary school, I received The Beatles Best Album from my parents. I was deeply moved by 「Penny Lane」, and I fell in love with the Carpenters. I also loved watching the TV, I was a “child of the TV”. Remembering this now, that’s probably around that time I decided to reach for the world of entertainment.
As a child, my dream was to be a pilot. Next I wanted to become hotel-keeper. But when I was a student, the disco boom occurred and I wouldn’t stop having fun surfing and skiing. I went astray of my dream only having in mind to have fun, I ended up making a lot of detours…
Q How did you end up being offered this position?
I worked for department stores and as real estate agent, I also went studying abroad and in 2000 I started a business with ex-television announcer from Asahi TV, Tsuji Yoshinari. From there I got to meet with a lot of people and when SKE48 was formed I was proposed to take on its management.
Q Concretely, what does your daily schedule look like?
Until late at night I read emails, return them and each morning I’m off to work at around 11am. We have meetings, I go back and forth between Tokyo and Nagoya, I watch over the theater’s performances, I review staff’s reports about the stages, I return home in the dead of night and check my emails again. Repeating that process everyday.
It also happens that I receive calls in the middle of the night from members or their parents regarding issues they want to discuss. There is no time to rest in this job. But lately I’ve come to think I should maybe take some time off. But it is also true that the members are around the same age as my daughter. Being a bit like a father for all of them, I want to keep doing my best a little longer.
Q In such a work, what is the most important thing according to you?
To firmly keep an eye on the members. Pay attention to all of their worries, make sure that each and every one of them is in good condition to deliver their best performance. On top of that, I have to report of their appeal to Akimoto sensei. In the end, that’s us, people of the theater, who know the members individually the best. Management can’t be reduced simply to schedule arrangement.
Q Despite the difference of gender and the disparity in age you’ve to be constantly connected to the members. What are you the most vigilant about?
That they are always neat and tidy and make sure they don’t neglect their schoolwork. The most difficult part is when the members are in high school, I need to keep record of their non-attendances and make sure they don’t skip school without telling their parents. We push those girls to go to school, even if against their own will…
I make a point of having time to connect with all the members individually. No matter how trivial it may be, I’m open to talk about everything with the members. Therefore no matter the time of the day or night, I take the time necessary to talk with them.
Q You’re like a teacher figure for them, no?
Something like that. And in this school there are only students with high aspirations (laugh). However it’s also true that in SKE48 the selection (tln : senbatsu) system exists. And the vast majority of the members aren’t picked out to enter said selection. I have to make sure that even though they aren’t, I never let go of them, that they never feel left aside. But in the world of show-business, it happens that no matter how hard you try, you’re not acknowledged. Even though, it’s our mission to never betray, no matter what, those persons who give their best.
On the other hand, I tell the senbatsu members that they should never get ahead of themselves. When they appear on tv, other members have to ensure the stage ends without accident by performing as their under. There are also those people who make the songs, people who coach their dance lessons, people who take care of their costumes… If they’re able to get their work done, it’s thanks to the involvement of a lot of different persons. I want them to understand this and never lose sight of this reality.
Come to think of it, right before Team E first stage, I got enraged when I witnessed the sluggish attitude of the members and proclaimed 「The team is dissolved! We will organize a new round of auditions!」. After that the members cried aloud. I wanted them to understand that it was impossible for performers to convey a positive energy to their fans if they don’t put all their heart into it.
Q You have created the 「Manager’s room」, a place for fans to directly address you during handshake events…
I did so because there are things I wouldn’t understand if I couldn’t hear the fans’ voices directly. There, everybody is serious and fired up. So I too have to answer them with conviction. I also receive quite a lot of criticisms/reproaches (wry smile), but that too makes me glad. Ah, and we can take picture together, forming a heart with our hands. (tln : Yuasa selects some questions he received during the HS events and post them on his G+ page with the answers. Things is, he never gives clear answers and always replays by “I would indeed like to…” “I think that maybe…” “I’ll talk about it with avex…” ‘orz)
Q As of now, SKE48 doesn’t have it’s own exclusive theater. But as the title of the concert held on April 14th and 15th hinted at it, fans have had their expectations for such an exclusive theater to be complete soon.
For a long time I have requested, in a lot of ways, for an exclusive theater to be built. I even pulled out concrete plans for the project. But I don’t think of leaving SUNSHINE SAKAE. Because that’s SKE48’s sacred place.
Q The other day, it was announced that Matsui Jurina would hold two positions, becoming also a member of AKB48. To what degree were you involved in this announcement?
I had not heard the first thing about it. That day I was backstage watching the monitor, I only knew about it when Toga-chan (AKB48 theater manager, Togasaki Tomonobu) made the announcement. At first I thought Jurina would be completely transferred to Team K, but she was actually going to hold two positions at the time. If that was going to be so, then I thought it could be a great opportunity for Jurina.
We are supporting her with all our might.
Q Would you say you’re lucky to do this job?
Everyday I receive comments from both members and fans. I sometimes get angry too. But no matter how hard things get, when I hear fans saying 「You did things well」, I’m saved by those simple words. It could be that this work is the best fitting for a naive person like myself.