Matsumoto-kun and Aiba-kun host this episode of Himitsu no Arashi-chan (ひみつの嵐ちゃん), and they’ll probably be glad to get past Valentine’s Day. For the past two weeks, they’ve had to talk about it incessantly on their shows, and they start this one off discussing it again, even greeting each other with “Happy Valentine” as they enter the share house set.

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They talk about fleeting memories of Valentine’s day . . .

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. . . before the guests saved them. And we have a group of guests again this time – top female idols from the 70s to the 2000s. They each make a quick expression at the little door camera, but the screenshots were all blurry because they moved too fast.

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Sakakibara Ikue-san (榊原郁恵) has been active since 1976, and got into the business by winning the first HoriPro (ホリプロ) agency scout caravan, and has remained with HoriPro since. Nitta Eri-san (新田恵利) started in 1985, had a downspell in the early nineties, then came back as a talent. Asaka Yui-san (浅香唯) also started in 1985, but had her transition time in the mid nineties. Finally, there was Ishikawa Rika-san (石川梨華), who was actually born in 1985, and entered the business as part of the fourth generation of Morning Musume in 2000, staying with the group until 2005. She was part of my favorite Morning Musume single to date – “The Peace!“.

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After they all get a look around the set and take a seat, Aiba-kun brings out their old photobooks – always a good thing to do to those guests who actually released photobooks when they were young. Aiba-kun is clearly taking the lead in today’s proceedings.

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They use the photobooks as a way to introduce each of the idols and give details about the backgrounds.

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Really, it’s striking how little has changed over the years . . .

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. . . and especially how little Ishikawa-san has.

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When it comes time to ask questions, the obvious one – basically the same one we got for the professionals in the last episode – comes up first: what was their initial salary (初任給 – shoninkyuu). We get nice big question titles similar to the ones in Arashi ni Shiyagare:

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Just in case you weren’t sure about the topic.

Anyway, here there really has been some change, I think. After all, back in the 70s, being an idol was almost thought of as a part-time job for a teenager, and by those standards they were extremely well-paid. I don’t know over what period Sakakibara-san was paid 70,000 yen (translating this into dollars is a bit hard, given both exchange rate and inflation differences), but they noted that, at the time, they were thrilled to get the money they they made.

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In the middle of this discussion, MatsuJun and Aiba-kun brought up the fact that, at the time of their debut, the other three members of Arashi were on the verge of quitting and going their separate ways.

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Nitta-san revealed her initial monthly salary of 100,000 yen a month with a smile and really showed how excited she had been to get it:

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By the time Ishikawa-san got into Morning Musume, though, the compensation structure had changed, and she doesn’t quite remember what her first paycheck was like (it would probably be impolite to mention it, since it was doubtless much higher than what her elders received). She was also involved in all sorts of other activities (ads and stuff like that) which would change the number. She does remember that it was an amazing amount (凄い額 – sugoi gaku).

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By 18, she had enough money to rebuild her parent’s home!

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The next topic was the intense/difficult aspects of idol work, and dokkiri (ドッキリ – pranks) came up almost instantaneously as an issue.

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It was especially the candid camera pranks when they didn’t realize that they were being filmed. Those are enough to keep every entertainer in the business paranoid.

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There’s a lot more where that came from, but past this point, they all really got into the swing of the discussion and it was too much for me to keep up with.

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The older guests were more comfortable talking about everything that happened to them. Ishikawa-san, though, was more reluctant to say anything.

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The topic did turn to the love situation for idols, and they noted that they lived in a time without cell phones, so the whole landscape of romance was different.

Nitta-san was under the same dating prohibition as AKB48. There was a picture of her riding on a bicycle with her boyfriend in a weekly publication, but I’m not sure what happened with that.

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In “free time”, Ishikawa-san brought up a concern on her mind: till what age are you still an idol?

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I’ll leave the answer out. After that, it was time to wrap things up.

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Then they had the mannequin must-item segment, with the two hosts joined by the great Takenaka Naoto-san (竹中直人), Chihara Seiji-san, and Piece’s Ayabe Yuuji-san.

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The must-item was one they should all be veterans of, but I don’t think I’ve ever worn in my life: pink.

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It is, of course, Valentine-themed.

Takenaka-san is at it right away, oozing with crazy energy.

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Piece’s Ayabe-san is actually working with Takenaka-san on something that looked quite risque.

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Chihara-san was ready with some humor, too.

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How will the five of them do incorporating pink? Will they end up with outfits that I’d actually consider wearing?

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The judges were AI-san, Rola-san, Kokusho Sayuri-san (国生さゆり), and the ever-present Nishikawa-sensei.

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AI-san’s own style choices received some note.

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And all that was left after that was the judging.

Altogether, I think this was a great episode. I really think they should have made a point of bringing in more than one guest for share house more consistently, since that puts less burden on a single guest who might not be as talkative. It’s also worth noting that older women are consistently more open and willing to talk than those in their twenties are (though next week’s guest looks like she might be forthright despite being young).

The mannequin must-item segment featured a great line-up of guests, both with the mannequins and with the judges. Any variety show with Takenaka-san appearing has to be good.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi goes to Aiba-kun. He did the most to get things off to a good start, had good energy all the way through, and most importantly had my favorite outfit at the end.