enka singer Iwasa Misaki chats with jpoprocks
JpopRocks.com: I understand this was your first visit to San Francisco. Did you go sightseeing? Eaten anything good?
Iwasa Misaki: Every time I visit a foreign country, I really like to go to the supermarket. Not for anything in particular, just to see what is different. But I really yogurt and I like trying all kinds of yogurt from different countries.
JPR: You graduated from AKB48 over a year ago, now. What is the best skill or lesson you took from your time with AKB48?
Wasamin: Almost everything I’ve learned from my time from AKB48 has helped me with my career, from how to make everyone in the audience smile and be happy to the importance of speaking properly. Personality is important!
JPR: While in AKB48, your first debut as a solo artist was an Enka album. Have you always been drawn to Enka?
Wasamin: Living with my Grandparents, I was heavily influenced by them listening to Enka. I also used to sing a lot of Enka songs at karaoke.
Before [AKB48] I really didn’t have much experience singing in front of people, but after I participated in the AKB48 Karaoke competition and won, I gained a lot of confidence, and became more comfortable singing in front of people.
JPR: Enka has been around for a long time. Who are your favorite all time Enka artists? Songs?
Wasamin: The most memorable Enka song for me was actually the song I sang for the AKB48 Karaoke competition “Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyugeshiki”. This is a song that all Japanese people know and was originally performed by Ishikawa Sayuri.
JPR: What do you think are the key ingredients to a great Enka song?
Wasamin: Enka songs usually draw from life experiences like love for someone else. Life experiences are the key ingredient to any Enka song. In terms of that, I still need more experience [laughs].
JPR: Could you tell us about your single Saba Kaido which was released in January?
Wasamin: This song was written Akimoto Yasushi, producer for AKB48. The Saba Kaido is a real road in Japan, between the Fukui and Kyoto prefecture. It’s a rough and wild road. The song is contrasts between the road and a woman who is feeling a yearning, and painful feeling of love for someone. Her love is like that long and rough road.
JPR: You are wearing such a beautiful kimono! Is there a particular pattern or color that you are fond of?
Wasamin: Well when I’m standing on a stage, I wanted a kimono that had more colorful and vivid patterns, so I wore this bluish colored kimono.
JPR: Enka videos always feature such beautiful scenery. Where was your favorite location to shoot a video? What makes it so special?
Wasamin: Usually, my songs are themed to a location, so I usually visit these locations for the music video. For example, I visited Saba Kaido for that video, and went to Hokkaido for another song. Hokaido is a really cold and snowy environment. It was really freezing there. Sometimes, I couldn’t even open my eyes because of the snow!
JPR: You have performed in many countries all over the world. Do you have any funny, crazy, or memorable stories from the road?
Wasamin: I've had many unexpected experiences outside of Japan! When I visited New York for the first time, I was staying at a hotel. And while I was still sleeping, the cleaning person came into my room. They came right in without permission and started cleaning. That was really unexpected!
JPR: Did you know about the little sign for the door that says “Do Not Disturb”?
Wasamin: Yeah, we have those signs in Japan, but [In Japan] they still would knock before entering! They knocked, but came straight in after a few seconds. I stayed there just stunned for awhile as they were cleaning up, but I eventually left!
JPR: You left?
Wasamin: Yes! I actually left the room as they were finishing up because I felt like I should leave.
JPR: That does sound unexpected! Speaking of visiting other countries, JpopRocks is heading to Japan for the first time early next year. Do you have any other recommendations for us or anyone else wanting visiting Japan?
Wasamin: For fun, or business?
JPR: Both! [Laughs]
Wasamin: Visit a maid café in Akibahara. You will be a master and the maids will greet you with a "welcome home master!"
JPR: What new projects can we look forward to?
Wasamin: I am currently focusing on performing more, to improve my skills and spread Enka worldwide.
JPR: What do you think would help Enka become more popular around the world?
Wasamin: I think people who are a little interested in Enka should look up songs online. Most Enka songs are inspired by real locations in Japan. Having knowledge of those locations would go a long way, especially people not from Japan, to understanding the lyrics.
JPR: Is there any special message you would like to say to your fans here in the US?
Wasamin: The Jpop Summit was my first solo Enka performance in the US. And I heard this is the first time the Jpop Summit had hosted an Enka singer. I hope it will be a good opportunity for me and Enka music. The US has always been a memorable place for me as it was the first foreign country I visited.