The following is a translation of this article (失恋したゲイの僕が、それでも「モー娘。」を応援する理由) published on Bunshun Online in September 2018 by Oota Naoki. A short post follows as to why I translated it.
As a gay man with a broken heart, why I still support Morning Musume
Incomparable explosive qualities and distant lyrics
I recently had my heart broken, and it wasn’t pretty.
To explain how intense it was, I had turned 29 thinking about no one but that person for about 2 years, and was just so casually dumped. This happened late at night while we drank to dawn, and yet while I felt like I was being enveloped by and lost in darkness, I somehow said “got it” coolly and went home.
Amongst gay men, the most common compliment is saying someone is “nonkeppoi” (“a guy who doesn’t seem gay”). It means “you seem to embody masculinity naturally,” which everyone seems to admire/thirst for in our world. When my relationship ended, I also wanted to end it like a good man.
But even that was impossible. On my way home I was helplessly drawn to the whispering between a straight couple reading at the magazine stand in the convenience store, the swings faintly glowing blue in the park at night, and the moon so small and seemingly cold. I suddenly felt like listening to aiko. The broken-hearted person crying inside of me wasn’t a “man,” but definitely a “woman” (definitely not the case that all gay men have that feeling).
I was listening to “Mikuni-eki.” That was the closest station to aiko’s university, and was actually my hometown. Aiko and I grew drinking the same water. Possibly, I may have not noticed it, but I may have become aiko, or so I thought. Maybe I was composing music in my sleep.
Completely immersed in those thoughts I got home, and thinking I had to do *something* as a sort of life-support I turned on the TV leaving the lights off. There were shows I had no recollection of recording, but all of them made me want to die of loneliness: onsen specials, fireworks displays…
I kept pressing “next” on the remote until I finally found a music program. I can probably watch this without feeling anything. I chose it thinking I’d be able to watch it light-heartedly, but that’s where I met my fate. That’s where I came across “Morning Musume ’18.”
Morning Musume ’18 “Guarantee your love, only for me more”
Me “That’s me…”
This was when they were performing their new song at the time, “Are you Happy?” Flooded in highly colored lights, their faces were the epitome of seriousness as they awaited their cue silently. I hadn’t a clue who anyone was, but it felt like their faces were saying, “we’re not joking, you know that?!” I felt like saying back, “no, I don’t…” sheepishly. However, I could feel their vigor and ability to take leadership with their strength in not caring what they looked like, and I suddenly started to feel the anticipation build up within me.
The song started suddenly with the center Makino Maria saying, “Are you happy?” with a decisive face. Zuu, zu zu, zuuzu! The beat rang like a heartbeat, and everyone started dancing at once.
The girls swung their head and arms around pretty violently. I was engrossed in their intense world view quickly. Sato Masaki started to whisper, “just me, more…” Then the others joined her in unison, swinging their arms together. “Just me, more… just me, more…” They finally completed the row as a group pointing their finger forward as they shouted that three times.
“Guarantee your love!!!”
I thought, “this is it…” in my pitch-black room. As soon as they finished I hurriedly looked up and binged their old videos on YouTube, and in the blink of an eye I was held captive by them.
Morning Musume: “the willful,” not “the chosen”
When I thought about it, I’ve never been a fan of idols until then because it felt like the “chosen women” would play the role of “woman” for “men.” The “woman” inside of me was always teased as “okamappoi” (“like a fruitcake/faggot”), so I’ve never been chosen nor appraised by anyone.
Whether the first round or just the document review, I was never able to show my “inner woman.” That woman within me couldn’t project herself onto an idol, nor could she have fun consuming it. To me, idols were residents in a world completely separate from mine.
However the “Morning Musume ’18” which I saw didn’t have the expression of “whether I was chosen or not,” but rather, “I don’t care if it’s for a man or for no one else out there, I will shout my femininity for myself.”
Tsunku’s said “I choose girls who have a strong will to change themselves through hard work” when he’s choosing members for Morning Musume If you look back to the start, the first generation embodies that. Failing the ASAYAN audition, Morning Musume is “the five who weren’t chosen” who had to complete the mission of selling 50,000 CDs by hand to get their major debut. It wasn’t “whether or not I was chosen,” it was “choosing” their own path to get here.
Even now by adding the year after their name (’18), the group shows that they’re always looking to evolve. Rather than keeping with the obvious image of “born to be an idol” by recruiting that sort of presence, they continue to recruit girls who have a bit of a “diamond in the rough” feeling, and can polish those qualities through hard work.
For example, Iikubo Haruna (wearing brown in the “One Two Three” video) announced her graduation recently, and was known for her disjointed dancing style. But if you look at her now in “Are you Happy?” she’s become able to dance much better and show her best sides as only she can. There’s no question Iikubo has high production value in her performance and looks, and while it’s sad to see her graduate, the fact she was able to stoically continue to improve herself will make her shine no matter where she goes (tear).
Explosive lyrics that kick “men” to the ground
And you can tell how “not for men” Morning Musume is by looking at their lyrics.
For example, I want you to listen closely to “Are you Happy?” You can hear in the background someone yelling something, and that something is “loneliness!!!!”
You’d want to ask, “Um, are you all right?” but there’s a distance towards men that speaks my feelings for me (without regard to men).
Even outside of that in Morning Musume’s “EDM Era,” there’s a part in “Help me!!” (their first song to go #1 in that era) I want you to read:
Please help me
Not even a tear will come out
of my frail self
(Ha) (Ha) (Ha)
I can’t speak my truth (x2)
A nightingale that can’t speak (romaji: ienaichingeeru; a combination of ‘ienai’ and ‘naichingeeru’)
“Ienaichingeeru” in itself an excellent play on words, but look at the end of the song:
A sparkling girl, I’ll take off
A dawdling boy, don’t regret that
I’ll nab the glory from a pinch (tight spot)
Tsunku said this song was based on “loneliness in a big city and the positivity that’s right next to that loneliness,” and “ienaichingeeru” can either be an expression of the stupidly optimistic positivity or the loneliness that ends up burning you into ashes, or it could be both. In any case, within that chaos it opens the door to “women,” and you can feel the explosiveness of the lyrics as if it’s kicking the “man’s” perspective to the ground.
“The woman inside of you, isn’t that the real you?”
After I binged Morning Musume’s old videos, I felt like it was necessary for me to use their shockwaves as my tailwind in my life. The essence of Morning Musume is in their explosiveness, I think. There’s an awesomeness in songs like “Summer Night Town,” “Love Machine,” “Help me!!,” and “Are you Happy?” that makes you question, “what’s the matter?” No matter the era, these girls are always deadly serious.
It felt like they asked me, “the ‘woman’ inside you, isn’t that the real you? Why don’t you live more confidently?” Having kept a lid on it throughout puberty, I’ve finally been able to release the “woman” in me and open up about my being gay. But this woman, I’ve ignored her again as I was lost in love. I always thought it was important to be chosen by someone.
But the “woman” inside of me helped me realize again through meeting Morning Musume ’18 that I’m not meant to be anyone’s, and I’m meant to live for myself. She’s definitely a part of me. When I was able to realize that, I became able to love myself and sobbed instantly. I was also able to see the trivialness in a broken heart. Come to think of it, that guy who dumped me, if you really think about it isn’t he a complete dud? Aren’t there much better men out there!? What the heck!? There has to be!?!?
Even though Morning Musume may have had some negative explosions and press with Yoshizawa’s drunk hit-and-run, I want Morning Musume to share in the happiness and courage I found in that same explosive vector that showed their deadly serious faces saying, “we’re serious, you know that…!?”
It’s unnecessary for me to be chosen by anyone, nor to be praised. Like Morning Musume ’18, I’m also going to keep yelling. “Loneliness!!!”
As I was scrolling through Twitter one day, Tsunku had retweeted this article. As a gay guy and as someone who had supported Morning Musume from 1999, I enjoyed the fact that we got an ethnographic record of how a large LGBT population (but in particular gay men) seem to gravitate towards Morning Musume/Hello! Project. Ever since then, I’ve had this article in the back of my mind to translate, and I was finally able to do so recently. It was great to see Tsunku share it and acknowledge the large LGBT community of fans, but it’s also equally amazing to see Bunshun Online publish something like this that unapologetically talks about gay love and feelings vis-a-vis Morning Musume/music.
Translating this was difficult in that the writing style was personal (which I tried to keep), but there’s a distinction between オトコ (otoko; ‘man, male’) and オンナ (onna; ‘woman, female’) that was hard to keep in the translation. At times it meant “masculinity/femininity,” while other times it alluded to a figurative “man/woman,” which the LGBT community sometimes tend to use to “compartmentalize” their individual characteristics and personalities. When talking about explosive lyrics that kick down the male perspective/gaze, it could mean both “men in general” and “the man inside of me (fighting my true self).”
The other issue I had was I didn’t want to use derogatory/offensive language—I could have easily thrown in some of those in the quoted speech (or more emphatic speech), but I wanted to keep it as clean as possible. The reason I translated おかまっぽい as “like a fruitcake/faggot” is because at the end of the day, おかま (IMO) is considered more derogatory the same way “faggot” is used.
I hope you enjoyed this piece as much as I enjoyed translating it. Please let me know if anything is unclear or you feel is incorrect, and I can clarify/rectify.