A Special Guest from Japan
On the breezy morning of 27 December 2018, JAC welcomed Riona Hamamatsu into NTU for a short interview and campus tour. A former member of AKB48 Team 8 who had graduated from the group last year, Riona is now a solo artist, rising up the ranks in the Japanese music industry.
We brought Riona around the North and South Spine area to which she commented: “NTU is really huge, beautiful and have interesting vending machines such as the one that produce fresh sandwiches. Sophia campus (her university in Japan) do not have such vending machines.” (She tried the sandwich after the interview and mentioned that the taste was real delicious!)
With it being her first time in Singapore, Riona is excited about exploring places such as Marina Bay Sands, Little India and the Peranakan Museum. When asked on the local delicacies that she would like to try, she responded with excitement: “My friend recommended me to try the chilli crab and Hainanese chicken rice. Although I had chicken rice in Japan, but I would really like to try the authentic version in Singapore too.”
Thoughts on Going Solo
Riona graduated from AKB48 Team 8 on 2 July 2017 and released her first solo single “Never Give Up!!” in August 2018. When asked how she feels about going solo as compared to being in AKB48 team 8, Riona pondered thoughtfully before answering; according to her, when she was still in a group, the sharing of workload made it easier as members could help each other out. For example, during AKB48 event, if any member couldn’t answer the questions posed by the host on stage, the other members stepped in to help the one in need.
However, after graduating from AKB48 and going solo, she needs to bear the responsibility and burden of everything by herself, which she feels is the most difficult part about being solo. Especially when she needs to learn dance choreographies all by herself and come up with her own speech when facing the audience on stage. Despite the difficulties faced, Riona do not regret her decision to go independent: “The good part about being solo is that I could do what I really wanted, which was not possible when in a group.”
Riona also hopes that the listeners of her first single album could relate to the main message behind the song, which is to never give up on what they really wanted because everything is possible if you keep on trying.
A Fluent English Speaker
Although Riona is an idol from Japan, conversing in English is child’s play to her as she used to stay in Los Angeles till she was 11 years old. “I am more comfortable speaking and writing in English as compared to in Japanese.”, said Riona who studied English as her major at Sophia University, “Although most of my classes were conducted in English, there were still some modules conducted in Japanese, and therefore I was not spared from writing in Japanese completely. To me, writing in English is definitely easier than in Japanese.”
When Riona first returned to Japan from LA, one of the biggest problems she faced in adapting to Japan would be to learn her native language from scratch. Although she could understand what others were saying, reading and writing in Japanese is not easy for her even till to date. Riona recalled that when she was in fifth grade, she was the only student in class that was still struggling with hiragana, katakana and kanji. However, with guidance from a special teacher assigned to her, Riona managed to learn fast and quickly re-adjusted into the surroundings. “I am really appreciative to my teacher for helping me. Learning a new language will always be difficult, but I believe the best way to master a language will be to live in that environment.”
Plans for the New Year
With the new year approaching in a few days’ time, Riona shared with us on her upcoming plans for 2019, which include writing the lyrics for her new song and venturing into the acting scene. Her passion in the acting field has grown greatly after performing for musicals for the past two years, and she sincerely hopes that she could learn more about the techniques in acting through attending classes, as well as taking up some acting roles in the new year.