Hirarii is fluent in English. Her AKB official profile claims she was born in Fukuoka, but according to Hirarii herself in a self introduction video she did she was born in Arizona where she lived for most of her life until recently moving back to Japan. (I have no idea why her official profile apparently lies to us and would hate to think that it’s because the staff of AKB don’t think she could be popular if she isn’t FROM Japan.) It’s clear that she’s spent most of her time speaking English, and at first she stumbled over her Japanese a bit and still struggles with kanji.
Hirarii’s parents were living in America for her father’s job, but it seems that they may have always planned on moving back to Japan. To keep Hirarii and her younger brothers up on their studies in Japanese they basically attended school year round. During summers she would spend 3 months in Japan, but not on a vacation. She would attend Japanese school during the American summer break and then return to America when the new term started. This is really interesting to me as I had two elementary school students show up to my very small town school doing basically the same thing last summer.
Her voice is several pitched higher when she speaks Japanese than when she speaks English, which is kind of adorable, although I suspect may be irritating to some people. It’s not any sort of act though, my voice does the same thing. I didn’t even realize that I had a higher “Japanese speaking voice” until some friends pointed it out to me (I also have a “talking to an answering machine voice”).
Akimoto has already made use of her skills having her speak to an English news reporter from CNN and translate for the girls as well as including her on the trip to Washington DC to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of the cherry blossom trees there. She had a lot of MC work and despite getting a bit tongue tied handled herself very well and impressed many of the fans there. Having an English speaker around could mean a bit more reaching out to the international market. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a 13 year old (and even a bit unrealistic to expect any 13 year old to be a perfectly confident and elegant public speaker), but if she stays with the group and grows and matures with it she could easily be an asset.
The other thing that strikes me about Hirarii is that she seems to have such a positive attitude. She is known for being super energetic at handshake events dressing up, waving at people, and dancing around when no one is in her line. When she wasn’t able to be part of the G+ senbatsu she took it in stride, congratulating the members who made it in and assuring everyone that she wasn’t going to stop posting her videos and how happy she was that she could connect with everyone through G+. When several of her fellow 12th generation members got promoted to Team 4 she was genuinely happy for them, praising their hard work. She explained that she wasn’t upset that she wasn’t promoted yet because she still had many weak points and needed more experience, but she vowed to keep working even harder so she could make more people happy. This is amazingly mature for a 13 year old and makes me want to support her even more.
Not only is she adorable and bilingual; she is also a talented girl in singing and dancing. She has practiced ballet since she was three years old and has a very nice voice. And every video I see of her performances makes me smile. She’s been filling in all over the place with the different stages but they are apparently comfortable enough with her talent to have given her a solo and made her part of a small unit song. Hiarii has mentioned that she wants to make everyone smile and I’m certainly one person with whom she has already succeeded.
I’m really hoping that Hirarii ranks in the upcoming election. I have no idea how likely it is with over 200 girls competing for 60 spots. Her election video is currently the third most watched of the AKB research students with over 14,000 views. That’s more than most members of Team E, Team M, or Team H. So that’s something, although I have no idea what kind of an indicator the view counts really are.
I’d love to see her get promoted to one of the main teams (and there are technically 2 open spots, currently being held by “temporary members” from SKE and NMB for some silly reason). I suppose I could be happy if she ended up on the inevitable Team 8, I just feel that she would get more exposure mixed in with the more well known girls. I’m biased because I still think that the very idea of a Team 4 and a Team 8 is really silly, so I want her in the “real” AKB48. (This is not a put down to any Team 4 members. They are just as legitimate members of the group as those of the other teams and I do understand why the team was formed from an administrative point of view. I just think it’s silly.)
|AKB's current face and AKB's future face?|
I can dream...
While it seems like many of my oshimen could graduate in the next few years, I’m hoping that Hirarii has a long and exciting future ahead of her with the group. Here's a self introduction video from Hirarii unfortunatly without any translation, but if you understand some Japanese you can follow most of it. If not you can just admire how adorable she is.