Erina Kamiya (Kamen Joshi)
Interview by David Cirone
April 8, 2018
Erina Kamiya is one of the key members of the outrageous hockey-mask wearing, chainsaw-toting idol group Kamen Joshi. On stage, she’s covered in post-apocalyptic neon, and in her popular gravure modeling shoots, barely covered at all. Having just launched her record-breaking YouTube channel, Kamiya talks about her journey to self-acceptance and her goal to reach fans with both her sexy and silly sides.
How long have you been a member of Kamen Joshi? How did you get your start?
Erina: It’s my sixth year now. I came to Tokyo hoping to become an idol and was looking for an audition. On YouTube, I saw an idol group performing and it captured my eyes and my heart. This was an idol group I auditioned for before I became involved in Kamen Joshi. I tried out for the group, and was really surprised that I got accepted! But since my parents didn’t approve, I had wait for another year until I become 20 years old so I could make my own decisions and move to Tokyo to start a new life.
How do you feel about Kamen Joshi’s visual style? Was it scary for you at first?
Erina: When I learned about the unique concept of this new idol group, Kamen Joshi, I immediately felt, “Yay! This is something I want to become!” And I felt so lucky they chose me to be part of it. I never really fit in as the typical “cute idol”, so hiding our faces and being promoted as a group, I thought that would be really cool. I kept thinking we should do this and get famous as an ensemble, not individually.
When did you start thinking, “I want to be an idol?”
Erina: I’ve always loved idols who were behaving like idols, but that wasn’t me. I wanted to be “kakkoii”(cool) more than “kawaii” (cute). When I was a student, I thought I would grow up to be the type of person who likes to work back stage as a staff member, not the one who stands in front of people. If someone said to me few years ago that I would end up as a performer in a group like Kamen Joshi, I would have probably said, “No way! What are you thinking? No- no- no! That won’t happen!” But that’s the real me — right now, today — the girl who loves being part of Kamen Joshi. And I feel more and more that I’m enjoying my life the way it’s meant to be.
How many shows a month do you usually perform? How do you balance a schedule of performing, rehearsing, modeling, and shooting videos?
Erina: I usually perform on Monday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Twice on weekdays and three times on weekends. I don’t do scheduling, that’s my manager’s job! (laughs) But the most important thing for me is to get lots of rest and focus on what I’m doing at the moment, not worrying about what’s coming later today or tomorrow.
What’s your favorite part of performing live at Kamen Joshi’s P.A.R.M.S. Theater concerts?
Erina: I’m not good at dancing. Singing… well, I think my level is so-so. (laughs) What I enjoy most is interacting with our fans in the audience. When we all join our energy together, the happy feeling is amazing! Form the stage, I get to see each and every smile!
Why do you think the Kamen Joshi fans keep coming back so regularly, sometimes two or three or more each week?
Erina: We’ve performed so many shows that I don’t know how many, I could never even try to count. But one thing that’s great for sure is every time it’s a different show! Different songs, different combinations, the MC is always spontaneous and new, and our fans get to talk to us during the show, so we don’t know how they’re going to respond, either. The more times you come to the show, the better we get to know each other!
Erina: Recently we made changes to our groups, and I’m a new member of Alice Juban, so I’m learning their songs from scratch. I belonged to Steam Girls for 5 years, and I was the eldest and the most experienced. Now in my new unit I have elder and much more experienced members than I am, so I’m happy to absorb their experience and grow. It’s a dramatic change. I used to feel that I was holding the flag as the leader and had to guide everyone, but now I can relax and think about my performance or have time to learn something new.
With so many shows a year, how do you keep the concerts fresh each time?
Erina: Again, every time it’s a different show. It’s a different formation, with different fans and a different vibe. We have events and celebrations about different things, because each member of Kamen Joshi is involved in different activities beside being an idol. We share our news about being a voice actor, actress, MMA fighter, and so on! It’s never dull. Our members play pranks on each other a lot, so there’s a lot of laughs. Speaking for myself, I never felt bored singing the same songs over and over because all of our Kamen Joshi songs are great. Every song pops out a different memory. And depending on my mood, my favorite song changes all the time, but there is a special song for me that will always always be important — it’s “Open my eyes” by Steam Girls. This was written when I had my eye problem. It’s a song of a girl overcoming the complex and trying to grab the future. In those days I had no confidence and really hated how I looked and how I was behaving to hide it. Even when I was selected as an idol, my mentality was very negative and not happy. I especially love the lyrics when the chorus sings:
“It’s not easy / Absolutely not
But SAY GOOD BYE to tears
I want to believe / I want to proceed
I want to go forward with my feelings”
Your eye problem led to you taking a break from performing for a special surgery. What changed for you after that?
Erina: It was a long journey for me to discover what was wrong with my eyes. Many doctors didn’t know what to do. Finally I found a doctor who could perform the surgery and surprisingly he was a doctor in Shizuoka, where I grew up. After the surgery, I felt like “Hello world! I can see you!” Before, I had narrow nearsightedness with heavy astigmatism and everything looked double. Then, after the surgery, everything was sparkling. The fans… I never even tried to see them before but now I could see their faces. In the past, I was pretending to enjoy things, but never felt we were really united. Because I could see better, I could feel things so much deeper, too. The first live performance was brilliant! Everyone’s normal was not my normal before… but when I was able to see what they were seeing, I said to myself “Was everybody seeing this view the whole time? It’s so wonderful!”
You’re also a popular gravure model. How do you get in the right state of mind to prepare for a photo shoot?
Erina: Hmmm… let me think. When I’m a model I get a lot of support from staff who are working on the project. They put blanket on me, make sure I’m not too hot or too cold. I try to be professional as I can so can follow the plan of the day’s production. It’s a different type of collaboration than working on our stage show. I try to deliver what they’re trying to create. So it’s just about concentrating and working hard, not turning a switch to put myself to a “model” mode.
If you look back at your first days of modeling, what’s the biggest difference in your style between now and then?
Erina: In the past, because of so many reasons, I didn’t have confidence so I was avoiding looking into the lens. I guess I was acting pretty weird in front of the camera, not knowing how to pose or move my hands or body. I studied modeling by checking out anything I could find with gravure models. I’d check out the angles to see how to make my butt look round. I checked SNS too — a lot! Once I found my favorite model and the search page started suggesting similar photos, so I looked at them for hours until someone told me to stop!
You felt a lot of pressure to lose weight in the past. Do you feel more confident about your body now?
Erina: Controlling my weight… Wow. “Control!” (laughs) I’m really bad when it comes to diet. I eat a lot and I don’t like leaving anything on my plate. That’s how we grow up here in Japan. Compared to when I was 19 years old, I like my body a lot more. Diet has more meaning than it used to. I do some training too. I train and stretch to keep my butt and stomach in shape. When I eat three times a day I start to lose weight, so it takes time to get used to, but I try to eat only three times when I need to lose weight. By the way, I love potatoes. I can survive just eating potatoes. I put a potato into the microwave oven, and after I hear the beep, I rush to open it and put some butter and soy sauce on the potato and eat! My dream is to make mashed potatoes to fill the bathtub and take a mashed potato bath. I’d be so happy I could die!
Erina Kamiya YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsjYrprh7HRgmE5k3IcQCnQ
Erina Kamiya Twitter: https://twitter.com/kamiya__erina
Erina Kamiya Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicekamiyaerina
Kamen Joshi HP (English): http://www.alice-project.biz/kamenjoshi/en
Kamen Joshi Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kamenjoshi
Kamen Joshi Twitter: https://twitter.com/J_Kawaii_Girls
Kamen Joshi Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kamenjoshi
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