On July 23, 2010, Maki appeared on a TV show called Nakai Masahiro no Kinyoubi no Suma Tachi E. They created a roughly 1.5 hour special documenting Maki's entire life and brought her on for small commentary and a performance. They continually titled the show as 24-year old Maki's "Confession."
Maki enters the show and exchanges pleasantries with everyone. Isn't she freakishly pretty? From here on out, they sit and watch a pre-filmed interview of Maki mixed in with re-enactments of her childhood (with actors), clips from old Morning Musume shows, and stills of family photos.
Here are some old family photos:
According to Maki, her parents married while they were still in their teens. They were a huge family: father, mother, 2 elder sisters, Maki, her little piss-ass brother Yuuki, and their grandmother. They were not very well off and, as Maki said, it was inevitable to fight when a big family all lived together in this little staged home. Apparently, the parents had a "fiesty" relationship, but everyone has a good laugh at the warm vision of, you know, domestic abuse, all to the background tune of Love Machine.
Maki was the one sent out to get the neighbors to break up the family fights. She laughs at the memory of always fixing the damn table that the dad overthrew and said all in all, they were a very happy family. This whole sequence gave me a creepy flash back to Yossi's old Hello Morning sketch...In retrospect, I wonder if such a "comedy" might explain why Maki barely fucking laughed on HM. Anyhow, when she was in the 3rd year of elementary school, her parents decide to open an Izakaya/bar. They attribute its success to her mother, who was really charming and lively. All of the customers loved her mom.
2 years after they opened the Izakaya, Maki is now in 5th grade and.....
On 10/28/1996: Her father, a friend, and Yuuki decide to go mountain climbing. It was her father's hobby. When the two lost sight of him, it was Yuuki who said, "Hey, just a moment ago, didn't you hear a big thump?" They find his security rope attached to nothing. Being assholes, the producers of the show re-enact the scene by showing a little boy crying for his father, peering over the ledge of a mountain.
At that time, Maki was at a friends and got a phone call that the dad was missing or lost. Her sisters were confident - how can anyone as strong at that dad get lost? Here are shots from the actual news coverage at the time. Despite this big rescue effort....
Maki said she came home from school a few days later, only to see her family members gathered around her father's dead body. Her response, was "It is alright. I understand" and she runs to her room and just, zones out. She explains what a strange feeling it was - that sense that someone was always missing at the dinner table. The narrator of the re-enactment suggests that her brother was traumatized by the experience of witnessing his father fall and subsequently die. (sn: her brother is notorious for being a criminal)
All children then work to help Mom out. Maki explains how much she worried. She couldn't get a part-time job, so the most she could do was try to help her mom out at the bar as much as possible (wiping down tables, etc).
Then, Maki becomes 13 years old and she sees a call for a Morning Musume audition. It wasn't so much that she wanted to be in Morning Musume perse. She didn't even know their names. Rather, she was intrigued by Asayan and the possibility of the whole TV stardom. And, of course, we all know what happens....
Immediately after the winner is announced, the TV camera's follow her back home. Her mom is still cleaning up at the Izakaya and her reaction is priceless.
Maki notes that this is her greatest memory, here at the Izakaya, and she was surprised that her mom cried with joy.
Here is Maki today, standing by the old shop. She notes that after she became famous, fans swarmed in and made long long lines wrapping down the street. Her mother set up small tables in the street for them, sharing snacks and drinks.
Yet, the very next day work started. First, was the photoshoot for the upcoming single: Love Machine. Then, they told her that she needed to go on a national tour (and learn all the songs, dances, routines)... in 2 weeks.
September 1999: Love Machine hits with Maki as the new star. Morning Musume sells over a million singles. In quick succession came, Koi no Dance Site, Happy Summer Wedding, I Wish, Renai Revolution 21, The Peace. Also, she was a big draw for Pucchimoni's big hit. She makes appearances on TV shows like Utaban and the show clearly emphasizes how much a Maki-led Morning Musume helped Utaban become a hit.
She is...not a typical idol, but this is part of her appeal.
2 years after she debuted, (so when she's 15), she bought an unbelievable, 3-story HUGE house for the entire family to live in - including her sister's extended families. She wanted her whole family to stay together and be happy. The narrator says, yes, this is an unbelievable Cinderella Story.
Here is an exterior shot of the house. What did YOU do when you were 15 folks?
Although it seems like Maki can rejoice in finding a dream house for her family, things aren't so simple. First of all, she starts to be bullied at school. It seems that becoming a national idol doesn't make her classmates exactly warm up to her. Some of her "friends" would begin to sell their private photographs to the tabloids. Maki was shocked at this degree of deception.
I remember when Maki officially dropped out of school to pursue entertainment full time. I also remember feeling really disappointed in her "shallow" decision. Again, the more you know... At least her family was a nice refuge from all of this.
At this time, Yuuki (her brother) was scouted while attending one of his sister's events and he too joined the entertainment world as the rapper half of EE Jump. Her mother was delighted.
EE Jump was marginally successful, but apparently Yuuki was a major screw up who was constantly causing trouble at the entertainment office. Maki would overhear people gossiping about her brother and she'd be incredibly troubled - she thought to talk to him but worried that they'd just get into a fight. Right when Souda! We Are Alive came out, Yuuki is caught underage at a strip club and after lovely media sensationalism, he is banned forever from the entertainment world.
Not included in this documentary: that Yuuki's problems probably contributed to Sonim's decline as well into soft-core porny photoshoots. Poor Sonim. She was great....
On Sept 23, 2002, Maki graduates from Morning Musume on her 17th birthday. This was another big transitional moment for her.
Maki is now a solo star and Yuuki, now just a regular person, gets married while still a teenager. I also remember when this happened because tabloids were saying his new wife was 1) already pregnant and 2) like a stripper or porn star. Maki mentions neither of those things, but simply says that the wedding was a wonderful but sad event. Both Maki and her mother cried a lot at the wedding - a mix of happy and sad tears. Her mother always kept a gift that Yuuki gave to her on the day of the wedding: a teddy bear with his birthday on one foot and the wedding date on the other. Soon, her brother had 2 kids and the big family in the 3 story house got even bigger.
Things are not so simple though. Her grandmother (mom's mom) has passed away and Maki's mother discovers that she's developed terrible liver problems after years of drinking with customers. Although her doctor insists that she stop drinking immediately, Maki's mom feels she has no choice but to accommodate the customers. Every day, she is in terrible pain.
All of this is exacerbated when Yuuki is arrested for theft in 2007. He and a few friends schemed and stole 1 million yen worth of electric cable from a Tokyo construction site (to resell on the black market). Remember when that happened? Everyone was marvelous at what a Yakuza type he grew up to be, with his dyed hair and tattoos. They pleaded with the judge, pointing out how young Yuuki still was and that his young wife was pregnant with his 3rd child. Mass media frenzy entails and 21 year old Yuuki is put away for just over 5 years.
In her interview, Maki reflects and says that Yuuki probably joined the entertainment world because he felt quite a bit jealous of her. Even though she was just a bit older than him, it was Maki who got all the attention. Even among his friends, they were constantly talking and asking about only Maki. Although she doesn't say it directly, it seems clear to me that Maki blames herself for how her brother turned out. As he was always trying to get some attention, he ended up getting in over his head and ruining his career. When the conversation turns to her brother's arrest, Maki tears up: she wonders how no one saw the issues Yuuki had before they developed into something like this. She says, "As his older sister, if only I had been more attentive...."
She sees her brother in jail.... She then announces that she is leaving Hello Project. She breaks down in tears at her concert.
I remember this period. Everyone was mostly annoyed with Maki's uneven solo career and talking about how very very thin she became at this time. I suppose massive stress and family unhappiness makes for poor diet choices.
Maki explains that continuing as an entertainer was just too much. Maki worried also that being such a flashy star would reflect badly on the family given the conditions. She worried every single day what to do and her mother begged her to continue singing. The biggest problem was, her mother blamed herself for Yuuki's problems ("I was too soft on him") and became an alcoholic, despite her weak body. Her mother basically said, "I want to see you on stage one more time before I die." Yuuki gets word of Maki's retirement and sends her a letter from jail, apologizing and blaming himself for her career decision. Maki, meanwhile, feels like shit.
The documentary shows how proud Maki's mother was: her bedroom was full of various trophies that Maki won, her cds, etc.
They break once in a while to chat and Maki marvels at how quickly time just flew past her (she never had one vacation since the day of her debut, really). Nakai mentions that Maki's father would never know how his daughter became famous. (You know, cause he's DEAD. Fuck you Nakai.) Here though, Maki lightens up and explains how her parents both loved to sing and dance. Maki's mother was the one who actually hit on her dad first! As the dad was biking by, she yelled out after him and basically asked for a ride somewhere. Then, her bad-ass dad decides to take her out. The audience of women is duly impressed.
The camera loves to linger on Maki crying silently. Sensationalized family tragedy and beautiful crying girls makes for good TV ratings I guess.
This segment basically closes with Maki deciding to stay in the entertainment world and push forward. It is her sick mother's wish and her screw-up brother has since apologized.
In Feb 2008, Maki is on her hiatus from the entertainment world. She decides to go to Los Angeles to train and rethink her career.
Upon returning to Japan, she is signed with Avex. Interestingly, the president of Avex Max Matsuura is interviewed and we hear some douchebaggery backhanded compliments from him. He notes that Maki's life was really full of up and downs... things that would be impossible for others to understand. However, those things made Maki the person she is today. Now, after Morning Musume she did go solo, but, (and he himself notes this is a shitty ass thing to say) she didn't stand out. Still, when speaking with her, Maxhole realizes that she's got something still left to say and hence, he brought her on board.
By January 2010, it is decided that Maki will have a new single out by Spring. Maki's mom is really excited and hopes for a ballad (so that she can sing along!). On January 22, 2010, Maki leaves home to start recording. Her manager comes to pick her up and he reminisces about the conversation he had with Maki's mom.
Maki's mom was so excited. She thought that Maki would be so shy about it that she might not even give her mom a copy! The manager promises her then that she'd be the first to get a cd, hot off the press. In the re-enactment, fake-Mom seems to jovially note that she hasn't got much longer to live and that she could hardly wait for the spring.
Maki goes to the study, and sings her heart out.
The very next day, Jan 23, 2010, Maki had the day off. She slept until it was evening and found herself home alone on her rare day off. In a few hours she hears her mother stumble through the front door drunk and feeling worried, Maki begins to look for her mom (remember, HUGE house). Eventually she finds her sitting in Yuuki's old bedroom on the 3rd floor. Here is a shot of the re-enactment so you can get a sense of how easy it would be to fall out.
Maki turns away for one moment to answer a phone call. Then, she hears a crash. Her mother has fallen out of the window.
Maki's manager explains that he was still at the office when he got Maki's call. He thought it was really unusual for her to call so late, especially on her day off. And when he picked up the phone, she was crying and yelling so much that he couldn't understand a word that she said. It seems a friend came over to the house soon, though. He reflects that he had just seen Maki's mom one day before.
Although the ambulance had come, Maki was the only witness and she had to speak with the police. She prayed to her father, "You might be happy to have mom come, but please don't take her away" over and over.
When Maki finally got to the hospital, she saw her two older sisters walking before her and crying so hard. And seeing them, at that moment Maki again realized "Ahh." She later learned that her mother had died only 10 minutes before. In her interview, Maki said she wished it was all a lie - "why did this happen? I want to die too then. Take me with you."
At the funeral, the mass media swarmed like little bugs taking hundreds of pictures of Maki. Without saying a word or crying, she just bowed. About 500 guests came, including former members of Morning Musume. Nakazawa gave a heartfelt statement to an interviewer, trying to tell Maki that they were all there for her.
Yuuki, who still has about 3 more years of his sentence left, wrote home. He asked them not to re-arrange their mom's things until he came home. So, their mom's room has not been touched since then.
At this point, fake-Maki is shown playing a copy of Hanauta (her ballad) besides her mother's body. This may have really happened, but it was so inappropriate seriously. Maki dedicated this song to her mother and said that she will always sing for her.
On June 3, 2010 Maki has her first mini-live. It seemed pretty hard for her -- there was an empty seat in the audience for her mother and Maki begins to cry at some point. You know, at this point it hasn't even really been much longer than 4 months since her mom died. I can't even imagine. A few of my friends have had their parents pass away early (cancer, car accident) when we were in our early 20s too and it is a really slow process of recovery. It must have been really tough for Maki to go through this as a public figure and also someone who was so close to her only parent. It seems a little melodramatic to be called an "orphan" at age 24, but would any of us think that we'd lose BOTH our parents at that age?
However, on this day her sister called to say that their cat had kittens! It was much earlier than expected.
Her sister said, maybe this is a sign from our mom. Though she couldn't physically be at the concert, she sent these kittens to us as a message.
Want to see more pictures of Maki sitting and crying? The producers of this show sure do.
Now that it has been roughly half a year since her mom has died, Maki says she wants to go forward and create a life where she thinks "Ah, I'm glad I joined the entertainment world." Maki sings Hanauta in this beatific lighting. What? Did you forget that she has an album to promote? Let's not be cynical though. This is the song that she has dedicated to her mother.
Now, here is the weird part of the show. I guess because it was so oppressively sad and because Japanese people cannot deal with that (especially on a variety show), they throw in a goofy comedy segment. No joke. It was so jarring but I couldn't be annoyed...
Isn't she adorable? She is Ginza-Mama and a palm reader.
She reads Maki's palm and predicts a future with lots of money! But she also says flatly that Maki will get totally divorced and she smacks her in the head.
This is Maki's reaction:
Now, Maki is also perplexed because she has no idea what this cute little grandma is saying. Thus, I don't feel so bad at my poor Japanese because I could not also really figure out what she was saying. However, I did get that she basically said Maki is NOT THE WIFE TYPE. Maki seems like someone who wants a passionate love and the chase -- hence, she's more a type that seeks out and will be a lover. Maki said that once she began working, this was a comment she frequently heard from the adults around her! When she was younger, she was really startled and confused (because what 13 year old really wants to hear that she's a "lover" type) but now it all makes sense.
However, there IS someone who really likes her right now and will truly take care of her. Maki said that up until now, she relied on her mom the most. Thus, when her mom died Maki had a really big hole inside of her. Then Ginza-Mama begins to cry -- but briefly. She assures Maki that she'll have a great future.
Now go buy her CD.
And call your mom.