With a total of 15 years of accumulated experience, Momoiro Clover Z believes that live performances have always been their band’s core.
Amidst the successes and challenges of the past 15 years, four-member Japanese idol girl group Momoiro Clover Z, often abbreviated as MCZ or Momoclo, is all set to open a new chapter of their long-term career, teasing with hints of what lies ahead in their promising future. With the quartet’s latest single, Kanako Momota, Shiori Tamai, Ayaka Sasaki, and Reni Takagi continue to represent their solidified theme of “bringing Momoclo-style entertainment, proudly made in Japan, to the world.”
MONONOFU NIPPON is one of the musical projects Momoiro Clover Z has released this year to commemorate its 15th anniversary, and it’s a collaboration single with the celebrated guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei. This marks his first work with the band in 11 years, having previously collaborated on Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi Yo in 2012.
Aside from singles and a live compilation album that were released within a year, Momoiro Clover Z also wrapped up their commemorative tour in October, which covered songs from their 15-year discography. The tour, which kicked off in July and spanned four months, featured twelve sold-out gigs as well as appearances at summer festivals. In addition, a mysterious teaser flashed at the end of the band’s finale show, heralding the beginning of a new chapter: the recording of their seventh album in the upcoming year, leaving their fans, Mononofu, with a wave of anticipation.
Following the release of MONONOFU NIPPON and their successfully concluded tour, we had the opportunity to speak with Momoiro Clover Z on their momentous 15-year career, working on their commemorative single, how each of their live performances feels special, and more. Read on below for what they had to say.
First of all, congratulations on your latest album and single! Before we start, please introduce Momoiro Clover Z to the readers and tell us more about yourselves. For those who haven’t heard of MCZ yet, in what way would you introduce this J-Pop idol group?
Kanako Momota: Each member of Momoiro Clover Z has distinctive colors, and we sing songs of various genres! Although we’re often described as unique, we’re a group with diverse personalities and are an entertaining group to see!
Shiori Tamai: We are a four-member girl group, and this year marks our 15th anniversary since formation. Each member has their image color, making it easy for anyone to remember us. Our goal is to bring smiles to as many people as possible. The sense of unity with the audience during our live performances is something we’d love for everyone to experience at least once!
Ayaka Sasaki: We are a group that values our individuality rather than a normal idol group you’d think of. Our charm lies in the sense of unity we share with our fans during live performances! This year, we celebrated our 15th anniversary since formation!
Reni Takagi: We are often described as loud, vibrant, and full of energy!
Could you please walk us through your preparations for your recent collaboration single MONONOFU NIPPON feat. Tomoyasu Hotei, and what was it like to release a compilation album in the same month?
Kanako Momota: We wanted to produce a song anyone, not only Japanese fans but international fans, can enjoy and we asked Tomoyasu Hotei. It’s such a cool song. We are happy to release a live album because it can deliver the essence of the live performances as it is.
Shiori Tamai: For our 15th-anniversary release, we had discussions with the composer Hyadain (Kenichi Maeyamada) and all the members to decide on the concept for the song, starting from scratch. The live album includes audio from our 15th-anniversary live performance held in May. It also features chants from Mononofu, offering a more immersive live experience for everyone to enjoy.
Ayaka Sasaki: In this important 15th-anniversary year, we wanted to collaborate once again with those who have supported us in the past to create a song for this occasion. We reached out to Tomoyasu Hotei. It’s an honor to think that after he composed Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi yo for us, a decade has passed, and we were able to create a new song together.
Although I couldn’t be present at the recording session, the song gained a significant power boost with his guitar, and it reminded me again of the greatness of Japan’s leading guitarist.
Reni Takagi: We decided on the concept of MONONOFU NIPPON while discussing with Hyadain, with whom we’ve been collaborating since our debut. During those discussions, we thought it would be great to have Tomoyasu Hotei, who had helped us precisely ten years ago. We were genuinely delighted when he accepted!
As for the live album, this performance marks the first time in three years after the pandemic that we’ve had chants and sing-alongs from the audience. It includes the voices of our fans. So, for me, it’s a feeling of gaining another precious treasure.
The dance choreography for the song was crafted by Power Puff Boys. What was it like working with them, and when you first received the draft, what was your initial reaction to the choreography? Also, did it take a lot of time for you to master it?
Kanako Momota: It was pretty challenging at the beginning, and we struggled with singing while dancing, but it’s very gratifying to see that our fans are also enjoying it and getting excited!
Shiori Tamai: We were happy to collaborate with the comical, energetic, and catchy dance moves of the Powerpuff Boys. We felt a strong affinity with them, and it was a perfect fit for our song MONONOFU NIPPON, with its Japanese elements, samurai-like movements, and choreography that everyone can follow. However, the choreography is quite intense, so it was a bit of a challenge to sing and dance simultaneously at first [laughs].
Ayaka Sasaki: The lessons with the Power Puff Boys were entertaining and lighthearted! We had a great time chatting during break times, and the atmosphere was very relaxed. However, the choreography was challenging and hard to memorize, and we struggled. But from the moment they started teaching us the choreography, I could imagine the excitement it would bring to the live performance. We were eager to work hard to perform it for our fans.
Reni Takagi: The Power Puff Boys brought their unique style, and there were many memorable choreographic elements. My favorite was the part where we made a peach mark with our hands and shouted together, “Nippon Popopon…”
The narrative of the music video follows a quartet of skilled female warriors proficient in the art of “Bu” — martial arts. Do you have any memorable behind-the-scenes stories from the shooting of the music video that you could share with us? How was your experience filming it and working with the directors and other staff members?
Kanako Momota: The shoot took place on a sweltering day! The shaved ice we had during breaks was incredibly delicious! Although the shoot itself was pretty long, we enjoyed it by encouraging each other along the way!
Shiori Tamai: Through the music video, we hoped to reach people around the world with this song, so we went all out to showcase Japan’s uniqueness. This time, we also incorporated choreographed combat scenes in the MV, which required a lot of practice. The shoot took place during the height of summer, so it was a battle against the heat.
One iconic aspect is the dance scene with numerous dancers in the war-torn setting of Shibuya. This song carries the intention of bringing energy to Japan and the world, and the MV is filled with high-energy scenes. We are delighted with how the MV turned out, and it looks very cool!
Ayaka Sasaki: The shoot was incredibly grand in scale, so it was challenging, but it was also a lot of fun. Each of us tried out slightly distinctive makeup styles, and we decided on them as we discussed with the makeup artists, so we hope that aspect will entertain you as well as the rest of the video.
Reni Takagi: I had so much fun shooting the video! I was incredibly excited about the scene at Shibuya Scramble Crossing. During the break, I chatted with the child actors and the Gyaru (gal) mom who appeared in the final scene!
Momoiro Clover Z is known for its powerful performances, incorporating elements of different dance genres like ballet, action movies, and gymnastics. What’s your favorite thing about performing? How do you prepare yourselves on stage?
Kanako Momota: It’s really fun to express various things. I work on self-care when getting on stage.
Shiori Tamai: It’s hard because there are many powerful movements, but I really enjoy it when I sweat a lot and perform on stage. Additionally, I love those moments when I make eye contact with the other members on stage during the performance. Being in a group and having fellow performers on stage with the same level of passion is truly reassuring.
In preparation before going on stage, I do stretches and vocal warm-ups, and we gather in a circle with the staff members to boost our spirits just before the performance.
Ayaka Sasaki: I have been learning to dance since childhood, and I love dancing. During live performances, I don’t think too much about the details and just enjoy myself as it goes!
Reni Takagi: Live performances are essential for me because they are a place to interact with Mononofu.
Your collaboration single with Tomoyasu Hotei was released 11 years ago. What was it that made you decide and think that he is the perfect artist to work with again after a decade and feature in your new song?
Kanako Momota: We had the desire to convey a unique Japanese worldview to people all around the world, so we thought it would be great to work with him, the international guitarist.
Shiori Tamai: About ten years ago, we had the opportunity to work with him, and due to that connection, we wanted to collaborate with him again in this 15th anniversary year. We also wished for this song to reach not only Japan but the world, and that’s why we sought the assistance of Mr. Hotei, who is a world-renowned guitarist representing Japan.
Ayaka Sasaki: We wanted to create a new song in collaboration with those who have supported us in the past as a way of expressing the special significance of our 15th anniversary and our deep gratitude.
Reni Takagi: In the past, he’s written a song, Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachi Yo, which was really cool, and it became a popular and crowd-pleasing staple in our live performances. So, we thought it would be great if he could work with us again this time.
Tell us more about the concept and the message you would like to convey with “MONONOFU NIPPON.” Is there any inspiration or story behind the song lyrics?
Kanako Momota: The concept of the song is to brighten the world with smiles. We’ve also incorporated the quintessential essence of Japanese idols.
Shiori Tamai: We’ve portrayed the four of us as female warriors, and the song has an energetic and uplifting feel as we’re leading Japan and the world. Moreover, it carries the strength that only we, who have been active for 15 years, can convey, along with messages like “J-pop is still going strong, and we won’t back down.”
Ayaka Sasaki: Since our formation, we have been inspired by the theme of Japanese “Wa (harmony),” this time, we are revisiting our origins with a focus on Japan. The song is cheerful and playful and has a bit of silliness to it, intended to make everyone unconditionally brighter, but it also carries a well-thought-out message beneath the surface.
Reni Takagi: We are female warriors bearing Japan on our shoulders. It’s filled with strength and a lot of Japanese essence. The concept behind it is to make Japan even brighter and to reach everyone around the world.
You recently commemorated your 15th anniversary — congratulations! How was your experience being part of the Japanese group Momoiro Clover Z so far? What do you think are the highlights of your career?
Kanako Momota: We’ve had so many unforgettable experiences that are irreplaceable. Collaborating with KISS and being entrusted with the opening act for Lady Gaga’s concert are among the best memories I will always cherish.
Shiori Tamai: Thank you! We’ve had so many incredible experiences that even we find hard to believe, and all of our past activities are treasures. Every live performance feels like a highlight for us, but performing at the National Stadium was a dream-like moment.
Ayaka Sasaki: Various memories come to mind when looking back on 15 years, but the live performances at the National Stadium, Tokyo Dome, and the street performances from our early days are particularly vivid. I believe the core of Momoiro Clover Z has always been live performances.
Reni Takagi: These 15 years are irreplaceable. I’ve gained a one-of-a-kind strength, even on an emotional level. Performances at events like the Kohaku Uta Gassen (NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve television program) and the live show at the National Stadium remain truly impressive to me.
With all your experiences so far, what are your biggest takeaways and realizations on both your career as an idol and yourself as a person?
Kanako Momota: All the experiences turn into strength.
Shiori Tamai: These past 15 years as Momoclo have enabled me to grow as an individual in many ways. Through this endeavor, I’ve also realized that dreams can come true.
Ayaka Sasaki: I’ve learned the joy of taking on challenges together. It’s because we’re not alone that even when we face failures, we can encourage each other, and I believe that’s how we’ve come this far.
Reni Takagi: We are all the same creatures on Earth.
Have you heard of the Philippines? Is there anything in the country you’d like to do or places you’d like to visit if given the chance?
Kanako Momota: A friend of mine recently went to study in the Philippines! They said they met a lot of fun people, so I’d love to visit someday.
Shiori Tamai: I think the Philippines has many beautiful resorts. I love nature and the sea, so I’d like to visit the islands of the Philippines someday.
Ayaka Sasaki: I’ve been to Cebu Island for a trip! Jollibee was so good. I loved it!
Reni Takagi: When I was in elementary school, I had many friends with Filipino culture! I also like warm places, so I’d like to visit the Philippines!
Finally, what is your message to your fans, particularly your supporters in the Philippines!
Kanako Momota: Thank you for your constant support! It’s impossible to have had the opportunity to gain many experiences and reach our 15th anniversary without all of your support. I hope our songs stay close to you guys even in the future! And we hope our music will be received by many fans in the Philippines as well!
Shiori Tamai: Thank you for your ongoing support! We will continue to do our best to bring smiles and energy to all of you. We hope to perform live in the Philippines someday! We look forward to meeting you all!
Ayaka Sasaki: We have yet to have the chance to perform live in the Philippines, so we hope to carry on our best and perform in various countries. We look forward to meeting every fan in the Philippines!
Reni Takagi: Thank you, everyone, as always! And for those meeting us for the first time, I hope this interview is an opportunity for you to get to know us! We hope to connect with all of you through the content of music, transcending language and borders. We will also do our best so you can enjoy Momoiro Clover Z even from now on!