泉里香

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HDR, Sakura along Arima River, Arima Onsen (有馬温泉), Japan

Noblesse & Flowers : Story of Sugai Yuuka (菅井友香)

Humility, kindness, bond is the motto of Keyakizaka46. Among the members, there’s one who embodies the tripartite to perfection; from Tokyo prefecture, she is Sugai “sama” Yuuka, 21 years old. Thanks to such particular character, she made her way to Keyakizaka’s most popular tier. But is it all for TV fanciness that fans picture her as an Aristocrat, or is she genuinely the lady that everyone yearn for? 

“Yuuka means friendly fragrance. A scent that put you at ease.”

Yuuka established “highborn lady” character was the fastest to identify. In Keyakitte, Kakenai (Keyakizaka regular show) it was revealed she had a huge villa as home where she could even train horsemanship in private property. Extra information showed that she usually spend her vacation in Karuizawa, one of the upscale mountain resort of Japan. Her aristocrat flavor was set in stone when she said she adress her parents as “Oka sama” and “Oto sama”, even though the average child would say “oka-san” only.

Being noble is not all about assets, it is also about manner. Her calm, poised stance during TV show and very polite speech tells a lot of her high family background. One could worry all this wealth would lead to a spoiled lifestyle, however Yuuka efficiently turned her acquired assertiveness into strength for Keyakizaka to use : she naturally became the member in charge for the group MC (talk session) in front of audience and TV show, to the point fans would call her the unofficial captain of Keyakizaka46.

“Yuuka crying during Keyakizaka one man’s performance in Ariake ”

Nonetheless, like any other girl of her age, Yuuka lack self confidence; she used to withdraw back to her shell, thus explaining this shy side of her. A sensitivity that she has trouble finding balance with. In an interview done near the time she got in, she confessed being sure of her loss because all other participant around her were cute. This lack of confidence also explain her natural humility toward all the praise given to her; perhaps she thinks she doesn’t deserve this comfortable environment she was raised in?

To live such a privileged existence might have put pressure on Yuuka, unconsciously. Like such high standard necessarily ask for high expectation, something Yuuka voluntarily put on herself throughout the years. As she is well aware, she also has this slight ponkotsu (airhead) character that triggered this uncertainty in fulfilling the role of a reliable daughter of her parents.

Something more theorical, would be the uncertainty of other’s acceptance. Her highborn status ultimately makes her different, especially compared to others kid of her age with more standard background (it doesn’t apply to her college environment, but more the idol side of her). Loneliness could be a risk. That is why she deny each time she is called “ 本物金持ち” (true rich) because she wants to be treated like a normal idol among the other girls. She doesn’t reject her noble legacy, she just want to be treated fairly.

Probably it was everything mixed together that became Yuuka’s weakness. But despite all the hardship built ahead of her, she decided to confront it, and became an idol.

“From now on, i won’t run away. Never.”

Why would a fine lady like her, who has everything, challenge her way through the idol path and college at the same time, where others choose one way over another? Why someone as shy as Yuuka would face this cruel, highly competitive world that is the idol entertainment? Because she chose to break of her shell. Instead of going with the flow, she decided to become the flow. It takes courage to admit our flaws and even more courage to make a change.

Her decision might remind you of a former AKB member, Matsui Sakiko ( despite being a talented pianist, she also wanted to be an idol). Actually, Yuuka has the maturity to make such decision and take responsibility. She was perfectly aware of the overwhelming toughness to bind two side of her that are supposed to be full time. Idol is someone we admire. And people admire those who face difficulties with a brave heart. This is an idol best definition, and Yuuka meet this requirement perfectly. We must not confound kindness with weakness.

Because Yuuka is extremely kind. She is the second oldest member of the group and naturally built a reliable persona so younger member would rely on her. In a rookie group like Keyakizaka, it was mandatory to have someone lead the path for others. The warmth toward her fellow comrades greatly helped her to grow as a person, and the loneliness she was so afraid of became a blossoming bond between girls with the same dream. This positive energy generated from this wish to “protect Keyakizaka” brought Yuuka to overwhelm her insecure nature.

“Amateur drawing of Horserider Yuuka. Credit to  @_pm955 “

Yuuka is not Noble by title only. She’s noble of heart above anything else. Behind her calm and elegant figure lies someone passionnate, who lives her life to the fullest. She didn’t let her background define her; it was her choices that made her who she is.

Yuuka purity is an exception in the consumer society we’re living in. People run after money, assets, social status. Anything that would improve their wealth, they would take it. Yuuka made it backwards and chose the painful road to reach what truly matters to her : The warmth of friendship, the expression of gratitude to those who support her, and the resolve to do what she believes in. In other words, humility, kindness, and bond.

Her story should inspire all of us : We must show gratitude to those who loves us, and the best way to pay back is to work hard in our duty. Idols is not about running away from reality, it is about cheering up and facing our responsibilities with a positive mindset.

“Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.”  

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