Ms. Sayuri Inoue from Nogizaka 46
Ms. Sayuri Inoue
One of the founding members of the idol group Nogizaka46; born on December 14, 1994; sun sign: Sagittarius; from Saitama Prefecture; blood type B; active as a member of Nogizaka46, and an actress in the play "Teiichi no Kuni (Teiichi's Country)."
Profile of Nogizaka 46
The idol group founded in 2011 as the official rival of AKB48. Since the release of their second single, their 15 singles have topped the Oricon Weekly Chart one after another. Their latest single is "Sayonara no Imi" (The Meaning of Goodbye).
In order to make the Tokyo 2020 successful, it is essential that young people be involved in various volunteer activities. To give them a better understanding of volunteer activities and to encourage them to make them a part of their lives, we interviewed Nogizaka46's Ms. Sayuri Inoue, an idol who is a member of their generation and is active as a volunteer.
Inspirations from the Olympic and Paralympic Games
––– Did you watch the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games?
Inoue ：I don’t know a lot about sports, but I watched some of the matches.
––– What were your impressions?
Inoue ：When I was little, I watched these competitions, thinking “Those grown-ups are doing really well,” but now people who are my age or younger are competing in these games. That makes me feel that I should work hard too. Their energy and spirit inspires me and gives me courage.
––– Is there any particular athlete who left a lasting impression on you?
Inoue ：I think he was a table tennis player, and he said in an interview, “No matter how hard I tried in past competitions, the media only interviewed famous athletes. Even when they did interview me, they treated me as if I weren’t important. But I worked hard, never slackening my pace, and finally won a medal. So I’m happy that I’m being interviewed this way.” When I heard these words, I identified with him. No matter how hard you work, there are times when no one notices; but if you keep trying hard, you will be rewarded someday.
Excited about the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games
––– What do you hope to see in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020?
Inoue ：I hope that all athletes will do their best. I especially identify with female athletes who are my age, so I want to support them. There will be new hotels and restaurants being built for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games, so it’s not just a matter of the sporting event being held in Tokyo. Tokyo will become even more fascinating.
––– Do you know that during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, we need “Games Volunteers” to do things such as interpreting and moving track and field hurdles and “City Volunteers” to guide visitors at train stations, airports, and sightseeing attractions?
Inoue ：I didn’t know that.
––– There will be more than 90,000 volunteers altogether, including both “Games Volunteers” and “City Volunteers.” This is like holding several big concerts a day, and it will continue for two weeks in places all over Tokyo.
Inoue ：That’s a really large-scale project, and very interesting. I want people from other countries to have a good impression of Japan while they are here, and I hope that young people will sign up as volunteers.
––– Perhaps it will be a good experience to work as a volunteer during the Games and then they can move on to different volunteer jobs, like the ones you are doing.
Inoue ：I really hope that happens.
Good Things about Tokyo and Japan
––– You currently live in Tokyo, so we want to ask you, “What do you like the best about Tokyo”?
Inoue ：I think many people think of Tokyo as a developed city, but it is also preserving its past. Its traditional gardens and parks are an example of this. These are very different from gardens in other countries and have great appeal. Western gardens are shaped symmetrically, and look beautiful from all angles, but Japanese gardens are designed to highlight the changes of the seasons, offering a glimpse into Japanese people’s refined sensibilities. I hope that people from overseas and young Japanese people will learn more about the beauties of nature in Tokyo.
––– I understand that you love gardens, but how many have you visited in Tokyo?
Inoue ：More than 10, I guess.
––– What’s your favorite garden in Tokyo?
Inoue ：I especially love Rikugi-en in Komagome. It highlights the changes from one season to another. The weeping cherry trees that blossom in spring are famous. But in summer, the garden brims with greenery, and the autumn colors are lovely; in winter, you can see yukitsuri, a technique for preserving trees from frost and snow.
––– Did traveling abroad make you notice good things about Japan that you hadn’t appreciated before?
Inoue ：It made me realize how safe Japan is and how kind the people are. When I go into a store in Japan, I am greeted with “Irasshaimase! (Welcome!),” and I take that for granted; but they don’t always do that in other countries. That kind of politeness is one of Japan’s strengths.
I Hope More Young People Will Volunteer
––– What do you hope to do in 2020, the year the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held?
Inoue ：Actually, my mom and I talked that over and came up with a plan. I hope to carry that out.
––– I see. Do you want to keep on working as a volunteer four years from now?
Inoue ：Yes, I hope so.
––– What do you think would help to make volunteering easier for young people?
Inoue ：In my high school, there was a bulletin board for posting messages, and the information about volunteer opportunities was readily accessible. I think it would be good to tell people that it’s easy to sign up on websites to do volunteer work. Idols like myself can promote volunteer activities to help out, even if it’s just a little bit.
––– To end with, please tell our readers why you recommend volunteer activities.
Inoue ：Even if you want to do something or help out others, I think it’s often difficult to do that as your full-time job. You can volunteer in the same field you plan to work in as your first step and get a lot out of that experience. I hope that you will make the best of the opportunities available to you.
Written by Shinnosuke Onuki