#201 青春をかけた松竹歌劇団（SKD）The Shochiku Revue of My Youth (SKD)
Noriko Yonami よなみのり子
Title: The Shochiku Revue of My Youth (SKD)
Noriko joined Tokyo SKD, famous for its beautiful line dancing, and was very active in SKD for many years, winning the Rookie of the Year Award the year after joining the company.
--How did you come to join the Shochiku Revue (SKD)?
I may have inherited my father's dream of becoming a vocalist, but I have loved singing since I was a child. When I was in junior high school, I saw Takarazuka on TV and was fascinated by it. With my father's understanding, I went to study ballet, Japanese dance, and voice in order to take the entrance exam. One day, my voice teacher recommended that I also take the entrance examination for the Shochiku School of Music and Dance, and I took the exam in February and passed without incident. On the other hand, the Takarazuka entrance examination was held in April, and on the advice of my father, I decided to attend SKD in Tokyo.
--What were the classes like after you entered SKD?
I learned all kinds of arts in daily classes, including Japanese dance, vocal music, ballet, drama, modern dance, and shamisen (three-stringed Japanese banjo). I was confident in my singing, but my dancing was not up to the level of those who had been learning since I was a child, so I practiced on my own at school every morning from 6:00 a.m. and managed to graduate in one year. I also learned how to build good relationships with my peers and seniors because it is an all-female organization.
--Please tell us about your activities in SKD.
I joined SKD in 1975. I performed three times a day for about nine years at the Kokusai Theatre in Asakusa. The year after I joined SKD, I was the first of my classmates to win the Rookie of the Year Award, and like Takarazuka, SKD is an all-female revue troupe, with the top stars being male actors. I also played male roles, but since I was a soprano, I played female roles more often. But I was able to get good roles because I could sing. The ranks of troupe members were divided into Grand Executive (top star), Grand Executive Waiting, Executive, Semi-Executive, and Technical Staff, and I was able to rise to the rank of Executive. In addition to the annual all-round performances, there were three major performances at the International Theatre almost all year round, and I also went to overseas and regional tours. As a guest of honor, I went to the Soviet Union, East Germany, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Guam, as well as regional performances almost all over Japan. I spent 360 days dancing every year, but I never felt like quitting or that it was hard. I think the excitement I felt when the audience was happy and the fact that I "loved" the stage were the only things that kept me going.
In 1980, I was chosen to play the female pirate Emeraldus in the musical "Galaxy Express 999," and several times the 3,000-seat International Theater was filled to capacity. After the closing of the Asakusa International Theatre in 1981, I performed annually at the Kabuki-za Theater and the Ikebukuro Sunshine Theatre, but left the Kabuki-za in 1983 after my last performance there.
--Can you tell us about the recruitment examination at SKD?
During the entrance examination, girls between the ages of 15 and 18 from various regions were divided into groups, and in a short period of time they performed choreographed ballet and Japanese dance in front of a panel of judges. We were also given scenarios to act out, and at the interview we were asked about our strengths and why we wanted to join a singing troupe. At the time, I was living in Okayama Prefecture due to my father's job transfer, so I remember feeling self-conscious because the people around me who took the entrance exam with me in Tokyo seemed very mature.
We were a special group of women only, and we were protected under the umbrella of a large company called Shochiku, so I think we probably had less difficulty than in the normal entertainment industry. However, the hierarchical relationship among the group members was very strict, and if you made a mistake in one scene, you had to "apologize" to all the rooms during break time. In the entertainment industry, you can never last if you are half-hearted. Talent and luck are of course important factors, but nothing is more important than "effort". For those of you who want to enter the entertainment industry, I believe that you need to work hard first, work hard second, and work hard third. If you increase your knowledge, appreciate the people around you, and work hard, I am sure that a path will open up for you.
--What are you doing now after coming to the U.S.?
I came to the U.S. in 1987 and have lived in Los Angeles ever since. 3 years ago, I opened "Karen's Studio" in Gardena, where I offer exercise, voice training, karaoke instruction, and on weekends, I hold a karaoke party for everyone to enjoy. On January 29 this year, I hosted and organized the South Bay Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Singing Contest), which was enjoyed by all 26 performers and guests, making me very happy.
It was my first time participating in the aforementioned Kohaku Uta Gassen. It was a very enjoyable event for both the participants and the audience, all of whom were veteran singers under the guidance of Ms. Noriko. She said that she would like to continue to help everyone stay healthy and have fun, and that she hopes many people will use the studio in the future.