Friendship Envoy

Ayane Fujisaki

1 top photo Ayane Fujisaki

PROFILE

Ayane Fujisaki a.k.a. Pinky! is a member of a popular Japanese pop idol group “Dempagumi.inc.” She formed a separate idol unit with sisters Noora and Petra from Tampere, Finland, under the name “Pinky! Noora&Petra” (Pinope for short) officially debuting in August 2017. They came out with a dance video with the Embassy of Finland staff in December 2017 to commemorate Finland’s 100th Anniversary of Independence, dancing to their second song “Koisuru Helsinki (“Helsinki in Love”).

Pinky! is the Friendship Envoy of Saitama Prefecture, where the “Moomin Valley Park” will open in March 2019 (Metsä Village with Finland related shops and restaurants, located right next to the Moomin Valley Park, already opened in November 2018).


The thing I feel is different, is that Japanese tend to be too serious and precise, whereas Finns seem more laid-back.

  • Idol group with Finnish sisters “Pinky! Noora & Petra” made an official debut in August 2017.
    Photo: Dear Stage
  • Pinky! Noora & Petra danced with the Embassy staff to make a video to celebrate Finland’s 100th year of Independence.

INTERVIEW

You made a debut with the Finnish sisters in 2017, but did you have any connections with Finland before that?

There were many connections, now that I think about it. First of all I love the Moomins, and I also like Nordic design and furniture. I have my own fashion brand, and I refer to how colors are used in Nordic design. There are moments when I realize that I’ve always been attracted to Finland.

My mother used to collect Moomin goods when I was little. It was only about two years ago or so that I really got into the stories though. I went to my friend’s house who love the Moomins, and we watched the animation until midnight. My favorite character is Snork Maiden. She’s not just cute but can be strong-minded, she has the two sides that any girl would have. I think Snork Maiden reflects the freedom and adventure Tove Jansson depicted in her stories the most.

Could you tell us about a particular episode related to Finland?

Yes, it would be about Pinky! Noora & Petra. That was the first time I worked with Finns full-scale. At first I was like “would this work out?” but then, since we liked each other’s countries, it soon felt like we had been friends for a long time. I first met them around 2014. Noora and Petra were big fans of Dempagumi.inc. which I belonged to, and they came to visit us. And last summer we ended up coming out together as a new idol group.

Idol concerts have these occasions where performers shake hands with their fans, and it was so funny to hear Japanese and Finnish mixed together. Fans memorized Finnish words and spoke them to Noora and Petra, and they were trying to answer all in Japanese. That left a big impression on me.

Did you also spend time together on your days off?

When I visited Noora and Petra’s house they always recommended me things from Finland, like chocolates. Noora once baked a pound cake with fruits for me. They’re always saying “oh, I want to eat pulla (pastries)!” They like Pokémon and have many stuffed animals… so we have fun talking about Pokémon too.

You got familiar with Finns through the sisters; do you think Finns and Japanese are similar?

Yes, I think we are very similar, we somehow get along. But the thing I feel is different, is that Japanese tend to be too serious and precise, whereas Finns seem more laid-back. Maybe Finns don’t generally get too concerned about small details? Noora and Petra were like, “you shouldn’t worry, let’s relax and be more easy!” I’m a type of a person who tend to care too much, so our activities as Pinope made me more positive and at ease.

Did you have a chance to get to know Finnish music?

Ah yes, metal music is popular, right? The image (of Finnish music) is dark. But then, our debut single “Aurora to Peace” is a bit like that. I feel that song might have touched the darkness and mysteriousness that Finland has.

Yes, Finns can be melancholic, Finnish tango reflects that.

I had a more lively, colorful image of Finland so the “image gap” amazed me. The heavy metal aspect gave me a new impression. I wonder how we would be received if there would be a chance to perform at one of the festivals in Finland.

Actually, that would be quite interesting! Japanese pop culture like anime and idols are getting popular in Finland. It would be a fascinating collaboration.

(Laugh) Yes, that might result in a new chemical reaction!

Japan and Finland will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relationship in 2019. As someone who represents the younger generation, how would you like to see the bilateral relationship develop?

When we talk about Finland, the Moomins is something familiar and easily accessible. I think the young people are looking forward to visiting the new Metsä Village and the Moomin Valley Park in Saitama prefecture. Our parents’ generations also love the Moomins, so the whole family can go there together, and through the Moomins see and feel the good things Finland can offer. I myself don’t know a lot about the country yet, so I also hope to learn more.

You’ve never been to Finland yet. If there is an opportunity to visit, what would you like to do?

Oh, first I must eat the “real” pulla (laugh)! I’d visit Helsinki which Pinope’s second song is about, and then I’d like to see the northern lights. I heard from Noora and Petra that they are hard to see. Moomin World and the Santa Claus Village are also on my must-to-visit list.

And I would love to perform with Noora and Petra in Finland. I’d like to meet their family and show gratitude. Shooting a music video there would be fun. I think Japan also has many elements that Finns would like. I hope to convey the good things about Japan in Finland too.

INTERVIEW

You made a debut with the Finnish sisters in 2017, but did you have any connections with Finland before that?

There were many connections, now that I think about it. First of all I love the Moomins, and I also like Nordic design and furniture. I have my own fashion brand, and I refer to how colors are used in Nordic design. There are moments when I realize that I’ve always been attracted to Finland.

My mother used to collect Moomin goods when I was little. It was only about two years ago or so that I really got into the stories though. I went to my friend’s house who love the Moomins, and we watched the animation until midnight. My favorite character is Snork Maiden. She’s not just cute but can be strong-minded, she has the two sides that any girl would have. I think Snork Maiden reflects the freedom and adventure Tove Jansson depicted in her stories the most.

Could you tell us about a particular episode related to Finland?

Yes, it would be about Pinky! Noora & Petra. That was the first time I worked with Finns full-scale. At first I was like “would this work out?” but then, since we liked each other’s countries, it soon felt like we had been friends for a long time. I first met them around 2014. Noora and Petra were big fans of Dempagumi.inc. which I belonged to, and they came to visit us. And last summer we ended up coming out together as a new idol group.

Idol concerts have these occasions where performers shake hands with their fans, and it was so funny to hear Japanese and Finnish mixed together. Fans memorized Finnish words and spoke them to Noora and Petra, and they were trying to answer all in Japanese. That left a big impression on me.

Did you also spend time together on your days off?

When I visited Noora and Petra’s house they always recommended me things from Finland, like chocolates. Noora once baked a pound cake with fruits for me. They’re always saying “oh, I want to eat pulla (pastries)!” They like Pokémon and have many stuffed animals… so we have fun talking about Pokémon too.

You got familiar with Finns through the sisters; do you think Finns and Japanese are similar?

Yes, I think we are very similar, we somehow get along. But the thing I feel is different, is that Japanese tend to be too serious and precise, whereas Finns seem more laid-back. Maybe Finns don’t generally get too concerned about small details? Noora and Petra were like, “you shouldn’t worry, let’s relax and be more easy!” I’m a type of a person who tend to care too much, so our activities as Pinope made me more positive and at ease.

Did you have a chance to get to know Finnish music?

Ah yes, metal music is popular, right? The image (of Finnish music) is dark. But then, our debut single “Aurora to Peace” is a bit like that. I feel that song might have touched the darkness and mysteriousness that Finland has.

Yes, Finns can be melancholic, Finnish tango reflects that.

I had a more lively, colorful image of Finland so the “image gap” amazed me. The heavy metal aspect gave me a new impression. I wonder how we would be received if there would be a chance to perform at one of the festivals in Finland.

Actually, that would be quite interesting! Japanese pop culture like anime and idols are getting popular in Finland. It would be a fascinating collaboration.

(Laugh) Yes, that might result in a new chemical reaction!

Japan and Finland will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relationship in 2019. As someone who represents the younger generation, how would you like to see the bilateral relationship develop?

When we talk about Finland, the Moomins is something familiar and easily accessible. I think the young people are looking forward to visiting the new Metsä Village and the Moomin Valley Park in Saitama prefecture. Our parents’ generations also love the Moomins, so the whole family can go there together, and through the Moomins see and feel the good things Finland can offer. I myself don’t know a lot about the country yet, so I also hope to learn more.

You’ve never been to Finland yet. If there is an opportunity to visit, what would you like to do?

Oh, first I must eat the “real” pulla (laugh)! I’d visit Helsinki which Pinope’s second song is about, and then I’d like to see the northern lights. I heard from Noora and Petra that they are hard to see. Moomin World and the Santa Claus Village are also on my must-to-visit list.

And I would love to perform with Noora and Petra in Finland. I’d like to meet their family and show gratitude. Shooting a music video there would be fun. I think Japan also has many elements that Finns would like. I hope to convey the good things about Japan in Finland too.