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King & Prince on royal path: Idol star group makes a flashy debut with great aspirations

By Midori Yamamura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterWhen boy group King & Prince released their debut single in May, fans of its six well-known members were elated at the progress of their idols. Adding to their delight, the single sold about 570,000 copies in its initial week, reaching the top of the Oricon weekly music charts.

“Kin-Puri,” as the group is nicknamed, is the first new Johnny & Associates group to make its debut since Johnny’s WEST did four years ago. Its six members had already become popular as members of Johnny’s Jr., a group for rising young talents. Sales of their romantic debut single, “Cinderella Girl,” blew past the 500,000 mark in the first week, an accomplishment unmatched by a Johnny’s group since “Real Face” by KAT-TUN was released in March 2006.

I recently had an interview with its members, who had just become a full-fledged Johnny’s idol star group. The following is excerpted from our discussion.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: How do you feel about your debut?

Yuta Kishi: I’m not used to various new things yet. For example, I was surprised so many adults work with us at our photo sessions. I still feel a bit out of place.

Sho Hirano: I should be aware I’m an idol star and be careful of my behavior whenever I’m in public places. Above all, I’ll stop riding on escalator handrails for fun.

Ren Nagase: You didn’t do a thing like that when you were a Johnny’s Jr. member, did you?

Yomiuri: Mr. Iwahashi, when you were a Johnny’s Jr. member, you came out on top for five years running in an idol magazine’s fan poll about which Johnny’s Jr. member they would want to make their boyfriend.

Genki Iwahashi: I’m very grateful, but each time I was ranked No. 1, I felt pressure.

Yomiuri: Haven’t you felt irritated about having to wait so long to make your debut?

Yuta Jinguji: A little.

Kaito Takahashi: I think any Johnny’s Jr. member would dream of making his debut.

Hirano: We ate together around last summer and discussed such things as “Some of us are already over 20. What will we do in the future?” And we decided to ask Johnny-san [Johnny & Associates President Johnny Kitagawa] about our debut.

Jinguji: I was concerned that speaking about our wish to make our debut might result in our not being able to get any job assignments.

Hirano: Once we were with Johnny-san face to face, all of us were too nervous to talk. I decided it was me who should speak. [Smiles wryly]

Takahashi: Johnny-san said, “If all of you are so serious, I have no reason not to take quick action.” I’d never seen Johnny-san so serious. To be honest, I was overwhelmed.

Kishi: Johnny-san said to us, “If you make your debut, your debut CD absolutely needs to be ranked No. 1. Also, you’ll have really hard times after making your debut. Are you really prepared for it?” I’d felt a sense of tension and determined to work hard.

Hirano: I said to him quite frankly, “I know we’ll have hard times. But I want to expand the range of our activities by making our debut.”

Yomiuri: Tell me how you felt when you first listened to “Cinderella Girl.”

Takahashi: I immediately liked it, saying to myself, “Wow, this song has great fighting power.”

Hirano: I’m happy this song was chosen as the theme song for the TV drama “Hana Nochi Hare: Hanadan Next Season” [Boys Over Flowers Season 2], as I appeared on this show.

Kishi: People often tell me things like, “A good song, for sure.”

Jinguji: The other day, I heard this song playing at a pet shop near my house. I almost raised my hand and said, “Here I am!!” [Laughs]

Yomiuri: Mr. Kishi has been assigned to be the first leader.

Kishi: It’s the “first” after all, so I might not be, as early as tomorrow.

Takahashi: Kishi has been fighting every day to avoid being fired. [Laughs]

Yomiuri: Where do you want to be as a group after 10 years?

Hirano: I hope each of us will have established our own individual characters and be able to display tremendous power when we’re together. Also, I dream we’ll be driving supercars. [Laughs]

Nagase: I hope we’ll give a concert at a domed stadium within five years.

Iwahashi: I want to perform at the new National Stadium. We should have great dreams to be big stars.

Nagase: By the way, Kishi, are you going to still be the leader after 10 years?

Kishi: If so, it means I’m a born leader! [All laugh]

The history of King & Prince:

June 2015: They form a group named Mr. King vs Mr. Prince, and are appointed to be an official supporter of a summer event by TV Asahi.

2016 and later: They are active in two groups: “Mr. King” with Hirano, Nagase and Takahashi, and “Prince” with Kishi, Jinguji and Iwahashi.

Jan. 17, 2018: Their debut with the release of a single album on the new label Johnnys’ Universe is announced at a press conference. It is also announced that their new name is King & Prince.

March 15: The group unveil and sing their debut song “Cinderella Girl” at an event in Roppongi, Tokyo.

April 28: Their first advertisement—for Disney Tsum Tsum Land, a smartphone game by Colopl—starts being broadcast.

May 16: King & Prince Sweet Garden, a shop selling items associated with the group and displaying their costumes, opens in Harajuku, Tokyo. The shop will remain open until the end of August for visitors who have made reservations. The members themselves have visited the store.

May 23: “Cinderella Girl” is released.

Members’ birthdays and aspirations for their first year

Kaito Takahashi

Birthday: April 3, 1999

Go on a national tour, and also direct the tour by ourselves

Ren Nagase

Birthday: Jan. 23, 1999

Go on a national tour, because we’ve only given concerts in large cities

Sho Hirano

Birthday: Jan. 29, 1997

Go on a national tour, and thank fans for their support

Yuta Kishi

Birthday: Sept. 29, 1995

Take on various challenges and find out my specialties early

Yuta Jinguji

Birthday: Oct. 30, 1997

Release as many CDs as possible

Genki Iwahashi

Birthday: Dec. 17, 1996

Appear on various TV programs and raise the group’s profile

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