Rena Yamazaki: Reaching out on the radio

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rena Yamazaki reflects on a long and intense year in the booth.

“I’m glad we were able to put on a peaceful program again today,” Rena Yamazaki of the idol group Nogizaka46 said, seemingly relieved after a live radio broadcast in late September. She said there is always a sense of tension when she is on air, worrying about the possibility of bad news coming in. That’s why she feels “grateful in all directions when the show is over.”

Monday through Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 2:55 p.m., she hosts a radio program on Tokyo FM called “Yamazaki Rena no Dareka ni Hanashitakatta Koto” (What I wanted to talk to someone about, with Rena Yamazaki).

It’s a surprise for an idol to have a daytime radio program, but it’s also amazing that she is so comfortable doing it.

The program celebrated its first anniversary this October.

“It’s been a long and intense year,” Yamazaki said as she looked back on her days in which she has been busy with news, messages from listeners and guests on the program. Although she obviously can’t be a listener of the live broadcast, she said, “I’ve had people say to me, ‘I’m listening [to your program],’ and I’ve received messages on social media. These make me happy because I feel that it’s really being broadcast.”

©Nogizaka46 LLC
Rena Yamazaki

True self

“To be a good talker, you have to be a good listener,” Yasushi Akimoto, the producer of Nogizaka46, told Yamazaki when she started the program.

When she talks with guests, Yamazaki consciously looks them in the eye.

“That way they can’t lie, can they? I can tell when they’re upset,” she said.

The famous producer, Nobuyuki Sakuma, told her the program would become more interesting if she could bring out her darker side.

After a year of hard work, Yamazaki said, “Not only has it become a program that melds with everyday life, but I think I’ve been able to show my true self.”

I was going to ask her about her future, but Yamazaki professes not to have any goals. Then, what are her desires?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rena Yamazaki says she has been able to show her true self.

“Even when I turn 30, it comes down to whether I can eat at my favorite conveyor belt sushi restaurant using my own money. When I get older, perhaps I’ll treat my younger colleagues, or I might just treat myself. I want to live my life with this kind of spiritual freedom,” she said.

“I gave up being a classic idol”

Yamazaki was born in Tokyo on May 21, 1997. She graduated from Keio University and started her career as a member of the second selection of Nogizaka46 in 2013.

What does Nogizaka46 mean to her?

“I gave up on being a classic idol halfway through.” That is how Yamazaki looks back on her 8½ years with the group.

About two years ago, she stopped pretending to be interested in something and decided to say she liked what she liked, even if people didn’t understand her.

“I was surprised to find that there were people who liked the same things as me. Even though I can’t see their faces, I have quite a few allies,” she said.

That’s why she never forgets to thank her fans.

“I can’t believe how generous the people who support me are,” Yamazaki said. “It’s thanks to the fans that I am able to live my life without giving up my identity. I hope all my fans live a long, happy and healthy life.”

Although she is not selected as a leading performer of the idol group, she stood on the stage in May this year as the main performer of the second team of Nogizaka46 called “Under.”

“Just standing at center stage made me stand out, so I didn’t talk about myself. That way, other younger members could also stand out,” Yamazaki said.

Both on stage and in TV programs, she makes the younger members stand out secretly.

Although her radio work is becoming more important now, she said, “When I feel like I get sick from the exhaustion of all the work I have to do, Nogizaka46 may be the last place I can turn to.

“The staff, members and fans I’ve known since I was a teen are there, and I can rely on them. Of course, I don’t do so until I’m in a really difficult situation.”