The serialized interview “Kotobuki Minako’s Another Wonderland in the UK” delivers you the life of Kotobuki Minakosan, who currently lives in the UK, through her own words.

In the last interview, the UK had just lifted the 2nd lockdown, but since they went right back to tear 4 (the highest alert level), they had to lockdown again. We asked her about the situation in the UK and how she spent Christmas under those conditions. Also, when it comes to the end of the year in Japan, “Kouhaku Uta Gassen” comes into our minds. So we asked her about the musicians who have influenced Kotobuki-san and the songs that support her through life in the UK.

In this 11th interview, we will be looking back at Kotobuki-san’s life in the UK through the photos she had taken. We talked about the rare scenery of London with snow, Burns Night she said “was the most fun event of January”, and even closed in on the bittersweet Valentine’s episode from childhood!
[Interviewed and written by Yoneda Kaori]

■Secrets behind the music video of her latest song “Scramble Days”! Why did she only have one chance to record the song?
―― It’s 4:00 p.m. in Japan and it’s still bright outside, but your background is pitch black.

Kotobuki: It’s 7:00 a.m. over here in the UK. The sunrise in winter in the UK is really late, so I don’t get that morning feeling when I wake up.

―― The other day, you showed how it was snowing in the UK on your blog and YouTube. I’m guessing it’s quite chilly over there.

Kotobuki: It’s really cold. But the snow from the other day is a very rare scene in London. I heard it’s been 2 or 3 years since the last time it snowed!

―― How was the month of January to you?

Kotobuki: We entered the 3rd lockdown right after New Year’s, but school started online and I’ve had a lot of work to do. Fortunately, it was a fulfilling month.

―― It looks like it’s getting brighter outside your window.

Kotobuki: Oh, you’re right! I love the morning in the UK. It’s usually cloudy in the afternoon but the morning is often nice and sunny.
Can you see the light gradually spreading? (as she points the camera towards the light) It’s another sunny morning!

―― That’s so beautiful!

Kotobuki: I always feel like I’m in the savanna when I see the sunrise (laughs).

―― That reminds me of the latest song of Sphere, “Scramble Days” released on February 15. Your background was the dim garden.

Kotobuki: That’s right! The sun goes down early in the winter in the UK… It was only 4:00 p.m. when I shot the video and it was already getting dark.
By the time I decided to shoot in the garden, it started to get dark, so I had only one chance to get the shooting before it became really dark.

―― So that’s why it was so dark! Anyway, let’s look back at your busy January through the photos you took.

■Looking back at Burns Night, “the most fun event of January”

―― Is this beret from Burns Night you posted on your blog?

Kotobuki: Yes, it is! It was the most fun event of January.

―― I heard that Burns Nights is the day you celebrate the birth and poems of the Sottish poet, Robert Burns. What exactly did you do?

Kotobuki: Probably those who don’t know are going like, “Who’s Robert Burns?” (laughs). I looked him up and was surprised that he’s the lyric writer of the original tune of “Hotaru no Hikari”.

Usually, people eat traditional Scottish dishes, read poems by Burns, and dance, but this year, it was my host family and me celebrating indoors.

―― Was the beret a trademark of Burns?

Kotobuki: No, it’s nothing like that (laughs). My host mother bought it for me, probably because Scotland is famous for its tartan check and was an item easy to incorporate into fashion.

It’s called the royal tartan and it’s the most famous tartan check since the royal family uses it.
I hear it’s common to be used for the family crest in Scotland and they all have different patterns. I was wearing a light blue check skirt I happen to have, but it might have been someone’s family crest (laughs).

―― That’s quite interesting. Are these photos of sweets related to Burns Night, too?

Kotobuki: This is a dessert that uses well-known products from Scotland like raspberries and oats called “cranachan”. I had some “haggis”, which is boiled sheep’s pluck encased in the sheep’s stomach, and the cranachan took the edge off of it making it nice and mild.

→Next Page: “I miss XX…” What is the Japanese thing that Kotobuki Minako craves so much?

―― Next is another tasty-looking photo. It also has a cute look.

Kotobuki: I know, right? My host mother made this for me. It’s a tart with cream of exquisite sweetness and fruits on top, and it tasted amazing.

―― Is the next photo chocolate from Valentine’s Day?

Kotobuki: I had the opportunity to collect chocolate for work, and this is one of the chocolates I bought. When I first saw it, it looked so delicious I immediately shared it with my friend and said I’d send it when I bought it, but the expiry date was so short that I had to eat it myself so I shared it with my host family when watching movies and studying and safely ate it all up (laughs).

―― Are there any chocolate shops in the UK you would recommend?

Kotobuki: My favorite would be “Hotel Chocolat”. I even bought their Advent calendar last year. Their chocolate tea is also delicious.

―― Next is the photo of some seafood. You’re famous for your love for noodles, but I think many of the photos you’ve shown us are fresh fish.

Kotobukiya: You may be right. I do eat meat with my host family but when I cook for myself on weekdays, I usually choose between vegetables and fish.
Sashimi in the UK is surprisingly tasty and now I love fish even more than when I was in Japan.

―― You must have more opportunities to cook.

Kotobuki: I used to eat out a lot back in Japan, but I’ve been cooking a lot since coming to the UK. I also haven’t been leaving home so I’m not really tired and that’s another reason I chose fish because it’s healthy and tasty.

―― You seem to be really enjoying the food over there. Do you ever miss Japanese food?

Kotobuki: I want to eat raw egg on rice! But people don’t eat raw eggs in the UK, and once I got food poisoning from a half-cooked egg.
I’ve been gathering information from Japanese people living in the UK and tried different eggs. Well, I don’t want to get food poisoning so I really haven’t been able to try many out. I miss eating raw egg on rice in Japan (laughs).

―― Speaking of food, you mentioned on your blog that you got excited about “Jiichirou”‘s Baumkuchen.

Kotobuki: It may sound exaggerating, but it was like opening a treasure chest that I’ve hidden underground for a long time (laughs). There are many Japanese sweets shops in the UK, but it’s hard to find that gentle feeling of Jiichirou.

With one bite, my memories with Jiichirou flashed back in my mind, and my body immediately reacted saying, “It’s delicious!” and “This is what I’ve been waiting for!”

■Closing in on a bittersweet Valentine’s episode from childhood!
―― Unlike Japan, in the UK, Valentine’s Dy is the day men express their love to women. Since the UK is “the land of gentlemen”, I imagine Valentine’s presents to be classy and exquisite.

Kotobuki: Usually, the whole city is decorated in Valentine’s style, but since we’re under lockdown, it’s the same as the Valentine’s section in Japanese supermarkets. I heard roses, chocolate, and a card are basic presents.

―― There’s even the saying, “English gentlemen”, so could you tell us an episode where you felt that men in the UK are actually gentlemen?

Kotobuki: They almost always let me go first at escalators and doors.
Also, well this isn’t only men in the UK, but I bumped into a scene which I thought was really nice. The post office currently has a limit of how many people can enter, so we have to wait in line for an hour every time we visit. There was only one woman at the counter working really hard, and the man in front of me started to get frustrated from the long wait.

In Japan, I remember seeing a person lashing out their frustration on the clerk, but this time, when the man’s turn came around, he greeted the clerk saying, “How are you?” I thought it was gentlemanly of him to calm himself down in order to keep a good relation.

It’s not something easy to do. The scene made me feel good so I also greeted the clerk saying, “How are you?” (laughs).

―― That’s a wonderful episode. It makes me want to live with a relaxed mind. Back to Valentine’s, tell us a memory of yours related to Valentine’s.

Kotobuki: To me, Valentine’s day is “Sphere’s Anniversary”. Sphere was formed on February 15, 2009. We had an event called “Chocolate Festival” on that day and announced the formation of Sphere.

We gave message cards with chocolates to the fans that came to Hama-rikyu (the venue of the event). It’s something we can’t do these days, so it’s a really special memory to me.

―― Are there any bittersweet episodes?

Kotobuki: That would the Valentine’s when I was a kindergartener. I gave a whole bunch of chocolate to everyone. It was because I was in love with everyone (laughs). Anyway, there was a boy that I got interested in after Valentine’s, so I told my mother I wanted to give him some chocolate and made some chocolate for him with the kit from Apollo Chocolate.

…now that I think of it I was quite advanced for my age (laughs).

―― (laughs). Was the boy pleased when you gave him chocolate?

Kotobuki: I don’ remember how he reacted when I gave him the chocolate, but he did give me a present in return. It was a cute exchange.

―― For the girls, trading presents is one of the best parts of Valentine’s, wasn’t it?

Kotobuki: I went to a girls’ school, so no one cared about how the chocolate looked, so we brought them to school directly in plastic containers. A common sight at a girls’ school (laughs).

―― Since you mentioned Sphere, tell us the best parts of the latest song, “Scrambled Days”.

Kotobuki: We made the song wishing to deliver the message, just as the title says, “our days go by with good, bad, and everything ‘scrambled’ together.” So we had our fans join in on making the jacket and music video, creating one piece of art.

“Scramble Days” Jacket

I believe we’ve created a miraculous tune. I hope the song will help everyone move a step forward, even if it’s a small step. Please enjoy the song.

―― Thank you!