TOKYO (TR) – In 2015, Yua Mikami had a decision to make.
The year before, she left idol group SKE48 after she was seen kissing Yuya Tegoshi, a member of boy band NEWS, in a photograph published by a tabloid.
Mikami, a native of Nagoya, joined SKE48 in 2009 under the name Momona Kito. “SKE48 is a group known for purity,” Mikami told site ShinR25.com during an interview earlier this year. “Since no story like that had surfaced to that point, the damage to the group was huge.”
Over the next year, an uncomfortable environment lingered. “When I compared myself to the image of an idol, I wondered, ‘Can I support myself?,'” she said. “I had reached a point of hopelessness.”
In June, 2015, adult video (AV) label Muteki released “Princess Peach,” Mikami’s debut in the trade.
“I entered the world of AV without consulting with anyone,” she said. “I thought, ‘It is my life, so I have to choose for myself,'” she said.
Over the next several months, she appeared in yet more AV titles. However, last year she made a return to music, but this time in South Korea — a move that is yet another challenge that the idol is willing to tackle.
Last March, Kyun Create released Honey Popcorn’s debut four-track album “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.” In addition to Mikami, the title featured fellow AV starlets Moko Sakura and Miko Matsuda.
Like Mikami, the other members of Honey Popcorn had experience as pop idols. Matsuda is a former member of NMB48, an affiliate group of AKB48. Meanwhile, Sakura was once in the group Backstage Sotokanda 1-chome, which performs in Tokyo’s Akihabara district.
By the time of the release, Mikami had already enjoyed tremendous popularity in Korea. She endeared herself with the fans in the country by posting videos on YouTube of her dancing to a number of K-pop hits, including Twice’s “Signal” and “Cause You’re My Star” by Apink.
However, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” caused a stir within the South Korean media.
“All of the members of Honey Popcorn are AV actresses,” Mikami said. “But in Korea, AV is prohibited. Because of that, outrage towards the debut soared, especially on the internet in Korea. Our debut concert, which was scheduled to be held for fans, was cancelled.”
Mikami added that comments in opposition to the group also came from Japanese fans of K-Pop. “Don’t pollute K-Pop,” one of the critics said, according to Mikami.
“Fans appreciate K-pop idols who endure years of practice to come up with perfect performances,” she said. “I think that they couldn’t allow for a Japanese AV actress to enter the same world.”
Last December, Matsuda took to Twitter to announce her departure from Honey Popcorn. This month, it was learned that the group now has five members through the additions of gravure idol Nako Miyase, Ruka Tajima and Sara Izumi following an audition. The new lineup played club Bambi in Osaka City on Sunday.
“I had an image of the AV industry being one of darkness”
Even before joining Honey Popcorn, Mikami had largely put her AV career on hold. In 2017, she was crowned Best Actress at the DMM Adult Awards, which marked her last appearance at a major industry-related event. The year before, label S1 released the last AV film starring Mikami.
In speaking about the AV industry in general, Mikami told ShinR25.com that the general “warmth” she has experienced was surprising.
“On the set, the staff members were cheerful and really kind,” she said. “I had an image of the AV industry being one of darkness until I entered.”
When asked about who she is today, Mikami said that she is an AV actress who has made her K-pop debut. “For me, an idol is a person who has a pure image and starts from scratch, she said.
As for Honey Popcorn, its strength is the ability to do whatever it wants, Mikami said. “I want to engage in activities that can only be done by an AV actress,” she said.
Since leaving SKE48, Mikami has noticed that her popularity has surged — but not enough for her liking.
“During my idol period, I was hardly recognized. So, no one noticed me even if I were walking in Shibuya,” she said, referring to the shopping district for young people in Tokyo.
Mikami added that this still largely remains the case.
“So, I want more and more people to become aware of Yua Mikami, to a point that she exceeds the popularity of an idol group,” she said.