TOKYO (TR) – In March of last year, idol group Honey Popcorn released its debut, the four-track album “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.” Featuring adult video (AV) starlet Yua Mikami and fellow actresses Moko Sakura and Miko Matsuda, the group was attempting to break into the K-pop market in Korea.
Mikami, a 25-year-old former member of idol group SKE48, is the leader of Honey Popcorn. By the time of the release, she had already enjoyed tremendous popularity in Korea. However, things did not go as planned for Honey Popcorn.
But Mikami took it as part of the process. “I knew that in some ways the Japanese criticized K-Pop from the start,” Mikami told Huffingtonpost.jp during an interview in Tokyo in late June. “Likewise, I came to understand [our situation] as, ‘You will not accept [us] at the beginning, especially given our occupations.'”
However, Honey Popcorn is back — and with a revamped lineup that includes five members. Kyun Create issued their second album, “De-aeseohsta,” on July 5.
For Mikami, it is the latest installment in what she deems as “a battle” with herself in achieving success.
Mikami, a native of Nagoya, joined SKE48 under the name Momona Kito in 2009. Five years later, she left the idol group after she was seen kissing Yuya Tegoshi, a member of boy band NEWS, in a photograph published by a tabloid.
“At the age of 20, my idol career came to a halt because of the scandal. With [the group] having an image of purity, I thought it would be difficult to go on,” she told the online site. “But, if I were an AV actress, I could expose all that I wanted. So, I thought it would be better for me.”
However, the writing was on the wall before even before the scandal. “I was on stage, doing concerts and [meet-and-greet] ‘handshake’ events and regular radio shows, but it was the minimum,” she said.
Mikami added that she had plans to do gravure (pin-up) work prior to leaving SKE48. “But [with the scandal] it was all gone at once,” she said.
In June 2015, AV label Muteki released “Princess Peach,” Mikami’s debut in the trade. The following New Year’s Day, Muteki released her second disc, “Pleasant Feeling.”
Her career was well-received from the start. At the DMM Adult Awards 2016, a marquee event to honor the top female talent in the industry, she topped a field of 10 contestants in receiving the Best New Actress prize. The following year, she was crowned Best Actress at the same event.
In forming Honey Popcorn, Mikami has somewhat put her AV career on hold, with her last release being about one year ago.
Prior to forming the group, she did her homework. She endeared herself with the fans in Korea 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.
The video for “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” the title track of the debut, shows Mikami, Matsuda and Sakura strutting, spinning and waving their arms in a variety of costumes.
In preparation for the album, Mikami started training like a K-pop performer. “The amount of practice is totally different, and the type of basic training and muscle training are so intense,” she told . “The K-pop performers that I have liked until now have always been doing this kind of thing. So, I thought that I could not shine on stage without doing hard work.”
Last December, Matsuda took to Twitter to announce her departure from the group. In June, it was learned that the group now has five members through the additions of gravure idol Nako Miyase, Ruka Tajima and Sara Izumi.
The new lineup is on display in the video for “De-aeseohsta,” the title track of their latest release. “We can’t hide just because we’re scared,” Mikami sings. “I need to love myself more.”
Perhaps the line is somehow symbolic of her journey to this point.
“For me, maybe I can say I’m in a battle with myself,” she said. “It has become a challenge in life, and I have to work hard, which makes me very tense and humbled in going to Korea.”