Nakagawa Shoko

In all my years of listening to J-pop I've never really been one for the female idol scene; it was always way too cutesy and not up my alley. (Let's be real I've always been kind of a music snob, even if I totally spent a good portion of my teenage years throwing my allowance at Johnny’s Entertainment merchandise...) However, during this not-so-brief-stint in the idol fandom I watched a loooot of variety shows. One particular girl would always stand out to me—and that girl was Shokotan!

To be 100% honest, the first thing that caught my attention (and kept it) was that she was engrossed in a world that I myself loved so deeply: anime and video games. This girl was everywhere: on Dragon Quest ads, on Pokémon variety shows, donning Ranka Lee cosplay (which you may or may not know, I dig). At the time she was really well known for her usual shtick: appearing in cosplay, imitating Sailor Moon quotes to a T, and shoving her pet cat’s head in her mouth. With all of her strange quirks and interests it’s easy to see why she was a popular personality on variety shows—but it was learning more about her and really finding out who she was as a person that really made me fall in love with her. She wasn't just some cute model used to appeal towards the largely male fanbase—she legitimately lived and breathed nerd culture.

Pretty early into my Shokotan fandom I had the honor of meeting her and seeing her live at Anime Expo in 2008! She held a panel at the convention and midway through the interview a Sephiroth cosplayer walked in. Shokotan interrupted the panel to fangirl over the cosplayer, saying “Sephiroth was her first love!” It was literally at this moment that my heart grew three sizes and I knew Shokotan was pretty much my Japanese Idol homegirl. Part of what I love so much about her is that she is just like you or me—she goes to conventions and takes photos of all her favorite cosplayers, kisses her TV screen when her husbando Jotaro shows up on it, draws (beautiful) fanart and literally cries when she meets her favorite celebrities. On top of that, she’s a modern day renaissance (wo)man: she draws, she blogs, she models, she sings, she acts, she cosplays, she has her own clothing line—she seriously does it all and I find her truly inspirational because she isn’t afraid to try her hand at anything. (Also, if I ever meet her in person again I really need to ask her where she got the hyperbolic time chamber to get all this stuff done, because holy moly…)
"When I turned 20 my friend told me, "You only have 30,000 days in life." Up to that point, I had already lived 7,000 days or so. So at that time I thought, "Oh my god! I only have this much time left in life!" There's no time to waste being depressed, so that's really what changed me. Since then, I've been very aggressive about trying all kinds of things and living life to the fullest."

Other than her obvious beauty and endless amounts of talent, it’s really her compassion for other human beings and animals—especially cats!—that makes me respect her so much. As someone who was bullied herself growing up and fought those levels of depression and social isolation, she’s spoken out many times against bullying and she often shares so many beautiful words—which surely speak to her nerdy, otaku fanbase. Just like anyone else, she’s gone through her own problems and hardships in life (on top of the bullying, she lost her father at a young age), but she is so positive and upbeat and excited about living that it’s hard not to be inspired by her optimism.

Though I don’t find that she’s as much in the limelight as she used to be musically, she’s still very much active in the anime and gaming communities and it’s always a pleasure to see that she’s made a living out of her hobbies—pretty much a dream come true for anyone! I always feel super proud of her whenever I see her up to something new, and at times I even get teary-eyed and cry like a gross mother because I'm so happy for all she's accomplished! She's an excellent role model for the audience she's speaking to, and that anyone who was once in her position should aspire to live as passionately as she does.

Shokotan wears many masks, and unfortunately her Youtube channel is region-locked so I'm not sure how many will be able to actually view these PVs, but: for a cute, idol-like Shokotan, I recommend Tsuyogari! For a more sensual, pretty Shokotan: Kirei a la Mode. And for a sexy and powerful Shokotan: Zoku Konton. If you're into Japanese variety shows, there is a particularly famous episode of Cartoon KAT-TUN which she guests on. She chases the boys with a chainsaw around Nakano Broadway, forces them to cosplay, schools them on otaku knowledge and generally humiliates them. Quintessential variety show Shokotan.