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Interview with Kumi Asazuma, Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador, on the "Power of Cheering" and the "Potential of Minato-ku"

Translated from Japanese by
Minato-ku Tourism Ambassadors promote information about tourism in Minato-ku, as well as information known only to locals, through events, social media, and other means. Seven new Minato-ku Tourism Ambassadors were appointed in FY2023. One of them is Ms. Kumi Asazuma, a freelance announcer who, as the head of the All Japan Women's Cheer Club☆AJO, engages in "AsaCheer" activities in front of train stations in the morning to cheer on passersby. We asked Ms. Asazuma to tell us why she started "AsaCheer," about her involvement with Minato-ku, and her activities as a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador.

A friend's words inspired me

--First of all, could you tell us why you started "AsaCheer"?

I was born and raised in Hokkaido, but moved to Tokyo when I entered university. I joined the cheerleading club and was entrusted with MC duties at cultural festivals and other events as the ""tension captain"". My job was to cheer up club members and the audience. At that time, an audience member told me that my voice really cheered them up, and because of that, I decided to become an announcer, which I had been dreaming of since junior high school. I sat for the entrance exams of about 70 broadcasting companies when I was looking for a job, but was rejected by all of them. Two years after graduating from university, I finally joined San-in Chuo Television in Shimane Prefecture as an announcer on a contract basis, but, However, I made a lot of mistakes and ended up leaving after only one year. After that, I moved back to Tokyo to work as a freelance announcer, but even here I didn't succeed in any auditions for TV shows, radio shows, or events.

--Even though you already had experience working as an announcer for a year?

I thought I had built up a skillset of my own, but at the vast majority of auditions I attended, someone else was hired instead of me. I must have failed over a hundred times. I kept comparing myself to others, became jealous and envious, and ultimately despised myself. It was a destructive cycle. When I was deep in the doldrums, my friend said to me, ""You just keep making excuses. What exactly is it that you want to do?"" My friend's words reminded me of cheerleading, which I had devoted my youth to during my university years. Back then, no matter how hard things got, I was always positive. I wondered what the present me would think if I saw the me from back then. I wanted to go back to being the me from back then.

--so it was your friend's words that inspired you?

Yes, it was. My friend told me that there were cheerleaders who were cheering for people on their way to work, and that is how I came to know about the AsaCheer activities of the Cheer Club. At the time, there was only one cheerleader, Aya Saito, who was the first head of the club. I immediately went to check out the AsaCheer activities in front of Shinjuku Station in the morning, and was shocked to see her dancing for the people on the street. After she finished dancing, Ms. Saito gave a speech, saying, "I want to be the energy that gives everyone who sees me a little bit of courage. Let's work hard again today!" It just so happened that she was recruiting new members for the Cheer Club, so I joined on the spot, and I became the first member of the club. That was back in 2009.

Shimbashi Station is like our hometown

--After that, you took over as head of the club, which currently has 14 members. In addition to Shinjuku Station, the club also holds AsaCheer activities in front of Ikebukuro Station, Sakuragicho Station, and Shimbashi Station.

If you want to support people on their way to work in the morning, Shimbashi, known as the "salaryman's town," is a must. Nowadays, SL Square, located at the west exit of Shimbashi Station, is just like our hometown. The Cheer Club also participated in the 300-day countdown event to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics that was held at SL Square.

--What is the difference between other stations and Shimbashi Station?

I think one of the characteristics of the area outside Shimbashi Station is the existence of a wide space like SL Square. When we are doing our cheerleading activities there, people can stop and watch at a distance they're comfortable with. Out of the four stations we are active at, we get the largest audience in front of Shimbashi Station. Also, we always start our cheerleading activities at 8am, and 8am is when the large screens in SL Square start up and begin making a lot of noise. We can't lose to that! We have to say 'Good morning!' cheerfully and energetically, otherwise passers-by won't be able to hear us.

-- I see. It seems like there are a lot of people from overseas here these days, what about them?

We've seen a huge increase in the number of people from overseas. Actually, we did an AsaCheer event in Shimbashi today, and a lot of people from overseas saw us, and we even said 'Good morning' and 'Have a nice day' to them. Also, at Shimbashi Station, you can see SL Square from the JR platforms, so we try to reach not only people in the square, but also the people on the platforms and in the trains when we cheer.

The role of Tourism Ambassadors is to connect people

Support Awards 2022, sponsored by Minato-ku

--You are the representative of the All Japan Cheering Association, and last year, in addition to AsaCheer, the All Japan Cheering Association also organized the 'Cheering Award 2022 - THE FIRST', right?

The Support Awards is an event where submissions of episodes related to cheering and ideas for cheering are invited from all over Japan, and the winners are decided by a combination of web voting and judges' votes. Billed as an event for "cheering on people who cheer others on", the Support Awards 2022 was held at the Bellesalle Onarimon Tower in Minato-ku, Tokyo. This year's event will be held on November 11th. Aside from that, the Cheer Club participated in cheering activities for the 2018 and 2022 editions of the MINATO City Half Marathon, which led to me being named Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador, and we are also planning to cheer at this year's City Half Marathon.

MINATO City Half Marathon

--Your first book, 'Just a Little Cheer for Someone Else and You'll Be Happy!' was published in November last year, and you were inaugurated as a Minato City Tourism Ambassador at the party to celebrate its publication.

Yes, that's right. The inauguration ceremony was held during a party to commemorate the publication on April 1st this year, and I have been active as a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador ever since.

--You have only just become a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador. Can you tell us what kind of activities you are involved in?

There is an organization I know called Soerute, which supports the future of children with disabilities, and they are holding a painting and photography contest for children. They wanted to hold the award ceremony for this contest at Tokyo Tower on September 10th, so as a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador, I acted as an intermediary between Soerute and the management company responsible for Tokyo Tower. Tokyo Tower supported the Support Awards and cooperated with us to make it a success, so I thought it would be better for me to get in touch with them. I was also involved in Soerute's award ceremony as part of the Cheer Club.

Morning Cheer collaborations with Minato-ku companies

Recently, we have also received more requests from companies in Minato-ku to help 'energize their companies and the city", leading to us getting more opportunities to collaborate with them on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities that combined Morning Cheer and clean-up activities.
The companies' employees were delighted, and we plan to hold more of the same cllaborations in the future.

--That's exactly the kind of work you can do as a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador.

Of course it's important to promote Minato-ku, but I also believe that one of the roles of a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador is to connect people and organizations just like this. Although the Support Awards are for recognizing 'people who embody the spirit of supporting', last year, in addition to athletes and cultural figures, we also presented Tokyo Tower with an award for its "Existence is support". After earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo Tower sent out messages of support to the world by lighting up the tower, and I think many people were encouraged by that. It's a symbolic yet friendly and familiar landmark, and I always feel excited whenever I visit Tokyo Tower. The view from the observatory is great, and Tokyo Tower is beautiful when viewed from below too.

Before I knew it, the Minato-ku accepted me.

--Aside from Tokyo Tower, are there any other places in Minato-ku that have left a deep impression on you, Ms. Asazuma?

Minato-ku is home to many broadcasting stations. When I was looking for a job, I visited Nippon Television Network in Shiodome, TBS in Akasaka, and TV Asahi in Roppongi. TV stations have facilities such as merchandise corners which the general public is allowed to enter. I went to sit for the entrance exams for these TV stations with dreams of working in places like these, but in the end, I was only allowed to enter the areas where the general public was allowed, and not the employee-only areas. Because of this, Shiodome, Akasaka, and Roppongi were all places that had slightly sad connotations for me However, since I started cheering, I have been invited to broadcasting stations aspart of the Cheer Club, and I am now able to enter them as a performer. Life really is a strange thing, isn't it? I was doing something that was natural to me, and before I knew it, the Minato-ku accepted me.

--You couldn't have imagined being a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador, could you?

I couldn't have imagined it at the time. I think Minato-ku is a city of possibilities, for me, and for everyone here. There is no one who doesn't know about Tokyo Tower, and anyone who visits Tokyo wants to stop by Odaiba. While there are places like Tokyo Tower and Odaiba that are ideal for sightseeing, there are also places that are actually rich in nature and where you can experience history and culture, such as shrines and temples. It is a city that offers stimulation and relaxation, a city that allows you to make use of all five senses. It is also a global location, with many people from overseas coming here recently. There are things that can be experienced and created here because of the unique nature of Minato-ku, and I think there are definitely things that can be done here because Minato-ku is what it is.

--It seems as though there are many things that you can do, precisely because you are who you are.

I would like to do many things together with the people of Minato-ku, whether it be events or collaborations, using my announcing and cheerleading skills, even if only in a very small way. I am sure that becoming a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador will make it easier for me to connect others than ever before. I would like to serve as a focal point for both people and businesses and energize Japan from here in Minato-ku. I believe that is my role as a Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador.
[Book information]
"Just a Little Cheer for Someone Else and You'll Be Happy!"
Author: Kumi Asazuma
Publisher: Ascom
Now on sale at bookstores and on Amazon
https://amzn.to/3TEgLQO

[Event information]
Support Awards 2023
Date: November 11th, 2023
Venue: Bellesalle Onarimon Tower
https://www.ouen-award.com/

[Kumi Asazuma Official Site]
https://www.asazuma-kumi.com/

[Kumi Asazuma Twitter]
https://twitter.com/kumiccheru

[Kumi Asazuma Instagram]
https://www.instagram.com/kumiccheru93

[Kumi Asazuma YouTube]
https://youtube.com/@alwayssmile9686

[Minato-ku Tourism Ambassador Facebook]
https://www.facebook.com/minato.ambassador/
This is a page where Minato-ku Tourism Ambassadors promote information related to Minato-ku and the attractions of Minato-ku nationally and globally.

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