It’s been a long time since HKT48 J-Pop idol Yabuki Nako came to South Korea ahead of Mnet‘s 2018 survival show Produce 48. In the years since then, she’s enjoying incredible success and strong friendships as a member of IZ*ONE, with a legacy that will last long past the group’s scheduled disbandment earlier this year. However, when she first became part of the group, things weren’t easy. In fact, she even used to cry in the shower back then—here’s why.
In a recent Japanese interview with Yahoo! News Voice, Nako opened up about what life was like in her early days. “Immediately after the audition,” she said of arriving to compete on Produce 48, “I decided to go to Korea and started my new life without knowing Korean.”
Born and raised in Japan her whole life, Nako was completely new to the Korean language when she joined the show. Naturally, that made life as a competitor (and later, as a member of IZ*ONE) difficult at first.
At first, I couldn’t share my feelings with the members, so it was really hard.
And the language barrier between Nako and her nine Korean IZ*ONE bandmates wasn’t the only difficulty; it even made learning to dance hard. The J-Pop star says that in dance lessons, she would hear Korean words she’d never heard before. Since she didn’t even know the words for “bring your feet together” or “heels,” Nako struggled to understand the dance trainer, as did fellow Japanese members Miyawaki Sakura and Honda Hitomi.
As the Japanese members looked at each other, it felt like, ‘What does this mean?’
Even variety shows were difficult. With Nako having little grasp of complex Korean, she confesses that sometimes she didn’t know what the show’s MCs were saying. Instead, she had to work out when to laugh by getting a feel for the atmosphere while recording.
Understandably, the pressures soon built up for Nako—to the point that she used to cry in the shower. Explaining why she chose the spot, Nako explained that the only time she had to herself while living in an idol dorm was shower time.
So, when it was really painful and I wanted to cry, I cried while turning on the sound of the shower.
Thankfully, while early life as a K-Pop idol was a struggle for Nako, it didn’t take long for her to form a strong bond with her members. “Korean members learned Japanese, [and] Japanese members learned Korean,” said Nako, adding that they spoke using each other’s cultural gestures and words. Over time, Nako says that helped her feelings become more “connected.”