Kayano Ai – Work and finding what I like (Part 2)

In the first half of the interview, Kayano-san tells us about bringing out the possibilities of the job that she thought was a backstage one, and the significance of working.

You can read part 1 here.

For the second half, we will ask Kayano-san about how part-time jobs and experiences influenced her. At the end, we will sitting down with the manager who has been supporting her, Ezaki Masataka-san, to ask some questions about Kayano-san.

Everyone wants to try to create something and savor the feeling of accomplishment, and so I became a voice actor.


Q: Currently, Kayano-san is participating in various works, and I think that these activities are only possible because of past experiences. That is why I wish to ask about Kayano-san’s past…..

Kayano: Where should I start…. From an early childhood stage, I took up ballet and piano and they got me interested in activities that are self-expressive. Whenever events like the arts festival got announced in school, I would get pumped up and always rallied everyone to put in our best.

Q: Were you the type that would take up a leadership role?

: Although it was not to that extent, back in middle and high school committee member meetings, I was the type who would say “Let’s give our best!”

It’s just that I have always been the type of person who does things at my own pace, following my own sequence of doing things, and moving in my own time. It was only after entering middle and high school that I learnt the spirit of cooperativeness.

Q: What happened in middle and high school?

: I went to a co-ed grade school, and a all-girls school for middle and high school. I felt at ease since I was surrounded by the same gender, and could clearly voice out my opinions.

Strangely, things went well even if I didn’t pay attention to other people’s situations – I think it was the spirit of cooperation that tied us together.

Q: At that time, did you do anything that was related to “expression”?

:I only decided to work in a job centered around expression after the age of 20. Before that, in my teens, I was more interested in jobs related to beauty, such as salons and relaxation.

As I have said earlier, my mum works in aesthetics. Since I really looked up to her, I wanted to emulate her.

In high school, I attended night classes for applying makeup and massage training and went to school concurrently.


Q: What was the spark that led you to develop an interest in switching to become a voice actor?

Kayano: I casually switched on the TV and watched ‘ARIA’ and it made me feel refreshed. That was when I thought, “Anime is really interesting.”

At that time, my job as a beautician was more of a one-to-one session with the customers, gradually I felt the desire to work in a field which allows me to create something with many different people.

As I liked standing on the same stage as everyone, coming together to convey one united expression, the 20+ years old me wanted to do something like the arts festival and culture festival, “To get a sense of accomplishment by creating something with everyone.”

Watching anime at that period of my life made me realize that even adults can enjoy them and I wanted to be part of this industry.

After considering several factors such as not being confident in my skill to weave out stories and draw, I thought since I’m confident in my customer relations skill, maybe I could also try out voice acting, where I took an audition shortly afterwards.

Q: Was the decision to take the audition out of the blue?

: It was rather impulsive (laughs). However, since I was the type who acts swiftly on my whims, I decided to just go for the auditions.

Looking back now, it was really reckless, it turned out that the audition actually had a requirement for people with experience.

At that time, I didn’t look at all the main requirements to join, so when asked on my acting experience, I answered without fear, “I was in the school arts festival!”

Q: The ability to take action, having courage to dive into the unknown –  It can also mean that you are continuing to live on your own terms (laughs).

Kayano: If people greeted me with a “good morning”, I’m not afraid to think, “Why are these people saying that even though it’s night time…”

Thereafter, I somehow passed the auditions and went to a training school for a year before formally entering the industry.

The cumulative experience of working at a cafe and karaoke became a source of encouragement for present acting skills


Q: You mentioned about going to training school while you were in high school earlier, how did you work around the school fees?

Kayano: I went into a really wonderful shop selling accessories made of natural gems, and I was asked if I wanted to work part-time by the staff.

They even taught me how to design them, it was really fun.

Q: Was that your first part-time job?

Kayano: I think it was. I also worked part-time at a karaoke joint.

I thought that since it was a karaoke place, my teachers wouldn’t come for sure. Besides that, I also worked at a cafe as well as a Japanese eatery.

Q: That’s really diverse, now I don’t know where to start from (laughs).

: I often get part-time recruitment questions which I would immediately say “yes” to, and most of the time, they were once-a-week jobs.

Working at a shop that dealt with sake allowed me to learn about them, working at a cafe taught me how to brew coffee, and working at a karaoke joint allowed me to build up resistance towards loud voices.

Also, the type of customers you get is different at every workplace, which makes it enjoyable. I got to talk to many different people, and since I have to act out a variety of roles, I sincerely think there was definitely not a single wasted moment.

Q: So what you are saying here is that your part-time work has had a deep influence on your job now?

: That’s right. In this industry, you get to meet many different people. This point mirrors that of the part-time environment, and being able to talk to many people back then has worked out well for me.

While working, I was pleased to receive advice from the regulars (customers) from my different jobs. Although I didn’t understand the meaning behind their advice at that time, now that I’m here, it panned out to be exactly what they had told me.

In order to find “the things you like”, don’t place limits on yourself – first, give something a try


Q: Lastly, today’s younger generation has not changed much in the essence that they still have this mindset of “Since I don’t have a dream, I’ll find a job first.”, do you have any advice or part-time job you would recommend to them?

Kayano: I think that there is definitely a change. For example, I had this mindset when I was in my teens, then that thinking changed when I hit my 20s, and I’m sure that I will have different views in my 30s too, so I try not to place any limits on myself.

That’s why I believe in going in with your gut feeling. However, the fastest way is to find what out what you like and moving on from there.

Q: How do we go about finding the things we “like”?

: I think the first step is to just try out everything that you have interest in. You won’t know if you will like it unless you try it.

I actually wore a pink lab coat as a for a 1-day health examination job at some high school. I think it’s fine to start somewhere along those lines.

Even selling Christmas cakes can have its merits. You may end up meeting friends and people of common interest just by that one day experience. I think you will end up diversifying your experience from that point.

If you are the type who does not want to get out of the house, you can use that strong conviction to find a job where you can work from home. For a start, I think it’s good to have a flexible mindset, like a sponge that is willing to absorb all sorts of experience.

Thank you so much! Next, we will ask the person who has been supporting Kayano-san all this while, her manager, Ezaki-san.

Kayano-san continues to adjust herself in a positive direction


Q: From Ezaki-san’s point of view, what kind of person do you view Kayano-san as?

Ezaki Masataka (Ezaki)
: What’s great about her is that she views everything from a level perspective, and not adding excessive flair to her acting during auditions.

Of course, you wish to add your own interpretation of the character to a certain extent, but because the character is finalized in the recording studio, your assumptions may clash with that of the creators.

There is a growing demand for natural voice acting recently, so in order to leverage on the traits of her voice, and to allow the production team to find out that she’s capable of doing more, as well as voicing many other characters, Kayano-san is keeping in mind not to over-imagine her characters.

She is an actor who has a good balance based on her different experiences in the past, and I believe that she is able to get a bird’s eye view of the character she is acting out.

I believe that both actors and creators are proficient at concentrating on something, and most of them emit an unique aura. Amongst them, I would say there are more introverts than outgoing people.

And as for Kayano-san, I think she is an extremely outgoing person who likes to interact with other people.

Q: Some of the present voice actors have a negative mindset of “I need to be able to sing and dance”, but as for Kayano-san, I get the impression that she is someone who believes she can do everything, and a person who will turn anything into positives.

Ezaki: That’s amazing! I think everyone already shares this thought but, usually there’s an overwhelming passiveness when you start a job, and there are many people with a negative mindset of “I must do this.”, “Let me think about it” when asked to do certain things.

To be honest, Kayano-san still has a lot more to learn since she only entered the agency this year. However, her mentality of taking on everything in a positive light always impresses me.

Q: In a sense, a manager is someone who is easy to work together on the job with, right?

: That’s right. Even if I have not experienced something before, I frequently get a reaction (from her) “This looks fun, let’s do it!”, so I think it’s enjoyable doing the job together as a manager.

Anything is fine really. Perceive the fun in front of you, and take action

Q: Is there a common point amongst voice actors who you feel have the potential to get out and flourish?

: From the start of a role to the promotion of the work, I think there will be some of them who will leave a mark behind and make you feel like they are really shining.

Since being average will make you lose out to others, voice actors who have personalities which stand out from the rest of the crowd have more potential.

Q: Lastly, how do you make people realise their inner potential and unlock them?

Ezaki: Rather than conquering your weakness, I think it is more feasible to focus on enhancing your strengths. While it is important to acknowledge your weakness and to work on them, that would mean holding back on polishing your appeal and personality.

There are also people who have not found their interest or strengths, so to those people, I get them to try out as many different things as possible. For example, if they found something they think looks delicious on TV, there’s no harm going to go out to try the food. As long as you possess a curious mind, there’s a chance you may get to discover something or meet someone.

Even if the outcome is different from what you had in mind after trying, discovering that becomes part of your strength. Kayano-san would not have discovered her love for sake if she had not tried drinking (laughs). Really, anything is fine. Since nothing changes unless you take some actions, I think it is important to realise that yourself.

For acting, it’s important to experience the things we talked about earlier. Since acting comprises of emotions and senses, it requires you to match that with your state of mind and condition, and if there are relatable experiences, it becomes easier for you to form that image in the back of your mind. What kind of acting should you go for, how do you go about acting the part out? – Experiences become hints for these questions. For aspiring voice actors, I would like you to go through all kinds of experiences.

I fell ill earlier this year, and I had to get admitted to the hospital. At that time, the doctor in charge of me casually asked me “Has work been tough on you?”

I answered “All jobs are difficult.” Those words struck my heart.

Of course it is going to be difficult, but I will do my best. In the midst of the hardship, I would like to forge forward and take on various challenges.

Closing notes

In recent years, the job of a voice actor has been gradually attracting more attention, but it remains unclear on how and what to do to become a voice actor.

Kayano-san’s part-time job experiences in the hospitality sector allowed her to gain communication skills, and enabled her to interact with many people, and this was applied in her job as a voice actor as well.

[Maintain interest in anything, and take on challenges without limiting yourself]

Where do you start from? For people who harbour such thoughts, how about trying to tackle things that you are not thinking too much about, things that you have even the slightest interest in, and things that stir your heart.

Interview/Compilation: Hase Ken, Oda Kazusanosuke (Animate Lab)
Photography: Yamamoto Tetsuya

This interview was first published on 22 December 2015 in FromA Sho!!. All images and videos you see here belong to their respective owners. Many thanks to Pyrite for the proof reading and QC!


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