JAPAN - Kanna Hashimoto is certainly a child of the Internet age - what brought her to stardom was a photograph posted on the Web last year that caught the hearts of the public due to her "too angelic" image.
A member of an all-girl Fukuoka-based dance-vocal idol group called Rev. from DVL, Hashimoto is also active as a solo performer in a variety of fields.
The drastic changes in the environment surrounding her over the past year could give a 15-year-old girl from a regional city a lot of pressure. Yet, Hashimoto seems completely carefree.
"People called me 'too angelic,' but I couldn't really feel it myself. I was just so surprised [with the response], and I thought, 'Please don't raise the bar too high,'" she said with a laugh.
Hashimoto entered the entertainment world when she was a third-year primary school student.
"I was such a TV enthusiast, watching a variety of programs, from dramas, [the anime programme] Precure, to news programs and so on. I began to think I also wanted to appear on TV," said the up-and-coming idol singer.
To realise her dream, she joined an entertainment management office, Active Hakata, after seeing an ad in a newspaper.
In 2009, she joined DVL, the predecessor of Rev. from DVL, beginning her activities as a local idol. She also acted in director Hirokazu Koreeda's 2011 film "Kiseki" (Miracle) when she was a sixth-grade primary school student.
Her group made its major-label debut in April with the single "Love - arigatou -," followed by the second single "Do my best!!" released in August.
But her turning point came in November last year, when a fan posted an image of her on the Web.
The image, featuring Hashimoto dancing at the Hakata Dontaku festival, spread around sites including the 2channel bulletin board and Twitter, making her instantly popular with comments like "such an angelic idol star" and "the most beautiful girl in 1,000 years."
After that, she began receiving a flood of job offers, such as TV appearances and interviews, making her known nationwide.
As a member of Rev. from DVL, she is traveling around the country, deepening her interaction with her fans through live performances and hand-shaking events. Her cute smile and natural cheerful character are winning people's hearts.
"I suppose my fans may be surprised when they see me perform live due to the gap between the image they have of me [and the real me], such as my [husky] voice and the fact that I'm actually not a preppie, girlish girl," she said. "I look like a quiet type, but I actually talk a lot. I like chatting so much. I feel pleased when my fans say they appreciate such gaps."
This spring, Hashimoto entered a local high school. Asked about how she likes school life, she said: "I really enjoy it. The practices for the sports festival were so enthralling. In my class, girls' manga is popular."
Although she now has more jobs in Tokyo, she aims to juggle work and school.
This year, she has been outstandingly active as a solo performer, having been featured on the cover of women's magazine, "anan," and in the opening graphic pages of other magazines. She also appeared on TV variety shows and in a SoftBank Mobile Corp. commercial featuring the popular Shirato family, becoming recognised among TV viewers.
She also appeared on a TV drama, making her full-scale debut as an actress in "Suikyu Yankees" (water polo Yankees), which aired on Fuji TV. On that show, she played herself.
Hashimoto is quite ambitious about her future career.
"It may sound like I'm too greedy, but I want to appear in both films and TV dramas. My selling point is I'm not shy around strangers and I have guts. I want to try a variety of jobs," she said.
At the end of the interview, she gave a message to her fans. "Please come and see me [in Fukuoka]. We're looking forward to seeing you," she said in the Hakata dialect, used in Fukuoka Prefecture. "I want to make efforts to make myself as close to the image of an angel as I can."
Aged only 15, Hashimoto's future looks bright.