Three debuts, 12 years of idol experience, 25 years old, and countless accolades and experiences. That’s Miyawaki Sakura — a household name in Japan for her legendary HKT48 days. The Japanese idol has also made strides in Korea for her unique transition from J-pop superstar to K-pop rookie-turned-ace.

Having promoted in both Korea and Japan, arguably the world’s top idol producers, Sakura has the best of both worlds and their idol industries. But she’s adamant about showing her personality too, from her hobbies to her introspective side. EnVi details seven facts that dive into the veteran idol’s extensive career and endless charms.

Idol for life

October 2011 marked Sakura’s first step into stardom. As a member of J-pop girl group HKT48, she saw huge success. She was a consistent member in the “Kami 7” or “God 7” ranking that lists the most popular AKB48 members based on the Senbatsu Election, the official annual popularity ranking of all 48 Groups (e.g. AKB48, HKT48, NGT48, etc.) From 2015 to 2018, Sakura was consistently a strong contender for #1, with her last and highest ranking being #3.

Prior to debuting in IZONE, Sakura competed in Produce 48 (2018), where she was chosen as the first center for the show’s theme song “PICK ME.” The show touches on the transition of Japanese trainees into the rigorous Korean trainee system. While Sakura expected to receive a grade as low as F or D in the first ranking evaluation, she made a lasting impact with her first appearance. Coach and renowned choreographer Bae Yoon-jeong persuaded the other judges to trust her and give Sakura an A. “I think I know why you’re a strong [Senbatsu Election] candidate for #1 in Japan.” Sakura retained her A ranking and showed continuous improvements in the show, and in the end, ranked #2 in the final IZONE line-up.

In June 2021, post-IZONE Sakura announced her graduation from HKT48. A year later, July 2022 saw the veteran idol’s third debut. Re-debuting with former IZONE member Chaewon, Produce 48 contestant Yunjin, and new faces Kazuha and Eunchae, Sakura introduced her new identity with LE SSERAFIM. Under the group, she has snatched multiple brand partnerships with Louis Vuitton, Adidas, and MOLAK. The Rookie Award-winning group has released hit after hit, and is now moving on to their third comeback “UNFORGIVEN” and tours in North America, South America, and Asia.

Fanservice queen

From amazing stage presence to top-notch and genuine fanservice, Sakura is an ace at connecting with her fans. Her memory when it comes to remembering fans — such as recognizing fans who have supported her since AKB48 — is well-known as one of her best “born to be an idol” qualities. She goes as far as pointing out where she remembers them from. At one fansign event, she specified the events the fan had attended and remembered the videos they made just by their nickname. Volume warning: she greets fans with the most enthusiasm too.

Sakura also has a good eye for spotting fans from afar and points at fans she recognizes. Apart from this, at her graduation concert, she went above and beyond and dedicated a section for her fansites where they can take photos with ease. Whether it’s anecdotal evidence from fans or reports from the press, Sakura has established herself as a pro at making fans feel welcome and well-connected with her.

Fearless Kkura

In November 2022, Sakura launched her own YouTube channel titled “겁도 없꾸라,” which translates to “Fearless Kkura.” The Korean name is a wordplay combining the second word in “겁도 없구나” (geob-do eob-GU-NA) or “to have no fears” with “꾸라” or “Kkura,” Sakura’s nickname. True to the show’s name, the channel sees Sakura fearlessly take on new challenges such as debating, working at a reptile cafe, and learning zombie acting.

Fearless Kkura also invites guests, such as GOT7 member and soloist BamBam, who took on selling carp bread at Gangnam with Sakura; MOONBIN&SANHA, who tried and evaluated strange K- and J-food; and her own LE SSERAFIM members.


Sakura isn’t just all about the idol life; she’s also happy to share her hobbies like gaming, manga, and anime. Case in point: the idol-slash-gamer has shown her affinity for gaming in the ISAC 2020 eSports championship, where she was commended for placing second playing PUBG Mobile despite being more accustomed to the PC.

Sakura also has her own YouTube channel dedicated to gaming. While the last activity is dated April 2021, you can still see her in all her gamer girl glory as she got invited to the Tokyo Game Show, achieved a Victory Royale on Fortnite, and earned a triple kill on Apex Legends. Notably, some videos were posted during her jam-packed IZ*ONE activities, showing her efforts to make time to share her hobby with fans.

As the resident gamer girl in LE SSERAFIM, Sakura was excited to be at the League of Legends arena and play with her members at an internet cafe. In the LENIVERSE (2022-2023) web series, where the girls discover and explore new challenges, pro gamer Sakura can be seen guiding — and at some points also one-upping — her members.

Even when showing off new sides of herself, Sakura reinforces gaming as part of her personality: “Even if the way I look on stage has changed, I’m still the same old Sakura Miyawaki. The SAKURA who loves gaming won’t change — the only time I will change is when I’m on stage. I want to show people who I really am.”

Her hobbies also include watching anime and reading manga. Some recommendations from the idol include Oshi no Ko, Chainsaw Man, Spy X Family, If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die, World Trigger, Jujutsu Kaisen, and The Promised Neverland. The star’s never-ending ambition also seeps through her interests. Sakura once proclaimed that it would be a “dream” to write Japanese lyrics to be included in the OST of an anime she likes.

In a Fearless Kkura episode, Sakura explained her liking for these hobbies — she finds her extraordinary life similar to those depicted in their stories. “The main characters always have big dreams. I find it cool how they boldly talk about those and the way they overcome the crisis gives me strength.” Bonus for Genshin, anime, and manga fans: Sakura is in her nerdiest element doing Genshin-inspired missions and tackling all things nerdy. “I believe being a nerd means loving passionately. I’m not embarrassed to be a nerd. Instead, I’m actually proud.”

(If you were curious, her “real” MBTI is INTP.)

Love is love for Sakura

While idols are expected to stay mum about potentially controversial topics, Sakura deviates from that stereotype. Back in February 2017, she posted a review of the movie Close-Knit (2017), a familial story about a girl who was taken in by her uncle and his transgender girlfriend. In her review, she stated: “Love between men, love between women, it’s fine that they exist. And in my opinion, Japan needs to deepen its understanding of homosexuality.” She also considered the possibility of falling in love with a fellow woman: “Even [for] myself, there isn’t a right timing or encounter yet but there’s a possibility for me to fall in love with a woman too. […] If your heart shouts that you love someone, no matter what everyone else says, that’s love in my opinion.”

Sakura still stands by her sentiments. Last May 2022, when asked about the aforementioned review, she discussed the impact of how idols could normalize or bring awareness to these topics. To her, this is part of an idol’s service of being there for others. “Idols don’t just sing and dance on stage—they can also be role models for people, and someone who is always by their side for others. So I wanted to let people know there were others with these kinds of thoughts, and I also thought that if an idol was talking about the issue that even more people could become aware of it, too.” True to her current group’s “FEARLESS” nature, she also aspires to sing about a love that’s universal.

Model big sister

As the eldest and most seasoned member of LE SSERAFIM, Sakura is a natural at taking care of others — and she embraces the process. “I used to have an individualistic side and a lot of people mistook me for being cold, but now I’m more interested in looking after the other members than myself, and it’s harder to watch them struggling with something than to struggle with it myself. As the oldest member and the one with the most experience, I want to look after all of them.”

Previously, a tearful Sakura also spoke out for her members on their strict weight management. The members also consider Sakura as the one they turn to for advice — as well as their resident chef. As she wrote to Eunchae, she’s ready to take on her big sister responsibilities: “I’ll do all the difficult things for you so don’t worry about anything and just smile. Stay as you are. I love you and I’m proud of you.”

In a two-part odg series, Sakura helped a pair of one Japanese and one Korean kid befriend each other. Teaching them phrases from each other’s mother tongues, Sakura helped the pair cross language barriers and become friends. Recalling the help she received as a foreigner in Korea, she also taught them the importance of helping others. “It might be no big deal for someone who [offers that help], but it goes forever for the one who receives the help. The help I received is unforgettable. If you can be kind to that foreigner, it would greatly help them.” She also emphasized the value of making foreign friends, unbarred by stereotypes and language: “You realize that the stereotypes of being Korean or Japanese become useless. You get to see who they are. That is the good point of living in a foreign country.”

Sakura’s loving big sister presence can also be seen in her guesting in The Return of Superman. She appeared alongside Kazuha and Eunchae, and the trio took care of the episode’s featured baby, Zen. Sakura, in particular, received praise for skilfully changing Zen’s diapers, tying his hair, and teaching him Japanese. As she explained, the skills were learned naturally from having a younger brother 12 years younger than her.

Sakura’s busy idol life can never make her too busy to be present for her younger brother. On Instagram, Sakura has posted photos of their theme park adventures and talked about how she was happy to make memories with him after a long period of being apart.


As if Sakura wasn’t busy enough, she once added entrepreneur to her long list of accolades. Back in September 2021 — prior to her LE SSERAFIM re-debut — Sakura started her own cosmetic brand, CRAN BY MOLAK, a line extension under MOLAK. Priding itself on being green, the brand sold vibrant lip tints that were vegan, animal cruelty-free, and free of artificial fragrance. Lending a personal touch to the brand’s creation, Sakura designed all of the brand’s products and packaging.

Sakura shared that “the ‘CRAN’ in the brand’s name is a mixture of the Latin and French word for ‘cute’ and ‘pretty,’ and my nickname ‘Kura’. I’m really fond of it. Regarding the colors, there were multiple sample checks — testing how the packaging feels and its size, the brush, design, and also the packaging for shipping. For all this, I put many thoughts into it and there are super cute results! The color variations are well applicable for the personal color tests.”

While the brand was discontinued in November 2022, its achievements and Sakura’s touch on it are worth nothing. In the same month of the official store’s launch, the brand had accumulated a total of 50,000 sales.

As of writing, Sakura is still the face of MOLAK for their contact lens line. The brand continues to enjoy the artist’s selling power — the “Miyawaki Sakura contact lenses” sold 1 million products within a span of two months.

Japanese translation of Sakura’s CRAN BY MOLAK message by Amane

Want to get to know the rest of LE SSERAFIM? Check out our 7 Things series and learn more about Chaewon, Yunjin, Kazuha, and Eunchae.