While 45 Girls Planet 999 contestants sadly said goodbye in the first elimination round last week, one trainee found herself at the very top: J-Group’s Kawaguchi Yurina. Debuting in the show’s Top 9 for the first time, Yurina ranked no.1 overall with 4,446,387 points, receiving the most votes across a staggering 83 countries. But just who is Kawaguchi Yurina? Take a look at her full journey here—from athlete to actress to J-Pop idol and beyond.
22-year-old Kawaguchi Yurina was born on June 19, 1999, in Miyazaki Prefecture, a coastal district of Japan known often referred to as a “tropical paradise.”
While she certainly has the skill to become part of the Girls Planet 999 girl group’s vocal line if she keeps her ranking up, Yurina pursued many other talents before beginning her life as an idol.
In fact, her first major endeavor was something you may not expect: golf. Yurina has stated that she loves physical activity and enjoys most sports, which may explain why she began playing golf at the age of just eight. She went on to play golf at a semi-professional level and still considers it to be one of her special skills.
In her Girls Planet 999 introductory profile, Yurina revealed that her other special skill is playing the flute—another talent she used at a competitive level as a youngster.
But what many Japanese fans know Kawaguchi Yurina for is her time in the J-Pop girl group X21. Also known as Next Generation Unit X21, the 21-member group was formed in 2013, but Yurina joined in 2016.
Her first release with X21 was “Natsu dayo!!” in July 2016, which reached no.15 on the Oricon Singles Chart and made it to the top 30 of Billboard Japan‘s Hot 100.
X21 went on to release four more tracks before their unfortunate disbandment on November 30, 2018. While disbandment would be enough to make many stars give up on their dream, then-19-year-old Yurina was hooked on performing arts and wasn’t about to stop then.
So it didn’t take her long to follow yet another creative path: acting. Back when she was 14 years old, Yurina competed in the Japan Bishōjo Contest—a famous beauty pageant with a star-studded winner list. While Yurina lost out the Grand Prix prize to model and actress Hikaru Takahashi, she did become one of the winners of the Bishōjo Actor division.
After leaving X21, Yurina then went on to show her acting skills in multiple productions. In 2019, she scored a supporting role as keyboardist Harumi Hikita in NHK‘s Hinata no Sawa-chan, Nomini Noru, a regional drama about high school surfers shot in her home prefecture of Miyazaki.
— hourly yurina (@hourlyyurina) September 2, 2021
She’s also appeared in an educational English language web series,
BEST ACTOR OUT THERE! GIVE YURINA THAT OSCAR!! pic.twitter.com/srGHKjGQ00
— dev (@yurinapick) August 8, 2021
a CF for the virtual online community Ameba Pigg,
regular broadcasts for Disney Channel Japan,
a golfing show on Japan’s Golf Network, and more.
head full of golf player yurina pic.twitter.com/YvcueNdejB
— yurina pics (@yurinagallery) September 7, 2021
Now, she’s turned her sights to South Korea. Many of Kawaguchi Yurina’s favorite stars are K-Pop artists, including BoA, KARA, and Girls’ Generation, and she even joined their fan clubs as a youngster. So, it’s no surprise she’s taken an interest in debuting in the industry herself. Fans spotted her flying to South Korea back in early June, and it wasn’t long until she was confirmed for Girls Planet 999‘s lineup.
Despite ranking no.1 in the most recent iteration of the Top 9, Yurina wasn’t the most popular trainee at first. When she first debuted on the show, she was ranked 9th out of all 33 J-Group contestants, and she went on to impress viewers and judges with her Planet Demo Stage performance of TWICE‘s “Fancy.”
In her first appearance on Girls Planet 999, Yurina sadly revealed, “This attempt is like a miracle. I’ll do my best thinking that this will be my first and last opportunity.” Thankfully, she definitely had the skills to back up her final attempt at idol life.
After her “Fancy” performance, judge Lim Han Byul told Yurina, “Your breathing was very stable as well as your tone. That was the most stable live.” K-Pop Mentor Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany agreed, telling Yurina, “You were very stable as a member, so I want to compliment you.” Ultimately, Yurina was the standout contestant in her group, leading the judges to add her to the Top 9 candidate list.
However, when the first Top 9 ranking was announced, Yurina didn’t make the cut. On top of that, fans complained that she lacked screentime in the following episodes. Despite that, viewers couldn’t ignore her talent during her Connect Mission performance, and her BLACKPINK “How You Like That” fancam racked up almost 700,000 views in two weeks.
Finally, the moment of truth came when the first elimination round rolled around in episode five. Yurina’s cell (with Seo Youngeun and Shen Xiaoting) was ranked second with 2,649,735 points, and when the Top 9 was announced, Yurina herself was named the first-place contestant overall.
kawaguchi yurina's speech for winning 1st rank! pic.twitter.com/aB0PJQLmZP
— Girls Planet 999 pics (@gplanetfiles) September 4, 2021
Alongside her skills and talents, Yurina is experienced in traditional pursuits like calligraphy, flower arrangement, and Japanese tea ceremonies. She loves listening to music, watching animated films and movies, series like Harry Potter and Disney movies, and going to amusement parks.
Yurina also has great English skills and considers herself straightforward, bright, and the type to do things at her own pace. All in all, there’s nothing to dislike about this shining star.
Now, only time will tell whether Kawaguchi Yurina will continue her streak and stay in the Top 9 long enough to make her debut. Tune in to Girls Planet 999 every Friday at 8:20 PM KST until the October 22 finale to find out if she makes it through.