I don’t believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did.
February 1, 2013 11:51 PM   Subscribe

A couple days ago, Minami Minegishi, a 20 year-old member of the wholesome, innocent idol group AKB48 posted a video of herself, head shaved, tearfully begging not to be fired from the group. What horrible crime did she commit? What awful, unpardonable sin caused her demotion and public humilation? Dating.

From the Japan Today article, Members of AKB48 "are allowed to have “one-sided romantic feelings” for a boy but can never progress beyond hinting at their crush—and must never disabuse their legions of male fans that they might one day stand a chance with their fantasy woman."

Reactions have been quite strong, though in recent months, other members have been demoted or transferred to regional AKB48 'sister' groups for similar violations. Flaws in the idol system are pretty widespread. Maybe this is a moment for a new union movement in Japan?
posted by Ghidorah (76 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
God, what misogyny. Sickening.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:57 PM on February 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


I presume the anti-dating rule is to maximize attractiveness and appearance of availability to fans?
posted by dunkadunc at 11:58 PM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really love living here, but damn do I hate hate hate Idol culture. Not a single redeeming quality.
posted by snwod at 11:58 PM on February 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, this kind of thing really is worthy of the classic "WTF Japan", isn't it? Pretty messed up.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:03 AM on February 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, this is fucked up. Idol culture is bad in the States, too, but nothing like this.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:06 AM on February 2, 2013


I really debated that, flapjax, since I'm usually one of the people complaining about the tag, but yeah, I've got nothing this time.

One thing, I guess I didn't make clear: She shaved her own head. It's traditionally an act of extreme contrition after a personal disgrace, and it's usually only done by men. The fact that she felt the need to do that only highlights how screwed up it is.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:06 AM on February 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


This has such a cult vibe. Just can't shake that feeling.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 AM on February 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


must never disabuse their legions of male fans that they might one day stand a chance with their fantasy woman

Now I have to wonder about how many and how bad are stalkers over Japan in comparison with other places. That kind of shit is almost like a free lunch sign for those mentalities, I would think (Japan or not Japan regardless).
posted by Iosephus at 12:10 AM on February 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


There's also a synthetic cannabinoid of the same name.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:12 AM on February 2, 2013


Given that Johnnys has a reputation for sexual predation, I can't understand how any parent would want their kids to have anything to do with show business in Japan.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:13 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are J-pop chanteuses expected to blow and/or fuck the management company guys and their buddies on a whim in order to even get a foot in the door, like they are in K-pop?

Yeah, there's nothing cute about this shit. I can forgive horrible music, taste being what it is, but the outright exploitation of these women (and the boys too) is unconscionable.
posted by bardic at 12:19 AM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


What horrible crime did she commit? What awful, unpardonable sin caused her demotion and public humilation? Dating.

...

Minegishi's apology came hours after a tabloid newspaper published photographs of her leaving the apartment of her boyfriend, Alan Shirahama, a dancer in a boy band.

You know, I have a really hard time believing that she is the only one spending the night at her boyfriend's place, or having her boyfriend come to her place, or whatever. I mean, for chrissakes, there are, like, dozens and dozens of these girls, aren't there? They can't all be having these chaste lives.

It seems to me that her real sin was getting caught.

Not that I'm defending the way that idol groups work here. It's all messed up, both Johnny's stuff and all the XXX48 shit. although I have a soft spot in my heart for some of the 嵐 and SMAP guys, for some reason, but I guess that's neither here nor there
posted by dubitable at 12:26 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Watching the Red & White Song Competition the last couple of New Years' Eves, it's striking how none of these jokers can sing either. And the real singers are getting pushed off the Red & White. How sad.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:30 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now I have to wonder about how many and how bad are stalkers over Japan in comparison with other places.

Can't say I know much about Japanese culture, but Perfect Blue is an amazing movie that focuses on this subject.
posted by edeezy at 12:35 AM on February 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


I really love living here, but damn do I hate hate hate Idol culture. Not a single redeeming quality.

Correct me if i'm wrong, but aren't AKB48 even more unusual than regular idol groups? I mean with the strictness, having daily theater performances, and the extra creepy handshake events? I honestly don't think there is anything like it in America to compare to. Kind of shocked, but not, when i read that they make around $200 million a year from sales, but then with some obsessive fans buying hundreds of cds to get the handshake tickets, it makes a bit more sense. Not in a good way, but in a so that's where the people buying it are coming from.

Can't say I know much about Japanese culture, but Perfect Blue is an amazing movie that focuses on this subject.

An American documentary about similar themes, I Think We're Alone Now, is fascinating if not very depressing. Imagine that with a group and management that encourages fans to obsess, buy merchandise, and meet the members. Perfect Blue is a great look inside it, also not the happiest movie, obviously.
posted by usagizero at 1:00 AM on February 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


There is nothing wholesome or innocent about this idol group. It is straight up asian fetish marketing.

It is horrible that the young woman had to make such a ridiculous apology vid, not to mention cutting her hair. While I wonder if even that is some sort of marketing stunt, at the same time that a young woman would have to participate in such a marketing stunt is just as bad.
posted by lampshade at 1:28 AM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe this is a moment for a new union movement in Japan?

Or perhaps they could ask the Yakuza to negotiate a more reasonable agreement on their behalf?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:29 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe this is a moment for a new union movement in Japan?

If, as the article suggests, this violates the law, then perhaps the door is open for legal challenge. But considering how interchangeable these girls are (87 members in the one group!), I don't see any opportunity for unionization.
posted by Edgewise at 1:59 AM on February 2, 2013


Bardic

Can you give some evidence about the k-pop work? Also, to be really cynical, could this be marketing?
posted by PinkMoose at 2:04 AM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was comped for an AKB48 performance a year or so ago. Dragged to the event kicking and screaming, but ended the evening with a smile on my face. The Akihabara venue is surprisingly small; it reminds me of the intimate yose or rakugo (traditional comedy) halls in older districts of Tokyo. The audience is squished into hard seats with no arm rests. The singers performed at least twenty numbers, with numerous costume changes mixed in. The music is very much old-school 1980s J-Pop, with few of the electronica or dubstep influences that you hear in K-Pop hits like Gangam Style. I was told that tickets are dolled out by lottery, and are almost impossible to acquire.

I'd heard that AKB48 was a magnet for prowling middle aged dudes with Lolita complexes, but most of the attendees were young, clean cut bro types--not at all questionable or scuzzy. As is the case with traditional kabuki, they yell the names of their favorite performers midway through the numbers. Apparently, in order to boost CD sales, rabid fans will buy hundreds of a CD release by their favorite singer.

The highlight of the event--the famous hando tacchi, or "high five" line--took place at the end. It was promo-ed repeatedly during the concert. What happens is this: once the lights come on, the audience lines up single file, and they shuffle along in front of a similar line of the singers, high-fiving each performer and exchanging pleasantries and complements. A few bouncer types stand behind the audience and push them ahead if the line slows. It was a surprising moment of intimacy, and the performers put up a game face and seemed to make an effort to express interest in each audience member and maintain eye contact.

My ears rang continuously throughout the next day. The music is played at ear-splitting volume, like a heavy metal concert.
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:43 AM on February 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


Yeah that pretty much sounds like hell to me.
posted by mannequito at 2:59 AM on February 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Japan, more than most places, is known for demanding products and artwork that are flawless representations of the form. Not always of course, there is a definite Japanese concept of flawed beauty that is probably just as famous, but avatars and order have a strong place in Japanese culture. This has sometimes been an incredible asset as represented in the work of Genichi Taguchi's quality control innovations. It has sometimes been a benign quirk as represented by the famous and exorbitantly priced "perfect fruit". For individuals however, it can sometimes lead to catastrophic results, as we see here.

No human being can reflect a platonic ideal indefinitely, regardless of what that ideal is. This kind of result is tragic, but also predictable among such a large group of similarly taxed individuals. The full illusion is impossible to keep up, but this also might be part of the attraction for some. Those who demand perfect avatars might look forward to better version of the idol-vocaloid-holograms in the future. The prospect of a lifelike pop star that will never go off cue and never let down the fans isn't so far off.
posted by Winnemac at 3:34 AM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Akihabara48
All of us
You can come meet
More than anyone else
You'll grow to love us
Please
Right? Right?
So Akihabara48
All of us
You can come meet
At this place, because we're chasing after a dream,
Please support us

Akihabara48
Akihabara48
Akihabara48
Akihabara48
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:39 AM on February 2, 2013


Flaws in are the idol system.
posted by Brak at 5:04 AM on February 2, 2013


Can you give some evidence about the k-pop work?

Apparently it's not great. These girls (and I say girls because they are enlisted as young as 7 years old) give up so much for years, including daily training, plastic surgery etc., to achieve a highly-specialised skillset, but the idolatry of their fans is apparently focused on the groups and the members are interchangeable. From page 7:
Not all members of the S.M. family are as close to Chairman Lee. In recent years, several family members have sued the company over abusive treatment and so-called “slave contracts.” Perhaps the most notorious case is that of Han Geng, a Chinese-born, Mandarin-speaking dancer. S.M. discovered him in Beijing in 2001, and he débuted as a member of Super Junior in 2005. In 2009, he accused the company of, among other things, forcing him to sign a thirteen-year contract when he was eighteen; paying him only a fraction of the profits earned; fining him when he refused to do things the company asked him to do; and making him work for two years straight without a single day off, which Han claimed caused him to develop gastritis and kidney disease. The Korean courts ruled in Han’s favor, but shortly after the ruling he withdrew the suit. He has since left the group.

S.M. initially defended its long-term contracts by pointing to the costs of housing, feeding, and training recruits for five years or more, which can run into the millions of dollars. But the furor over “slave contracts” damaged S.M.’s reputation among netizens, and in recent years its contracts have become more equitable. Girls’ Generation’s members are rumored to have signed up for seven years each, with salaries of a million dollars a year, which can hardly be called exploitative.

Other agencies employing an S.M.-style factory system may be less progressive. In February, 2011, three members of KARA, a hugely popular girl group with D.S.P., one of the smaller agencies, filed a lawsuit claiming that, even though the group earned the agency hundreds of thousands of dollars, each member was paid only a hundred and forty dollars a month. The agency disputed that figure, and eventually the two sides settled. The onerous restrictions that some agencies place on idols have been widely publicized in Korea. Another small agency, Alpha Entertainment, forbids its female trainees to have boyfriends and bars any food or water after 7 P.M., according to the Straits Times, Singapore’s English-language newspaper. They are not allowed to go anywhere without supervision. When the paper asked the mother of Ferlyn, one of the Alpha trainees, how she felt about her daughter’s regimen, she replied, “What the girls have gone through so far has been quite reasonable. The company has invested a lot in them, so they need to work hard for the company. I am not worried about Ferlyn. I want her to follow her dreams and make it big.”
posted by ersatz at 5:16 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, from the Flaws link:

The danger is of this fantasy creeping out more widely into society: Japan currently ranks at 101 in the world gender-equality rankings (79 places below the United States, 32 below China, and two below Azerbaijan).

You. Don't. Say. It's kind of shocking to me as well that the article sees the need to take this kid-gloves approach to gently explaining, "You know, if your argument is that the punishment was simply too harsh, you might want to consider that you're part of the problem."

I kind of wish I could just unsee all of this. It's infuriating.
posted by Brak at 5:43 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


From Wikipedia:

Associated acts:
SKE48
SDN48
NMB48
JKT48
HKT48
TPE48
OJS48
SNH48


What? No EHS48? Or what about YKL48? Their earlier work harkens back to the golden age of idol groups. Fuck that.

All kidding aside, this is the first time I've ever heard of the phenomenon. It just seems way creepy in an of itself but then to have this poor girl feeling like she needs to do something like this just gives it that extra tinge of "Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot?" Thanks for the link edeezy. I am going to check it out.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:51 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Google Translate can't translate the video itself, but the title and description of the most recent video from the AKB48 YouTube channel suggests she might have been fired.

Notice of termination time video delivery message Minami Minegishi
"It is the announcement of the end time message Minami Minegishi video delivery."
posted by alby at 6:01 AM on February 2, 2013


Japan, more than most places, is known for demanding products and artwork that are flawless representations of the form. Not always of course, there is a definite Japanese concept of flawed beauty that is probably just as famous, but avatars and order have a strong place in Japanese culture.

Oh please, spare me. This is most emphatically not what is going on with AKB48 and all the variations. For one, to be completely blunt, most folks you talk to in Japan know that the girls in AKB48 are much more "girl next door" and not so much "flawless representations of the form..." and that has nothing to do with wabi-sabi. So let's just leave the Orientalism at the door for a second.

Frankly, this modern Japanese phenomenon is entirely about someone figuring out a really clever marketing tactic. How brilliant is it that you have a group with so many girls in it that you can sell shit for every single one? You can send them to different parts of the country at the same time to have events and rake in the bucks. The big sellers "graduate" and start their own careers which you keep a hand in. It's brilliant. I suppose before that there was Morning Musume but this took it to a new level.

There may be something "Japanese" about AKB48, but if so it is still a recent cultural phenomenon, and has much more to do with Western culture and capitalism hitting the shores of an island nation than it has to do with any remnants of old Japanese culture.

Anyways, the whole "let's be perfect virginal representations of girls--yet somehow slutty and available to you" is not anything foreign to Westerners.
posted by dubitable at 6:22 AM on February 2, 2013 [38 favorites]


The new video doesn't say anything about the status of Minegishi's career with AKB48; basically it's saying that Minegishi has conveyed her regret for her actions and her love for AKB48 at a handshake event on 2/2, and the fans have conveyed their support for Minegishi, and out of respect for what the fans want and Minegishi's own personal feelings, they're taking the apology video offline.
posted by Jeanne at 6:29 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


out of respect for what the fans want and Minegishi's own personal feelings, they're taking the apology video offline.

At first, I was wondering how the band management could take down a personal video. And then I realized the video is POSTED ON THE FUCKING AKB48 YOUTUBE CHANNEL. That's all kinds of fucked up.
posted by chrominance at 6:42 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


>this modern Japanese phenomenon is entirely about someone figuring out a really clever marketing tactic.

That someone is AKB48's genius producer, whose name I'm too lazy to google at the moment. According to a book about the group that I read, he decided to upend the conventional model of singing idols, in which the singer (like Justin Bieber or Rihanna) stands on a pedestal and occasionally sends tweets to the unwashed masses. He committed himself (so claims the book) to forming a more personal, grass-roots type of group targeting lonely, disaffected, otaku-esque males in the 30 to 40 age range, who would glom on to an individual member of the group, forming a unique emotional bond. These superfans would become undying supporters of their favorite member--whether she's Minegishi or somebody else--reading her blog, buy dozens of worthless CDs to up her popularity, buying posters, figurines, merchandise, etc. In turn, the AKB48 member would be expected to give back to her idolizers, through the high-five line, personalized concerts, and even memorizing the names of and giving shout-outs to particular superfans.

The flip side appears to be a grueling schedule for the performers, in which they're always on the go, giving concerts in rural areas, recording CDs, appearing in TV dramas, staging marathon performances, memorizing choreography and intricate costume changes--and going to class and doing homework if they're still in high school. To expect all of this, yet deprive them of romantic relationships at the same time? My response would be to say, fuck dat.

Japan is currently embroiled in a massive corporal punishment scandal (Ghidorah, flapjaxs at midnight and KokuRyu have front row seats to this), in which coaches of Judo and high school basketball have been forced to step down due to physically punishing their charges. I doubt if there's any corporal punishment in AKB48, but I wouldn't be surprised if the producers aren't taken to task for bullying, which is a very sensitive issue in Japan right now, as it is in the United States.
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:51 AM on February 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


> It seems to me that her real sin was getting caught.

Her real sin was doing something that management feels may impede the flow of capital.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


That someone is AKB48's genius producer, whose name I'm too lazy to google at the moment.

According to Wiki, it's Yasushi Akimoto. This also isn't the first time it's happened: "Following scandals where they were photographed with their boyfriends, Natsumi Hirajima and Rumi Yonezawa resigned from AKB48."

From a logistical and PR standpoint I can completely understand the no dating (or more properly, the no getting photographed with your boyfriend) rule; the core of the marketing concept seems to be the superfans obsessed with individual members, and romantic intrigues could really complicate that, particularly when you get to the part where boy splits with cast member A and goes with cast member B, crossing A's and B's superfans.

I know someone who used to work at a Disney theme park and the whole shebang really seems little different from the duties he describes. The problem is that the members of AKB48 don't get to go home when the theme park closes, and unlike other pop stars who have the same problem they don't individually get the same level of compensation for putting up with not having a private life.
posted by localroger at 7:07 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Her real sin was doing something that management feels may impede the flow of capital.

This is particularly egregious, but it's a matter of quantity rather than quality over the control that many entertainers, especially young people, experience under the guidance of their "handler." The music business seems particularly rife with horrible stories, but Hollywood's "Golden Age" certainly saw inhuman levels of treatment (and resulting emotional meltdowns). The art world, I gather, is also not above feeding artist's addiction to keep production flowing. That these things happen disproportionately to women, especially young women, is another avenue for consideration.

I imagine it's the natural outgrowth of reducing people to the status of "flesh envelopes for some capital-producing talent." If the management could somehow buy the salable talent or quality off the performer (or just dig it out), they would happily do so. It'd be so much cleaner that way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:17 AM on February 2, 2013


Although it doesn't reach the same level of fuckedupitness this does remind me of Kristen Stewart's public apology for getting caught having an affair with Rupert Sanders.
posted by rdr at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2013


Is there a lot of evidence that once a J-Idol girl has a boyfriend, her popularity/ lucrativeness falls? Or is it just what the bosses assume? Could a J-Idol star go independent in such an event a la The Artist Formerly Known as Prince or is that impossible?
posted by Bwithh at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2013


From Jacqueline Edmondson's John Lennon: A Biography: "John's conviction that [he and Cynthia] should wed was riddled with fear about the consequences for the Beatles. Brian cautioned the boys repeatedly that fans would not be so accepting if one of them had a steady girlfriend, let alone a wife."
posted by languagehat at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


dubitable your comment is an uncharitable misinterpretation of my words. In fact, it goes beyond reading between the lines and gets the ideas quite backwards. I was clearly dismissing this as having to do with the Wabi Sabi concept and only mentioned it as an example of how Japanese culture cannot be summarized by absolute principles. I also made no reference at all to any kind of traditional culture or unique Japanese-ness of the past, instead making indirect comparisons to Toyota and luxury agribusiness. I also don't think that orientalism accusations, accusing someone of seeing a static eastern world, make sense against someone who has just referred to a particular Japanese statistician and an incredible innovator.

I am not an expert in idol pop by any means and have no problem with being contradicted on that. However, if you are going to take the time to be extra rude on the internet you could at least also take the time to read more closely. Local foreigner authority on Japan status should not encourage you to make the thread a hostile place. There is enough of that out there as it is.
posted by Winnemac at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2013


[Let's keep discussion to issues, not interpersonal back-and-forth. Email and MefiMail are available for one-on-one conversations.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2013


Those who demand perfect avatars might look forward to better version of the idol-vocaloid-holograms in the future. The prospect of a lifelike pop star that will never go off cue and never let down the fans isn't so far off.
posted by Winnemac at 3:34 AM on February 2 [5 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


The future is already here
posted by Bwithh at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2013


If they can't date because dating makes them seem unavailable, well, um, doesn't a known-to-the-public rule stating that they can't date also do that? Moreso, even?

It doesn't make any sense.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brian cautioned the boys repeatedly that fans would not be so accepting if one of them had a steady girlfriend, let alone a wife.

This was perfected in America in the 90s. Nothing makes a better magnet for pre-pubescent or teens girls than non-threatening males of indeterminate sexuality. I have a friend who has the gaydar of a twelve year old girl and she is still constantly in a shock that every single musical hero of hers eventually comes out of the closet.
posted by Ber at 8:44 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Non-Threatening Boys
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:56 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they can't date because dating makes them seem unavailable, well, um, doesn't a known-to-the-public rule stating that they can't date also do that? Moreso, even?

It doesn't make any sense.

This just in, it turns out that at least one of these girls actually turned out to have been dating!

Here's a weird tip for marketers that may just work, it turns out love/lust/lonely/longing is often irrational, creepy and powerful, and makes for great marketing opportunities!
posted by tychotesla at 9:08 AM on February 2, 2013


See Judy Garland. In 99 cases out of a hundred it begins with parents setting them up. Also see Honey Boo Boo.
posted by bukvich at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2013


Are J-pop chanteuses expected to blow and/or fuck the management company guys and their buddies on a whim in order to even get a foot in the door, like they are in K-pop?

I would take that with a grain of salt. Korean parents have been telling their children stories like these to steer them away from going into the entertainment industry since my parents generation.
posted by cazoo at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2013


I guess they--those young women and their handlers, I mean--could stop all this shit, and it would do away with one venue available to those perverts who get into to these various anti-feminist buzz-words, but wait, .... and give up show business?

Nah.

No. I was right the first time. Let them stop all this nonsense, and get back to the basics: sex, drugs, and Rock & Roll!
posted by mule98J at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2013


If this is what "wholesome" and "innocent" causes, then fuck wholesome and innocent.
posted by Decani at 9:41 AM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Japan is currently embroiled in a massive corporal punishment scandal in which coaches of Judo and high school basketball have been forced to step down due to physically punishing their charges. I doubt if there's any corporal punishment in AKB48, but I wouldn't be surprised if the producers aren't taken to task for bullying, which is a very sensitive issue in Japan right now,

That's a good point. As one American friend of mine who has lived in Japan for 30+ years pointed out, at least with the judo scandal (the one in Osaka where the team captain committed suicide after being repeatedly beaten), the coach got fired (I think), or at least it is an issue such that the mayor of Osaka publicly condemned it. It didn't used to happen, so things are moving forward.

However, with AKB48, my wife said that the public apology is a great piece of marketing, as all Japanese can identify with someone who failed big time and who has now repented, and is trying very hard ("yoku ganbatteiru" - my least favourite Japanese expression) to achieve success again.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:05 AM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How brilliant is it that you have a group with so many girls in it that you can sell shit for every single one? You can send them to different parts of the country at the same time to have events and rake in the bucks. The big sellers "graduate" and start their own careers which you keep a hand in. It's brilliant. I suppose before that there was Morning Musume but this took it to a new level.

I wonder why the Group Size Imperative has yet to catch on in the parallel universe of boybands. The biggest boyband I sort of paid attention to was Super Junior (kpop), which had a relatively paltry 14 members at its peak. SuJu also had sub-groups that could separately release albums in different regions (Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, etc.), but they could never do the grassroots countrywide sweep thing that made AKB48 a juggernaut.

Maybe a group of adolescent boys become unmanageable past a certain size?
posted by fatehunter at 11:14 AM on February 2, 2013


That someone is AKB48's genius producer, whose name I'm too lazy to google at the moment.

Leggy Starlitz?
posted by verb at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe a group of adolescent boys become unmanageable past a certain size?

As my grandfather used to say: "A boy can be made to do the work of a man. Two boys can do half the work of a man...

...and three boys are no damn good at all."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:43 AM on February 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


You can send them to different parts of the country at the same time to have events and rake in the bucks.

Actually, under the ownsership conglomerate, each part of Japan (and other parts of Asia) has their own version of AKB48. It's a true multiplicity:

AKB48 producer Yasushi Akimoto has also created AKB48 sister groups that are based on the same "idols you can meet" concept. Each such sister group has a home theater based in Japan or elsewhere in Asia and releases its own individual singles.

AKB48's first sister group, SKE48, was formed in 2008, and their theater is based in Sakae, Nagoya.[130] Subsequently, SDN48 ("Saturday Night"), NMB48[131] , ("Namba"), and HKT48[132] ("Hakata") were formed. In 2011, the first sister group outside of Japan, JKT48[133] , was announced. The group is based in Jakarta, Indonesia. JKT48 was followed by two more overseas AKB48 sister groups: TPE48, based in Taipei, Taiwan; and SNH48[134] , based in Shanghai, China.

Apart from sister groups, AKB48 also has an "official rival" named Nogizaka46.[135] Created in 2011, Nogizaka46 is named after the Sony Music Japan main office building.[135]

posted by KokuRyu at 12:00 PM on February 2, 2013


This is all making the Japanese music biz eerily resemble the Japanese racing circuit as depicted in Speed Racer.
posted by localroger at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Kokuryu, you're confusing two different incidents.

the judo scandal (the one in Osaka where the team captain committed suicide after being repeatedly beaten), the coach got fired (I think), or at least it is an issue such that the mayor of Osaka publicly condemned it. It didn't used to happen, so things are moving forward.

The coach of the judo scandal wasn't in a school, it was the women's national team. And the coach wasn't fired, the judo association (or whatever it's officially called) didn't really want him to quit but he was basically given the chance to resign, which he did, rather reluctantly (his press conference gave the impression that he thought it wasn't his fault, it was "the pressure" that forced him to do it).

Osaka mayor Hashimoto condemned the high school where an 11th grade boy committed suicide, and that was a basketball team. The coach hasn't been fired yet as far as I know. And the fact that Hashimoto went and forced the school to change it's entrance exam is another can of beans altogether. I hate the guy (Hashimoto) and don't agree at all with his reasoning and ways of butting in, but that doesn't pertain to AKB so I won't get into it.

Not to single you out or anything, KokuRyu, but I don't think bringing in the corporal punishment issue into this AKB business is really constructive because in my view, Minami Minegishi wasn't bullied into doing what she did. She's young, but she's a professional entertainer who's been working in the business for years, so I think she knew exactly what she was doing when she shaved her head. Like your wife and others in this thread have pointed out, it's a marketing ploy. The video was released on their official channel. Yasushi Akimoto is famous for doing things like this. It's called "enjo shoho" in Japanese, literally "flame marketing," and another member was recently involved in a photo-recall scandal that verged on child-porn.

Also, the "no-dating" rule wasn't implemented by the management, it was a decision the girls themselves made when they first started out as a group. So my take was that she wasn't apologizing for dating per se, but for breaking a rule that they themselves had implemented. But maybe I'm being too charitable.

And I don't even know why I let my coffee cool while I typed in all this, I really couldn't care less about AKB48 AT ALL.
posted by misozaki at 3:19 PM on February 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, the bullying thing (which I've debated making a post about, but it literally makes me too angry to form sentences) is all over the map:

A month ago, or maybe longer now, a coach at a high level sports oriented public school slapped the captain of the basketball team in practice. That night, the student killed himself. In his note, he said that he had asked the coach why he was the one the coach slapped, and the coach told him that he was the captain of the team, so he had to take responsibility for the team. The kid asked to just stop being the captain, and the coach told him that if he stepped down from being captain, he'd be demoted to the JV team and never play again. Since his suicide, dozens of former students have come forward saying that they had been abused, beaten, and otherwise bullied by that coach, who's been at the school for an abnormal 17 years (public school teachers are usually transferred every so often, and usually stay at a school no more than eight years at a time. Among other reasons, the goal is to keep them from becoming more powerful than the principal). The (batshitinsane) mayor of Osaka has punished the school severely, ordering them not to do entrance exams this year, them relenting, I believe, bu now is trying to strip the school of its sports focused program. Meanwhile, the coach still hasn't been fired, and hasn't stepped down.

The judo thing is a separate issue that came to light last week, when a letter signed by fifteen members of the women's national judo team accused their coach of beating them as a form of discipline. His press conference was so dispicable, I almost threw the remote through the tv. He claimed that he believed there was "a two way trust" between the coach and the team, and that he was wrong, since he had believed they trusted him like he had trusted them. He talked about the accusations as if the team members (that he had beaten) were betraying him. And hasrefusedto step down. The head of the judo association, rather than actually respond b making any kind of decision or announcement to ban physical punishment, bullying, or humiliation, did the typical apology/take no action/resign thing.

On the other hand, since this came to light, my school, which is a pretty traditional/conservative school, has passed out a form to all teachers asking the. To admit if they have physically abused, bullied, or shamed students, and if so, when, who, and how. It looks like they will essentially be offering a clean slate, but are outright saying, "these actions are no longer acceptable, the times have changed, and you have to change with them." It's a start, at least, but like I said, seething anger doesn't make good FPP.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:26 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or, dammit, what misozaki said. Stupid iPad keyboard.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2013


No, you made my point much clearer, Ghidorah! Ohayo!
posted by misozaki at 3:33 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoops, got my bullying mixed up.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:12 PM on February 2, 2013


The fact that there's so much bullying here to be mixed up is the basic problem, isn't it? As a parent, I've got to say I've still got my fingers crossed for my own son so that he doesn't have to experience any of this shit that's happening in so many schools.
posted by misozaki at 4:20 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's one of the reasons why we live mostly in Canada. We go back to Japan for a few months each year, and our eldest tends to integrate well into his school - he's been with the same cohort since preschool, and he does well in Japanese school and can play sports - he fits in.

However, I imagine that would change in junior high school, which, as you know, can be very brutal.

A friend of my wife's had to come back to Tsuruga to take care of her mother who had had a stroke, and brought her kids back with her. The daughter goes to junior high school, and has actually been reprimanded by an English teacher for not pronouncing English properly, as a Japanese person would, if you can believe it.

I'm not quite sure what I would do in that situation.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2013


reprimanded by an English teacher for not pronouncing English properly, as a Japanese person would, if you can believe it.

No, I believe it! That was me, way back when. I'm just sad (but not surprised, unfortunately) to learn that things haven't changed at all in the decades since I was in school.
posted by misozaki at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2013


Nigel: [with consternation] Oh, yes...Bouffant Betty. Well, I would prefer if we kept your marriage a secret. You see, a lot of women are going to want to have _sex_ with you, and, er, we want them to think they _can_.
Homer: Well, if I explain it to Marge _that_ way, I'm sure she'll understand!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:46 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm most likely not going to end up having children by this point, but if I had a child, the plan was to have them go to elementary school here, because there are actually a lot of really good things going on in elementary education here. The second they finish six grade though, it would be time for school in America. I've taught, mostly at the junior high and high school level here for nearly 13 years, and there's no way in hell I'd send my child to some of the schools I've worked at.

Just a fun example: my school, which, while it has a pretty radically different approach to English, is not set up for returnee students. Several years back, we had a couple students who had both lived abroad during elementary school, and were quite good at English. Too good, evidently, for the other students. One girl picked up on the reactions of her classmates whenever she spoke up in class and pretty much decided to stop being good at English in order to fit in. The other girl didn't really understand, or notice, but she was getting bullied, mostly little things. One day, I noticed that someone had used pins to poke holes in her face in the class photo. Awful, shitty junior high stuff. My partner teacher told me that she was going to talk to the student, and basically tell her to tone it down, to stop being so good at English. The teacher's response to the bullying was to tell the bullied kid to stop being so bullyable.

I asked the teacher to let me talk to the girl instead, since I honestly didn't trust the teacher not to make things worse. I sat down with the student, and I explained that, unfortunately, what was happening was because the other kids were jealous, and that, no, it probably wouldn't get better any time soon, but that the second she was done with high school, with her life experience, and her English ability, she would have absolutely no problem finding her way in the world, whether in Japan or overseas, while her tormentors would most likely finish six years of English lessons unable to even ask where the toilet is in English. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, trying to explain to her why people were being so shitty to her, and that it wasn't her goddamn fault.

So, yeah, I've got some pretty strong feelings on JH education in Japan.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Gordion Knott: "... most of the attendees were young, clean cut bro types--not at all questionable or scuzzy. "

Perhaps your definition of of questionable is very different than mine.
posted by symbioid at 4:53 PM on February 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, I know many, many long-time expats (or naturalized Japanese citizens) who send their kids to school in Japan, and their kids are fine. Truth be told, junior high school was not that great for me in Canada. I was nearly beaten to death.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:54 PM on February 2, 2013


I feel, though, that I have derailed this thread, so I would like to help put things back on track.

I think the AKB48 is worth paying attention to, in that they have such a profound impact on culture. It's very difficult to tell how my niece and my friends' daughters (all between the ages of 10 and 16) would view this. Is it just something that takes place in their imagination? Is it something they internalize? Is it something boys internalize?

Everyone, young and old, seems to love AKB48. My sister-in-law is also a huge Arashi fan, and fans in Japan define the meaning of the word "fan".
posted by KokuRyu at 5:04 PM on February 2, 2013


Actually, the general (adult, media) reaction to the Minami Minegishi business here has been that she and the management have gone way too far this time. I actually think (hope?) that it has impacted the AKB48 business model enough to slow them down a bit. Another one of its most popular members has announced that she's "graduating" AKB at the end of this year, and I think she's bailing. I'm hoping it's the beginning of the end of AKB48, and about time... I'm soooooo sick of seeing them everywhere!
posted by misozaki at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2013


In talking about it this week in the office, some of the other teachers were going with the 'it's only for creepy lechers anyway' line on AKB48, but I think it's a mistake to forget who the largest chunk of their fanbase is, namely teenage girls. I have an array of students who know the names and affiliation of every damn one of the members of AKB48. When our students wrote essays this year about their most memorable experience, one girl wrote about the time she and her friend bumped into two members in Harajuku and had a conversation with them. When she gave her speech, she spoke about it in almost religious tones.

Girls all around Japan look up to this marketing monstrosity gone mad. They take cues on how to act, how to look, from this twisted version of what attractive is supposed to be. On the one hand, you've got teenage girls frolicking in lingerie in their hit video, but on the other, having a boyfriend is BAD! crap like what's happening now, jesus, I'd hate to see what my students are internalizing due to this shit.

And don't get me started on Sexy Zone, let alone the fact that one of the members is a twelve year old.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:39 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Abso-fucking-loutly agree, Ghidora.

Again, though, it's Idol culture, and I argue that there's nothing redeeming about it. Maybe the music? It's just canned Pop. Have some house band sing the songs, slap some anime on there for videos, and there ya go. You can market it just the same, and with the new hologram tech you can even put on concerts. I'd imagine it'd be even easier to personalize it for the loser super-fans as well.
posted by snwod at 6:34 PM on February 2, 2013


Just ruminating (and remembering a conversation with a homestay student who stayed with us last month), isn't part of the issue here - what made the extreme "apology" to fans to necessary - that fans pay one hell of a lot of money to meet and greet the members of AKB48?

Apparently AKB48 sold the most records in Japan (and the entire world), eclipsing B'z, who routinely held the title (my wife is a major B'z fan).

How did AKB48 do this? In every CD there's some sort of "ticket" that allows fans a chance to meet the bandmembers in person, and I guess the more tickets you get, the more you get to meet them (I'm a little hazy on the details). Our homestay student said that he bought the CD's in order to meet AKB48 members.

So it's big big money for that image.

The weird thing is, the members the group and its various offshoots in Osaka and Fukuoka, for example, are typically former "kabakura" girls, which I suppose translates as "low rent bar hostess", so they're not being prospected for being virgins. It's all part of the "water trade".

AKB48 got its start in a nightclub/stage in the basement in Akihabara, and their success is a bit of a rare thing, so I suppose their legions of rabid fans feel some sort of ownership, having to pay to meet them and all.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:07 PM on February 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


part from sister groups, AKB48 also has an "official rival" named Nogizaka46

Do they sing like the Washington Generals play basketball?
posted by straight at 9:44 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


One could arguably say that about basically all of them.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:20 PM on February 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sounds like an amped-up "It's a Small World".
posted by telstar at 12:04 AM on February 3, 2013


Is it weird that this whole thing feels staged to me? Am I that cynical?
posted by speicus at 3:41 AM on February 3, 2013


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