February 3, 2013

"A Japanese pop star has shaved her head and offered a filmed apology..."

"... after breaking her management firm's rules by spending a night with her boyfriend."
"I don't believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did, but the first thing I thought was that I don't want to quit AKB48," [said Minami Minegishi ].... "If it is possible, I wish from the bottom of my heart to stay in the band. Everything I did is entirely my fault. I am so sorry."...

Minegishi was one of the original members of AKB48 when it was launched by producer Yasushi Akimoto in 2005. The band is made up of some 90 girls - whose ages range from mid teens to early 20s - who, in teams, appear daily in their own theatre and regularly on television, in adverts, and in magazines.

They portray an image of cuteness known as "kawaii", and have become a huge phenomenon both in Japan and increasingly in other Asian countries, correspondents say.
I'm no expert on Japanese culture, but it seems to me that if there were 90 of these AKB48-ers and you were destined to exit soon enough by getting slightly older that going out like this is a more effective way to achieve pop stardom than being in the darned group.

30 comments:

Erika said...

Menudo!

Only girls. And Japanese.

Ann Althouse said...

How is someone even called a "star" when there are 90 people in the group?

It's worse than being one of the Rockettes.

betamax3000 said...

From an earlier post:
"Those Who Whisper Beneath the Floor will tell you to shave your entire body..."

Sounds like she hears the Voices -- more than the other eighty-nine, that is.

Chip Ahoy said...

How is someone even called a "star" when there are 90 people in the group?

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Shouting Thomas said...

Are there any Japanese women who want to get married and have some babies?

Having babies and being married has become so taboo among Japanese women that you'd think it would become the new sign of erotic rebellion.

Chip Ahoy said...

Yeah, you're right, that is sad.

Maguro said...

Apparently she was one of the most popular of the 90. They have this thing where the AKB fans vote for their favorite girl and she came in 4th last time. So, she's a little more prominent than your average Rockette.

It's actually not unusual for idols to get into trouble over stuff like this, but the head-shaving part is pretty unique. Normally they just apologize and accept some kind of suspension, then come back quietly after everyone's moved onto other scandals.

Craig said...

The shopping malls in Manila have anime contests once a month where hundreds of teenaged Filipinos dress up as their favorite anime characters and compete for prizes with only a few moments on stage for each contestant to strike dramatic poses that are rated by a panel of judges. While waiting for their turn on stage and regrouping afterward the costumers are pursued by hordes of equally young teenaged photographers, publicists and fans who snap photos and conduct interviews for websites and print magazines. It's an industry unto itself.

pm317 said...

What repressive society that she had to shave her head to show contrition and all for what, sleeping with her boyfriend? There are many things admirable about Japanese culture but their rigid attitude toward crime and punishment (terms used loosely) is not acceptable.

Maguro said...

And I guess you have to consume a fair amount of Japanese pop culture to appreciate the phenomenon that is AKB48. They're absolutely ubiquitous, you can't turn on the TV without seeing AKB48 in a commercial or a present or former member in a variety or game show. You can't compare it to anything in the states, they are absolutely impossible to get away from.

rhhardin said...

Japan is seriously weird.

Erika said...

ST-they marry Americans. A Japanese friend of mine couldn't stomach her own culture anymore and left after university to earn a couple of graduate degrees overseas; she met and married a Navy officer. She's now happily ensconced in American military wife culture with three adorable kids. She has enough friends with the same story that they have monthly get-togethers to foster their kids' bilingualism.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I think Althouse has got it right because seppuku would have been a career-ender.

ironrailsironweights said...

What about atoning by shaving something else? Of course in America the "something else" would have been hairless already, but things might be different in Japan.

Peter

Ryan said...

When I first met my wife, who is Japanese, I had just gotten a buzz haircut. She asked me why I was in trouble.

This AKB48 thing is huge. It's hard to understand, but my 35 year old brother in law is obsessed with them, and in Japan that's not considered odd at all- for a grown man to act that way.

edutcher said...

Mitchell's right; before 9/2/45, she'd have been dead by now.

Fritz said...

Hairy-kari?

EDH said...

Prediction: She leaves AKB48 and ends up a solo act... under contract to Yasushi Akimoto.

bagoh20 said...

"kawaii"? Yes that's the word I was looking for to describe my avitar: edgy kawaii.

Rabel said...

"Japan is seriously weird."

I tend to agree, but after yesterday's mall cop videos, I'm feeling a little glass housey.

Clyde said...

AKB48 sounds like a food additive or something. They should have named the group "Kawaii Nine-O." Be there, aloha!

William said...

Very perceptive coment by Chip at 8:44....Perhaps she can do a cover version of some of Sinead O'Connors songs.

kentuckyliz said...

Fritz FTW.

She could proudly advance into manga porno.

Balfegor said...

re: bagoh20:

"kawaii"? Yes that's the word I was looking for to describe my avitar: edgy kawaii.

No, I think the term you are looking for is kimo-kawaii.

Balfegor said...

Re: Shouting Thomas:

Are there any Japanese women who want to get married and have some babies?

Sure, I know many who have. And some who haven't yet, but still want to.

And some who are married, but don't have any interest in children.

richao.kun said...
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richao.kun said...

I just spent a couple weeks at the in-laws' place in Japan over the new year holiday watching far more Japanese TV than I care to admit. The key difference between these girls and the Rockettes, I think, is the sheer amount of exposure they get.

It's not just the concerts or the albums: It's the variety shows, the talk shows, the commercials, the documentaries, the extensive coverage in the Japanese equivalent of People. More than half of Japanese prime time TV is taken up by variety/talk shows that consist of between 6 and 30 (seriously) celebrities sitting around blathering on about inanely stupid crap. Many of these celebrities are famous primarily because they appear on these shows, but pop singers, movie stars, news anchors and others are also in the stable of regular participants that these shows cycle through. The AKB-48ers are completely integrated into this structure.

One show I watched in January (assuming I'm recalling it correctly - they all kind of blend together) consisted of a panel of a couple of dozen celebrities gathered to talk about . . . the private lives of two or three AKB-48ers. The girls' parents had taken videos of their home life (bedrooms, morning routines, etc., etc.); snippets were shown, with cloying narration, followed by incredulous discussion among the gathered celebrities (including the girls and their parents) about what they had just seen. This went on for at least ninety minutes. Gripping television, I tell you.

The end result is that the celebrity world starts to feel like a family: They all have appeared on these shows with each other at least once. And it's small enough, and Japan is insular enough, that they start feeling like part of your own family. For young women celebrities marketed for their cuteness, "moral" standards can be high: The illusion is necessary to maintain the persona that warrants crushes by middle aged men, and filial like attachment on the part of older men ("she'd make the perfect daughter-in-law," is something that really gets said about 20-something female stars in Japan) and women. The Rockettes are really the wrong lens for trying to understand what's going on here.

richao.kun said...

pm13 - "their rigid attitude toward crime and punishment (terms used loosely) is not acceptable"

While I agree that social sanctions in Japan can be much harsher (a function in part of the relative homogeneity of the population, I think), in legal terms I think we Americans are far harsher in practice, whether you're talking civil or criminal sanctions. Sure, you don't get the type of procedural protections we're used to here in the US, but a first offender also has very little chance of getting hammered with ridiculously long prison sentences, even for murder absent aggravating circumstances. The Aaron Swartz case would never have happened there. (There are other miscarriages of justice, but in terms of unreasonable harshness, the American legal system wins hands down among developed nations.)

Alex said...

richao.kun - thanks for that insight into J-Pop celebrity, I wouldn't have ever known that otherwise.

Mitch H. said...

Idol fandom is a bizarre and ritualistic hobby that I frankly don't understand. It's the madonna/whore complex on steroids with a mescaline chaser. AKB48 is the vehicle which somebody put together to out-compete Morning Musume, which only has a dozen or so members at any given time, and has turned over a dozen times in the fifteen or sixteen years it's been in existence.

The hair-cutting thing, on the other hand, is pure pop Japanese tradition, sort of a secular carryover from the old tradition of retiring in disgrace to become a Buddhist monk.