Shocking News: Japanese Idols’ Job is Making Male Fantasies

It has been a while since I did a post that some will see as controversial. I figure I’ll be in the minority on this one. (Can I blame my time living in Japan and coming to understand the culture and mindset? ^_~ ) Nevertheless, a recent incident involving AKB48 idol member MINEGISHI Minami and the subsequent outcry by some self righteous folks at her punishment, followed by her mea culpa to fans has pushed my buttons, for good or ill.

For those who don’t know, AKB48 is a massive, popular idol group in Japan, divided into teams due to the number of idols in the group. In addition to singing, like ALL idols and idol groups in Japan, these girls job is to provide non-pornographic wank and fantasy “waifu” (or girlfriend) material for males in Japan and beyond.  That means dressing in swimsuits, schoolgirl uniforms, etc. As such, many of these girls are forced to sign contracts that forbid them from doing certain things, such as dating.

In the case of the 20-year old Minami-san, or “Mi-chan” as her fans call her, she violated her contract by spending the night with Alan Shirahama, a guy who’s a dancer with the Japanese boy group GENERATIONS. She got caught leaving his home, despite a poor disguise of a face mask and ball cap, by some Japanese magazine, who then published photos of the incident. Because she got caught violating her contract, she was demoted to AKB48’s trainee team.  Following a Japanese custom, she shaved her head and issued an apology on YouTube (Japan Daily Press has video and translation here).

So, what about this story has me irritated enough to bloviate on a blog about it?

Well for start, there’s this supposed outrage that girls, hired to be every male’s fantasy girl, are hired to be every male’s fantasy girl. Seriously?! How long as the idol culture been a part of Japanese culture?

When I was in Japan, the Japanese love of young, beautiful Japanese girls went WAY beyond idols. Back then, it may have been illegal to buy child porn, but it wasn’t illegal to own it.  The yakuza (or whomever else) found ways to get around the law and sold softcore, color Japanese CP magazines.  When Japan got pressured into strengthening their CP laws, the publication of softcore CP may have gone away, but that void was filled with “the next best thing” in the form of publications posting sexually suggestive images of underage girls, including manga magazines.

Personally, I seriously dislike this aspect of Japanese culture and I never will like it. That being said, it is part of the culture, and as far as I’m concerned, they can do what they want to do.  So while I dislike it, what I dislike more is when some folks act all shocked and surprised that young girls in Japan are sexuallized.  Yeah, ’cause that’s something brand new in Japan, or anywhere else for that matter. *_*

Regardless, some of the outcry is over the fact that that Minami-san’s contract forbade her to date, and that she was punished for breaking the rules.  Yeah, ’cause contracts are just words on paper, not something to be adhered to.  Even now, after what has happened with Minami-san, there are tons of ultra-cute/hot/beautiful Japanese teen girls who’d gladly sign a contract with a no dating clause in it in order to become an idol.

“Ah, but what if the contract said that she had to bang fat, middle aged businessmen?  Would you be OK with that?”

Such a contract would be illegal, so no, I wouldn’t be OK with that. As far as I know, this no dating clause is not illegal, and has been a long-standing item in many idol contracts.  As I said, even knowing this, there are countless young Japanese girls who’d gladly sign such a contract in order to be an idol, just as there are many people in this world who’d give up all kinds of things for freebies.

Minami-san’s job was to sell a fantasy, and she agreed to perform this job, which as far as I know, she performed it quite well.  In exchange for becoming an idol and sex symbol, she agreed to not date.  She knew this quite well, but unfortunately for her, she rolled the dice and came up snake eyes. Thus, in a very traditional Japanese act of attrition, she shaves her head (a symbol of starting fresh), and issues a heart-felt apology. She doesn’t look for people to blame or to excuse her actions; she simply accepts responsibility for doing something that she knew violated her contract, whether any one of us think this clause in her contract is wrong.

“It’s wrong that she felt compelled to do this at all!”

Says you.

I find it somewhat amusing that the very people who’d say, “You can’t push your morality on the rest of the world” are quick to push their morality on others when something someone does violates their sense of right and wrong. Funny how that goes. I think the outrage is fueled by the fact that Minami-san’s apology is so heartfelt and genuine. After all, only in evil Japan, with its lolicon/shoutacon/”if you can imagine a sexual fetish, we’ve drawn it” porn culture would a girl caught spending the night with a boy be made to feel shame.

“She was probably forced to make the video, to shame her.”

I rather doubt it. The theory here is that by making Minami-san apologize publicly, and shave her head to boot, the company saves face. The problem is, whenever an idol in Japan has violated these no dating rules in the past, they’ve just been demoted and life goes on.  No Japanese company would want to bring even more light on what would be seen as a disgrace, whether we in West consider this action disgraceful or not, which is why she was demoted to the trainee group.  I don’t think that her idol company even had a clue that she was going to do this, as seen by how embarrassed they are now.  If the outraged want a conspiracy, what about one that has Minami-san doing the apology just to get back at her company?  Nah, that doesn’t work either because I think the apology is real, and I think she feels she’s done something dishonorable by violating the terms of her contract.

Still, what really gets me is that there are a lot of people who are professionally in the anime/manga/other industry in the U.S. who are outraged by this. I’m not calling out any names because they are entitled to their opinions and my point here is not to slap people down or to get into a fight with anyone.  Indeed, this isn’t targeted at any specific person or persons.  That being said, I am stunned anyone associated with the Japanese entertainment business on the American side would be surprised or even outraged by this. After all, this making of male fantasies is a big part of the manga/anime business, is it not?

Seriously, we have the harem genre, which usually has a variety different fantasy girl types, all vying for the love/sex of a single guy.  Of course, we need to go further, so there’s the imouto/oniichan genre, which flogs incest, or pseudo incestuous themes. Let’s not forget the sensei-student route either.  Heck, when CLAMP did their Cardcaptor Sakura manga, they tried to hit as many sexual fetish pairings as they could (although to be fair, CLAMP weren’t solely interested in male fantasies, though Sakura-chan is apparently highly ranked for those into lolicon material).

I couldn’t help but think of the anime (from the H-visual novel) White Album.  That anime did touch on the aspects of the idol culture from the 80s (though not as well as I would have liked).  One of those aspects was the notion that the idol wasn’t to date a guy, even if she already had a boyfriend.  Although there were no contract aspects preventing any of the idol characters in this series from dating, this one idol’s manager went above and beyond to make sure no one in the public knew that her idol charge had even had a boyfriend ever in her life.

So, with everything that we know about the Japanese and their views of young babes, we dare to feign outrage in America (or elsewhere outside of Japan) over this?  Our outrage is even higher because the girl in question shaved her head and issued a genuine apology, accepting full responsibility?  Yeah, cause that never happens in Japanese culture.  (As an aside, Motoko in Love Hina cuts her hair after a perceived disgrace, as a symbol of starting over.)  By George, our definitions of what is right and wrong should apply to Japan and shame on them for not being more American/Western in their thinking!

Frankly, I respect the heck out of Minami-san for what she’s done here.  I can’t speak for how Japanese fans, who allow themselves to be disillusioned by the fantasy that these girls they fap to aren’t as clean as the wind-driven snow, will react to her apology. All I know is that just as Faust sold his soul to the Devil for power and pleasure, people of all kinds would do anything in order to gain fame and fortune. No doubt, Minami-san was lured by the notion of fame and worshipful adoration that comes from being an idol, and countless other girls would gladly love to take her place on the idol stage. Whether we like it or not, that is how it is in Japan, and it is their business on whether it should continue (which it will), not the decision of we armchair quarterbacks in America and elsewhere outside of Japan.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

31 Responses to “Shocking News: Japanese Idols’ Job is Making Male Fantasies”

  1. I wonder if that picture of Minami-san having fun with her fellow AKB girls taken afterwards is making us wonder now about AKB48’s intentions and/or possibly Minami’s true goals.

    The whole idol culture apparently has either just trolled us hard or they are trying to cover things up fast because of the worldwide attention the video is getting.

    Either way, nothing will change still.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      If you are talking about the first image, that was from a year or two ago. Is there another image I should know about?

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      OK, I now see the image you are talking about. *lol* I do believe her apology was real, but she’ll be bigger than ever, so in the end, it would appear to be a win-win on the Japanese side, and they laugh at the gaijin outrage all the way to the bank. ^_~

  2. Anonymous says:

    So what your saying is, because its Japan and “their culture”, they can’t be criticized by anyone? There are certain cultures out there that do some sick shit, does that mean they should not be criticized, because its “their culture”?

    What a load of crap. Us outsiders obviously can’t tell anyone how to live or what to do, but don’t tell anybody what they can or can’t feel.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >What a load of crap. Us outsiders obviously can’t tell anyone how to live or what to do, but don’t tell anybody what they can or can’t feel.

      And I didn’t say anything of the kind. That being said, there were folks, in their outrage, demanding arrests, changes to the way Japan does things, etc.

  3. Brett says:

    So, with everything that we know about the Japanese and their views of young babes, we dare to feign outrage in America (or elsewhere outside of Japan) over this?

    Who said anything about “feigned” outrage? I’m genuinely outraged that idols get such shitty contracts that they’re required to play to the bizarre, pedophiliac fantasies of many male fans by fitting to a creepy definition of “pure”.

    It’s creepy as fuck, and not just for the idol culture. It’s one of the reasons why I despise so much of the anime that comes out these days – pandering to the creepy otaku crowd has completely taken over a large segment of it. It’s also a sign of how far feminism still has to go in Japan.

    All I know is that just as Faust sold his soul to the Devil for power and pleasure, people of all kinds would do anything in order to gain fame and fortune. No doubt, Minami-san was lured by the notion of fame and worshipful adoration that comes from being an idol, and countless other girls would gladly love to take her place on the idol stage.

    These aren’t legal adults making that decision – they’re children. And honestly, this is a sign of how fucked up the idol industry is over there, that they can force conditions like this on girls for years, and then just discard them when they can’t be considered “young” anymore.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >It’s one of the reasons why I despise so much of the anime that comes out these days – pandering to the creepy otaku crowd has completely taken over a large segment of it. It’s also a sign of how far feminism still has to go in Japan.

      That’s the main reason why so little of modern anime interests me. My blog pays the price for that too.

      >These aren’t legal adults making that decision – they’re children.

      And in the case of children, who signed on their behalf? I do believe it was an adult. Plus, Minami-san is now an adult, and despite it all, she apparently wants to stay in the group and make amends.

      As to the system, it has been going on for quite a while. I suppose in some ways, it is like the porn system, only without the actual porn.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you, it was a clear breach of contract and its not like she was fired, she could still possible make a comeback if she works hard enough.

    On another note, are you aware of the anime AKB0048. It is a sci-fi series set in a universe where entertainment is illegal and the group fight against the repressive regime with gorilla concerts and microphone lightsabers. It is currently on its second season and is a lot better than it sounds.

  5. arimareiji says:

    Is “forcing” an idol to not get caught publicly dating illegal or wrong per se? As you’ve noted, not really.

    But I would say that it is a really sad comment on the fanboys whose expectations create such a situation. On that, I don’t think we especially differ.

  6. Anonymous says:

    For your information, even if the Japanese think it’s not a problem to degrade their women, we don’t have to abide by that nonsense. So if you’re gung ho about how the Japanese have a right to do things according to their culture, who are you to deny Western fans the same right to decry these practices based on our culture? I think you like harem series so maybe your ideal is that women should be male fantasies and apologize if they fail, but most of us want to treat them as human beings with equal rights who shouldn’t be required to take this kind of crap lying down. There’s nothing cute about your cultural relativism based attempt to find excuses for male domination.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >For your information, even if the Japanese think it’s not a problem to degrade their women, we don’t have to abide by that nonsense.
      >There’s nothing cute about your cultural relativism based attempt to find excuses for male domination.

      Go tell that to any of those Islamic countries, where the women have no choice but be dominated. Oh wait, you’d probably be executed and riots would break out if you tried. ^_~

  7. arimareiji says:

    Short interview with the group’s manager.

    Don’t get your hopes too high from the URL/title of the article, he mostly says a whole lot of nothing. But the comments section is interesting, and shows a broad diversity of opinion (of which the “slavery” and “human rights” protestors are the minority).

  8. Anonymous says:

    > Go tell that to any of those Islamic countries, where the women have no choice but be dominated. Oh wait, you’d probably be executed and riots would break out if you tried. ^_~

    That’s a really great excuse you’ve got there. Why stop there, let’s apply this logic everywhere. Like you could go beat someone up and claim it’s not a crime because some other guy somewhere else killed their victim and giving a beating is nothing compared to that. I don’t have to overlook mistreating women in Japan just because it’s not the very worst offender in the world. If you don’t care about this that’s your business, but you have no right to start disparaging those who actually give a damn.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I was critical of the hypocrisy I saw from some quarters where there were no problems with the idol culture, and indeed there was a wink and a nod at it, then this happened and suddenly, “OH NO! THIS IS TERRIBLE!” And yet, it was nothing new, so why the sudden outrage?

      Anyway, there’s no crime here. A girl willingly shaved her head, and willingly wants to stay in the system you loathe. Frankly, I think that’s what angers some folks the most. After all, it has to be wrong thinking to want to stay in a system that we’ve deemed wrong.

  9. BSTrubClub says:

    I think perhaps us (in the US, at least) should take a long look at how we treat our teen pop stars (maybe because of my age, the ones that pop to mind are when Britney Spears & Christina Aguilera were young, or the countdown till the Olsen Twins became ‘legal’. Never mind Miley Cyrus.) before we get too critical of other countries. While I am saddened by the whole lot of it, it is hard to hold moral high ground in the west regarding the sexualization of youth when it happens in your own back yard.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Oh, I agree totally. I grew up in the South, and I thought nothing of five year old girls getting dolled up for beauty pageants. It was just part of the what happened. So, for an event like the Peanut Festival, there were three or four beauty queens, depending on age level. Today, if I had a daughter, there’d be no way I’d want her to be involved in this kind of thing.

  10. Lan says:

    Why is this story such a big deal? What am I suppose to be shocked about? Why are other people shocked? I dont get it. She had a fling. BIG DEAL. She was lucky she wasnt sacked outright due to going against her contract. She would have then had a bigger chance of being an even bigger star as a solo artist, probably. Why are west going so crazy over this?

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >She would have then had a bigger chance of being an even bigger star as a solo artist, probably.

      In Japan? I’m not so sure. Possibly, if she still went the forgiveness route, but she’d be damaged goods in the industry and many might not want to touch her.

      As to the craziness coming from the West, the fact that this girl shaved her head (following a Japanese custom) and apologized for violating her contract and bringing dishonor to herself and her company (as well as disappointing her fans) is what has driven most of the anger. She did this on her own and she took responsibility. Taking responsibility for one’s own actions has become so uncommon any more.

      Plus, the folks who are outraged the most are applying their value system to another culture. It would be one thing if the company in question had forced her to shave her head (some of the outraged folks believe this is the case because they can’t wrap their heads around the notion that a beautiful young girl would do this on her own) and publicly shamed her. They didn’t, the outraged folks can’t understand this, and they feel that Japan should just become more enlightened.

    • Lan says:

      I hear you regarding how the west are putting their values on another culture. Being someone who understands I have to say i dont find it a big deal- at all. If anything she got lucky being able to keep her job (though a lower rank one)

  11. Anonymous says:

    > Plus, the folks who are outraged the most are applying their value system to another culture.

    Right, we must only do that with Islamic cultures, never with the Japanese.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Concerning banging fat business men abusing teenage girls:

    “Such a contract would be illegal, so no, I wouldn’t be OK with that.”

    Is that really how we should look upon morality? Many terrible things have been completely legal in the past. Was child pornography in Japan OK as long as it was legal? I don’t think so. It’s true that there is a lot of hypocrisy involved, and western countries have their own comparable problems. I still think that we shouldn’t go with “if it’s legal it’s OK” or “it’s their culture so whatever”.

    If selling your organs was legal, many people in desperate situations would choose to do so. Same goes for child prostitution. The Japanese idol industry wouldn’t die if no-dating contracts were illegal, but the idols would have an easier (and imo more dignified) life. In the end it’s up to Japanese to choose their laws and this is what they have chosen, but I don’t think it’s hypocritical to say that I’m happy we do things differently, or that I hope things will change in Japan.

    I’m not demanding anything, I understand that this is how the industry works, I’m just saying that I think it’s pretty twisted & I wish that women would be portrayed more like humans. This is indeed my value system and I am imposing it on the poor, vulnerable idol industry, not by accident but by design.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Unfortunately, morality is in the eye of the beholder. For example, once upon a time in Western history, it was considered immoral for a woman to reveal her ankles. Today, considering homosexuality to be immoral is likely to get you run out on a rail and heavily punished for “wrong thinking” since the new morality says, “Its cool.” However, it is immoral to drink sugary beverages or eat tasty foods because of obesity (they couch it as “health”).

  13. appletoad says:

    Who originally addressed when she was caught? Can things like this eventually blow over?

  14. noodle says:

    Yeah, I know, I’m commenting on a post that’s almost two years old. Sue me.

    The problem isn’t that she had to do something so bizarre as part of her job, the problem is that that job exists at all. Show business is often messed up at the best of times, but Japanese (and now South Korean) Idol culture is uniquely screwed up. It’s essentially an industrial manufacturing process in which they catch girls early, groom and train them, use them for a few years and them dump them when they get ‘too old’ or become unprofitable from some supposed fall from grace. The entire notion of having contracts that micromanage their lives even when off the stage is really messed up.

    Sex sells, but Idols aren’t even really selling sex. It’s like they’re selling the opposite: pandering to some really strange male fantasy of feminine purity. Idols aren’t treated as people, they’re objects. They’re picked and groomed to be ‘moe’ and have nicknames, catchphrases, etc assigned to them. The entire industry is emblematic of a consumerist culture that has been utterly morally rotted down to a very basic level.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Yeah, I know, I’m commenting on a post that’s almost two years old. Sue me.

      Not a problem. If it was, I’d have comments auto-stop after a certain period of time.

      The entire notion of having contracts that micromanage their lives even when off the stage is really messed up.

      But that’s what they and more importantly, their parents, agree to.

      Sex sells, but Idols aren’t even really selling sex. It’s like they’re selling the opposite: pandering to some really strange male fantasy of feminine purity.

      The Japanese have the most astonishing range of sexual fetishes out there, including the perfect wife based on Japanese tradition. So they are selling sex. Some idols go further than others.

      Idols aren’t treated as people, they’re objects.

      Hence the term “idol”. ^_~ An idol is simply an object, but it is worshiped as a deity. Japanese Idols are much the same, only they are people and they get a kick out of the worship from their fans. I know because for the heck of it, I followed a few Idols on G+. These girls have mastered the art of the selfie and looking cute in all situations.

  15. noodle says:

    Children are not equipped or mature enough to make decisions like that, and any parent who signs off on such a contract is not qualified to be a parent. I’m not sure how much research has been done into it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if idols and especially former idols suffer from a whole plethora of psychological issues. Other youth celebrities like child actors certainly often do.

    And the social psychology that has to exist in order to create a scenario where a young woman would shave her head and record a tearful apology for the ‘crime’ of having an active sex life is disturbing on multiple levels.

Want to comment? Leave a Reply! Some HTML (for bold, italics, etc.) permitted. Use [spoiler][/spoiler] to hide spoiler content. Block quotes are <blockquote>Text you want to quote goes here.</blockquote>. No personal attacks on other comenters, please. Spirited debate is OK though. ^_^

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress