Why Are Idol Groups so Popular in Japan?

Discussion in 'The STAGE48 Lobby' started by ithebigc, Jun 2, 2010.

  1. ithebigc

    ithebigc Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    *If you can't be bothered to read the whole thing, important parts are in color*

    Hey, stage48! :) So this post is mainly concerned with the topic question but before that here's a backstory as to why I'm making a post like this.

    For UCI, the school year is ending. I'm part of a class called Humanities Core and as a capstone project our assignment is to write a 10 page research paper on a topic of our choosing. From the start, we were encouraged to choose a topic that we were genuinely interested in, otherwise we'd be bored out of our minds. Obviously, first thought that popped into my head was AKB48! Well, and then my logical side took hold and said "Stupid. Do you know how DIFFICULT it'd be to do a 10 page research paper on AKB48?! They're not exactly scholarly!" So then I kinda gave up on the idea.

    Except that that was the time that AKB48 chose to announce they were appearing at Anime Expo 2010. Freaking excited and motivated at the prospect of maybe getting a second chance to meet Mayuyu, I said, "Screw it, I'm going to do something related to AKB48!" And....well, right now, I'm not as motivated because I'm pretty depressed about Mayuyu not coming (Acchan, 2nd favorite, just isn't the same :cry: ). But! I already chose my topic, it's difficult to change it when it's due next week! Obviously I've started and found various books and online articles about idols (including virtual idols!), but given some of the cool things I've learned on stage48, I thought posting here might attract some intelligent individual.

    I expanded it a bit to focus more on idol groups in general, because writing one on AKB48 really is impossible. So my research questions are something like: Why are idol groups so popular in Japan, and mostly Japan? Are there some aspects of Japanese culture/pop culture that lend to this phenomenon? What makes them so appealing?

    It really is quite unique to Japan; other countries like South Korea have SNSD, but it's not quite the same....This topic was inspired mostly by the recent popularity of idol groups, especially AKB48. Double platinum with Ponytail to Shushu?! [hehe] Also, for almost all singles, I see AKB48 compared with Arashi, which is probably the only group that can beat them right now, or so people in the threads say. If we count Arashi as an idol group (eh, you can argue that, I guess), then crap, the top two groups in Japan are idol groups! Correct me if I'm wrong.

    I thought of starting a topic on this forum because a lot of you guys are more experienced with idol groups than me. Hello! Project, Arashi (maybe), Idoling!!!, etc. I didn't start listening to idol music until AKB48. Some of you can point out points I couldn't have thought of, especially if you people have been longtime fans.

    An important point though: this is a full blown college research paper, so I can't exactly quote random guy on stage48. Still, I value all input, simply because they're a different viewpoint, and even if I wasn't doing a research paper I think it's an interesting subject! Probably would've started a thread sooner or later anyway, the paper is just a catalyst. Especially important though, if you have ever done research on your own, you could have research materials. Anything by a journalist or someone of even a little repute. If you have any translated interviews with idols or their producers, this would be great because then those are PRIMARY SOURCES. I have most AKB48 books like the recent election guidebook and the Sosenkyo guidebook from last year, the AKBingo! Official Guidebook and a friend is translating them for me, but if they have already been translated somewhere, that'd be great. Again, the sources don't have to deal with AKB48 alone - I plan on featuring them, but anything about H!P, hell, even Onyanko Club is good.


    Sample Questions You Might Have Answers To Just to get you started...
    1. This could be anything...for example, why did Sakura no Shiori sell so well in Japan, when a lot of stage48 members thought it was "meh?" Was it because they were in traditional kimonos, does graduation resonate with Japanese people more, etc?
    2. Is it because of some loli fetish? Obsessions with cuteness? The concept of purity, innocence?
    3. Are there any songs that talk about idol groups?

    So yeah, in summary, what are you guys' thoughts and do you have any sources you think could add to my paper? Discuss! :inlove:


    Disclaimer: And no, I am not going to plagiarize your thoughts. Everything I say in the paper needs to have backing from some source, with the exception of when I'm analyzing songs or outfits or whatnot. I will probably cite stage48 forum to give credit as people helping. It's not really necessary in MLA style writing, but I like to give credit where credit is due, so I always note my TAs and professors anyway. And if you guys are interested in seeing the final product, I can submit this after I receive a final grade.
     
  2. Mr Waffle

    Mr Waffle Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    It's late so I'll be brief and write more tomorrow maybe.

    I once read an amusing explanation by a Japanese music fan (who went by the name Santos, but he doesn't blog anymore) on the concept of idols; after the fall of the Japanese Empire in WW2 and the announcement by the Emperor that he was not in fact a god (as the Japanese believed at the time), there was a hole left in the Japanese heart, empty and hollow. But then an amazing thing happened: 4 young British men disembarked from a plane, and gave Japan something new to worship: idols. The Beatles, in a way, created what we now know as the idol industry.

    A couple of years ago I watched Morning Musume's producer Tsunku talk about what he had in mind for the group, in the first or second year of its life (I believe it was in an episode of the tv show Asayan that was subtitled at some point). He said that he wanted to capture that feeling of when a person loves another, and wants to show them love and affection. He wanted to created a music group that fans could feel that way about.

    As for the questions-

    1. In part because of graduation, yes. Japan is obsessed with highschool graduation because it's essentially the end of their childhood (and childhood friendships) and the beginning of their responsibility to be adults who slave away 10 hours a day 6 days a week working for The Company (or stay at home and pop out babies). Well, that's tradition anyway, things are changing. There is probably quite a bit about the whole graduation thing on the internet. Have a read of the lyrics of the graduation songs by AKB48, they all cover it quite well, about "the end of an era" and stuff. In particular how 10nen Zakura has a kind of positive outlook about meeting again, while its b-side is more about the separation and going your own way.

    2. http://www.theage.com.au/news/people/co ... 08424.html

    3. Two of my favourite idol-subject songs are AKB48's enkyori poster, from the fan's perspective, as is Perfume's Secret Secret.

    I don't think anyone who is actually qualified in the subject of Japanese society has weighed in on the topic of idols, because it's just a small part of a much larger whole (and usually if it does get mentioned it's dismissed as weird and left as-is). Maybe you could also take a look at the otaku phenomenon (eg people who are obsessed with a hobby or lifestyle), as it probably comes from the same basic needs and wants.

    I'm sure a lot could be speculated about, how Japan's conformist "for the good of social harmony" society can result in this sort of thing, but I'm certainly not a qualified expert on the subject, especially at 12:46am, so...
     
  3. RocketStarLauncher

    RocketStarLauncher Kenkyuusei Retired Staff

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  4. gideon123

    gideon123 Kenkyuusei Retired Staff

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    ^ Holy cow! A book on the topic really exists?! How'd you find that?!?! Dude, I so have to read that now, LOL.

    And man, this is an interesting topic. Unfortunately I can't contribute anything - at least not at the moment. Maybe later. :)
     
  5. aakun

    aakun Kenkyuusei

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    overseas fan base opinion =/= japan XD

    though, the song had little to not effect in sales tbh. sakura no shiori was benefited by a lot of different facts that were going to help akb no matter which song there were going to release next.

    Important Point 1: Promotion & hype
    in 2009 AKB was the first idol group in years to break so many records, from having the best-seller single released by a female artist in japan, selling over 100,000 copies, and even getting a weekly 1# which is extremely amazing seeing how female idol groups aren't (weren't? [hehe]) popular anymore.

    sakura no shiori was their first single to be released just after all the amazing promotion they got from all the end-year shows, including a 20% + of viewership in Kouhaku, Music Station, CDTV Live, and various variety shows.

    in the first week of new year, acchan's, yuko's, and even the AKB news blog ranked in the top 10 of the most accessed blogs of ameba (the most popular blog service of japan, used by numerous celebrities including some of the most popular personalities of the country). and maeda's blog even charted 1# for the first time.

    in the same week, ALL the singles released under KING RECORDS charted inside the weekly top 50 of the oricon chart (all the singles charted inside the top 200 during the year btw. and in japan, singles normally don't last longer than 3/4 months in the charts). making akb the first artist in the oricon history to have 5 singles charting in the weekly top 50.

    Important Point 2: Shashinkai ("2 shot" event)
    well i guess i don't really need to explain this one. everyone knows how and why it works XD who wouldn't want a picture with their girl? D= AND JUST FOR 1000 YEN?! never change akb.

    Important Point 3: ever-growing fanbase
    sales prove it, Oogoe Diamond (released in 2008) is still charting as of this week. more and more people are introduced and eventually become fans of the group basically every week. this can also be seen every time a new single is released, it always end up outselling the total sales of the previous one in just a week, and outselling the first week in just a day (approximately, but the numbers are always close and yes, there are a lot of facts to consider, but it's still one of the reasons)



    all that made the single outsell RIVER in a day, no matter how much the wota hated the song, they were going to by the cd for the events related with THE GIRLS anyway. akb will never stop selling, as long as the wota keep loving their girls.

    i could keep writing (i'll probably do later) because i love to post stuff like this (and i fell most of what i wrote needs more explaining) but i really should go back to study :fear: if you (or anyone else) want my opinion about anything else just post it XD and sorry for the typos you'll probably see everywhere lol XD
     
  6. Mr Waffle

    Mr Waffle Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    You just reminded me, there's another book that might shed light on this, called Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, it's about the effect of Japanese schoolgirls on the nation. I only know about it 'cause it's by a guy who writes a lot of articles for the video games news site kotaku. I understand it has interviews with Sasshi, Moeno and Chris.
     
  7. gideon123

    gideon123 Kenkyuusei Retired Staff

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    ^ I saw that book in Japan! (Specifically in a bookstore in Narita Airport.) I thought it was really interesting, though I didn't buy it then because I was pretty sure I could find it at a Kinokuniya in America. (I actually haven't actively looked for it since then...)

    But yeah, definitely an interesting book. :)
     
  8. Mr Waffle

    Mr Waffle Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    I just read the amazon page and it's not out in the USA until August 1st. bah :fp:
     
  9. gideon123

    gideon123 Kenkyuusei Retired Staff

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    Hmmm...maybe I should have bought it in Japan back when I had the chance. [wonder]

    And don't worry...I'm still thinking of something to contribute to your research, bigc. :)
     
  10. ithebigc

    ithebigc Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    I'm going to be answering to posts in order, so that's why you might see two @ Mr Waffle xD

    @ everyone


    Haha, well, those were sample questions, not necessarily questions that needed to be answered one by one. I was just hoping for everyone's thoughts on the topic question, but if sample questions work better, I think I should start thinking of more :D Thanks for answering though

    @ Mr Waffle

    Strangely, it was a French movie that started the idol phenomenon in Japan. A movie called Cherchez L'idole was released in 1963, and the title was changed to "Aidoru o sagase" (In Search of an Idol). Apparently the movie included songs and starred a teenager called Silvie Vartan who was subsequently invited to Japan. This prompted a producer to invent "idol pop" as a genre. And that's all I know about the beginning of idol pop. The period between Silvie Vartan and AKB48 is a complete blank to me [hehe]

    That quote from Tsunku is exactly what I'm looking for though. Is there any way you could possibly find it, either through youtube or something? If not, I guess I could try paraphrasing it, but a quote from a significant idol producer...I could probably write a page on that, with analysis and examples, of course.

    1. I'll definitely have a look on the Internet about the whole graduation phenomenon. If not, hopefully at least one of the 14 books I have about Japanese culture/pop culture can explain it.

    2. That article's great [rock] Are there any more like it? Not everything is usable, but some quotes, like the one by the sociology professor at the end can definitely be used in a research paper.

    3. Thanks for the song suggestions. =D I was looking at stuff like Shonichi, but I didn't even remember Enkyori Poster. And definitely never listened to Perfume, so I would've never found that.

    I've thought of looking at the otaku/wota culture and seeing if I could find some quotes from them as to why they like idols. I haven't had much luck, but hopefully I'll find something.

    @ RocketStarLauncher

    :D Great minds think alike. I actually have that book in my hand right now, albeit in a less colorful form. I found it on one of my hunts to the UCI library and was really surprised when they had that. I was just expecting stuff on Japanese pop culture, but to have a book on idols is just wow. It's published by Harvard, so at some points I have no idea what they're talking about (I just spent the last 10 min reading something about commodity fetishism and I still have no idea WTH that is), but otherwise, it's a pleasant read.

    @ gideon123

    You might try checking your local university library....if you're lucky, they'll have it, like mine.

    @ aakun

    Those insights are very interesting...I didn't know a lot of that stuff. Guess I've really fallen behind in my AKB48 fandom [worried] I mean, I knew about the 2 shot events; those had to have helped, but not how all 5 were in the Oricon or the stuff about Ameba (I only follow the Oricon blogs, because Watarirouka Hashiritai blog is there).

    Did the song itself really have nothing to do with its popularity? I remember reading the thread and how they hoped it'd be the one song people remember when thinking about graduation or something. It definitely had a very Japanese aesthetic to it: kimonos, sakura blossoms, them going through different sections of Tokyo. Was there anything like fan reactions on Japanese forums where they too thought the song was "meh"? I personally found the scenery and the girls beautiful, but I like to think I'm more aligned with Japanese aesthetics...though I too found the song "meh" like some members of this forum.

    If you have any more opinions on why idol groups are popular in Japan, I'd love to hear it, whether your statements have backing by quotes from scholarly sources or not. Even after this essay is done, I hope to keep this topic alive :)

    @ Mr Waffle

    [hehe] And that's the 2nd book mentioned in this thread that I have too. Haha, stage48 members are awesome [clap] I had no idea you read Kotaku too! I actually talked to Brian Ashcraft about his book through email before deciding whether to purchase it or not. There's a whole chapter on idols, containing interviews with Sashihara Rino, Nito Moeno and Tomomi Nakatsuka. He also covers Onyanko Club (though not in the chapter on idols). Definitely an interesting read.

    After he said that it might help (and getting advice from him) I imported the book from HMV. It was released in Japan on April 28. It cost a lot more than it'll cost when it releases in the US, but for the sake of the research paper, I'll buy anything [evil] And I sent it in the same shipment as the AKBingo! Official Book, so it wasn't that bad.

    @ gideon123

    Thanks!. Apparently the research paper is due next Weds (TA told us today) so we have some time. I'll be reading that book on idols and writing....I so wish I could focus all my time on this, but I'm in real danger of failing chemistry. I'll try to check here/post as often as possible though
     
  11. vikacong

    vikacong Kenkyuusei

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    Hmmm......

    I'm also doing my own personal research regarding this phenomenon. Well, my focus is mainly on the popularity of Korean Idol group v.s Japanese Idol group. Here I've never heard any Japanese Idol group becoming a big hit/market here (though the animes and even cars are mostly Japanese brand here). Korean Idol, on the other hand are quite famous here (in the past, the Asian dramas were quite varied. Now, Korean dramas are almost everywhere). My focus was on their performance, appearance, how they are marketed, etc. I don't have any specific source; I'm just doing it with my own analysis and some history book regarding Japan and South Korea.

    May I request your paper after it has been marked as such so I can improve my knowledge? You have my deepest gratitude, ithebigc. :) :)
     
  12. karles48

    karles48 Kenkyuusei Stage48 Donor

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    I'm not an expert about Japan and the japanese traditions but, as far as I know, I agree with all that everybody said about this topic. I will just add a couple of things. I think that the success of Sakura no shiori is related too with the love japanese people feel for the sakura. I visited Japan in April and the guide told us that japanese people wait eagerly the sakura flowering because it heralds the coming of Spring. I guess too that japanese people, specially students and salarymen, feel a strong attraction for idols as a response to a life too full of duties and responsabilities in an extremely competitive world. It seems to me (and this is just my opinion) that the japanese society leaves too little space for amusement (everything being organized since the day people are born) and idols are a way to forget that, at least for a while.

    I hope my opinion arrived in time and helped you. Good luck with your research paper!
     
  13. Madcat2020

    Madcat2020 Kenkyuusei

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    Shock to me that this book actualy been make, not to menttlion being sold in kinokuniya. Is it in Eng??? if so I wanna purchase it. Wanna read the mind of schoolgirl perverts? [hehe] [rofl]

    Ok back to topic, maybe you should think further than just AKB48. Example:

    1. It's founder, in other words Akimoto san. And what makes him to create an theater based idol which skyrocket untill today.

    2. History of akb48 and other groups before akb like MM and etc. I see wikipedia can be a good info you can seek.

    3. Make a survey in here. Info on akb members like exp: why acchan is the face of akb or why Akimoto Sayaka is the most porpular member in akb and etc.

    4. Akb influence in japan and in the world.

    5. Akb in entertainment like dorama movie and tv shows.

    Well I. An only brief shortly, got to work hehe
     
  14. ithebigc

    ithebigc Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    Huh, sounds interesting. Probably one of the reasons that Japanese idol groups haven't gotten popular in South Korea is because there's still some tensions between the two races. I'm not saying everyone is racist, but there's definitely something in between them, particularly with the older generations. Also, Korean pop groups are definitely marketed very differently. Even though some members of pop groups may be around the same age as Japanese idols (mid-late teens), instead of focusing on their youthfulness and innocence, they try to make them look as mature as possible. Case in point, 2NE1. Taking a look at them, I would've never guessed that some are younger than Acchan. So yeah, generally they aim for a more mature look. Also, Korean pop is very hip hop inspired, so the music is more "cool" than "cute."

    Anyway, yeah, I can put my essay here when I'm done. I'll give it some time after I get my final grade before posting to avoid claims of plagiarism when I put it through turnitin.com, but it'll find its way here.

    That's a very good point, given the volume of AKB48 music that involves sakura - they started with Sakura no Hanabiratchi, then there was 10nen Zakura and then Sakura no Shiori. I'm sure I can make a point off of that - do you have any sources (articles, whatever) stating the symbolism of sakura blossoms to Japanese people? Or maybe even Spring....as the new school year starts, it signifies a time of growth too. I haven't actively looked for one yet, but now that you brought it up, some would be good to have.

    Haha, some of those are definitely points that I already planned on incorporating in my essay.

    1. If anyone has a translated interview with AkiP, I'd love to have a link. This was one of the first points I thought of when starting this research paper - as a producer of idol groups since the 1980's (Onyanko Club) his experience is extremely valuable to my paper. I have the interviews from the two Sosenkyo Guides, but I'd definitely like more.

    2. Wikipedia is a good source, but the problem is that it can't be cited as a source for college level papers. If I'm lucky, they'll link to their source which I can then cite, if I'm not, no matter how much I learn, I can't include it =/

    3. Interesting idea....a poll could be nice, but I have no idea what to put, it might be too limiting. That was actually one of the reasons I started this thread, to get input from everyone about why they like idols, but sadly not too many people have posted. :cry:

    4. Harder to say....also, I'm focusing on Japan so elsewhere would be irrelevant for now. But yes, the popularity of AKB48 in Japan is one of the reasons I'm writing this essay.

    5. Good point. Mariko, who appears a lot on various TV shows has gained a significant amount of fans and in turn, that might draw them into AKB48. This was actually mentioned in the new Sosenkyo guidebook and I plan on including this in my research paper.

    @ everyone

    My paper will either be due this Thurs or Fri, so if you have any opinion at all, please sound off!
     
  15. vikacong

    vikacong Kenkyuusei

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    So how's your paper? Sorry for not asking after one month.
     
  16. ithebigc

    ithebigc Stage48 Admin Staff Member Stage48 Admin

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    Haha, I forgot about this thread. We should keep this alive even after my paper has been done since it's a really interesting subject. Sadly, I spent my 19th birthday doing this because I still wasn't finished and it was technically due like a few days before [puke] Bad way to spend a birthday. Gotta say, most boring birthday ever.

    But the paper went well, the TA didn't have any idea what idols were (thought they were something like American Idol) so I think he was fairly interested in learning. I can't say I'm too proud of it because...well, it was on my birthday, I really did not feel like typing a research paper on my birthday. All the rest of my college friends had been done with finals and relaxing since like Weds, and I was stuck typing on a Sun. So it was a bit rushed and it's not the best example of my writing, but I guess the TA did like it because I ended up getting an A- in the class.

    I think I'll end up posting some of the stuff I learned in the process here, because the insights there are pretty cool, some stretching back as far as Japanese Shinto roots. Of course, some of the other stuff that I made points on, probably people on stage48 already know so I'll have to pick and choose. [cool]
     
  17. karles48

    karles48 Kenkyuusei Stage48 Donor

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    Congratulations, ithebigc (both for finishing the paper and for the A-)!!! I think the '-' is because of the lack of enough pics of Tomochin... (just kidding) :D
     
  18. yankeesophyd

    yankeesophyd Kenkyuusei

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    i think because of their photobook
     

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