The Cultural Significance of Japanese Idols in Modern Japan

The Cultural Significance of Japanese Idols in Modern Japan

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In early spring of 2014 a landmark, historic concert was held. For the first time ever, an all-female act performed at the the famed Tokyo National Olympic Stadium. The nature of this act, however, was one that many would not expect as there were so many popular, well-established, female acts such as Perfume or Ayumi Hamasaki that had the highest chance of performing there. Instead, the first female act to ever perform at the National Stadium belonged to, a pop culture fad. It was a group that belonged to the category of ?idol.? Japanese idols have existed in some capacity or another since the late 1970s, peaking in popularity in the 1980s and again in the 2010s. The concept of idols is something that is unique to them. What makes idols particularly unique to entertainment acts anywhere else in the world is largely due to the emphasis on marketing their stories of growth and development over time. And this aspect of idols is what makes them an important symbol in modern Japanese culture as it embodies the values emerging in the wake of the reconstruction of Japan after the second world war. Further, the depiction of these values reflect how these ideals are still important to Japanese society and that is reflected both in the marketing and the fans? reaction to that marketing.

During the second world war one of the strategies of the United States adopted the strategy of crippling the industrial war machines of both Germany and Japan. In essence, the idea behind the strategy was to do as much destruction as possible to each respective country?s industrial ability so that they would have no choice but to surrender. The elimination of major manufacturing facilities and cutting off of vital resources, particularly iron, oil, and food, would eventually cripple the enemy country on the and make it unpopular or even impossible to continue. As a result of this strategy, the Japanese mainland was left with most of its industrial facilities and, along with them, most of its major cities and economic centers in ruins. While it is, acknowledged that the United States in provided financial support to the Japanese government to help in their reconstruction efforts, Japanese popular media still highlight the hard work of Japanese citizens to help rebuild and revitalize the Japanese economy and return Japanese society back to normal. This theme can be seen in the popular NHK Morning Drama series called ?Beppin-San.? The series follows a group of young women who, having suffered in the war, joined each other to build a textile company to produce children?s attire from the ground-up. Through their hard work and dedication, in a matter of 20 years, they became a success story and a triumph of Japanese will to work hard towards one?s dreams and to never give up. This is a theme that can be seen in a significant number of Japanese media products. The award-winning film ?The Curtain Rises? is another example of these virtues being portrayed prominently. Meanwhile, idols can be seen as the best embodiments of these virtues.

Japanese idols serve as a pop culture embodiment of the virtues of working hard towards one?s dreams and seeing success. Idols generally begin at young ages as aspiring entertainers. They interview and audition for various talent agencies that are in the business of promoting and training idols. Idols are then put into groups or kept solo and debut relatively soon after they are accepted into their agencies. They are taught songs and choreography and they start performing as soon as possible. One of the quintessential examples of this would be the documentary ?Hajimete no Momokuro,?which shows auditions for a new idol group and songs and dances were being taught only two months before the first live performance. This is not an uncommon circumstance for idols and this is where Japanese idols begin to become unique to pop acts and child stars as they are known in much of the rest of the world. The inexperience of idols in the beginning is one of their selling points and it is not uncommon to see idols who are just starting out not perform choreography correctly, sing out of tune, or be out of breath while singing and dancing. This can also affect the quality of their first musical releases which can feature little vocal processing and cheap production quality to those performers who are not idols. These types of things can be seen in early releases of idols including NECRONOMIDOL?s first album ?Nemesis,? Band Jyanaimon?s self-titled single, and any release by the group ?Batten Showjo-Tai.? In any other circle within the pop music realm, unless these were meant to be avnat-garde music acts, music like this would not survive. Despite this, however, the situation with idols makes this lack of quality acceptable. Idols mostly debut as largely inexperienced so that as they learn to get better, their fans will be able to recognize that and become part of the idol?s story of growth. Later on, as idols find their niche, they illustrate to their fans what their dreams are and promise to their fans to work hard to achieve those dreams. One very prominent example of this is the group Momoiro Clover Z. In their documentary ?Hajimete no Momokuro? a pattern develops throughout the documentary as it follows their rise to success. From following their first three singles each rise up the Oricon sales charts until the third single reaches number one, to their declaration of their dream to perform on NHK?s annual ?Red and White Song Battle? that happens every New Years Eve, to their declaring their dream to perform at the National Olympic Stadium. The attaining of these goals with the knowledge in the minds of fans that the group began by performing for free in front of a handful of people in the middle of a park is part of what makes idols appealing for many fans. Their professional growth, as well as the rise in their success as entertainers and their recognition going from regional to national is part of their story. Even the most popular idol group in Japan for the last decade, AKB48, seldom forgets to mention to their fans how the group started out putting on live shows for staff pretending to be audience members so that the girls in the group wouldn?t be upset for performing in an empty theater. This is the way a lot of the most popular groups in Japan are marketed to fans.

There are several different aspects to the marketing of idols in Japan but the reason why idols see so much success in their marketing is somewhat straightforward. In the book Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media, Galbraith and Karlin suggests that Japanese society is governed, at least in part, by the principles of idolatry and that Japanese idols are an extension of that. It can be shown through the marketing terminology used by idol agencies to sell the idol concept to people as a way of giving merit to that idea. The term ?idol? in and of itself is a marketing term. The choice of labeling a performer an idol automatically comes with a certain connotation in the minds of Japanese. This can be seen in the name of the group ?Band Jyanaimon? which translates to ?We are not a band.? This is significant in that it is an idol group whose gimmick is that they play their own instruments, but they also want to make clear that just because they play their own instruments they are not a band but, instead, an idol group like all the rest. Other instances of this would be back when a group called Tokyo Girls? Style announced, rather controversially, in 2015 that they would no longer continue calling themselves idols and continue on, instead, as artists. This continued until very recently when earlier in 2018 they announced that they would go back to calling themselves idols. The idol concept, while maybe not necessarily as closely followed by some groups as others, does carry very strong implications in the Japanese entertainment business.

When taking the concept of idols and looking at the use of the word ?idol? as a word to describe them, on top of its importance in terms of marketing, we can see how these implications play into the promotion of the ideals I mentioned earlier. The promotion of the post-war ideals of hard work and dedication to accomplish one?s dreams can be quite evident in choosing the word idol to represent the larger pop culture subject. By its definition, an idol is a person who is greatly admired , and the word itself has the connotation that, not only is that person admired but an example of the type of person others to strive to be like. Essentially, the marketing of these idols goes deeper than just giving a story, but the idols themselves and their stories are something which people should strive for in their own live as well within the context of what their dreams and aspirations are. Since the beginning, idols have been pushed to have an image which depicts the ideal person of their age and gender. Idol images, especially in the traditionally-run agencies, are heavily regulated and protected so that the idea of this ideal person is always preserved. This even extends into policies by some agencies that regulate the private lives of idols outside of their idol activities. There are many critiques that people have offered this part of the idol industry, but the lengths that some agencies go to in order to preserve this perfect ideal that idols represents seems to, rather conspicuously, suggest that these performers who exist under the idol term are meant to send the message that this ideal is what people should also strive to be. And, in fact, many fans of idols take this away from the idols they support. Basically, idols are meant to inspire those who see them to follow the path and the message they spread through their image, lifestyles and their aspirations.

This message has evolved with the decades during which it saw increasing prominence. The 1980s are seen in modern Japanese history as the bubble period. From the early 1980s to 1991, the Japanese economy was seeing dramatic growth. This was also the time when idols entered their ?golden age?, according to Galibraith. Galibraith argues that one of the reasons why idols entered their golden age in the 80s was because the Japanese economy had ??become a post-industrial society organized around information and consumption. The idol system reached maturity amid intense changes in Japanese media and entertainment.? (Galibraith, 21). From this one could also extrapolate that, because Japan had become that post-industrial society and saw great economic prosperity, the feelings among Japanese people at that time in history. Being not too far removed from the end of the second world war, considering the resilience it took for the Japanese people to recover from the war, and surpassing the status the country held before the war, was something to be proud of and represent in their media to people in order to show that they, too, can become a success story. Idols are a great in this era of prosperity for Japan

The idol phenomenon would fade with the close of the 1980s. While one idol group called Morning Musume would make some waves in the late 1990s, it was not big again until the latter half of the 2000s, particularly in 2006 when AKB48 began to gain popularity. The message of idols remains the same but in the context of a post-recession Japan, it takes on a meaning with added nuances. Japanese society has seen many difficulties since the bubble economy of the 1980s burst and the ramifications of the recession still have consequences in the present. Instead of idols promoting the ideals of perseverance and hard work towards one?s dreams in the midst of economic prosperity, idols of the second decade of the 21st century push this message as a way to encourage those who follow them that there is a way out of this state of stagnation. A lot of this has to do with one of the fundamental changes that has been made to how idols have been marketed in the last decade in contrast to the 1980s. But one of the the things that helps to prove this point is an excerpt from a speech that has since managed to spread outside of the idol sphere and into the general pop culture sphere in Japan. At the closing of their second day performance at the Tokyo National Olympic Stadium, Momoiro Clover Z?s leader, Momota Kanako, said ?We want to be the best at bringing smiles to your faces. Even if things aren?t going well in your life, I hope you smile the whole time while you?re watching us.? This was a speech given at the end of a concert which showcased the history and growth of the idol group from their inception in 2008 to that point in their career in 2014. Keeping these two things in mind there is a fairly clear connection between the message that Kanako has in her speech and the theme of the concert. Some might argue that it could mean escaping their troubles by following idols but it I think it is clearer that it is a message that says, implicitly, that there is hope and that when you aren?t doing very well, looking to your favorite idols, say in this case Momoiro Clover Z, that it is their mission to give people the hope to carry on in striving for their dreams.

One of the most significant differences between the marketing of idols in the 1980s and the 2010s is something that was pioneered by AKB48. AKB48?s slogan is ?Idols you can meet.? Before this, idols were treated in a very protective manner. As they were supposed to be models for those who followed and supported them, idols were largely kept away from fans outside of live performances and television appearances and other public performances. AKB48 changed that with the introduction of handshake events, which would become an idol mainstay. The generation of idols that have come out in the last decade have, for the most part, been about establishing connections with fans on a more personal level than what it was traditionally. Handshake events and events where you can take individualized Polaroid photos with your favorite idols which are signed and addressed to that fan, among many other things, are ways that idols connect with fans in person. With the advent of the internet and the rise of social media, many idols also create blogs and accounts on Instagram, and Twitter in order to maintain the connections they have with fans outside of the live performances. The blogs, particularly, are a major mainstay, not only with idols, but with Japanese celebrities in general. The particular way idols use their blogs can vary widely. They range from talking about their day and what they did, whether they are preparing for a live performance that will be happening soon and, of course, to promote sales of concert tickets, CDs, and other merchandise. The most intriguing thing, however, is that the blogs generally directly address the reader in an informal way. Sometimes idols will even misspell words or mash two different words together to create puns. This phenomenon is more common with younger idols although it isn?t always the case. This marketing technique of making idols seem more accessible to fans has garnered plenty of criticism by western news outlets, but one conclusion that can be almost universally agreed upon is that this sense of accessibility makes becoming a fan of a certain idol or an idol group to be more appealing. It also is a good way of retaining fans and keeping them interested in the group and keep paying attention. It should also be noted, however, that not all idols employ all of these kinds of strategies, but every idol, to some extent, has a degree of perceived accessibility by fans. Even if it isn?t in real life, like many idols do not do, online-only outreach has been proven to be a greatly effective strategy. This is just one of the strategies that exist to help idols, not only be more accessible to fans, but also be easier to relate to by fans.

On the topic of making fans feel like they can relate to idols one of the ways this is also done is through highlighting various things about the idols that might be less idol-like. This is more of a modern development much like with having the ability to meet the idols. This is done, in some cases, in a voyeuristic style (Galbraith Karlin, 87). The information that it yields can range from the silly quirks of the interactions idols have with each other, their reactions to certain things or a glimpse into what their personalities are like behind the scenes. Of course this information is still controlled as it is still largely published by idol agencies and other companies that might be affiliated with them, but it is opening up. Examples of this can be found in interviews featured in magazines that are dedicated to publishing lengthy interviews and even some personal items about idols as well as photo books which usually feature interviews where the idol gives their thoughts about certain topics as well. In the prologue of Sasaki Ayaka?s birthday photo book, the author mentions many of the amazing qualities about her, for example opening the prologue by saying, ??if Sasaki Ayaka was not here, this birthday book project probably wouldn?t have started.? The book goes on to praise her creative input by saying ?At a glance, these groups of photos you can see have seemingly no relation to concerts, however themes like ?rock? and ?cute? are closely linked with a set list. When you read this book over again after watching a concert, you will notice the similarity in structure and this is an idea that also comes from Sasaki Ayaka.? The author makes it quite clear that, not only was it that Sasaki Ayaka came up with the concept of the book, but also had a hand in its conception and design. Idols are not typically known for their creative input, and also given that she was 21 years old when she helped to design the books is quite impressive in the eyes of fans. However, the author does write something that contrasts from this sense of maturity of Sasaki Ayaka that you get from reading those passages. Later on in the prologue, the author writes, ?Soon after taking off the dress, the figure that rushes through the interview so that they can get to the candy that was brought out for the 2nd part of the shoot was definitely ?A-Chan? in full force! This childlike mischief is still the same despite her becoming 21.? This passage is in stark contrast with what was said before and also follows, again, somewhat of a voyeuristic tone. The author paints us a picture in the beginning of a young woman who has matured and become a professional enough in her career to offer significant creative input into a significant project. But at the same time, this young professional woman still acts like a kid when she knows that there is something like candy involved after she finishes the interview, by hastily getting through it. The way it is presented is also done in a way that suggests that she isn?t necessarily the most professional idol out there based solely on the fact that it is written as a direct contrast to the praise about how mature she is. This type of thing is a humanization of idols that attempts to show fans the merits of their personalities, while also highlighting some of their imperfections. Since it is fairly well-known that humans cannot be perfect, this brings the character of Sasaki Ayaka down to a level where fans who might not be able to relate to the parts about designing the book can relate to, in some way, her foolishness and appreciate her growth and accomplishments simultaneously. This isn?t something that is limited to printed publications, however. The popular idol television series, AKBingo, and the many spin off series that it created is also an example of this. In the opening season of the show, the members of the group, AKB48, discuss a lot about their own history and look back at what it was like then and how far they had come. There are also segments where they react to certain things such as videos about locations in Japan or somewhere else in the world with facts about those areas being narrated to them. These scenes, in particular, are shot in a way where the footage they are watching is in the same direction as the camera so it appears that you are almost looking through the television as if it is one-way glass seeing the different facial expressions the members of AKB48 make in reaction to what they are seeing and hearing. This is detailed, as well, in chapter three of Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media. These types of things are used as a way of bringing the idol closer to their audience and gives fans a better idea of who in the group they feel like they can relate to the most and because it takes on a voyeuristic presentation, it is like fans can get a closer look into the more ?real? side of their favorite idols? personalities.

When exploring the topic of what happens when an idol decides to not be an idol anymore, the word that is used to describe this kind of event is ?graduation.? Graduation is a word that?s been used to describe an idol?s departure from the idol world since the 1980s. Its meaning has not changed much, if at all, since then. Based on the prevalence of the depiction of high school in various Japanese media, especially in film and television, the word graduation can be inferred to be an important one. In fact, since most graduations happen in the springtime around the time when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom, it can be inferred that the word ?graduation? in Japan has a more loaded meaning than it might have in any western context. One example of this is when back in 2015 when the manager of the idol group Momoiro Clover Z announced that they had graduated from NHK?s Red and White Song Battle as an angry reaction upon finding out that the group had not been invited onto the show for that year, and the amount of controversy that comment stirred made headlines in Japan. Because of the weight that the word graduation carries in the larger Japanese cultural context, the word being used to describe when an idol stops being and idol is fairly straightforward. When an idol graduates from a group or from being an idol, more often than not, it becomes a major event. Usually there is a big, special concert organized to be treated as their farewell concert. This is a common occurrence, especially in groups like AKB48 which has a constantly-changing lineup, and usually the more popular the graduating member from the group is, the bigger a deal it is made out to be. In the context of idols, graduation is a decision that an idol makes when they?ve realized what they want to be or what they want to do that they had learned about themselves through their experiences as an idol. Prominent examples of this would be Hayami Akari who graduated from Momoiro Clover to become an actress, Itano Tomomi, who graduated from AKB48 to pursue her own music career, Ito Chiyuri, who graduated from Team Syachihoko to study abroad, and Hirota Aika who graduated from Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku in order to become a model and YouTube personality. Many idols also graduate to pursue conventional lives as well. This goes back to the story of growth and development that is pushed by agencies to fans in order to help show the progression of idols in their idol careers so in the event they do end up graduating from the group it can be shown as a journey of self-discovery. In a way, graduation is a very appropriate term to use in this case it carries some similarities with it in the concept of idols and something like high school graduation. High school is seen a lot of times as a coming of age where kids figure out who they are and what they want to be by the time they graduate in the same way idols learn what they want to do and who they want to be through their experiences as idols by the time they graduate. There are some groups that show this explicitly. While the group didn?t end up sticking with the theme for very long Shiritsu Ebisu Chuugaku was originally set up to be similar to a middle school. Middle school-aged girls would be brought into the group and when they graduated from middle school in real life, they also graduated from the group. The most prominent idol group that closely sticks with this gimmick exactly is a group called Sakura Gakuin. Within the context of what the idol concept is, it makes sense that the word graduation is used to describe an idol?s departure, and ever since it began use as w word particularly for idols, it has become more common in informal language between peers as a way of emphasizing that they have moved on from something or are deciding to take a different direction in their lives which, because of this, I believe is how help to both promote the ideals of continuing forward as well as being a reflection of those ideals simultaneously.

A quintessential aspect of idols and their marketing is their story of growth and development. As mentioned previously, idols start out at young ages and their performances in the beginning of their careers are amateur. Normally in the west, for sake of contrast, many talent agencies bring on already-talented performers and train them to become better before they present them to audiences. With idols, as stated before, they are put in front of audiences almost immediately. This is so that they can begin writing the story of growth immediately. For this section, I will focus on just one particular group because they are the clich of this idol trope, but it should be noted that a numerous amount of idols do this as well to some degree. In the documentary ?Hajimete no Momokuro? there is a scene in the beginning where the director of the documentary goes into the office that belongs to the talent agency Stardust Promotion the management agency of several different types of talent acts and, specifically, the management group of one of the most popular idol groups in Japan, Momoiro Clover Z. In the scene it shows the director going through drawers, filing cabinets, and boxes full of old video tapes dated as far back as 2008 which depicted many of the idol acts Stardust was managing at the time during performances and other behind the scenes footage. The director of the film gathered as many of the tapes as he could so that he could edit them into his film in order to help chronicle the story of Momoiro Clover Z. This type of record keeping, as far as idols are concerned, is a very interesting case and helps to show some of the thought process behind forming an idol group. There are several different angles that this can be looked at as the implications of this kind of record-keeping are significant especially when it is within the context of idols.

On the side of idol management, the reasoning behind this kind of record keeping, in itself, can go many different ways, some of which can actually be considered personal to those involved in the management of the groups. But from a purely marketing perspective, keeping these types of video tapes as records can make telling the story of an idol group that starts out small and becomes a success like Momoiro Clover Z very easy. A prime example of this is their documentary, but that kind of footage is also used in other places as well. For example, a popular thing that all idols, and especially Momoiro Clover Z, do is they release concert DVDs. These are DVDs that show entire major concerts performed by the artist who releases them. One of the things that these concert DVDs also include is a separate disk which includes commentary by the idols showing footage of the behind-the-scenes events that led up to the day of the concert. This footage usually shows the lessons and training the idols go through to prepare for their performance. These sometimes also show footage from behind the scenes shortly after the concerts end. Sometimes the footage is showed over music that helps to express the type of feeling that the editors want the viewers to feel at specific points. In these short presentations the viewer can experience and get a better perspective of how diligent and hard-working the members of their favorite idol group are at overcoming the unique challenges of putting on the kind of show that they are. One key example of this can be taken from Momoiro Clover Z?s concert DVD, ?Momoiro Christmas 2011 at Saitama Super Arena 2011.12.25? In the behind the scenes footage it tells a very clear story of adversity being conquered by hard work, as well as having themes of growth, maturity and seriousness. The beginning shows the members of the group excited to perform at the biggest venue they had, up until that point, ever performed in but they encounter a lot of issues. There is a scene where the girls are being lectured to very seriously by their manager, expressing his concern that their live performance isn?t where he wants it to be yet and that he would like for them to step up their game for their upcoming Christmas performance. This proves to be not enough, however, as there is a scene where their dance instructor and choreographer becomes upset with them as well. The scene of her emotional lecture to the girls about how she?s afraid that they won?t be able to become more successful because they are not executing the choreography the way that it is supposed to is seen as the turning of the story as not a missed beat goes by where after the lecture, the members of the group are shown seated, taking meticulous notes of all of their mistakes from that day?s rehearsal in order to prove to their staff that they can take the task of getting better seriously and that they can meet, and even exceed, those expectations. This particular scene is shown a lot whenever the subject of the group?s history come up as it was one of the catalysts that propelled the group into a larger stage and greater popularity. The behind the scenes footage, however, does not resolve at that moment as during the buildup to the day of the performance there are points where the stress leads to some emotional breakdowns over things that the girls would usually not get so upset over. There?s a scene where one of the members disappears for a while and comes back looking like she had been crying and when asked what was wrong she said she was scared because she was locked in the bathroom and could not get out. Later on, while the girls were trying to rehearse the fairly elaborate opening to the concert which involved a large screen behind them, and their interactions with it, one of the girls became distraught when the screen encountered a glitch that the staff had a difficult time figuring out the solution. It isn?t until the concert is over when the behind the scenes takes on a much different tone. This time the tone is a mixture of relief, gratitude, and triumph; picturing the members of the group hugging their manager and thanking him for doing his best and him returning those thanks to them. This is an example of the kind of idol storytelling being done at a micro level. The story begins with a challenge, the challenge in this case is that the group is performing at the biggest arena they had ever had up to that point. There is conflict when the seriousness of the members of the group is called into question by the staff, they work very hard in order to overcome their problems and their hard work pays off with a very successful show at the end. It plays out like a movie and this depiction of the trials and tribulations idols encounter as they push to accomplish their goals is one of the key things that fans enjoy about idols and Momoiro Clover Z not only do this from a micro standpoint but also when it comes to showing their entire history, even in some cases painting themselves as an underdog in the shadow of AKB48.

Because stories like this are told it inspires many more young people, both male and female, to become idols themselves. Several idols that have come up over the last five years or so have cited that the reason why they wanted to become idols was because of an idol that they took inspiration from. One example is Kusunoki Mayu, who decided to become an idol because she was inspired by the success story that her favorite idol, Takagi Reni was. Because many young people who choose to become idols themselves already understand what to expect in terms of the crowd sizes they will be performing in front of and the kind of work it will take to build the number of fans that they have organically. Many idols who are just starting out do not even expect to get paid at first. This is one of the key reasons why so many agencies have since thrown their hats in the ring with regards to forming idol groups. From a business perspective it does not require very much initial investment since the talents who are performing are, in many cases, amateurs with basic performance skills. In the documentary ?Hajimete no Momokuro? one of the members of Momoiro Clover Z stated that their idol activities were, to them, like being a part of an after school club and they treated it as such when they were in middle school and high school. This is how most young idols treat it as well and in the event that they become successful, the money will come with it. This is why the marketing of the story is so crucial to the agencies because it allows them to develop a base of consumers who are fans of the groups they are pushing, while also cultivating the quality of the group?s performance abilities so that the agencies can begin charging money for tickets and begin making their money back from their already-low investment earlier than normal. In some cases, the growth of the idol and the growth of the idol?s agency are symbiotic and mutually dependent upon one another to do their part in order to become successful. This can even be said so for the larger conglomerates as they?ve only become as large and powerful as they are now because the successful run, of even one, of their idols or groups helped them to expand to the size they are now. In particular this is the case with the idols section of Stardust Promotion and AKS which are both major, independent agencies that have the most popular groups in Japan.

All of these stages, from conception to marketing, come together to create, one of the most popular types of entertainers in Japan. And this does not stop with just the idols themselves. Because of all of these things that makes idols unique from more conventional types of entertainers, there is a greater incentive for fans to take a more active role in their support for their favorite solo idols or idol groups. The way agencies have made idols seem more accessible and given the fans the sense that they play a significant role in the story of the idols through their support and can become part of that idol or that group?s overall story idol fans feel closer to their favorite idols. Fans take more active roles by helping to promote the groups through spreading news of them through popular internet forums and other social media, making as much noise about them as possible. Fans, particularly, celebrate sales numbers and numbers of views and followers. In the case of idol fans, a lot of them push very hard for the opposite. The growing sales numbers of an idol?s album or single with every subsequent release is celebrated. In the same way, the larger the venues they perform at, the more celebrated they are as well. The idol fans also become part of that success story that idols continue to tell to new fans. This can be seen, again, with groups like AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z in different respective ways. AKB48 fans buy multiple copies of the same CD in order to support their favorite member of the group so they can be promoted more within the group. In Momoiro Clover Z?s case fans will show up outside of a venue on the day of a concert without tickets, to help show their support to the group by going to merchandise booths and buying things there, and helping to cultivate one of the most famous fanbases of an idol group in Japan today by giving out gifts to other fans and making gifts for the members of the group whenever they are allowed to do so. In a sense, the idol fans work as hard in trying to bring more people into joining support for their favorite groups as much as idols work hard to make sure they put on the best performances possible for their fans. This kind of relationship shared between idols and fans is another that is symbiotic and that the idea that the hard work of the idols inspires the hard work of the fans of the idols also helps to show that this idea of struggling and working hard to push oneself from the bottom to become successful still shows the reflection and perpetuation of the ideals that helped Japan recover from the destruction brought to it during the second world war.

Japanese idols are a cultural phenomenon in Japan that was thought to be a momentary, passing fad. Yet, idols have joined the mainstream more than they ever have before. As this cultural phenomenon enters its second decade as one of the most popular cultural trends of Japan, it is clear that idols are probably not going away anytime soon. Idols are entertainers who display the ideal values of what Japanese society, in one form or another, embraces. Even when it comes to those groups that call themselves ?anti-idols? or ?alternative idols? the message remains intact. It could be argued that these alternative idol images widen the scope for the transmission of this message by becoming more inclusive to Japanese counter-culture.To be an idol means to to build oneself up, climb the societal ladder through honest hard work and dedication, getting your support from fans by inspiring them and also getting support from the agency who manages you, in this process, you begin to grow and see greater success. That success story then being taken by the agency to help create a story for the fans who will then circulate that story and attract more fans which inspires the idol to continue to work hard which results in the positive feedback from both the fans and the agency. It certainly is difficult to see how this isn?t a concept that reflects the same values that helped to rebuild Japan after the end of the second world war. The function of idols in Japanese pop culture from the 1980s and today, and the way those values have been transmitted from the boom period to the post-recession era even further shows that, although these values come from a time before those eras, they still have great relevance to Japanese society. In fact, the popularity of idols in these time periods further show that Japanese society still believes in these values. In this way, regardless of whether or not someone in Japan is a fan of idols or not, Japanese idols speak to Japanese society at large in a way very few other forms of entertainment or entertainers do. It is what distinguishes Japanese idols from Korean idols, despite the crossover attempts that have been made. Idols, as they exist in Japan, are an extremely important cultural aspect of Japanese society. The end of the second world war marked the end of an era in Japan of relative growth in economic prosperity and international respect. The result of the second world war left Japan in ruins and it became the job of every citizen in the country to help rebuild in hopes that Japanese society could see prosperity again. According to Japanese media, this could only have been accomplished by everyone working hard towards accomplishing that goal. It can be argued that the career of Japanese idols is not only a reflection of this, but also an allegory for it as well. Since Japanese idols start from the bottom and work their way to accomplishing their goals with the support of both fans and their agencies. All three of these parties work together in a symbiotic relationship where fans encourage the idols and work to help make them better-known, the idols continue to develop their performance skills so they can also reach more fans and encourage the management agency to promote them more, and through their performances, idols are able to help their fans get a break from their lives in the post-recession era of Japan. At Momoiro Clover Z?s 10th anniversary concert in 2018, the group?s leader, Momota Kanako, demonstrated the importance of this relationship in her closing speech, ?It was maybe at the [national stadium] concert, I said ?if I am about to lose my way or lose hope, I?d like to carry on by seeing the light of [our fan?s] glow sticks.? When I was told that we had to become [a group of] 4, I completely lost hope. I didn?t know what to do. But I saw the [our fans?] light in the end of the last concert with 5 [members] and I felt that it would be okay to carry on. Reni chan said at that time ?Follow us!? When I heard that, I thought she was cool. I wanted to say the same thing, but I couldn?t. But now, we are having the concert here at Tokyo dome, and I feel I could say it with confidence? Is there anyone who is interested in us for the future?? Even in the biggest groups, this relationship between fans and idols are still important. The idea that many different groups of people do their part and work together to see a common goal accomplished is one of the most important values in Japanese society-be it in the context of rebuilding a country, or helping idols realize their dreams.

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