If you’re not a J-pop fan, or even a fan of Asian pop in general, this might seem a little strange to you but please bear with me. Today, AKB announced that 1st generation member Minami Minegishi was going to be demoted to the Kenkyusei team, meaning she would no longer be an “official” member of the group, but rather a replacement member. On their official YouTube channel, they posted a video of a shaved Minami delivering a tearful apology to her fans. You can see the original video here, and with a translation here.
And what was her terrible crime in need of punishing? Spending a night at a fellow J-Pop star’s home, who may or may not be her boyfriend. Yes, I am serious, this is enough for you to be fired from the Japanese idol industry. This is somehow better than that fate, though it certainly doesn’t seem like it. And why is this wrong? Because idols are supposed to be perfect, pure and single. With a largely male fanbase, idols are mandated to remain single because so many fans feel a personal connection with them and it ruins the fantasy if they have boyfriends. I am not kidding, this is seriously the reasoning. And while in the video, she says she chose to shave her hair, most fans agree she was forced to do it, then go on camera to apologize. She is not the first this has happened to, and it certainly won’t be the last.
A lot of fans, not just AKB48 fans but just general J-Pop fans around the world, have been enraged and greatly upset by this video and what has happened to this young woman. However, this will change nothing within the industry itself. When these women sign up to become idols, they are very clear about who their audience is and what they are expected to do – many of them have seen scandals like these all over the television since they were young. Does this justify how Minami was treated? Absolutely not, but this is the industry they chose for better or for worse. Hopefully, she will be able to rejoin as a full time member soon, and will not suffer many long term consequences due to this incident.