Superstars are often held to a high standard, appraised for their talents and sleek, polished appearances. Sponsored Links. The idea of youth and purity often manifests itself into a motif of the school girl, represented by costumes based on school uniforms and sentimental lyrics that echo the thoughts of adolescents. In Japan, the concept of young idols is not unusual and looked upon with warm affection because fans are able to get to know them and watch them improve their skills over the years. Many begin as early as elementary school, with some continuing and growing into the spotlight as they gradually become adults. However, it can be said that by this point Japanese idols have formed their own unique genre that has created an environment where young talents can flourish in. As it becomes increasingly pervasive, more children want to follow in the footsteps of the role models they see on the media and there begins a trend in the desire to become an idol themselves. When Hello!
TOKYO (3 a.m.)
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Politics , Society and culture Asia , East Asia. Hannah Lee writes. They have that quirky appeal — they are a product of an enthralling pop culture, bringing over 20 million visitors to Japan each year, but underneath the polish of the choreographed dances and ridiculously cute outfits lies a dark perversion: one that is both lucrative and increasingly dangerous. Idols are teenage girls whose performances are in high demand. Their songs, outfits, image, dances and appearances are all tightly curated by their talent agencies. Most fans who follow groups like AKB48 are middle-aged men. The idols themselves are teenagers, who begin performing at around 13 years old. Idols are often presented in cute school outfits and perform in synchronised groups. Whilst sexualisation of women is not limited to Japan, Japanese idol groups specifically pander to a young girl fetish, which is encouraged for the sake of record sales.
TOKYO (9 p.m.)
The sound of stomping heels and blaring music drifts down a dimly lit hallway. At the end, a group of young women in T-shirts and sweatpants face a long, mirrored wall, moving their bodies in unison to the beat of a cheery synth-pop number. At a quick glance, they could possibly pass for AKB48, Morning Musume or one of the other popular female idol groups that are so prevalent in Japan. Looking closer, however, something is a bit off. But then the sound of school chimes pierces the music and suddenly heels are swapped for sneakers, backpacks are collected and these supposed pop-stars-in-training are back to being everyday students. While other university club members practice their tennis swings or hone their debate skills, these students mimic the dance performances of their favorite female idol groups to absolute perfection. SPH Mellmuse, currently comprising 44 members, all idol-pop fans, mimic the choreography of their favorite groups as a way of expressing their devotion to them. More than 10 years ago, AKB48 was experiencing a breakthrough in Japan, and with that came a large and dedicated following, says Patrick W. Galbraith, a Japanese pop-culture scholar who is currently a professor at Senshu University. The cumulative result was a huge increase in idol groups.
Decked out in make-up with ribbons in her hair, Ai is dressed like an adult, but still looks very much a child. She is a so-called "idol" singer - common in Japan, where rights groups have complained that society's sometimes permissive view of the sexualisation of young girls puts minors at risk. It was only in that possessing child pornography was criminalised and authorities are struggling to bring the country into line with other advanced nations on the issue. In the crowd at an idols show, Soichiro Seki, 40, says he watches young girls on stage twice a week. He insists he goes just to encourage the performers and feels no shame. Idol Tama Himeno, who has performed on stage since the age of 16, says the men attending her shows worship the performers and crave communication with young girls that they cannot get elsewhere.