Wanderlust Japan > Culture > What is AKB? The Truth Will Shock You…or Make You Buy CDs

What is AKB? The Truth Will Shock You…or Make You Buy CDs


Ever heard of AKB48? The Japanese girl pop group that decided that quantity trumps quality?

Think I exaggerate? How many AKB48 members are there?





(as of June 9th, 2014)


If you are anything like me, you are wondering how they all fit on an album cover…….

*Disclaimer: this is nowhere close to all of the girls.



Because there are so so many girls AKB48 has a whole bunch of sister groups under its AK-brella, (most) of the girls have a place to get some spotlight.

*From my understanding the girls also switch around like major league baseball players, so there is that as well.


There is AKB48 (in Akihabara, Tokyo),SKE48 (in Nagoya), NMB48 (in Osaka), and HKT48 (in Fukuoka).


There is even a “rival” group Nogizaka46 (in Tokyo). Strangely (or not strangely) enough it is also produced by the same guy.


There are now even two international groups: JKT48 (in Jakarta), and SNH48 (in Shanghai)




48 is taken from the original talent agency they belonged to called, “Office48.” The 48 is because the head of the office is named “Shiba” it sounds like an alternative pronunciation to “4” and “8.”




Having a lot of girls is not something new. The Hello Project has been at this game for a while now, but they have even fallen below AKB popularity.

When I first came to Japan, I was struck by the idea that there could even be so many singers in the same musical group. How do they stand out? Are they just there to cover up how bad that other girl sounds? Can one of them like dance really well?

Is this the “group of girls look hotter when in a flock” technique??



↑Have more positive feelings towards you guys.




The phenomenon of making GIANT groups of Japanese girls to sell to the public started before the Hello Project, curiously by Yasushi Akimoto, the same man that created AKB48.

Yasushi Akimoto was behind the Onyanko Club, a group of 52 members that produced music in the 80s. The Onyanko club originated from a TV show called, Yuyake Nyan Nyan. It started with 11 high school girls.

It was at that point in time Yasushi Akimoto figured out the secret, extremely complex formula for success:

1. Get young girls

2. Get more young girls


(4. Get more young girls)






I have no idea. But because the government was worried about voter turnout for the last election for Tokyo’s next governor they recruited AKB to encourage people to vote.


Why AKB? Because they are not just a pop group, they are a friggin democracy.


Well, maybe not a perfect one. Fans who dish out the 1,200 yen for a singles album (might be different each time but about 1,000 yen) are the only ones with a right to vote.



This man allegedly bought 5,500 CDs to support his favorite girl. If that is correct, than that is over 56,000 dollars spent.


I would like to tell you that this is an isolated case, but this, this, and this picture of the idols pleading with the fans to STOP BUYING THEIR CDS IN BULK dangnabbit also exists.



…When in the history of the world has a musical group ever told you to STOP buying their CDs?


AKB48. They did it. 


Wanna know what the fans get for their hard work? Their girl gets to climb the ranks and they get to watch. They might also get more on-screen time, as you can imagine, that is at a premium.





(First off, I have feelings about a lot of things. Japan, stop hurting yourself!!!)


Mostly it is because I think the idea of hundreds of young girls being managed by an old man is damaging to the world. 


I first heard about AKB48 about five years ago when I was an Assistant Language Teacher at a middle school in Gunma. All of a sudden the notebooks and pencils, and stationery items had characters that were unknown to me. The characters were all girl pop singers.

Then the song, “Heavy Rotation,” became a hit. I admit, it is catchy. Then I saw the video:




Yeah, ok, maybe I am puritanical for being shocked that my 11 yr old kids were looking at this. But then I realized that they weren’t the only ones.



Older men are looking at this too…All of Japan is accepting this. It is the continuation of the movement to sexualize underage girls and call it “kawaii.” You may disagree with me, but if you look deep down inside yourself, you will see that I am actually correct.



Many of the male fans see the girls as a “daughters,” but “daughters” that they have “un-explainable urges” towards…..Daughters who they love watching wearing bikinis and jumping around while maintaining  a weird control over said daughter’s sexuality.


Is that really healthy?

Recently Japan passed a law banning possession of child pornography. Recently! In Japan there is a whole culture of “Junior Gravure” models, who are famously “Under 15.” They take pictures of them and sell photobooks with their images.

Guess what? Many AKB girls have their own books out. I could not tell you the level at which they expose themselves because I have never bought one of their books. I feel like I would be overwhelmed if I tried. These kind of books are EVERYWHERE. I wouldn’t know where to start.


If you are anything like me, all these books of random teenage girls dressed up/not dressed up stinks of the exploitation of minors.



WARNING: you probably should not google search “Junior Gravure” because it is likely illegal in your country. Only sketchy results come up in the search, I know, I googled in vain attempt to see if someone had written an article about it.




If you like AKB, I am not saying that you are a child-abuser!

Maybe you like their dances or something….maybe one of your favorite girls does a good goat impression! That’s completely fine!


I am just saying that in the culture that surrounds it, and in the group itself, there are problems. 


Don’t let me stop you from dancing to whatever song this is:



July 03 Category:Culture 

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