• Japan’s Idol Industry

    Yamaguchi Momoe, the duo Pink Lady, and Matsuda Seiko were among the most popular pop music idols of the 1970s and 1980s. The niche they carved out in the Japanese entertainment industry is now filled by popular idol groups like AKB48, Nogizaka46, and Momoiro Clover Z. But the idol industry has a dark side. In 2018, a member of Enoha Girls—a girl group centered in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, whose claim to fame was their involvement in farming—committed suicide. And most recently, in 2019, a member of NGT48, an AKB48 sister group based in Niigata Prefecture, was assaulted at her home.

    What is an “idol,” how do they act and think, and what is the industry built around them like? This series looks at the idol phenomenon in Japan and the experiences of those who aspire to be a part of it.

    (Photo: Members of the Japanese–South Korean girl group Iz One are interviewed after a January 20, 2019, Tokyo kick-off event for their Japan debut. © Jiji Press.)