If you haven’t yet, read Part 1 first.
First off, the aforementioned idol who was sued for 10 million yen. Her name was never released and it was mentioned that her six member unit had to break up as a result. Even though I don’t know who the anonymous idol is, I know that she would never be picked up by another agency after the lawsuit, so her career is over.
Maybe the most famous example in recent years is Minami Minegishi, former AKB48 member. In 2013 she was caught by a tabloid magazine leaving her boyfriends house. The reason this one is so memorable is that she decided to try and make amends in a very traditional Japanese way, she shaved her head.
It’s basically impossible to find the actual video she posted on youtube where you can watch someone break down as she is basically going to lose her job because she had a boyfriend, but there are still videos of people reporting on it.
It’s incredibly hard to watch just because she hasn’t actually done anything wrong. Becky was another television celebrity who was banished from the small screen because she was caught dating a married man. Sure, it looked like his relationship was already over, but he wasn’t free yet. She couldn’t be allowed to be seen by Japanese society.
The guy, on the other hand, Enon Kawatani who is a relatively famous musician, not a problem. There we start to see the inherent bias in the business come to light. Women are far more drastically punished than men for these public embarrassments.
Jin Akanishi tried to make a solo career after leaving KAT-TUN, and surprised everyone by suddenly getting married to Meisa Kuroki. It was a bit of a shotgun wedding as Kuroki was already two months pregnant. That’s bad, but the part the company saw as being more of a betrayal was that they hadn’t given approval for the marriage before the paperwork was submitted. He worked for a company called Johnny’s which handles all the biggest boy bands in Japan, so they did what any reasonable company would do. They froze his work schedule leaving him without an income and a newly pregnant wife.
Unsurprisingly, when his contract was up with Johnny’s, he decided not to renew.
SMAP, the biggest and longest running boy band in Japan went through a series of contract issues as most of the members wanted to leave Johnny’s after their long time manager departed. This resulted in the band breaking up, most of their television shows coming to an end, public apologies and lies about how everything was OK and the thing most people don’t realize, hundreds of people losing their jobs.
For the massive stars you know that if they have their finances even slightly in order they will be all right. The younger up and comers often have to pay back “training fees” to the agency which basically makes them indentured servants. All those dance lessons, singing lessons and anything else the company puts into you comes out of future paychecks. This means you have to become a massive star to even start to break even. It put them in the terrible position of owing money to the company if they fail or worse, get caught up in a scandal.
Rino Sashihara is an interesting exception. She was involved in a similar secret boyfriend scandal and transferred from the main AKB48 group to the sub HKT48 group. This led to a very public panic attack as she started hyperventilating on stage.
Her move was essentially a demotion. Yet she persevered and with some talent started managing and producing for her group. She has managed to turn her career back on an upward path and recently took the lead position at the AKB48 election for the third time in a row.
The worst part of all this, is the fans strange sense of entitlement and ownership over the idols. To the point where it’s straight up dangerous. The very public events put the idols right in front of people. Handshaking events are a standard practice with idols all over Asia. You buy a CD, it comes with a ticket, you come to the event, you get to shake the member’s hands and say something before you are pushed along.
The definition of creepy is the full grown adult males who clearly have lost sight of reality. The faces in the following image attest to how wrong things are.
This was a handshaking event for AKB48 and apparently the fans involved were making salacious statements as they did the handshaking. If that’s not enough, in 2014 a member was attacked at an event with a saw.
Most recently (June 27) at a handshaking event in Chiba for Keyakizaka46 a man set off a flare in the line. He was later arrested and in his bag was a knife. He admitted he wanted to stab and kill one of the girls.
Perhaps the most terrifying thing I saw when looking up scandals was the following video from Korea, where the idols suffer from every problem listed above as well, as a fan walks onto the stage and tries to just walk off with one of the singers.
This is mid-performance. The confusion I feel is how did he think this was going to work out and where the hell was security?
Lots of people want to get famous and become idols and singers, but at the moment the agencies are making unrealistic oppressive contracts that fail to take into account what it means to be a living human being with a life and then not putting any real effort into actually protecting the lives of the people they are making their money from.
In the most basic way these idols need basic protections, but the problem is it seems like they need protection from both the companies they work for and the fans who come out to see them.