Too cool for school

The mayor of Aso City stuns 20 year olds at Coming of Age Day (Seiji no Hi) by singing and pantomiming a hit from AKB48, the 4 dozen popular faux school girls who are Japan’s most popular band and advertising monster. The mayor’s singing and emoting strike a stern warning to the young things to never become adults. Poor 20 year olds of Aso City! (Source: Neojapanisme)

I had a much better time greeting and mingling with the 20 year olds celebrating today outside Nakano Sun Plaza. The girls were a riot of faux rabbit and pink/orange/red kimonos and complicated updoes. Many of the boys fried their hair and en-bigg-ed it, paired with shiny suits evocative of men’s host clubs and mid-tier salary men and occasionally traditional men’s kimonos, one in shocking pink. More pix soon. Here’s last years’ photos!

I also met a very handsome Korean photographer, and realized I wasn’t the only one who came to gawk!

“Won’t you make a baby with me,” asks barely legal (if that) pop star

Having a virtual baby with a teen idol is truly one of the grossest intersections of Japanese technology and the managers of its adolescent entertainment stars. (Official site).

For those not in the know, AKB 48 is a girl band of forty-eight barely legal (or net yet legal) ladies who are hyper-sexualized. Because they are *the* mainstream entertainment in Japan, many Japanese are shocked to hear a foreigner describe their act as kiddie porn, distasteful, and an embarrassment to their country.

But this new web service fleeces their fans with a new level of shameless fantasy. For 1,480 yen per month (nearly $20), fans can upload their photo and create a virtual baby with one of the girl stars. Promotion for the new service includes the star’s assertion that she’s not really revealing her breast, and also a “birth announcement” that she’s had a baby with the none too attractive current Prime Minsiter (just imagine any of the last dozen PMs if you’re unfamiliar with the current temporary office holder).

Inviting fans to impregnate their idols, and to watch their babies grow up online is possibly the grossest thing I’ve ever heard. Oh, Japan, wake up from your media induced slumber and have some dignity! OK?

Ground zero for fan girls in Harajuku

I have a sixth sense for fan girl devotion. Approaching a restaurant for a work lunch, I realized that I was at ground zero for Japanese and Japanophile fangirls, the official store of Johnny’s, the mastermind of dozens of boy bands, some now in their 40s, others barely 10 years old.

Thanks to Kathryn from Australia for telling me about its central role in fan girl culture back in December.

What’s amazing is how closely Johnny’s controls images of their male stars. They have somehow kept it off the internet, except for illegal sharing by Chinese fans. And so fan girls come to this store in a back alley of Harajuku to get their fix. Apparently the line up super early in the morning to get a number and time to return later in the day. That’s devotion!

(If you’re waiting for your appointed time, I highly recommend the chic Japanese restaurant upstairs. Lunch is very reasonable and tasty).

UPDATE: I forgot to add this funny detail. The afternoon I was there, unbeknownst to me, there was a “mass panic and crushing incident.” Initial media reports and Twitter accounts said that a rumor of a Hey! Say! Jump! appearance or impromptu concert propelled swarms of teen girls on Takeshita-dori. According to cnnGo, the media quickly changed the story to blame an Akihabara-type otaku women’s band AKB48. The change is again attributed to the enormous power of Johnny as a media shaper.