boy bands

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.

Trash-talking king of Japan’s boy bands

Trash-talking king of Japan's boy bands

Could Johnny Kitagawa, the mastermind of four decades of Japanese boy bands, be hiding some dark secrets? A recent Guardian newspaper article accuses the creator of SMAP and Mokun of exploitation, deceit, monopolization, and abuse. With hints of ties to the yakuza. Johnny, almost 80, wields such power in the Japanese media that few in this country dare challenge him. One particularly randy quote:

Kitagawa claimed he works only with boy bands because they are “easier to handle”, which would be fine if he didn’t mean it literally.

I am torn between mindless consumerism and moral concern. On the one hand, he has brought Japan (and the world) a never-ending parade of big-haired boys as objects of feminine lust. On the other hand, maybe he is not a nice person. What do you think?