AKB48 idol begs for fans’ mercy after breaking dating ban

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

A member of AKB48 stirred up an online frenzy Thursday by getting a crew cut and posting an apology video for breaking the group’s rule against romantic relationships.

The all-girl idol group, which has dominated the music charts for the past couple of years, maintains a self-imposed rule that forbids members from dating. But the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, which hit the stands Thursday, caught 20-year-old member Minami Minegishi coming out of actor-entertainer Alan Shirahama’s house last month.

“What I did was imprudent,” Minegishi said in a tearful YouTube video Thursday after her once-long hair was hastily shorn.

She begged for mercy from her fans and said she wanted to stay in the group, but acknowledged that her hair gesture “isn’t enough to receive forgiveness.”

The clip has already been viewed 4.3 million times.

AKB48 has seen members leave or be demoted as punishment for dating, and its managers said Minegishi, one of the founding members, will be demoted to “kenkyu-sei” (research) status, relegating her to an understudy or backup dancer role in the 88-member group, which comprises three main teams and a smattering of smaller units.

While the hair stunt had many questioning the act as well as the no-romance rule, Minegishi stressed that no one forced her to cut her hair off.

“I decided this all by myself and didn’t consult anyone,” she said.

Shirahama’s agency released a statement Thursday saying the star’s private life is his business.

AKB48 was formed in 2005 as the brainchild of media producer Yasushi Akimoto. It is known for its catchy pop songs and dance routines performed in school uniforms.

  • Shadow

    I swear they’re infringing on her human rights.

    • Edohiguma

      I would argue against that. That’s like saying the Catholic church is infringing on the human rights of priests, monks and nuns. They all know what they sign up for beforehand. Same in AKB48. The girls know it, they agreed to it. It’s the price they pay for their 15 minutes of fame. None of the girls is forced to join AKB48. They do it all voluntarily, they all accept the rules. They can quit at any time, but they chose not to. It’s like with an MMORPG, every time you log in, you accept the rules.

      • MiiRice James

        I appreciate what you are trying to say. Nevertheless one has no agreement here when we taking into account the fact that Miss Minegishi was only 13 when she joined AKB48.

        Yes she did sign up to these rules beforehand–As a 13-year old!!! How can a child in such young age be able to understand what this rule would mean to her when she becomes a young adult?

        She had her 20-year old birthday just last November and has been in this group about 8 years–almost all of her teenage-hood. She have super long working hours and never went to normal schools after joined the group and have no outsider friends–All her best friends are other members of AKB48. She knows nothing as a normal life outside this group.

        Now we can see the picture. She has no alternatives apart from being a member of this group even though she is free to leave. AKB48 is the only way of living she knows. She certainly has difficulties to judge what is right for her life. This lady is very confused. But who can blame her? Anyone may get very confused if they grow up the same way as Miss Minegishi did.

      • Naoki

        You make a very valid point. “She was only 13″ but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she should be a mature professional by age 20. I agree, she probably wasn’t mature enough, at age 13, to understand the contract in its entirety. But wasn’t her family their to support her? To help her understand the weight of the contract? Did she not have almost 8 years of time and experience to understand the contract? Did she not have the opportunity to take lessons away from the Sashihara Rino scandal?

        AKB hasn’t violated any “human rights.” They have done everything in accordance with the rights defined by the Japanese Constitution. Her life may be AKB48, but that life comes with the heavy responsibility of fulfilling and protecting her fans (the customer).

        I don’t feel sorry for her. There are many individuals that wish they could even have a taste of her idol life. She can shave her head as an act of contrition but that shouldn’t be the franchise’s fault. Her ignorance has crushed hopes, has jeopardized company revenues, and has destroyed her image of a role model within the group.

        In my opinion, she has been let off easy. The vast majority of individuals in world aren’t so lucky. They don’t have parents to hold their hand and they certainly do not have 8 years of time to understand responsibility. I wish her the best of luck with what’s left of her AKB48 career.

      • Verascity

        Can you please elucidate how an adult woman having a legal relationship with her adult boyfriend is “crushing hopes” or why it should reasonably “destroy her image?” I understand she broke a rule, but this kind of extreme reaction is only fueling the fire and allows people to continue believing they have the right to publicly vilify a young woman for something as simple as dating.

      • omar

        An idol dating, is not good of course destroy dreams, cause some of us fans, can’t date or are too shy to date, but sharing listening and enjoying song with our idols make us feel like we are important to our idols.

      • interuni321

        I`m afraid you are totally wrong. Firstly it totally violates the Japanese constitution which outlaws slavery in the preamble. Secondly, no employer for any job whatsoever has the right to control their employees private lives in this way, and worse still, no one should be speaking out in support of such abuse as you appear to be doing. Your comments are heartless at best and verging on psychotic at worst. If you really think about the world and other people in that way I pitty you. The worst thing she has done is be so submissive in the face of this situation and shave her head, she should have stood and fought it instead, but unfortunately she probably doesn`t have the support of strong people around her or the life experience to be able to cope with this situation. It`s perfectly natural for a 20 year old woman to have relationships with people. How weird anyone is who thinks it`s not.

      • interuni321

        Absolutely it`s exactly the same as religious organisations, such organisations do very much trample over people`s human rights, and it`s outrageous in both cases.

  • http://jurinaoshi.tumblr.com/ Jurinaoshi

    AKB48 should never stop this ‘Dating Ban’. It is part of what defines AKB48 and has been so since the beginning of the idol industry. Although the producer Akimoto Yasushi has said that this ‘dating ban’ is was not sanctioned by himself, AKB48 and 48 Group leader Takahashi Minami had said that whatever Akimoto says, under her rule AKB48 will keep the ‘dating ban’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/renato.riverarusca Renato Rivera Rusca

      I agree — it is part of what defines AKB48 and has been so since the
      beginning of the idol industry. You are absolutely correct. However,
      that does not make it justified in the greater scope of human society.
      Therein lies the problem — what you are saying is nothing more than a
      reaffirmation of the status quo, regardless of its intrinsic value. In
      other words, you have just said “it’s always been like this, so what’s
      the problem?” That there is the problem — that people don’t realize
      that there is anything wrong simply due to the existence of precedents.
      You can’t be cured if you don’t admit you are ill. Hence, isn’t it
      time to re-evaluate the morality of the entertainment industry?

      • http://jurinaoshi.tumblr.com/ Jurinaoshi

        I too agree with your answer. This idea of the status quo is the underlying problem to the morality of the entertainment business in Japan. But I believe that such a change in the precedent status quo, and the re-evaluation of how the system works would be to change a significant amount of what the Japansese idol industry, or even the whole entertainment business has been, thus influencing the whole of the culture that is quintessentially Japanese. The idea of morality in society is completely true, but to tackle this problem may lead to the complete reshaping of what the norm has been. It the necessity of change may be true, and much needed in the changing world and changing Japanse culture.

    • interuni321

      A dating ban is as idiotic as it is delusional. And anyone who wants it is no better than the Taliban who keep women in burkhas…

  • Equalizer

    This “Idol” business is out of control…

  • Hiroki Sano

    AKB48 member’s penance has drawn much attention, and it is a controversial issue. While some says she must be forgiven, I agree that the member of AKB48 are punished severely. There are three reasons for this.
    Firstly, every community has its own rules to obey. For instance, professional baseball players are ostracized if they dope to increase the amount of muscle tissues. In addition, even junior high school has a rule that the students should wear their school uniforms, otherwise they are scolded by the teachers. Therefore, she must be punished. If she does not want to be restricted, she has a choice of seceding from the team.
    Secondly, the impact of the penance has great effect on the fans supporting the idols. Not only AKB48 but all the other idol groups are based on the cheering from the fans. Idols should recognize their position and the influence they have to our society. The misbehavior shocks fans, and they will lose their trust.
    Finally, the idol is a part of business, if the employee has bad effect on the sales of the company, he/she gets fired. Therefore, it is natural to give punishments to the employee who are dishonest to the company.
    I am shocked to hear the news. However, they have responsibility as idols. If they can not endure the burden, they can choose to leave.

    • PeeJay

      I cannot disagree enough. Your examples are flawed. This is not the same as doping in sports: Miss Minegishi was doing a perfectly natural, human thing.
      And quite frankly, what exactly are you or fans shocked about? What is it about a 20-something girl seeking a relationship that is so shocking? If such fans are genuinely shocked (not faux-shocked, GENUINELY shocked, mind) at this, and they have lost trust because of it, then they weren’t much of a fan to begin with. A true fan and a decent human being will respect their idol’s right to privacy an a right to do with their private life as they see fit.

      Your comment is full of creaky, antiquated Japanese ideals such as ‘burden’ and ‘responsibility’, but there is no compassion in what you say. No care or sympathy for your fellow human being whose only ‘crime’ is to o what everyone else on this planet does. Think! These girls are held up as idols and are refused basic human needs like love. And we wonder why Japan’s birth-rate is non-existent.

      • Hiroki Sano

        Thank you for your criticism. My comment was somewhat inhumane. I am also one of the Japanese citizens who are enjoying watching AKB48 on TV. But this is another one. Why was did Minegishi date to a guy? Didn’t she think of the aftermath? Although she said she wanted to sustain the position as a member of AKB48, if she really loved being as the member, she would not did such a thing. I don’t understand the relationship between what she did and what she said.

        ‘Idols’ are literally the things that a lot to people respect and want to be like her. This issue had a bad impact on the next generation who are dreaming of becoming it.

        I am not sure how you should treat this problem because I am worried about whether she will work as before and how she feels about herself. She needs enough time to think about herself.

        I’ve criticized her, but I believe one can start again if time passes.

      • omar

        You say : “everyone else on this planet does” …please I am someone that doesn’t, not everyone is like you, and if she want a normal life she can do it AWAY of AKB48 cause some of us FANS, replace that “dating” with listening singing and sharing the songs with our IDOLS, after all I spend all my days programming and can’t have “everybody’s normal life” and I like “my life just like it”, even if it doesn’t seem “everyone normal life”.

    • Verascity

      So is the ultimate lesson here that women should not be allowed to date? Otherwise, how is she failing to live up to her job as a role model?

    • $35222035

      I have some news for you Hiroki..you are not the slave/subject of the perverted old men that run Japan and make up BS rules like this solely to line their pockets and keep you under their boot!! The reason many things never change for the better in Japan is because too many Japanese people refuse to think for themselves and question both the rules, and the motivations of those making the rules!! You are not a slave, Hiroki!! Free your mind, and you will free yourself!

    • interuni321

      I can`t believe what Sano wrote, sounds like the words of a brothel madam….

    • Totoro

      Anybody who is shocked by a 20 year old girl having a boyfriend needs to take a serious look at themselves.

      The idol industry is thriving on the most dishonest of business strategies. It’s selling the fans a lie and a delusion; the delusion that the average fan might somehow, someday, manage to form some kind of a relationship with one of the members.

      And what happens to the fans? They waste their time and money cultivating a fantasy that will inevitably leave them frustrated. They would be much better off saving their money and time and spending it on real girls who inhabit the real world, and on creating real, satisfying relationships and real families.

      AKB48 and the idol business operate in a moral vacuum. For those in charge of the entertainment industry, anything goes as long as a profit can be made. It’s a disgrace, and if the ‘fans’ are condoning the mis-treatment of their idols like this, they should be ashamed of themselves.

      • omar

        Some fans can’t live in the real world, they work all the days in their dreams and are too shy to date , so our IDOLS dating is very bad news.

  • Edohiguma

    Her reaction is a bit extreme, but what actually annoys me more is the reaction of the male counterpart in this “scandal”. Or better said the complete and total lack of it. His agency issued only a run of the mill statement, that’s it. He said nothing. The other AKB48 girls stand with Minegishi, but he, the other person responsible, let’s her hanging out dry. She takes the fallout, he does nothing.

    Apparently if you’re a guy in this business you can do whatever you want and the rabid fangirls will still love you. It seems that such behavior is even expected from the boys.

    Shows what a great friend he is (after all, that’s the official explanation for their encounter, friendship.) But real friends don’t let friends hang out dry like this and real men don’t let the girl fall into the sword like this.

    • Marty

      I agree, the guy is a total weenie. You see it is all about themselves. The guy doesn’t want to get involved because that might jeopardize his limited career. This girl is not really sorry she just wants to keep her “star” status. None of these people are sincere. If truth be known she probably said to herself, “Oh s….t I’ve been caught”. The parents of these kids are just as much to blame. They push their kids to audition and if their kid passes, they push even more. These parents (mainly mothers) want some sort of status and having a daughter or a wimpy son in a pop group makes these old ladies feel special. How shallow people are.

  • NODDYZ93

    Looks more like a public execution! And not being able to feel emotion is just deplorable by any standard!

  • Roger Smith

    Saying that these girls should accept the rules of the group or quit is ridiculous. Do you want Japan to go back to the prewar days when women had no real rights? In the modern, civilized world, neither employers nor coworkers have the right to influence any employee’s love life. I pity this brainwashed girl, and all the other members of AKB48. They are virgin sacrifices to the growing number of misogynist, perverted, pedophiles in Japan.

  • http://twitter.com/crsalisbury craig salisbury

    What’s funny is that there’s a LOT of AKB48.fans that are middle aged men who live in the same fantasy world as the teenage fans, get it into you head, you are not going to have these girls as much as I will be hanging out with Angelina jollie any time soon. Get over it, lets these girls have healthy relationships and grow up as normal as possible with this spotlight. Japan needs to promote healthy relationships, marriages and children considering the massive population decline, not saying its a bad thing

  • Paolo

    It is exploitation in it’s highest form – Exploitation of the fans and the girls in the ‘band’. The music is a disgrace and the lyrics, well listen to them. It is pop capitalism in it’s lowest form. Anyway, Minami is 20 so she would probably have been chucked onto the idol scrapheap soon anyway …

  • Totoro

    The whole situation is grotesque. It’s grotesque that teenage girls – some of them still children – are being used to fuel the fantasies of grown men. It’s grotesque that parents are allowing it to happen (where are these parents?). And it’s grotesque that an older man such as Yasushi Akimoto is allowed to control young women’s lives.

    The celebrity industry is horrible, and it’s abusive. This girl has been involved since she was too young properly to know what she was doing. I can’t imagine how damaging it must be.

  • Verbals

    Here is one of the biggest problems facing Japan, the Yen is collapsing, there are swathes of hidden homeless across the country, thousands of people in the north east are still living in temporary housing while the criminals in government spend billions of dollars on unnecessary weapons. The international world is on the brink of a third world war as the USA plans yet another false flag gas attack on innocent Syrians in order to justify an invasion….

    …And Japan becomes obsessed with this group of creepy, enslaved pop star clones. AKB really are modern day comfort women for a nation too scared and immature to face up to it’s real problems.

  • Marty

    Who cares, really? Here’s a stupid, childish girl trying to hang on to wannabe stardom. AKB48 are nothing but the froth on beer; soon to disappear along with past groups like Morning Musumae, Genji and others. The teen idol business in this country is all about a select few of sleazy businessmen – yes men – out to make millions exploiting young, dumb girls and boys.

  • akelo

    This Shirahama guy should step out and defend Minegishi and take equal responsibility. And that AKB48 should immediately revise their policies to allow their staff a normal, human life including the right to privacy. This is shocking!
    Edohiguma: The Catholic church IS infringing on the human rights of their priests. Change will come, the question is only of, when?

  • Troy

    Look at her cry because she loves her fame more than she loves her boyfriend.

  • Nancy Foster

    With such a dangerously fast falling birthrate in Japan, you’d think the Japanese government would put higher pressure to allow the legal adult members of the group to start popping kids as soon as possible and force fans to accept their kids as possible future recruits of the band…

    By allowing this and other pop groups from forbidding their legal adult members from being fired and shunning them for having children in their prime years of fertility means the government is okay with the declining birthrate…

  • Bogs_Dollocks

    In a civilized society a “dating ban” clause would not be enforceable as it violates basic human rights. Shouganai is not sufficient.

    Minegishi was coming out of Shirahama’s after she realized that he had no balls, as his subsequent actions confirmed.

    Such practices of the aidoru industry are reprehensible, but the most pathetic are fans, so-called, that expect such unnatural behaviour solely to sustain their unrealizable fantasies.

    • Andy James Sheldon

      These contracts are illegal……instead of cutting her hair as a form of revenge against the company she should sue the her company and force the contract to be re-negotiated…..

    • omar

      “unrealizable fantasies.” maybe but we pay real money for having them, so the customer is always right, if she doesn’t want it she can LEAVE AKB48….. “DETO WO SHINAIDE KUDASAI IDORU SAN” , if you date, I’m no longer your fan…

  • k34j11sams@rocketmail.com

    Blame their mothers

  • KaiHarate

    The picture and public plea resembles that of someone kidnapped by terrorists and forced to speak in ways not natural. The girl has problems but it’s obvious she is under intense pressure and duress by bosses (and fans). The whole thing seems a bit like a cult. Too bad it can’t be all seen as just silly fun and not much else.

  • KM, Tokyo

    This is just a publicity stunt for their next album
    AKB are planning to release a cover version of the Crosby Stills and Nash song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK3TIYG9mqM

  • http://www.facebook.com/MarsBlak Mars Blackman

    Who would subject themselves in the prime of their young adults lives by being in a group that forbids dating for fame? This is odd to me….

  • mei ling

    i bet they treat them like crap, if i were her i would of left. she’s important to the group and the manager took advantage of her, it’s just horrible