Four teenage boys were arrested earlier this month for allegedly robbing and injuring a man on a Tokyo street because they needed cash to buy custom-made outfits to sport in a handshaking event involving the pop idol group AKB48, police said Monday.
The boys, all from Saitama Prefecture, approached the victim, a 27-year-old graduate student, in Kita Ward on Aug. 11, grabbed him by the shoulder and demanded cash.
The youths fled the scene with the man’s mobile phone and other belongings, slightly injuring the victim in the process.
Two of the youths, both 17, were arrested that day. The other two, both 15, were nabbed a week later, the police said.
According to media reports, one of the 17-year-olds planned out the mugging. He confessed that the teens carried out the assault to get money to buy the “tokkofuku” uniforms embroidered with names of their favorite AKB48 members.
Literally translated as a “special attack uniform,” tokkofuku refers to attire embroidered with huge bellicose images, including dragons, as well as poetry.
When contacted by The Japan Times, a shop clerk at a popular tokkofuku manufacturer in western Japan said each uniform costs an average of ¥50,000 to ¥60,000, depending on how “intricate and big you want the icons to be,” he said, requesting anonymity.
Tokkofuku used to mainly be sought after by “bosozoku” (biker gangs) interested in intimidation. But when the police started a crackdown on their lot, the bikers basically shunned such attire to keep a lower profile, the clerk said.
Nowadays tokkofuku are mainly sold to hard-core fans of certain bands or celebrities, he said. Typically they have the names of their favorite artists stitched onto the outfits in the hopes of getting noticed. Along with AKB48, singer Namie Amuro, Kyary pamyu pamyu, and punk rock band Kishidan have many such idolizers.
“These fans are really desperate to get the attention of the people they idolize,” the clerk said, giving his take on the four arrested teens. “By wearing tokkofuku, with the name of their favorite member on it, they’re trying to show their love.”