Ripples in Japan’s fan culture

Taragi, Kumamoto

Regarding Ian Martin’s Feb. 1 article, “AKB48 member’s ‘penance’ shows flaws in idol culture“: Putting aside any particular opinion on the scandal surrounding AKB48 member Minami Minegishi, it is plainly wrong for Martin to imply that Japan’s fan culture is the cause, rather than an effect, of Japan’s male-centric culture.

First, Martin describes the misogynistic pathologies of the idol and anime culture, then follows with the offending passage: “The danger is of this fantasy [sic] creeping out more widely into society.”

Martin has it completely backwards. Idol culture is shaped by Japanese culture, not the other way around.

Martin’s criticism of the system by which AKB48’s “(largely male) fans” sit “in annual judgment, voting members up or down in the group’s hierarchy” is as ridiculous as criticizing the use of physical attractiveness as the primary criterion in beauty competitions.

Martin also puts far too much blame for the scandal on fans. In the absence of any clause forbidding relationships, would it be misogynistic if fans consistently voted “up” members who keep their relationships secret, and consistently voted “down” members who were openly in relationships?

Should fans be forbidden from even liking one particular member over another, lest they be responsible for (in the words of Japanese lawyer Hifumi Okunuki) provoking “cutthroat competition” that results in “gross disparities” between the fortunes of the most popular and the less so?

joseph jaworski
taragi, kumamoto

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.