Its safe to say that I do not know very much about Japanese pop culture. I haven’t read a single Manga (comic book) and the only Anime I know are Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and One Piece. So when I know that something is popular, its a pretty big deal. For me to almost know the karaoke version, its huge. There is one such facet of Japanese culture that has seeped into my consciousness and that’s AKB 48. I always knew that Japan held onto the pop group fad that hit America in the 90’s, but I never knew just how tight their grip is. A majority of Japanese pop music is from highly produced Mega groups. AKB48 is the epitome of this concept. The 48 refers to 48 members, that’s right 48. Well that’s how many were in the band when it started, currently there’s 56. It is officially (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) the World’s largest pop group.
The group is a performance group that also produces huge hits. They have their own theater in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. (that’s the origin of the AKB) AKB48 performs shows in their theater every day. Yes everyday. That’s why there’s so many of them. There are 3 teams (A team, K team, B team) who are rotated for the shows. The entire group rarely performs on stage on the same time. As for who gets featured in music videos and other public appearances, they are voted in by the fans. That’s right, its a popularity contest. Its like project runway, one day your in the next day your out. My students all have their favorite, and have all kinds of erasers, book covers, key chains with AKB faces all over them.
AKB isn’t just a pop group for young girls, their popularity crosses all kinds of social borders. Girls / boys / young / old, everybody. Sure Beiber fever swept across the country, but just think how crazy the epidemic would have been if adults weren’t afraid to admit their love. Everybody I seem to ask likes AKB48. Even people my age who I thought would be too cool, they’re not, they like AKB. I’d say AKB48 fever has reached pandemic proportions.
Personally I can’t say I’m a fan, but their songs definitely have a way of sticking with you good or bad. Watch the videos, and judge for yourself. Keep in mind that although all ages seem to like the AKB, they are targeted towards younger girls. Which is why I am so puzzled by the lingerie party. But that’s probably why they have universal appeal.