J-pop star Minami Minegishi—a senior member of 80-strong girl-group sensation AKB48—recently brought the "shave your head and make a hysterical apology on the internet" brand of freakout to Japan. Why? For committing the selfish sin of having a boyfriend.
The 20-year-old took to YouTube to apologize to fans, band members, and producers for being snapped leaving her secret boyfriend's apartment—something that, at first, seems more inconsequential than the time Midge Ure made a Spanish omelette on Celebrity MasterChef. But being in a relationship is forbidden in the realm of Japanese pop, especially for members of AKB48, one of the highest-earning musical acts in the world.
In her YouTube apology, a cropped Minami grovelled through teary eyes, saying:
“What I have done was such a thoughtless and a lack of self-awareness behaviour [sic].”
Which is a really sad thing for a 20-year-old girl to have to say for having a boyfriend.
Despite the fact that AKB48 are better known for pelvic thrusts, skimpy outfits, homoerotic ads, and sexually suggestive lyrics than anything approaching vocal talent, the group—along with pretty much every other Japanese girl band—are expected to live the personal lives of agoraphobic nuns.
Think Simon Cowell is controlling for encouraging One Direction to dress better and be photographed enjoying themselves in public? Try the grip Japanese record companies have over their musicians, denying them the very basic right of hanging out with someone they're attracted to so that hordes of delusional fans think there's still some chance that they might be able to fuck them. It could be good fodder for a music-industry satire if it wasn't so incredibly depressing—the record companies promoting some archaic idea to please a bunch of men who will probably die alone, choking on their limited-edition AKB48-tour T-shirts.
Minami Minegishi in happier days, before stabbing everyone in the back by having a boyfriend.
The other thing that makes this story even more unbelievable is the framework of AKB48 that it's taken place in. The band is made up of over 80 girls split into three subgroups who perform on rotation, as well as a number of other AKB48 trainees ready to rise through the ranks once senior members outgrow the group and "graduate," leaving a spot open for the next superstar. It's either a genius take on the X Factor concept or a very cruel, expensive way to shoot teenage girls to fame before breaking them into a million little pieces and forgetting about them forever.
Like other previous band members before her who have been complete fucking harlots and fallen in love with someone of the opposite sex, Minami has been demoted to Kenkyuusei ("trainee level"). The decision over whether she's expelled from the group lies with the band's manager, so we'll have to wait on him for that one with bated breath. To be honest, she deserves it—no one in the public eye should be able to be happy in private and get away with it. The good news, though, is that Minami's hair will most likely grow back at some point, so at least she has that to look forward to now that her life is ruined.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @sambobclements
More fun stuff from Japan: