The no dating rule and Johnny’s special treatment

MinegishiMinami

By now I’m sure everyone in the entire Japanese music fandom is aware of AKB48 member, Minegishi Minami’s, recent scandal. And if you’re not you must really be living under a rock because even Western media picked up the story. But if for some reason you’re still not aware of it, the shorthand is this: a tabloid magazine came out with pictures of Mii-chan leaving Shirahama Alan’s, a member of EXILE, house. Then the next day a video was uploaded to AKB48’s official youtube channel where she deeply apologized and shaved her head. Well, as close to a full shave as possible. And it was said how she was demoted down to Kenkyuusei level. The video has since been removed from the channel and Mii-chan even made her debut as a Kenkyuusei recently sporting a wig.

The whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth. Mostly because I’ve always been on the fence on the no dating idol rule. On one hand it seems to be 1,000% sure that the girls have to sign some sort of morals clause in their contract. And it would seem even if we don’t like the no dating rule it probably voids their entire contract and therefore have every right to be fired. But on the other hand I’m also caught between what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. How is it fair that Johnny’s aren’t held to the same intense criticism and punishment that female idols are held to?

Now, the main argument is that Japan is a sexist and misogynistic country. And that is true, they got something like number 101 on the list of countries with the most rights. And the way the entertainment industry is run has nothing to do with how the entire country is run. In Japan it’s frowned upon for women to wear too revealing clothes in public. Then shouldn’t gravure idols as a whole not exist because it’s not an innocent enough profession? Shouldn’t they only be sold on the outskirts of town? And women in Japan usually leave their jobs to be full time housewives, but female celebrities don’t stop being celebrities to be a wife and mother.

And even if the entertainment industry was 100% the way Japan as a whole is does that mean we should just look the other way and go, “well that’s just how they do things in Japan?” And the answer to that is no. It’s 2013. Turning a blind eye only makes things stay the same. Maybe if more fans (domestic fans anyway) were outraged by this things would change. And it’s not like the entire country agrees with the way the Mii-chan situation is being handled. Japanese netizens gave their opinion about the situation and a bunch of them said, “It’s against human rights to do this,” or, “She didn’t do anything wrong,” or, “Does this make her fans happy?”

And in my opinion she didn’t really do anything wrong, but because she had the misfortune of being a female idol instead of a male idol she got the full brunt of this. And as awful as it sounds, she even made out better than a lot of female idols do. Even though she humiliated herself by groveling and shaving her head extremely short, she at least got to remain a member of the group. Whether she’s a Kenkyuusei or not. A lot of other female idols have had their careers destroyed just by having boyfriends.

So, what happens if you’re a Johnny’s idol? Or what about the scandals that have effected both male and female idols? If you look at the scandal involving A.B.C-Z member Hashimoto Ryosuke and C-ute member Arihara Kana and the scandal involving Hey! Say! JUMP member Takaki Yuya and 9nine member Kato Rubi.

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If you follow any of those groups you’ll know exactly what happened. Rubi’s and Kanna’s departures from their groups were both a direct effect of their scandals. You can say, “Well, actually Kanna’s wasn’t.” Really? Really? Do you really believe she honestly left because of a bunion? And not because right before she went on hiatus fans booed her at the Edo no Temari Uta II handshake event?

How about an update on Ryosuke or Takaki. Obviously absolutely nothing happened to them. Do you remember hearing Johnny’s even mentioning either rumor? Do you remember either member even getting remotely punished? Ryosuke was just a Junior, and he was only recently added to the already established A.B.C. Junior group from JJ Express. And this scandal happened a month before Hey! Say! JUMP’s debut single went on sale. They could have easily gotten rid of both guys without much of an impact to either group. But they didn’t. They didn’t even pretend to care.

With that it must seem like Johnny’s are actually allowed to date. But au contraire mon frere, they actually aren’t. Johnny’s still have a no dating rule. The only upside to their no dating rule is that once they reach a certain age it no longer applies to them. I always thought 30 was the age, but someone else said it was 25. So now I’m not 100% sure of the age. But let’s just split the difference and say it’s between the age of 25 and 30. Back when Takaki had his scandal he was 17, and during Ryosuke’s scandal he was 16. Which means they broke the rules. And yet nothing happened to them. Every single Johnny’s member has been involved in dating scandals before they were allowed to date. So why didn’t anything happen to them? The only rule they seem to be strict on is the marriage ban. Which is ridiculous. Who cares if you can’t get married if you can still date?

Let’s now look at some Johnny’s scandals.

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When has a female scandal ever been anywhere near this bad really? Besides Sashihara Rino’s boob flashing and that one time someone was accused of compensated dating.

But these are just the scandals that are seen in photos. What about what the tabloids that just write about Johnny’s? It’s been written that Nishikido Ryo bite some chick in a club, kicked a girl out of a cab because she refused to sleep with him, and that he frequents pink salons. They wrote that Ninomiya Kazunari was a sexual powerhouse. There was a rumor that Yamashita Tomohisa had a sex tape. (Not gonna lie, I kinda wish that one was true.) And just recently there was a rumor that Matsumoto Jun goes to a club lines up all the girls that want to kiss him and picks one. And these are just the ones I remember. Can you imagine what would happen if any female idol had any of this written about them? Yet Johnny’s get this kind of stuff written about them practically every week. They are constantly in tabloids with a new girl. Johnny’s have dated so many girls that the Johnny’s fandom had to make a chart to keep up with it.

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It seems like the only time that Johnny’s ever get punished is when they break the law. Morimoto Ryutaro was removed from Hey! Say! JUMP after underage smoking, and NEWS members Uchi Hiroki and Kusano Hironori were demoted to below Junior status for underage drinking. However, if you’re Kusanagi Tsuyoshi you can get arrested for running around naked while you’re drunk and have nothing happen to you.

Hey, maybe the unfairness is all because of the different fans that male and female idols have. I mean, female idols are marketed as pure and innocent. And wota make up a huge part of their sales, while male idols don’t have wota. I’m also going to shoot down that logic right now.

Both male and female idol groups have crazy and obsessive fans. It comes along with the idol territory. Besides wota flipping out and breaking CDs, burning photos, ripping up photos, and completely not supporting a girl anymore because of a boyfriend scandal, I actually think wota are a little more tame in comparison  For the most part the wota are very respectful. Sure, they stole I think Tokunaga Chinami’s (It was an H!P Kid member I just can’t remember which one exactly anymore.) phone. But for the most part they seem to leave the girls alone. Johnny’s fans might have the unwritten fandom rule or not approaching them on the train, and if you see them on the train move to another part. But that’s pretty much as respectful as some fans get.

Johnny’s have some really crazy fans, so crazy that they even have a name for them, and that name is Yarakashi. Yarakashi are basically really aggressive fans with extremely bad manners. They’ll attack groups they don’t like, yell over MCs at concerts, allegedly broke Nino’s thumb, etc. They apparently held up signs during KAT-TUN concerts telling Kame to die. However, the Yarakashi I’m most familiar with are the group of them that were obsessed with Hey! Say! JUMP. They were known as the Heisei Shojo Group.

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These girls were so obsessed with Hey! say! JUMP that they would refer to themselves with their favorite member’s last name. Such as Nakajima Mare or Yamada Erika. They used to do things like camp outside the member’s schools and homes. One of the members even claimed to have forced Ryosuke to kiss her. They gathered at the Scrap Teacher set and yelled things at Chinen such as “Quite JUMP,” “You’re disgusting,” and, “Stop pretending to be a girl.” There was also that one time where a stalker stole Ryutaro’s phone. There was even a completely unrelated story about two Johnny’s fans getting arrested after they beat up, cut the hair of, and stole money from junior high school girl because she was allegedly texting a Johnny’s Junior member. They did all of this because they said the girl broke fan rules of exchanging information with Johnny’s talents on online message boards open to the public.

So, to think that Johnny’s is more lenient because female fans don’t care as much as male fans do is just ridiculous. I’d say dedicated Johnny’s fans are just as obsessed as hardcore wota.

I guess the whole point of this post is to show how unfair and sexist the idol industry truly is. And to some extent how ridiculous the no dating rule is. If they are going to have the no dating rule, can’t female agencies adapt the one Johnny’s has that lets you date at a certain age? Or if they refuse to that, then at least punish all idols the same way. To hold Johnny’s idols on a pedestal above female idols is just appalling, sexist, and just plain wrong. I’m a giant female idol and Johnny’s fan, and it’s obvious even to me that something has to be done about this. Do I think it’s going to happen any time soon? Sadly, I don’t. In a perfect world it would, but this is reality. And what us international fans think about this hardly matters on the grand scheme of things. But I hope domestic fans will stand up to this someday and make some real change happen.

Also, I welcome anyone else’s opinions about this and would love a comment to hear your thoughts. I know many people might not agree 100% with this post.

8 thoughts on “The no dating rule and Johnny’s special treatment”

  1. Setting aside the societal culture, I think the difference in internal policies can be largely attributed to the difference in their systems. The female idols have a graduation system, while the J&A has the senpai-kohai relationships and they don’t seem inclined to retire their groups. The idol- management relationship is very much long term with J&A. Sexy Zone and HSJ can pretty much envision their work career with their group and the Jimusho for the next 10-15 years or more. I don’t think Oshima Yuko is able to see herself as AKB’s ace for the next few more years. As early as last year, fans are already speculating when she will graduate.

    Added to that, The AKS groups have huge number of members. They have so called 1st gen, 2nd gen and so on members. We see graduation happen once in a while. Newer gen members will ultimately replace 1st gen members. Most of these female idols will graduate even before they turn 25.

    On the other hand, the JE groups have fixed number of members, so they promote not only the group, but had to promote intensely the individual members as well.The groups belong to a certain generation and not the other way around. Each generation has prominent members, or if others may call it, “golden boys”. Hence, Kimutaku, Nagase, Matsujun, Yamapi, Ryo, Kame, and all the other drama actors that are pushed more to the limelight. Currently groomed to be the next big idols are the heisei generation’s idols- Yamada & Chinen. This has been a very successful system they are implementing.

    Due to this, when a female idol gets a scandal, she can easily be punished bec she is replaceable. There are so many members that can take her place. Though Minegishi is 1st gen member, she is still one of the 50+ members of AKB. Newer gen members can easily take her place and taking her out will not leave much of an impact to the whole group. You cannot do that with JE groups. If we take all their dating scandals and assume they get punished for it, no one will be left in Arashi, which cannot happen. Getting a member out can destroy the group. As individual members get promoted, punishment for them will also not benefit the Jimusho. When they debut the group, they are gonna stick it up with the members. As you say, the only time any punishment happens is when an idol breaks the law.

    When scandals come up, either they don’t bother with the issue or just deny it altogether if they really needed to reply. The exception to this would be Nagase’s relationship with Ayumi Hamasaki which was confirmed.

    This is just one of the factors that can be thrown in to the difference issues, There are many people frustrated why only female idols gets the harsher treatment, but I don’t think anyone has pointed the difference in their systems that I see to be a large reason for the difference.

    1. That is absolutely true. Johnny’s idols or groups hardly ever retire. I mean, look at SMAP they’re still kicking. But the whole 50 members or so are able to replace any girl that leaves only really works for AKB48 and their sister units. Most other idol groups don’t have 50 members, and a lot don’t even add new members. 9nine and C-ute both lost members to scandal. And not one of those members were replaced. Besides Morning Musume, which is nowhere near the replaceable level that AKB48 is because they usually only have 9-12 members, they had 14 max. That’s not really enough members to really replace members that leave. Which is why when popular members left because of graduations or scandals their popularity couldn’t handle it and is a contributing factor to their decline.

      But not even counting scandals female idol group Momoiro Clover Z, SUPER GiRLS, and Passpo (these are just the groups I know of) all graduated members and didn’t add one new person to replace the ones that left. So, to say that female idols can leave because of scandals because they have new girls really to replace them only really works for AKB48 and their sister groups. But AKB48 is not the only female idol group out there. Even though this entire post was inspired by Minegishi Minami, I was talking about female idols as a whole, not just AKB48. As for members leaving before their 25. Most female idols don’t leave before they ahave to because they aged out. 5/10 times they leave before 25 is because of a scandal, and 3/10 times is because of an illness or injury. 2/10 is for other reasons. Just read up on most idol graduations, that aren’t because they aged out of the group.

      As for promoting the individual member that’s true for groups like Arashi and Kanjani8 that are extremely popular right now. But groups like Hey! Say! JUMP and Kis-My-Ft2 don’t have equal promotion at all. You hardly see the least popular members from each group do anything on their own. I’m well aware of how Johnny’s works with promoting the most popular members. But for newer groups that’s actually more of a hinder. I wrote in a previous post that if Ryosuke does leave the group to go solo it wouldn’t really be good for JUMP. NEWS used to sell about 230,000 copies of singles with Yamapi and Ryo, but now they sell about 150,000. KAT-TUN sell anywhere from 350,000 to over 400,000 copies. Now they sell about 170,000 copies. Which means Johnny’s wastes too much time promoting just the popular members that if they leave the remaining members fanbases are strong enough on their own to sustain the sales. (But I already made a post about this sometime after Jin left KAT-TUN) So, to say this is a successful system isn’t really true. Which is another thing that Morning Musume is going and has been doing for about 7 years, which is why they sell so poorly. I’ve wrote blog posts about this in the past.

      What about when Juniors get into scandals or when an idol gets into a scandal before their debut single was released? How would punishing them effect the group? Situations like that would have zero impact on the group. Kind of like how Moriuchi Takahiro left before NEWS’ official debut single.

      Why have a no dating rule if they’re not going to enforce it? They don’t even have to kick them out of the group, just punish them in someway. At least acknowledge it. Make them formally apologize like Alan from EXILE had to. And if they can enforce the marriage ban, they can definitely enforce this. They just don’t want to, they’d rather plausible deniability I suppose.

      I understand the difference in the systems, but that’s not really an excuse to let them do whatever they and not have to abide by rules. The system is different, I know that. I never said the punishment had to be the same. In fact I never said what the punishment should be in this post. Because I don’t want male of female idols to get kicked out for a scandal. I just want male idols to have to own up to scandal just the same way that female idols have to. Female idols have had scandals swept under the rug too of course. But it’s not fair that male idols have this happen with every scandal.

  2. While of course I believe sexism is wrong, but Japan isn’t the only country that is sexist. Heck every part of the world has some form of sexism in it, some place more than the other. Yes, even here, the West, the ‘beacon of humanity’, sexism is still a common behavior. Just play x-box live, and you’ll see what i mean. What else to say, this ain’t a perfect world. Just like racism, crime, war, religious intolerance, sexism is just another problem that will never go away.

    Wota aren’t just crazy obsessed fans, they also spend ridiculous amount of money for their idols. They are usually older guys with no family or girlfriends, so most of their incomes go to their idols. So it’s not about the craziness of the fans, it’s about how much money they spent. Wota spent so much money that the producers cater their idols at them, in that they have to be pure innocent girls. I highly doubt those crazy high school Johnny’s fans spent money any close to the wota’s. Artists that don’t rely on wota like Utada Hikaru or Amuro Namie, are free to get married. So it’s more about what kind of crowd the idols are targeted for.

    1. Of course sexism is prevalent all over the world. Here in the US women still make 75¢ for every $1 a man makes. I never said that the West was the beacon of humanity. I actually barely mentioned the West in this article. Instead I focused mainly on Japan and other idol groups. To show how sexist a country Japan is because in this particular article it wasn’t important if the rest of the world is sexist. And I think comparing women getting hassled, and maybe even abused (I do not use Xbox Live so I have no idea how bad it is) on Xbox Live is a weak comparison to what it’s like for women in Japan. Japan still has a very 1960’s approach to women, while in the US women got equal rights in the 1970’s. So there’s almost no comparison.

      Oh, I know what wota are. I’ve said many many times in my blog that they are the fueling force behind idol groups, and most idol groups would not exist without them. Especially my beloved H!P which sells horribly most of the time. I’m aware that since they spend money the most money on them they cater the idols around them. I think every idol fan in existence knows that. I was just trying to paint a picture that male idols also have crazy fans on the same level as wota, so why doesn’t Johnny’s cater to them more. Johnny’s hardly cater to their female fans at all. Female idols prance around in bikinis. Male idols have absolutely no equivalent to that. They only fan service they provide is being affectionate with the members and dressing up as women sometimes.

      As for high school girls not spending close to what wota spend is just a ridiculous statement. Firstly, high school girls are a big chunk of the fanbase but only make up half or a little over half. Watch NTV’s best artist program they do every year, because every year they have a pie chart that shows each performing artist fanbase. Obviously Johnny’s idols preform there every year. The pie chart shows both male and female fans and what age group makes up what percentage. Johnny’s is most popular with teenage girls and women in their 40’s. And the senpai groups like SMAP of course have more 40 year old fans than teenage fans. And extremely popular groups like Arashi. have broad appeal and have high numbers for every age group and a decent amount of male fans. Johnny’s singles sell extremely well. So, you better believe that their fans spend just as much as any other idol groups fans. Most idol groups get most of their money from selling shop photos, concert tickets, and concert photos. It’s the same exact thing with Johnny’s. That’s why Johnny’s has had ridiculously overpriced concert merch like Arashi hair ties, and a Hey! Say! JUMP puzzle. At concerts they even set up merch booths outside the venue so people who didn’t get tickets to the actual concert can still buy the concert merchandise.

      Idol groups are set up the exact same way. They make money from the exact same type of fans. Whether those fans are middle aged men who desperately want their idols love, or teenage girls who desperately want their idols love, they are one in the same. They are targeted to the same type of fans. What age they are hardly even matters. Divulge more into how Johnny’s is run, how they make their money, and the type of fans they have, and you’ll see that every single idol group is set up nearly the same way. Which is why I felt it was so important to make this post. Because most female idol fans don’t listen to male idols, and most male idol fans don’t listen to female idol groups, so the each fanbase doesn’t really know how the other one is set up. Unless it’s fan like me and you that listen to both. I also especially made this post because a lot of Johnny’s fan no nothing about how female idols work, not even the no dating rule. A lot of Johnny’s fans also think Johnny’s is set up differently than female idols groups too, when surprisingly that is not the case at all. It’s not even close to the case.

  3. Well, really now, I think it’s about the company as well. I mean, the company decides if there should be a dating ban or not and what are the consequences if the rule is not respected.
    It actually bothers me a lot because the news about Mii-chan’s scandal were on the TV in my very own house while I was dining with my family and you can imagine how my East-European family reacted to this, knowing that I listen to Japanese music and I am so much into this culture.
    However, the problem, as I said, begins from the company. As you said, nothing much happened to any of the members with scandals – scandals even worse than that – and the only thing that made Johnny remove someone from a group was the underage smoking/drinking thing. I am saying that the company is at fault because no matter what the public thinks about it, there will always be different opinions but the general ones will always be the ones that the company sets. Do you think that if the girls wouldn’t have such punishments the fans and ordinary people would be so worked-up about this? Yeah, there are some crazy fans out there, that’s true, but it wouldn’t be so bad if the company wouldn’t ‘feed’ them like that.
    I am sure that if Johnny’s would actually punish the members for dating they would be in the same situations as the girls.
    Because what people see on TV, they take it as it is and think it is perfectly normal, anything you would give them. So it is naturally that, if the respective company is telling them ‘Yeah, we have a dating rule but you won’t be punished if you break it.’ the people won’t make any fuss. But if you come with the rule and the serious punishments – which are ridiculous – people would obviously blame the person who breaks the rule.

  4. Hye!
    I think there is no dating rule in the contract of JE idol. This is based on one episode of Himitsu no Arashi-chan which the guest is all former female idols, where the question is about love relationship for idol. They ask Aiba and Jun whether JE told them that they cannot have love relationship or not, both of them answered that they were never being told that they cannot have love relationship.

    So I think it depends on the company itself. If the company is strict on the dating rule, then they will give strict punishment. I think JE is not too strict on the dating rule. There a few of JE idol get married. As for Akanishi Jin case, I read somewhere that he get punishment because he did not discuss his relationship with JE. Johhny Kitagawa is angry because he know about the news about his marriage and Meisa pregnancy from news and not from Akanishi himself. Well. I’m not really sure too.

    1. Hey. 😀

      I’m pretty sure there absolutely is a no dating rule in Johnny’s. I have not seen that episode before, but Aiba and Jun probably said that because they don’t have a no dating rule now. Once Johnny’s reach a certain age they can date freely. And if they really didn’t have a no dating rule it was probably something special only to Arashi because they are the most popular group. Sales wise, you could argue that SMAP is still the most popular group. When Ohno had his big scandal they Johnny’s wanyted to punish him, but apparently the rest of the group said if they punished their leader that they would quit or something. I’m actually a little fuzzy on this most because I’m 50% sure it’s a rumor anyway. On a recent episode of Shounen Club they asked either Fuma or Kento (can’t remember 100% who it was now) about dating, kissing, or something along those lines, and he answered that since he was an idol he didn’t know anything about that. Which pretty much confirms that they do in fact have a no dating rule, or at least have to pretend that they do.

      The whole point of this post was to say that even though they have a no dating rule they don’t enforce it, and how sexist and unfair that is. Yes, there are Johnny’s that are married. But after women committed suicide Johnny’s made a marriage ban. Which they said was for public safety. Johnny’s is of course angry that Jin didn’t tell him first. I’m 100% sure that that act alone most likely broke his contract. He’s probably also equally angry that Jin got married at all, because it hurt JE’s image and caused Jin to lose fan and in turn lose Johnny’s money. Which is most likely why he cancelled his concerts.

  5. Was reading everyone’s comment. Seriously the reason why Alan apologize is because Minegishi went ahead and acknowledge that she did stayover at Alan’s house. She can always say other reasons, but she was so stupid to say so without telling the company, so obviously Alan have to do something.

    Agree to everyone how AKB can always change their members. Like seriously, there’s so many members, I don’t even know all of them. They just graduate, they dont last long with their original members.

    About sexism is so not true. I mean every company have their way of handling their artist. If they believe they should be suspended then so be it. If they think they should not, then it’s also their business.

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