Do male idols have it worse after all?

IdolWedding

Now, if you guys read my blog at all you’ll know that I have very conflicting feelings about the no dating rule in the idol world. I have made a few posts on their own about it. My most recent, and in my humble opinion my best piece on the subject was, The no dating rule and Johnny’s special treatment. In that post I was able to vent all my frustrations about how male idols have it a lot easier than female idols do in regards to relationships. And the post was partially fueled by all the anger I accumulated over the years from beloved idols that were ripped out of their groups because of scandals.

The deeper and deeper I venture into the idol fandom the more clearly I see things, and the stronger an opinion I form about certain things. While I do still believe that male idols are getting special treatment in the short-term, I’m also starting to think that male idols may be getting the short end of the stick in the end after all.

And this post is of course talking about marriage. Marriage is considered one of the biggest, and arguably most important, moments in someone’s life. Certain people have to fight for the right just to be able to get married, and it seems idols aren’t any different. Male idols anyway.

Think for a moment of some of your favorite former female idols. Chances are around half of them have gotten married already and in some cases even have children. Even Nakazawa Yuko’s time finally came. Now think about the ages of these former idols. And more specifically think about the ages these idols were when they got married. Female idols have gotten married anywhere from 20-40. Now let’s look at the ages of male idols. If you exclude the younger members of Sexy Zone, the ages of debuted Johnny’s members range from 18-50. And of those only a small few are actually married.

Let’s look at the youngest former idol that got married that I’m aware of. It’s of course former Morning Musume member Tsuji Nozomi. Tsuji got married when she was just 20 years old. Now let’s look at the roster of Johnny’s members who are around that age. Sato Shori and Kotaki Nozomu are 18 years old. Kikuchi Fuma is 19 years old. Nakayama Yuma and Nakajima Kento are 20 years old. Kamiyama Tomohiro, Hashimoto Ryosuke, Fujii Ryusei, Okamoto Keito, Nakajima Yuto, Chinen Yuri, and Yamada Ryosuke are 21 years. Shigeoka Daiki is 22 years old.

That’s a baker’s dozen of male idols who could technically get married any day now if they were allowed to. Now there are of course several things to factor in. Not every single person wants to get married, not every single person wants to have kids, and not every single person wants to get married that young. And that is true. But for the sake of this blog post let’s pretend that every single male idol does in fact want to get married.

The average age a person gets married is between 25-32 years old. In the United States it’s 27 for women and 29 for men. In Japan it’s 28 for women and 30 for men. But because that’s just the average age and people obviously get married above or below the average I’m going to use the 25-32 age range for the sake of argument. Now let’s see which Johnny’s members fall into that age range shall we?

Kiriyama Akito is 25 years old. Miyata Toshiya, and Hamada Takahiro are 26 years old. Fujigaya Taisuke, Tegoshi Yuya, Kato Shigeaki, Kawai Fumito, and Nakama Junta are 27 years old. Masuda Takahisa, Kamenashi Kazuya, Yokoo Wataru, and Tsukada Ryoichi are 28 years old. Yamashita Tomohisa, Taguchi Junnosuke, Okura Tadayoshi, Kitayama Hiromitsu, Totsuka Shota, and Goseki Koichi are 29 years old. Yasuda Shota, Koyama Keiichiro, and Nishikido Ryo are 30 years old. Maruyama Ryuhei, Ninomiya Kazunari, Matsumoto Jun, Ueda Tatsuya, and Nakamaru Yuichi are 31 years old. Takizawa Hideaki, Murakami Shingo, Sakurai Sho, and Aiba Masaki are 32 years old.

That’s a whopping 30 members of Johnny’s that are around the marrying age. Even if only half of them have any desire to get married and/or have a family that’s still 15 members. Seems like a rather large number if you ask me.

And these are just the male idols that fall into the standard marrying age. It has nothing to do with the members who are younger or older than this who also want to get married. And let me tell you Johnny’s of various ages have voiced their desires to get married. Johnny’s Junior member Kyomoto Taiga said that he wants to be married by the time he’s 30. Yasui Kentaro said he wants to be a father by the time he’s 30. And Iwahashi Genki mentioned how he wants to be a father as kind and understanding as his own father on an episode of Gamushara J’s party.

But I don’t think anything is more heartbreaking than the members who are older and desperately want to get married but can’t. I’m sure all the unmarried members of SMAP and Arashi have probably mentioned at least once that they want to get married. I know for a fact that Arashi members have. MatsuJun even joked that on Arashi’s 10th anniversary all the members should announce their marriages at once. But when it comes to members wanting to get married no member mentions it as frequently and as heartfelt as Sakurai Sho.

But since Sho knows that he’s an idol and the fans would be upset he almost always either downplays, or doesn’t even mention, the wife aspect. Instead he mentions how much he wants to have children. He’s mentioned that he doesn’t even care about having a wife, but he wants a family and he wants to bring a large blanket and have a picnic with them in the park.

 

ShoMarriage

He also mentioned that if he has anything else in life he wants to live to be old and have his grandchildren visit him on New Years.

ShoMarriage2

 

(translation credit to onaji_sora)

And if that’s not the most heartbreaking thing you’ve ever heard your soul must be missing. We have a poor man who desperately wants to get married but isn’t allowed to because he happens to be an idol. And it’s especially impossible for Arashi since they are national idols. So I ask you dears reader which is truly worse, being a female idol that has to graduate at 25 but after that gets to have a life, family, and most likely a new career, or being a male idol and having the freedom to continue to be an idol for as long as they wish to, but in return has to give up on one of the most important moments of their lives?

And with each passing year it gets worse and worse for every older unmarried Johnny’s member. They are starting to be too old to have kids or at least starting to have it be too difficult to keep up with those kids. Now sure you can have kids whenever you want. There have been people who had kids in their 60s. And my Aunt didn’t have her first and only kid until she was 41. But going from personal experience it makes everything harder. My father turned 35 a month after I was born. I’m 22 now which makes my father 57 years old. And I was my father’s 2nd child.

Since my father was already 40 years old by the time I was a child he was already having a bit of trouble keeping up with me while playing. My childhood friend and I would also joke about how old of a man he was. And he was always the 2nd oldest father in my class. (He only lost because one kid’s father was 60 years old.) You also always hear older men say how much they don’t want a child at this point in their life because they’ll be 60 years old once they graduate high school.

Now of course you could have kids at any age if you’re really willing to, and I’m sure some people are thinking I’m being ridiculous to focus on the age thing so much, but let’s be honest having a child that old isn’t really ideal at all.

And it’s really sad when you think about this because in one sense Sho’s life is completely passing him by. He can have all the success in the world but it doesn’t really mean anything to him because he doesn’t have a family to share it with. He would probably be fine with any level of success just as long as he has a family. And I really feel for the man, I do. Sometimes I wish they would let him be the one Arashi member to get married already. But at the same time it seems unfair because I’m sure every other Arashi member wants to get married just as badly as Sho does.

That’s why no matter how big of an Arashi fan I am, and no matter how upset I’d be, I would understand 100% if they disbanded the group tomorrow so the members could go off and start families. I’ve actually kind of mentally prepared myself for that announcement to happen any day now. The members are always kind of vague when it comes to the future. They’ll say things like they don’t think much about what they’ll be doing in a years time, or they want to continue doing their best in the future. They even once said that Arashi will continue for as long as Ohno is able to keep up with the dances and that it all depends on him.

However, at the same time it’s absurd that male idols have to either give up on having a family or quit. It’s just like Kago Ai said, idols are puppets. They are alive but they are unable to feel or love. Sure, male idols might seem to have the good life initially, partying and having a different girl every night. But eventually you grow up and you realize you want something more substantial than that. But they can’t because someone is pulling their strings.

And the fans don’t make it any easier. They certainly treat idols like puppets, dolls, or another play thing. They wind them up and watch them dance. They dress them up however they like but they must never touch. They place them on a shelf until they gather dust and swiftly cast them aside for the latest model.

People seem to forget that even though they are idols they are still people. That beneath that hard porcelain is a live beating heart. And that honestly has to be the hardest part about being an idol, living for someone else other than yourself.

The next era of Hello!Project: the 12th and 3rd gen

MMSM

As every H!P fan, and most likely any idol fan in general, knows by now on September 30th after a little over a month of waiting Morning Musume’s 12th generation was finally announced. And I mean finally. Despite only waiting for a month it sure felt like forever. Mostly because the Golden Audition was announced back in March and the Mirai Shoujo audition was announced back in March of 2013. So, that was about a year and a half to wait for the 12th generation. With all this waiting, failed auditions, and years between auditions Morning Musume should honestly be on the 17th gen by now. But that’s a topic for another day.

I’m also sure all of you know that after making a shocking announcement on last week’s Hello!Station S/mileage’s 3rd gen was announced yesterday. All pretty standard information, but I feel like it’s important to get all this on my blog so it can forever be immortalized here. With that being said, and out of the way, let’s get on to my opinions about these results. It’s the whole reason you’re reading this after all.

Let’s start of with Morning Musume. If you’re anything like myself waiting for the results for the 12th gen were almost unbearable. Even when we were told specifically that we’d be getting the results on the 30th I was too impatient and excited to wait any longer. But somehow myself and every other Momusu fan managed to muster through this hardship and have arrived on the other side feeling satisfied. Or at least somewhat satisfied.

Even though this is my 5th audition process since becoming an H!P fan this was the first time I was awake to find out the results in real time as they were happening. And let me tell you the sense of excitement and panic was palpable. Whenever I find out the results for something like this I usually get so nervous about it because I almost put myself in the situation. Even though I’m waiting to see them call my favorite person’s name it almost feels like I’m there myself and I’m waiting for my own name to be called. I usually do this with reality competition shows. I’m in such a fervor over something that simple that when they lose it truly is a crushing defeat. (Is it obvious that I’m just a little dramatic yet?)

The 12th gen auditions weren’t any different and I found myself sitting there with such butterflies in my stomach and practically biting my nails in anticipation. The fact that the results weren’t announced for around 30-45 minutes past the time everyone initially thought they were going to be announced at didn’t help either. But since this was yet another audition without training camp footage I felt like I couldn’t miss the only exciting part of the audition. I guess that’s why in the past I never went out of my way to be awake for the results as soon as they happened. Since I already picked my favorites from the training camp I had an idea of who was going to be picked. But this audition we were going in completely blind, no one even had a clue. The most we could do was hope our favorite Kenshuusei made it. But because no one even knew if their favorite Kenshuusei even made it to the final round of the audition everyone was in the dark.

I have to say it was a really fun moment to see the girls’ names being called one by one. Not knowing who the next person was going to be, or not knowing if there even was going to be a next person. At about the halfway mark everyone was pretty much saying that the 12th gen was going to be a 2 person generation. And that honestly made me sad because I didn’t want only 2 members. To be perfectly honest I went every generation to have 4 members. The more idols the merrier. And thankfully my silent wishes were answered because 2 more girls were announced. The 12th gen then, of course, consisted of: Ogata Haruna, Nonaka Miki, Haga Akane, and Makino Maria.

Let’s talk about these girls a little bit.

Ogata Haruna

OgataHaruna2

15 years old from Osaka. She also does figure skating which ever wota in the audience went ballistic over for some reason.

Haruna, Haruna, Haruna! No matter how you slice it seems destined that this girl is going to be my favorite 12th generation member. When I first saw a picture of her I was interested in her the most because she was really cute. But once people starting uncovering her twitter accounts, and pictures from her past were released, that was it I was 100% sold on her. She seems like such an absolutely weird girl who’s really living up to being from Osaka. She reminds me so much of Zukki and Kananan who just happen to be 2 of my top current H!P members. And with that my love for her is truly fated and I’m powerless to resist it. But like I said, at most Haruna will become my favorite 12th generation member, much like how Maa-chan is my favorite 10th generation member. My top spot is, and always will be, reserved for Zukki. And unless she decided to randomly graduate tomorrow I don’t see that ever changing.

OgataHaruna

Nonaka Miki

14 years old from Shizuoka. Her special skill is English. And boy is she great at it.

The first thing I noticed about Miki was how adorable her speaking voice is. And then once I heard her speaking in English I was blown away. The girl lived in America for 8 years and speaks fluent English. And her English is flawless you can’t even tell that it wasn’t her first language. But that’s to be expected since if she lived in the US for 8 years that means she first started to learn English at just 6 years old. Miki also said that she wanted to be the link between Morning Musume and the foreign fans. I completely approve of that. Go on and do your thing Miki! The only thing that annoys me about Miki is that her official nickname is apparently Mikitty. Not that that has nothing to do with Miki herself, but just the same I hope they either end up changing it or the nickname just never sticks.

Haga Akane:

HagaAkane

12 years old from Nagano. Member of the Kenshuusei who auditioned for both the 11th and 12th gen.

Akane was part of the big group of finalists who failed the Mirai Shoujo audition and were immediately all added to the Kenshuusei in one fell swoop. Now I can honestly say that I don’t know much about Akane. When it comes to the failed Mirai Shoujo audition girls I personally just focused on my favorites Yamaki Risa and Danbara Ruru. Akane has been saying her favorite Morning Musume song is Be Alive and it think it’s pretty obvious that she started to like that song because it was the song used during Morning Musume’s 11th gen auditions. And I think it’s also pretty obvious why Sakura won back then. I honestly don’t think Akane is a very good singer. Her voice is pretty weak and needs a lot of work. Maybe years of work honestly. And with the performance level so high in Morning Musume currently that the 12th gen have to practice for a few months before they can join, I’m a little confused as to why Akane was chosen. If we’re just going based off of singing that is. I think there are a lot more talented Kenshuusei who make more sense than Akane does. And I have to wonder if she was chosen because fans are comparing her to Sayumi? I honestly don’t even see a resemblance between them. I mean a most she looks a splash like Sayu. But she’s certainly as weak at singing as Sayu was when she first joined. Are they that focused on replacing Sayu?

Makino Maria:

MakinoMaria

13 years old from Aichi. Member of the Kenshuusei who auditioned for the 11th gen.

Maria is another Kenshuusei that I don’t know much about. But I have to say initially makes more sense as a 12th gen member than Akane does. Maria has a great singing voice. She’s definitely one of the better singer in the Kenshuusei. I wouldn’t say she’s at the top singing wise but she’s somewhere in the middle and she’s someone who I can see blossoming over the years. Maria seems to have a lot of hobbies and reminds me of Maa-chan because they both play the piano and reminds me of Ai-chan because they both did ballet. Beyond that I don’t have much of an impression of her so far. So I guess I’ll have to wait until I see more of her.

Moving on to the S/mileage 3rd gen. Now when this was announced it seemed like most of the fans were apprehensive to the whole situation. And with good reason. This does bring up some real fears of the remaining 1st gen members possibly graduating in the near future or seeing them shoved to the back to make room for the 3rd gen. But I tried not to focus on that to be honest, because I was too excited for the news to let anything spoil it. Ever since the 2nd gen was announced I’ve always expected/have been waiting for the 3rd gen. I mean it made sense that it was going to happen eventually. And when they said that S/mileage was going to make a special announcement on Hello!Station I had an inkling that’s what it was going to be.

The wait for the 3rd gen went a lot quicker not only because we only had to wait about a week but because I also forget that they were going to be announced until about an hour before hand. And I only checked the news about an hour after it happened. So, there was a different feeling completely.

On to the 3rd gen girls.

Sasaki Rikako:

SasakiRikako

13 years old from Miyagi.

I was absolutely thrilled about Rikako joining the group, she was one of my favorite Kenshuusei. And while I did think she made a better fit for Morning Musume I am happy that she gets to debut at all. I think Rikako definitely has that idol feel about her. Her seems to be very sweet, soft-spoken, and charming. She’s also one of the best singers among the Kenshuusei. Her voice is a nice mixture of cuteness and power. Kind of like how Kanon’s voice is and like so many past members of H!P. But since Rikako is both talented and popular she was in that awkward Karin situation where she had legions of fans crying about her not debuting already. Which has in turn made a lot of people dislike her. And I honestly think that’s absurd. Overzealous fans exist everywhere, and if you focus on them, or let them bother you, then you’re going to end up not liking anything.

Murota Mizuki

MurotaMizuki

16 years old from Chiba.

Mizuki is another favorite Kenshuusei of mine. And I’ve been waiting patiently for her to debut because this girl can seriously sing! She’s easily part of the top tier of Kenshuusei singing wise. Over the past year she’s been overshadowed by more popular Kenshuusei so for a while there I was afraid that she was going to keep getting overlooked and wouldn’t debut at all. But I am extremely happy that her talent was recognized. Since this makes her the second debuted Mizuki in H!P I guess I’m gonna have to start calling her by her nickname Murotan to not mix them up.

Aikawa Maho

AikawaMaho

15 years old from Kanagawa.

I cannot even begin to tell you about Maho because I simply don’t know anything about her at all. At least with Haga Akane I had heard her name before but I haven’t even heard of Maho before. She’s only been a Kenshuusei for 5 months and it doesn’t look like she’s even participated in a concert before. How that makes her a qualified pick, I have no idea. I really don’t understand how H!P picks the Kenshuusei to debut sometimes. You have girls who have been members for years, girls who just left because they have been waiting for what feel like forever to debut, and then you debut girls like Maho and KanaTomo who have only been members for a few short months. It makes no sense to me. The only other thing I can really tell you about Maho is that her nickname seems to be AiAi, but I’m not sure that I like that so I’m going to keep calling her Maho until I get used to that. If I ever get used to it.

Now with 7 new girls coming in we are experiencing a completely new era in H!P in more ways than one. Back when they announced the Country Musume revival audition and the 12th gen audition at around the same time I was really excited for the outcome because this meant that we were not only going to get a completely new group, but we were going to get both generations at once and it was going to be like a repeat of 2011. But as we all know for some incomprehensible reason no winners were chosen and the audition was considered a failure. But now that we have a Momusu 12th gen and a S/mileage 3rd gen it’s literally a complete repeat of 2011. And truly a new era for Hello!Project.

Let’s look at where H!P stands right now. Sayumi is graduating next month, Berryz is going on hiatus in the spring, and C-ute probably doesn’t have more than 2 years left. In the not so far off future we could be looking at an H!P where the most senior member of Hello!Project only debuted in 2010. (2009 if you want to count S/mileage’s indie era.) Do you realize that in a few years when C-ute disbands, oh I’m sorry goes on “indefinite hiatus,” Ayaka will be the new leader of H!P? Ayaka. Just let that sink in for a minute. Now if that doesn’t show how much drastic changes have been going on in H!P over the past 5 years I don’t know what will. I mean when I, and most of us, became fans of Hello!Project Nakazawa Yuko was the leader and now we’re looking at a future where Wada Ayaka will be the leader. Assuming she doesn’t graduate before then. And that’s seriously mind blowing to me.

On the subject of Ayaka, let’s talk about the possibility about her and Kanon’s future for a minute. The announcement of the 3rd generation sparked a huge fear within the fandom about the aspect of one or both of the 1st generation members graduating. And quite honestly that fear is justified. If you recall Ogawa Saki graduated just days after the 2nd gen were announced and Maeda Yuuka’s graduation single was the 2nd gen’s first official single after being promoted from sub-member to official members. A lot of fans have always resented the 2nd gen in a way because they always thought their presence caused Saki and Yuuka to graduate. But I personally never thought that’s why they graduated at all. I think Saki and Yuuka already planned to graduate and the 2nd gen was announced as a way to save S/mileage. As it was impossible to continue on as a duo or trio.

To me that always explained why Saki left S/mileage in such a rushed manner. I think she was begged to stay a member until at least the 2nd gen were announced. But after that she couldn’t take it and left before she got a proper sendoff. I think they were able to get Yuuka to stay a little bit longer, but not long enough to have a proper graduation concert. But that’s just my opinion on the situation. At least it makes more sense than the fan’s that said Yuuka graduated because she felt 2nd best to Airi who’s puns were far greater than her own. Get real people, girls can be petty sometimes but not that petty.

Ayaka and Kanon did say that the 3rd gen was their idea and that they wanted the 2nd gen to be able to continue with S/mileage even after they graduate. Sounds like it’s a hint to someone’s graduation. Maybe it’s because they both realized there are both in the exact situation that Saki and Yuuka were in a few years back. H!P even added Sasaki who is popular enough to take over the center position if Ayaka and Kanon were to graduate.

If Ayaka and Kanon were to graduate that would even further make this a new era to Hello!Project. And that would mean in a few years the current members of H!P would have all made their debut from 2011 onward and the most senior members would be Morning Musume’s 9th gen. Another shocking realization, but an accurate peek into the future nonetheless.

And I think H!P is making some real strides to prepare for this new era. Why else would they be not only debuting so many new girls in the past 3 years, but also building up the Kenshuusei as much as they are? The Kenshuusei are doing way more than any past H!P trainees have ever done. They’re releasing singles, had their own show, are more prominent at concerts, and are even releasing an album. Back when I became a fan of H!P Egg members were lucky if they ever got the chance to be part of a one-shot group.

But H!P has been planning this for a while as well. It all started with the giant reformation they went through. From the mass graduations of the older members and changing the name from Eggs to Kenshuusei. It did take them a while to get their footing and we lost some great Kenshuusei in the process. But I think H!P has shown that they are finally ready to fully utilize the Kenshuusei.
And I think the best way to do that would be to make another Kenshuusei group. And I really don’t think we’re too far off from that. There’s a lot of raw talent in the Kenshuusei and H!P would be foolish to let even more of them slip away. But more importantly with Berryz going on hiatus that leaves a big opening in H!P that they’re no doubt going to want to fill. And I don’t think it’s too far fetched for it to be another group either partially or fully made up of Kenshuusei. After all, most H!P groups are set up like that anyway. (Also, I’m counting H!P kids are trainees, but let’s be real they basically were until they properly debuted.)

And when you think about things this way it’s incredibly exciting to think about what the future will bring. Personally I want all of this Cool Hello nonsense to end. Let’s bring back individual concepts to groups again shall we? I want to see S/mileage go back to their original cutesy image. I want to Juice=Juice to stick to their jazzy and mature concept they originally had. C-ute is the only group I wouldn’t change at all because they are the only H!P group that hasn’t had their concept messed with. After Erika left C-ute changed to a dance group with fun and refreshing songs. While C-ute’s songs have been on the more mature side, they still have released enough fun songs that it doesn’t seem like they’ve changed much. It seems more like a natural evolution.

I want to see Momusu completely change their concept. Since the Platinum Era Momusu has been doing this thing were they stick to one concept and keep doing it the entire era. The Platinum Era was sad songs and the Colorful Era was EDM. Can they just stop that already? I want Momusu to do what they did in the past where they mixed genres and every single had a different sound. You’d have a sexy song one single and a cute song the next single. You’d have Indian influences here and salsa influences there. You’d have a fierce empowering song in one breath and a sorrowful broken hearted song in the next. I loved that element of playing with different sounds to such an extent that you never knew what kind of song you were going to get next. Let’s bring that feeling back.

I would also obviously love to see a new group be formed and fill the space that Berryz will leave behind. Musically anyway, we all know that Berryz can never be replaced. We need a group to take over Berryz funky and creative sound. You know the sound we haven’t seen in a while? I honestly think that’s the worst thing that happened to Berryz during their last few active years. They pushed them into this mature image that was never what Berryz was about.

Berryz was crazy and over the top. Making songs no one else in H!P was making. Remember when Yuke Yuke Monkey Dance came out and everyone was so annoyed that even though they were older than C-ute they were singing about dancing monkeys while C-ute was singing about heartbreak and relationships? That was Berryz to me. And I’ve always missed that. I just foolishly thought we’d have Berryz around long enough to see them releasing those types of songs again. Which is why I really want to see a new group bring that back.

How much of a culture are you really allowed to like?

Avril

Hello there lovely readers. Long time no see. I think it’s pretty safe to say the only person reading this blog who enjoys my sporadic blog posts is myself. But, I’m sorry and I have to admit, I do enjoy writing every so often. Maybe that means I should contemplate reformatting how I write my blog. But that’s neither here or there, or what this post is even about. No instead I want to talk about one of the most hot button issues of the moment. And of course I mean Avril Lavigne.

I’m sure by now absolutely everyone on the internet all over the world is well aware of the whole Avril Lavigne Hello Kitty situation. You’d literally have to live in a cave 3 miles below the surface of the Earth to not have heard about it. And I’m sure even if that was the case as soon as you rose to the surface you’d immediately be bombarded with chants of ka-ka-ka-kawaii.

Ok, maybe that’s stretching things a little too far. But it is in fact every where. I think it’s even more prevalent in our little corner of the internet since we’re all about Japanese music, pop culture, television, etc. But I think this has been prevalent on the internet long before the atrocity that is Hello Kitty. And by that I mean cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is a term I myself wasn’t even aware of until I heard about it some months ago on tumblr. I of course knew that basis of what cultural appropriation is was going on in the world, but I wasn’t aware that there was a term for it. Now, I absolutely think cultural appropriation is abhorrent and not even remotely ok. But what I consider just as bad is the way people define cultural appropriation is maybe a little too strong. And I might go as far as saying a lot of it is mislabeled.

If you go on certain sites, say tumblr, you’ll find that a lot of the times what they consider cultural appropriation is if a White person shows any sort of interest in any non-White culture at all. And a lot of times it’s written in such a manner that you should feel bad that you are White and you should be ashamed of yourself if you even want to care about another country.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I always thought that the world was one. And that everyone should be open to, and should explore, cultures other than their own. But it seems that that isn’t the case at all anymore.

Now I’ve heard a lot of people say things such as White aren’t allowed to like or mix in other cultures, even though tons of other cultures mix in European or American cultures. Those other cultures are allowed to do so because European culture was forced on them and they had no choice but to adapt and add that culture into their own. White people aren’t allowed under any circumstances to wear other culture’s traditional garb. Even if they are currently residing in a Foreign country and a native from that country insisted that they purchase and wear a piece of traditional clothing. The only time it is ok is if they are attending an event where tradition clothing must be worn, such as a wedding.

And I might add that this is usually only said about White people. I’ve heard people straight up say that other non-White races are allowed to embrace other cultures because they themselves are also minorities. You’re also not allowed to say that that itself is a racist statement because then you are only being a whiny privileged White person.

I can wholeheartedly understand if you are being racist towards another culture and putting down their traditional clothing. Or inappropriately wearing them. Or only wearing them to make a fashion statement. Or being a male or female wearing traditional grab that’s only supposed to be worn by someone of the gender opposite of your own. Then you are absolutely doing something wrong.

But to basically tell people that they aren’t allowed to like something because of their race of where they were brought up, is absolutely ridiculous. So, I now ask the main question of this article, how much of a culture is someone really allowed to like?

I think the first time I took actual notice of cultural appropriation beyond reading a post here or there on tumblr was around Halloween. I was looking up Sugar Skulls on tumblr because I was thinking of painting myself like that for Halloween. And I came across someone on tumblr saying some random woman was disgusting for wearing Dia de los Muertos makeup without being Mexican. Ironically, the woman actually turned out to be half Mexican. But that’s the first time I went, “but why can’t I like something that’s Mexican?”

Maybe it’s in bad form to think of it as a costume. But then, aren’t beer wench Halloween costumes equally offensive to me because I’m German? Oh wait, I forgot, being a privileged White person I’m not allowed to think like that. I guess since I live in America which is right above Mexico it doesn’t matter at all that we learn a lot about Mexico. Or that Cinco de Mayo is hugely celebrated in the US. Or that I’ve always been fascinated by Dia de los Muertos in general. And I suppose that I’m not allowed to because liking any aspect of another country’s culture is disrespectful for some reason.

This also takes me back to when I was learning Spanish in school. I had an extremely cool Spanish teacher. I was actually one of his favorite students and we got along swimmingly. Mostly because I was pretty much the only one who ever tried in Spanish. One time around Valentine’s Day I was the only person who was willing to conjugate verbs on the board. When I conjugated them correctly he gave me a heart shaped cookie. We also bonded over pork rinds. Because he brought them into class one day for everyone to try because they eat them a lot in Puerto Rico apparently. I was the only one in my entire class who didn’t think they were disgusting. It was mostly because pork rinds are delicious and I’ve been eating them my whole life. But I think that’s more of everyone in my town being weird. We went on field trip to the Pine Barrens once and tried fresh root beer. I was literally the only one who liked it. To this day that was the most delicious root beer I’ve ever had in my life.

Anyway, he was originally from Puerto Rico and all he would ever say was how beautiful a country it is. And how it’s such a great country for swimming. And how everyone should make sure they go to Puerto Rico once in their life because it’s that pretty. Well, in 6th grade to further share his culture with us, everyone that was in a Junior High grade at the time had to make vejigante masks and costumes. We then had to wear them in Spanish class the day they were due. And afterwards they were displayed all over the classroom for a few months.

And all that makes me think of is, that if I still had my vejigante mask and posted a picture of myself wearing it I’d be called racist for not being Puerto Rican. Even though out teacher was hoping we’d be interested in it and wanted us to experience a bit of his culture.

Also, in Spanish class in 8th grade we had a gigantic dominoes tournament because Cuban-Americans in Florida love to play dominoes. That’s not me saying it by the way, that was literally a section in my Spanish text book. Specifically Cuban-Americans in Florida playing dominoes. You can call my textbook racist if you want. Since then I’ve been a big fan of playing dominoes, I always try to get my family to play with me but they never want to. But I suppose I’m not allowed to play dominoes right?

But let’s shift our focus now away from Central America and focus on what I’m sure everyone cares about, Japan.

Japan is pretty notorious for some things that if were done by White people would be considered cultural appropriation. For one, Japanese music mixes English words into their songs. It’s done to such an extent that it’s often hard to find Japanese songs that don’t have at least one English word in them. And the Japanese language itself has a ton of loan words from English and European languages. That one may be a bit of a stretch though, since most languages have loan words.

Japan is also influenced heavily by predominantly White cultures when it comes to fashion. The most famous influence probably being school uniforms. The familiar sailor uniforms were inspired by the sailor suits children in royal European families wore, and were first introduced in the late 19th century. Huh, I guess that rules out Commodore Matthew Perry and his American Navy ships forcing the naval stripes on their uniforms, since he visited Japan in the mid 19th century.

Also, the lolita sub-culture was inspired by the Rococo period in Europe. The ganguro sub-culture (which literally means black face by the way) was a way for Japanese girls to emulate the way girls in California looked and dressed. Not to mention that there’s the trend of black culture in Japan.

I’m sure there are other cases but these are the ones I know off hand, and too be honest I can’t be bothered to look up anymore. Surely these cases are purely innocent right? And it’s just Japan showing how much love and admiration they have for America and Europe? Quite honestly in my opinion it is. But make no mistake, if a White culture was doing the same thing about Japanese culture or any other non-White culture it would be a gigantic deal. After all, every other race of people besides White are allowed to do these types of things. That’s fair right?

So, that brings up another question was Avril Lavigne’s Hello Kitty racist to Japan and Japanese people? I read a great article on tumblr that showed that people in Japan don’t find it even a little bit racist. Instead they think Avril is showing great love for Japan. And they don’t understand why Foreigners find it to be so racist. While I personally do find the song itself to be terribly written, and her Japanese pronunciation leaving something to be desired, I don’t see how the song itself is racist.

I listened to the song yet again just to be sure. (God, the things I go through for this blog.) The song is literally about having pillow fights, slumber parties, playing spin the bottle, making pinky swears, and asking someone to play with you. The song is incredibly immature and truly something only a pre-teen girl could relate to. The only thing the people perceive as being racist about the song is her speaking in Japanese. But how is that any different than Japanese people singing in English?

The song itself is obviously solely for the Japanese market. Since a great deal of Avril’s fanbase currently is in Japan. It seems to be the only country that cares about her music. Case in point being I only heard Avril’s What The Hell because I was watching a Oricon chart video a few years back. I never heard it play in the US.

The main point for racism is then put on the music. It’s racist to some people because she’s wearing a cupcake skirt, has an overly cutesy set, and is also filmed in a candy store. Which makes people say that Avril is being racist and saying that Japan is only about and known for it’s wild clothing and cute culture. But is it really doing that? Or is the music video this sugary sweet because the song sounds like it was written for an 11 year old girl?

Let’s say that Avril is playing off of Japan’s cute culture, is that itself really wrong either? Japan does have a lot of playful, cute, and colorful aspects to it’s pop culture. And Japan itself seems to be marketing itself with this image. NHK World features a show called Kawaii International, which is a show in English marketed to the Foreign market. The show itself is about teaching people about Japanese fashion sub-cultures and cute cultures and shows people all over the world who wear these styles. And also teaches you how to wear these styles yourself.

Let’s say Avril wasn’t wearing a cupcake skirt. Let’s say she was wearing a lolita dress. Or what about if she was wearing the gyaru style? Or maybe she was even wearing shironuri. Would that make her racist? There are thousands of girls all over the world who dress in these styles because they genuinely like them. Does that make it wrong? Or is this a case of once again it not being ok because the people doing it are White?

I know that pretty much anyone in the world that like’s anything Japanese is associated as being this horrible weeaboo. This person who is fetishizing a country and race of people. Or someone who thinks Japan is superior to their own country. And I won’t deny that most people who like Japanese things do go through this annoying phase. Myself included. But believe me, most of the time it’s short lived and you realized how much of an idiot you were. But no matter how much you’ve matured and no matter what you like about Japan, there is still this stigma that you are forever a weeaboo. And it’s absurd.

So, is Avril in her embarrassing weeboo phase currently? Probably. But honestly I could care less. It’s not really important to the topic at hand. That’s not what this post is about. This post is about how much are people really allowed to like of a culture. And how did just liking another culture automatically become cultural appropriation?

Isn’t telling someone they can’t like another culture continuing the divide of people? Isn’t it making racism an even bigger issue? Isn’t it basically saying, “hey you can’t like that because you’re not from here.” When news flash, I am from there? Last time I checked we all live on the same planet. The planet is closer than ever thanks to the internet. So, why are people using it to push people farther apart? I understand if someone is genuinely being ignorant to another person’s cultures and traditions. But when people just want to experience something new, why is that wrong?

Being a non-Japanese speaker in the idol fandom

idols4

Yesterday the fandom was abuzz with everything SUPER GiRLS after the graduation of Yasaka Saori and the addition of 3 new girls into the group. And while I read people’s reaction to it, I sat there a little confused at what my own reaction was. To my surprise I didn’t feel anything I was expecting to feel, in fact I hardly felt anything at all. And the whole time I kept thinking to myself, ” Why?” I mean, I really like SUPER GiRLS. I’ve been following them since they released their very first PV, and I’ve been actively keeping up with them. So, why is it that I felt so apathetic? I then also started to think, did I even like them at all.

I have to say, first of all, I of course I do love the group. It’s just that at the same times it does feel like I’m not a fan at all. And I’ve been feeling that way about them for a while. And not really SUPER GiRLS alone, or in particular actually, I’ve been feeling this way about several groups. These feelings are surrounding by groups that aren’t, for lack of a better term, international fan friendly. And what I mean by that is, groups like SUPER GiRLS, Fudanjuku, YuiKaori, etc, that aren’t either insanely popular or are part of an established agency and therefore have a huge legion of foreign fans that subs and translate everything possible about a group or idol.

Fansubs and translations are basically the blood of the international fandom. I think it’s safe to say that about 7/10 (it maybe be more or less, it’s obviously impossible to know the real numbers) of the idol fandom doesn’t speak Japanese. Most of us, including myself of course, rely heavily on fansubs. But since there are way too many idols, not enough hours in the day, and not enough English/Japanese speaking fans, a lot of groups have hardly anything translated.

And because of that I kind of feel like I’m only 1/2 a fan of a lot of groups. When I like a group I like to absorb myself in them completely. I like to not only listen to their music and watch their concerts, but I like to know what each song is about. I like to know everything about them. I like to get to know a little bit about each member and then picked that one who’s got that something special that makes me go, “Yes, this is exactly my type of idol.” And then I like to put my full support in them.

As of right now a lot of my favorite idols are based on physical appearance or being drawn to how they perform in concerts or by the impression I get of them. And I really don’t like doing that because I think idols have a much broader appeal than cuteness. Take MomoClo for example, my initial oshi was Momoka. I thought she was this cute little spunky girl, and that was literally my basis for liking her. That was my oshi reasoning for a while. When I finally started to see some MomoClo subs happening I realized that Kanako was actually the member for me. I thought she was incredibly charming and I was drawn to her energetic and cheerful nature.

I think a much better example of this is with my Johnny’s initial oshis. With Johnny’s it was of course a lot easier to fall into picking members based solely on looks. And my initial oshis for each group were as follows: Ninomiya Kazunari, Akanishi Jin, Fujigaya Taisuke, Nakajima Yuto. And it was based on which  members I considered to be the most attractive. My favorites are now Aiba Masaki, Tanaka Koki (I know not a member anymore but he works for the point), Tamamori Yuta, Nakajima Yuto. My favorite member in JUMP is still Yuto but the point I’m making is really about my second favorite member Okamoto Keito. Now these are all members I never thought were even a little attractive. You don’t understand like I used to think a lot of silly things about them for completely shallow reasons.

But the thing is the moment I learned more about each group the more I could form actual opinions about the members and picked members for their personality. I was drawn to Aiba’s cheerful and playful nature, Koki’s funny side and the fact that he was incredibly sweet, Yuta’s airheadedness, and Keito’s awkwardness. Plus as I’ve said, I also do that thing where the more I like someone as a person the more physically attracted to them I become. I actually think all of my favorites are pretty gorgeous and can’t even believe there was a time that I didn’t.

To this day the only Johnny’s members that I liked initially that I am still a fan of are Nishikido Ryo, Nakajima Yuto, and Kawai Fumito. I’ve obviously always liked Ryo’s bluntness, it was perfect when I found out how energetic Yuto was, and the first time I came across Fumito was because of his impressions, so it’s always been personality from him.

And it’s because of this when people ask me who my favorite member of a certain idol group is a lot of the times I never feel 100% confident with my choice. Sure Maeshima Ami is probably one of the cutest idols that has ever existed, but does that mean she’d be my favorite SUPER GiRLS member? I do love how happy and energetic Mori Shiori is during Passpo concerts, but does that mean she’d be my type of idol? Hibi Mikoto has an incredibly adorable singing voice, but how do I know if she’s the best member of Dream5. And the list goes on and on.

And it’s not just not knowing everything about the members that bums me out, it’s not knowing what a song is about that also gets me down. When I hear a song on the radio for the first time it usually take me about 4 minutes to decide if I like it or not. But with idol songs it’s tricky, sometimes it takes me 4 months to decide if I like a song or not.

I obviously usually judge if an idol song is good initially by the music or how it’s sung. But that only really determines if the song is catchy or not, not really if it’s a good song or not. I have to wait for translations before I 100% can say, “hey, this is a great song.” There have been tons of times where I was super into a song and then read the translation and found out it was actually an awful song. Like I did with Berryz Koubou’s Ai no Dangan. Or how about the times where I was just not feeling the music or the way a song was sung and completely wrote it off until I read the lyric translation and found out it was actually a beautiful song? Like what I did with Passpo’s Sakura Komachi. Which is probably why I did not like Koisuru Fortune Cookie until I heard JKT48’s English version of the song. Since I instantly knew what the song was about I could make a connection to the song while I was listening to it.

And whenever I think of that I’m instantly transported back to school when I told one of my classmates that I like Japanese music. And instead of doing the first thing people usually do when you tell them this, which in my experience has been mocking, he did the second thing which was asking me, “How? You can’t even understand it.” My response was of course, “Yes, I can.” His retort was then a mocking tone of, “No you can’t.” The conversation then swiftly ended with me matter-of-factly saying, “Yes, I can.”

I of course didn’t have the time to explain to him, and quite frankly didn’t feel like explaining, that even though I couldn’t understand it I still could understand it. That you can find practically anything, within good reason, Japanese related you want either translated or subtitled if you knew where to look. And if you were willing to wait.

But having everything subtitled does make you a bit lazy to an extent, because my main complaint in this whole post could probably be solved if I just knew Japanese. I’ve been in the Japanese music fandom for many a years, September of this year actually marks my 10th year listening to Japanese music. You’d think I’d be able to speak it by now. But tons of circumstances have kept me from really attempting to. Most of my time was spent learning the language I was taught in school, which was Spanish, and because of that I had almost no motivation to learn another language. The fact that my mother would never allow me to have anything Japanese related for the longest time. Along with, of course, my own shear lazyness.

Nothing is really stopping me from learning it now, except the fact that it is an incredibly daunting task. Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn. It’s a category V language, a language that is considered exceptionally difficult for native English speakers. And it apparently takes 88 weeks, or 2,200 class hours to learn. And that’s only to become proficient. I don’t dare to think how long it takes to become 100% fluent or native speaker level.

Maybe not knowing which idols favorite food is sweet potatoes, or not knowing which idol is funny, isn’t the biggest deal in the world. But at the same time it’s incredibly frustrating. I consider idol music to be one of my main hobbies. A hobby that includes many elements. I’ve got a new PV to watch practically every week, news to keep up with every day, dozens or so new concerts and albums a year, blogs and interviews to read, dramas, variety shows, movies, and miscellaneous other TV appearances. And I like that there’s so much going on that I’m never bored. But at the same time if I don’t understand what’s going on can I really enjoy it?

I know that there are a lot of fans out there that watch things raw and still enjoy it. That’s never been for me, and I don’t really understand how people can do that. If I don’t understand what’s going on it sucks all of the fun out. And it ruins it for when it does, if it does, get subbed. I’d honestly rather wait months or years for something to be subbed than to watch it without subs. Unless it’s something you don’t need subs for like music shows or Momusu’s recent Dokkiri.

I think being a non-Japanese speaker in the idol fandom is like being someone in the comic book fandom who has to read comics with half of the pages ripped out. It can certainly be done, and you can still wholeheartedly enjoy it, but it’s not really the same. And you never do get over the disappointment of knowing you’re missing out on something you see everyone else so easily enjoying. I guess for the time being us non-Japanese speaking idol fans have to just wait for the rest of the pages.