AKB48: Who are they? What are they? Why are they?
Well, to answer those first two questions, AKB48 is the hottest thing to hit Japan since white rice. AKB is short for “Akiba,” which in turn is short for “Akihabara,” a district in Tokyo and the HQ for most otaku. AKB48 is a girl group, currently made up of 64 members ranging in ages from early teens to early twenties. They sing, they dance, and they have thus far released 13 singles.
What makes them different from other girl groups? For one, most groups don’t have 64 members (they even hold the Guinnes World Record for “largest pop group”). But the general concept of AKB48 is that they’re “the girls next door,” the “idols you can meet.” In a kind of lottery, fans buy a number of the same album hoping to get that golden ticket which allows them to meet an AKB member for 5 minutes. You can shake her hand, take a picture, and gush out how much you love her.
And I must admit, their marketing strategy is brilliant. AKB48 is in everything: stationary, dishes, figures, chocolate, countless commercials, appearing in TV dramas, etc. In September 2011, the AKB48 Cafe & Shop opened in Akihabara (conveniently next to the Gundam Cafe) where waitresses dress up in school uniforms and AKB videos play on a dozen flatscreens around the shop. Prices aren’t as expensive as you might expect, and their cheese cake is pretty good.
AKB’s success has lead to other groups popping up in Japan as well as Asia. There’s now SKE48 from Nagoya, SDN48 short for Saturday Night, NMB48 in Osaka, and JKT48 in Jakarta. Expect more to come.
So what’s the attraction? According to our Korean corespondent and avid AKB48 fan; “I like them because there’s [a member] for everybody, and unlike real girls, they’re not there to make you deal with girl related [issues].” In other words, they’re idols through and through.
Only there’s 64 of them.
written by Damon Finos