Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dear Ms Minegishi

Minami-san. May I call you Minami-san? First, please pardon my writing to you in English. It's been more than five years since my last Japanese Language Proficiency Test and there hasn't really been any reason or opportunity for me to speak or write in Japanese-- well, not since I had to communicate with a salesman in Akihabara in 2005.

Yes, it's about that video. You had shaved your head, apologized to your fans and begged, through tears, to be allowed to stay in AKB48. Normally, this isn't something I would comment on. I leave it to my friends (who are big big fans) to talk among themselves about every little AKB48 rumor, news tidbit, clothing item and photo op.  I can't stay silent for this, though. Not today.

I'm not a fan, but I respect the hours you and your group put into your work. I've done a bit of theater, I've done some singing, and I've done ham acting in my day. While I'll never ever be as popular as you (because I'm a male 40-year-old who may soon qualify for membership in  OJS48), I do have some idea of how tiring and stressful your life might be. You're trying constantly to please the fans and to please your producers and to turn out a good performance every time, all the time. I get that.

I also understand how your image of being single and available is an important asset to your profession. John Lennon's first marriage was something his managers hid from the world when the Beatles began to gain popularity. I also understand the more pragmatic reasons for keeping that image intact with a dating ban (no surprise pregnancies). I understand how being in a group like AKB48 is a unique opportunity; that it has given you lots of exposure, lots of friends (because you really can't work with the same people all the time and not become friends with some of them) and lots of money. I understand how being caught on camera leaving your boyfriend's apartment might be detrimental to that image and your work...

'kedo, you have a life.   

You're a young woman who is as deserving of love and fun and mistakes as is anyone else your age. Also,  while being a part of AKB48 is a uniquely intense and  lucrative experience, you can't be doing this forever. One of the problems I've always noticed about the entertainment industry in your country is the very short shelf life of your idols and idol-singers. Your country's obsession with all things kawaii (cute) is deadly to people who are no longer kawaii-- which is what idol singers become after they pass a certain age. 

As entertainers-- no, as human beings-- you and your hard-working groupmates deserve better treatment.

You should not have abased yourself as much as you did when you made that apology video. Apologize for breaking a rule--sure. But shave your head? It seems to me that your managers can --if they wanted to-- simply fire and replace you with another girl from somewhere else without batting an eyelash. That's a kind of employer-employee relationship I won't want to stay in for very long. I would not be shaving my head for these guys.

If the group's that important to you, then by all means, stay with the group. But remember that sooner or later you'll want to be doing different things-- like maybe getting married or going solo. You've got to decide for yourself how much commitment you want to give this group, and for how long you'll be doing this. If your managers decide to simply remove you, AKB48 will probably continue without you. You've got to have the ability to survive without AKB48, if and when the time comes that you want to leave.     

Again, I'm not really a fan, but I am concerned. You've got the rest of your life ahead of you, and you should be able to enjoy it.